Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Freshman & The Super Senior

My roommate Madeline and I are very different….yet we love each other just the same!

RoomiesThat’s me on the left, and Madeline on the right.
As of this post, we have lived together for 13 days.
We are both doing the same internship in Romania.
That’s how we met. 

Madeline: Freshman

Me: Super Senior (5th year)

We have to leave by 7:30 to get to the orphanage on time:
Madeline: I need sleep! I haven’t gotten up this early since early morning seminary in high school! I don’t know how I’m gonna do this.

Me: I got this. I worked early morning custodial for 22 months (4am-7:30am) during college. And I’ve been getting up before 7 for most of my college career.

Ceapa (onions):
Madeline: Oh, and we can put onions in it!

Me: Or we can just pretend onions don’t exist!

Buying things:
Madeline: We should add that to the grocery list.

Me: Do we really need it? I’m all about the cheap life…saving money….

Madeline: Should we get the blue one or the…oh wait…

Me: PINK!!!!!!!! Get the pink one! Get all the pink things!

Madeline: This is amazing! We may need to get some every week.

Me: Well..
Madeline: Okay, semi-weekly then.
Me: I was thinking more like every other week…
Madeline: Ok, well I will buy it every week, and you will just be jealous.

Me: Again, the cheap life.

Family contact:
Madeline: I email my family every night about what happens.

Me: I emailed my mom last week and she still hasn’t responded…and I’ll probably email her next week…I’ll just probably tell her all about it when I get home. 

Madeline: I don’t want to cook the chicken since we don’t know how to use the oven yet.

Me: We could learn…or we could cook it on the stove….
[I proceeded to teach her how to cook chicken on the stove]

Madeline: It’s so cool! It has a fridge! And look, our own stove and washing machine and sink!

Me: Is this your first apartment?
Madeline: Yes!!
Me: Ah. I see. I moved out like 7 years ago…which is probably why I’m not as excited as you are…

The first time rain was in the forecast:
Madeline: I need to find my umbrella before we leave

Me: Don’t worry, I already have mine. It’s big enough for both of us.
[We were out walking, it started raining, so I pull out my umbrella]
Me: Look, it’s rainbow colored!
Madeline: Oh my gosh, I’m doomed. That screams “I’m American!” They told us to try and blend in! Put it away!
Me: Are you for reals right now? It’s raining, and you want me to put it away?
Madeline: Uhm…yeah….
Me: But it’s so pretty! Look at all the colors! You know what, you’re right.

Me: Look, the little shops on our block sell umbrellas! I’ll go buy an acceptable one.

[We go down to one of the vendors with umbrellas]
Me: This one is dark and has flowers…is that okay?
Madeline: There’s a pink one…
Me: PINK!!! 
[I proceed to buy a plastic pink umbrella, and I am thrilled! Madeline approved!]
[Walking away, her with her black umbrella, me with my pink one]

Me: Thanks for letting me buy the pink umbrella, and letting me use it!
Madeline: You were just SO HAPPY that it was pink. And it’s Romanian. How could I not let you?

Madeline: Short straight pixie cut

Me: Medium length and curly

Madeline: I just LOVE European fashion, it’s so pretty!

Me: I don’t care about fashion, I just do what I want.

Grocery list:
Madeline: Oh, let’s write that on the list

Me: Oh, it’s gotta be in Romanian! Where’s the dictionary?

Bell peppers:
Me: Oh, and let’s add bell peppers!

Madeline: Let’s pretend they don’t exist!

What DO we have in common? We both love the Milka raspberry crème chocolate bars. And Kinder Surprises.


Chipmunk Roomies


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Look for the Positive

Her voice is really high pitched.
She always speaks kindly of others.

She always walks on her toes.
She knows what makes her comfortable. 

He never sees what’s going on around him.
He is really good at focusing. 

Her shoes are dusty.
Her shoes match her outfit perfectly.

You don’t know your multiplication tables.
You are really good at counting to 20. 

His shirt is totally wrinkled.
That color looks really nice on him.

Your legs don’t work.
Your arms are super strong.

