Storming the Castle

23 Mar

We’ve been in Romania for a month and a half and figured it’s probably about time we visited a castle. We told the kids last week that we’d be going and they spent all weekend looking forward to it. A classic Lucy quote: “Wow, I mean, I just can’t believe that all that stuff from fairy tales- princesses and castles- it’s all real!”  I didn’t want to crush her by telling her that this one was more of a fortress and although it had passed through the hands of many royal princes, it probably never housed princesses in the way that she imagined. Poor Lucy, she’d already had her hopes dashed on Friday night when we were walking home from the symphony and she looked up at the Wishing Star and whispered “I wish that I’ll be able to see a real unicorn someday!”

So we rented a typical tiny European car this morning and squished the kids in the backseat. The castle was about an hour outside Timisoara and the drive there was so pleasant. We went through small villages and lots of farmlands. The hills were vivid green, like Ireland green, and here and there we saw flocks of sheep. (Settlers of Catan obsessed Finn: “There’s so many sheep here, I think it must be a 6 or an 8 hex.”) It was a gorgeous day, one of the first truly spring-feeling days here, the kids were happy and singing together and having really funny conversations. It was one of those moments where I just paused and thought about how good life was.

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We were driving on a two-lane country road the whole way and about 2/3 of the way there, we crossed the county line marker. Immediately, the road turned from smooth pavement to cracked, uneven, hole-filled roads. I’d call them potholes, but they looked more like small meteors had hit the road every three feet or so. Trucks were creeping around all over the road, just trying not to fall into the holes. Patrick was having fits. After about ten minutes, the road starting climbing a hill and the road switched to smooth pavement. Then, as soon as we crested the hill, it was full of craters as far as the eye could see. Why? Why fix that ten yard stretch and nothing else? Whatever. We were definitely not going to head home on that same road.

01a26cbe42a22d32c68574ed13cda63c502927baabWe arrived at the foot of the tall hill where the fortress stood. We were meeting the Smiths, two senior missionaries living in Arad, and their four missionaries- two elders and two sisters. They’ve traveled all over the area, so they’re perfect exploring buddies. We wound our way behind some falling down farmhouses crawling with chickens (and yes, of course our kids chased them.) and headed up the steep path. We found out later that there was a much more reasonable path we could have taken, but instead we went straight up. The kids were champs, even though it was a strenuous climb and they kept slipping. Rhett was thrilled to get off the beaten path and just kind of forged his own way. Lucy got tired at one point and decided to crawl up the hill instead.

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The fortress at the top was magical. It was built in the late 1200’s and was mostly crumbling but tall towers and archways and little rooms still stood. In the center was a large clearing where it looked like people had lit a bonfire recently. I briefly thought it would be amazing to camp there for a night, but quickly remembered that there were wolves in Romania and also I hate camping. Anyways, it was a perfect picnic spot so we pulled out our lunches and had a lovely meal of cheese and bread from the bakery down the street from our apartment.

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If you look up in the corner of the tower, you can see the missionary. I won't post his name in case his mother sees this and has a heart attack.

If you look up in the corner of the tower, you can see the missionary. I won’t post his name in case his mother sees this and has a heart attack.

After eating, it was climbing and exploration time. One of the elders was Nathan B incarnate. He could not stop climbing walls and towers. It looked like fun so I started to climb up one wall too but Patrick reminded me that he rather enjoyed having a mother for his children. Okay, so it was pretty crumbly and a sheer drop down a steep hill if I fell. He had a point. We explored all over. The kids took a liking to one of the sisters, who was so charming with them and led them around while they made up games like Escape from the Dungeon! and Barbarian Hordes Attack!

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Rhett and Lucy found an old window that they climbed up to to relax and think deep thoughts.

