Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh yeah, we went to Kiev too...

So, remember how we flew for free to get to Germany? We decided to buy return tickets home so we could make the most of our time in Europe, rather than play the space-a waiting game. So we substituted that game with the "what it's like to fly with Ukrainian airlines" game. 

Our plane from Bucharest to Kiev was two hours late in arriving, so that was the first indicator. Then after an unannounced detour to Sofia, Bulgaria, and crazy Asian/Ukrainian kids(who knew the combination existed?) who were trying to get out of their seats during take off, we realized that flying on Ukrainian airlines was cheap for a reason. We were having a friend of a friend who we had never met pick us up at the airport, and we just felt so bad because the flight was three hours late, and we didn't know if he would even still be there. Not to mention the fact that going through passport control in the Kiev airport felt like we were going back into the USSR (they could use some lessons on customer service), we were ready to just spend the night close to the airport (actually, with a senior missionary couple we met on the flight), not see anything, and just go back to the airport in the morning. 

Sure enough, our new friend Anton was there with his wife, Zoya, and a sign waiting for us. What a great couple. Then they showed us the sights in Kiev, took us to dinner, and then took us to breakfast and some more sites in the morning, before taking us back to the airport, which did I mention that the airport is like 45 minutes away from the city?? Seriously, they were the NICEST people. I would love to go back just to hang out with them. So, the moral of the story is that Ukrainians are really really nice and welcoming: just not the ones in the airport. And the Ukraine is a beautiful country. Kiev was a very pretty and very clean city, and we were happy that we got to see it. 
in front one of the many gold domed churches/monasteries in Kiev. 
love the stars in this picture
they have A LOT of WW2 monuments. This was one of them. 
super moon? 
Old city gates
this "Motherland" statue is taller than the Statue of Liberty. 
another WW2 monument
We went back to the airport with a newfound fondness for the Ukraine....and then came the time for TWO rounds of security (the second time to get to our specific gate: SO annoying), and passport control again where the minimum "stare at your passport" time was five minutes and they looked at me like I was an enemy to the state. By then, we were pretty ready to get back to the good old U.S.A. But we still had a 9 hour flight filled with Uzbekistanis who felt the need to cover the bathrooms in garbage,  let their screaming children roam the aisles, and someone even was smoking in the bathroom (I KNOW I could smell it). By then, we were REALLY ready to get to America.

And sure enough at JFK, our passport and customs guy was a chatty and oh-so-nice New Yorker who smiled and said to us, "Welcome Home."

I just love hearing that. I love coming home to America.

And now, I'm already day dreaming of leaving again. Because I love traveling as much as I love coming home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Have the Cutest Niece in All the Land

Our relationship may only be a facetime relationship for the time being, but someday I will hold and snuggle this little sweetie. She goes through a lot of moods in the short time that we chat. So basically, she's just like her mom (and me).

First, she seems relatively happy to be talking to me...but she's only one month old, so we'll give her more time to develop her happy face.
Then she acts disinterested
Then just plain annoyed

Being grumpy wears her out
And then she's out. 

I needed someone else to talk to, so I called my favorite dog on the face of the earth to come talk to me. 

My face says it all. I love that dog.
And my niece, of course. But neither of them can talk to me, so Jenn keeps me company.

Now aren't you glad I finally learned how to print screen on a Mac??

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Romania Has It All: Extra Perks

To conclude my "Romania has it all" campaign, here are a few other things that make Romania the great place that it is. 

Great food. And great advertising techniques. 
This is my favorite restaurant in Romania, "The Beer Cart." I also love how they reel you in by making the not-so-bold statement that they are "probably the best restaurant in town."

The McDonalds in Romania also have the "Big 'n Tasty" burger, which according to Victor, is the best McDonalds hamburger that is not available in the U.S.A. It is a pretty good burger, so you'll have to go to Romania to try it out...

Beautiful men who are very comfortable in their own skin. Yes, please. 

Gnome superstores all over the sides of the highways. Victor couldn't resist their charm, and now our gnome, Domnul Popa, resides on our doorstep.

