Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My apartment and neighborhood

It occured to me last night that I hadn't really described where I'm living.  My apartment is on the third, or second, floor (depending whether you use American or European designation).  In any case it's up two flights of stairs.  You enter a small hallway, to the right is the kitchen, straight ahead is the living room.  The bedroom has two doors, from the living room and from the hall.  The bathroom is off the hall.  Off the living room is a balcony that gets some sun all day.  It seems to face in a southerly direction.  There is a table and chairs on the balcony which overlooks an overgrown garden area.  It's really pleasant to have coffee on the balcony in the morning.

The neighborhood, called Floreasca, has streets named for musicians.  My street is off Tchaikovsky St.   A few blocks over is a park that I like to visit each day.  At one end, it has a beautiful rose garden which is still in full bloom, and beds of marigolds and impatiens. Many of the roses I've seen in Bucharest are the old-fashioned varieties that have an intense perfume that you can smell as you approach.  You could say the air is perfumed.

There are many benches spread out throughout the park and there seem to be people enjoying themselves at all hours.  In the morning, my peers, the pensioners, are sitting, visiting with their friends.  There are also grandmothers watching small children.  There is a coffee shop called Memento that is really a nice place to spend a few hours watching people come and go.

There is an unhurried way of living that is very attractive to me.  When we go out for a meal, first we choose the restaurant, and eat slowly and unhurriedly.  Then we wander until we find a coffee shop for a cappucino and/or dessert.  By the time we're finished, eating has taken a few hours instead of a few minutes.

As I've spoken to people on Skype, each has said that I sound relaxed.  And I am.  For the first time in a very long time.  This time in Eastern Europe is really turning out to be a time of personal renewal.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shades of Baghdad and Cairo

Sunday, we went to a place called Europa Market, commonly called Chinese Market.  It's an area of hundreds of shops selling just about anything you can think of with uneven somewhat dirty winding streets jammed with people looking for bargains.  There was a little food shop that had a sign in the window (in Romanian): "Good appetite, if you don't like the food, you don't pay."  We didn't test it out.

We then went to a large Home Depot/Lowe's type store with Florin's friend to help her get boxes and other stuff for moving.  We stopped into her new apartment before going out to lunch to a local restaurant called "The Hunchback"  It was full and the smells of meat cooking over charcoal were wonderful.  Florin's friend and I had the specialty of the house, a kind of kufta/kabob served with mustard and oven-baked potatoes and pickles.  Florin had a chicken dish.

I was ready to get back to the apartment for some solitude after being in the crowds.  I had to work on a description for a sort of workshop I'll be doing Friday.  I finished it this morning and then mastered the art of using a stovetop Espresso pot.  It came out so strong, I had to add sugar and milk.  The milk barely lightened the coffee.  Tomorrow, I'll use less coffee.

I met Florin for lunch at an Indian restaurant and then we went to a sort of mall to buy a computer cable and to another mall to get a new shower head.  Within 10 minutes of getting back to the apartment, I had the shower repaired and my laptop hooked up to the computer that was hooked up to the internet.

The evening promises to be quiet.  The rest of the week will be somewhat busy and the weekend may have a little travel but more of that later.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A surprising lack of sun

Good morning.  This is the first day since I arrived in Bucharest that it's not sunny.  It feels shocking in a strange way.  Saturday was not a very eventful day.  In the afternoon, we visited a Romanian Village museum that had many artifacts from the peasant way of life.  A whole section of the museum was dedicated to crosses and a whole room of icons in the Romanian Orthodox style.  They even had a very old wooden iconostasis (the wall of icons that separates the altar from the rest of the sanctuary).  I've always had a deep devotion to icons but in the context of the museum there was no feeling of "holiness" at all.  It was a secular space with a secular feeling in spite of the beauty of the religious art.

We then walked further downtown and met a visiting Vietnamese man and his Romanian partner for coffee.  Florin got a thirst for a local favorite, a kind of unfermented grape juice called "Must" (pronounced 'moost'), very sweet and tasty.  It has the faint taste of skin and seed in it.  We drank it in a restaurant owned by a fascinating woman who had cooked for the British Embassy for many years.  The menu is wondefully eclectic containing classic Romanian food as well as items to meet any palate - including chili con carne!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Catching up with me

Thursday wasn't a very active day. I walked around a lot in the morning and met Florin for late lunch and a trip to the office of the main LGBT organization in Romania.  We set up an evening meeting/lecture/discussion for next Friday evening.  The executive director thought there would be people who want to talk to me as a religious figure because their experience of church is rejection.  We also left open the possibility of setting up a worship service if there is interest.

