A Travellerspoint blog

Entry 32A-2 - Romania - Orphans - first week continued

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Wednesday, December 6

Breakfast 8am
Left 8:45 – Lauren in the arms of Memory of a Geisha until 3am was a little slow to arrive
Arrived at the clinic at 9:15

Worked with the mobiles early and we were joined by Andrei and Lauren. Within a few minutes in the room, Andrei had pulled Sylvia backwards which caused many tears from the bumped head. John and Sandy then came in and I went into the Toddler for 50 minutes. Lunch for the toddlers consisted of liver pieces, scrambled eggs from our breakfast followed by cream of wheat. We have noticed that the kids are a little hesitant with any new taste or texture. They seem to love the cooked liver that is great as most of these guys still have some anemia.

Our lunch was watery soup, not very tasty pasta, apple tort and bread. None of us ate very much of it so it went to the local dogs and the leftovers of soup and pasta to the kitchen for the kids.

We continued our pattern of the after lunch walks and during this lunch, we found a small store for Lauren to buy a hat.

Afternoon was the non-mobiles with a special visit from Alessandra, the brittle bone baby who has the loveliest smile.

After work we went into town to find the train schedule (looks like a 7am train for Bernice and I on Saturday the 23rd which will get me in by noon). That should give me plenty of time to get to the airport for my 3pm flight. We also tried to find an internet café as our server is still down at the hotel. We went to three different locations, including the local gambling establishment where Bernice approached two young boys who we suspected would know. No luck. We will ask Manuela when we see her next.

Penny market with Bernice for juice for our entire time, more diapers, diaper wipes and chicken for the kids.

Dinner at Alona restaurant again with Manuela and Stella a student at her HS and her father to discuss the Orthodox Church in Romania. We arrived and had to walk through a St. Nicholas Day party complete with dj and keyboards.

Manuela was going to meet us at 7pm and luckily she sent Helen (the English teacher at the HS) to tell us that the student and dad would not be available tonight. Helen stayed and ate an orange and assisted us with ordering. Lettuce is not in season in Romania so salads usually only have cucumbers, tomatoes and the other ingredients listed. Most of the ingredients are listed separately so it is almost impossible to come close to what the US calls a salad. I found one that I like that has eggs, ham, cukes, tomatoes, onions (not my favorite) and parm cheese on the top. After lots of back and forthing, we finally ordered.

The wines that we ordered came with the entire bottle that was unexpected but not too expensive. The red Lauren and Bernice shared was not well received, as it appeared to have turned or have been stored at the wrong temperature. The white ordered was wonderful and most of the table switched from red to white.

Manuela arrived after her last class and helped me finish by 4-cheese pizza (2 slices of each of the 4 cheeses – rather a fun way of eating 4 cheese pizza). We had not ordered dessert as we had the previous lunch so 3 of us ordered fruit salad. What we got this time was the confection with lots of whip cream, caramel sauce and fruit cocktail chunks. Not at all what I expected, and after a bite, I left the rest. Not my proudest moment of the trip. (I admitted I was tired, cranky and that all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel). I realized that we had ordered fresh fruit the previous meal and what we received was delightful. I now know to order fresh fruit.

We finally left and upon arrival from the dinner unloaded the bus and went up stairs in hopes of internet connection – no luck. May not be able to find it again until I get to London. Manuela said that she would take us somewhere tomorrow.

We did a little more searching in the journals for some of new favorite babies. Most of them were preemies and many from young parents.

Thursday, December 7

What a great day!

Still gloomy and cold when we woke for breakfast, we all benefited from a good nights sleep. Today we were making a special stop on the way to work to pick up treats hosted by John and Sandy for the adults in the wards. Lauren had purchased a Santa suit at the Penny Market that would also be making its debut. Our Romanian failed us again, but Lauren made our desired known in Italian and for a mere 25 RON (around $12), we walked away with 5 bags of little puff pastries.

We then picked up Manuela who was looking very exhausted. Her hours lately have been 7-9, an entire day with us and then classes between 5-8 pm. Plus we found out today that not only does she teach, but also she is the science curriculum lead for all of Barlad. Not to mention she has a family and young daughter and a life outside GV. What a woman!

Next we made an unexpected stop at an office supply store of sorts to see if we could find paper, crayons or other art supplies for the toddlers. We all went in but as the other ladies had it well in hand, I looked around and then left. The store had 4 counters, two that most definitely specializing in office and stationary and the others across the way had items from batteries and clocks, through hair supplies, toys, cosmetics, laundry soaps and ended up with nylons and bras in the final case. Sort of a modified Office Depot/Ultra/Victoria Secret all under one roof!

We were late arriving and also carried dog food purchased by Lauren and last night’s pizza remnants for the dogs. Lauren has become very popular. The dogs were appreciative as you can imagine.

The toddlers were all waiting for us as we were later than usual and John and Sandy jumped in with the art supplies. Lauren and I started collecting babies, changing diapers and putting them in their exercise rooms. I am again with the mobiles that are quickly becoming my favorites. I began with Mirella, our lady in purple, who has been rather needy lately and wanting lots of attention. A little whingey during diaper change, she was happy to be picked up.

Next was Mihaela, who also not pleased with diapers, began her day with two balls in her hands. Next was Sylvia, who is always pleased to see anybody and smiles and gurgles. Finally, my little frog, Marian entirely in green as if you could not guess. All of this took over 30 minutes besides getting all the toys lined up and the equipment in the room. I met John in the hall and he said that unhappiness reigned as they closed up the art class and that the toddlers were wild today. OH GOODIE!

I went in with the group and everything was fine until Mihaela melted down, threw down the two plastic beads she had been playing with and had a glorious tantrum complete with circles on the floor on her back, arching upwards and grimaces of absolute rage. Peace returned after a short cuddle and setting her in the bouncy swing. In her rage she had clunked Marian in the head and also Mirella, so I had two others who needed hugs and cuddles that continued until I left the room. Little Marian needed lots of attention and his head would whirl around nearly at 360 to find me if I was out of his sight. Mirella was also needy and finally I had both of them in my lap, Mihaela in the bouncy and Sylvia bumping her back against the wall. As I left them down to get her, both dissolved into tears. SIGH!

Sandy came in to relieve me so that I could go and relieve John in Toddlers. More melt downs by Marian as I left.

I entered the room to see John telling Florin he had to stay in the room that caused Florin to lift a chair over his head to throw it. I took it from him and turn him to face me to tell him that was dangerous and that he could choose another way to seek attention. Not happy with being disciplined, he took his anger out on the tv. At least it wasn’t someone else’s head. Lots of tears and tantrums as I would put one down to get to another and two didn’t seem to fit in the lap without positioning and pushing. Toddlers are exhausting to me and without Romanian, hard to negotiate with.

Finally it was time for treats. First was the gourmet cooked chopped liver and chicken breasts that Bernice had supplied. Nearly all ate the liver with relish, but the chicken breasts only got limited play. Followed quickly by the cream of wheat and yoghurt soup which lead to food fights with the spoon and upended bowls on the floor. The children were not spanked for the behavior just scolded and cleaned up. Next came the juice bottles, cut up oranges and little bits of cookies. By this time, half the herd had becoming disinterested and was removing their bibs, tracking through the gruel and racing up and down the hall without their socks. Naptime was just around the corner.

We had a good lunch of sandwiches, soup that had been pureed, bread and fruit. Both Lauren and I also supplied sweet treats for snack. By the time we were finished, it was sprinkling but Lauren and I still took our walk. Both Sandy and Bernice stayed back to feed the little twins who are hungry more often and needing lots of attention. They found that one of the babies had diarrhea and now bad diaper rash and they were very upset that the staff be notified to the seriousness of the condition. We are now in search of newborn pampers to try and rectify the situation as soon as possible.

I am in charge of daily supplies. Usually I bring one roll of toilet paper, one roll of paper towels, 4 cartons of juice and two packs of diaper wipes. We will add 2-3 packages of diapers, and two tubes plus one pot of AD diaper cream for tomorrow. We were told today that the kids may not have chocolate, but can have slightly sweet treats or pastries with jam or cheese in them. They also said that they only use 1-2 cartons of juice a day, so I will cut back on the number.

We were to have a short afternoon as we had to visit the adult wards with the treats supplied by Sandy and John before we left a 3:45. John was a hit in the Santa suit and the ladies were charming. The men were a little taken aback when John arrived, but took their share of the treats and smiled. I think the hospital director was happy that we had made the effort.

We left early, as we had to find the pharmacy for the diapers, then to the internet café for our correspondence and finally, meet with Stella for a trip to the Orthodox Monastery and her father, the Priest of the local Greek Orthodox Church. The pharmacy had plenty of diapers, so we all bought at least one pack. The internet café only had 3 machines available, but we all were connected within 5 minutes. All the other machines were loaded with teenagers playing games.

We picked up Stella and then had a 30-minute ride into the woods to the Monastery. It began to look like the woods from the Blair Witch Project and the longer it took, the more we were convinced that we would not make it home that night. The monastery is undergoing a major face-lift and they were laying cement even in the pitch dark. The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was lovely and ornate on the inside. The chandelier was absolutely magnificent and the twin candle sticks with the double eagle amazing. Apparently, the double eagle has been used in Romania for the local kings for years. We learned about the legend of how the monastery was founded which included a local peasant and his donkey. Apparently, every evening the donkey would disappear at a certain tree. When the man cut it down, on the stump was a replica of Mary so on this site the monastery was founded.

Only 10 minutes away was the little village for the church. We got out of the bus and walked through a dark graveyard on the way to the church. Stella’s father is the priest and is a friendly rotund man similar to Friar Tuck. This church had two styles of paintings the Byzantine (more two dimensional) and the Catholic (three dimensional). This church was dedicated to St. George (of Dragon fame) and we saw the painting of him being drawn and quartered. The church had the steepest set of stairs leading up the pulpit on the wall I had ever seen. The congregation stands for upwards of 4 hours every Sunday at the services.

The priest showed us the books they use to pray with, the chalice and their special hosts that are actually bread and the special way that they cut them to represent Christ, Mary and all the angels and special people to pray for. After receiving a dried herb that will be used tomorrow to bless the holy water, being anointed with special oil from Greece and some wonderful white wine, we took our leave. It was a wonderful church complete with a painted picture of the current priest on the balcony looking at the sacristy.

Back on the bus, we were very late for dinner and our massages that had been arranged by Ionata for us. At dinner we were told that Bernice would receive a free massage because she was over charged for the last one. She went first, I was second and Lauren last. IT WAS WONDERFUL! I have never had my elbows massaged like that. I sit sleepy eyed to finish about today before I go off to sleep.

I am partially packed for our trip to Transylvania for the weekend. YAAH!

DREAM – moths ate all my business clothes. No problem in my mind and I was happy at the end of the dream.

Friday, December 8 – Last work day for John and Sandy

We have been taking our lunch daily from the hotel restaurant to the clinic in a plastic blue and red box. Today, there was a misunderstanding about our lunch. We were a little delayed in our departure and this would already be a short day for Lauren and I as we were to be picked up at 1:30.

