Friday, March 31, 2006

Let the Party begin...

I attempted to make Maria's birthday cake here in Romania. I used a recipe that I love from the states that is fairly easy.

I started by having a co-worker of Steve's translate the ingredients into the Romanian equivalent. For some of the items it was as close as she could think of! Then I had to convert all the measurements to metric.

Now for the baking. Of course we still haven't found measuring spoons so I estimated as close as possible. When I opened what we thought was baker's unsweetened chocolate it turned out to be regular chocolate. So I cut the sugar in half. They also have only baking powder and soda combined so we had to use that.

The final product was fair. Maria said it would do. It wasn't as "chocolatey" as in the states and it didn't rise good. Maybe that was the temperature in the oven or the baking powder/soda issue.

The frosting turned out very good so we put LOTS of frosting on the cake. I had cut the cake and made a "7" hoping the novelty of the number would distract from the not so great cake! We topped the frosting with colored sprinkles and headed to the gym for team practice.

The girls lined up shortest to tallest to prepare for the cake. Then, bless pat, they sang Happy Birthday in ENGLISH! We were stunned! Then I cut the cake and most of them ate it.

It was a pretty good start to the Birthday Weekend.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Romanian Appliances

Greetings from Romania! This is Maria sitting at our "school area" also known as the kitchen table! She and Stephen brought the flowers home to me after their last date. There are flower stands all over the streets.

We haven't been doing anything cool or exciting. I thought some of you might like to see the appliances we have here in Bucharest.

This is my stove here. For those of you who know how much I LOVE my kitchen in the states understand what an adjustment this has been for me!

This is our refrigerator. No, Maria hasn't grow that tall in the two months we've been gone. The fridge is actually that small.

This is the dishwasher - well actually the "dishwasher" is taking the picture! Ha Ha

This is the clothes washer. You can fit about 4 adult jeans in it at a time. I have to literally switch the drain under the kitchen sink when I want to wash clothes. Needless to say we wear clothes more than once here!

This is the clothes dryer. You can fit about two loads of laundry at a time. It takes most items about a day to dry. Sometimes jeans and sweatshirts take a little longer. Maria likes to pretend it's a harp on non-washing days. It actually plays a nice little tune! :)

The potty flushes by the button on top. This is a step up from the potty at gymnastics that has the tank up high on the wall and you pull the cord to release the water and flush the potty.

Hopefully we'll have some more exciting news after the "birthday" weekend!

Love you guys, Dana and Maria

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Gymnastics in Romania

This is Maria's rhythmic gymnastics team in Romania. Today she was asked to compete with them for the rest of this season. We were a little surprised and very honored. Starting tomorrow she will be practicing each afternoon with the team. She will still be doing the routines that she had in the states. The coaches may add some of the new skills she has learned here though.

I am thankful that we are being included more in the group. I actually felt like "one of the Moms" in the locker room today!

These are the coaches. The one on the right is Doina Firica. I'm not sure what the other lady's name is! Doina speaks a little English. The other speaks no English. Usually one of the other gymnasts translates.

Today when they lined up shortest to tallest to wish the coaches Good-day and good-bye one of the girls translated to Maria that she was "an official team member". Evidently even the Romanians think this is a big deal!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sunday in Barcelona

Our last day in Barcelona until September. We went to the Barcelona Zoo and it was a very clean, beautiful zoo. We spent about three hours there. Here are some of the animals we saw.

Our flight left Barcelona around 6:15pm. We were going through Munich with only a 45-minute layover! When our flight was delayed for 30 minutes we went to check to see if we would make our connection. The staff said we would!

When we walked into the Munich airport we looked at the board and it said our flight was boarding at H34, we were at G2! Maria said, "let’s run!" and she took off. We ran at full speed until we hit passport control. It took us a few minutes to get through that (and time for the Mama to catch her breath) then we were off again. Praise the Lord our flight was delayed there as well, and we made it on board with time to spare. We all conked out until the approach to Bucharest.

We arrived back in our apartment a little after 2am!

Barcelona is a great city. The public transportation is clean and well marked. The streets are pedestrian friendly and the people speak enough English that you can survive without knowing Spanish. I would love to spend a week there!

Saturday Afternoon in Barcelona

After an all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet for lunch (We were starving after so much walking and climbing in the morning) we went to the Mirador de Colom. The Mirador de Colom (Columbus monument) is located at the bottom of La Rambla, by the sea. A great work of architecture built in 1888 on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition commemorating the discovery of America.

We rode the elevator up to the viewing gallery, 60m above ground. There were no stairs to climb to Maria’s disappointment. She had been looking forward to seeing this monument since we have been studying US history this year in school.