I woke up at 8 this morning and felt unrested.  I think all the walking and traveling caught up with me. I got up to have some light breakfast and then went back to bed until 1pm. Anyone who knows me understands how rare this is.

So, I'll have a bath and go out in search of some lunch and coffee and then come back to work on an outline of next week's workshop.  Maybe I'll take my camera to get a few photos of the street dogs.  Talk to you later.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Time Out

It felt good to have Wednesday as a down-time day. After the intense travel of the last 10 days, it was good to wake up in my apartment in Bucuresti. I didn't expect to see Florin until afternoon so I took myself a leisurely few cups of coffee and then walked several blocks to a supermarket. It was a pretty good market and I found the things I needed for basics. When I went through check-out, I learned something I didn't know. Markets here don't provide bags. You have to pay for them. I bought one, packed it heavily, and shlepped it back to the apartment. It was heavy, so I learned something else: pack in two bags to balance it out. When I was putting groceries away, I found out that the bottle of milk I bought was yogurt. I'm glad it didn't pour it into my coffee first and then find out.

I met Florin at one o'clock downtown. We went to get haircuts. Another interesting experience. First the stylist washed my hair, then she buzzed it off, then she washed it again to get rid of the hair. Then she trimmed eyebrows, ears and nose. Then she gave me a thorough head, neck and face massage. I mean thorough. The whole thing cost about $15. I could also have had a manicure, but we didn't have time. Next time.

We went to a traditional Roumanian restaurant for lunch. I had stuffed cabbage that was really delicious. It was served with polenta. Florin had ox tongue which he said was delicious. I was tempted to order a bear steak but that was a little too much for me today. We had a strong, dark beer with our lunch. We stopped into a lovely little Orthodox church for a few minutes, then walked down the street for a coffee and then to a travel agent to get my flight to Malta confirmed for October 27. We'll do a lot of other travel before then.

Two quick notes of things I'm learning: coffee is more of a ritual here than in the US. They don't gulp down large cups of coffee. They savor strong espresso or capuccino over a long period of time. I'm getting used to the reduced quantities of stronger coffee that doesn't taste at all burnt like Starbucks. The other thing is the street dogs. There are dogs everywhere. The government has a policy of spaying and neutering dogs and tagging them. The kinds of mixes of these street dogs is quite interesting. They seem to be small to medium. I haven't seen any cats yet.

That's it for today. I'm going to relax and hang out and savor reading and munching on fresh brown bread with salami and cheese. A good way to spend an evening.  If you've read this far, why not click on the "comment" button and let me hear from you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday - Travel day

Our mini-bus picked us up just before ten on Tuesday for the two hour trip back to Timisoara, Romania.  After ten minutes on the road, the driver decided to stop at a little gas station/restaurant.  He said 10 minutes but we were there a half hour.  It was a long trip with uneventful border crossings - more stamps in my passport - and it was very hot.  If there was air-conditioning in the van, we either didn't use it or it didn't work.  It was tiring.  We got to the airport less than an hour before flight time and the flight to Bucharest was uneventful and fast.  We flew CarpatAir, a little regional airlines that does a good job. The taxi ride back to the apartment was slow because of traffic.  Almost as soon as we got here, we went out walking to a Turkish restaurant for dinner and then walked back.  Just about every meal has been outside.  People here are wearing jackets morning and evening but it feels warm to me.

When we returned to the apartment, Florin gathered a few things and went to his own apartment for the night.  It was the first time I've been alone overnight since I arrived on the 14th.  It felt like a luxury.  I had a bath, read, and slept early.

We'll be in Bucharest for at least a week and today or tomorrow will plan out the rest of our travels and workshops. Now, I'm off to the supermarket with perhaps a stop for a cappucino on the way.  Adventures!

Monday - last day in Belgrade

While Florin went off in a taxi to a business appointment, I walked the 20 minutes or so to the center, to Republic Square, enjoying people watching more than anything. I was thinking about patterns.  Did you know that people walk differently in crowds in different places? There were a lot of people walking in both directions, with me and toward me.  I realized pretty quickly that there was a pattern language I didn't understand.  It sounds stupid but I often didn't know instinctively whether to yield right or left.  If viewed from above, I have no doubt that I'd stand out as not fitting the pattern.  We all know that people drive differently in different US cities but there is still a pattern that we understand.  Driving here, which I haven't done, is very different.  If there's any space, even in a no drive lane, the driver takes it.  It's more like aiming than steering.

