Archive for March, 2012

Last Day – March 10, 2012

6:30 a.m. I am now sitting just inside the entrance of the building our living quarters is in waiting for Brittany and our driver to pick us up to take us to the airport.  The entrance door here is an old wooden reddish brown door that is shellacked. It has no dead bolt but a key must be used to unlock it.  In this entrance way there is a bench I am sitting on and a little table where one day I saw Brittany play a quick game of UNO on with some children.  There is a bathroom here and the steps leading up two flights where we slept. There are also steps leading down where we met with the youth one night and some more steps leading down to the dining area.  There are 3 steps leading to some classrooms where Amanda taught an art project to the kindergarten kids.  There are 4 plants, 2 of which are succulents and 2 spider plants. There are also two 6 foot tall trees, one of which looks dead.  On the wall is a beautiful embroidery depicting Leonardo Da Vinci’s last supper and a large bulletin board that says “Bineati vent la Biserica Prorridenta si Projectul Ruth”  There are also some pictures of gypsy children, a Romanian flag, and 2 Project Ruth bookmarks.  I bought two of the embroidered bookmarks last night from Brittany and two BC students bought 27 of them.  They cost $1.50 each.  They should be nice little thoughtful gifts. It has been a wonderful week.  It is sad to go but at the same time it will be nice to get home and see my wife Linda.


It is now 9:30 a.m. EST and 2:30 p.m. in London. We had a good flight from Bucharest, a long 4 hour layover in London but not too bad and we are now sitting on the plane to take off for our last flight home to Dulles.  Then we have our 5 hour drive home that I am not looking forward to.  Amanda and I are sitting in the second to the last row center section of the plane.  “We hope you have a relaxed enjoyable flight” British Airways just said over the intercom. 

Wrap up – I watched 3 movies on the 7 hour plane flight and it actually made the flight go by fast.  We got our luggage without a hitch. Customs was a breeze (thankfully) and our drivers found us as we exited.  The drive home was not that bad as I just passed out after about an hour and we got back to Bluefield around midnight although are bodies were still on Romanian time which meant they thought it was 7:00 a.m. Ha!  We had an extraordinary trip and accomplished what we set out to do.  I have been quite the world traveler in a years’ time.  I have been to China, Haiti, and Romania.

This is the left side of the wall where we painted a starry sky.

This is the middle section with a city. The radiator is real.

This is the next section with a church and balloons.

This is the far right section with a river and canoe, mountains, sunset and orchard.

This was Amanda's original drawing drawn to scale.

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Day 8 – March 9, 2012

Good morning from Romania! and what a wonderful day it is.  It is now 8:00 a.m. and I can hear cars racing by taking children to school and the Roma people are heading to work.  We are wrapping up our time here this being our last day.  Today we have another relaxing day.  It has been a great trip and when I woke up this morning I said, “That I could not have had a better time anywhere else these last 10 days.”  Let me tell you about the dream I had last night.  I was in a large lecture classroom filled with kids.   I was sitting at a desk on the side steps towards the upper left corner of the room.  I was writing something and several of my BC colleagues were at the bottom lectern leading the class.  They called upon me to speak for about 10 minutes on art or to share a poem.  When I started to walk down the steps I noticed I did not have my shirt on.  At first I said that is OK, I am in a dream and really do have a shirt on.  Then I stopped, turned around, walked up a couple of steps and grabbed a tan t-shirt to slip on.  I remember thinking, everyone is watching me and then I said, “Who cares”.  As I started to head down the stairs I was thinking, “Great, I forgot I was supposed to do this” and then I saw my Romanian journal on the desk and grabbed it.  When I got to the bottom of the stairs I started to talk about my trip to Romania.  Asking questions like, did they know where Romania was located? Etc…  The next thing I knew I was like an evangelical preacher walking around the crowd of kids telling them how excited I was about going to Romania and painting a mural for the Gypsy children. The whole room was active with excitement and I kept asking for a show of hands and picking a couple of kids to get their response.  One kid said he wanted to go to Haiti and help the people there and his response made me want to cry.  I saw his face blush like he was about to cry.  I then woke up and noticed I was in my bed in Romania.  I thought that was a funny dream. 

