Sunday, January 27, 2008

Minor Inconveniences

Coming home from a foreign country always tends to make one thankful for things we all too often take for granted. For example, being able to drink water out of the tap (not to mention a reliable source of hot water) is a refreshing change. Having doors that don't swing back to always leave a crack open, no matter how hard you try to close them, is also a surprisingly missed convenience.

Of course, being able to understand the names of food items and know what one is buying in the supermarket takes some of the excitement out of eating, but I think most of us appreciate a little of such "dullness" in our lives. Not having to constantly worry about pronouncing one's sparse Romanian vocabulary with enough accuracy to avoid both confusion and the inevitable amusement at one's own expense is also a nice change.

The last few days we had some repeated trouble with power outages, too-- on Monday after returning from Timisoara the power in Apartment 8 went out. As soon as the power was fixed that day it went out again the next night (Tuesday) while we were sleeping. This, of course, meant no hot water, which meant no hot showers, and it also meant that some of us were doing some last-minute packing for our trip back to the states while in near-total darkness (thankfully a few of us had head-lamps which were passed around amongst the group). Leaving Lupeni to go to Bucharest didn't allow us to escape our troubles with fuse boxes, either, for our final night in Romania the power in the hostel we were staying at went out completely. This allowed for some nice candlelight chats-- but thankfully the power went back on after an hour or so.

This is not to say that we were staying in poor, miserable conditions-- on the contrary, I found our apartments to be on the whole quite amiable. We were all in all well taken care of, and our few inconveniences were generally pretty easy to either deal with or to find an alternative, more creative solution (like making toast in the oven rather than in a toaster, for example). Yet, I think all of us were looking forward to coming back to the United States to our lives of modern convenience and relative ease.

One of the subjects we focused on in our class discussions was the concept of suffering as being integral to our Christian lives and being an "agent of change". These minor inconveniences we encountered were far from being intense forms of suffering, but I would wager that every single one of us was looking forward to the end of such inconveniences and returning home to our comfortable lives. As well-off American citizens there really are not many constant sources of worry in our lives; we have the occasional stressful situation, to be sure, but we don't have to worry about our basic survival by any means. It is so hard for most of us (myself included) to commit to being put in a stressful situation for an extended period of time-- yet in so many ways, Christianity emphasizes suffering as one of the primary means of achieving growth and a closer relationship with God. Going to Romania really helped us to consider the significance of suffering in our own lives; I'd like to think that all of us Calvin students in Romania grew immensely as a result of such experiences!

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