Monday, September 5, 2011

Bucharest, Romainia

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I had a decent night’s rest—not void of periods of restless waking. I guess that’s my norm of sleep even at home.

Crystal, Travis and I met at 9:30 in the dining room for breakfast. If it was up to Travis and I, we would have been up and out earlier to take every advantage of seeing Bucharest. However, in hindsight, Crystal was wise to give us time to rest. Plus, Ella wasn’t to arrive until around 11:00 with a taxi to take us to the Palace of the Parliament, or to what most Romanian’s refer to as the People’s House — built in the 1980s during the reign of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.

We arrived at the Palace around noon. Because it was Sunday, there was a crowd waiting to tour this huge building. Iulian had reserved a 1:00 guided tour, which apparently meant nothing. We were told that there would be a wait, but the time frame was a bit vague. Thankfully Ella was with us to interpret. I had voiced some concern that I didn’t want to spend my only day in Bucharest in line to visit a building. So, as a result, the decision rested on me as to whether we would take the tour. Well, I’m not too keen on making decisions that affect more than one person — so after some minor stress, I decided we would wait it out.

It was a good choice. As it turned out, the wait was manageable and the tour was time well spent. I can’t remember all that was told to us during the tour, so here are some details according to Wikipedia (thank goodness for cut-and-paste):

The Palace measures 270 m (890 ft.) by 240 m (790 ft.), 86 m (282 ft.) high, and 92 m (302 ft.) underground. It has 1,100 rooms, 2 underground parking garages and is 12 stories tall, with four underground levels currently available for the general public and in use, and another four in different stages of completion.

The structure combines elements and motifs from multiple sources, in an eclectic neoclassical architectural style. The building is constructed almost entirely of materials of Romanian origin. Estimates of the materials used include one million cubic meters of marble from Transylvania, most from Ruşchiţa; 3,500 tons of crystal — 480 chandeliers, 1,409 ceiling lights and mirrors were manufactured; 700,000 tons of steel and bronze for monumental doors and windows, chandeliers and capitals; 900,000 m (9,700,000 sq. ft.) of wood, over 95% of which is domestic, for parquet and wainscoting, including walnut, oak, sweet cherry, elm, sycamore maple; 200,000 m (2,200,000 sq. ft.) of woolen carpets of various dimensions, the larger of which were woven on-site by machines moved into the building; velvet and brocade curtains adorned with embroideries and passementeries (not sure what this word means) in silver and gold.

Our tour encompassed only about 7% of the entire building. It gave us a taste of the splendor and magnificent detail in which Ceauşescu and his administration had put into its construction, despite his crooked and evil ways. A major part of Bucharest's architecture is made up of buildings constructed during the Communist era replacing historical architecture with high-density apartment blocks – significant portions of the historic center of Bucharest were demolished in order to construct this edifice.

After our tour, Ella took us on a walking tour of the city. Our main focus was in the old part of the city. We walked over the Dâmbovița River, which flows into the Argeș River, a tributary of the Danube. Soon we were meandering along the major thoroughfare of Calea Victoriei, Bucharest's oldest and arguably, most charming street. Built in 1692 to link the Old Princely Court to Mogosoaia Palace, it was initially paved with oak beams. The street became Calea Victoriei in 1878, after the Romanian War of Independence victory. Between the two world wars, Calea Victoriei developed into one of the most fashionable streets in the city.

We strolled along this street to discover some of the most stunning buildings in the city, including the Cantacuzino Palace, the Military Club, the CEC Headquarters and the National History Museum.

Our first stop was Manuc's Inn (Hanul lui Manuc) on Strada Franceza. Built between 1804 and 1808 by the wealthy Armenian trader Emanuel Marzaian (called by the Turks, Manuc Bey), the inn was witness in 1812 to the preliminary talks of the Peace Treaty that put an end to the Russian -Turkish War (1806-1812). A favorite meeting and resting place for tradesmen in those times, Manuc's Inn has preserved to this day its old style and flavor. It now serves as a hotel with a restaurant, a wine cellar and a pastry shop.

We meandered our way along the artsy, restaurant-filled Lipscani district and its medieval and renaissance architecture. We ate lunch at a Turkish restaurant called Divan located on Strada Franceza. We sat outside beneath its large sidewalk umbrellas, comforted from the heat and humidity by mist sprayers. It felt good to sit and relax despite the feeling that other tables being served before us. No worries, it gave us time to continue our reflection of the past two weeks.

Since I had no cash, I charged the meal on my British Airlines Visa card. I learned before I left that my card didn’t charge the standard 3% charge for international transactions. However, I also learned after coming that my card does not work on all the transactions I’ve tried on this trip. It all depended on whether they asked for my PIN number. Whenever they did, it never worked. In this case, it worked!

After our meal we visited several churches, one of which was the Stavropoleos Church.

Located just behind the National History Museum on Calea Victoriei, Stavropoleos Church is one of the most picturesque churches in the city. Built in 1724 by Greek Monk Ioanikie Stratonikeas (coming from Ostanita Village in Greek Macedonia), the church became famous in the region for the beautiful stone carving, as well as for the valuable wood carving inside (the door, the voyevode throne, the altar decoration). The veranda was added in 1730. The inn around it was severely damaged during the 1847 fire, and, even though it was partly restored after 1853, it was demolished in 1871. Next to the church there is a small and beautiful yard surrounded by porticoes on three sides; it was added to the church in 1899, during the restoration done by Architect Ion Mincu. There is a small lapidarium (a place where stone monuments and fragments of archaeological interest are exhibited) hosted there, with fragments of old sculptures and tombstones, among which the one belonging to the church and inn founder, Monk Ioanikie, can be seen. The church is one of the best examples of late Brâncoveanu art.

We walked past the Curtea Veche (the Old Princely Court), built around 1559 as a place or residence during the rule of Vlad III Dracula in the 15th century. It now operates as a museum in the center of Bucharest, Romania.

We also visited the Coltea Church, founded between years 1701-1702 by Cantacuzino. The church presents numerous decorative elements related to the Brancovenesc style (a type of architecture developed in Wallachia (Romania) during the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu in the 17th and 18th century). There is a fresco inside of the church was made by painter Tattarescu.

Another stop was the Sfântul Gheorghe Nou Church, the largest of the churches built in Bucharest during the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu. New St. George's Church was consecrated on June 29th, 1707. It was a wonder of the age, having been designed by an Italian, Vaseleli, and decorated by the great Romanian maestros of the times: the painter Mutu, the carpenter Istrate and the sculptor Caragea. Damaged in a fire in 1847, the church was renovated from 1852-3 by the Spanish architect Villacrosse. Inside the church, outstanding murals were added by Marian Popp. Brâncoveanu is himself allegedly buried under the church, in an unmarked grave.

I could tell that the girls were getting a little tired of all the walking. We stopped at a coffee shop for treats and to just sit a spell. The wind was picking up and the nice weather we had all week appeared to be turning. I was a bit anxious during our respite—wanting to take in every moment of sightseeing. I was grateful for Ella’s willingness to guide us to the highlights of the city.

From here we walked a short ways to Piaţa Palatului (Palace Square), it was later renamed after the 1989 Romanian Revolution. There is a modern sculpture erected to memorialize all of the souls lost during the revolution. The square houses the building of the former Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (from where Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife fled by helicopter on December 22, 1989). You can visibly see gunshot holes in the surrounding buildings.

Our walking tour ended here, where we hopped on a bus for a short ride to connect with another bus that would take us to a mall further away from the center of town. Our ride took us past the Arcul de Triumf (The Triumphal Arch), built in its current form in 1935 and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
As we curved past the Arch we passed Lake Cișmigiu – surrounded by the Cișmigiu Gardens with its rich history, being frequented by famous poets and writers. Opened in 1847 and based on the plans of German architect Carl F.W. Meyer, the gardens are currently the main recreational facility in the city center. I felt myself wanting to stop and wander through the park.

I could feel the temperature change quite drastically from the time we boarded to when we exited the bus. In fact, the wind dramatically picked up and dark clouds were all around. Our bus dropped us off at Băneasa Shopping City, a mall that would rival any major shopping mall in the states—with many of the same store chains. While walking in the mall I noticed a lot of shopping carts making a lot of noise. I soon realized that the noise I was hearing was the rain or hail falling on the ceiling windows. We had made it under cover jut in time to avoid the deluge.

I’m not sure the duration of our shopping experience. We did eat dinner at a Pizza Hut in the mall and talked for some time. It was close to 11:00 when we arrived back at our hotel—which was unfortunate since we had a wake up call for 3:00 a.m. to return to the airport.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September Sunset

Today would have been my parents 67th wedding anniversary. In rememberance, I took my mom out to look at new matresses to help ease her aching back. We ended the afternoon at the Fircrest Golf Club for dinner.

All day I could see the affects of a forest fire taking place in the Olympic Mountains. I figured there was a potential for a decent sunset. It wasn't as spectacular as I had anticipated. However, I like the images I took.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Camp of the Good Shepherd - Week 2

I was asked to share more of my trip to Romania. Here is an excerpt from my journal:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I didn’t sleep too well last night. As a result, I was up around 6:00 so I spent some time in reflection with the Lord by the river, next to the swimming hole. My two weeks in Romania is coming to an end as well as my time with my new orphan friends. If you were to ask me last week what my thoughts were on coming back, I would not have had a ready answer. However, my heart has been transformed by the relationships God has made possible over the past two weeks. I struggle with wanting to take things in my control and help change their situation. Give them hope in a seemingly hopeless environment at the orphanage. However, I’m reminded that it’s not all about me and all things are possible through Christ. Through Christ, God will change hearts.

In Matthew 5:3 it reads: Blessed are the poor in spirit. Oswald Chambers says, “The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces despair in the natural man—the very thing Jesus means it to do. As long as we have a self-righteous, conceited notion that we can carry out our Lord’s teaching, God will allow us to go on until we break our ignorance over some obstacle, then we are willing to come to Him as paupers and receive from Him. The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possession; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility—I cannot begin to do it. Then Jesus says—Blessed are you. That is the entrance, and it does take us a long while to believe we are poor! The knowledge to our own poverty brings us to the moral frontier where Jesus works.”

I gaze at the cabins as I listen to the rush of the river next to me, thinking how sad it is for these boys to have to return to an orphanage where they are fighting for significance, longing for someone to care about them. However, God is in control and His Grace goes beyond my own understanding of their plight. I believe God has brought me into their lives for His purpose and I pray that I can continue to walk through the doors he opens for me. I can only hope that that includes a trip back so that I can follow up with these new relationships.

My time by the river ends and I must join my team for one last time of devotions. Tony was the only one in the room when I arrived. So I was able to exchange some thoughts with him. I am glad and appreciated having the opportunity to work with he and Kim during the two weeks. The two of them will stay for another two weeks as camp interns.

Josh soon joined the group and handed out hand-written notes not to be opened until we reached Bucharest. I think I mentioned earlier that Josh joined our team at the airport when we arrived in the country. What a great addition to have him with us. He actually came to be an intern for six weeks, which means he will be staying on with Tony and Kim. He just turned 32 on this trip and loves to laugh and joke around like the rest of us, which is ironic since he struggles with depression. You would never know it from his happy-go-lucky character.

After devotions we joined the Romanian team for one last wake up call around the cabins. Costel, Razvan and a couple of other boys joined us as we walked into each cabin and sang our wake up song. For some it was a rude awakening, but I think everyone appreciated the effort and grew to look forward to the morning ritual.

Breakfast was a quick and somber event. I had hoped to sit with Yonuts but it didn’t work out. Afterwards, I was able to spend 15 minutes talking with Sebi one-on-one with Emma as my interpreter. I remember on Thursday I saw him sulking while sitting on a swing. I wasn’t sure what was up and he wouldn’t respond to my attempt at addressing his need. A couple hours later I learned that he was upset that the photo we developed for him was just of him alone and not of me and him. My heart went out for him. I had no idea how important that was to him.

That moment emphasized for me how starved these boys are for the attention of a male leader in their life. All week I noticed how they went to extremes to perform some service for attention and affection. More than once a boy would look at me with longing eyes asking for me to be their father or for me to take them home. I am moved at how transparent and vulnerable this was as well as a cry out for help out of desperation.

Soon after my conversation with Sebi I was setting up chairs for Debbie’s final address. This was a time for closure and appreciation for a meaningful and emotional week. T-shirts were then handed out before heading down to the gazebo for one last photo opp.—a group shot. Of course, this spawned reasons for additional shots. Making memories is never finished until there are no memories to be had.