Friday, December 21, 2012

Tiny Treasures

This past week, I have met some very special children and the wonderful people who care for them.  Two of the children were in isolation due to chicken pox, and that limited the number of children who could come from the placement center this week.  But I thoroughly enjoyed the children I did meet.

Alina is full of energy and joy.  I no sooner entered the room the first day than she stood on the top bar of her crib, and as soon as I got close enough, jumped and wrapped her arms and legs around me like a monkey.  She is active every minute.  She loves to sing.  The impact of previous volunteers is very evident.  She comes up to me and prompts me with "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "E I E I O" in perfect English. 

 Gabriela is quieter, and will play by herself, but her face lights up when I engage her one-on-one.  With her dark, deep eyes, it seems she is looking right into my soul.  The only problem is Alina gets very jealous if anyone else gets attention.  It's amazing how she can squirm her little body in between me and whoever else I am playing with.

 I will admit being a little nervous about meeting Delia, but I loved her from the first moment I saw her.  I discovered she likes to make funny faces and noises in the mirror.  It's fun to watch her mimic me.  I love playing on the floor with her, and watching her wiggle around, kick her leg and roll over.  When she laughs, her whole body laughs.

 Little Andre, just 11 months old seems so fragile.  When he cries, I want to cry too.  I watched Dan rub his back to comfort him, which seems all we can do for him right now. 

I felt awkward with Abel.  I didn't know how to relate to him.  I watched Dan help him walk, and he seemed to enjoy that, but I am a bit nervous about taking him out of his crib myself. 
Tiberiu joined us the last two days of the week.  He liked looking at the picture postcards and the pictures on the Memory game cards I brought.  On Friday, he had my undivided attention for awhile, sitting on my lap in the rocking chair.  He seemed very content, and to my amazement, Alina didn't even interrupt.

 All these children are wonderful, but it's little Cleo who has stolen my heart.  She has the most beautiful eyes and a genuine smile that lights up her whole face.  I think it is a smile of pure contentment when something delights her.   It is for her, that I selected this week's quote.  She cannot talk with words, but I can hear the song in her heart loud and clear.

I appreciate the opportunity to teach English in the middle school this week.  As much as I liked being with the children at the hospital, it is emotionally draining.  The afternoons at school were a good balance for me. 

 An added bonus of being here over the holidays is the pleasure of being invited to Christmas shows at school.  I attended one at the high school that showcased ALL the arts -- music, dancing, singing, acting, visual arts, origami, even culinary arts.  (OK, I will admit I snuck a few pastries in my purse which I enjoyed for breakfast the next day).

The show at the elementary school was delightful. I was amazed by the confidence of these young children to perform so well in front of family and friends.  I was especially impressed by 3rd graders performing a waltz and delightfully surprised by Mihaela's daughter's solo vocal in perfect English.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's Christmas party.  Now that I know the children a bit, it will be fun to pick out a special gift for each child. 

 I'm also very glad two more volunteers are arriving mid-week.  It will be so hard to leave these children.  Even just thinking about now makes me cry.  But it will be a bit easier knowing that there will be volunteers here to continue on, at least for a while. 

- Mary

Friday, September 28, 2012

Goodbyes and Happy Memories

Last working day for the team, and how bittersweet it was…sweet that we had this opportunity to work together as a Global Volunteers team serving the children and staff at the hospital, but bitter at having to say our last “pa” to the children and staff. 

It was a great “final” morning with the children.  I kept checking my watch dreading the one o’clock hour when we would say goodbye to the children before putting them in their cribs for naps.

Ken and Nila got several cakes and some Robby Bubble from the Berlin and we had a nice final celebration with the nurses, aides, and Coca.  After hugs and goodbyes, we headed back to the hotel.  Some spent the afternoon shopping, some relaxing, and some packing for the trip home.

Dinner was at Trattoria Da Vinci with Mihaela and Delia.  Then, back to the hotel to get rested up for tomorrow’s van ride to Bucharest and departure on our separate ways.

I certainly have many wonderful memories from the past two weeks.  “Our children” at the hospital are so special, and are in my thoughts and prayers.     

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Winding Down

As we wind down the second week, the children have gotten used to us and how we have adapted to them and their schedule. We know who will eat heartily and who will not. Who needs lots of walks and who is happy to rock or cuddle.  Who needs an extra eye and who is content to play second fiddle.

We started our day with the usual breakfast and ride to the hospital. 