It is now 11:00 p.m. We have had another long day in Romania and sadly we leave tomorrow.  We went to the Parliamental Palace today which is the second largest building in the world.  The pentagon is considered the largest building in the world.  It was gigantic and was started by the Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1983. He was overthrown in 1989 by the Romanian revolution and along with his wife  after a speedy trial executed.  We toured for an hour seeing many large rooms.  Our tour guide was very good often bringing humor and at one point she said, “Michael Jackson stood here on the balcony and said, “I Love Budapest.”  After the tour we went to eat lunch a fast food Shawarma restaurant.  It was delicious, even better than the first one I had on our first day here.  They even gave us some baklava for being foreigners.  I really wanted that.  Then we took the subway to the Peasant Museum where we went to the gift shop.  I was like a kid in a candy store as they had numerous varieties of handmade pottery pieces.  I bought about 15 pieces, none too large as I had to bring them back in my carry-on luggage.  After this we went to this large mall and shopped or walked around for an hour and a half.  Stefan and Emi met us there and they walked around with the girls.  I mostly sat.  I did get a Romanian pastry and a bottle of red fruit juice (cherry and berry).  Then we took the tram back to the school where we ate dinner, took pictures, ate cookies, and laughed a lot.

Group picture at the Parliamental Palace in Romania.

One of the many meeting rooms with crystal chandelier in the Parliamental Palace.

Shawarma fast food restaurant.

Ice skating rink in Bucharest mall.

Random shot of people walking in mall.

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Day 7 – March 8, 2012

It is 9:00 a.m. and we are on the road in a van to see a couple of castles.  This is our vacation day in Romania!  We drove through the city of Bucharest past the US Embassy and the airport and now we are getting out in the country where you see endless flat land covered in snow.  I just saw a man draped in blue sitting on a small folding chair ice fishing.  We have seen a lot of worn down buildings and the backyards here have little vineyards and orchards all set in neat rows.  Some of the homes have been fixed up nice while others look abandoned.  I have noticed several building projects that were started but seem to be now abandoned.  We just passed a cool entrance to a home that was a tunnel of vines shaped like a tall pitched roof.  Every building has a fence around it but hardly any have barbed wire or other sharp burglar deterrents. There are very few homes that have steel window guards in front of them. This area we are passing now is so flat white it looks like a lake but when you look closely you can see some slight undulations in the surface.  We have also passed numerous Eastern Orthodox churches.  They seem to be everywhere.  Our driver Emanuel said “90 percent of Romania is Eastern Orthodox.”  Often the buildings you see here (home and businesses) are gray in color but every once in awhile you see bright orange and red. Some are a creamy white color.  They are the same colors that our mural buildings turned out.  They must use the same pigments.  Gasoline is 6.00 a liter.  Most of the roofs are made out of metal and a few are made with ceramic tile.  There is obviously pride in some of the decoration like on the fences and wood trim.  The older homes are certainly artistic with odd shaped windows and awnings.  Some of the gutters though are very strange.  They don’t come down the side of the house they just hang out over the sidewalk or street.  I just saw one hanging over a large tree, ha! 

I told myself last night and this morning to enjoy every minute that I have left in Romania.  We leave in two days. We just passed a support column to a home that was made from broken tile like a mosaic or Gaudi creation.  You don’t see a lot of bicycles here or motorcycles.  Mostly cars, buses, trains, and people walking.  You see a few horse drawn carts which makes me think of the movie Yentl.  Here is a huge power plant with a couple of cooling towers. Some of the town signs I see are Oradae and Brasov.  We are passing through the Carpathian Mountains into the Transylvania Plateau.  We are in the town of Sinaia which was named by one of the first monasteries in Romania named after Mount Sinai. We are about to take a tour of Castle Peles. 

We are back in the van now and heading to Prejmer where we are going to see an old fortified church. Castle Peles was incredible.  It was a summer palace of King Carol Ist built around 1870. Brittany said “it is listed in the top 10 of castle in Europe.”  It was very, very ornate.  We toured the greeting room, room of weapons, and many other rooms.  Probably the most ornate place I have ever been.  They had rooms from Islam, Turkish, Italian, German, and many other countries.  The smoking room was Turkish with the hookah pipes and little tables.  The entire room had cloth like carpet on it.  We saw golden ceilings, inlaid wood paintings, ceramic portraits, and ceramic tiles.  I bought a little table cloth just outside the castle for 20 lei or $6.00 US dollars.  The lady said she had made it, I am skeptical but it sounds good. 

The church we just went to was built in the 13th century and when invaded by the Ottomans the whole town would hold up in it.  It was a round building with gun holes, and hot oil funnels. It was built by the Roman Catholics but now is an evangelical Lutheran church. The town has a German community who runs the church.  There are over 200 rooms each numbered so that a family could live there during an invasion.  A family always owned these homes and the stairwell to them is like you are looking at an MC Escher print.  You could climb and walk around the entire top part of the church and see all the gun ports.  That was pretty fascinating. 

