Sunday, December 26, 2010

Windsor Castle

Over the last 10 days in London, my activities were pretty limited, due to the fact that I was by myself and I didn't want to spend too much money (I was already spending a fortune on hotels, transport, and food).  However, about half way through my stay here, Mark and Rebecca flew in a day early (because the first leg of their flight the next day was cancelled...) and insisted that we go and do something.  We were staying pretty close to Windsor so we decided to go visit Windsor Castle and walk around the town of Windsor.  Mostly the pictures are of the outside, because they don't really let you take pictures on the inside...but we snuck a few in anyways when we could.  Unfortunately, the queen wasn't in the day we were visiting.

The British flag was flying...this means the queen is not there!
The quality of this picture isn't really great and I really wasn't supposed to take it, but I really wanted a picture with one of the Christmas trees in the State apartments.  This one had little royal crowns on it!   

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Brief Stopover in London...

Many of you have here is the whole detailed story of my delay in pictures....just the story...
Okay...maybe it wasn't so  brief.  I left the US on December 16th.  My parents couldn't take me to the airport, so my cousin, Joanne, drove me there.  Everything was good, however the flight into London was a wee bit delayed.  Maybe this should have been my first clue.  I arrived into London about an hour and a half late, but that was okay because I had seven hours to kill.  I went to get something to eat and wasn't too worried when I saw on the sign that the flight was about an hour delayed.  I went to find a computer to email the girls in Romania to let them know that they should check the flight before they came to the airport so that they didn't have to wait.  There seemed to be a lot of flight cancellations this day going out of London but the weather wasn't that bad so I just thought everything would be okay.  There also seemed to be a bit of pandemonium...but I didn't really understand that pandemonium until a little while later.  About 45 minutes after they delayed the flight, they finally cancelled it and instructed us to go to baggage claim to collect our bags and then to head up to Level 3, Zone G to rebook a flight.  Arriving down in the baggage claim, it really was mass pandemonium.  There were so many people down there and so much luggage.  Two of my four bags came quite quickly.  The other two didn't come and didn't come.  There was another girl down there and we were kind of working together.  She lived in London and had phone contact with people that were helping here to book another flight online.  After two hours of waiting for baggage, she told me that there was only one or two seats left on the flight for Sunday (the 19th).  I decided to abandon my luggage and go upstairs and try to rebook my flight.  My luggage would catch up with me later.  I headed upstairs to Level 3, Zone G only to find out that by 8:00pm they were not rebooking anymore flights, even though it said on the paper they were handing out that they were rebooking until 10:30pm.  They instructed us to go back downstairs to arrivals where there is a hotel desk and try to find someplace to stay for the night.
I stood in line at the hotel desk for about 2 hours.  The line was quite long and moving quite slowly.  I decided that I needed to be in contact with people, so I bought 24 hours worth of internet for 10 pounds (which is about $15).  I started talking with this guy right in front of me, telling him my case, and he realized that I was online.  He asked if we wanted to work together since he had a phone and I had internet and we could try to find something online.  He had actually been stranded since the day before and knew of a place and just needed a phone number.  So, I found the number, he called, and he booked two rooms.  He called a taxi and we arrived at the Oakley Court right after midnight.  Okay, so I lied...Two pictures...  This is where I stayed the first night...and the second, third and fourth....
Nice castle, huh?  Imagine that it is winter time and only about 6 inches of snow...
The next morning I went back to the airport.  I really needed to try to get rebooked on a flight, since you couldn't do anything online and the hotline number British Airways had set up was so back logged you couldn't even get through to anyone...just a recording.  The airport was a disaster.  I stood in line for a long time, but, got absolutely nowhere.  They stopped rebooking again and on top of everything it started to snow (This closed the airport down for two days!!).  They advised everyone to leave the airport and find someplace to stay.  Well, since I had already stayed at the Oakley Court and knew how to get there, etc..I decided to go back.  When I went to dinner that night at the hotel restaurant, they asked if I had a voucher.  "Voucher?" I asked.  There were others there that had been sent by British Airways that had vouchers.  Well, I needed to get on this list because this hotel was expensive and I was quickly going to be draining my bank account.  So, I went back to the airport the next morning around 5 am with two purposes.  One, to get hotel vouchers and to try to get the rest of my luggage.  I didn't succeed at either of those tasks.  I did however, but a claim in for my luggage and I was back at the hotel by 8 am.  I stayed two more nights at the Oakley and then decided enough was enough. 
I went back to the airport on Tuesday morning (the 21st).  They had been telling people to not come to the airport unless you had a confimed flight, but I was advised that they were just telling people this and to go anyways.  I knew that there was a flight going out to Bucharest that afternoon and I was determined to get on that flight.  I finally got up to a desk to talk to someone and they said that it was already way overbooked and it was blocked for standby until three hours before the flight and I should come back around 2 pm.  I walked around the departures for awhile, picked up a free sandwich and some free water.  British Airways had quite a few customer service people just roaming around.  I spoke to a guy and he called someone and he said he could get me a flight on Sunday, the 26th.  Seriously!!  I walked away from him still determined to get on standby that day.  I spoke with another lady and she suggested that I at least get booked on the flight on teh 26th because it was at least something.  So, I went back to the guy and told him to book me.  I then decided to go downstairs to arrivals and see about my missing luggage.  This was a pretty stupid mistake because now they had airport people posted at every door and every elevator and they weren't letting people back up to the departures level without a confirmed boarding pass.  Now my only choice was to go back to the hotel and wait it out until the 26th.  However, I wasn't going back to the Oakley because that place was way out of my budget!  In the airport, at this point, they were offering free wifi, so I got online and found a place that was about 90 pounds cheaper than the Oakley Court. 
I arrived at the White House Bed and Breakfast that afternoon, December 21st.  I booked myself two nights because I thought that maybe I could still try to get on an earlier flight.  I got an email that night from Mark and Rebecca Essenberg (they work with me in Romania).  They said that they were going to get on a flight the next day into London because the first leg of their flight into London the next day was already cancelled.  I was getting company!!  They arrived into Heathrow around 11am and by 12:30pm they were booked and at the White House Bed and Breakfast.  They convinced me we needed to get out and do something and I was so glad they came because we went to Windsor and visited Windsor Castle (the queen wasn't in that day, though).  We had a nice dinner watched some Survivor and they went to bed early because they needed to get to the airport early the next day. 
That day, December 23rd, I decided to venture out by myself and to see if I could find a grocery store.  I have a microwave and a refrigerator in my room so I didn't want to eat my meals out and try to save a little money since I had already spent a ton.  I found a lovely little grocery store about a mile down the road, bought my groceries and went back to my room.  Yesterday and today, I've pretty much been a homebody.  Just waiting for my flight.  I finally get to leave tomorrow.  The day after Christmas.  I am anxiously awaiting to go home!  British Airways has promised to pay the expenses.  Let's see if they follow through!!

