Another long week full of lots of big events, probably the biggest one being Sora Ruiz and I going to Hungary! We left on Wednesday morning to catch a maxi-taxi to București, got all the papers and things in order, then went to the airport. Because the tickets were bought last minute, the only seats they could get us were business class…so we hung out in the business class lounge while waiting for the plane. It was swanky but kind of boring, since we can’t really read anything for leisure or use laptops or play games on a phone. Also, we had eaten a big lunch before but felt that we needed to eat a lot of the free food at the lounge…when is the next time I get to eat classy potato chips off a plate for free? We made our way to the plane, got a nice meal in our business class seats, and landed in Budapest. The office elders in the Budapest mission were supposed to come pick us up, but in normal fashion, were late. We called our office elders back in Buc to get a number that we could call in Hungary (thankfully, they made it so our phones worked for the day in Hungary), and got confirmation that the elders were indeed on their way! We met them and were taken through beautiful Budapest to the chapel/mission office/mission home (one big building with multiple stories) where we met Sisters Broadhead and Farrows (may have spelled those wrong…). They live right across the street from the mega-complex so it wasn’t too long of a walk. They are both about 3 months away from going home and they were the NICEST! They made us some traditional Hungarian food — paprika chicken with some noodle/gnocci-like pasta things. So tasty, even after all the food we had eaten that day. We got some sleep and spent the next morning with the office elders again who took us to the Romanian embassy. Basically Sora Ruiz needs to apply for a temporary visa to be able to apply for the permission to stay that all of us missionaries have. But since she is from Mexico and the process was not explained well to the office elders before, she needs to have this extra step in the middle. The actual time at the embassy was very easy — handed the very kind man all of the papers, signed a form or two, and then were told to come back in about 30 days. We were done within maybe 15 minutes and then had to wait for the office elders to finish whatever they were doing. We found a little place to buy some cheap pastries for breakfast and waited around outside.
“Make it look like we are at the airport!”
We were taken back to the church/office and ended up going to a district meeting with the sisters and their district. It was fun to meet lots of the missionaries serving there and to see how things are the same and also very different. They have a similar situation there in Hungary in terms of dealing with a dominant religion (for them, Catholicism) but the Church is a little bit bigger (they have wards and a stake) and thus they can work more with the members. After the meeting, the sisters took us to see the famous Parliament building and then we had to hurry back to meet the APs who were taking us to the airport. We got on our flight and headed back to Buc. By the time we got home and the office elders picked us up, it was too late to catch a maxi-taxi back to Alexandria so we stayed with Sora DeRuvo and Sora Case. That also gave us some time to get some McDonalds, which we were pretty excited about. Finally, the next morning, we got on our maxi-taxi and made it back home. It was pretty nice to sleep on a normal bed again where I could fully stretch out my legs and to not feel weird scrounging around in the kitchen for food.
Candles with Gina
Also, yesterday was Easter! As a district, we went with Gina to go to the midnight service they have on Saturday. The most beautiful part is the Lumanare where every person in the crowd has an unlit candle and at midnight, the priest starts lighting candles and other people pass on the light through the whole crowd. Everyone takes their candles home and it represents having the light of Christ in your home. If your candle stays lit all through the night until morning, then it is a sign that you will have luck. We stuck out a bit in the crowd since we look very foreign, have accents, and are wearing nametags, but nobody bothered us. One of my favorite things in the world is happy crowds, all joining together behind a good cause (hence why I like the Olympics, waving flags, happy crowds, and sports fans), so I loved the service. We got home pretty late and got up the next morning for church. I always love Easter Sunday — it’s such a joyous time and I really love the message of hope that permeates throughout the meeting. Afterward, we ate cozonac (traditional Romanian bread that we ate at Christmas as well) and we “knocked” eggs — hit them against each other after one person says “Isus a înviat!” (Jesus was resurrected) and the other replies “Adevărat el a înviat!” (Truly he was resurrected). Whoever has the egg uncracked wins! I’m still unclear as to what you win…an unbroken egg? bragging rights? But it’s a fun tradition nonetheless.
One of our English students invited us over for lunch so we drove with him over to his house in the countryside after church. He and his wife were so open and welcoming. The area over there is so beautiful…I feel like I’m in a Jane Austen novel or something, except its the Romanian countryside instead of Derbyshire. They fed us SO MUCH food, all of it very good, until I literally could not eat any more. It is a tradition in Romania to eat lamb on Easter so we had quite a few courses with lamb, including drob de miel (kind of like a lamb meatloaf-like thing). The elders taught a lesson about the Restoration and it was really really great. They have a son who is in Canada and has been in contact with the Church before so they know many positive things about the Church and were interested in learning more. It is always exciting to see someone’s true desire to gain more knowledge. After a LONG time in the most scenic of conditions (lunch outside, cats roaming around, sun shining, wild horses running through the fields below with goats bleeting and roosters crowing in the background), we made our way back to Alexandria. But not after being given even MORE food to take home.
Cannot even begin to capture the beauty that is the Romanian countryside
We hurried to Gina’s house to spend time with her and her family. We were pretty late because the man and his wife were very talkative and kind, but it is always so great to get to spend time with Gina and her family. They are really caring people that are so kind to us with hardly even knowing us. I find so many examples of Christ-like love here in Romania that I hope to emulate. They had made us some delicious brownies and other desserts and chatted with us for a while. It is so nice to feel like part of a home and a family when I am far away from all of you. I am so grateful for the people that think of us and take us in when we have nowhere else to go.
I am running low on time so I can’t write much more, but we were able to see Marilena once this week and just talk to her. We didn’t have a lesson but instead just talked with her about her problems, things going on in her family, and just tried to be her friend. She is VERY hesitant about coming back to church (understandably) but seems to be okay with still meeting with us. We will keep working with her and I hope that over time she will be ready to come back to church again.
Know that I love you so much and that I miss you even more.
Much love always,