Friday, April 24, 2009

Music in Romania

This last month I spent a very short week in Romania.  Part of my trip was spent working with H2H Missionary, Kirsteen and her three music classes from the Peris Orphanage.  She has started regular music classes with about 15 kids, ages 6- 17.  We hosted the kids in the H2H home in Snagov for a special Music Day.  

With lots of planning, donated materials and instruments, and many faithful music-loving prayer supporters back in the US, the first H2H Music Day was a success!  

We taught about rhythm and dynamics.  For most of the kids, these were new concepts.  By the end of each Music Day, the kids could identify pp-ff in music, clap basic quarter note and eighth note rhythms, and even compose their own rhythmic 4/4 measure.  

We also brought along music-shaped cookie cutters and sugar cookie dough, lots of noise makers, stickers, and special letters from music students in California.  

It was such a fun day, watching the little kids practice crescendos and diminuendos by 'marching' in a parade.  Or helping the middle class create a rain storm with clapping, snapping, and tapping on their knees.  Or showing an older student how to conduct pp or ff.

The most amazing part was seeing the natural inclination certain kids had.  Claudia has a steel trap for a brain and can memorize concepts, musical terms, and basic rhythms without a second glance.  Ioana has natural rhythm and can keep the whole group together. Little Vic picked up a piece of hose and a funnel and surprisingly has the perfect embouchure of a future trumpet player.  The unrealized potential in this handful of Romanian orphans is enough to make one want to bring music to every orphanage... and art classes... and science experiments... and cooking classes... if only there was more time, more hands to find out what each child was good at and liked doing.  Imagine the ensemble we could have out of the 400+ Romanian orphans H2H works with regularly!

Here's pics of the H2H Music Days: 

Marius, Alina, and Vic clapping rhythms - and having a good time!

Ioana is one of the most promising music student in the Peris Music Classes.  She is quick to learn new concepts and has a natural sense of rhythm.  She also helps keep the younger kids together when they're playing more than one part.  She quickly picked up the concept of 4/4 time with quarter and eighth notes.  Here's her one measure composition:

Georgiana with her one measure rhythm:

We brought out a box of shakers, drums, whistles, and all other varieties of noise makers and turned the kids loose on it for 10 minutes of 'music.'  We dubbed it 'The Noisy Corner' and after we each took our tylenol, it really wasn't as bad as it sounds!  The kids loved experimenting and being allowed to try different instruments.  I loved watching their faces light up each time they found a new shaker or tambourine!

The older kids loved the 'noisy corner' too!

Kirsteen leading the little kids in a rhythm game.

Alina loves music! (or cookies... not sure which)

Iulica doing a craft.

Alina and Vic identifying loud and soft dynamics.

Ioana, Claudia, Stefi, and Elena making a 'rain storm:'

Alina showing off a letter from her California music student pen pal!

Someone give this kid a trumpet!!

I don't know...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easter part dos

This year I celebrated two Easters.  Easter in America was with family members in Ramona and then a week later, I celebrated Easter in Romania with a different sort of family members.  

Easter is the largest and most important holiday in Orthodox countries, so it was a big deal in Romania.  Romanians celebrate from Good Friday through the Monday after Easter Sunday... and some even through Tuesday.  All stores are closed.  Lots of food is prepared.  Everyone attends church to light candles (if you're Orthodox) and celebrate Christ's resurrection.  People passing on the street call out to complete strangers, "Cristos a inviat!" (Christ is risen!) Strangers reply, "Adeverat a inviat!" (truly He is risen!)

For Easter in Romania, we attended church at AlphaOmega church.  There was a lot of worship (loud worship), a special drama, an Easter music video, and a simple message.  After church we headed to the large youth park in Bucharest for fun outside (it was a beautiful, sunny day).  We discovered that many Bucharest residents had the same idea as we had and were lounging around the park, munching on picnics, playing games.  We set out blankets and feasted on decorated sugar cookies with the kids from our transition program.  

We played volleyball in the grass and cracked hard boiled eggs together.  

I loved watching 'our kids' laugh and play together.  

I was reminded that not too long ago these same smiling faces were full of despair and fear as they faced a hopeless future on the streets.  Many of them had fought and struggled through life, failing over and over again.  As I held out my hard boiled egg and listened to the orphaned girl proclaim Christ's resurrection, I remembered that Christ's resurrection was the true saving point for them- and me!  

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives, all fear is gone.  Because I know He holds the future.  And life is worth the living just because He lives!

A couple girls took me on a walk around the park and we ended up at carnival!  The whirl of amusement park rides, the scents of sugary food and smoking sausage filled my senses as I enjoyed the sights and sounds of hundreds of Romanians celebrating such a sacred holiday at a wild carnival.  

Even amidst blaring music and gypsies selling piles of sunflower seeds, people still called out the Easter greeting.  

We headed back to our group just as rain drops began to fall from the sky.  The clouds rolled in and we beheld a glorious view of the city through the tree tops of the park.  

A beautiful Easter with many reminders of the new life we have in Christ!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009


This weekend Austin the Incredible was accosted by a swarm of bees in our backyard!

