Roma Travel Journal - Day1
23 April 2013
Fuzzy brain. Back home it’s 12:50 am. We’ve been flying for over seven hours – through the darkness of a short night, into the early dawn of Eastern Europe. Our stiff muscles want to stretch out, our bodies yearn to lie down. We’ve eaten our airplane breakfast and have less than an hour until we deplane in Vienna. We travelers began our quest weeks ago with emails to each other, sharing what we were learning about the Roma through books and the Internet, and tentatively getting to know each other. We have just begun to skim the surface. By the time we finish our 18 days together, we will surely know each other and the Roma better. Will we like each other and the Roma more?
We are five women – three from Western PA, one from Iowa, one from New York. In Slovakia we will be joined by Michael Airgood, GBGM missionary to Ukraine. All but one of our travelers will be teaching the Mission u study on the Roma of Europe.
Our first challenge will be traveling together – becoming friends with each other – sharing insights, what we see and hear, what we feel – becoming a team of investigators enabling each other to learn more, to experience more deeply.
When I told friends and family where I was going on this trip, everyone had a negative story to tell about the gypsies (after Roma was defined). The stories were either personal experiences, or what had been heard from others. All Roma were branded with the reputation of being thieves and beggars. “Reality” TV that plays to the most bizarre behavior of a group wanting to be on TV doesn’t help uncover the reality of a people.
Our second challenge will be to suspend judgment. Whatever we have heard from others will become a chapter in our experience to overcome with open hearts and minds. The reputation of the Roma being thieves and beggars is there. What else will we find when we get to know them?
Already Michael has arrived in Slovakia and begun our investigation. We will connect with him tomorrow. Today will be spent recovering from the flight, seeing Vienna, getting to know our host guide, Jerry Barton, and ending the day with a conversation with the German pastor of an English/German United Methodist Church. The church is in a district of the city that has had many Roma families move in.