Romanian Reception Preparations and the Big Day!

Trip Start Aug 02, 2013
Trip End Jul 25, 2013

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Where I stayed
Buni's House and Ballint's House
What I did
A busy bride and groom!

Flag of Romania  , Transylvania,
Sunday, September 1, 2013

At last, the last installment of my Eurotrip! I'm not happy to be finished traveling to that beautiful and exotic land (hey, to someonw like me who is very familiar with Polynesia, Asia and Oceania, the western world can definitely be described as exotic, especially Romania!), but am very happy to be able to tell you guys all about what I experienced there, in retro-vision. A thousand pardons again for the delay, but were I stuck on the computer too much, I may as well have just stayed at home!

So what can I tell you about my last couple days in Mediaş? I'll begin by saying that even though I didn't feel very well the last two days, I formed excellent memories with my big brother and little sister-in-law, nephew, and new friends from older acquaintances, and am so thankful that my brief time in Romania was such a great experience! The morning of Friday the 23rd, Ioana, Dan, Vlad and I headed out into the town of Mediaş to run some errands for the reception. It wasn't the best weather, but at least it was sunny (just a bit hazy), and I got to see for the first time the lovely town full of memories for Ioana and Vlad, and Ioana acted as a good tour guide, even though she was busy going into and out of shops, as we strolled through Mediaş. One of the three leaning towers in all Europe is in Mediaş: I believe it's a church that is off from vertical by about three or so meters. There were gypsies aplenty, quaint little pubs, and old men talking story together in the open square. We went into the reception hall, which was newly renovated (Dan and Ioana's reception was to be the first event held there), and spent a while planning how things were going to pan out the next day. Vlad ran around like he was on a violent sugar high for quite some time, and I felt bad that I wasn't feeling well enough to keep up! He and I played around with the photo booth props that Ioana brought for the guests to take silly pictures wearing the following day. All in all, it was a successful day of preparation, and I'm happy to have hung out! 

That evening, we met Tom, an American who Dan and Ioana knew in Denver, who made the long trip out to Romania for the reception, and even though I enjoy being immersed in other cultures, it was a bit of a relief that Dan and I weren't the only foreigners present. He helped out as we all followed Ioana's lead putting tiny balls of colored gel into vases she had prepared for the amazing origami flowers that Ani made to serve as centerpieces for the tables at the reception. They were so cool that Dan, Tom and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to photograph them perfectly. I could have done a better job if I weren't so sleepy. 

Ani took Tom and I to her and Ioana's grandparents' house, in the "Communist Block:" a bland apartment building that was built during the Communist reign, in which her grandparents lived with another couple for years. It was not very inviting on the exterior, and the units themselves were also rather drab, but their grandparents took sufficient pains to make it as homey as possible, and it served well as a place of nostalgia for Ioana and Ani. It's amazing to think that, even with such an evil government as Romania had not too long ago, people still managed, and made do with what they had. The Romanians that I met were much more humble than the average American, proving the age-old recognition that the difficulties we face make us stronger.

Not quite knowing what to expect, I awoke the following morning to many new cultural experiences! Today was the day of the reception, which was more elaborate than the one they had in Denver this past December! It was like they had just gotten married, and Dan and I headed out in our suits (mine was borrowed since I didn't think of brining one) to Ioana's Uncle and Aunt's apartment. We entered the unit to two men playing very eastern-sounding wedding music with their saxophone and accordion, which was very unique, and the cameramen took staged pictures of Dan getting ready (did I let the cat out of the bag?! Just forget I said this when you see the photos :). Aunty Dana, who, along with her husband Gigi, always wanted a son, was very happy to help Dan get his tie just right. There was a narrator too: a man whose job it is to give marital counselling and tell stories of Dan and Ioana's lives together so far, the fact that they should thank their parents very much for having reared them, and to talk about other motivating themes associated with married life. The narrator spoke Romanian and English, but he was not confident in his English, but was very confident in his French. In order to give a good translation before Ani showed up, he asked me to translate as he alternated snippets of his speech in Romanian, then in French, so that Dan could understand what he was talking about. He was a very nice man and was thrilled to meet both of us.

After a few aperitifs at Uncle Gigi and Aunty Dana's house, and following the custom, we then headed tot he next destination: Dan and Ioana's Godparents' house. I rode with Ani and her boyfriend Ballint, along with his twin sister Blanca (pronounced like "Blanco"). They are Hungarian, though they grew up in Mediaş, and were very delightful people to be around. We had more snacks and (of course) more drinks at Niku and Ellie's, their Godparents', house, and the narrator gave another speech among more attendees. Next stop: Buni's house, and as we approached in our caravan with balloons and streamers, there were many gypsy children outside wanting to join in the festivities. I felt very bad for them and their mother, who was very smiley and congratulated Dan and Ioana. It was heartbreaking because I had nothing to give them, but I hope that things are better for them than that which it seemed.