He hid inside, with the doors and windows locked while the bees buzzed around.  [side note- California has been invaded by Africanized Killer Bees... according to numerous city and government webpages, most swarms of bees in Southern California are Africanized and extremely dangerous.  Local authorities warns to avoid these bees as they are VERY aggressive].  After awhile, the bees seemed to have moved on.

The next day, The Incredible heard a lot of buzzing coming from our big charcoal grill.  Upon further investigation, he discovered this:
(this discovery was followed by a rapid retreat to the great indoors)

This is not yet a hive... just bee upon bee- all stacked on top of each other!

It should be noted that these are NOT bees of the African and Killer variety... so far they have shown no interest in chasing us into the house, harassing Nora, or displaying their aggression in any other way (great feats of strength, grunting and lifting heavy objects, etc).  So after some online research, we determined that they are honey bees (ahhh).

While we are trying to suggest a relocation for our new buzzy friends, I have stumbled across interesting bee news.  Honey Bees across the US are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Honey Bees are responsible for pollinating over 100 different yummy foods- like avocados, apples, almonds, soybeans, peaches, pumpkins, oranges- that amounts to about $15 billion of US Agriculture.

In recent years, beekeepers have lost nearly 1/3 of their hives to unknown causes.  Without Honey Bees, a big chunk of US Agriculture is in danger.  
I've found these great sites that discuss the plight of the Honey Bee.  This site, by Haagen-Daaz, has fun interactive facts and info regarding honey bees. 

This site encourages people to plant sunflowers and record the bees that visit their garden.  And I think they send you sunflower seeds for free! 

The bees moved in Tuesday afternoon.  They still seem pretty content to stay in their BBQ grill.  I would like to use that grill sometime in the future but my eyes have been opened to the mysteries of the honey bee and the difficulties they are facing.  I might even plant them a few sunflowers- away from the porch and grill!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Visit to Rockford- as seen through my cell phone camera

I made a quick weekend trip back to Rockford, IL to take care of Boomer while she underwent knee surgery.  I was born in Rockford- my mom was born there as was her mom (Boomer).  Boomer's mom was born in Sweden... took a boat across the Atlantic and settled in Rockford with her family.  

We spent many summer vacations in Rockford, visiting family and my mom's old friends and swimming in a country club pool.  We frequented the restaurants, attended the Free Church, and swam at a cousin's pool.  We did a lot of swimming as kids.  

The midwest has a certain quality or culture to it that is vastly different from life in Southern California.  I was reminded of it while sharing a meal with a collection of aunts, uncles, and cousins before Boomer's surgery.  The talk around the table was filled of news of new snow mobiles, trips to Florida, and the local death report (which included at least three people whom I should have known or remembered).  As they talked about pool parties that would take place in 6 months when the weather was nice, we munched on 'butter burgers' and drank 'concrete shakes.'  Oh, and it was snowing outside too.  

My grandma lives in a fancy schmancy 'retirement community.'  This is not a nursing home.  It is a commune with townhouses on neatly manicured streets with slightly tacky seasonal decorations gracing certain lawns and doors.  Then there is The Big House.  When a resident is no longer able or willing to maintain their townhome, they move to The Big House.  The Big House is a large brick building, several stories tall, with apartments, individual rooms, and hospice care housed inside.  There are lunch rooms, a gift shop, meeting halls, and lots of smiling old people.  Happily living in The Big House.  Some not as happily- but they aren't the ones generally wandering around the halls smiling.  Oh, and almost nobody living in the retirement community finds it remotely humorous that The Big House is most likely to be their final residence this side of heaven.

Rockford has that old fashion, slightly fundamentalist culture that is still prevalent in the midwest.  In some ways this is nostalgic and comforting.  There are few places in SoCal that are as unashamedly religious and traditional.

But there are also times when this blast to the past can be, shall we say, slightly irksome?  Like going to a large grocery store and being told that they do not accept credit cards- only cash or check (checks?!?!).  Or visiting a restaurant and having so many people stop by to say hello that you can't get a bite in.  Or the lack or wifi or toilet seat covers or left hand turn lanes... Arghhg!

Overall, my trip was quick.  A nice opportunity to help my Boomer in a small way and see a few family members.  Oh, and eat the world's best Swedish pancakes from here:


Here's a few other **exciting** views of my trip to the midwest:

Every town has a water tower... I don't know why since the dawning of the 21st century but every town has got to have one.

This is a barn and silo.  We don't really have these in Southern California.  If I had a barn, I would paint it purple with a green roof and purple trim- just to mix things up a little!

Yeah- this is the midwest... dynamic geographic terrain and lots of really big cars- like Buicks and Cadillacs... we don't have very many of this in SoCal either... unless their rims spin and they have a killer sound system.

Friday, April 3, 2009

morning glory evening grace

A photographer's favorite time to shoot outside is early morning and late afternoon/early evening.  The sun is low or nearly non-existent, and shadows are gone, and the light left in the sky picks up all the colors and crevices of your subject.  

Here's a few 'evening grace' shots of my purple daisies: