Do You Like Romania?

“Îți place România?”

“Do you like Romania?”

I think this is the question I have been asked the most ever since I moved to Romania a little over a month ago. The questions that almost always follow are “Is it different?” and “Is it hard?”

My answer to all three questions, simply, is yes. It is definitely different and it is hard, but I am so happy to be here.

Is it different?

Most of the differences I’ve encountered so far have not been an issue at all. By now most of these differences seem normal, and it is somewhat amusing when sometimes I stop and realize how accustomed I am to something that was once quite strange.

We do not have a car here in Romania, so we walk everywhere. But everyone around us walks everywhere. Luckily we live in the center of the city and everything is within a very reasonable walking distance. Unless it is raining, it is lovely to get out every day, or maybe several times a day, and walk in the fresh air to run whatever errands we need to do. I am not yet at the point where I will go anywhere by myself, so it is also a nice time to have with Sam. Sometimes we will walk together, hand in hand, in silence, thinking to ourselves and enjoying the walk, but many other times we will spend the time in conversation about whatever is on our minds.

Growing up, I was used to one huge grocery trip per week. We had all our meals planned out and each week we would buy a large amount of food to last the whole week. Here we find ourselves going to the market or the grocery store nearly every other day, which is partly due to the fact that we have a very small refrigerator, and partly due to the fact that we have to carry everything we buy back to our apartment. Some things, such as dry rice, oatmeal, or beans, we stock up on and keep in our cabinet, so our shopping trips are usually to buy something particular to cook when we have company for supper, or fresh fruits and vegetables that we tend to go through quite quickly.

There are several little things in our apartment that are different from what I am used to. When I first learned how certain things were done I would sometimes smile in amusement, but nothing has been any great hardship. Now it is all very normal to me, so it amuses me when my family or friends back home first hear about how our washer works or how I cook things in the oven. Our washer is nice, small, and perfect for me to do a small load every day or every other day, and it fits nicely in the corner of our bathroom. Our proprietor (landlord) kindly brought it in for us when we moved in because there was not a washing machine there previously. Since the apartment was not built for a washing machine there was not a drain in our bathroom to hook it up to. Instead we have a plastic tube that I place in the toilet every time I turn it on, and the water drains in there. It is very important to remember to move the tube whenever I start a load, but forgetting it once made it to where I will never forget again, I hope. Although I had an adrenaline rush and a fear of Romanian neighbors with water coming through their ceiling, all ended well and no damage was caused.

I am so excited to have a gas stove in our kitchen, it is just a little different from the one I was used to back home. There is a cabinet right next to the stove with a large propane tank. Every time I want to cook I twist the knob to turn on the gas, then I light the stove with a lighter. Our oven is also gas, so in order to bake something I turn on the gas, lift up a little door in the bottom of the oven and start the fire. I have not attempted much baking so far, but it is good that I am not a perfectionist in the kitchen because our oven has no temperature settings and adjusting the fire is quite interesting.

All these differences took some adjusting initially, but overall, these differences and others seem very normal to me now, and I enjoy living here very much, even with the differences.

Is it hard?

I’m often unsure how to answer this question. Yes, it is hard. But it is okay. I am okay with it being hard, and it is not too hard.

It is difficult to be in another country with a different culture and different language and not know many people. I desire to meet people and have relationships with them, but that can be difficult for me even we speak the same language. Here it is even more difficult because of the language barrier. However, I am slowly learning, and many people speak at least a little English. I have learned enough to understand most of what people say, but responding is still hard. Despite the difficulties, I have still been able to meet several people and begin to form relationships, and I am so thankful for this. I am also so thankful for Sam, for his parents, and for the internet, through which I can call my Mama “anytime I want to talk in southern English!”

It is difficult not knowing the culture very well, especially when we have guests over for a meal. I am constantly trying to listen, observe, and learn the Romanian way to prepare and serve food, how to set the table, and the way and order to present certain things. Every time we have guests over we tell them we are trying to learn Romanian customs, and ask them to help and teach us what we should do differently. Sometimes I get nervous about doing something wrong, but I just think to myself that if I do something terribly wrong or different from Romanian traditions they will just think it is the “interesting American” way of doing things.

It is hard to be away from my family and friends back home and at FC. Last week my family helped Clay move into college (he is attending FC) and it was difficult, because I would love to be in two places at once and be there with him as well.