Here, at Ioana's mom's house, Dan finally saw his bride again, all sparkling in her wedding dress for her special day amongst her family and childhood friends who couldn't make it to her American wedding. She glowed as the narrator gave his final speech in Buni's family room, and the mood was loving and bright. Here ended the traversing houses, and everyone once more got into their vehicles and headed out, this time to the Natural Gas Museum (I know! Different yeah?) to take the actual wedding pictures. This part was just like it is in America, except for that Dan and Niku and the entourage got roped out by a few innocent gypsy boys as they giggled that they would not let the wedding party in until someone paid them (I guess). It was touching, and they eventually gained entrance (don't know if they paid the necessary "fee," but judging from later witnessing their generosity to the street kids, I'm sure they made a good deal).

After the photo shoot, it was finally time to head to the reception hall, which was the icing on the cake regarding new and unique experiences. 

The hall was beautiful, the company was fun, and Dan and I became celebrities as so many folks wanted to meet us throughout the night. After the initial entering into the hall, during which everyone got a glass of champagne, I witnessed for the first time the slamming of the champagne glasses on the floor, and I felt bad as I forgot to wear my yarmulke. I sat with Tom and one of Ioana's good friends, along with many other family members at a table near the center table reserved for the bride and groom and their Godparents. From the beginning, things took place in a unique way. Vlad prayed the Lord's Prayer in Romanian as Dan and I prayed grace (in English), then everyone drank and ate their appetisers, which were very elaborate. After some time I learned that the food was to be coursed over a very long period of time: Romanian receptions often begin by mid-morning and last well into the late evening! 

After Dan and Ioana's first dance, the first of a series of traditional events took place as some children stole Ioana's shoes, to ransom them back later for a fee. Ioana stood laughing as I snapped photos of her bare feet, and I'm sure it was a relief to get those high heels off (I can't imagine wearing them in the first place!). This event was followed by dancing, which I thankfully participated in (I gotta admit that it takes a lot for me to muster up the courage to ask a girl to dance, but I did ask Blanca, and believe it was very successful as she, thankfully, accepted). One unique thing was that the individual dance quickly turned to a very energetic group dance, as everyone pranced around in a circle while holding hands and making simultaneous "opah-esque" yells at various beats in the song playing as they rapidly closed the circle. Have to say it, but I felt as though i was in a movie: "Fiddler on the Roof" meets "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" (I know I know, neither of those are Romanian :)

After the dance and much, much more drinking things that I wouldn't have thought the cilia down my throat would survive through initially, a fanfare played as the room quieted down. In walked the servers, single file and with proper stature as though they were about to address royalty, each carrying a bowl of soup to serve to the four main figures (The bride and groom and their Godparents). It was quite amusing, and just as I was about to sip the soup and sour cream put in front of me, in came a troupe of dancers dressed in traditional Romanian garb, who performed an impressive series of dances that mostly involved rapid clapping and kicking their legs up high. The only thing they were missing were the bottles on their heads, but that would have made it less exotic, since we're of course all accustomed to watching bottle dances :). 

And how about this for something different? I was summoned to accompany Niku as he revealed to me that the beloved bride, Ioana, had been kidnapped. She was taken away in secret by some captors, and as was tradition, the Godfather had to go and ransom her back. So he and I, along with one of Ioana's cousins, walked down to a local pub, where we found her, gagged and tied up, with a gun pointed at her head by none other than her own brother. Okay, she actually was sitting freely, laughing and drinking a martini or something, surrounded by her kidnappers, who were joking around and making light  of this kidnapping tradition. Niku's job, again, was to negotiated her return, and sly as a fox, he made the deal, which I didn't quite understand while in the pub. Freed and ready to rejoin the party, Ioana emerged from her quaint prison with all her fingers, after having been held against her will (I just threw that in there) for a whole fifteen minutes. After she got back to the reception hall, I found out the clever deal Niku made with those who took our dear sister-in-law hostage: about twenty bucks and a case of beer, which, upon deliverance, was found to consist of empty bottles.

Interestingly, that was not the only body-snatching that went on that day. Not too long afterwards, I was summoned again to watch as Niku negotiated the release of another prisoner: this time my dear brother, who was taken away by his new female aunt, cousins, and sister-in-law. Cigarette to his lips, collar undone and with a sneer that meant business, Niku stood at the table, around which his new Godson's captors sat, and cooly made a swap: Dan for . . . me. Thankfully, upon such a strange deal having been offered them, I guess the vixen kidnappers decided to just let him go, as after a bit of Romanian jibberish, we all laughingly headed back tot he reception hall (Dan wasn't quite as fortunate as his new wife: he was missing both pinky fingers. They've grown back since :).

