The Midnight Train to Timisoara

19 Feb

Ok, now that we’re back in our apartment with a stable internet connection, let me catch you up on the last few weeks. When last we spoke, we were in a hotel in Bucharest…

After a few days in Bucharest, the jetlag and stomach bugs are finally behind us. After being in a fog of fatigue and illness, I woke up Friday morning ready to start our adventure. The church’s mission office was just a few blocks from our hotel, so we decided to walk over and meet everyone there. There’s a really nice group of people working there- two sets of young missionaries and a couple of pairs of senior ones. We sat down for a quick chat with the mission president, an American who had been on the job since July but already had impressive Romanian language skills.

We hopped on the Metro to go to the Museum of Natural Sciences, which everyone said the kids would like. It was really just three floors of every taxidermied animal you could possible think of. It was awesome. The kids got a total kick out of it and I was delighted by all the crazy expressions and scenes the animals were put in. I immediately pulled out my phone and started sending pictures to Liz. You’ve probably seen them posted to facebook as well. I’ll repost them tomorrow when our internet is finally set up and I’m not relying on my cell phone to power the internet.

On Saturday, the twins woke up to a treat for their 5th Birthday- it had started snowing overnight and there were a few inches on the ground. Their favorite thing in the world is a snowball fight (poor California kids) so they were bouncing with excitement. I was worried about them being let down by their birthday in Romania- we’d already given them presents and done cake the week before in Texas, so it was going to be a regular day. Thankfully the snow started the day on the right note. After breakfast, we bundled the kids up, walked down to the corner where the snow was still unmuddied and had a little Mason family snowball fight. The kind receptionist at the hotel came out to smoke a cigarette and watch us play. After being stuck in a hotel room that smelled like smoke and stomach flu, it was a blast to get out and run around in the fresh air. Also, Patrick and I were able to get our frustrations with the kids out in a constructive way. Although it turns out my snowball aim is terrible- I kept smacking the kids in the head with the snowballs. It was by accident, I swear.

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There were trainings with the church branch that day that Patrick had to go to, so he took off for the office and the kids and I caught a ride with a woman from the branch in Arad to the mission president’s house. All the womenfolk were having a meeting there as well. I was worried about what to do with the kids but as soon as I walked in, I realized that hello, Mormons. Everyone had kids! So they’d arranged for some of the teenagers to watch the kids upstairs all day and evening. That was a huge relief. The kids made new friends and had a blast. Meanwhile, downstairs we had a get to know you activity where we picked three questions out of a jar and answered them. But because the questions all prompted long stories and there was the added time for translation, after a few women went, we were told to narrow it down to two. After a few more, we only had to pick one question. Most people told the story of how they joined the church. It was so cool hearing from all these women, living in their corner of the world, having such similar experiences and questions as myself and hearing about the things that resonated with them. It really is remarkable that they’re such a part of this church that is so tiny here. They’re holding on to it with all their faith and strength, it’s amazing.

After the training, we got to have a course on watercolor painting from one of the senior missionaries. It was a nice break from heavy topics and a good chance to chat with people around me. I’d say only about a third of the women there spoke English so there was a lot of pantomime going on. We sat down after that and had a nice discussion about the stresses and resentments that come from having a spouse in a leadership position and the time that responsibility takes away from home. It was a good and necessary discussion. I felt for the mission president’s wife though, I think she’d hoped for more interactive discussion and kept expressing her own feelings to encourage people to speak but once she’d turn it back over- dead silence. Finally someone piped up about her husband needing to do what made her happy and then all of the sudden a loud and fast conversation started in Romanian and then disappeared. I have no idea what happened, but I think there was a violent disagreement. It was so fast though I barely caught it. It was like a drive-by argument. Anyways, we moved on to a service project of stuffing and sewing up homemade balls to donate to one of the orphanages here. I think the lady who organized it assumed that people would know how to do a blind stitch by hand. I sat down to sew up my ball and when I finished and looked up, there was a line of people and balls in front of my waiting for me to sew them up. I did a few and then showed someone else how to do it because I was getting overwhelmed. Anyways, we all bid adieu to the kids after that and then the adults went to the mission office for a lasagna dinner and movie. It was a long day but fun to meet the branch leaders from all over Romania and Moldova.

When things were wrapping up, we said our goodbyes, gathered our suitcases and happy, tired kids and headed for the train station. You guys, we have SO MANY BAGS. Each kid had a backpack and was pulling a kid’s suitcase. Patrick and I each had a heavy shoulder bag and were pulling two linked suitcases in one hand and one other suitcase in the other. There were no free hands among us. We had to drag these bags through several inches of snow slush, across a busy street and though a crowded open train station. We saw a McDonald’s, which is a like a lighthouse beacon to a westerner abroad, near the platform and decided to park there until our train showed up. It was about 9:30 at night at this point and we were exhausted. We got the kids fries as a late night birthday treat and let them eat while Patrick checked for the train and I gave off aggressive body language at anyone who got near our bags. The train pulled in a minute before it was scheduled to depart and Patrick and I nearly had heart attacks trying to load children and bags onto the train- complicated by the fact that Rhett can’t walk a straight line to save his life and was in constant danger of falling onto the tracks.

We had a sleeper compartment that slept six and had little space for anything else. It took us about half an hour to get beds made and ready, pajamas on and everyone to bed. The kids were so tickled about sleeping on the train. I’d been so busy I forgot to realize how delightful that would be for a kid. They watched out the window as we left them station and then settled in and were out in minutes. I followed close behind and had one of the best night’s sleeps in a long time. The bed was narrow but the bedding was comfy and the rocking of the train was lulled me to sleep. Patrick was not so lulled- he was up and down all night. When we woke up, we were about 20 minutes out of Timisoara and the sun was starting to rise. We woke the kids, got them dressed and prepared ourselves to haul our bags and children through yet another location. Thankfully, this one would be a little more permanent.

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Next time…Timisoara!!!




One Response to “The Midnight Train to Timisoara”

  1. liz johnson February 20, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Hooray!!! This all sounds so magical… and yet I have a feeling things will be turning for the worse (which feels like the plot of a best-selling memoir… just a thought).

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