Although it is sometimes hard to be here, I feel incredibly blessed with this opportunity. Recently on one of our walks through the city Sam and I were reflecting on what a unique opportunity we have been blessed with to be able to get married, and then move to Romania to work, encourage, and evangelize. After being apart for what seemed like so long, we feel blessed to be together, no matter where we are or what difficulties we face. While I definitely miss my family and friends from back home, I am still excited every day to live with my best friend and see him every day, and I am so blessed to have the love and support from my family and so many others back home.

As I go through minor difficulties as I transition to living here in Romania I pray that I will learn from them. I pray that Sam and I will grow closer, we will both grow closer to God, and that others will benefit from our time here.

So overall, yes. Yes, it is different. Yes, it is hard. And yes, I like Romania.

Da, îmi place România

Balance

Julie and I eat ice cream every night together. It is a routine that my single-self would have never permitted. At about 21:00 we get ready for bed and then I pull out our blender to make some ice cream, blending 340 grams of frozen bananas, 25 grams of peanuts, and some instant coffee. After blending it all together, we divide it into some coffee mugs and eat it together on our balcony, looking out out at the apartment buildings and the lights on the Orthodox Church. In the corner of my eye I see Julie grin, which makes me feel I am doing something right. My single-self would have never let me do this because it is “unproductive.”

My brother used to tell me “girls will slow you down.” Truth be told, he was actually advising me to start dating. My brother knew I was living too fast, trying to stay productive all the time. And he also knew I was odious, being impatient with the smallest of annoyances. As my brother Paul often does, he corrected me and then started laughing at me, actually he started laughing at this funny-truth and then at my annoyed reaction.

I need help going the speed limit; I do not balance well. When I eat donuts, I will eat four. When I work on cars, I’ll buy nine. When I eat healthily, I eat vegetables alone. Fruit has sugar. When I study, I don’t sleep. When I exercise, I run marathons. When I marry, I marry Julie, who is much the same way. As Julie and I have been together, we talk and laugh about our unbalanced tendency. So here are my thoughts on balance and its relevance to Julie’s and my marriage. Is living an unbalanced life good?

My initial thought is that unbalanced productivity is good. By “unbalanced productivity,” I mean accomplishing as much as possible. Paul, the apostle, says “make the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). So my thinking has been, and still is to some extent, I must do as many things as I can. Yes, Paul does not say anything about doing many things. To make the most use of our time can mean doing a few things but doing them well. And it seems that life is really only filled with but a few things. “Unbalanced productivity” can actually leave someone too busy for the “few things of life.” Being balanced is doing a few things well.

Relationships are the few things of life. This is what the Bible says as well as my emotions. In the Bible describes God creating man to have a relationship with him; this relationship is man’s greatest purpose. Also, God tells us the supreme virtue is love, the blood of a relationship. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Not only does this make sense but this is how I feel. As I sit on the balcony with Julie, eating ice cream, her smile impresses me with the feeling that I am doing something right. Our relationship is more important than the things I could be doing. Let me end with this proverb which is now hanging above my desk. “Un nume bun este mai de dorit decît o bogăţie mare şi a fi iubit preţuieşte mai mult decît argintul şi aurul. Prov. 22:1,” which means, “A good name is more desirable than great wealth and being loved is to be cherished more than silver and gold.”

Learning Together

Sam and I both love being productive. Most of the time this is a good thing. I greatly dislike the thought of wasting time, so I am always looking for something to do to fill every bit of time. If I watch a movie with my family or friends, I must have something to knit or crochet, laundry to fold, or some other small task to do. I always bring yarn, a book, or my journal on long car rides. If I can listen to an audio book while doing something with my hands (like knitting) it is even better! Sam is the same way, as he loves to listen to audio books while running or cooking. Sam’s brother and best man in our wedding, Abe, gave a speech at our reception, and he talked about how Sam always wants to be productive; he always wants to be moving and doing something. There have been times when someone has told me to slow down, that it’s okay to “just be with people” and not feel like I must be doing something productive (but Mama always reminds me that being with people and building relationships is productive). This is true, and I hope we are always able to keep this perspective (or be reminded by others) and use our love for productivity and busyness to help others.

We also both love to learn. While my love for academic learning is perhaps not as strong as Sam’s, I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of learning from so many wonderful professors at Florida College. I looked forward to writing papers or learning in class, but I always said I would enjoy college so much more without tests (but I have come to appreciate tests a bit more). Even outside of academia Sam and I both enjoy reading and learning on our own, from subjects like running or diet to methods of learning languages.