I assisted Lauren by helping deliver non-mobiles to her room and then I played with the mobiles. We had a very quick lunch and then it was time to say goodbye to Sandy and John. It is nice to know that they are just up the road in Boulder once I get home.

At 1:30, Marius in a silver car arrived to whisk us away to Brasov. We left Banca in mist and I suspected that we would not have good visibility until we had climbed to the mountains. We had been told that we would have a driver and guide, but we found out that we would only have Marius. In addition, he had not done this tour is several years, so we were not surprised when he had to ask several times for directions to our hotel. At one point, we were at an intersection and the name of the town we needed had two signs, each pointing in the opposite direction.

The ??? hotel looked okay from the outside and inside it was clean, if a little outdated. The LP was not very complimentary, but then again, they didn’t highly praise any of the lodgings in Brasov. We were at the front of the building with lots of Christmas lights. We left the hotel to walk to dinner along a pedestrian street.

There was a central plaza with a huge lit tree and lots of character. Both Lauren and I ordered a salad and a stuffed cabbage with meat and rice. Both tasted great!

LP had spoken of a miraculous beauty cream that was supposed to take 20 years off you. The founder/creator had died at 90 and looked only 70, or so the story goes. As it was sold in all the pharmacies, we suspected that we would be able to find it. Of course, as with any good miracle cream, there was more than one to use. We made our selection, I with a night cream and hand cream and Lauren with two others plus a shampoo/conditioner. I did a sample test before bed with one side of my face with the new stuff and the other side with the old stuff. We will see how much younger we look tomorrow

Life in Romania

Daily, we pass horse drawn carts with young colts in tandem with their mothers learning to drive. The carts may have a huge load of cabbages, twigs, possibly several people and one day, there was a full-grown cow being pulled by the wagon. (My question – why can’t the cow be walked down the road like the horse?) While cars are everywhere, there will most like be a large percentage of the population that will never be able to afford a car.

Boots and babushkas – We are in the country and not close to one of the major cities. Many of the people live on small farms and grow their own crops – cabbage, cows, pigs, sheep, corn, etc. It is not uncommon to see a little lady in Wellington rubber boots and a scarf or babushka on her head.

Gray skies – winter is here for sure and we have had 95% gray skies and mist. We are in a low valley, probably with lots of streams and rivers. I have remarked that it reminds me of Anatevka from Fiddler.

Smoking – EVERYBODY SMOKES IN ROMANIA from what I can tell. My clothes smell and I don’t feel I will be able to totally loose the smell until I get to England.

Right side of the road – They drive on the right-hand side of the road like in the US. It sort or shocked me to find that I found being driven on the right hand side of the road rather foreign to me. I guess after 8 months in the other lane, it would seem strange.

90% Greek Orthodox - the main religion is Orthodox (and while they say Greek, other people say it is a blend of both Russian and Greek Orthodox)

2% of population Gypsies – This portion of the population is still looked down on by a lot of the Romanian people. Not as nomadic as they once were, in some areas, they have formed a settlement with houses.

Generally small in stature with strong noses, magnificent bushy eyebrows – the first thing that I noticed about the Romanians is that they have wonderfully strong noses and abundantly bushy eyebrows. Seriously, some of the men have eyebrows that could be groomed.

Dark hair/dark eyes – The babies have the most wonderful dark hair and eyes. While I have seen many hair and eye colors, the dark/dark combinations are the most prevalent and are wonderful.

Delicate drains – euphemism on how you do not put your toilet paper down the toilet. That is what the little lidded trashcan is for!

Language – As a former Roman province, they consider themselves Roman, hence Romania. The language has so many similarities to Italian that Lauren managed to be understood in over 90% of her interactions with the Romanian people. Some things were different, but the similarities far outweighed the differences.

Posted by ladyjanes 00:50 Archived in Romania Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 31B - Pueblo Ingles part 2

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Tuesday, November 28

It was lovely to sleep in a little later and arrive for a 9:30 breakfast. This day would end up being very light for us and we were going on an excursion to the village. The rain was a bit of a worry, but we caught the buses at 10:00 and after 4 trips, we had all arrived.

First we had a tour of house built somewhere between 1100 and 1500. It had been turned into a museum and was a tribute to the current owners grandparents who lived in the house. In the bottom level, all the animals were housed. Concealed in the horse manager, was hole about the size of a bowling ball where the valuables would be hidden.


After the war years, when many families returned to the village, a fair number of them found considerable wealth had been hidden in the walls of some of there homes. Some villagers are still living off the proceeds from the finds. The next level had the grandparents’ bedroom complete with chamber pots and tiny or at least very short, double beds. Before electric lights, it was all candles. Even when lights were installed, there was one light that straddled the wall and covered both the hallway and this bedroom.

Down the hall was the best bedroom where you only went for three reasons - your birth, your death or if you were sick. Next to the room was the larder. Up the stairs to the next level, we found the kitchen, an insulated room that acted as a fridge, the outside porch where bathing happened and the butcher room where the pigs were slaughtered (Yes! Two stories up the pigs were butchered). Up the last set of steps to the attic area that housed the workshop and the oven for baking bread and food storage. Fascinating and especially poignant as the grandson of the house was leading the tour.

Next a little time for shopping before we met in the square for lunch. A funeral procession was coming through the square and based on the mourners, we could tell it was for an elderly man.
I found a few little things that caught my eye including the Christmas specialty of Turron, nougat only made in Nov and Dec.

Back in the square and then down the lane to the bodega (wine shop). If you didn’t know where you were going, you would pass most of the locations as they blend so completely into the row of houses/shops. We were treated to wonderful red wine, bread, salami and hams and a fabulous hard cheese. During this stop, we all participated in pouring red wine down our own throats from the wine skin. The aim is to get a thin stream of wine into your mouth, they pull the bag further and further away and count how long you can drink. Early people achieved 8-12 seconds and Pam was the first person and Anglo who broke 20 seconds. The first Spaniard with a high number was Miguel with 25. I accomplished a 7 second drink. The outstanding winner was Bernardo with 52 seconds. Most of us were just a little light headed as we went back to the square for lunch.

Lunch was paella, which I avoided as it may have been the culprit for my runny tummy earlier this week. I ate the bread and dessert that was a lovely ice cream confection. I exchanged interesting book names with Ros from England, Jesus L. and Shannon. We had a fantastic discussion about knowing when you have met the “one”. Two of the four of us have found them. Shannon and I are still looking.

As we had worked and partied so hard the day before, we were treated to an extended siesta time between 3-6

6 – Pedro – Phone session – We worked through 2 scenarios in 20 minutes - Wake up and Throw in the towel
7 – Jesus F. – Pass Out and Scratch the Surface – We had a fascinating discussion about his police work and suicides.

Both these men had wonderful English and great comprehension. It made the time just fly by.

8 – Entertainment – Groups 2 and 3
Group 2 – Fortuneteller –Dani as the fortuneteller with balloon breasts and mysterious ways was the hit. This group tied together many of the facets of PI including taking a toy boy home from Spain, the psychological damage done by too many one-on-one sessions and the birth 9 months after the fact of a very large baby girl named Phil.

Group 3 – What men and women say and what that really means – 4 cross-dressed couples described what the sexes say and what they really means. You can imagine.

As there was time to spare before dinner, Shannon entertained the group with the guitar. A talented guitarist, he played a wonderful melody by a Spanish composer and then a blue composition from a personal friend. Finally, we tried a sing-a-long to a Beatles song, Shake it up Baby. We all started fine, but after the first verse, it was determined that the lyrics off the web were incomplete so we died out.

Dinner – James, Pedro, Jesus L. – We discussed many the wonders of Australia as both Jesus and I had both visited recently been down under. Slight disconnect with James regarding my perception of the inconsistent wildlife laws between the various states in Australia. Once again, my opinions seemed not to be based in fact, but that didn’t stop me from airing my views. I was encouraged to review the US laws that cross state lines before I begin to comment on other countries perceived inadequacies. Thank you! Point well taken.

Tonight is the beginning of the Secret Friend campaign. I am the secret friend of Tracy, who is James’ wife and in my presentation group. We have been encouraged to do nice things for our secret friend from now until Thursday evening. We are encouraged to not spend more than the price of beer. My brain is whirling to see what might be nice for Tracy.

During dinner the other night, Tracy and I sketched out the outline for our performance tomorrow night, a game show based on Jeopardy with all the questions using idioms. Jez had said that if I type it out, we could make copies. I spent some time working on the order of go, stage directions and who would say what. We will have a moderator, tv host, Vanna White, three Spanish contestants and one over enthusiastic stage mother (me). Went to bed late, but had the script done for the group to review tomorrow. We had heard that one of our Spaniards, Jesus F., might be leaving tomorrow, so we may be one short. We will see tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 29

9 – breakfast – received a lovely glass of orange juice with little orange sections decorating the plate. My first gift from my secret friend. It is going to be a great day. Christine caught me and said that Pedro’s secret friend had requested that most of the women go up and give him a kiss on both cheeks from his secret friend. He received all the kisses with appreciation and calmness.

Also during breakfast, I printed off the script that I had developed the night before. After circulation to the group, they decided that they liked the concept and that we might make minor changes during our rehearsal. We were definitively going to loose Jesus F. from our group, so we enlisted the assistance of Rafael or Rafa, who is a true card for our third contestant. He will be a welcome addition to the group. As we will not have him at rehearsal, we will try and have lunch with him later today.

10 – Juan Jo – Catch on, Twist my Arm
11 – Phone session with Jose – Check out, Drag your feet. Our phone session went fine, I was making reservations at his pretend hotel. As we discussed the phrasal verb and idiom, I could tell we were not connecting. As we walked back to the meeting room, I did a pantomime of drag your feet, which I think, finally led to comprehension.
12 – Walked to town with Paloma for our session – clear up, a hard nut to crack – This was my first walk to town, the weather was fine and it was good to move. We discussed her three kids.
1 – Free time – Post cards and delivery of my note to my secret friend.

Lunch was good as usual with more little squeals of delight or clapping as another gift was delivered. As you looked around, you would see people disappear around the corner together whispering frantically. I had been requested to make some deliveries of drinks or notes to different people. Just as dessert was being served, a delegation arrived at my table and all the Spanish men at my table stood up. Suddenly, I was being serenaded by 4, then 6, then 12 of the Spanish men, as men from all the other tables leapt up and made a semi circle around me. It was absolutely charming and luckily, I have a little bit of it on video. The song was Cabrellitos. The basic gist of the song is - I bring to you flowers, flowers of my heart. If I don’t bring you flowers, it is not that I don’t love you, it is because they are not available. (Apparently this is a popular song to sing while you are at University and go to various dorms and serenade the young ladies). I felt truly touched. I have a suspicion of who my secret friend is, but I won’t know the real name until tomorrow. Based on the song, I suspect it is a Spaniard. Time will tell.