After this we drove to Castle Bran, home of several kings and queens and what is considered to be Dracula’s Castle.  It was pretty cool but as Brittany said “drab” but it was a cool drab especially thinking about Dracula and being in Transylvania.  Scary…  After this we bought some gifts in a huge market near the castle and then we went to eat at the Villa Bran restaurant where we stuffed ourselves with traditional Romanian food.   We got back to our room at 10:30 p.m.  Even though it was late we had a wonderful day and I believe we are not as tired as when we were painting the mural since it was relaxing.  One more thing before I turn in.  While Brittany was getting our dinner receipt, the girls and I were in the van and they started doing a ton of Stefan imitations and it was hilarious.  This went on for over an hour even after Brittany got back.  They were telling over and over again comments like “I am 16,  I am a teenager, awkward, Awe come on…  That doesn’t sound funny does it?  I guess you had to be there.  Good night from Romania!

Castle Peles and Carpathian Mountains.

Castle Peles and Carol I.

Fortified church in Prejmer.

Castle Bran, Dracula's home away from home.

Castle Bran

Restaurant in Bran.

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Day 6 – March 7, 2012

10:04 p.m. Another wonderful 12 hour day in Romania!  We had breakfast at 8:30 a.m. then at 9:30 a.m. off to school chapel services.  We were in charge and we shared to the students about the meaning of the mural we are painting for them.  How the meaning was about imagining what they want to do as a profession when they got older.  We did little bubbles above 5 children and left them blank.  It is in hope the students will be rewarded weekly and they will have their names put in the bubbles and what they would like to be when they grow up.  We did one chapel service for 4th – 8th grades and one chapel service for 1st – 3rd grades.  After chapel we chilled out for about two hours in Brittany’s room until lunch at 1:00 p.m.  I wrote a blog on Emily’s site and checked my email, mostly deleting spam promoting large penises and large breast.  I hate our new email system.  Lunch was dumpling soup in yellow chicken broth, lots of bread, spaghetti noodles with ground beef and red sauce and a packaged pastry dessert.  The ground beef tasted very fresh.    All yummy!

After lunch we worked on finishing up the mural.  I had gotten everyone the night before to make a list of what they thought still needed to be done.  This morning I ranked their comments 1 – 4 with 1 being the most important and then put all the 1’s on one sheet of paper, all the 2’s one a sheet of paper and so on.  I then taped all 4 sheets on the wall with the 1’s being the highest and the other sheets going down like steps.   I asked everyone to look at the sheets focusing first on the 1’s and 2’s and then pick something they thought they could do and when they finished it mark it off.  Shefan, Emi, and Madi helped us out.  We finished about 8:30 p.m. cleaned up and walked home for a hot shower in our dormitory.  I told everyone “that they did a damn good job.”  The mural looks really good and everyone did a super job this week painting it.  I do believe it will be a great blessing for many children and hope it will help them envision and believe for better lives.  That was Brittany’s goal.  On a side note Brittany is a special person with a heart of gold. It has been so nice to watch her interact with all the Romanians. She never has a negative thing to say and seems to always have cheerful attitude. I know she is making a huge difference in many ways.  Good Night!

Chapel Service at the Project Ruth school.

Emi and Madi leading the singing at chapel.

Celia and Melissa explaining our mural with Stefan interpreting.

Celia in front of the finished city and boy sitting on the radiator. Celia painting this boy.

Emily taking down the tape around the doors in front of the sunrise section and mountains.

Painted boy by the church. Melissa painted this boy.

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Day 5 – March 6, 2012

What a Day!  We painted all day and tonight.  We starting the day at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 9:00 p.m.  This morning we worked on another mural the church wanted us to paint in their nursery area.  Last night we brought all of our mixed colors of paint in Tupperware containers (about 15) that we are using on the school mural.  For a starting point I had asked Brittany to print out a couple of color Noah’s Ark images with animals from the world web.   She picked out two good ones that we were able to use and they turned out be a big help to us in painting the details of the boat and the animals.   They also wanted a large rainbow in the top center so we painted one there and then painted the Ark below it.  We painted two elephants to the left and two hippos to the right. We had two lions, two flamingos, two turtles, and two giraffes. We had green land and a blue pond below and the entire picture was framed with two palm trees.  Across from this wall were two columns where we painted a dove with an olive branch and Noah and his wife.  It looked pretty cool.  We then ate lunch at the school again with chicken noodle soup, a fried flattened chicken breast, and we think instant mashed potatoes, small dill pickles, and the best little desserts you will find on the planet.  After lunch 4 of us stayed and worked on the school mural while 3 of us went back to paint the finishing the details of the church mural.    The team finishing Noah’s Ark mural made it back around 5:30 for dinner and then we all painted on the school mural until 9:00 p.m.  The school mural is looking really good and except for having the children painted on it I could almost live with it the way it is now.  We hope to finish tomorrow so we can have the last two days to do some sightseeing.  I know my journal might seem short and discombobulated but I am tired.  Also, my feet are sore, ouch!