Anyway, I got to the center of the city and found a coffee shop that I knew.  I sat and read and drank cappucino and people-watched until Florin met me and we headed of to the Bohemian quarter for a lunch of traditional favorites.

We walked some more, had a coffee, and walked to the Danube, taking a few photos along the way.  One of them was anti-gay graffiti.  It seems that between Sunday and Monday three foreigners were beaten, a Frenchman is in critical condition.

We took a taxi back to the hotel both feeling drained of energy after a long day and a lot of walking.  I have just a few pics:  the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchal Church, The Danube in Belgrade at Sunset and Anti-Gay Graffiti.  Sorry they're dark.  Sunset isn't the best time for photography, unless you have a super camera.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A day of Pride anyway

Well, yesterday I told you that the Belgrade Pride March 2009 was cancelled.  But we found a lot of connections today and a lot of pride.  All gatherings were forbidden in Belgrade today and the main square had a huge police presence. We contacted a local lgbt organization this morning and were invited to come to their office.  We did join them and had a fabulous day with them.   The first thing that was most obvious is the youth of the activists.  They are young and passionate and determined.  They were very welcoming of us and we met new friends from Serbia, Greece, Germany, England, Belgium, Russia and probably several other countries.  Although we weren't able to march, we were invited to a reception this afternoon hosted by the Swedish Ambassador at the Swedish Embassy.  We left in groups of three or four by taxi to the embassy.  It was an encouraging show of support.  The ambassador gave a little speech welcoming us and gifted each of us with a t-shirt commemorating Belgrade Pride 2009.  On the back it says in Serbian "it's time for equality".  Here's a photo of the front:

We had an amusing moment shortly after our arrival at the embassy.  Many of the embassy staff were greeting us warmly.  There was a man standing in the garden.  Florin asked him if he worked at the embassy.  The man replied "Yes, I am the head.  I live in this house."  It was the ambassador.   I laughed so much and realized I had another Florin story to add to my repertoire.

We left after we had been there quite a while and set out walking to find a taxi.  We didn't find one and a Serbian man on a bicycle very kindly stopped and called a taxi for us and even waited until the taxi came.  In general we have found the Serbian people to be very warm and friendly.

After a one hour nap, we went out in search of supper.  We found a place in the city center that is favored by students.  Our waitress was a delightful and beautiful young woman.  Florin had flounder in almond sauce that he said was delicious.  I had chicken kabobs over rice.  On my plate was a blob of something I didn't recognize.  It was cold pea puree.  Actually it was quite good.  It has been a treat for me to have so many meals and coffees outside.  The weather has been quite warm.

We then walked to find dessert and coffee and then took a taxi back to our hotel.

It has been a good day.  We made new friends.  Florin was able to make some connections with local groups for further contact and collaboration.  And we felt that Pride was really observed, even if not in the way we had anticipated.

It seems impossible that one week ago today, I received my departure blessing and flew to Eastern Europe.  It has been a full week indeed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A long Saturday with bumps

It's been a long day.  It's after dark here even though it's early afternoon on the East Coast of the US.

We got up at 5a.m. to catch a plane to Timisoara, Romania and waited two hours for our ground transport to Belgrade, Serbia.  Five people shared a Toyota van for the trip.  My passport is filling up with Entry and Exit stamps.   It's about a 75 mile trip and took a couple of hours because of traffic and border stops.  We checked into our hotel around 1:30 and showered before going out to eat.

We got as far as the lobby before I realized I had left my wallet in the room and had to go back up to get it.   Florin checked his email in lobby while I was doing that and found out that our Pride march for tomorrow had just been cancelled.  The organizers had a meeting with government officials and learned that security would not be provided in this dangerous climate.  In effect, that was a ban on the Pride march.  It's a pity.  For a few minutes, we were discouraged.  We're booked here til Tuesday and the main purpose of our trip was taken away.  We realized that we can still make some connections with groups and individuals in our time here, as well as touring this fascinating city which also has the Danube running through.