Look for the positive.

Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.
-Mr. Edward Magorium

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Smiles & A Name

Today was our first day volunteering at the hospital. We go to certain floors and ask the nurses “Aveți copii fără mame?” (Do you have any children with no mothers?). Sometimes they see us coming and just say “Nu avem” (We don’t have). If they do have any, then we hold or play with the baby or child, and change their diapers if they need it. Fun, right? Exactly!


Today we were in a room with a beautiful baby, probably 3 months old. In Romanian hospitals, multiple children will share a small room. So there were two mothers in there with their children as well. We were holding our baby and playing with her. Neither of the mothers there knew much English, and we know very little Romanian.

The mother who was there with her baby had her other child with her, whom we also played with. She loved us. It was so fun! And her baby was laughing and smiling pretty much the whole time we were there. The mother looked ecstatic. After about 15 minutes, the mother said to us “She no smile in 2 week, now today.”

It’s never felt so good to make a baby smile.

A Name

The baby we were there to hold was so sweet! She had the cutest smile. Then the same mother mentioned above said “boy” and we were like “What?! It’s wearing pink!” But I guess you just wear what you have. Then we kept playing and enjoying the baby and she said “have no name” and we suddenly understood why he didn’t have a nametag above his bed.

We couldn’t leave that baby without a name. So we were trying to think of boy Romanian names and Mihai was all we could think of on the spot. The other mother said “Antonio” and we weren’t feeling it. Every name we tried out, the other mother said “Antonio.” Then the first mother said “Think English name”, and right away we said “Joseph.” It just felt right. And the mother who was insistent on Antonio gave a little smile.

When we go back on Monday, we are going to bring a nametag and put it above his bed. He doesn’t have a mother to name him, and it’s been about 3 months and the nurses haven’t named him, so we did the honors. It’s the first baby we’ve ever named. Joseph. Sweet Joseph.

Every baby deserves a name. 

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One Week of Learning

Bună ziua (hello)! I’ve been in Romania for almost a week now, and here is a bit of what I’ve learned so far:

1. Streets don’t need names displayed.

You can just use landmarks. We were walking on the streets in Iasi with our Romanian friend, we’ll call her Mary, and she was showing us how to get somewhere. She said something like “when you get to this street, you turn left.” I asked her what the name of the street was and she said “I don’t know, you just turn left here at this building.” Then I noticed that there were no street signs, so I asked her about them. She said “It’s not like there in America with fancy street names you can read. Sometimes you will see a street name on a building, but you don’t need them.” And she was right! It’s been a week and we’ve figured out how to go many places, just by using landmarks.

2. Trams don’t need flashing lights.

Just be aware! Right outside my window there is a big traffic circle, with tracks running right through it. When a tram comes, it just comes and cars have to notice it. And they do! I haven’t seen an accident yet! And when you are walking, you walk right across them, and if you see a tram coming, you just have to stop. Even kids know this – I saw two young girls walking around, and they looked, stopped, and waited for the tram to pass before they crossed. Yes, they were standing very close to it, but still. No flashing lights to warn them, they just knew. We just need to be observant. I think that’s how it should be.

Iasi Tram

3. Make linguistic mistakes.

I told my Romanian neighbor and friend, Bianca, that we had onions and pepper for dinner…not what I meant to say. I couldn’t figure out why she was laughing, until she was able to collect herself and explain it to me….boy, that would’ve been disgusting! It took me less than 24 hours to make my first real Romanian linguistic mistake…it took me about a year in ASL. Romanian is hard!

4. ASL is not a substitute for Romanian.

I am struggling to learn Romanian, even though I am practicing every day. When I am out and about, I find myself using ASL (American Sign Language) when I don’t know the Romanian word for something…not my best tactic, I know. It turns out alright, though…I start with English, then pause as I try to think of the Romanian word. During that pause, I use ASL, and when I see that it’s going nowhere, I use gestures, which seems to work itself out. I just really need to learn Romanian….fast!