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Day 4 – March 5, 2012

Good morning from Romania!  It is 8:00 a.m. so 1:00 a.m. in Virginia. I have just eaten breakfast and made coffee and put on the hot water for the others.  Today is the Day the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.  My fruity hot tea sooths the soul as I sit in the dining area at the Project Ruth church. The dining area and kitchen is in the downstairs below the Sunday school classes and in the dormitory where we live.  It is a large room with three middle support columns and has six 6 x 2 foot horizontal windows letting in the early morning sunlight. Outside you can see snow piled up and some of the church workers walking about.   A pool table is in here.  It is actually a very bright room and a nice place to eat breakfast and relax.  This morning we will meet with the school children and do a couple of art projects with them and paint on our mural in the afternoon.  The children are done with their classes at 1:00 p.m. so we can start painting around 1:30 p.m.  Here is a first draft to a poem I just wrote about our mural painting.


As sun filters,

through the cold windows,

I see paint stains on,

my fingernails.


 The blurry light,

warms the golden walls,

bringing memories,

of reds, yellows, and tints of blue.


 The sun rises brightly,

over the distant mountains,

revealing the church,

and a boy canoeing on a river.


As light reaches,

high noon hour,

a city is born,

from graphite and acrylic.


Reaching mid-afternoon,

brightening the blue sky,

school children run home,

in the snowy streets.


 As the sun begins to set,

the twilight turns to darkness,

and stars, the aurora borealis,

and nebulas reveal themselves.


10:02 p.m.  I am back in my room now and I just took a shower and washed two pair of socks and underwear in the bathroom sink.  Today we had a wonderful day doing art projects for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade school children. The kids seemed that they really enjoyed it. Then we went with Brittany to get some Romanian Lei (money), I exchanged $100.00 and the rate was $3.22 to $1.00 US.  After this we stopped by the grocery store where I bought some gifts of coffee, crackers, and chocolate.  We then ate a Romanian lunch at school of noodle soup which was a yellow broth with specs of carrots and turnips and very little noodles.  That was served with bread. They eat bread with every meal.  It makes me wonder if that is because they are poor and bread is one of the cheapest things you can buy.  I remember Forrest saying that in Haiti that one particular type of bread could only cost so much so that the poor could afford it.  This was a government law.  After soup, we then had served to us a flattened chicken breast (gently fried) with potatoes and mixed vegetables.  It was all delicious.  For dessert we had a bread cake similar to a pound cake but wrapped like a Little Debbie.  There was plenty of coke zero, coke, fanta, sprite, and water to go around.  After lunch we started painting on our mural.  We made great progress putting lots of stars in the sky, putting bark on the tree, finishing the road, putting detail in the schoolhouse, the windy sky, the aurora borealis, the downtown city street, the church and stained glass window, distant mountains, the river wild, and part of the canoe.  We all had a fun time but are tired and have sore feet.  Good night!



Amanda painting the aurora borealis.

The canoe partially done.

Emily working on a planet.

Melissa working on the church.

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Day 3 – March 4, 2012

It is 9:00 p.m. and we have had a wonderful day.  We started with a breakfast at 8:00 a.m. that included 4 types of cereal, chocolate and vanilla croissants, peach, apple, and orange juice, coffee and tea, bananas, oranges, and apples, yogurt, bread, and cookies.  It was all yummy!  Hey wait a minute, I did not eat and drink all of that, that is just what was available to have.  We left the church at 9:00 a.m. so the people coming to church would not see us leaving.  They had Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and we had permission to paint on the mural this morning at the school and go to the 6:00 p.m. church service.  That we did.  We painted until 1:00 and stopped for a hearty lunch of Brittany’s famous homemade chicken soup and then back to work by 1:30 p.m.  We painted until 4:30 p.m. so we would have time to clean up before church.  I will post pictures later on our progress. 

The church service was filled with lots of music, prayer, and sermon. There must have 20 mandolins there, WOW.  Besides all the mandolins the service was much like a service at home except a lot more songs both with congregational singing and performance.  Of course it was all in the Romanian language.  Did you know the Romanian language is a romance language based from Latin?  The Roman general Trajan conquered this land around 102 A.D. and the language has stayed since then.