On our way to find a restaurant for lunch. we changed some money into Serbian Dinars.  So far, I've dealt with Euros, Hungarian Forints, New Romanian Lei and Serbian Dinars.  Two currencies to go!  I try to get rid of all a country's currency before I leave.  Otherwise it's too confusing.  A US dollar is about 185 forints, 3 new Romania Lei, 625 Serbian Dinars.  It's all too much for this poor head to keep straight, trying to understand how much something costs in dollars.

We found a great place for lunch and then went to the Dorian Gray for coffee.  Then we parted ways.  It's makes for good traveling companions to have alone time.  I headed back to the hotel and got totally lost for about two hours.  I wandered and wandered and wandered some more, into some dark neighborhoods.  Just when I was going to find a taxi (I knew the name of my hotel but not the address), I saw a sign indicating the Centar Zira.  Since my hotel is the Hotel Zira, I decided against a taxi and walked a long time more but found my hotel.  There's a certain sense of satisfaction in getting very lost and finding one's way home (hmmm, another sermon?).

I'm sure tomorrow will also be busy and I'll carry a camera with me to post some photos.

Till then.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The never-ending train ride

I'm writing this from Bucharest.  We caught the train at 7:15pm on Thursday.  We had reserved a "room" in a first class sleeping car.  We read and talked for the first few hours of our trip and then ate some sandwiches we had bought.  Just when we were feeling ready to sleep, we reached the Hungarian Border and were very briefly interviewed by the border guard who basically only checked our identification.  We then continued on to the Romanian Border where a border guard who looked about 12 years old rechecked our ID's and stamped my entry in my passport.  Then we slept.  The train seemed to crawl but we were really only about an hour late getting in to Bucharest, arriving around 11:30a.m.  There is a different time zone here so it is seven hours difference, instead of the six in Hungary.

We settled into the apartment that will be my base of operations.  We took a walk around the neighborhood after putting some laundry in - this time with success.  We went to a Turkish restaurant and had a pleasant lunch and then went to a coffee shop for a cappucino.  We found a farmer's market which delighted me.  If we're ever in one place long enough, I'll cook.  We came back to the apartment and Florin cleaned up to go out for some appointments.  I hung our laundry to dry - something I haven't done for 50 years and took a shower and a nap.  It's nice to have a few hours of solitude, a sentiment I'm sure Florin shares. 

We have to be at the airport at 6am for our flight to Timisoara, a city near the Serbian border.  We will take a minibus from the airport to our hotel in Belgrade (about 75 miles).  So, that's today.  I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday - last day in Budapest

It has been an interesting day.  We began finalizing travel and lodging plans for your Saturday trip to Belgrade.  We will fly from Bucuresti to Timisoara and then take a minibus to Belgrade.  After that, we went out to see a museum that Florin wanted to see.  It was a long walk - our most usual method of transportation these days.  The museum is called House of Terror. On the outside it is gray/drab.  It is a place where there are artifacts from a realy difficult and shameful period of Hungarian history - the Nazi and Communist years.  The first thing you see is a real tank from the period.  Everything inside  the museum is almost colorless. There are replicas of prison cells and torture chambers and thousands of pictures of the victims and the victimizers.  A particularly difficult film clip was an interview fifty years later between a group of women who had been imprisoned and a female guard who had been their keeper.  Jews were decimated and sent to the camps.  It really was a house of terror.  We finally had to leave, both of us deeply affected by what we saw.  It is difficult for Ameicans to understand what the people of Eastern Europe have lived through.  That history has left a great scar on the collective psyche.

We walked a lot in the rain after that experience to Millenium Square, built to commemorate 1000 years of Christianity in Hungary.  Since the rain was getting heavy, we took the subway a few stops back to Oktagon Square and found an excellent restaurant for our last meal in Budapest.  Florin had a lamb dish and I had roasted butterfish over spinach risotto.  I don't know what butterfish is but it was excellent. We then took the metro back to our apartment to get ready to leave for the train station.

I've attached a few pics from our day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two technologically-challenged guys

Oy!  In our apartment in Budapest, there is a washer and a dryer.  We loaded our clothes and soap in the "washer" and couldn't figure out why it didn't fill with water.  When it turned off, and our clothes were warm, we realized it was the dryer. (Understand that the dials and knobs on the machines were written in a language neither of us understood.).  When we took our clothes out, we found that my passport had been in my pants pocket.  Thank God we got the machines mixed up.  Without a passport, I would be going nowhere fast.