There were lion statues around the base so what else should you do but ride that lion! Crazy Americans. Ha ha

After leaving the Columbus Monument we headed toward another area of town that took us through the Catalunya Square. Everyone was feeding the pigeons so it seemed like the thing to do! Maria actually got them to eat right out of her hand!

We walked up more stairs to the Museu Nacional D’art de Catalunya. The building itself is phenomenal but we didn’t go inside. No one is a big art lover and we had other things that we really wanted to do. So no educational info just a really pretty building!

We attempted to find the Olympic park buildings from when Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games in 1992, I believe. We found the stadium but it was locked. This is the stadeum where all the flags are still up.

I managed to get this picture by sticking my camera through a hole in the fence!

From here Maria decided she wanted to see what was on top on this huge hill (mountain to my eyes!). There was this "goat path" that led upward but Stephen had mercy on me and found a bus going to the top! What we found at the top was a great experience for them as father/daughter. It was the Museu Militar.

It was a coastal fortress. Maria thought that was cool because she’s been playing a computer game, Civilization, which has a coastal fortress. She climbed up on the cannons and Steve provided background info on who would have been out there etc.

Then Maria noticed a plane coming in for a landing. She and Stephen watched it while it landed and he explained everything the pilot would be doing to land the plane. I loved this picture of them watching the plane!

That evening after supper we went back to the Art museum for the light show. They have a huge water fountain that they light up at night on the weekends and add colored lights and music. The show is fabulous! After watching for about 45 minutes we headed home for our usual coffee and dessert!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Saturday Morning in Barcelona

We started the day at the Farmer's Market. When we saw this place last night with all the fresh fruit we knew where breakfast was going to be. We found a grill inside and ordered our hot breakfast. We tried to order two scrambled eggs for Maria but they came out over-easy. She was an adventurous eater and tried them. She loved them so much she ate every bite along with the loaf of fresh bread!

After that we stopped and got some fresh fruit to eat sitting in the sunshine. They also had fresh fish that just came in that morning.

We had to take the Metro to our next stop and the gentleman in the picture below was playing "Ava Maria" in the subway. I started singing and of course that embarrassed Maria!

After breakfast we went to the Temple de la Sagrada Familia. The foundation stone was laid in 1882. Antoni Gaudi, a devout Christian, worked on the project for over 40 years. Twelve bell towers will be built, 100 m. high (about 100 yds), representing the apostles, and a central dome, 170 m high, honoring Jesus Christ, flanked by the towers of Mary, 125m high, and those of the four evangelists.

We climbed the stairs to the top. Very tiring. The staircase was stone and you had to go single file, straight up a spiral stairwell. (There was an elevator but it cost 2 euros!) Maria loved the climb!

Next we headed to a famous park, Parc Guell, which was designed by the same architect. It has lots of winding paths and awesome views. This is the lizard that is at the entrance. Evidently EVERYONE who goes to Barcelona is supposed to get their picture taken with the lizard so here is Maria's.

We also found the crosses at the crest of the park. The view from up here was outstanding!

This was the view from the top:

This is probably one of my favorites...I've always had a weakness for columns. This was in the park as well. They had a sitting area and there was several musicians playing music.

Friday, March 10, 2006

We have arrived in Barcelona


We left our apartment in Bucharest this morning at 4am! Grampa and Gramma were very surprised when Stephen called them this morning! I guess it was evening for them. They reminded us what time it was in Bucharest.

We arrived in Barcelona, Spain around noon their time, which is 6 hours ahead of EST. We had no problem jumping on a bus and then the metro to find our hotel on our own. The hotel is great! It is a small hotel so the service is outstanding. It is right on the coast and we can see the water from our balcony.

This is the view from the balcony in our room. We're only on the second floor so the view isn't as great as it could be.

After we unpacked we headed out to La Ramblas. This is evidentially "the street" in Barcelona. There is a large sidewalk in the middle with eating places, artists, living art (mimes), florist shops, and everything else possible. We walked through several portions of it. We didn't get to the animal section but we will soon! We ate at a tiny little restaurant. Steve and I had pallenta, a rice dish with seafood and Maria had spaghetti without sauce. That's a Spanish specialty too, you know!

This is us in the middle of La Ramblas. As you can tell the weather here this afternoon was close to 70 F. When the sun starting going down it cooled off fast and we are back at the hotel now.

I think I'll attempt to convince my husband and daughter to venture out again for our night snack. Let's see... cappacino and ice cream should do the trick!

I'll try to post pictures of our day tomorrow. Love you all!


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Titan Park

Titan Park (pronounced TEE-tan - short a, not long a)

This is the park that is about a 10 minute walk from our apartment. Our metro stop is located right at the entrance to the park. The park itself is HUGE. Maria and I have played at two different playgrounds within the park. There is also a couple of restaurants either within the park or on the edges. We've been to two of them! We love not having to drive to go out to eat.