Since we both love being productive and we both enjoy learning, it is not surprising that both of these things have been present throughout our relationship. The summer after we started dating, while Sam was preaching in Ohio and I was at home in Mississippi, we would talk on the phone every night. One night a week we would study the Bible, and another night we would discuss whatever book we had decided to read together, including Walden and Machiavelli’s The Prince, and we attempted Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nation. We also decided to do some research on our own and write essays for each other each week, to kill two birds with one stone in a sense. We would research for one paper, but learn from two.

After we got engaged and Sam left for Romania, we got into a schedule of talking on FaceTime every morning. We usually had plenty to talk about, but we enjoyed learning together and wanted to continue doing so. We ended up making a schedule with a different subject for each day to discuss and learn together. We would always spend part of the time talking about “normal things,” things going on in our lives or various random subjects and questions to ask each other, and then we would get into the topic for the day.

Typically, on Mondays we would study marriage. We had a list of books various people recommended to us, and each time we would read a chapter and think of questions to ask each other or important points to bring up. Tuesdays were devoted to learning the Romanian language, and on Wednesdays we studied the Gospel of Luke. On Thursday we discussed another book we decided to read (the latest was Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before), and on Fridays we studied marriage with Sam’s dad. We also found time to learn together about running, eating healthy, Greek, and various different topics in the Bible or different ideas that were on our minds. Some days we would begin talking about something different and we would just spend our time discussing whatever the relevant issue was, not worrying about studying our specific subject for the day.

I have heard the advice many times to spend time with your significant other in a variety of situations to get to know who they really are. I definitely agree with this, and Sam and I were blessed to have many different opportunities to be together in several different settings. However, being in a long distance relationship can make this somewhat difficult. Although talking on the phone or through FaceTime cannot compare to being together in different situations, I felt like being able to discuss so many different subjects helped us see each other in slightly different settings and bring up topics to learn each other’s opinions on certain things. When we studied the Bible I got to learn how Sam studied and how he came to certain conclusions. This also gave us the prompt to talk about a multitude of different spiritual topics and issues. Studying marriage had similar effects; we learned each other’s love language and what makes each other feel respected or loved. In reading books together we learned of each other’s opinions and points of view on various subjects. Studying together was very productive—we learned both new and interesting information, and we learned more about each other.

After we were married and got to see each other every day, we stopped all of our studies except for our Bible study (we finished Luke and now we are studying Acts). However, now that we are getting settled in our own apartment in Romania, we began scheduling different times we could discuss various things like before. We still have a list of books we want to read together, and we never quite finished our list of recommended marriage books (although we have both expressed that we would like to reread the ones we read before since we are married now and have a new perspective). We currently have on our schedule to study Acts, read about marriage, and read a couple other books on our list.

We will probably not be able to set aside time every single day to study together now, and someday we may will no longer have the time to study together so much or so often. But for now, we are enjoying the opportunity of doing some of the things we love, being productive and learning, together.

~ Julie Peters

Getting Settled

My first night in Romania was very overwhelming for me. I had just traveled for nearly two days, and I was exhausted, far away from home, and in a completely new and different place. I am not completely through the transition stage yet, having only been here for two weeks, but I already feel much more comfortable here and much less overwhelmed most of the time.

On a walk one evening

As I wrote in my last post, when Sam and I arrived to Severin we stayed with his parents in their apartment. It was wonderful to get to be with them; they were very welcoming and hospitable and we really enjoyed our time with them.

Walking home from the store with Mom

One of the things I really like about living in Romania is the fact that everyone walks everywhere. We live within reasonable walking distance of any type of store or service we would need. Walking to the market or to the building for services is one of my favorite things. The day after we arrived Sam and I walked to the Police Department to report that I was in the country and to get things started on getting my long-term visa. We also went shopping at the piața (like a huge farmer’s market), and got coffee. Romanians drink espresso almost exclusively, so that is all that was available at this coffee shop. I enjoy drinking coffee black, but a straight espresso was a little too strong for me! I drank about half of the tiny cup, and Sam finished it off for me. Perhaps I will get more used to drinking espresso as I live here.

Drinking espresso together

On Sunday we all walked together to services where we joined four other members to worship God together. Again we sang in Romanian, and although I could not understand all the words I was singing, I recognized the tune and enough of the words that I could think about what I was singing about. However, it is quite challenging to focus both on reading and singing unfamiliar words and on the meaning of what I am singing at the same time! Sam and I brought home a songbook and I hope to learn the songs we sing most often so I will be able to focus more on what the words mean when I sing them. Sorin, a member of the church in Severin and the translator for Sam and his dad preached a lesson first; then Sam preached an excellent lesson on grace. On the way home I told Sam that I wanted to memorize the books of the New Testament in Romanian so I could at least follow along in my Bible when Sorin or someone else is preaching in Romanian. I do have most of them memorized now, and it is much easier to follow along if I can catch the book, chapter, and verse when they are talking so quickly!