Florin is still laughing an hour later and can't wait to tell everyone we know.  Oy!

Wednesday afternoon

If I had to say something that I consider unusual, it would be that I don't feel at all strange or foreign in this city of Budapest.  I am completely comfortable here.  Today has been a splendid day. Remember we are 6 hours later than the east coast of the US, so it's already almost 5pm here and we've been active all day.  This morning we met with a Reformed church minister who is Hungarian and then went to have lunch with an Anglican priest from England.  We plotted and strategized all day with comments about forming groups and combining efforts.  Good food, good German Bock beer and great fellowship.  There are worse ways to spend a day.  We are back at the apartment now and will go out again later.  I feel so renewed already.  It was the right time in my life to do this.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

a few photos

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A walking day

A very tired Jim and Florin are sitting in our apartment this evening.  We've been out all day walking and walking and walking around Budapest.  Before we went out this morning, we did a few hours of communication with our religious superiors as well as organizers of the Pride March in Belgrade.

Budapest is really a lovely city and I am going to post some pictures when I complete this blog.  There are an incredible number of restaurants everywhere you go.  Unfortunately, the American fast food chains are well-represented.  McDonald's is very popular but we've also seen Subway, Pizzahut and even Burger King.  It's too bad that we've done such a good job of exporting the unhealthier aspects of our culture.

Another aspect of the city that leaps out at you is just how many young people of many nationalities are here.  It is a great city for students who express themselves vigorously in their styles of clothing - very creative.

Last night, as we were walking fairly late, I recognized that, even on dark streets it feels like a safe city.

Towards the end of our day, we went to the train station to buy tickets for a sleeper car for an overnight trip to Bucharest on Thursday night.  When we get to Romania, we will buy tickets for an overnight train to Belgrade for Saturday.  We expect to be there for two nights.

Now, I'm tired.  All this walking feels wonderful.  My fervent hope is that my increase in activity will generally improve all aspects of my health.  Till later....

Monday, September 14, 2009

A momentary scare

Nine hours is a very long flight.  I wish I was one of those people who can sleep anywhere, but I'm not.  I feel like it's 6:04a.m. but it's noonish here.  I got through customs with no delay at all and emerged into the terminal.  No Florin.  I waited for a while and since I didn't have a phone, fired up the computer and sent him a text to his phone via Skype  "WHERE ARE YOU?"  In a few minutes, he came rushing through the door.  There are two terminals and another Delta flight had arrived from JFK.

We took a MaxiTaxi (a van taxi) to our apartment and went out in search of lunch and coffee.  I had a really nice chicken dish, stuffed with a tangy cheese mixture, served over grilled vegetables.  We enjoyed a local beer and a leisurely chat.

A shower after 26 hours awake was welcome and then I slept for an hour.  We took a long walking tour of the city and sat at a sidewalk cafe across from the Dohaniy Street Synagoge, a magnificent Byzantine-Moorish building is the largest synagogue in Europe.  Then we walked for a few miles and came back to the apartment.  

I should say that I took a homeopathic medicine called No Jet Lag on the trip here.  I honestly think it works.  Paul and I used it on a trip to Hawaii with good results.  I will stay up till about 11pm local time and then hopefully will be on regular schedule tomorrow.

After planning for so long, it is really good to be here.  I will share some initial reflections on Budapest tomorrow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Still waiting....

So, my check-in was easy in Rochester.  My checked bag went easily.  I had to take my belt off after all (I had bought one iwith no metal) because the Rochester airport is trialing a new full body scanner.  I walked away with my stuff and then found I had left the belt.  Oh, did I mention that it was a money belt with five one hundred dollar bills folded into it?   When I went back, the guard had it so no problem.

To back up a bit:  church was fabulous.  Naida and I were only there for about 15 minutes.  Church was pretty crowded.  My opening remarks were "I should go away more often if this many people will come to see me off..."  After singing Marching to Zion, I did the opening prayer and then installed my sabbatical team and then was blessed by the whole congregation.  We moved me to the center aisle and the rule was everyone had to either be touching me or touching somone who was touching me.   I walked out of church immediately and service continued.  Paul rode with me and Naida to the airpot.