At 3:30 the vast majority of our group went into town, mostly to shop for our secret friends, but also to enjoy the fabulous weather and to see the village in sun. I walked with Roy, James and Tracy the back way into the town avoiding the highway. It was charming with country lanes, cats, moss covered rock walls and alleyways and beautiful colors as most of the leaves are still on the trees. One surprising sight was Chinquapin Chestnut trees, just like we had in our yard in Virginia. How well I remember the spiny seed coats that resemble brown sea urchins with nasty spines. My job in Jr. and Sr. High was to collect the green or brown seed pods amidst the fall leaves so that Dad could rake or mow the leaves. Never my favorite job, but seeing them brought back many happy memories of VA.

Roy and I wandered around the village and he showed me many back roads that I had not explored. I picked up some throat lozenges because more and more of our group is succumbing to the cold and I know that someone will need them before we leave. On the way back, I saw more cats and a lovely black Iberico sow that was very cute and posed for a picture. We arrived back just minutes before we were needed at the group activity.

5 - group activity – Write an alternative ending to the Hockey Sweater using random words that the group had developed. Each member of the group was supposed to contribute at least one sentence to the ending, which had to be 10 sentences long. Our verb- piss off, our adjective – cute, our noun - leopard (that I supplied to the selection of words). Our revision of the story went as follows - Our young boy after telling the curate in the story to piss off was sent to a reform school in Brazil where he was trained as a leopard handler. He took a nasty bite in the rear and was nursed by a cute Brazilian girl who later became his assistant. They became world famous and he always performed wearing his favorite Hockey Sweater.

6 – 8 – Group 4 rehearsal for our performance. We had a fun time getting our play staged and collecting all of our props. The three contestants were very excited to don their partial costumes, Cuti with a camo hat, Gerardo with a Mexican hat, apron, maracas and wig and our final contestant, Rafa as our Japanese entry, complete with camera and Japanese/Spanish accent. After 45 minutes we were very ready and relaxed.

8 Entertainments – Groups 4 and 5

As we had had the performance room to rehearse and prepare and the other group had only the last 30 minutes to rehearse in the room. As they were last in the room, they were the first to perform. They were also doing a game show, but they had chosen the dating game. Very cute and amusing, they incorporated many of the inside jokes including the typical Spanish pronunciation mistake for breakfast, (Breast – f**k) and the now expected and requisite Spanish man-dressed-as-a-woman (Nando) with huge balloon breasts and outrageous purple long wig.

Our presentation went very well, but the longer the play went, the more actor improvements showed up during the show. Two of our performers got more and more exaggerated in their movements and expressions, and our 10-minute show was closer to 20. Well received, we trooped back down stairs for dinner.

More secret friend gifts appeared during dinner including sponsored massages by James (who is a sports massage therapist), beautiful serenades by Shannon, huge wrapped gifts including small bottles of champagne and pate and the best the PEDRO poster with every letter followed by a superlative about Pedro. I have a feeling that the Anglos are spending the money and the Spanish are being ultra creative. All will be revealed tomorrow night so we only have another 24 hours until we know whom to thank.

Thursday, November 30

10 – Jesus L. Walked to town for shopping – Run into, Under the Weather – Health administrator - Lovely man
11 – Omar – Lawyer - Sign up for, Weather the storm – a fan of the US, we had a political discussion on the US’s role in the world.
12 – Free time
1 – Miguel – Turn around, Once in a blue moon – Took the back way into town and found a little old man, who told us he used to be a bullfighter and gave us wormy apples

During lunch today, we had several people leaving, one of them was Pedro, who turned out to be my secret friend. I knew my friend was a Spanish man! After lunch I walked back down the lane between the pastures to take pictures of the waterfall that I had visited with Jose Santos.

5 - group activity – Read the last of the revised Hockey Sweater stories. Then Christine had all the Anglos do musical chairs. During the game if you had not found a chair, you were either given a tongue twisters or a difficult word to spell. If you got them right, you could take someone else’s chair and continue in the game. Christine’s point is that even Anglos have difficulty with pronunciation and spelling. I managed a complicated tongue twister but went down my misspelling Samurai. (I forgot the second a)

6 – Conference call Magali, Raquel and Rafael – Radio interview PI/Sex Education/Lonely Hearts club – This was a scream! Magali was the Master of Ceremonies of PI, Raquel a Spanish participant who wanted to find a nice Spanish husband, and Rafa was from the US (Oklahoma where he had lots of cows). I was the radio interviewer on a live talk show and soon we took a turn from our assigned mission. During my interview it was determined that PI in addition to a language school, also a sex education center and lonely hearts club for people seeking a mate. Rafa was hysterical with his love for his cows and complained that PI didn’t have many cows, Raquel looking for a Spanish husband was encouraged by one of the three callers to the radio show to widen her search and consider other men. Magali kept giggling into the phone, but it ended up that Magali would be changing the housing arrangement so that Rafa and Raquel could be in the same house and both of them promised to keep me posted on the progress of their budding relationship. It was very good fun!

7 – One on One – Rafael, but we also added Hazel and Magali for a 4-way conversation.

At this point in the week, some people were repeating who they had one-on-one’s with as we had lost several Spaniards. There was some thing going on for the Guardia Civil and several of them had to leave before the week was over, including Jesus F. I never had a one-on-one with Raquel, Bernardo or Magali, so I tried to sit next to them at one of the final meals to get a chance to talk to them.

8 - Entertainment – Groups 6 and 7 and the entire group of Anglos singing leaving On a Jet Plane. We had been warned that there are usually many tears on the last day of the program and this had some of us a little misty already during the song.

We were bused into La Aberca for our final dinner in town. We were in a lovely room and after dinner, all the Spaniards sang a wonderful good-bye song during which Lourdes danced.

Best Smile – Cuti
Best Laugh – Trudi
Best Dancer – Lourdes
Best Actress – Paloma, I was awarded a 2nd place tie with Nanda (Fernando in his cross-dressing role)
Best Actor – Nando and Dani
Best Improv - #2 – Fortune Teller
Most entertaining Anglo – James
Most entertaining Spaniard – Omar
Most Improved English – Jose Santos

They had opened the town disco for us and we arrived at Midnight. There were several ladies dancing as a group. (I have noticed as I travel around the world that in many countries people dance in groups, without specific partners. I have also noticed that a lot of the world whistle or sing their way through the day. Does that happen in the US?) I was pooped so I was on the first bus back to the lodging and we left the Disco just before 1 am. I was in bed by 1:30 am.

Friday, December 1

We lost a lot of Spaniards this morning during breakfast so our ranks were dwindling. Lots of hugs and goodbyes.

10 – Group Photo and course evaluations
11 – One-on-one with Fermin
12 – Graduation ceremony – we all received certificates.
1 – Lunch – Jose Santos, Sally, Magali


Can you find me?

We loaded on the bus by 2:30 and the ride turned out to be very hot with most of us napping. I spent some time chatting with Shannon and Phil and then after our stop, with Jose Santos. His English has improved exponentially since our first bus ride and he very much deserved his award last night. As we were getting close to Madrid, I looked at him at one point and said that I time was almost over. He said but it is only almost. What a lovely energy he has.

Our party arrived at 7pm in Madrid and many taxis refused our group, probably due to the amount of luggage. Shannon and I shared a cab. Shannon and girl friend will be in Philly in Jan. Hopefully we will be able to meet up at Annie’s

Info from Spain

Spain drives on the right hand side of the road.

The right hand ring finger is the wedding ring hand except for Catalan where it is the left hand.

Common English pronunciation mistake by Spaniards – beaches and b**ches, also sheet and sh*t.

i.e. Da b**ches en Spain r berry berry nize.

What I learned at Pueblo Ingles

What a wonderful experience! It was fabulous to be around such diverse and interesting people. These people were working hard to be better at something and everyone was interested and anxious to help them, while having a good time of course. It was fun to be back in a larger community, and yet have the opportunity to remove myself when I needed.

I had a few surprises during this placement both physically and mentally. Getting sick could have been just a build up from 5 months straight of work with limited breaks, but it was also a signal to me that I might not be seeing things clearly. I have had the beginnings of feelings of inadequacy and nervousness about not knowing exactly what I will be doing when I get home. When I have a moment, I try and look ahead and envision what I want. Nothing is coming right now, which tells me my mind is not quiet and ready to accept input from the universe.

I had several disconnects with people over the last few weeks not only in communication but also in the flow of the trip. In my tired state, they seem bigger than they probably are, but again a signal to me that I am not creating positive experiences for myself.

I leave Spain feeling that I am very much the same person that I was when I left the US 11 months ago. Currently I can list many of the things within myself that I had hoped would grow and mature, but what I see are the judgments and smallness that still remains. I don’t feel I am being down on myself, but I am looking at what is currently in front of me. It is my choice how to view it, and when I don’t select the highest level of self-love, then I get what I create.

Just another example of wherever you go, there you are!

Thank you Spain and Pueblo Ingles. I had a marvelous time and I will be back again!

Posted by ladyjanes 01:03 Archived in Spain Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 33 - England

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Entry # 33 – Britain

Sunday, December 24

I got up early despite not much sleep, as I wanted to see what I could find to do for the next few days. From reading the brochures in the lobby and my LP, it appeared that most things (museums, monuments, theatres, restaurants, etc) would be closed Dec 24-26. Luckily, some shops were open today just before Xmas. I took a collection of maps with me and began walking to get my bearings and found several shops including Marks and Spencer’s. I remembered Marks and Sparks from my previous trips and even have some clothes from them. Did a little looking and found several things that might be fun to try on later in the trip. I decided to wait until later to make any personal purchases, but did some Xmas shopping.

I also found an organic food store and bought some Emergen C, fruit and food for tomorrow (as the restaurant at the hotel would be closed) and some fantastic gluten free cookies.

Still feeling the effects of the travel from yesterday, I found the Café Masala and had a wonderful Indian Birani before I went back to the hotel for an early evening of blogging and tv.

Monday, December 25

Slept late and ate the wonderful muffin I bought yesterday, had lots of tea and cookies and basically, stayed in all day bloging and resting.

It was quiet and calm holiday, just the way I like it.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tuesday, December 26 – Boxing Day

Today, I had lots of exploring to do to get my plans settled for the rest of my time in Britain. I called and reserved two nights at a B&B in Salisbury. The next order of business was to get an Oyster card for 4 days of travel on the tube system. Wonderfully easy and off I went to see about theatre ticket availability.

I went to Waterloo Train station, which is above ground over the Waterloo tube station, to see about my reservations for my train trips within England beginning tomorrow. The train station was still closed for the holidays so I will have to get my reservations settled tomorrow.

I had four shows I hoped to see; Spamalot, Mary Poppins, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, and possibly a drama, hopefully with someone interesting as the main character. I got off the tube at Leicester Square, right in the middle of the theatre district and it is known for the half-price ticket booths. There were many booths and after looking at my proposed travel schedule, I realized that my availability for evening or matinees would be limited, so I focused on tonight. I decided on Spamalot, the Tony winning musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Tim Curry. I got the cheap seat $50 for the balcony and decided to stay in town until the show at 8 pm.

While I waited, I opted to see two movies that I had heard so much about. The Queen and Eragon. The Queen stars Helen Mirren portraying Queen Elizabeth II and is about the week leading up Diana’s funeral. Helen was fabulous. Not all of the Royals come out of the movie smelling likes roses. During my trip, I had read the book Eragon, a child's book about a dragon. The book had been very interesting, but the movie was not that great.