5. Skittles taste better in Romania. And so does chocolate.

My friend Emily said that the US probably has some FDA regulation about candy tasting too good. I might have to agree. I mean, why does European chocolate ALWAYS taste better than American? It’s just not fair. At least I can enjoy it while I’m here. And the Skittles…I don’t know how to describe it, but let’s just say they have a more intense flavor. 

6. American music is popular worldwide.

I didn’t realize how far American music travels! At the mall on our first day, we heard songs from Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Carly Rae Jepsen, and people I don’t even know, but I know the songs. Oh, and most of the songs aren’t censored. Also, at the orphanage we are volunteering at, they have the radio on. The DJs are talking in Romanian, but playing American songs in English. I was pretty excited when Return to Innocence by Enigma came on, that’s for sure!

7. Not everything needs to be told.

Some people asked me to update my blog all the time about everything I do. First of all, ain’t nobody got time for that. Second thing, you don’t have time to read that. Third, I want to keep some of these experiences between me, the other people who are here with me, and my journal. Not everything needs to be told. Yes, I will update y’all about what is going on in general, or specific trips that I make. However, a lot of things that happen, you may never know about unless you sit down with me, or call me on the phone, and ask to talk about it. My roommate, bless her heart, is a Freshman and I don’t think she’s lived away from her family for very long. It’s been 7 years for me, so we are just on opposite ends of the college spectrum. However, I love her! She Skypes or emails her family every day, I think…and sometimes when stuff happens, like dinner becomes a disaster, she says “I have to tell my mom what just happened!” and I’m over here like “I’ve ruined so many dinners in my lifetime, my mom wouldn’t expect anything less.” Home will be there when I get home. For now, I’m living in the moment, and loving it!

8. WiFi is not essential.

I do feel that internet is essential, especially because I have assignments to do for my internship here in Romania. However, there are other things to do besides being on the computer. In my apartment, we have a USB that connects us to the internet. If my roommate is using the USB, I have to wait until she is done. That happens a lot, considering my point above, and I’ve come to not mind so much. I find myself doing things like studying Romanian, writing in my journal, and reading. If we had wifi, then my iPhone AND my computer would always have internet, and I’d just be on Facebook all the time, probably. I think that when I move back to Texas in June, I will not have WiFi on my list of essentials as I look for my new abode. I think I could settle for USB internet. 

9. It’s important to make it feel a little bit like home.

I’m this far from home. I don’t know how many miles it is…..but I’m this far:

I left Utah (A on the above map) and 30 hours later I am in Iasi, Romania (B on the above map). However, Texas will always be home, and flamingos will always be “me,” so I brought that part with me. No matter how far I am from home, I have a little piece of home with me. 

Piece of HomeI think it’s important to take familiar things with you when you travel. That way, when you get “home” after a long day, it feels like home. And I foresee many long days ahead of me for the next 3 months.

10. Bread is hard to cut without a bread knife.

Yes, we could just buy a bread knife..but we’d rather save money. Well, considering how cheap the bread is, we can probably afford a bread knife. This beautiful loaf (pictured with my beautiful roommate) was only 2.50 lei (75 cents).


It is some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had! We bought a smaller and more expensive loaf today, which is easier to cut with the knife we have…but we ended up just tearing pieces off, anyways. I love the abundance of fresh food here. 

I know I still have a lot to learn. I’ve only been here a week, and I have 11 weeks left!

Here’s to a lifetime of learning ahead!

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It’s Amazing

I got to sleep while flying over the Atlantic Ocean. I just want to invite you to think about how INCREDIBLE that is! My body was in a state of peaceful slumber as I crossed the Atlantic Ocean…without even getting wet!! Well, except for when I spilled some water on myself, but we don’t have to count that.

Flying is incredible. I am grateful that I am not scared of airplanes. Instead, I look forward to my time in an airplane! I have two favorite parts – takeoff and landing. Whatever seat I am in, I am staring out the window during those two times. It is unbelievable how we can speed up so quickly, and then all of a sudden the front wheels are off the ground. Then the back wheels are off the ground. And you can feel yourself on an incline as you climb through the air, higher and higher, watching the details of the lives of millions of people below become smaller and smaller until they disappear behind a cloud. A cloud. IT BLOWS MY MIND.