There is also a lake with a walking path surrounding it. This is where Steve runs mostly. I'm sure when the weather improves (it snowed a little last night) we'll be going here quite a bit.

Sunday was warmer and sunny so Stephen went out with the camera to take some pictures for his running blog. Of course Maria went with him so he took these of her in Titan park as well.

We're heading to Barcelona, Spain this weekend so keep checking for news from that trip.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Dinner with 'da girls

We started affectionately calling the school teachers from Bucharest Christian Academy, 'da girls, when Stephen first got here and they were helping him shop and get set up in Bucharest. It seemed like every time we talked he was off to another store with...'da girls.

We met Whitney through a homeschooling friend and actually met her for lunch when she was in the upstate after Christmas. We go to church with them here and they let Maria stay with them for a few hours while we had an anniversary dinner my first week here.

These young ladies have been super in helping us adjust to the living away from the states. They let us know things before hand that we needed and how to find things here. We actually packed brown sugar, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips!

On the back row starting at the left is Amy and Laura. Seated is Luke, Whitney's friend from England, and Whitney. Luke and Whitney met on mission last summer.

We had a great time with them and the meal was outstanding! We even played a game of UNO much to Maria's delight.

Trip to the Post Office

Maria and I went to the Post Office this morning in an attempt to get our first package from the States. It was sent out from Simpsonville on February 22nd and arrived on March 3rd. This is VERY speedy by Bucharest standards. :) The valentine M&Ms that Granny sent still haven't shown up - we're guessing they ate them in customs!

We had to ride the bus to get there. We got an early start and got on the first bus with the morning commuters going to work. For the first two stops we were packed between strangers. I literally had people pressed in on all four sides. At least Maria was the person in front! Ha Ha. At the second stop a gentleman got on and stood close to Maria. He evidently doesn't "believe" in over-bathing! He was a little stinky, especially when your nose reaches right at his armpit!

We found the post office without a single wrong turn! Yeah for us! We gave them our package ticket and ID and they started asking questions. Yikes!! I finally got it across by pointing to my wedding band that Stephen and I are married (the package was addressed to him). They gave us our package and we had to pay 1,50 RON tax which is about 50 cents USD. Not bad.

We found our way back to the bus stop and got on another bus. Lots more room and we even got a seat. A young lady overheard our English and asked where we were from. She is from Canada and is here for a year also. She seemed as happy as we felt to run across someone speaking English.

Then the icing on the cake...our bus dropped us off right in front of the fornetti stand! And they were hot and calling our names. So we split a bag as we finished the walk home.

Not bad for two "country" girls living in a big city in a foreign country!!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A glimpse of things to come...

"I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" Revelation 7:9

The picture above is our worship choir at our Bucharest church, Calvary Chapel. The gentleman in the white shirt and black sleeves is Mihai, our worship leader (as far as we can tell). He seems to be extremely different from Ryland, our worship leader in the states. He has his eyebrow pierced and wears a fairly large chain on his hip. In fact you wouldn't think Mihai and Ryland had anything in common until they begin to lead in worship. When they stand before their church to lead, the church disappears and they stand before an audience of One! Their entire attitude is one of self-less worship of the only One worthy of our praise. The Lord Jesus Christ!

While the melodies here are familiar, popular praise songs, the lyrics have been translated into Romanian. Most of the time the English is also on the screen. Some songs we can muddle through, some we can even sing freely and actually worship, some I stand in awe at the worship around me and thank my Lord that He has allowed me to experience something that most Christians won't get to be included in until Jesus comes to take us home.

Our choir and music consists of usually six vocalists, two or three guitars (maybe acoustic since they plug into the sound system?), and a drum. I love to watch the drummer, Tekla. She is just sitting in the front row adding her rhythm to the music unless one or both of her hands are raised in love and worship to her Lord! This is her picture below. She was very embarrassed to have her picture taken. We took these before the service started while they were warming up and checking the sound system.

I must say that the time frame of their worship isn't regulated. We spent over 30 minutes this morning in musical worship, some of the songs weren't even on the screen just spontaneous. I would say the entire service lasted at least 90 minutes but even then people hung around afterward to visit and continue to worship.

I hope all of you have a good week!


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Walking the streets of Bucharest

After visiting a museum in the morning (see the post following) we took full advantage of the 50 degree temperature and the sunshine and hit the streets of Bucharest. There was still PILES of snow and slush sitting around but we couldn't resist the outdoors.

We headed to one of the shopping areas. The streets were cobblestone and people were milling about everywhere. We looked in some glass shops and I saw some "Romanian" things I want to bring back with me. We are hoping to get out of the city at some point and we have heard that the prices are better in the areas where these articles are actually made.

I took a couple of pictures of scenes that I enjoyed. I don't know where we were or the names of the buildings in the pictures. I hope you enjoy them too.