I also did a lot of walking through the theatre district and found most of the theatres. Then I treated myself to a coffee at Café Nero, which is a chain in England. I was given the LARGEST MUG OF COFFEE and it was fabulous with my mincemeat tart. I can honestly say that it was probably the best coffee I have had in over 5 months!

Spamalot was showing in the Palace Theatre. Different theatre sponsors have purchased many of the older theatres in London or conglomerates and they are refurbishing many of them. (I don’t think they have gotten to the PALACE yet, at least not in the balcony). My seats were on the 4th level in the rafters with a serious pitch in the seating. Legroom was not very generous and as I sat with my knees next to my ears and I listened to the accents around me, I determined that we were all Americans. Further discussion found that they were from Chicago, Fresno, and Seattle. I guess all the low price tickets are bought up by tourists like myself from the daily half-price ticket booths.


Wednesday, December 27

After a morning of blogging and packing, I took a cab to the train station, as I did not want to fight the crowds in the tube with my twin suitcases, Big Gray and Little Gray.

At the ticket counter at the train station I was told that I would need to get the train to Basingstoke and change to Salisbury. The challenge was that there were no trains currently scheduled for Basingstoke. There had been some delay up the line and while they expected one today, they could not give me a specific time. I had an appointment to check in with Sue in Salisbury at 3pm. As you may remember that I had purchased a first class, 4-day flexi pass on Britrail and while I did not need a specific seat reservation, I preferred to have a definite seat. I asked the agent for reservations for Friday to Sheffield and for Saturday from Sheffield back to London Kings Cross Station. That took a few minutes and by the time those reservations were completed and she had validated by pass to begin today, the Basingstoke train was at platform #8 and ready to go any minute. I had intended to leave Big Gray in checked luggage until I got back, but the ticket lady advised that I run and get on the train before it left. Off I trundled with the twins in tow.

NOTE TO TRAVELERS – The day after a three-day break in service for the British Rail System will tend to be a very busy travel day. Be prepared for crowds and possibly interrupted service!

As it was, I probably would have had time to get off and check the bag, but as it turns out, it ended up being more convenient for me to have the bags with me. The ride was only 40 minutes to Basingstoke and it was wonderful to be back on the trains in England. I did not realize until this trip that since my last visit (29.5 years ago), the trains have been privatized and no longer had the coaches with the side aisles and the compartments. Today’s trains are very similar to the ones I rode in New Zealand and Australia.

As I was exiting the train in Basingstoke, I overheard a woman and her adult son discussing needing to make the connection to Salisbury. I decided to approach them to see if they had a better idea of the schedule. The platform was very crowded. While James, the son, went off to search of information on the timing and platform for the Salisbury train, I went off to buy coffees and treats for Jude, James and myself (I was very hungry as I had intended to eat at Waterloo, but did not have the time). Luckily we only had a 20-minute wait and the platform was the same one that we had been on. We ended up leaving at 2:10 and I calculated that I would be in Salisbury close to 3pm when I was supposed to check in with Sue at the B&B. As the entire platform entered the train, it was obvious that seats would be at a premium. Jude found a pair that she saved for she and I, James took a bumper seat in the entrance chamber and I left my bags in the care of a lovely Scotsman named John who was sitting next to his bags in the space between the cars. I sent cookies back to James and he sent candy bars up to us. I gave my candy bar to John as a thank you for watching my bags. Now I have a wonderful friend Jude (Judith) and her son James who live in Cardiff. I love British Trains!

I got off the train in Salisbury and remembered that this would be my third trip to this beautiful little city. The driver of the taxi that I found to take me to Griffin Cottage had only been driving a cab for 5 days after a 20-year career of farming. I made it to Griffin Cottage at 3pm and met the wonderfully engaging Sue.

Griffin Cottage, owned by Sue and Mark, is absolutely charming and in the middle of a block of similar cottages. Low ceilings and deeper rather than wide, these white washed cottages were cute as a bug. The staircase was steeper and narrower than I expected and I got off on the second floor with two bedrooms and a shared bath. The room was beautifully decorated, had a sink and THE MOST COMFORTABLE BED!!!! I told Sue that I wanted to take it with me and she said that while Mark or she were happy to help me with the luggage up the stairs, I would have to get the bed downstairs by myself. Sue offered me the menu for breakfast, as she makes meals to order off her menu. After all she says if you are traveling and staying mainly in B&B’s, back-to-back days of the standard English breakfast would leave you cholesterol laden and hardly able to move. I selected eggs and salmon, juice, decaf tea and fresh fruit.

I decided to do a little shopping as I needed a baby gift for Erika and Hana and I had managed to loose a glove yesterday. You may remember that I had lost one Isotoner glove in NZ three years ago and had brought the remaining glove and it’s new mate with me on this trip. (I had not intended to take the mismatched set, but that is what I found that I had the first time I used my glove this year!!) Luckily, the one that I lost yesterday was the mate of the one that I lost in NZ three years ago, so I should still have a good glove back in Denver waiting for my return.

I was looking for a cute outfit for Hana, but all I could find was pink or blue and having not seen her closet, I wasn’t sure what would fit her. I opted for a classic for her library, Peter Pan, the 100-year anniversary edition. Fish and chips for dinner.

As I returned to the cottage, in the cozy sitting room was the fireplace with a fire lit. It was wonderful and just what I expected to see. THIS IS THE ENGLAND THAT I REMEMBER! Mark is an avid reader and we exchanged names of favorite authors. With a keen knowledge and interest in history, Mark lead me to another author, Malleson, similar to Bernard Cornwell and his Sharpe series. OH BOY! Another author to look for!


Thursday, December 28 – Trip to Avebury

Lovely breakfast from Sue, who is delightful and fun to talk with. Sue has a secret ambition to have a hat museum and laments that the current milliners lack the imagination and boldness found earlier in this century. I told her that I would be happy to be her international delivery service if she would just tell me what she was looking for and supply me with the necessary budget and traveling expenses.

On my way to the bus station that was just around the corner, I had several errands – laundry and internetting.

The laundry cleaning service was not available until after 1/1 and I did not want to spend the time in self-service, so I took the clothes back home. Not urgent, but I would like to get them done before I leave England.

The internet was also closed until after 1/1, so I went to the Tourist Bureau to see if they had any other suggestions for internet in Salisbury. They allowed me to use their free computer in the lobby, so I was able to alert Erika of my scheduled arrival time tomorrow.

Bus to Avebury – I had misread the schedule and while I thought it would only take 1 hour, it was closer to 2 hours – I made friends with a pair of backpackers who helped me to locate the place to get off the bus.

Avebury is a small town in Wiltshire that is relatively close to Stonehenge. The town also has stone circles, but not in a close configuration as Stonehenge. Avebury is in fact two large stone circles that enclose two smaller circles and the entire area is surrounded by a bank and ditch. Many of the stone are gone, but markers indicated where they were and much of the current village is built within the circles. The main benefit over Stonehenge is that you can actually get up next to the stones and touch them. The main draw back is that you because you can get close to the stones, people are all over the place doing things such as flying model airplanes, children shrieking, running and whinging and getting between you and the stone you are photographing and generally cluttering up the landscape. Not quite the quiet, spiritual visit I had hoped for, but there were several places were you could feel the wonder and power of this amazing site. I tried to circumnavigate the site on the high bern, but one quarter of it was closed for erosion control. I still made it to all four quadrants and by the end, found that I liked the South East section the best.


From the recent wet weather, there was lots of mud and walking on the bern was tricky in places. Thank heavens I still had my boots, as my suede shoes would have been sodden by the end of the day.

There were two museum galleries that had admissions that I opted not to see but I did pop into the gift shop. In the gift shop, I bought books about the site and discounted Xmas cards for next year. Next I went to the little cafe for lunch. I opted to a cheese sandwich with pickled onion relish, tea and a cookie. Next to me was a woman, who at first was just eating her lunch, but she struck up a conversation with me and she turned out to be an angel named Kathryn. A true kindred spirit, we moved quickly from 1st to 5-7th chakra conversation. My gift from her was that she reminded me that I was unique with a wonderfully powerful brain and equally giving heart. It is up to me to determine the best balance between head and heart. We parted earlier than necessary as I had misread the return bus schedule and thinking I had only 10 minutes until the next bus, I found that I had 1.5 hours to wait. It was the last bus and I knew that I did not want to miss it, so I did a little more looking and then spent the rest of the time at the bus stop, next to an antique store.

By the time I got home to the cottage, there was another lovely fire and Sue, Mark and I, watched Fiddler On the Roof and I wrapped the gift for Hana. It was a wonderful evening.

Friday, December 29

No dramas meeting the train and this time, the train had a buffet car with free tea. The weather was unfortunately rainy for most of the way, but I did get to see the twisted spire on the cathedral in Chesterfield just before we arrived in Sheffield at 12:51. I spotted Erika immediately. It was lovely to see her and to hear all about her year since I saw her in Thailand in February. Most of her year was consumed with the birth of little Hana, 6 weeks early in June. She will return to work part time in February.

We went to her house and I got to meet Charlie, her husband, and little Hana, cute as a button and 6 months old. She truly is the most beautiful baby in Sheffield and very happy and gurgly. This was my first visit to Sheffield and due to the clouds, I was not able to see the hills that surround the city. Known for the steel that it still produces, Sheffield is a city that climbs up the hills that surround it. I hoped the weather would clear so that I had a chance to see it before I went back to London.

Another first for this trip, I went to a proper country pub, The Grouse, for cider and a late lunch. Yaaaaah! I had not felt comfortable going into pubs by myself and it was lovely to go with company.


We went back home with very windy conditions and curled up in front of a lovely smokeless coal fire with modified coal for a quiet evening of tuna steaks, cous cous, salad and photos from my trip. Avid travelers, Erika and Charlie have been all over including Nepal where Charlie did Everest. I think my photos got them thinking about their next adventure. While Hana may not be able to go on the extreme adventures, I feel sure that they will get her passport moving so that they can begin traveling soon.

Saturday, December 30

Another VERY COMFORTABLE BED that I wanted to take with me but it was up early for breakfast with Hana. The weather was improving and I knew I would have a clearer view of the city before I left. From our stop for coffee near the Sheffield Council Buildings at another Café Nero (GREAT COFFEE), I know that I will put Sheffield back on my list for a longer stay the next time I am in England.

Another nice train to London and let me tell you, the first class train was some of the best money I spent on this trip. The seats in regular class are fine, but the ones in first are larger, better legroom and less people per carriage. I love train travel in Europe!

I braved the tube with the twins and did not find it too difficult. This has helped me decide how to get to my Heathrow hotel tomorrow night. Much cheaper than the taxi, I take the tube to Heathrow, catch a hotel shuttle bus to the hotel and arrive at my hotel well before the parties begin.

The Comfort Inn was very close to the Earls’ Court Tube station and just around the corner where I had stayed before. It is in a refurbished older building and the heating was on high. Luckily I still have my summer pjs with me, so it should not be too bad.