Christmas 2010

Christmas for the Johnson family was celebrated early (well, the first one for the rest of my family and the only one for me).  We gathered at my sister's house two weeks before Christmas.  It was fun to celebrate through the eyes of two 2-year olds.  They of course loved the presents...especially since they had the biggest one's!

Train Trip with Tusi!

While I was home, I decided to take Micah and Tanner on a train trip from Fresno to Bakersfield.  They were very excited!  We looked out the window, but most of the time they wanted the curtain closed.  We watched Toy Story, ate snacks, played with playdough and colored!  What a fun time we had!
This was the point when Tanner realized her Mommy wasn't getting on the train with us....
What a fun trip this was!!

Thanksgiving in America

This year I missed the BIG celebration in Romania.  45 kids, 15 staff, 4 turkies, etc, etc, etc.  In change, I was able to spend it at my parent's house with my family.  I am so thankful for each one of them and that they are in my life.  God is so faithful and continues to bless me beyond what I can usually see with my own two eyes!
Well, if you know anything about my family, you might know that my mom likes to have a performance each year with the grandkids.  Their first Christmas they were Mary and Joseph...It was really easy to get them to stay in once place this year.  They were not quite yet mobile...
My Dad read Luke 2 and they really were the cutest little Mary and Joseph ever!
So, the next year, they were angels....
Again, the two cutest angels you ever did see...BUT, they didn't really dig the costumes...especially Micah!  They were supposed to dance around in circles to an angel song.  Nope!  Didn't happen!
So, this year, since I wasn't going to be home for Christmas, my mom decided to dress them up for Thanksgiving.  Now, they are both at the age where they are just getting in to dress up clothes.  So, we told them we were dressing up and they had no problems getting into character.  Micah had a necklace with his costume, so of course Tanner had to have one too...and we quickly found her a cross necklace....
And then there is Baby Jett....such a cute, good baby boy!