Oh, how the night went by, interspersed with more and more unique events. My favorite was likely the lighting of the lanterns, which I always wanted to see. I didn't take pictures, but at one point into the night, we all got balloon-esque lanterns that had openings in the bottom in which you place a flaming piece of wax, and set sail into the sky. They were beautiful, and it was quite a way to signify the end of the night. And the end it was, for me, as I was feeling sleepy, a little too buzzed (hey, they literally forced strong liquor down my throat!), and had to awake at 4am the next morning to head to the airport. But what a wonderful time I had! How happy I am that I was able to be our parents', siblings', and other family members' stand-in in attending such a happy event! The next morning, Ani and Ballint drove me to the airport through the same windy roads interwoven among pastureland, and I was sad to leave. Ballint graciously offered me a place to stay the night of the reception at his amazing house, full of exotic things and fish tanks, and he had a special and very professional sound room that he used for his sound mixing business. I was really impressed with him and wished I could have gotten to know him, Ani, Blanca, and their cousins much better. But hopefully, someday, we'll meet again, whether in America or back in Europe, and until then, I must just be grateful for having been blessed to take part in this little slice of their lives. 

So off I headed back to Ireland for the evening of the 25th, to fly out again the next morning. My last photo of the European continent, in which I had so many amazing experiences and such a wonderful time hanging out with new friends, old friends, and especially with family who I love so much and with whom I'm so close, and those who I now know much better, who I long to visit again and to spend more time with whenever and wherever chance and planning take us, was of the beautiful sunset from my Dublin Travelodge. I hope to return someday, but until then, I say to Mark and the priests in Ireland; Uncle Dennis, Aunt Pernille, Cecilie, and Megan in Denmark; my wonderful new friends, the priests and sisters in Rimini; Fr. Biselx and the seminarians in Rome, and of course, Buni, Ani, Gigi, Dana, Ballint, Blanca, and my amazing brother and his beautiful wife and child: Dan, Ioana and Vlad: MAHALO NUI LOA `OUKOU (THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH), AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL! YOU'RE IN MY PRAYERS AND I LOOK FORWARD TO OUR NEXT MEETING, IN HEAVEN IF NO OTHER EARTHLY DWELLING!

But this is not the end! For my travels still had not come to their conclusion on leaving Ireland, even though I was through with my great big Europe trip. As was planned, the next stop would be none other than Southern California, in which I was very fortunate to meet my brand new beautiful niece, Erin Colette Sullivan. I was fortunate enough to spend a brief, but lovely time with Dennis and Tracey, and to have dinner with Brian and Kaitlyn, Michael, and a friend Elizabeth in Coronado, San Diego, and then meet up with Michael's beautiful fiancee Randi later on. What a joyous thing that I was able to see so many family members and congratulate Michael and Randi in person on my way back from such a great trip! I've enclosed some photos of Dennis, Tracey and Erin as we barbecued on Tablerock Beach in OC one beautiful evening. Just like old times, with the dad at the flames with sausages, just as we grew up with our Dad, and the mom with child in hand on a beach chair, as Mom had done so often many moons ago. And the photos turned out great, as we created many beautiful images with glowsticks.

My first full day back in Hawai`i, I awoke very early, and headed out to Diamond Head surf break to take more pics as the sun was on its way upward. I took in the fresh Hawaiian air and got reacquainted with my Polynesian home. I had had an amazing adventure, and am so grateful for what I had seen and done, and especially with whom I met or met up with. But now I was home, the only home I currently know. And even though that will change someday, I admitted one thing to myself as I stood on the warm sand, and waded through the warm, sparkling Pacific Ocean: it was good to be back, and I was ready to advance in life and find my niche! I will continue to keep you posted with how it goes as I transition between careers (and work toward paying off my enormous debt). To everyone out there on my list of loved ones, however: God bless you all! You know that I care about you and can't wait to experience more adventures with you!



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Colleen on

I'm so glad they were able to enjoy all of those traditional elements that couldn't come together for the U.S. reception - and that you could be there to support and enjoy it with them!

Danunda on

What an exciting trip! Thank you Sean for your labor of love that is this blog! It is thoroughly enjoyable and anyone who knows you knows the time and effort that you put in to this! It is pricelss.

May God bless you in this new chapter and give you strength!
It was amazing of you to make it to Romania for the wedding! We all had a wonderful time and you are a bit of a celebrity with everyone due to your general politeness, skill with language, and overall vivascity!

We Love you Sean, Dan Ioana, and Vlad

swdsull on

Yeah Colleen, Ioana was so happy to have her reception the way she always envisioned it I'm sure! It really was very unique and clearly Romanian, and we all had an awesome time!

Thank you Dan, Ioana, Buni, Ani, and all who mad the trip amazing! I had such a great time and I miss you all (America Sullivans not excluded of course ! ;) Now that the trip is over, I'm sad, but so thankful I had such incredible experiences! Dan, you still there, or when do you come back? Love you all!

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