Turbulence is actually rather exciting for me. I imagine it’s how a flamingo feels as it flies through windy air. Sorry if turbulence worries you…

And then landing…I get so excited when the pilot (or is it the copilot?) announces the final descent. Not because I can’t wait to get off the plant (though often yes, I can’t wait to see people or places that I love), but because it means that one of my favorite feelings is coming. As you get closer to the ground, you can see the details of the lives of millions of OTHER people coming into focus. The crazy, wonderful intricacies of everyday life come back into view. And then as we near the runway, I get so excited once again! And as the wheels touch the ground I get this feeling that I can’t explain. But if that feeling had words, they might poetically be “Wow. I just did that.”

If the guy next to me on the flight as I wrote this spoke more English, or if I spoke more (or any) French, I just might have told him all about this.

I also got to cross the night/day line…usually it comes to me. But on Friday, I came to it. Here’s to 30 hours and 30 minutes of total travel time. That’s a record for me.

You may see it as little things…takeoff and landing in an airplane. Something that happens every day, in airports all across the world, to millions of humans.

I, however, see it as something unbelievably wonderful that happens to me every once in a while. It’s kind of like a dream. And I deserve it.

(If the music video looks a little choppy, that’s because it’s made entirely from 25,632 photographs)

Nothing can compare to deserving your dreams.

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That One Time When I Almost Got Arrested in London

Going through security, la dee da dee da dee…

I am trained in self defense, and always carry a kubaton with me….I had a 6 hour layover in London, so I was going through security, which is a very intense process.

I’m an asker of questions, so I did learn something! I saw someone getting patted down after he walked through the sensors. When I walked through, nothing happened, so I asked the security people how they choose who to pat down and who to let walk on by…wanna know how they choose to pat people down or not? They don’t! The machine does! When you walk through the sensors, it will either flash green or red. If it’s green, they let you go. If it’s red, they stop you! It could be a belt buckle, large jewlery, or something else. But they said that the machine also just chooses people every now and then, even if they’re fine. Interesting.

 So then they were searching my bag….and found my kubaton. I thought nothing of it, until he asked me what it was…so I figured I was in trouble…After a short discussion, he went and got the police. Really??

So the policeman walks up to me…. {remember that everything he says is in a British accent…awesome!}
Him: These are illegal in the UK. I will have to confiscate it. 

Me: I apologize, I wasn’t aware. Can you mail it to me? I’ll pay the postage.
Him: [very seriously and rather slowly] You ‘re in danger of being arrested and missing your flight.
Me: Oh.

He proceeded to take it, my passport, and my boarding pass. He said he’d be back. But first I got his name, Marty (pseudonym). About 10 minutes later, he returned. He said that they determined that I was not a threat and that I needed to wait here for someone to escort me to check my carry-on (because it had medicine in it that I couldn’t have – just a bag of problems, aren’t I?)

So I waited 15 minutes….then he came back and said someone was on their way to escort me. 
Me: Thank you, Marty!
Marty: I’m just an officer, it’s just another day.
Me: Did you say it’s just another day?
Marty: Yes…
Me: It’s not just another day. It’s a wonderful day, full of opportunity.
Marty: [smiles]

And that’s a little bit about the time I almost got arrested in London. 

And remember, it’s never
just another day.
It’s a wonderful day,
full of opportunity. 


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What my mom THINKS I’ll be doing

I’m fixin’ to begin my journey to Romania and Ireland, and I was at my mom’s house last night before I left. I found out that even though I had already explained to her what I will be doing, she had a different view of reality.

Reality: I will be living in a developed city and will be volunteering in an orphanage, at a hospital (holding and taking care of precious babies), and teaching English at a Kindergarden. 

