Gloria Gery's Romania Journal


November 13, '06



Monday, November 13th, 2006 - Banca, Romania

We just finished our team dinner after our first full day of other than traveling. This is my fourth trip with Global Volunteers to the Tutova Failure to Thrive Clinic and this is Bob's third. We are old hands at this point and are working with four other team members: Walt and Paula from northern Wisconsin who brought their 16 year old granddaughter, Mary, who lives outside of Minneapolis and Kim from NJ (temporarily on assignment in Canada). We all share common goals even though our age range is from 16 to 71. It makes it all the more interesting -- and we are already laughing a lot. Walt and Paula have been on three other Global Volunteers' trips to Vietnam, Ukraine and Poland. Flexibility is their middle name - a good thing always in Romania.

Our usual travel day from Bucharest was uneventful and predictable including our stop at McDonald's for lunch... chosen largely because it has clean bathrooms. No one mentioned the food. I ordered a chicken Caesar salad that came with a 1/4 inch deep friend piece of chicken which had little chicken and lots of breading. I am now braced for the food for the next few weeks. We have had four other meals besides McDonald's -- all with the same canned peas and beans. I gave up tonight with 1/2 of a full dinner plate covered in mashed potatoes. Oh well.. that's why we are going to France next... as a food antidote.

So here's the important stuff. Today we went to the hospital and the kids have grown so much! They are mostly wonderful and greatly improved over our visit last January. There are 27 kids here: two were in the hospital in Barlad... they are twin boys, Julian and Marian, who were brought in four weeks ago. Their mother had TB during her pregnancy so they have been on medication to be sure they don't have TB... and they don't - but they wound up with drug-induced hepatitis so they are in isolation. We saw them being brought back tonight in an ambulance as we left for our motel. We will meet them tomorrow with masks on just for extra safety.

Marian (on the left) and Julian (on the right) are spectacular twins who are in
isolation because of medical conditions.

Julian (left) and Marian's parents and brother on a visit. They live about 1 ˝ hours away
in Vaslui. It's a long and difficult trip for them.

When we first walked in, the toddlers -- all nine of them-- were with their teacher in the little room near the entrace. Nine! Milicca, the preschool teacher who works with them, had them all engaged in puzzles, games, etc. For the many of you on my distribution who have volunteered here before the toddlers now include:

  • Florin is still "master of the house". He is doing well and is smiling and demands to brush his teeth after each meal. He is being fitted with new orthopedic shoes which one of the recent volunteers paid for. Bob will be working with the toddlers for the next two weeks with 16 year old Mary. They will get a run for their money.

Only the teacher and staff can get these kids to sit still. They go wild when we
volunteers come in because we are "new" and they know it.
Left to right: Ioanna, Florin, Dimitru, Maia, Denisa, Octavian and Andrea R.
All these kids have been here since I started going to Tutova in December 2004!

  • Liliana Rosca, better known to some of us as "Velcro" Liliana since she clings to you and won't let go -- nor can she be shaken away. When I walked in, she simply walked up to me and put her head on my thigh and followed me around that way while I greeted and hugged others... then she glommed on to Bob who gave her all the hugs she needed.
  • Maia, who is strong and talking and saying "Maia, Maia, Maia" and asking to be held. Smart as a whip... the better developed of the two girls who are part of triplets. Both were here when I came two years ago and it's hard to believe she is the same age as her sister, Maiestra, who is very developmentally delayed and who does not like to be touched now. More on her another day.
  • Sweet Denisa with her engaging smile and beautiful eyes. Sweet, sweet, sweet and walking like crazy and playing. If it's warm tomorrow we'll be taking her outside with the other toddlers, something new that seems to be allowed now as opposed to the past when outdoor activity was not encouraged, if not prohibited due to fear of germs, drafts and colds. Hurrah! Apparently Denisa just loves the swings.
  • Octavian and Dimitru, fraternal twins in all physical ways except that they have become the clinic "tough boys". Engaging and smiling and bowling everyone else over. I took Octavian out into the hall for a while when I was getting some of the babies... and he was quite gentle with them as he dragged a drum and drumsticks behind him. Both of the boys have been here for more than two years. I expect some wonderful foster family will scoff them up soon. I hope so because they are ready to rock and roll.
  • Ioanna has grown so big and tall and walks and smiles. She's now interacting with others so much more than last year when she pretty much kept to herself. She's a favorite of Bob's along with Denisa.
  • Andrea R., who has gotten so big. Wait til those of you who know her see her walk and smile... still the wonderful curly hair and great smile. She was a non-mobile last year and Phil Grannan used to call her "the tank". What a moniker for the fuster.
  • Andrea C. She was a non-mobile last year and has shot through the middle mobile group to be a toddler. Yikes.