I had made an appointment to meet Kirsty, whom I had met in New Zealand, for tea at 4pm near Trafalgar Square. Before I met her, I procured the last ticket for the performance of Mary Poppins that evening. This time, I would be in the stalls in row Z (zed) seat 1. YAAH!

While it had been nice in Sheffield, London was having rain and lots of wind, so I bought an umbrella and went off to wait for Kirsty at the National Gallery facing Trafalgar Square. It was bombing rain during my wait and crowds of us were huddled on the elevated porch at the entrances to the museum. I had misread her email and Kirsty was waiting at the National Portrait Gallery, at the adjacent building. 30 minutes after our appointed time, I found an internet café and saw my mistake and rushed back to the correct location but missed her. I felt like a fool! Went back to the internet café and wrote her an apology email and went off to find dinner.

Mary Poppins at the Prince Edwards Theatre was wonderful! One of the refurbished theatres, it still had the charm of an older theatre with modern touches. I was right next to the wall and had a slightly obstructed view due to the overhang, but I had been told that all I would miss would be some of the stuff high on the set. The play was essentially the Disney Movie with a few new songs and a much bigger part for Mrs. Banks. Bert was a very large part as well and he was an American Actor through Actor’s Equity. Mary was lovely and efficient with a Julie Andrewsesque voice and look, but the song that I looked forward to was Feed the Birds. Just as lovely as in the movie, it had me in tears both times. Wonderful! The dancing cartoon penguins were replaced with dancing live statues from the park. There were three scenes not in the movie including Mr. Banks old Nanny who was very scary, a lead in scene to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious with a funny store where you buy letters and created words and a scary song where the Jane and Michael were threatened adult size nursery toys. I must consult the original story to see what else I missed. It was a wonderful evening and I was so pleased I had chosen to see the show.


Sunday, December 31 – My last full day abroad!

My room was very hot all evening, so that meant no covers and summer pjs. There was only 1 battery in my remote, but a quick review of the offerings showed me I would rather read any way.

After a quick breakfast and internetting, I packed and left my luggage to try and see a little more of London before I left.

I took the tube to Covent Garden to see the theatre museum. It was free, there were some video clips of current actors that I recognized, but most of the exhibits were about older theatres that did not interest me so I left after about 45 minutes.

The other museum that I really wanted to see was the new Winston Churchill Museum that opened late in 2005. It was FABULOUS! It was housed in the bunker rooms where Churchill had spent most of his time during the war conducting meetings and following the progress of the war. Very informative and interactive exhibits so if you are at all interested in the history of WWII and Churchill, an absolute must see in my book.

I asked a very nice man on the street to take a picture of Quen and I with Big Ben in the background and he advised that I not hand my camera over to too many people in London. I knew that I had picked the right person!


My last stop on the way back to pick up my luggage was to Harrods to try and find marzipan for Tony’s Christmas gift. Harrods was an absolute mob scene because most of the London stores are offering major sales to try and boost the end of the year earnings. I got excellent directions to the food area, which was mobbed. As I made my way around the room that had four entrances, I located the marzipan. Although they had both fruit and vegetable shapes, I opted for the fruits. Watermelon, cherries, fig, orange, apple, peach and the most marvelous pear with a slight imperfection in the skin were some of the treats that I bought. The entire transaction took 30 minutes from entrance to exit, and I was happy to leave the crowds behind and get back on the tube.

The twins and I made it to the tube station and took luckily there was a lift down to our platform on the Piccadilly line. I had already scoped out my route so that I knew that I would have no stairs to lug my bags over.

From my reservation for the Premier Travel Inn at Heathrow, they advise taking the Hoppa Bus from the airport to the inn. I went to the tourist information office to check on my Oyster card, as I thought I owed some money on it. I still have 3 pounds and as they are good for life, I kept it and will use it the next time I am in London. I bought a round trip ticket on the Hoppa bus and was at my hotel and checked in by 6pm. I treated myself to a lovely dinner of olives, wine, soup and salad and then had a HUGE FANTASTIC COFFEE at Costa Coffee in the lobby where I finished reading The Historian.

I went back to my room to rearrange my luggage, blog and to complete the international portion of my wonderful year abroad.

Thoughts as I close the international part of my year on Dec 31

No firm plans once I get back to Denver at this point other than to go back to Thailand in February.

While I would like to know exactly where I am headed with work so that I can neatly tie up this trip, I am not there at this point. I just don’t feel that my trip is really ended until I am back home in Denver.

I am planning to respond to an advertisement that I saw in The Lady for a diarist to accompany a woman sailor who is planning to circumnavigate the globe in her wooden yacht.

My mind is still active with many possibilities and I know that I need some down time to just be quiet and think of my Hearts Desires, goals and objectives, and what parts of me do I want to accentuate in my next phase of my life.

I have list of people I want to see when I return including Dr. Kramer (health check for EW), Toni Guinn, Dr. Cortini and beauty people such as Sasha, Natela, Sarah and Bev as I feel rather hairy and out of shape. Parts of my body are speaking to me like my left hip, the little and ring finger on my left hand, and my neck

My plans are to eat more simply and organically, and do daily walking and exercises.

There are lots of things that need to happen to get the house back in order, but I don’t want to unpack too much to give me flexibility and mobility.

My three cat children are very much on my mind and I need to plan appropriately for them as well as myself as I go forward.

The dreams that I have had this year including the wedding with Hal madly wrapping gifts and the moths eating all my business clothes signal me that I am still searching for a male partner and non-conventional employment.


Might there be a roommate in my bottom apartment?

Will I sail for the year?

What about season employment in different locations in either the US or International?

Only time will tell.

Posted by ladyjanes 00:55 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 32C-1 - Romania - Orphans - third week

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Entry # 32 C – Third Week in Romania

Saturday, December 16

Slept in until 10:30 and left the room at noon.
Walked to Banca with Bernice at 2 and we were accompanied by strange, short man who kept clutching Bernice’s arm and talking a mile a minute. My vibes told me that I was feeling uncomfortable, so we turned back and took our walk in a different direction
Back by 3pm for a white hot chocolate and more PD James.
Bernice knocked at 5:30 and said that Helen and her husband had arrived and invited us to dinner at their apartment. I had hoped for a quiet day, but went and had a good time. Helen’s sister, Tantsa, is a hoot and recited all of her English words for us. Her best response was after being complimented on her marvelous cooking, she would get the cutest look on her face and said “Nothing” meaning it was nothing.

Home by 8:30 and the finale of PD James. Lauren’s room was occupied and they had found the music station on the TV and had it turned on high. Luckily, they turned it off at 10:45 just as I as getting ready to go to sleep. THANK YOU ANGELS!

A lovely day, not thinking too much about the kids and spending a lot of time by myself.

Sunday, December 17

Slept until 10:30. Thought about putting henna on my hair, and then decided that the drain system might not be up to it. Henna may happen in London.

I was internetting in the morning and it is amazing how within 24 hours, I can end up with 58 spams. Luckily I am on apple and not Microsoft as it would most likely be worse.

Gabriella arrived in a cab around 12:15 and we went immediately back to Barlad and her apartment for a wonderful lunch.

All of the apartment buildings are high rise (4-6 stories), grey concrete with minimal ornamentation or distinguishing marks. Some have little porches and occasionally there are bow windows, but not often. Someone from Romania told us that Ceuachesque?? had only one design he liked and during his 25 years, all the construction took on that look.


I have been in two different private apartments during my stay and their exterior look and inner staircases and floor hallways were the same. Most people begin to decorate their apartments by adding a marvelously carved wooden outer door. Upon entering, you are in the hall with a short walk to your left to the very small kitchen. Behind you and to the left is the living room with one window. Gabriella’s had a marvelous plaster ceiling plate around the central light and it really made the room look nice. Back in to the hallway, the bathroom was immediately ahead of you and to the left next to the bathroom, the entrance to the bedrooms. Small and cozy, the apartments are usually purchased by their owners and tend to be within walking distance to work.

Gabriella’s two children were at the apartment and had lunch with us. Her daughter, Reluca, is a second year college student in Iasu studying psychology. It is a three-year program for bachelors, but you cannot practice after that, you must go on for a 2 years masters program. She thinks she will specialize in corporate psychology, I believe that means that she will work within HR and possibly be the EAP person for the company. Gabriella’s son, Sergiau, is in 11th grade and wants to be a pediatrician. Both spoke wonderful English, as does Gabriella.

They showed us pictures of international trips to London and Denmark. They are very well traveled, as Gabriella always took one or both of them on international trips.

Gabriella had dinner with us last Thursday and everything that was unavailable on the restaurants’ menu was on her table. She made not only the stuffed cabbage rolls, but also the stuffed grape leaves. We had marvelous beet salad with fresh horseradish and fabulous sour cream. That would have been enough for me, but she also made chicken schnitzel followed by a fabulous cream cake for dessert. In addition to all this, there was white and red wine and crusty bread. Both Bernice and I were stuffed when we left at 3:15.

We stopped by the ATM as we both needed an influx of cash. Neither of Bernice’s cards worked, so we planned to go to the bank during office hours tomorrow and exchange some money. Luckily, mine worked for me and I was ready to loan Bernice cash if it became necessary. It sounded like her problems might have been a combination of the ATM being out of funds on Sunday, her magnetic strip or also that her bank is very cautious about her cards as her purse had been stolen recently.

We had called Helen, Bernice’s friend from last night, and had made an appointment to visit one of her husband’s friends who carves wood. We went in Alexandru’s new Opal again, this time without crippling fog, and went into a small village with dirt roads close to Barlad. The man Ion, had played rugby with Helen’s brother and is a self-taught craftsman. He likes to find natural wood in the forest and then carve what he sees from it.

We entered his gallery that he had built himself with a beautiful tiled floor. Every piece in the room he had made by Ion down to the rolling wooden bar cart, central glass topped table with 4 different and unique stools, shelving for his items and even the two bulb light fixture above our heads. So many of the pieces maintained the natural flow of the wood with a little bit of carving to bring out the image that he saw. My eyes went to a small piece on the center table that looked like a lizard. He told us that this was his first piece that he did when he was 17. None of his items were for sale as this is his private gallery. There was one piece that was in a special handmade glass case that was entitled the Holocaust. It was a twisted pile of bodies all made out of one piece of wood. He had been recognized by the local arts council with a certificate. He had been asked to display his art both locally in Barlad and also in Bucharest but he refused. He said that people who wanted to see his art could come to him as many of his items were delicate and he did not want his pieces damaged.

He is a wonderful craftsman and we both signed his visitor journal and had Helen translate our messages to him.


Our final visit at his place was to the small upstairs bedroom and balcony made entirely of wood that his 7 kids use when they come home to party with their friends.

It was dark by the time we left the workshop and we made our way to Helen’s for hot wine made by her sister, Tantsa. It was good, but half way through my cup, my head was beginning to pound. Not sure if it was the quality of the wine or the added sugar, but not a good combination. Alexandru very generously offered to drive us home. He is feeling much more confident with his new car.

After a quick dinner, we both retired early.