My mom’s altered reality? Read on…

(every time she says “shuffling”, imagine her with a sullen face, sulked over, dragging her feet as she slowly moves across the room…because that’s what she was doing)
[Ethan is my brother and Crystal is his girlfriend]

Mom: you sure you’ll be okay? I imagine you shuffling along in tattered clothing and dust is all around and you don’t have food. Then an old pickup truck drives by, with 47 people in there, and they’re holding their chickens, and you know there’s like no gas in it and the guy is chugging to to town…they’re trying to get a ride to town for their once monthly thing. And they pass Chloe and she’s shuffling, and they all smile and wave “Oh, Americano!” and they have no teeth and so you sign to them that you’re an American…
Me: Because apparently all 47 of them are Deaf??
Mom: You don’t speak, they don’t speak the language! And so when you got those sparkly red Converse at Christmas and you said you were taking them to Romania I was like “noooo…they’re priceless, you can’t shuffle with those on the way to the orphanage with your little shall, and like….you’re so dirty because there’s no showers…”
Ethan: Mom! She’s not going to a remote village in Africa!
Me: Thank you!
Mom: I don’t know! But really, I was like all worried because I thought that!
Me: Mom, I’ll live in a city!
Mom: Do they have, like, cars?? So you won’t just be eating rice? But it’s like so sad!
Me: Your vision is sad, but reality is good!
Mom: I really just have to see some pictures because I don’t want to have you come home and I gotta scrape the dirt off of you, caked on there…
Me: Mom, they have everything you need to live…they’re humans!
Mom: Dude, in the bush they have everything you need to live! A loin cloth and a Coke bottle and a stick! To hunt!
Ethan: To hunt?
Me: With a stick??
Crystal: How do you spell the city? [she is on the computer]
Me: I-A-S-I. Iasi.
Mom: Oh, are you gonna…? Wait, I thought you said it started with an L?
Me: It looks like an L when you type it with some fonts…but it’s a capital I.
Mom: Shut the font door…
Crystal: Here it is. [turns the computer so we can see pictures of Iasi]
Mom: Ok, let’s see a picture! Do they have McDonalds there?
Crystal: They have McDonalds everywhere.
Mom: So, like, if I got you a gift card, could you use it?

And on, and on, and on….we proceeded to look at pictures of Iasi and my mom was so amazed that it was a real city. She said it looked nicer than America.

The next day I came into the living room before I went to the airport, and my mom was posed with the ukelele…ready to sing a song…and this ensued.

What did I learn from this? Next time I leave the country, I need to sit my mom down and educate her about where I will be going and what it is like to live there. 

Oh, mother. How I love you so.

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Happy Roses

Sometimes you struggle. It happens. Don’t deny it. 

One way I’ve found to help those days is to serve others. 

It can be as simple as handing out roses to strangers. 


And sometimes you intend them for strangers, but they end up being for people you actually know, who you didn’t even know were struggling, just like you.

And then all of a sudden, your own struggles are easier to deal with.
No, they don’t go away just like that.
Well, they might. But they tend to not do that.
They’re still there, but you can put a smile back on your face, because you just put a smile on someone else’s face. 

It’s worth it. 

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The Chair Challenge

Once upon a time there was an adorable little girl named Vivian. I had the privilege of spending the whole day (well, about 9 hours) with Vivian and her two older siblings. Basically, babysitting is the best. 

Vivian is two years old. 

I was in the other room playing Barbies with her big sister when I heard a chair being dragged across the kitchen. My first thought was that she was trying to reach something. And if a kid needs a chair to reach something, they probably shouldn’t be getting that thing. 

Me: Vivian, where are you going with that chair?
Vivian: Nowhere, I’m just pushing it. 

And she was. I watched her from the other room as she just happily pushed it around the kitchen, then back to where it belonged in the play room. 

Why is this significant? Because she was pushing a chair just because she wanted to push a chair. 

Yes, I realize that she is two.


Today, do something just for the joy of doing it. 

You don’t need a grand purpose.
You don’t need an end in sight.
You don’t need to have a goal.
You don’t have anything to accomplish by doing this particular task.
It is not something that will be a building block for something else.
It is for joy.

Today, do something just for the joy of doing it. 


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