Stepping Out.

oradea deal 085cc

Whipping out my thumb and a big cardboard sign and heading to Berlin this morning. Seeking a bit of rest and some perspective after a crazy year. Have only felt love and support from my family in Romania and in the UK taking this decision. See you on the road.

A.

P.S. I’ll be holding on to the journal bloody tight this time.

Smash and Grab.

TF Pass

Motion. Shift. Change. React.

Some choice words to describe how it has been leading the team down in the Alfa community in Arad these last nine months. It feels like the one constant has been the amount of change. It’s had me thinking a lot about courage recently, especially since Julia preached on it a few Sunday’s ago, and I hope to get some of those thoughts down on paper in the next few days.

But, in the meantime what better way to display courage than by deciding to take a last minute hitching trip last weekend. So last minute that I was texting Luke at 7.30am before heading to work last Friday, to pack a bag and be ready so we could head off as soon as the day was over. We both hate planning ahead anyway, here’s how it looked.

Friday 9th May

18.00 : Start trying to hitch east out of Arad. Finally get a ride with a guy who stopped to take a leak, but only after about 2 hours of waiting.

22.30: Arrive in the centre of Deva, which has an unwelcoming feel at best. Drowsily we browse the isles at Billa looking for dinner before rushing back to hold up our “SIBIU” sign at the hitching point. Maybe 15 minutes later, if that, a huge 18 wheeler pulls over and offers us a ride. We’d make it that evening!

Saturday 10th May

00.30: We get dropped off on the hard shoulder of the highway passing to the north of Sibiu. Ecstatic and slightly delirious we hop the crash barrier and start walking towards the town. After some “discussion” on where we might spend the night, we opt for crashing under a bridge near the highway and christen it the “concrete tent”.

03.30: Some dogs briefly join us under the bridge, they found it a bit cramped and decided to move on after not too long.

08.00: Aroused by the strong smell of sheep dung under the bridge we head into the beautiful town of Sibiu. The architecture and cobbled streets are stunning, could have been in France, Switzerland or Italy. We take a coffee and Luke wonders who the homeless man staring back at him from the mirror is. I wonder.

10.30: We had been hoping to meet up with three friends who were down the road in Brasov, but in the end we decided to roll the dice and head to the Transfagarasan Pass. So we jumped on a train to get a bit closer, hoping our thumbs would do the rest of the work. A smash and grab job.

13.30: Jump off the train and start walking towards the base of the mountains that stand ahead of us shrouded by immense rain clouds. A lift from a very kind local gets us onto the road, and then a school bus hired  by a group of American artists pulls over and takes us as high as the cable car.

16.00: Now we’re standing in the snow at a little over 2000m altitude. One heck of a view back down the pass, the road they call “Ceausescu’s folly” is entirely insane and I’m already thinking about plans to head back on a bicycle.

20:00: We cruised back into Sibiu on the same bus full of quirky artists, ate a pretty suspect burger and chips and opted to start hitching back towards Arad that evening.

21.30: Picked up by three workers on their way back to Deva. They weren’t in a hurry so we stopped off for coffee and cigarettes and some bizarre conversation at a petrol station.

23.00: Suddenly back in Deva in the middle of the night, lovely. Grabbed some mcflurries and then did our best to get out of there ASAP… eventually being picked up by Romania’s answer to Michael Schumacher in a Mercedes Sprinter van. Man could he drive, and thank goodness as we flirted with a near head on collision at one point.

SUNDAY

02.00: We hopped out in Lipova a way short of Arad, sleeping at the ruined castle up on the hill.

07.00: Wake up freezing thanks to the wind sweeping over the hill. Decide to bust out of there with no chance of more sleep.

08.30: Back in our little village of Siria in time for breakfast and a well deserved nap. Over 700km hitched in under 48 hours, now that’s what I call a weekend.

I think just grabbing hold of an idea and running with it is the most exciting way to travel. Cheap, no plans and no frills.

Of course it was back to reality at work the next week… taking pregnant women into hospital, children in the homework club, handing out flour. Also had the humbling experience of being cleaned up twice by people in community this week. Slipping over on my ass outside a house as the 8 kids inside looked on in absolute hysterics, it was very funny and their mum helped clean me up. I also for the first time had a gypsy kid poo on me this week, a year and nine months of picking up beautiful children is a good run of not getting messy, and again someone helped wiping me up.

Love this place, people, country. Thanks for the prayers and support.

A.

Sarajevo Storyboard Pt 2.

More busy weeks here in Romania, but here’s part two as promised.

 

Sarajevo Storyboard Pt 1.

As I have been inexorably separated from my journal, see the previous post for the full explanation, thought I would share some moments from the trip with a photo gallery to help jog my memory. Just click on the top photo to start the slideshow.

Hope you enjoy it,

A.

Juxtaposition.

The craziest part of the story about the bike race in Arad over the weekend is that it was held at the visitor center of the forest just behind Alfa where we are working daily. All of 500m track through the forest separated the illegal rubbish dump, come refugee camp, from the shiny visitor centre, flash mountain bikes, and nice cars. Not to say that any of this is wrong, just that the stark juxtaposition wasn’t lost on me. A bizarre shift from when I was there Friday morning, and again Saturday morning.

If I rewind about three weeks now, to when we took a road trip to Beius where a group of people have been working with Habitat for Humanity since 1996. On the drive over there one of the guys in the car challenged Lee to get the word “juxtaposition” into one of the meetings throughout the day (now you see the tenuous link between the two stories). Habitat are an international charity that aim to enable people to build their own affordable housing, with a big emphasis on creating and sustaining community. For example, only being eligible to receive a house when you have worked a certain amount of time on another persons house is one of their big conditions.

We had taken the trip to discuss the possibility of some kind of collaboration between us at Networks and Habitat, for some kind of project in Arad. They already have access to a piece of land in Arad to build on, but for whatever reason have never managed to get anything off the ground. The whole day was very encouraging, the people we met with were very passionate and enthusiastic about a potential project, mixed a healthy dose of realism. It’s clear that there is a long way to go and some big hurdles to get over before we could get started, but that was the first step and we are already working on a proposal for a potential funder. It maybe a long way off, but the very thought of radically changing the lives of the people we are working with is an incredible one.

Of course this vision is far removed from the day to day work we have here, including weekly flour distribution and today handing out the easter parcels we received a few weeks ago. Meeting people in the place where they are at, showing compassion and trying to do the best we can for them with the means we have is more typical. Honestly this is never easy but it’s something I’m learning to love struggling with, and the more my language and relationships improve the better it gets, even if it doesn’t get any easier.

It feels like we are entering some very exciting and changing times here. I’m looking forward to a great summer, and all being well, committing to being here as we head into 2015.

Thanks for all your prayers and support!

A.