Evening in Barlad, Romania
from Barlad, Romania. It's Monday evening after my first day
"on the job" and I wanted to update you about my experiences
so far. I arrived on Saturday after a long set of flights from
Hartford through Chicago to Warsaw and then Bucharest. Uneventful
but long. I was met at the airport by my host from Global Volunteers,
Ramona, and her husband, Daniel. They are a young couple --
about 25 and are delightful. They took me to my hotel and left
me for the afternoon and then we had dinner. I couldn't just
sit around, having never been to Bucharest, so I hired a "car"
and driver who turned out to be a young theology student. The
reason I put "car" in quotes is that the passenger seat was
halfway down and I had to hold on to the side to sit up straight
and see. It was an old car built in Romania. He just bought
it for $2,000. It was quite an adventure. He drove me around
this city which is an odd and not very attractive blend of Communist
concrete block buildings and old French baroque buildings. Romania
has been friends with the French for a long time, hence the
architecture. The city is not attractive... and the vestiges
are clear of 45 years under communist rule 'til 1989 when Ceausescu,
the horrible dictator, was shot on Christmas Day.
R Us: After their baths the twelve non-mobile babies are laid
out on a quilt on the playroom floor. Some are in seats, some
on Boppy pillows and some on regular pillows. They roll around
and it's like juggling plates! They are fed here and I sit in
a chair (bad knees!) and pick them up, play with them, talk
and sing. It's a wonderful handful!
tells me that there are tremendous differences in the last 14
years as evidenced by are goods in the stores and cars on the
streets. Ceausescu bankrupted the country and destroyed much
of the spirit. He built the People's Hall which is the second
largest building in the world after the Pentagon which is filled
with gold and marble. I'll visit it before I get home. My guide
took me to the cathedral where mass was going on.... women kneeling
face down and men standing. It's always amazing to me to see
the devotion of the women and the presence of the men who are
probably equally devoted, but who show it differently.
Ramona and Daniel took me to the railroad station to take the
four hour train trip to Barlad. Usually there are teams of between
8 and 20 American volunteers, but I am a team of one. So the
orientation and team building was kind of truncated. I pretty
much get along with myself and didn't think I'd be arguing with
myself about my role. In any event, they told me we would have
lunch at the railroad station: McDonald's. Not my favorite...
but "the best" available at the station. The train was rather
old.... many of the "old" women in black and long coats and
babushka's and limited teeth were in the aisles. We shared a
compartment with a young man who was reading the Romanian issue
of Playboy and kept looking at me... possibly a resemblance
to one of the photos? In any event, he left at the third stop
and we continued to share with a very old man who was eating
what smelled like garlic bologna that he bought from a deli
with a 12 inch long four inch high roll. Not Atkins-friendly,
but it smelled great! He didn't share.
should mention that I brought along four suitcases (two were
carry-ons) with the two large bags weighing 68 pounds each.
Global Volunteers said "if you want to bring anything, here's
a list". I overachieved! The bags were filled with baby clothes,
diaper cream, baby wipes, iron, folic acid, gummy vitamins,
thermometer's. fruit roll ups, etc. They are still in the bed
in my room and we'll bring one bag tomorrow. It was a huge effort
to put them on the rack over our seats and we looked like true
Romanian gypsy's. Ramona's brother met us in Barlad to help
carry the luggage and we piled into a small cab with the trunk
full and "open". Children were begging all around and I had
all I could do to honor Ramona's orders "not to give anything
to them" because "they become very aggressive". The poverty
here is overwhelming.. It's probably not worse than Vietnam
or Cambodia, but because the buildings are drab and nothing
is green... and the sky is grey and itís 45 degrees instead
of 80, it just seems worse.
got to my "home" for the next two weeks. It's pretty limited...
very small room... very low platform beds and no dresser. Itís
very clean. Pretty drab since the lights are 25 watt bulbs...
I tried to buy others today but the larger ones don't fit in
the lamps. So tomorrow I will buy a larger lamp. Entertainment
in the evening is limited to reading.... so the lamp is essential.
This is my Hotel Maldova hotel room: sparse, but clean. Limited
lighting and low beds (bad knees again!), but I am comfortable.
of Barlad from my hotel room window: Communist architecture
lacks a certain appeal. Things are very grey and the philosophy
was that everyone should have like facilities. Makes Levittown
look terrific, doesn't it?
town is drab .... very limited... modest is size and scope.
Most of the architecture is the same. I
am eating at the hotel and we have to order things like an apple
a day ahead. Food is o.k. since Ramona orders grilled food so
it's not too "greasy" for me. We eat alone in the non-smoking
dining room since the regular dining room is so smoke-filled
that I couldn't possibly sit there. Second hand smoke is the
biggest health risk here to volunteers. Also, the tap water
is not safe to drink.
here's what I am here for. After showing me around the city,
getting me Romanian money (27,300 Lei to the dollar), and feeding
me with Bulgarian Salad (cabbage, carrots, olives, cheese, etc.
- very Atkins) for lunch, we took a taxi the 15 kilometers to
the hospital where I am working - a clinic for children who
have been abandoned and who are classified as failing to thrive.
Walking into the clinic is cheery since Global Volunteers has
painted and furnished it.... but it's overwhelming: 35 children
(including three three-year olds). All the babies are in cribs
five or six to a room. Lights are dim or off to save money on
electricity. I will detail more in a later journal, but I have
never been clung to so much in my life.
and Elena in their New Sleepers: I brought 26 new sleepers with
me and the staff dressed the kids up with them when I arrived.
The older ones are washed so many times that they pill and are
rough to the touch.
couldn't hold more than two children at once and they just grabbed
and held tight. they are beautiful and many are twins (8 sets)
. Parents, some of whom are gypsies, couldn't handle the twins
and just left them at the hospitals. Many were very tiny but
are being fed enriched food and are growing. They get changed
only every four hours so rashes are predominant.... the state
only provides for one bottle of milk with rice a day per child
so global volunteers pays for food.... Dr. Delia is a 43 year-old
woman doctor in charge of the entire hospital plus has another
job. There is also a pediatric unit which I haven't yet seen.
Only so much in one day. I haven't had this all sink in. Four
hours flew by.
I have my first full day. I'll write again.
this isn't too much. I feel so privileged to be able to do this.
The need is so huge. It filled me up entirely today.
night from Barlad.