It was a relaxing and wonderful day. After a few hours of roaming, we decided to wrap it up and head back down the mountain. We slowly made our way down the less steep path. I was thinking what a perfect day it was when one of the children (I won’t say who because someday they may have a prom date or run for office) started screaming “I need to poop!!!” The missionaries eyes got wide and they hurried down the mountain and away from our little timebomb as fast as they could. The path was narrow and there weren’t many bushes to go behind- everything just kind of dropped off from the path. So I found myself holding onto my child’s arms while said child hung his butt over the edge of the hill and pooped. On the mountain.

Sora Smith, who had quite a few kids and many grandkids, said with the wisdom and nonchalance of one who had seen kids poop on mountains before “oh how lucky, there’s some unused toilet paper on the ground. Here!” And indeed, there was a few squares of clean toilet paper just waiting for us. I wiped my kid’s butt and thought about how just when I thought the indignity of motherhood couldn’t get any worse, it always did.

As we continued walking down the mountain, Patrick said to the kid “well, now you can say you pooped on a mountain in Romania.” The darling child, mishearing the last word said “But I don’t know how to say that in Romanian! Mom, can you google translate ‘I pooped on a mountain’ on your phone?” So we translated it and started to read it before I realized I didn’t want that to be one of the Romanian phrases this child repeated to everyone he/she spoke to.

We reached the bottom with no more unexpected defecation and climbed back into our car for the ride back to Timisoara. It was a perfect day in Romania, poop and all.

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6 Responses to “Storming the Castle”

  1. Anne Hayner March 23, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    Wonderful story and gorgeous photos! Fun to know you’re making lifetime memories!

  2. liz johnson March 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    This is amazing. And I miss you like WHOA. I wish I could come climb mountains (and maybe even poop on them) with you guys!

  3. ccm.and.fam@gmail.com March 24, 2015 at 11:39 pm #

    Great e-mail.

    What amazing experiences. I wish I could say we’re jealous but we have had our share of South American, African and other 3rd world places to admit that Alaska suits us fine.

    Connie’s cousin, Delbert Halling and his wife, are headed to your general area (we think) to serve a Baltic mission for the next 23 months. At some point you may cross paths – they are both very bright should fit in well.

    Alaska continues to be a great place to be. We finally chased down winter by going to Fairbanks, AK over spring break. Temperatures hit a -26 but we braved this to attend the International Ice Carving Festival. We did feel the cold but encountered the typical Alaskan way of dealing with adversity – they had a free “Ice Cream Bar Happy Hour” each night. The Alaskan youth wear t-shirts and sandals until it hits about 30 degrees. Some then put on a sweater or sweatshirt but only a few wear parkas and most won’t wear boots.

    We attend all youth activities to which the youth invite us. Friday night we attended the “Mormon Prom” night which included youth from Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, where we serve. Over three-hundred beautiful youth attended in their modest clothing. They also danced appropriately without any obvious exceptions. We find it easy to appreciate these youth. They really are trying extra hard to be what they feel members of the Church should represent.

    Teaching Doctrine and Covenants and Church History has been challenging but rewarding. Most of our students have progressed pretty well and we still have good attendance and participation. We are teaching sections 111 – 122 this week, the end of Far West/ Liberty Jail Period, and the beginning of Nauvoo period. Each time I’ve taught these lessons I have experienced the frustration that occurs with any form of discrimination or man’s inhumanity to mankind. I last taught this lesson to a group of sex-offenders at the Utah State Prison; they were particularly looking at how we handled “justice and mercy” for all. Our Alaskan students are used to hardships and seem to be able to absorb the concepts that sacrifice and suffering are part of life and carry their own rewards, so they have done well with these lessons.

    Enough for now. Keep the posts coming.

    We pray for you, appreciate you, and think of you.

    Our best to you all.

    Love,

    Elder and Sister Mason

    Sent from Windows Mail

  4. Dorothy K. March 25, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    So enjoyed your day in Romania. My grandson’s favorite expression, when we were in Kenya, I peed on a tree at Africa. He told everyone.

  5. Nick Mason March 26, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    Great stuff, as always.

  6. Lisa Adams April 23, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    What an awesome adventure for your family (friends of Stacie and Matt)

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