 THE best variety of fruit juices. Here I am with some amazing Kiwi juice, one of my Romanian favorites. Our other favorites are sicilian orange, pink grapefruit, fruit juice with eucalyptus, black cherry, and the list goes on and on.

And  also, there's the best and the cheapest snack food: the pufulet. These are basically like puffy cheetos without the cheese, and they are my favorite. And they cost a quarter for a bag. Can't beat that.

Also, if you go to Romania, your hotel room might have a butt and thigh toner, if you're lucky like we were. That's definitely an extra perk to motivate you to go to Romania.

So, that concludes the "Romania Has It All" Campaign, and I have to ask, do you want to go to Romania now??? I sure do!!

Romania Has It All. Part 3: Premium People

We had such a wonderful time being able to spend the week seeing so many friends. The bad part was that it made the week go by way too fast, and we still didn't have time to see everyone that we wanted to. But it was still so great. I also got to meet a bunch of Victor's friends when we were in Sibiu, and the whole time we were treated like family. Romanians are so generous and welcoming. We were way spoiled. Mostly Victor, who ate sarmale and/or mici (Romania's national dishes) EVERY single day that we were there. 

In Cluj-Napoca we spent time with Daniel and Simona. Oh, I love Simona so much!
We also stayed at the home of my old landlord, Sorin, and his family. They are seriously one of the coolest families in Romania!
left: Sorin, his mother in law, his wife, Ioana, and us
This is Laurentiu and his wife in Cluj. Laurentiu is the bookbinder who bound all of our scriptures and such. He made all the books you see on the shelves. Serious talent. 
Me with Raluca in Cluj. I love her too. 
Then we spent time in Sibiu seeing and meeting people that are dear to Victor.
Me, Victor, Consi, and Cristina
With the Carpenean family. Loved them. 
In Bucharest, we were able to see a lot of people because they were having a baptism that Saturday. So many people here that I love! After that, we headed down to the Black Sea to go to church and see our good friends there. It was a short stay, but it was worth it.

Left: Us with Ioana and Elena Schifernet, the coolest girls in Bucharest, and right: us with Gabi in Constanta
I'm so sad I won't be at BYU this fall with Ioana! Also, who knows what's going on with bangs right now.
On Saturday night in Constanta, we hung out with our friend, Vali. Such a cool guy. 

Amazing people in Constanta. Left: Maria Vitel, Alin Constantinescu, Tibi, and Gabi. 
And let's not forget our Romanian grandma, Sora Gorzo. She takes good care of us. 
The moral of the story is that we need to go back to spend more time with people there. One week wasn't enough!

Romania Has It All. Part 2: Beautiful Cities and Countryside

In Romania, we rented a car, and it made all the difference. Public transportation is great and all, but with a car, we got around the country so much faster, and were able to see even more of beautiful Romania. Victor and I both agreed that one of the highlights of our trip was the time driving through the beautiful countryside, mountains, and tiny villages of Romania. 

Romania has it all: picturesque and charming European cities, and some of the most beautiful and fertile countryside in the world. (Romania also has it all if we're talking communist architecture as well, but we'll leave that out of it!)

By the way, I feel like I should pitch my "Romania has it all" slogan to their tourism people, or try to get them to sponsor these posts or something...

Anyway, first there was Sighisoara, Romania, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes aka Dracula. It was such a cool city. 

left: in front of Vlad's birthplace

And then there is Sibiu, the Cultural Capital of Europe 2007, and they are proud of it!

And let's not forget other beautiful cities like Cluj Napoca, Sinaia, Brasov, Constanta, and dear old Bucharest. Yes, even Bucharest has old European charm, if you know where to go! Who needs Paris when you have Bucharest?? That should be another tourism slogan of Romania...

 And then there is the beautiful countryside. I just wish I took more pictures, but it's hard in a moving car. But this was our scenery...
another medieval fortified church

And this was the local traffic...

Oh, Romania, we love thee.