Friday, March 29, 2013

Healthy substitutions

Sometimes I browse Facebook with peter's account. I only do it to see what my family members are up to. I also enjoy reading my brother's informative page, One Body for Christ. They post great information on healthy lifestyles. Check it out at Today I saw that they posted this chart for people who think eating healthy has to be difficult. It's as easy as substituting healthy items for non healthy items. Check it out!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Story time with Julie - Romania

I know it's been awhile since I've posted, but I'm hoping this story makes up for it...

Story time with Julie - Adventures in Romania 2008

I often meet interesting people while traveling.  I find that if you are friendly, people will open up to you.  They often relish a chance to practice their English.  There was the Chinese girl who was studying abroad in Korea, the Israeli backpackers, the French girl who was flying to Romania to get a divorce… 

She was young, blonde, very beautiful, and spoke perfect English with a British accent.  We shared a row on a small connector flight from London to Bucarest.  I assumed she was British because of her accent.  I asked her why she was flying to Romania.  

“To get divorced,” she replied.  I was surprised at her bluntness.  

I replied that I was sorry to hear it.  

She told me that she had gone to Romania during a long Spring Break, met a charming man, and promptly married him.  They moved back to her native France, only to have him cheat on her.  She told him to quit his shenanigans and they could stay together, but he chose to continue with the cheating, thus prompting her to move to London.  She – luckily - found a job in retail, saved up some money, and was now flying to Romania to make the divorce official.  She told me that the divorce made her sad because she truly loved her in-laws, who were, in fact, meeting her at the airport, driving her three hours to their hometown, and letting her stay in their home while she settled the legal matters… 

"Don't trust Romanian men," she warned me as we descended into Bucarest.  


view from our bus passing a horse and buggy

Romania is an interesting country.  They are still recovering from a long bout of communism... You will often see horse and buggy sharing the road with automobiles.  Tall, pointy hay stacks dot the fields.  The country side is massive, with large fields of sunflowers framed by puffy, white clouds.  Traveling with a ministry choir is a unique experience in that we stayed each night in the homes of Romanian locals.  They were extremely friendly and generous.  My friend, Lauren, and I spent the first night in an apartment with three Romanian girls.  They were in their late twenties, all business women who worked in various offices.  

Their English was quite good, though they took advantage of the opportunity to practice with a native speaker.  We took a taxi to their apartment (“flat”), which was located about five or six stories up a skinny gray building.  The hallways were narrow, dim, and the walls were green.  They insisted we take the elevator (“lift”), even though Lauren and I had to ride up one at a time because we could not fit with our luggage.  It was rickety and most likely contributed to my subconscious fear, and recurring nightmares, of elevators.

a dandelion fountain in Romania

the apartment complex where we stayed our first night in Romania
Lauren and I spent the first night sharing a small futon clearly meant for one.  I am a light sleeper and wake at the slightest sound or movement, even when suffering from jet lag.  Needless to say, I did not get many hours of sleep that night.  We awoke the next morning with plenty of time to shower and prepare ourselves for the day.  Our hosts had laid out a breakfast spread of bread, cheese, deli meat, and raw veggies.  I particularly enjoyed the healthy start to the day.  We were offered coffee and Lauren and I immediately accepted.  We were anticipating two concerts that day and needed as much energy as possible.  Our host served the coffee, laid out the milk and sugar, and left to take her shower.  I am not a fan of the natural flavor of coffee, so I made sure to add plenty of milk and sugar.  So did Lauren. 

where we had our first morning in Romania
I took a sip, but it was still too bitter.  So I added more sugar.  I took another sip.  Still bitter.  I wondered if the taste was affected by the European style of milk.  The milk is so heavily pasteurized that it lasts for months.  They don’t keep it in the refrigerator, either.  I added one more spoonful of sugar, stirred it up, and took another sip.  Lauren looked at me. 

“This coffee is gross,” she said.  I agreed.  It was nasty.  

“What do we do?” she asked.  

“We have to drink it,” I replied.  I was accustomed to home-stay experiences.  It is very important that you accept whatever is given to you, without complaining.  It is rude to insult your hosts who are generously providing food and lodging, especially in a third-world country! 