A Year in Review

 Wow!  Has it really been 7 years since I moved to Romania??  I am so blessed to be able to come home to regroup and visit family and friends once a year.  Here are some of the exciting things the Lord has been doing over the past year:

At the end of the year last year, I met up with Jodi Sorrels and two other friends at the Urbana Missions Conference.  We talked to and recruited hundreds of students to come to Romania on a mission’s trip.  In our free time, we went to visit the St. Louis Arch.  I returned back to Romania from St. Louis.

When I returned to Romania last year, I continued my work at the Girl’s Transition House through the middle of June.  Summer was incredibly busy (more on this later), and this fall I had a new schedule.

After the first of the year, two of our transition house girls, Mihaela and Andreea, began hair-cutting school at Christine Valmy in Bucharest.  They had been waiting for this since they moved into the girl's house and were excited beyond belief.  They learned the theory behind hair and how-to by studying handouts, watching videos and listening to their professor.  I was lucky enough to be a guinea pig a couple of times (probably not my best hair cuts ever) and they got better and better as the months progressed.  Andreea is now using the skills she learned in a salon in London.

Our other two transition house girls, Silvia and Catalina, had a big spring.  They were both reunited with members of their families…Catalina with her mom and Silvia with her Grandma.  Neither Silvia nor Catalina had a birth certificate or an identification card (identification cards are very important in Romania) and so my co-worker and I helped both of them to attain these very crucial documents.  You cannot hold a job and the government does not recognize you as a person without this identification card.  This process of getting these cards was very long and not the easiest but very rewarding in the end.  Now, let’s just hope they don’t lose them! 

My good friend, Kristen, was able to come visit me this last spring.  We had fun visiting some of Heart to Heart’s ministry sites.  She stayed with me at the girl’s transition house.  We also took a little side trip to Poland.  It has been a dream of mine since coming to Romania to visit a concentration camp in Poland…so we did just that. We stayed in the city of Krakow--touring around the city, visiting the Schindler museum, an art museum, Wawel Castle, and finally on to Auschwitz.  It was very surreal to visit there and to see the buildings where the Nazi soldiers kept their prisoners and to actually walk the grounds where so many people were tortured and killed.  There were three rooms that we saw that really saddened me: first, a room full of hair that had been shaved off of the women as they entered the camp, second, a room full of shoes--probably the best shoes these people owned, and third, a room full of luggage that had been confiscated as the prisoners came into Auschwitz.  It is so easy for me to take life for granted, so the next time I find myself doing this, I'm going to remind myself about the suffering that these people went through. 

In May, two of our transition graduates, Alina and Roby, were married.  We had the wedding at the Heart to Heart team house.  I helped make the food for this event, made the wedding cake, and played my flute for the ceremony.  It was interesting to help them with the planning process.  They wanted a very simple affair, but at the same time very traditional Romanian wedding complete with a ceremony, a meal, games, well wishes, and finally a three-tiered cake.

The girls finished hair-cutting school at the beginning of June, jobs were found, and an apartment for them secured.  Summer plans were also underway.  I directed 2 girly camps and 8 kid’s camps…3 teams, 140 kids, 10 swim parties, lots of hot dogs and hamburgers grilled, 6 weeks later and the summer was completed.  It was fun-filled, activity packed and very busy.  One of the highlights for me was watching the kids renew friendships with kids from other orphanages from past summers.  They loved seeing their old friends and making new friends.  They even still keep in touch via cell phones.