Monday, December 18

After a wonderful restful weekend, I think both Bernice and I were looking forward to being back at Tutova. I know that Bernice goes to sleep dreaming about the twins, Denisa and Larisa, and is always wondering how they are doing. The staff was disappointed when Bernice said she would not be back until Monday, because weekends are very busy for them and the children do not get much time out of the cribs. As much as she missed them, I think Bernice was glad she took a little break.

Mihalla, the country manager from GV, should be back in the country today after two weeks in Minnesota for Team Leader training. We expect to hear from her soon.

Nastashi was early, of course, and we were out of the building by 8:30 as we needed to make two stops, Penny Market (after all we hadn’t been there in 2 days!!) for diapers #4 and #5, and then to the bank as we had some difficulties with the ATM’s over the weekend.

Penny Market accomplished, Bernice exited the car at the bank. She arrived back at the car with both she and Natashi giggling. Bernice had just entered by, mistake, the car behind us without looking at the driver. Nastashi had watched the situation in his rear view mirror. Imagine the look on her face when she turned to the driver and it was not Nastashi!

We arrived at Tutova and the dogs were nowhere to be seen. Bernice had to go back out after we had unloaded all the diapers into the clinic to find Donna, the mother dog. Mission accomplished.

We knew our work would be increased today with only two of us and three different sets of kids to keep track of. Bernice went off to visit the room with the 4 littlest and found a red bottom on her Larisa. Larisa is so sensitive that with even a short time in a wet or soiled diaper, her bottom is red. We found several others today, though not truly terrible, and determined that some of the kids have been put into diapers that may be a bit too small for them. We will try to make sure that all the sizes are always available.

The toddlers had the largest room this am again, so I loaded the mobiles into the hallway walkers and let them fly around, as Bernice and I moved the non-mobiles into the playroom. I am afraid that I did not do as complete a set of calisthenics with the non-mobiles as Lauren accomplished the previous week. I found that by the time we got everyone up, changed diapers, kissed, and put them in the room with some type of amusement in front of them, and then got the rest of the group settled, it was time to feed yoghurt. After yoghurt it was time to change diapers and put everyone down for the midday nap. The room with the smallest four was relatively quiet today, which meant Bernice was able to assist me with the mobiles and non-mobiles. I felt sorry for the smallest as they normally get a lot more personal time with Bernice. Hopefully tomorrow that will be easier and she can spend much more time with her 4 babies.

As I was moving around with the groups, Bernice told me that Sylvia had managed to pick her nose all by herself. Well done Sylvia! She does not walk yet, but has accomplished nose picking. We will work on the walking later today.

After our traditional lunchtime walk, with lovely sunny skies and mild weather, we were back for round two. Bernice and I did a little walking with Sylvia. She is 18 months, a little chunky and a rather placid baby. She seems to really not trust herself to walk. I have been working with her to stand between my legs, supported by my knees until she is distracted and then I can take my legs away and she rests lightly on the chair behind her. Luckily, earlier today, she was very interested in a book with a pink elephant that makes a noise when it is pushed. Maybe this can be used as an inducement to encourage her to move.

Sylvia is a very content little girl and is happy to sit or scoot around on her bottom. She is not overly stressed when Marian comes over and steals her toy. When she is offered a toy, she reaches for it slowly and tentatively. She is amused with mirrors for long periods of time and hesitantly fingers new things. It may be a challenge to get her enthusiastic enough about anything to make a real effort to walk. She needs to start soon as she is large and heavy. As with so many of the children, what she needs most is someone to have consistent time with her to build her confidence, to gain her trust and to encourage her repeatedly to walk.

While we were in the non-mobile room, the staff came and took Beatrice away. Her mom, dad and a set of grandparents had come to visit. It is lovely to see that at least some of the children do have visitors. Our fondest wish it to see one of our babies go out the door and back home while we are here. We will keep our fingers crossed.

We ended the day a little late as I found that it took us longer then 30 minutes to get everyone changed and back into his or her room. On the way back to Banca we stopped at the pharmacy, as we ended the day totally out of #3 diapers.

It was good to be back to Tutova. I know that this last week with absolutely fly by and that soon we will both be home wondering about our special young friends at the clinic.

Thought for the Day – “If not now, when?” Talmud

Tuesday, December 19

Not a great nights sleep for either of us last night so we both started the day a little tired. We had a stop at the bank for Bernice to change some of her larger bills into smaller currency and I was after more #3 diapers. We almost had another repeat of entering the wrong car. As I approached the car, there was a woman in the passenger seat that was not Bernice. I did a double take and it was Nastashi’s wife that we had met the previous week at dinner. Another giggle for all of us.

Meals this week have been becoming a bit sparse as compared to the previous weeks. We have not seen Oneta this week to see if we can straighten it out. Lunch today consisted to two foil wrapped sandwiches. While we had asked for a reduction in quantity and especially the size of the dessert, we weren’t expecting such an abrupt change.

It was a rainy day, the first for us, and there are hints that it might snow. I am not even thinking about it! No dogs as we arrived and just as well as there were no delicious scraps for them from breakfast.

I spent some time with the mobiles this morning as they had gotten the short end of the stick yesterday with personal time. I had them in the toddler’s room and we danced and hummed along to the cd. No meltdowns, not even at snack time, which was mashed potatoes today.

Bernice juggled the twins and took a small number into the non-mobile room today. We are missing Lauren and the kids keep looking for her. Samuel has hardly smiled at all since her departure. Just as we were getting ready to go to lunch, I saw the nurse go into one of the toddler’s sleeping rooms with a shot. From the loud cries that came out, I found the little girl who had been on the receiving end. I patted and rubbed her back until she settled and managed to go to sleep

Lunch was small and short today, which allowed us more time to get the non-mobiles into their room for the afternoon session. By the time the 2pm bottles were passed out, I had 7 kids in the room. Little Crina was howling so Bernice took her back to her room. I kept rotating who I was helping to eat by supporting the bottles. I was sure glad when Bernice came back into the room. We continued with baby exercises and alternating tummy, left side and right side time for the twin boys. I changed tons of diapers and most of the kids were prolific today with a completely full diaper every 45 minutes. What have they been feeding them lately?

The kids were diapered and ready for bed a little early and we caught Nastashi mopping out the van as we arrived. Within a few minutes, we climbed in and put our newly muddy shoes all over his nice, clean, wet floor. We were meeting a driver at Myosotis (the family planning clinic where Gabriella works) to be taken to a local wood carvers workshop. As it turns out, Gabriella was there to introduce us to Micci, a nice young man who is the youth volunteer coordinator for the foundation that runs Myosotis.

While we chatted she helped us to understand why we were having difficulty mailing a package that had been left by a previous team member. All packages are only accepted between limited hours on Tuesday and Thursday. This is because the customs man has to be present to inspect all the contents before it is accepted for posting. After it has been inspected, then the package can be sealed. Our package was sealed and addressed and on top of that, we didn’t have a detailed list of the contents. Bernice will contact the person who asked for it to be mailed and will ask them what they want done with the package.

Micci drove us down the backstreets of Barlad and into a heavily rutted street not far from the center of town. The craftsman, named Grigetzou?, has been sponsored in setting up his business by Carol, the British woman who founded Myosotis. He makes lovely hand carved wooden spoons and statues. Some of the designs are based on the Welsh spoons given at weddings, but he has also expanded the line to include Romanian designs. His business is young and we were pleased to see him in his workshop with his brother who is his apprentice. We made some purchases as we heard about the plans for expansion into a shop, a web based advertising and the satellite shop in Wales.

Micci was kind enough to run us home to the Giani. He told us along the way that he had been away in Europe when all the traffic lights were installed in Barlad. There is one intersection that is very confusing. It is a main street that connects to the highway with a T intersection. There has been no signal until this week and everyone just sort of ambles through it, but there have been no wrecks or honks that I have heard.

Dinner was welcome as we were cold and hungry. Internetting and early to bed tonight for both of us. Only three days left with our special babies.

Thought for the Day - I am the only unique me that will ever be. I have the power to make a difference in this world. I look forward to taking on the grand adventure of life, living and always remembering to be myself. I love being me. Catrinka

(I have just found out that I don’t have a reservation between Philly to Denver! I am not happy with my travel agent. To be fair, I have a vague memory that he mentioned this would be an issue. I just wish he had not let me forget this until 3 weeks before I am going home. The upside is that I have found a direct flight instead of a connection in Chicago.)

Wednesday, December 20

I got lost in my book again last night until late and when I turned off the light, I was so wound up I couldn’t sleep. It may be another long sleepy day for me today.

Bernice and I made a direct trip from the hotel to Tutova, one of the few for this trip. The day showed promise with damp streets but no sign of snow, rain and the sun even came out.

A repeat of yesterday, I got the mobiles set in the toddler room and we had the addition of Florin who commandeered all the best toys. At least there was no fighting. Bernice was back with the twins and poor little Paula has a very red butt. Lots more full diapers this am.

We had a complete lunch today including lovely little tarts for dessert and Bernice and I managed our usual lunchtime walk.

We got back in time to help with the 2pm bottles. I had 4 in the room and luckily one of them could hold the bottle by herself (Alexandra) and one would need more assistance but she wasn’t fussy (Ramona). This left me with a bottle in my left hand for Daniela (formerly known as Sandru which is her last name) and a bottle in my right hand for Beatrice. It was a lovely quiet room with everyone drinking and the little baby music machine droning along. Both Bernice and I hear the music and our eyelids droop. Too bad it doesn’t have the same soothing affect on the babies!

I had a chance to give Ramona her bottle. You may remember that she is the little girl that needs to kidney transplant and is delayed and slight. She is difficult to feed and does not take any cereal at this point. I held her close and put her right arm under my left arm. With gentle persistence, and a quiet room that was wonderful, she finally settled and took the entire bottle. I felt so blessed.

We had a lovely surprise during the afternoon when we were both in the non-mobile room when the nurse and Lily came and collected Daniel and Vasili because their mother had come for a visit. Bernice went out with her camera and I followed a little later. The mother is very young and has three other kids at home. Vasili is the spitting image of his mom with their lovely light colored eyes. The babies were so happy to see her and it is obvious that she comes to see them and that they know her. Our second mom sighting this week.

Also during the afternoon, I saw a policeman in the hall. Lily said that it was the one that brought Crina and Paula last week and he had returned hoping to speak to Lauren. Unfortunately, she had left on Friday.

Bernice had lots of crying from her room of 4 today and we tried to sooth them in the vibrating baby holder with the musical mobile. Not a roaring success today.

Today I had a chance to watch the staff work directly with Andrei, the oldest and most challenged on the children. He is often left alone in a room with the 5 bunks and not much else. He is pretty good at amusing himself such as climbing into the sink and up on the radiator to the windowsill. Not the safest occupation, but he seems to know his limits at least in these instances. Several times a staff member would intervene to keep him out of harms way. At one point, Lily went in with an assortment of toys to keep him occupied and he instantly began playing when given the toys. Late in the afternoon as I was finishing diapering the non-mobiles, I looked in to find all the cribs pulled away from the wall. As I looked closer, at times I could see the artist at work. Andrei was moving behind the cribs along the wall placing one here and another there. He does manage to amuse himself.