Our first Sunday together in Romania

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning we met at the building with a few other local preachers from the area to study Acts. Not only were the studies encouraging and beneficial, but it was good for me to hear both the English and Romanian translations of what everyone said to help me in understanding more Romanian. We will continue to have these studies every Wednesday morning.

Acts Study

On Thursday Sam, Sorin, and I traveled to Craiova, which is a large city about two hours away from Severin that does not, to our limited knowledge, have a faithful church. Sam and Sorin handed out hundreds of fliers inviting people to come to a study in the Gospel of Luke in a library in Craiova. Unfortunately no one came to the study, but we pray impact was made on someone. Even though no one came, Sorin and Sam had prepared to lead the study, so the three of us still studied Luke 4-5 together for an hour.

In Craiova

Wednesday afternoon Sam and I had gone to look at a couple apartments, and that night Sam’s parents also came with us to look at one of them again. We decided to rent the apartment we saw first and on Friday we signed the contract and began moving in! We made a couple trips back and forth between our new apartment and Mom and Dad’s apartment and to a storage unit to get all our things here, then we made a trip to the store for cleaning supplies so we could start scrubbing everything! We worked all day on Friday, but we ended up going back to Mom and Dad’s apartment to stay that night.

Saturday morning we were reenergized and ready to spend the day cleaning and unpacking! We also made a huge list of things we needed and went on a fun shopping trip to the mall. We got a coffee pot, crock-pot, pillows for the bed, a trashcan, and many more things in between. We had to leave the great majority of our wedding gifts back at my parent’s house in Mississippi, but several people blessed us with monetary gifts to take to Romania to set up our home here. It was fun to shop together and choose things to set up in our apartment.

I had good motivation to get everything unpacked and cleaned because we had company over Sunday afternoon for lunch! I got up early Sunday morning to cook a lot of food and do some more cleaning. This Sunday we had many visitors at services, including Eugen, Jantina, and their family, who came over to our apartment for lunch. Visiting with Eugen and Jantina and playing with their three kids was wonderful. After they left I told Sam that after having the apartment so full of people and joyful little kids it really felt more like a home. We are so excited to have our own place and we have been blessed to find an apartment that is very suitable for entertaining. We look forward to having many more people in our home!

Visiting 

Sam with Eva or Eliza (I’m not sure which one) and Jamil

Sam and I enjoy running together and we run almost every morning. For the past several days we have met our friend Adelina at a nearby track to run together. She is training to pass a physical exam in order to go to school to be a police officer. She told us she wanted to run every day. Some days others come, such as Adelina’s friend Andrei, Sorin, or Dad. Running has been a good way to get to know people better, in addition to it being a healthy and fun activity for me and Sam to do together.

Andei, Adelina, me, Sam, and Sorin at the track

Overall, the transition to Romania so far has been smooth, with just a few bumps. So far the hardest thing has been leaving my family, but I also have family here, and I have been able to communicate with my family a good bit. The most overwhelming thing to me in Romania is the language. While I know enough common words to basically understand most of what people say, it is extremely difficult for me to speak. I am still working on learning though, and just being here and hearing people speak has already helped me learn more, and I know people are so willing to help me.

I really do love it here. I love being with Sam and being near Mom and Dad. I love the simplicity of life here. I love the people here. I love this opportunity I have to meet more people in God’s family and encourage and be encouraged by them. I pray I will help others as I live here, but I know they are helping me so much already. This opportunity truly is a blessing!

~ Julie Peters

The Next Chapter of our Journey

The first seven weeks of our marriage were wonderful. We traveled all over the place for Sam to preach and share the work in Romania on the weekends, visiting and meeting countless brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere we went. During the week we lived at my parent’s house, spending time with my family, having various studies, visiting friends, and managing to stay very busy.

Now we have begun a new chapter in our lives together. Last week, beginning our journey on Monday, we have moved to Romania. Sam has lived and worked here for ten months before our marriage, and I have now joined him. I am excited to see what God’s will for us is as we live and work here together, always trying to serve and glorify God in everything.

We said goodbye to most of the family Monday afternoon, and then Daddy and Leah went with us to the airport in Atlanta, about five hours away. I expected it to be hard to leave my family, but I found it even harder than I anticipated. Before we left Daddy prayed with us all in the kitchen and many of us could not stop the tears. It was a bittersweet goodbye, because I was so excited to take this next step with Sam, but I was also sad to be leaving my family. When we said goodbye to Daddy and Leah in the airport Sam prayed again, and again there were tears. Leah and I hugged and cried for a while, then we dried our tears and said goodbye—just for a little while, just until December.

