Timisoara and Answered Prayers

22 Feb

We rolled into the Timisoara train station around 8 in the morning on a Sunday. One last unloading of bags, a quick walk across the tracks, and we were outside in front of the station, with no ride in sight. Someone from the university was supposed to pick us up but the place was a ghost town. At this point, we didn’t quite know who to call or even how to dial a number here, so there was some mild internal panic. I said a quick prayer in my head that it would work out. A minute later, our driver came rushing in looking for us. We headed to the university hostel, where they’d reserved three rooms for us through the end of the month. It was nice to know we had that cushion so we could take our time looking for our new apartment. Nice to know, that is, until we actually got into the hostel and realized just how not conducive it was to family living. Each room had two twin beds, one teensy bathroom and a kitchenette with a fridge and a hot plate. The rooms were not connected- each opened out into the hallway which meant that we were doing a lot of loud door opening and slamming.

2015-02-08 10.10.01

As soon as we dropped our bags, Patrick and I just kind of sunk down on the beds and said “we should have stayed in Bucharest one more day.” In Bucharest we had a comfy hotel, wifi, had just spent the day before making friends from church, and just felt more comfortable. Instead, we’d (I’d) insisted that we just get to Timisoara as soon as we could so we could start getting settled in. Well, coming in on a Sunday meant that everything was closed and no one from the university was around to greet us. It felt very different from when we arrived in Cairo where we were whisked around and helped at every turn. We felt very isolated and confined in our hostel rooms, with no phone or internet to get information. We decided to head out for a walk and see if we could find Centru- the center of town and see what was there.

The cold was biting as we walked across the river. We were just kind of heading in the direction that we thought Centru was. As we walked, the snow started coming down pretty hard. It was those tiny hard balls of snow and the kids were not enjoying it so much this time. We walked for a while before we came to an old castle/church/structure. The kids were melting down at this point- exhausted and cold. I told them to draw pictures in the snow, which distracted them for a little bit. As we stood there, I was feeling really desperate and miserable. What the heck were we going to do to keep the kids busy and out of the room? We were freezing and hungry (we didn’t have any food other than a small bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and didn’t know anyone or anything. Again, I prayed. I just really needed some comfort. And y’a’ll, it was like a vision. Off in the distance, I saw it, glowing gold like unto the noonday sun. I squinted my eyes to be sure. Yes, it was there and it was definitely real. The golden arches loomed before me.

“McDonalds!!!” I yelled. Hallelujah.

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Now before you think I’m just a glutton for junk food (which I am), it wasn’t actually the food I was thinking about- even though my stomach was in knots trying to figure out what I was going to feed the kids. No, what I was so happy about was the free WiFi that every McDonald’s offers. Finally, I could check the map, get our bearings, and find out what grocery stores might be near.

We piled into McDonalds, got our kids fed, and then did some binge surfing on the Wifi, trying to get as much done as we could. I loaded a few maps onto my phone, then looked up the address for the local church branch here. One amazing thing about our church is that you can go anywhere in the world and find a community that will treat you like family. That’s what we really needed at that moment so we decided to head over and see if we could catch services.

But first, we explored the piata. It’s the very center of town and is a long rectangular plaza with the opera house on one end and an Eastern Orthodox cathedral on the other. In between are pigeons. So so so many pigeons. Our kids were in HEAVEN. They chased and cooed and cajoled, but the pigeons were wise to their tricks. It provided tons of entertainment for them.

 2015-02-08 10.59.26 2015-02-08 10.59.33  2015-02-08 11.02.28

There was a magical moment in the picture above when I was walking away to check the hours on a phone store. I turned back to look at my family and the snow started falling in big soft flurries. The clock tower started chiming a beautiful Russian sounding melody and my kids were laughing and running after pigeons. I felt such happiness and reassurance all in one rush that I started laughing out loud. I took the picture but knew it couldn’t capture the feeling at that moment.

We walked back across the river to the church building and let ourselves inside. It was an apartment inside a villa so there were a few rooms and hallways. We could hear people but it took us a while to find where they actually were. We went through a couple of rooms, then turned a corner and there was a tiny chapel in this apartment. There were four missionaries and four older women who all turned at once. “Buna siwa!” I said in greeting. They all lit up and rushed forward, greeting us with hugs and handshakes, introducing themselves and covering the kids with hugs and kisses. They’d known we would be moving in and had been expecting us. The branch literally consists of four Romanian grandmothers and whatever missionaries are assigned to Timisoara at any given moment, so they were pretty thrilled to have a family and children there. One of the ladies ran out of the room and came back with an armload of toys, which she laid out on the chapel floor and then watched, delighted, while the kids played. We all introduced ourselves and then settled in to watch a broadcast from Bucharest. It was the 25th anniversary of the church being in Romania so there was a celebration in Bucharest and a special conference with all the of people we’d met the day before. We watched while the kids played. Everything they’d get to loud, I’d shush them or give them a look, until the Romanian woman next to me grabbed my hand and gestured for me to let them be. I think they were enjoying the noise.

After the broadcast, the ladies had prepared some Romanian dishes to enjoy a little lunch together. Although we’d just stuffed ourselves at McDonald’s, Patrick and I piled our plates high, as the women urged us to, and dug into dishes that we had never seen or tasted before. There were pretty straightforward kofta meatballs and white bread. Then there was a pickled potato, carrot, veggie salad. Also, some interesting deviled eggs, and several veggie/pickled/salady things. Plus some chocolate stuff that was yummy. I tried a little bit of everything and was ready to roll out of there afterwards. It was nice to sit and talk to the women and the missionaries and get a sense of the branch-especially because today, two weeks after this first meeting, Patrick was called to be the branch president. No rest for the wicked.

Anyways, we headed back to our hostel at the end of the afternoon, all with full tummies and feeling more reassured. We’d spent the first half of the day feeling completely isolated and bewildered. But by the end, Timisoara felt more human and I could see a place for us here.

And that’s the story of how we met our city. We’ve been here two weeks now. I spent most of those two weeks in bed with the most horrible stomach bug. I was seriously on the verge of dying in Romania. At least that’s how it felt. In that time, we apartment hunted (we ended up being in the hostel for four days before moving into our new place), went to Hungary (and cut Hungary short) and started homeschooling. On Friday we finally got internet in our apartment and finished unpacking. And now, we can finally start living our daily lives.

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One Response to “Timisoara and Answered Prayers”

  1. boudicamason February 23, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    Funny. 3/5 of our family ate at McDonald’s on our first night in London, and we were not nearly as disoriented as you all. Hannah and I decided to go more authentic on that first night and ate at Pizza Hut.

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