We left and had to make a stop in Barlad. SURPRISE!! I went to the travel agency to see about arrangements to get back to Bucharest on Friday for an early Saturday am flight. I will find out tonight if I need the arrangements and then will go back to the travel agent on Thursday night to lock in the details and pay. If a car in not available, I will have to take the earlier train on Friday.

We confirmed that Gabriella would join us tomorrow for dinner at the hotel. It will be nice way to say goodbye and thank you for all their assistance and hospitality during our stay in Barlad.

Thought for the Day - We need more light about each other, light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience and patience creates unity.

Posted by ladyjanes 00:54 Archived in Romania Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 32B - Romania - Orphans - second week

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Entry # 32 B – Second Week in Romania

Saturday, December 9 – Transylvania – Sunny, just as I had hoped!

Out of the hotel by 9:30 to begin our walk to the Black Church. Currently an active Lutheran Congregation, this church survived a huge fire in the 1600’s that pretty much decimated the city of Brasov and turned all the statutes on the outside black. They are currently housed inside. This site is also known for having over 120 Ottoman carpets that are hung from the balcony and in front of the banks of pews. Very Lutheran, the pews have wooden back supports that completely separate people sitting next to each other.

Post cards bought, we ambled down the pedestrian walkway and did a little more shopping. We had purchased some of the wonder cream, Gerovital, from the pharmacy last night and arose refreshed and much younger looking (at least to ourselves). Having tested the wonderful stuff, we bought more as gifts.

I also happened across an accordion band on the sidewalk and bought a CD as my Romanian music sample. I found a small coin purse and a Romanian flag, so all I have left is to find the Romanian photo album. Lauren found several antique stores so we both had several bags, or rather Marius, gentleman that he was, had several bags to carry.

We went into the Star Market – the largest department store in Romania, where Lauren bought a wonderful brown hat and I found a towel for my last henna treatment on the road. Outside the store was a large fruit market where we bought a pomelo, pomegranate and this large (apple could be pear, might be something else) yellow fruit that we will eat next week. (The yellow fruit turned out to be an apple/pear that was not completely ripe and therefore, not very sweet).

Lauren and I wanted some more soup so we ended up at the same restaurant as last night for meatball soup and beet salad with freshly grated horseradish. Yummy! On the plaza outside the restaurant, we found several kiosks where I bought a pretzel and Lauren found large, freshly made and decorated gingerbreads.

Then it was time for us to get in the car for our short trip to Bran Castle (commonly called Dracula’s Castle). In reality, he never lived in this castle.

Bran Castle was the summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania in the early 1900’s and straddles a mountain pass. It was key for guarding the pass and being perched up on the mountain, it had excellent views on both sides. It was quite a climb up the hill to reach the front door. The Castle was filled with small rooms, each with open fireplaces or stoves. The many winding staircases and inner balcony and walkways made it very interesting to see. It had been restored to the time when Queen Marie was in residence.

We stopped for a brief coffee before we got back in the car that was wonderfully hot, but very strong for me. Not sure why I am so surprised that it was already very dark by 4:45, therefore, we didn’t get to see much of the countryside.

The Alexandros Hotel had good reviews in the LP book and was MUCH NICER than our hotel from last night. Very clean and modern, we looked forward to our evening.

We went to find the internet, as we have not had it available lately at the hotel. We found an internet café and by the time we exited, my stomach was not feeling well, so I decided to make it an early night. Marius and Lauren gallantly walked me back to the hotel (which was not necessary, but they insisted) and they went off to dinner. I spent a quiet evening reading and listening to my Ipod. Upon later review, Lauren and I decided that our stomach fuzziness might have been due to the amount of cabbage or root veggies that we had eaten in the last two days. I think mine was also off due to the coffee I had late in the day. I have been drinking nothing but decaf tea since South Africa.

Our room was very hot, but thanks to quick thinking Lauren, she opened the door to our balcony and we both had a good nights sleep after that.

Sunday, December 10 – Transylvania – More sun, thank heavens!

7:30 alarm
First stop – Peles Castle (Pronounced pell esh) The former residence of the monarch of Romania – Carol I – in the 1900’s, the first castle with central heating and electricity. Very nice, magnificent staircases and the inlaid wood paneling absolutely AMAZING. Lauren felt it had too much wood, but there cannot be enough real wood for me in a castle. With a staff of 100, it might be doable. When you come to Romania, Peles Castle s a must see in my book.

After the castle we had coffee or hot chocolate on the patio of another complex of buildings in full view of the castle. There were several 3 star hotels on the same grounds and it would have been nice to stay there.

On the outside of the gates, we went through another gauntlet of kiosks. At the completion of this shopping trip, Lauren asked that I get ready for a chotchkie intervention with her to prevent further shopping forees.

The last official part of the tour was to take a cable car up the mountain in Siniea. It only got us halfway up the mountain and to the bottom of a chair lift for a ski area. NOT A SPECK OF SNOW at this point. We did have greats view of Peles Castle on the way up and down. I could have missed this part and not felt slighted.

We began our 5-hour trek back to Banca at 2:45. As none of us were very hungry, we had decided to possibly stop for coffee once and maybe some soup. I Ipoded again and rested and when I opened my eyes, found that we were surrounded by very dense fog. At some points, Marius was driving very slowly and keeping close to the side of the road. I was pleased that he was driving.

We made it home by 7pm just in time for dinner with Bernice. It was lovely to be home and back in my own room.

On the whole, the tour was fun, but we both felt that we paid more than we received. It was a new experience to have to pay for the room for the driver/guide and also cover his meals and admissions to the sights. I will ask more questions before booking a tour the next time.

Bernice told us that she had gone to the clinic both days from 9-4. The babies spent most of their time in the cribs, as the staff was busy doing the once-a-week deep clean. Sunday had only a skeleton crew so the babies were pretty isolated all day. Bernice finally took the loudest criers out for an airing and a portion of the toddlers got out for a short video session. Not as we would prefer, but it is what probably happens frequently when the volunteers are not around. None of us feel that the staff neglects them, but it is a fact of their limited staff, space and resources.

Monday, December 11

Up at 7:45 to leave at 8:30. Tired, as I knew I would be, but we were still looking forward to the little faces and I planned to spend as much time as possible with the mobiles.

The toddlers had been put in the room that traditionally is used for the mobiles so I joined my troop of mobiles with Lauren and her non-mobiles. The morning went pretty well without too many crying fits.

By lunch we all were feeling our weekend especially Bernice with her 7 day straight of time at the clinic. Lunch turned out to be cold soup, huge sandwiches and pomelo that Lauren had bought at the market in Brasov. The pomelo was amazingly sweet and in good shape. Lovely to find that, as most pomelos I have had outside of Thailand have been small, tasteless and rather dry.

I took the mobiles for the afternoon into their regular room. There was one toddler (one of the numerous Andreea’s) that had not been taken into the toddler room, so I took pity on her and brought her in with us. She was definitely a toddler who had spent a lot of time with boys, so she was pretty aggressive and threw things. Everything was fine until she chose Marian’s head to repeatedly pound her toy. I scolded her loudly by saying NU (no in Romanian) and put her back in her crib for time out. Poor Marian had huge tears by the time I got back to him.

When I went to check in with Lauren at 3:40, she looked exhausted and rather pleased to get ready to leave for the day. We changed diapers and most of the pampers and supplies that we had brought last week had been used up over the weekend. We would make another trip to the Penny Market tonight for more diapers. I also intended to buy an electric kettle for the staff/volunteers. While they have a wonderful kitchen, the kettle will help people, both staff and volunteers, get hot cups of coffee.

In addition to going shopping, we stopped by to see Gabriella, a nurse in the city who has facilitated volunteers who want to send money to Romania to sponsor one of the kids. Lauren was interested in helping the 6-month-old twins, Vasili and Daniel, at some level, but also wanted to know that the money will go to whom and for what it was intended. More information was needed from the Dr. at the hospital, because children when are at the clinic, it usually means that they cannot be placed with either their family or extended family for some reason.

Lauren was a godsend with her Italian because it meant that we could ask questions of the staff. Lauren had found out that the staff could use a dish washer (possible her friend Robert from England can help on this one). Other Romanians have said that to really help a child or young person in Romania, sponsorship of their education can make a huge difference in their lives. Previous volunteers have sponsored schooling and in one instance, paid for eye operations for a pair of sisters with crossed-eyes.

We got home exhausted and went to dinner early. Thank heavens we did because by our traditional eating time was, every table was full.

Tuesday, December 12

Still feeling the result of our weekend, rising and shining was difficult again this am. Lauren ended up leaving her prescription glasses on the breakfast table and I found that I had left my water at home.

The toddlers were still in the mobiles room, so I took my kids into the toddlers’ room briefly in the am. I didn’t feel that we could invade Lauren’s non-mobiles again. During the am, several men arrived with cement and tools to clean up around the windowsills and doorframes from the newly placed windows and doors. The windows and doors are all metal construction with very good insulation. I imagine they have made a huge difference to the warmth of the rooms and keeping the weather out. Soon the toddlers came back into their regular room, so I put my mobiles in the rolling seats and they drove up and down the hallway.

Lauren had a chance to speak to Ramona, a former country leader and interpreter for Bernice when she led a team in Iasu (pronounced Yah sh) 5 years ago. Ramona is a lawyer who is currently living in Brussels with her Romanian husband. She was home on vacation, but says that she always comes back to the clinic to see the orphans. As I had mentioned, Lauren is interested in sponsoring a child/children from the clinic. From various conversations we have had, it is obvious that sponsorship can be done, but it takes planning and the help from a local person in Romania. In the past, some volunteers have gone through a foundation, which is no longer an option. Others have gone through private people who will accept the money on behalf of the family and if necessary, will make sure that the necessary supplies are purchased and given to the family.

So much of the sponsorship depends on if the family or foster family will be able to be located once the child leaves the clinic. While the family or extended family is always preferred, some are so poor there is no way that they could take back the child. I had heard before I came that it is not uncommon for some of the gypsy families to pick up their last child from the clinic and drop off the new one. The children also come to the clinic with some medical reason, sometimes only malnutrition, but usually with multiple problems. Anemia is the other main cause for entrance to the clinic. Until the child is well enough and of a certain weight, they are not eligible for either placement back home or into a qualified foster family. The irony of the situation is that if the family takes the child back, they only receive a small amount of money from the government, where as, if a foster family take the child, they receive money for the food, clothing and other support for the child.

According to Ramona, adoption is not a common practice within the Romanian community. Fertility is not a problem and therefore, most families would rather have natural children than adopt. Usually, adoption only happens when a family who has had a child, loses the child and the woman is beyond childbearing age. The EU insists that countries take care of their own and therefore, Romania no longer allows international adoptions. Many of these programs in Romania have already been shut down, and while there are no plans to close this clinic, there is no guarantee that this program will continue either.

