Sunday, January 13, 2008

Homestays and Hospitality

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ryan Kruis, and I work through the AmeriCorps program in Calvin’s Service-Learning Center for the instructor of this course, Jeff Bouman. I did a lot of the initial legwork back in Michigan to make this interim possible and was very fortunate to be invited to accompany the group on their adventures in Romania. As I am sure is true of the students, I have already learned so much this January.

This past weekend the students have been having a wide range of experiences here in the Jiu Valley, everything from watching American horror flicks with Romanian high schoolers to getting filled to the brim with traditional Romanian food, from attending choir practice at the local Pentecostal church to skiing down Straja mountain. The one thing all these experiences have in common is that all are taking place with the students’ Romanian host families. This weekend, each of the students is spending their time with local families, experiencing a bit of Romanian through the eyes of their Romanian hosts.

Thus far we have had so many amazing experiences to learn about the people and culture here in Romania and the different ways in which social entrepreneurship is being used to address this community’s needs. However, of all these experiences, I am sure that for many of the students their time with their host families will be one of the most impacting, as students will hopefully see first hand not only the needs of this community but also how families, young adults, and church communities are living here in the Jiu Valley, how they are finding joy and making beauty amidst the hardships of living in a post-communist, economically depressed context.

The students dispersed for their homestays early Friday evening, regathered for lunch yesterday afternoon, and will remain with their host families until tomorrow morning. It was great to hear some of their stories yesterday, and I look forward to hearing many more tomorrow.

On a personal note, I have enjoyed my own homestay with Daniel and Janelle, the two Calvin grads volunteering at New Horizons who have done much of the work in organizing this interim. They were and still are two of my dearest friends, and it has been so good to be here with them, catching up and seeing the work they are doing here in Lupeni, as they join in the social entrepreneurship working to transform both the Jiu Valley and Romania as a whole. They, along with the other New Horizons staff, have done an exceptional job in showing us hospitality and offering us amazing experiences from which we have already begun to learn and grow.

I am so grateful to be a part of this interim experience in Romania.

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