This fall, my job description changed just a bit.  Because we do not have the girl’s transition house open this fall, I am wearing several hats.  I go to visit transition graduate apartments and have a Bible study, or cook something with them, or meet up with them somewhere in the city.  They love the one on one attention.  I am also developing a youth group program and attend two out of the three weekly youth group meetings at the orphanages.  Every week, I hold a Mommies and Me class with the 3 transition graduate girls that have babies.  They are enjoying having a Bible Study and learning different things about how to raise their babies and different cooking projects.  In my spare time, I help out with teams, love to read, and enjoy spending time with others on our staff.

I’m looking forward to a terrific 2011!  Thanks for your prayers and financial support!  Without you, I wouldn't be able to do what I love to do everyday!

Peris Youth Group

I just love the kids at Peris!  I have the privilege again this year to be working with them.  This year in a bit of a different role.  I go to Peris one evening a week and we have a youth group.  My most favorite part of the whole evening is when we all sing together.  Dorothy brings her guitar, I've got the song sheets and the kids are so eager to sing and learn new songs!  Their favorites: I'm Forgiven and Our God is an Awesome God!
I just love these kids!  

Slumber Party

The transition house graduate girls decided that they wanted to have a pajama a pajama party we had!  We ate their favorite...lasagna...we gave them clothes...played Bunco...watched a movie...and ended with pancakes the next morning.  They loved it!!

Hanging out in our pajamas!!

Baby Ruthie

Ruth Cristina Vaduva, daughter of Roby and Alina, was born Tuesday, October 19, 2010!  By Wednesday, Alina was bored and wanted to go home.  The Bucharest hospital had Nazi nurses and would not really let us in to see Ruthie or Alina.  The second day, Alina came out of the ward (where you had ot have a special key to enter) to visit with us.  She was excited to see friends!!  On Friday, her doctor discharged her (otherwise she would have been in the hospital over the weekend) and I went to pick her up and take her and Ruthie home.  I stayed with her that first day to make sure she had everything she needed and to help her.  Ruthie is a beautiful baby and soooo good.  I went back on Monday and spent the day with Alina and she is doing very well.  Tuesday, I took her to the doctor to get out her stitches.  Praise God for a healthy baby and a young, capable mother!!

Every Fall Brings Changes...

Every fall brings about changes here in Romania....  Changes in the temperature (hooray-finally we are not sweltering from the heat)...Changes in the trees (oh, how beautiful they are)...Changes in the programming and living arrangements (I like my new schedule). 
We were driving past this park the other day and I pulled out my camera to capture the beauty of the trees and their changing colors.
Yes, my schedule has changed.  I now live at the team house because most of my activities take place in and around Bucharest this year.  We have three mommies in our H2H family now and so I have started a mommies group to help them learn how to take care of their babies, to feed them spiritually, and to spend time with them.  They are enjoying the times we are spending together and we all look forward to Tuesday mornings!
These two gals are 9-months pregnant.  We were getting ready to leave a couple of weeks ago after our first meeting and we were in the hallway putting on our shoes.  It was so cute...Alina (mommy on the left) had her husband Roby with her (he actually came to help us do some outside work...thanks Roby!).  He bent down to tie her shoes for her because she couldn't anymore.  I thought to myself what a sweet gesture that was that he would serve her in that way.  I'm going to miss these girls as I get ready to go home for a one month visit, but they are excited to start our group back up in January after everything settles back down from the holidays.

Another Great Vacation!

This summer, I had the opportunity to have a relaxing vacation.  My friend, Krista, and I decided to go on a Western Mediterranean cruise.  It was so nice to get away, relax on the boat, and see a little bit of Italy and Spain.  I really loved Palma de Mallorca...Palma is such a lovely little town on the island of Mallorca.  We visited a beautiful church there and walked around close to the water.  Another highlight was visiting Rome.  There is so much history there and it was so interesting to see Vatican City.  The Trevi Fountain was lovely to see there, too.  I'll have to go back to Rome, though, as there was just too much to see in a short six hours.
Just before boarding the Norwegian Jade
The spa is where I spent most of my time while on the ship
Krista and I at Vatican City
At Palma de Mallorca
Last night on the ship and a perfect sunset