Romanian Grace

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem

07 September, 2007

the post office

Lucky for all of y'all out there who like reading all this stuff, I seems to have misplaced my journal. So now I write most of my thoughts to you (and the uAg).

Here's what a trip to the post office might look like if you were living in Romania. I have made a habit out of going to the post office lately in the interest of staying in touch with an unnamed Amercan girl (uAg?), about whom you will certainly hear in subsequent entries. On this particular day (rainy...shared a cab ride with a neighbor from the block; also, bit of tendonitis in my knee from overdoing it on a recent run, and my computer in my satchel with the letter to be sent, strap over by shoulder but under my jacket, on account of the rain), two gypsy kids I have seen before were hanging around the entrance. I had seen these kids before in the center of town (which is not all that far from the post office), when my friend, Darin, bought them some sweet bread one night...which could preciptate a whole other story, but I am working on staying focused in these entries. You can tell my efforts are mostly in vain.

So the kids apprroach, and I tense, not because I feel threatened, but because I never know quite how to respond. As a general principle, I do not give money out, neither here nor in the States, and frankly, this day I really didn't want to be bothered by their hunger (how inconsiderate for them to be hungry and in my way). So, when they came up to me and asked for money, I said...not right now. Of course, I made a mistake there. If I wanted to say no, which I think is a perfectly valid response sometimes, I just had to say it. Instead, the girl responded, "When?" "Not now." I pushed my way into the post office. They followed me in. When I went up to the counter, I had business to do. I had first to figure out how to say all the stuff I wanted to do, then I had to be understood by the lady behind the glass (I hate talking through that glass), then I had to understand all the stuff she was going to say back to me. This is true of almost every interchange I have in Romania. I go to bed tired and wake up tired most days. The kids were watching my every move. I was having trouble concentrating on the very important tasks at hand, so I turned to the girl (who is much bolder than the boy) and said, "Wait a minute." They went and sat by the door and waited. I was amazed.

Back to the task at hand. I had to pay my gas bill, buy a bunch of envelopes, and buy all the stamps to go along with those envelopes (the uAg gets lots of letters from me). I didn't really know what postage I needed for those envelopes, so I had to figure out how to get that across to the lady, and I had to figure out what she was telling me in reply. After we had arranged for the gas bill to be paid, the purchase of ten envelopes plus all necessary posatage, I came out about ten dollars short. Dang. Could this get any harder. It's always nice, though, for the Romanians, many of whom think that every American is Bill Gates' close relative, to see me come up short on money. We halved the number of envelopes and stamps and I got out of her hair.

I sat down next to the gypsy kids at the table in front of the room to address the envelope and put the letter in. I was putting the stamps on when the boy (both of them were watching intently) said, "You have to put an address on it." I thought that was kind of interesting. I thanked him kindly for the reminder. Actually, when I had tried to send my previous letter, I addressed the envelope and sealed it, only to realize that the stamps were inside. So maybe the kid knew me better than I thought. Anyway, I got a clue then, and thought, maybe this trip to the post office is not about getting a stupid (albeit brilliant) letter sent out. "What's your name?" I asked the girl. It was Madelina. His name is Claudiu. By this time I had the letter out, and he said, "You have to fold it in half." Again. Thanks. I was beginning, slowly, to get the picture. They were pretty interested in the process of sending this letter. Maybe they knew it was going to the States. Anyway, I said, "This is for my prietena in America. I was at the point where the letter was in the envelope, and the envolope was stamped and addressed. I looked at Madelina. Do you want to seal it? She seemed excited to do so, but Claudiu grabbed it first and sealed it. He must have run his hand over it twenty times. It was very sealed. Since Madelina seemed pretty disappointed, I quickly thought of another task for her. I asked her if she could plaease take it out to the mail box in front of the building. She was gone and back in seconds.

Oh. The story goes on. Just another reminder that we don't have to look all that far or even dig all that deep for "ministry opportunities." Sometimes they find us just fine. For that I am thankful.

For those of you who are dubious concerning my use of the word "ministry" to describe the above, you might also be right, but at least I know two kids' names that I would never have known otherwise. Small, but a start.


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