The people here do not seem super poor but I guess the children did not have the opportunity to go to school.  That is why Project Ruth was started and they are changing the illiteracy.  One strange thing that Brittany said was that most people you pass in the street don’t say hi or will have eye contact with you. Although when I think about it that happens a lot in the US but maybe not as much.  Some folks do seem to stare at the strange tall guy walking in the streets. 

Stray dogs are everywhere with yellow tags in their ears. Brittany said one year under the communist party they tore down these old large apartment complexes and when they were rebuild everyone was told they could not have a dog so they all ended up in the streets.  Brittany said there were at one time ½ million stray dogs in the city. Most are large dogs just roaming the streets although every time you walk by a closed gate at a home you hear barking vehemently.

Everyone painting on the mural.

Church service with Mandolins.

One of the many stray dogs we saw in Bucharest.

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Day 2 – March 3, 2012

It is 10:30 p.m. and I am sitting in my bed at the Project Ruth church. I just took a shower in my private room and I can hear the clatter and laughter of the girls.  We have had a busy day starting with breakfast at 9:00 a.m., then over to the school where we started on the mural.  Last night we had cleaned a portion of the wall with a cleaner trying to get some of the oily children hand-prints off the wall and today we started off lightly sanding the whole wall.  Each team worked on their own 28 foot section.  After sanding everyone wiped down the walls with a dry rag to get any loose dust off.  That made the whole hallway like a cloud.  We then taped a drop cloth on the floor and taped around all the doors.  Before painting we drew a quick pencil line separating the sky from the ground or grass area.  We then mixed some blue to white paint and green to white paint and rolled these two colors on the entire hallway wall. 

It was then about 1:45 p.m. so we ate the lunch Brittany had prepared for us.  After lunch we started sketching in better detail each section.  In particular, we drew the city and church since that section was the most complex.  We finished around 4:30 p.m. and then walked back to church where we changed our clothes and went to the youth meeting.  We had a great time singing songs, reading the word and sharing testimonies with them.  There was about 25 youth.  With the youth group we all introduced ourselves and I was asked to share my testimony which I did. After this we played a few games and then headed to Brittany’s at 8:30 p.m. for a late dinner.  A few Roma youth ate with us and then at 9:30 p.m. we all headed back to the church to take showers and rest. 

I told you it was a long day.  I hope you did not get bored reading this.   Here is a short catch-up from yesterday.  Brittany picked us up at the airport and brought us to the church to show us where we would be sleeping.  We then walked to her apartment (a 10 minute walk) stopping on the way to get a Shawarma sandwich which is similar to a Gyro but with chicken and fries, cabbage, and sauces all wrapped up together.  That was our dinner along with a bowtie pasta salad and some cookies that Brittany had made.  We got back to our rooms about 7:30 p.m. as we were all a little tired and suffering from jet lag. 

Good night!


View from my room of the Bucharest area we stayed in.

Emily and Erin in their room at the church.

First night as we are about to walk to Brittany's apartment at the school.

At the youth group meeting. It was a Woman's Day celebration so all the girls got flowers.

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London, England

March 2, 2012 

I am at the Heathrow Airport heading to Romania. We arrived here at 5:30 a.m. English time but it is 12:30 a.m. EST.  Our group of 7, me and 6 students are on a mission trip over spring break.  We are awaiting our next flight to Bucharest, Romania leaving at 9:45 a.m.  My watch now says 3:42 a.m. EST and I have not slept yet.  It is 8:42 a.m. here.  I must be in some zombie state of mind as I am obsessed with time.  We are going to an organization called Project Ruth and paint a 83 foot mural at a school for Gypsy children. The mural will be in the school hallway and we have designed a long landscape starting with a sunrise and ending with a starry sky.  We will have mountains, a river and canoe, a cityscape with a church, and 5 children with bubbles above their head saying something that a child imagines they will want to be when they grow up.  We will be hosted by Brittany Garton who is a missionary there for two years.  Last spring she graduated from Bluefield College and 5 of the students going are good friends with her.  One girl has known Brittany since 1st grade, 2 are art majors, and one is the college registrar who graduated from Bluefield College  in art several years ago.  Their names are Erin Darnell, Pip Pattison, Celia Jones, Emily Sears, Melissa Hubert, and Amanda Parks.  Emily and Erin will graduate this May.  We are boarding now.

British Airways Plane at Heathrow.

Team arrival in Bucharest.

Arch in Bucharest and traffic.

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