November 20th, 2006 - Banca,
the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA in the Berkshires
where we live, there is a well-loved painting that almost everyone
can identify with. It's a two part image with the upper image
showing a family with mother, father, stoic grandmother and
red-headed, high energy kids (and their dog) leaving for a day
at the beach. On the return image below the one I just described,
everyone is bedraggled and exhausted except the stoic grandmother
who looks as unflappable on the way home as she did at the beginning:
a woman of experience and reasonable expectations.
Saturday and Sunday Bob and I were the bright and cheery and
high energy "kids" going to the clinic with our "unflappable,
seen it all driver". We worked alone while our four other team
members took a tour to Transylvania. They left on Friday at
12:30 and we worked til 4 p.m. alone... and then arrived at
the clinic at 9:30 and worked til 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. The
Toddlers were wild and frustrated and frustrating! Too much
energy with 9 kids in a 12x12 foot room... so we moved them
to another room... the room we are usually in with the mobile
infants. That room is larger, but because there is a TV and
VCR in the larger room they don't shift the groups back and
forth when group size changes. So we put the littlest kids in
the small room and thought... a larger room is better with lots
of toys for the older kids.
Dimitru and Octavian, are the major escape artists. The knees
(wearing Jeans) belong to Mary, our teammate, who cannot get
enough to prevent the escape… Denisa in red is a quick collaborator!
Once the door
is open, all the toddlers run out like they've been shot from
idea... marginal outcome. This is the room that Bob put the
lock on the inside of the door to prevent escapees. I use one
of those ubiquitous white Rubbermaid chairs in the room because
it's hard for me to get up and down from the floor with my bad
knees. Bob brought it in there to be helpful to me... and while
we were out, Octavian, an active toddler who is very smart,
moved the chair by the door, then stood up on the chair and
slid the bolt shut locking 9 kids in the room with no way for
staff or us to get in! Victoria, one of the staff, came running
to us to tell us and we don't speak much Romanian... and she
speaks no English... so through pantomime she got us to understand
the problem. I thought we'd have to remove glass or do something
drastic when Victoria spoke to Florin, the four year old "chief"
of the toddlers in Romanian. She carefully told him what to
do through the glass window and he moved the chair, got up and
undid the bolt! It was amazing!
is the boy who has had two surgeries on each foot for club feet.
Hopefully he will find a home soon. He is so smart and so cute
and so charming. He deserves a good family. His mother is in
jail and has all but abandoned him. He is one of the kids without
an official identify so there are interfering issues. To show
you how precocious he is, he was sitting on my lap with another
child and they were unbuttoning and buttoning my shirt top two
buttons. Without my noticing he opened two more down the shirt
so four were open, exposing part of my bra and cleavage. He
put his hand inside the cleavage, looked up at me smiling and
said "mmmmm". I was hysterical. He's a bit too young for me
but it was an ego trip at my age!
king of the toddlers. He's so loving and caring. He monitors
the kids and
helps them along - a great kid.
Saturday night, we had dinner alone at the hotel and on Sunday
another round of work at the clinic. We joined our former team
leader Ramona, her parents, and her brother and his fiancé for
dinner at the best restaurant in Barlad. $56 for six for dinner
including drinks. Excellent food. We then took taxis to their
home where we were treated to fine Romanian dessert wine and
cheese pie. Alex and Oana who are both in their third year at
the university in Iasi translated for us and we had great conversation
about politics, and the changes in Romania since the EU has
been involved. It was a joyous evening. We see them each time
we are here and they are wonderful people. We feel like family
to each other.
and Oana…. Great people. Alex also serves as the knowledgeable
tour guide for most of the trips volunteers take over the weekends.
EU has had an enormous impact in the two years I have been coming
here: street lights, traffic lights, road signs, new hotels
and restaurants, improving standards for virtually everything.
They will be requiring a minimum wage of 3,000 euros ($3700
or so). People employed at the ball bearing factory in town
earn about $2500 a year. The factory has gone from employing
10,000 to just 3000. Under the communists, the people say "we
pretend to work and they pretend to pay us". After the new EU
minimum wage law goes into effect, they will have to lay off
another 1000 to pay for the additional wages for those who remain.
There will be a period of tremendous transition to European
prices on goods and services combined with Romanian wages. It
will be rough. But now there are goods in the stores compared
to two years ago when we had to go to five stores to get five
bottles of baby shampoo since each store only had one. The same
for the special diaper cream we bought: one tube in each pharmacy.
Last night I went to a pharmacy and they had a computer on the
counter to look up inventory - and told me they had 30 tubes.
Amazing and exciting!
you need to see how this year's kitchen renovation came out.
I'll put the old and the new here… the rest of the photos are
in the photo gallery under Our
Team, Clinic, and Staff.
Only one burner on the left stove worked…. What an effort to
cook! There was a
container of propane in the middle of the floor - the size you
use for your barbecue.
This is one side of the new kitchen. Really amazing. Paid for
by a group of
volunteers through a local foundation. It's made all the difference
to the staff
who make all of the food from scratch. They still have to peel
50 pound bags of potatoes,
carrots and apples each day, but hey…. That change will come
in the future too!
more hotel stories:
- The first
night we were here, the fire alarm went off at 1 a.m. It kept
going... no one came to our rooms... no fire engines came
(not a surprise)... and I finally put on a robe and went downstairs
to the restaurant/bar which is open 24 hours a day. A man
in the bar dressed in a coat and hat stood up and took off
his hat to show his respect for me in my yellow robe and black
sandals. Chivalry lives. We still don't know what the situation
night, I had my reading light on next to the bed and began
to smell something "chemical". Turns out the light bulb is
too large for the new plastic lined shades and the shades
melted all over the bulb. I mentioned it at breakfast and
everyone had the same thing happen. Yikes.
have Thanksgiving on Thursday at our team leader's home: turkey
and pumpkin pie. I should have brought cranberry sauce. I am
sure it will be great fun. (Note: Photos of the actual Thanksgiving
"chicken" are in the Our
Team, Clinic and Staff photo gallery. Turns out the only
time turkey is available in Romania (or at least where we are)
is at Christmas. It was a great night.
am so thankful to be an American... to have such wonderful family...
to have so many wonderful friends who love us and support us
in this work... and to be alive at this special time in the
world. Thanks to all of you. And I know you will have a wonderful