Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What a Great Way to End a Mission!

A few days before we left Romania we attended our last senior missionary couple conference in the beautiful Transylvania city of Brasov.
Meeting with these great couples was always inspiring.
It was a special treat to hear President Hill sing "If I Were a Rich Man."
The Elders just loved singing "Ye Elders of Israel" again for the Soras. 
(Well, maybe not.  But we loved hearing them,)
We had dinner in a quaint little restaurant in Brasov's centru.  The manager surprised us with a recorded show about Utah from the Travel Channel and played it during our meal. 
It was a pleasure serving with these senior couples.
We were glad there was time during the conference to enjoy more of the historical sites in Romania. There are several medieval fortified churches in the villages around Brasov.  This church was started in 1218 and fortifications around it were largely built in the 1400s.  It was under seige about 500 times over the centuries, but was captured only once. 
A few hundred people lived in little rooms inside the walls of the fortification.
This is one of the defense portals in the outside wall.
The church is always in the center of the fortress. Though much of this church is 800 years old, it has been restored and well maintained.
It continues to function as a church and is shared each Sunday by both the Catholics and the Lutherans.
We also visited a medieval fortress on top of a hill overlooking the small city of Rasnov.  A wagon ride up a steep hill dropped us here outside the fortified gate in the outer wall. 
After passing through the gate into the outer courtyard, we could see the main fortress on the hill above us.
Inside the fortress there were many little artisan shops.
From high in the fortress we could look across ruins of ancient dwellings into the valley below.
For a fortress to be able to withstand a long seige, it must have water. While there were previously some cisterns and springs within this hilltop fortress, beginning in 1623, a well was started to provide a constant supply of water.  It took 20 years of digging through 450 feet of rock before this well was completed.      
We enjoyed the central piata of Brasov one more time.  
Elder Newey and Elder Harrison, the assistants to the President, picked us up from the mission home early Monday morning, October 15, to take us to the airport.  We had worked with both these outstanding missionaries before and it was so good to see them one more time as we were leaving Romania.
How many missionaries does it take to check in 6 bags? 
One to do the work and two to give advice. 
After over 13 hours on airplanes and a 4 hour layover in London, we finally arrived in Denver and got our bags through customs.  It was good to be home!
And this is what we found waiting for us at the airport.
Oh, his parents were there as well. 
The long wait for this moment was finally over and I think we will get along just fine. 
Elder and Sora Wahlquist with Sora and President Hill
Our mission to Romania was truly an unforgettable adventure.  We will always remember the wonderful people we met there.  
La Revedere! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Once I discovered how to adjust my recipe to the 82% fat content of the butter in Romania, I became famous for making the best chocolate chip cookies in the mission.  The first time I served them to our YSA, they weren't quite sure what to think.  Cookies in Romania are called "biscuits" and they are a little dry.  So warm, soft cookies were different. 

But they became true believers quickly.  It wasn't long before these plates were empty!

The young missionaries always appreciate whatever food they are served but these cookies reminded them of home.  We usually served warm cookies and milk in the district meeting at the end of each transfer.
I served my last batch of cookies in Romania at the Arad zone conference.
Thank you to everyone who sent brown sugar, vanilla or chocolate chips.  I couldn't have done it without you!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Romanian Villages

Possibly, because of its long history of conflicts over the centurys, many city and village streets present a solid wall to the public.  The buildings along these streets are often over 100 years in age. You would never know from just walking or driving down this street, with its occasional large gates but no front doors, that there is a whole different world of patios, gardens, trees, and even chickens and pigs living behind these walls.
In the smaller villages there is often more space between houses.  But they still have high fences and front doors are rare.  If you are not expected, you need to knock on a window or rattle the door in the gate to try to get someone's attention.   

This is a view from inside one of those large gates along the street.  There are several  apartments here that can only be accessed through that gate facing the street at the end of the archway.  
This is the view looking back the other way from the picture above as we walked in to the workshop of a ceramics artisan.  There was no garden but there were the grapevines that grow everywhere here.
We took this picture from a medevial fortress high on the hill above Rasnov.  You can see how the buildings in the village below present a solid wall to the streets, but inside the block are trees and gardens.   
This house is 200 years old. In the small yard behind it, every available space is used.  The owner has pigs, chickens, cats, a dog, and a garden that had every thing from garlic to tomatoes growing in it.  Some crops she sold and others she preserved for the winter.  
Grapevines are very common in most yards.  Almost every home in the villages will have grapevines growing on their fences.
Partially finished houses are very common.  They build with large red clay blocks and wood is only used to support the roof.  Because they only work on the house when they have enough money, it may takes years to finish.     
We loved seeing all the different ways they grew their grapevines.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Things You Can Buy on the Side of the Road in Romania

There are very few divided highways in Romania so most of our driving is on small two lane roads that go through farmland and small villages.  We have found that you can buy the most interesting things along the side of the road here.

Strips of shops like this are on roads all over the country.  You can buy anything from sheepskin slippers to ceramic pottery.  And, of course, there is the usual touristy stuff that is in every roadside stand at home.
This sweet lady is selling bags of fresh parsley.
This young man is selling homemade tin funnels.  Before I stopped to take a picture he was twirling them in the air.  It was quite a show.
There are carved wood products like vases, plates, chess sets and barrels.
You can buy beautiful Romanian made crystal.
As we were driving by, this glass salesman held the vase up to the sun.  Beautiful!

How do you feel about gnomes?
These two ladies have honey and flavored honey syrup for sale.  The containers are almost always recycled water and soda bottles.
And here we have even more flavored honey syrup.
This adorable little girl (about 10 yrs. old) was standing on the side of a busy road with huge trucks roaring by.  Her hands were purple from the blackberries she had picked and was now trying to sell.  Because we were not going to be home for a few days, I tried to tell her I just wanted a "poza" and would give her 10 lei (which is what she was asking for the berries) but wouldn't take the berries.  You can tell she is a little confused by the deal.
I'm not sure what she's selling out of that cart but she loved getting her picture taken.
We see lots of carts like this full of metal.  You can't see the horse that is pulling the cart but he is there, standing patiently.  Manhole covers are especially sought after so you have to watch carefully where you walk. 
Here is more honey with some cheese.  I wish I had a better picture of the cheese that is in hollowed out wood.
I don't know where the person is that is selling these potatoes, but they are cheap - about $2.00 for a fifty pound bag.
These heads of cauliflower are huge and beautiful.  They were grown in this woman's garden behind the gate.
This man is selling a bucket of walnuts.
I couldn't understand the name of these berries, but they look like orange blueberries.  Almost anything that can be grown in a garden or picked in a forest can be bought on the side of the road.  However, many of them, like strawberries, cherries or the berries this girl is selling, can only be found during their short harvest season (a few days to a few weeks).  Others, like watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, and egg plant are available throughout most of the summer. 
These hard round pretzel-like things are sold sitting out on the side of the road in all kinds of weather with trucks and cars racing past. I never could bring myself to try one.
Sorry this picture is fuzzy but we couldn't stop the car.  There are about 3 more puppies in the trunk of the car.

Pictures I didn't get but we really did see.
A man on side of road holding a wriggly live fish.
A bowl of eggs on a 3 legged stool next to the road.
1 watermelon on a chair.
A basket of huge mushrooms sitting on the ground.