Many of last year's toddlers are in foster care: Theo, Maria, Bianca among them. Mihaela, our team leader, tells me she seems Mihaitsa B. walking with his new foster mother in Barlad. I hope I run into them. He was a favorite of mine.

I am writing about the children by name for those of you who know them. For those who have only seen their photos you'll see such growth and change when you view the new photo galleries.

I have learned something interesting about foster care. Because the EU basically "forced" the halt to international adoptions and the deinstitutionalization of children, they have begun to pay foster families from European Union funds. Some tell me it's 200 Euros a month (about $250) and the money is very attractive and able to support families who previously had no employment. This is pretty amazing since the average wage in Romania is still $150 a month. I am sure that the situations are mixed, much as they are in the USA. Some "name changing" from orphanages to "placement centers" or "group homes" puts different titles on old structures... but hopefully things are changing for the better, particularly for these children who are so loved by so many.

I must say that the change in Romania is palpable since my first "dreary" visit. Much construction, improved roads, new and quite attractive apartments, many large houses, many automobile dealerships. We only drove through Bucharest and didn't have time to wander... but a new flyway with a second level of road is being built on the way to the airport... people are well dressed... and there's even a new and "upper end" hotel being built in Barlad. Global Volunteers will begin using it in late December or January when it's complete. A good change from our perspective because we are so isolated 20 minutes outside of Barlad in the Gianni Motel, a roadside pension. Our head waiter here has been in two of the hotels we have stayed at (and will likely be in the third hotel in Barlad when it is opened next year). His English is excellent and he provides us with great service. Turns out he had a new baby who is now 3 1/2 months old. I gave him some clothes and shoes for which he was grateful. He earns $2500 a year and works 24 hours and then 48 off and then 24 hours and again 48 off. Hard working... nice to be able to do something special in such a personal way. Next year as part of the accession requirements for Romania into the EU, they will raise the minimum wage to $3000 per year… so at the local ball-bearing factory almost 1000 of the remaining 3000 workers will have to be laid off. It had 10,000 employees under the communists when, as the locals say, "they pretended to pay us… and we pretended to work". The transition to the EU will be a rough few years since prices for goods are at the U.S. and European levels but wages are still very low. Progress and growth for all.

Bob sends his love... more later except for one big piece of news. Last year, spearheaded by our friend, Phil Grannan, we tried to get some of the kids' very crossed eyes fixed. Tomorrow, Sorin goes to Iasi to the University Medical Center for his surgery and Abel goes with him.... for either a final evaluation or possibly surgery too. Sorin's surgery is paid for by a recent volunteer and we are finding out about what is required for Abel. Through your generosity it will be taken care of. We are so relieved - and so grateful to Phil for getting this started, even tho' it took eight months to get this far. I will keep you posted. What a difference this will make in these precious kids' lives to be able to "see straight". (Since we returned to the US, Abel and Sorin,were taken to Iasi, the university medical center, and had eye surgery for their crossed eyes… We haven't heard yet about the results… but we are all hoping for the best. Surgery was on December 14th…. Again, paid for by volunteers.)

Abel… the surgery will make a big difference - but not in the drooling!

Sorin (looking at the ceiling) has to get very close to objects to see them.
Neurological damage from birth has caused this. He's quite the big boy now!
I can't wait to find out how the surgery turned out.

Love from Bob and me.

P.S. We've bought $788 dollars worth of stuff at the Metro (Costco equivalent) including peaches, raisins, baby wipes, lots of other canned fruit, cheerios, jams, cleaning supplies, pots (who knows how many they go through in a year!), crackers, baby shampoo, creams, etc. etc. Bob also brought ten bolts for the doors so the kids don't escape and over 300 screws to fix the cribs, many of which are falling apart. He'll begin his work soon... but first will "play" with the toddlers for a few days. Thanks to all of your generous support.

Here we are checking out at the Metro with just a part of what we bought: cleaning supplies,
shampoo, cheerios, diapers, baby wipes mops, raisins, fruit, baby food for Ana Maria…. You name it!

November 13, '06