For the last two days, we have been lunching late to accommodate the noon bottles for Bernice’s the two-month-old twins. I helped feed one of the little ones, Denisa today and I could tell how tired I was by my level of impatience. Grandma Bernice clued me in to the technique she uses with Denisa, the smaller of the twins, that keeps her eating and not drowning in the milk.

Today when we arrived in our dining room, the soup had been placed in our bowls as had the coffee and it was totally cold. As I entered the room, I could tell we were probably having cabbage soup. The first bite told me it was fish soup. Both Lauren and I took it outside for the dogs that also turned their noses up at the offering.

During the afternoon, Lauren and Bernice had an appointment to see Dr. Delia to find out about the specific children and to learn about the sponsorship opportunities. I was on mobile duty again with the little racecars in the hallway. Even little Sylvia, our weight challenged little pumpkin, was racing up and down. I always find her standing in her crib and yet she is reluctant to walk on her own. This week, I have been putting her between my knees with her feet on the ground and quickly, I can open my knees can open because she is standing on her own. Little faker!

Two stops on the way home for more pampers for the little twins and supplies such as toilet paper, milk for the cereal for the non-mobiles and baby wipes for little bottoms.

I admit, prior to arriving at this placement, I was not looking forward to changing diapers. After 10 days, I am not finding it that bad not even the real poopy ones. I guess when you have been pooed on by so many things during the year, a dirty diaper does not appear so daunting.

Wednesday, December 13

Slept well and felt refreshed for my day. Today the new things included an intake of two new babies, one 3 months (Paula) and one 4 months (Crina). The 4 month old has a sister in the clinic, but we are not sure who it is. The 3 month old seems very small and underdeveloped and probably has some inherited genetic disorder.

Today we also had hot soup and coffee for lunch. We brought the items with us from the kitchen and because we waited to bring it with us, the temperature was better.

Lauren only has two days left at the clinic after today and was beginning to feel the pull of her life in Italy, but also a profound sadness about leaving the twins, Vasili and Daniel.

During out time together, Lauren (42), Bernice (76) and I have been having wonderful single women discussions and Lauren is teaching us flirting 101. Ladies, you will know what I mean!

Lauren is fascinating and living a life that most of us can only dream about. At 42, she is living in Tuscany and finishing the editing of her first book. A former NJ State Police officer for 15 years, her book chronicles her life as an officer, the death of her only son, and how she made the transition from the US to Italy. She is currently dating a handsome Brit who has a villa in Tuscany and she travels extensively in Europe and back and forth to the US.

Her life in Italy sounds intriguing and foreign at the same time. A great conversationalist and interested in human nature and everyone’s story, she has shared so much about her life with us. Lauren is totally integrated into the village near Lucca and spends time helping her neighbor who owns and runs the local animal shelter. Village life in Tuscany goes at a slower pace than most of the world and she finds time to share coffee with the gasman when he comes to deliver her propane, bikes into the village for her staples and up until recently, every three months had to go to the immigration office to extend her visa. She has finally been granted residency, which has allowed her to buy a car. Without residency you can buy a house, which she did, but you have to be a resident to buy a car. She still travels back to the US 2-3 times a year to catch up with family and friends. Her friends ask if she will return to the US permanently, and she indicates she will probably stay in Tuscany. She says that her standard of living is higher in Italy than it would be in the US.

She has opened my eyes to many things that I had not considered. She says living in the foreign country sort of turns you upside down, but once you become used to it, you seem to be able to take on anything. HMMMMM? Is it time for me to be upside down?

Thursday, December 14

Off to a late start today as we stopped by the Posta (post office) for post card stamps for all of us and to mail a package for Lauren. My stamps were about $1 each and the post cards are on their way. The package acceptance office would only be open between 10-12 two days a week, and since we were there at 9am, we chose not to wait.

Bernice (76) of Japanese/Hawaiian background is amazing. May we all look that good and have that much energy at 76. Bernice lives in San Francisco, one of my most favorite cities in the entire world, is a retired community college teacher and comes from a grape growing family in Lodi, California. She is very active as an international volunteer and life long learner. She has two grandsons whom she has taken on Elderhostel trips and has led GV trips in Poland, Greece, Romania, Tanzania, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana….

She loves all things baby, but especially the twins Larisa and Denisa (premature and only 2 months old), and within two weeks has brought them from fussy babies with diaper rash and irregular sleep patterns, to a pair who both take their entire bottles, clean bottoms and good sleepers. When awake, however, they scream until Bunica Bernice (Grandma Bernice) picks them up. As soon as they feel her hands, they quiet. As soon as she puts them down, they wake! What clever babies!

The immigration officials will need to check her luggage as she arrives in the US, as there may be two little stowaways among the dirty socks!

Bernice now has the other two new babies to contend with as well, who are taking precious time away from her first loves. Paula, little elf baby (the one that we think might have dwarfism or some other genetic condition) is taking a lot of time as she is so small, has not settled since the move and has difficulty breathing, eating and sleeping. Corina, the other baby, is doing better and may even be ready to go into the non-mobile room, as she is so accomplished and alert.

I admit it! I love the mobiles the best at this placement. Funny, I thought it would be the tiny babies, but I love the concentration with which they play and their attempts to walk and crawl. Sylvia, Marian, Mirella and Mihaela have my heart and most of my attention. I am not sure how I will accommodate all the other kids that I may need to share my time with next week and not spend my entire time with my 4.

Each day I try to get one of them up first and have some special time with them. With the exception of Marian, my only boy, who is highly distractible and possibly a little ADD, the girls seem to like the special attention and get frustrated when I have to put them down to assist someone else. Today, I spent time with Sylvia. She is the pudge, 18 months old, stands in her crib, scoots on her butt and can race up and down the hall in a supported rolling walker chair, but has not made the leap into free style walking yet. When you grasp her hands and try to assist her to walk, she sags to the floor in a sit. This week I have been holding her between my knees while I am seated in a chair, with her feet on the floor. After she gets settled, I can spread my knees and she is essentially free standing with some leaning back on the chair. Bernice and I have a commitment that we will work with her next week to see if we can’t get her ambulating under her own steam.

Part of her issue is that she is so passive, that there is nothing that entices her to stretch herself. When offered a toy, she reaches for it very tentatively and slowly and examines it minutely and quietly. When a toy is whisked out of her hands (usually by Marian), she doesn’t stress about it and waits for the next toy to drift into her perimeter. She like to come to me, so hopefully, if Bernice has her and I call to her and am in close and comfortable proximity, she will take that important first step. Expect a report during the final week.

Marian is also at the brink and where it is simply a matter of time before he puts it together and begins to tear around on 2 instead of 4 appendages. He will be an easier walker and we will try to get him up and moving next week.

Tonight we had our usually stop at the Penny Market for diapers that should last through the weekend. Lauren also stocked up on candy for all the aids, and special treats of cheese, sausage and bread for a little celebration with the staff tomorrow.


We also had a final dinner with Lauren at a new restaurant, ARCADIA, with Gabriella, Nastashi (our driver and his wife, Sofika) and Manuela as our guests. We have found that most likely due to the time of the year, restaurants don’t always have everything on the menu. Tonight, we had decided on our favorite beet salad with horseradish, stuffed cabbage with meat and rice and papanash donut for dessert. The beets they had, but the others they did not. We did not find out all at once that our desired dishes were not available, so the poor waiter had to keep appearing to tell us that we had to select again. His final time, he slunk up to Gabriella and admitted that he hated to tell us, but our dessert option was not available.

We had a wonderful time hearing from Gabriella about the health and childcare systems in Romania and her work at the family planning clinic and as an advocate for the children at Tutova.

It was a fun evening and a lovely celebration to see Lauren off. We got home late and the morning found us all slow to get to the breakfast table.

Friday, December 15 – Last work day for Lauren

A late start again after a short night and then a trip to the bank so that Bernice could exchange money to pay the first two weeks of transportation costs. Bernice says the budget part is the hardest thing about being a team leader. The budget is in US Dollars and the Euro (which Romania is not currently using) and we are paying in RON – The new Lei for Romania. While Romania will enter the EU on 1/1/07, they will hold on to the RON for another seven years and then make the conversion.

We arrived and I had a list of pictures that Lauren wanted taken with her favorites, the twins Vasilei and Daniel, Andrei and Ramona. I had the mobile 4 in the walkers in the hallway and Bernice had her twins. Crina was being impossible and was not willing to stay in her crib, so we brought one of the little baby chairs that vibrates for her to try. It worked like a charm and then Bernice only had potentially three fussy babies to contend with instead of 4.

It was a short morning as we were so late. We were all surprised to see Zorin and Abel, the two little boys who had eye surgery yesterday, back in their cribs today. Other than the one red eye each, neither of them looked or acted like they had been in surgery yesterday.

At lunch Lauren cut up all the goodies and she invited the staff to come and join us. She also worked with the nurse on duty to label a box of chocolates for each aid, nurse or teacher who helped at Tutova in the clinic. As you might imagine, all of the treats were very well received.
Lauren and I had our last lunch time walk and Lauren told me all about the foundation called Wade’s Heart that she will set up with the proceeds from her book sales. The foundation will fund projects/workshops or camps that will give kids that aren’t normally heard an opportunity to express themselves. The aim of the foundation will be empowerment, networking, brainstorming to increase confidence and self-acceptance in young people.

Our afternoon sped past as we got the last pictures that she requested. The mobiles again were rocketing in the hall way and I spent some time with each of them in my lap. At one point, as I went past Andrei (the 4-year old with aggressive issues) who was alone in a room, I saw that he had managed to remove the carpeting and was proceeding to lift the tiling underneath.

In the past few days, I have also been around Annamaria, the little girl with some mental problems and learning disabilities, who has the habit of sticking her hands down her throat and regurgitating her last meal or two. At times she is in a walker and you know what she has been up to by the smell. She shares a room with 5 of the non-mobiles and occasionally when you go in to get someone, the smell overpowers you. The staff members are saints! They efficiently work with these two children who might well be neglected because their behavior problems, with grace and kindness. There are kissed and cuddled and a gentle when they handle them. We look at them and try and imagine their future and the lessons they bring to us.

A day to go down in history!!! We did not stop at the Penny Market on the way home! We had massages waiting. I took the pre-dinner one, as Bernice wanted to shower ahead of time and Lauren prefers the last one so she can go right to bed.

Lauren accepted the offer of a ride from Natashi tomorrow to get directly to the airport. The only rub is that she must be up and ready to leave at 4:30 am! She probably won’t go to bed and will sleep in the car.

Bernice and I will miss her tremendously next week. All the babies and the staff love her and she is so lively and engaging, she can speak to anyone and it truly interested in them. It will be a quiet week. I will attempt to keep up her exercise program for the non-mobiles and promised to keep her updated on the progress being made. I will also be in charge of writing the daily journal for the team (of 2) for the week, as Bernice will be doing the weekend entries.

I have decided to take my full weekend away from the clinic. While I will miss my special babies, I know that I need a break, a sleep in, and time to catch up on my blog. Bernice will most likely go to the clinic on Sunday and I know that the aids asked if she was coming.

Posted by ladyjanes 00:54 Archived in Romania Tagged postcards Comments (0)

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