We each took a few more sips, grimacing.  I set my cup down.  Lauren set her cup down.  I had a feeling she was not going to finish it either.  Our host returned to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee.  She scooped in some sugar and a splash of milk before taking a sip.  

“Oh no!” she exclaimed while coffee spurted from her mouth back into the cup.  “That is disgusting!”  She set her cup down, looking perplexed.  “What in the world?!”  

She looked at us and at our half-full coffee cups.  She looked at the table and slapped her forehead.  

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed.  “I gave you the salt, not the sugar!”  She was visibly concerned.  “How could you drink that?” she gasped.  

“We didn’t know what to do!” we replied.  Needless to say, no one was offended that we poured out the rest of our coffee…

countryside in Romania

So that was my first experience in Romania...  I'm not very good at ending my stories.  Of course I could go on and on about the continuing events of that trip:  how we randomly found a Chinese church that invited us to sing for their service, how we visited an orphanage and found a stray dog with puppies, how I sang a solo in the Romanian Parliament building (which is the third largest building in the world, behind the Beijing Bird’s Nest and the Pentagon), how we visited a castle that could have inspired Dracula, how we sang for the Franklin Graham crusade, etc… but I think I will save all that for another time. 

Which story do you want to read next?  Drunk guy on plane?  Pink eye in Korea?  Getting lost in Rome?  Stage catching fire while singing with Pavarotti in Mexico?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Travel Stories - Tutus, Army Pants, and Breaking Up With Jason

I have told some of my travel stories to friends, and they have been met with much enjoyment.  So I decided to start writing them down.  Here is the first installment: "Tutus, Army Pants and Breaking Up With Jason"

My love for travel probably began as a child.  By the time I turned two I had already lived in three countries.  While I don’t remember our time in Mexico, I do know that I had a cat named “Gato” and a beautiful blue poncho that was crocheted and gifted by a family friend, which I still have.  We moved to Peru when I was about two, and I kept the fellow passengers entertained with my crying.  I still don’t do well with cabin pressure. 

I have very few memories of our four years in Peru.  It’s difficult to discern what are real memories and what are acquired memories from repeatedly hearing stories from my parents and older siblings.  I do remember that when I was about four years old, I had a friend named Jason who lived down the street from us.  I remember walking down the dusty, brown road, looking at the beautiful, green foliage.  A particular plant caught my eye.  It had bushy red flowers.  I wondered if it was edible.  I could have sworn my sister told me it was edible.  So I put a few of the soft bristles in my mouth.  It didn’t taste very good, so I spit it out.   I continued walking down the road… it was a very long road.  I was hot and sweaty. 

Pucallpa, circa 1990
I arrived at Jason’s house and knocked on the door.  His mother answered but she wouldn’t let me in.  She told me that Jason couldn’t play with me until I put some real clothes on.  I looked down at my pink tutu, confused.  I was wearing clothes!  She told me that a pink tutu does not count, since my panties were visible underneath.  If I went home and changed my clothes, then Jason could play with me.  Well, it was a long, hot trip to go back to my house and then back to Jason’s house.  I didn’t feel up for it.  So she came up with a solution.  I could borrow some of Jason’s pants and wear them while I played at their house.  The only problem with that was Jason only had army pants.  I didn’t want to wear ARMY PANTS!  I was not a boy!  Finally, we reached a solution.  I would wear the army pants, but I would also wear the tutu over top.  That way I could still wear my tutu but my panties would be completely out of sight. 

Me and Mom, circa ... 1990?

My siblings enjoyed teasing me, telling me that Jason was my boyfriend.  I didn’t completely understand what that meant, but I knew it must not have been a good thing.  Their teasing inflections embarrassed me.  When we moved back to the States, my sisters would ask me if I missed my boyfriend.  I realized I needed to put an end to this nonsense once and for all!  Except I didn’t exactly know how.  One night, as I was lying in the top bunk, I listened to make sure Katie was fast asleep in the bed below.  I whispered into the darkness, “Jason, you are no longer my boyfriend.”  I knew that I had to say it out loud for it to be official.  I thought maybe, just maybe, he would miraculously sense my intentions, through the thousands of miles that separated us.  But I knew for sure that the next day, if my siblings teased me about my boyfriend, I would be able to tell them with utmost certainty, “We broke up.”