This is Derek writing, and what I'm about to say may seem like a shock to some of you who don't know me any deeper than my stoic outward appearance:
Since being in Romania, I have personally found the lack of social interaction to be more and more difficult. We have dialogued with many neighbors and we have met a good number of Romanians here, but our social network and our ability to communicate at depth with those inside of that network is quite limited. I have noticed myself, over the past few weeks, growing a deeper desire to have more social interaction. That is a first for me, as 1) I tend to be fine with solitude and 2) in the States, I never had to work for community. We were surrounded by our church, work, family, and neighborhood communities and there was always something going on. So as I've been trying to find more social interaction, it seems metaphorically fitting, then, that last weekend I was able to get my biggest dose of social interaction in Romania yet - by going orienteering.
Problem 1: I thought orienteering was a casual thing
Problem 2: I thought orienteering was an easy thing
But not only was orienteering physically more difficult than I anticipated, it was a bit more challenging mentally. I know what a compass is and I know that it points North, but I never had a compass that had the outside rotate and I never had to navigate for real with one. While it wasn't all that difficult to figure out how to point myself in the direction of the next waypoint, trying to think through all of that while you're racing is a bit tough. It's even tougher when there are trees, ravines, brambles, swamps, and rivers in front of you, preventing you from going in a straight line which your compass dictates. And this is all especially tough when you're trying to ensure you don't lose sight of the last physically fit, spandex-wearing guy in front of you who actually knows what he's doing. If you end up not being able to navigate, you need that guy as a fallback.
Problem 3: I thought orienteering was a group thing
So I didn't really have too much of a problem with learning how to navigate or competing with people who are way better than me. That's fine. But the whole time I thought this was a team thing. I thought that I would be going with Ionut the whole time. But then I found out it was individual. I literally got a 60 second rundown on everything right before the race started. In Romanian. I had no clue if I would be able to find my way out of the woods when I started.
Problem 4: I thought orienteering was a safe thing (**Note: Our mothers should stop reading Problem 4!!)
In the end I really enjoyed my time orienteering and I enjoyed getting to hang out with Ionut and Armin before and after the race. And I've already been invited to join them again for a different race this upcoming Saturday, which I accepted. This time I'll know how to dress and what to expect. Not sure I'll be buying any spandex in the next few days, though. I probably won't be in better shape, but that's ok. Like my dad always says, "round is a shape."