My flight to JFK was very smooth and very quick.  I was so engrossed in a book, I didn't notice we were landing until the wheels touched down.  I had the good fortune to have a day pass, courtesy of my niece, Pam, to hang out in the Delta Crown room.  Very comfortable with lots of good food and beverage, even capuccino or espresso.   But six hours is a long layover.  I've been here almost four hours and time is dragging and I'm sleepy.  Maybe I should have more capuccino.

My flight is oversold but since I have a seat assignment, perhaps I'm safe - or if the universe is smiling, perhaps they'll bump me up to business class - hey, I can dream!

Fly-Away Day

Good morning.  I've been up since 4:30.  Too excited to sleep.  Bag is basically packed, now I have to pack the backpack, making sure all my cords and power supplies are included.

Will be at church for the first half hour of service, then to airport.  Flight to JFK in NYC, then evening flight to Budapest.

I'm antsy to get this party started!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

One day to go - fly, fly away

I bought my tickets for this trip in March.  For the longest time, it felt like it would never come and, as you can tell from my whining lately, the wait has seemed endless.  Here I am only one day from fly-away day.

I was very careful to make sure that today has no obligations.  There's no where I have to go (except briefly to Naida's to set up her Skype) and the only things I really need to do are sweet and tidy the house and pack my suitcase.  I've avoided packing until now although I have a pretty good idea of all the things I'm taking.

Yesterday, I began my day with a long massage.  It was my massage therapist, Kevin's, birthday.  Ironically, he shares a birthday with my acupuncturist, Molly. 
They are also both dragons on the Chinese zodiac. Then I had lunch with Karen and Patsy from church, finished up my banking, took care of phone calls and went to church to prepare for an evening funeral.  At the meal during visitation, I ate too much.  It made for a sleepy drive home where I arrived around 10:15.

In a couple of hours, I will speak to my Romanian friend, Florin, with whom I will work and travel in Eastern Europe to finalize details of my arrival.

OK, I'm off to drink some coffee and slowly wake up for this hopefully low-key day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Departure Day Minus 3

I used to think that time in the hospital went slower than any other kind of time.  I was so wrong.   Waiting to fly away is the slowest time of all.  Florin, who is not the most demonstrative person in the world, is excited about getting to Budapest.  I devised a Plan B in case he doesn't meet me at the plane, but he will be there.  Even though we are only going to be in Budapest for three days, I think we can pack a bunch of activities into our stay.  For some reason, I want to take a cruise on the Danube while humming the Blue Danube Waltz.   I got my homeopathic medicine called No-Jet-Lag.  Paul and I used it on our trip to Hawaii and it really works.

All right, then, I'm off to be busy today, maybe that will make time go faster.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September 8

Time seems to have gone into slow mode.   I know I'll be flying before I know it, but this is torture.  Doing chores around the house to get ready.  Yesterday I washed the kitchen floor.  Paul came down and helped me stack some firewood so I have a good supply in the house and on the porch.  There's still a huge pile on the lawn that I need to pick away at until Sunday.  It loooks so good when it's all stacked neatly.   Didn't get a chance to go up on the roof to seal leaks because it rained.  I have to do that and clean the stovepipes before I leave.   Today is only half-busy.  I have an acupuncture appointment followed by breakfast with Reggie followed by a haircut that I don't need and some banking I do need.  C'mon, Sunday, get here!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 6

It was kind of an emotional day.  It was my last full service at Open Arms MCC before my sabbatical.  It was the last time I'll preach to Open Arms MCC until November 9.  It hit me while I was getting ready to preach this morning.  We had a higher than normal attendance this morning and everyone was really affectionate, telling me how much they'll miss me.  And I them.  It is a good and loving congregation.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

September 5

8 days until I fly to Budapest.

Preparing for the trip has been interesting. I decided in February to take an 8 week sabbatical from Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) to travel to Eastern Europe to act as a resource to the MCC pastor there. I bought my tickets in March.

It seemed like it was far away as the months have gone by and as we have prepared for church leadership in my absence. Now, it's not far away.

Getting ready has been harrowing. How does one pack for a trip of two months? I guess the same as one would pack for a week. My struggle is to find the balance between too much and too little.

My first false start was in choosing a suitcase. I found one on line at a good price that seemed just right. After all 28" doesn't sound very big, does it? When my regular UPS guy arrived with it - I was shocked. It's big enough for me to fit into!!!

At this point, I have finished my shopping and am ready to pack the suitcase. And I wait - I'm really ready to go.