In the Atlanta airport, about to leave for London

The flight to London was long, but it was much better than I expected. Our flight left at 10:15 pm, and as soon as we got on the plane I was exhausted. I was able to sleep for a little while, and then I woke up and read for about an hour or so. The rest of the flight was spend sleeping and waking up several times, so I never felt like I was really able to sleep, but it was better than nothing and I did feel somewhat rested the next morning. Adapting to time change has been interesting, but it has not been as difficult as I anticipated.

Our layover in London was almost nine hours, so we filled out departure cards at passport control and purchased tickets for the Underground to go see the city! It was quite expensive to check bags at the airport, so we walked all around London carrying all four of our carry on bags! We each had a backpack, and Sam carried both of our carry on suitcases. We did not have much time in the city, but it was a great experience to get to see downtown London, hear all the British accents, and see many interesting sights. We walked through a small garden, through Chinatown, and across the Thames River. We even saw Big Ben from a distance

!

Downtown London!

When we returned to the airport we were exhausted, but we still had a three-hour flight ahead of us to Bucharest, Romania. However, the flight went well and before I knew it we were landing in Romania.

Even now it has not completely sunk in that I am here in Romania. I have had a feeling I might end up here for a while. It began when Sam and I started dating and I knew he would be moving here. I knew I would be coming here when we got engaged, and then when we got married. Now I am actually here and I still can’t completely believe it! Right before we got off the plane I began to get pretty nervous. I did not know what I was doing, I did not know the language, and I was just a bit overwhelmed. I was nervous to go through passport control, but everything went smoothly and we were able to get our bags and leave the airport.

Our great friend Vali met us at the airport and drove us to a hotel to stay for the night. Sam met Vali a few months ago through a mutual friend from the States and he has been such a blessing. Sam contacted him before we arrived and he took care of us in every way, from picking us up at the airport after midnight local time, to getting us a nice hotel room for two nights, taking us on a tour around Bucharest, and helping us get to the train station. We are so thankful for all Vali’s help!

My first night in Romania, as we rode from the airport to the hotel, I was very overwhelmed. Everyone was speaking a different language and everything looked different. I was also sleep deprived and still sad about leaving my family; so many different emotions were combined to create my feelings.

That night Sam read Psalm 23 before we went to sleep. Even though everything is new here and a bit frightening, God is our shepherd and we can trust in Him, and hopefully we will learn to trust in Him more and more as we face hardships during this new part of our journey.

I’m not sure how late it was when we finally got to bed Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, but due to exhaustion and jetlag we slept until 12:30 pm the next morning! Not long after we woke up we walked to a nearby piata and bought some fruits and vegetables for breakfast. Sam also went to a store and bought bread, peanut butter, oats, and coffee! We spent a few hours in the hotel; Sam studied and did computer work and I studied and worked on my online college classes. We walked about a mile and a half to Bible study that night where Sam used to attend when his family lived in Bucharest in 1999-2001. The whole study was led in Romanian and I could not understand it, but I was able to pick up a few words here and there that I recognized. Sam had a bilingual Bible (Romanian on one side and English on the other), so I just tried to read the passage in English and think about it. When one led a prayer in Romanian, I simply prayed to myself since I could not understand what he was saying. Most of the members could speak English fairly well, so I was able to meet them all after the study. It was encouraging to meet brothers and sisters in Christ with common goals and interests even when I was far away from home in a different country.

Vali picked us up after Bible study and took us on a drive through Bucharest, showing us all the historic and notable sights and buildings. Although I was quite tired earlier in the day, getting to sleep was still somewhat difficult as I was still adjusting to the time change. However, when I woke up the next morning at 5:00 to get ready to get on the train I felt well rested and somewhat on schedule.

With Vali at the House of Parliaments

The House of Parliaments

We had about a six-hour train ride from Bucharest to Severin, and although I was a little nervous about it, it all went very smoothly and all was well! It was so wonderful to see Mom and Dad (Peters) when we arrived at their apartment in Severin. We visited and caught up together for a while, and later that day Sam took me on my first run in Romania. We are currently living with Mom and Dad in their apartment for the time being and we are so thankful for their hospitality and allowing us to share their home!

On the train to Severin

Getting settled and getting used to living in a completely new place with a new culture and a new language has been and will be a process, but so far everything is going well and I am so thankful to have this opportunity! Updates on life here in Romania will be coming soon!

~ Julie Peters