Then a morning visit to the referral center that cares for the children when they are not in the hospital. 

It was founded and funded by a combination of European charities and foundations. Based on a home- like atmosphere, it is divided by ages per building.  We toured the building outside the playground that is Sammy’s home.  There Sammy has a standard twin bed and a picture of him on the wall along with pictures of the others children who also live there.

The social worker told us through Dan that each building has three staff to take care of the children, including the cook.  We also toured physical therapy, speech therapy, and a sheltered workshop where participants sew and knit – in preparation of a craft fair; and water therapy  - which is in search of permanent funding for the current volunteer therapist.  Each building has its own kitchen, living room and laundry.

Then back to the hospital for a lunch of pizza and off to Berlin for respite and a little shopping.

After an afternoon of sticlas, some play outside and a couple of baths, we returned to the hotel for a short while – then a tour of Mihaela’s high school.

The high school is the 6th oldest in Romania founded with the stipulation by its patron that the students would learn the base of romance languages – Latin.

An impressive building, with a decorative façade, soaring enter staircase (reserved for faculty) and 14 foot ceilings, the school serves over 1000 students in two shifts.  The grounds also include a soccer field, a small garden, and the former home of the principal – now used as classrooms. Mihaela showed us the impressive assembly room and a typical classroom next to the faculty workroom.

After a short walk to the home of Mihaela and Dan (and a wave from Doral) we had a wonderful Romanian dinner.  Mihaela’s mother with the help of Dan, cooked a tasty dinner of baked chicken, roasted potatoes, zucchini, carrots, eggplant -  preceded by red peppers , tomatoes and a new treat for us- cheese with crushed black pepper. Mihaela’s  favorite ice cream and coffee topped off the meal for dessert.

We toured the apartment, and headed home to the hotel to begin our preparation for our last day with our little charges and thoughts of traveling soon to parts more familiar. Tomorrow will be bitter sweet as we have a shortened last day with the little ones and cakes for the staff to say good bye.

Some of us will return – some will not.  But the memories of these children will slightly permeate our thoughts from time to time, for a long and winding time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Smile Because it Happened

Our second Wednesday started out with what is becoming fairly routine by ordering number 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 off the menu with a large coffee, or tea, or hot water.  Norma and Jaime are the efficient ones on the team by placing their written orders on their plates before arriving and Ken can be counted on ordering “unt”.

Mihaela arrived and off to the hospital we went for another great morning with the children.  We spent an interesting lunch time at the gallery of Marcel Guguianu.  Mr. Guguianu was a famous sculptor from Barlad who died earlier this year.  Then off to Motel Occident for a delicious lunch of soup and cold cuts.

The weather continues to be beautiful and so the afternoon was spent with several of the children enjoying the great outdoors.  Sammy and Alina even got baths given by Jaime and Nila.  I’m not sure who enjoyed the baths more though, the children getting the baths, or the volunteers giving the baths.

Dinner was at the hotel with the Viennese chicken, tomatoes, and ice cream, followed by conversation.

It is with sadness for me that the two weeks are already drawing to a close.  I have been spending time with Ionut and Marius, the two babies in isolation.  My heart bleeds as I see, and hear them, struggle to breath with their various illnesses.  Today I noticed that the blanket that covered Marius had an inscription on it which read “Thoughtfulness is to friendship, what sunshine is to flowers”.  I thought of the many mums which Barlad planted around the city just five or so days ago.  These past several days of warm sunshine have caused the mums to open up and blossom into beautiful flowers.  In the same manner, I hope that the friendship which we have had with the children over the past two weeks will help them, in some small way, to further blossom and grow.  We take hope that another team of volunteers is scheduled to start next week.  While I am again sad to leave this place, I remind myself that Dr. Seuss saying “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”.    

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bring Happiness

After a leisurely breakfast, a report on Monday’s activities and the message of the day, we headed off – Jan to School #2 – the rest of us to the hospital for our day with the children.

One team goal is to “Bring Happiness”.  We achieve this each morning when Alina sees the yellow necklace.

As I interact with the children, each child’s unique personality begins to emerge.  I know that Luca will end each journey at the pink rocker and that tiny diva Alina loves her accessories and will pose for most photo ops.  I know that Delia’s best friend is her own reflection in the mirror and that Cleo loves to be reminded of her beauty and rewards me with a stunning smile.  Each child is so special and again as last year, each one climbs one by one into my heart and claims permanent residency.

It was a beautiful day and we lunched outside the Restaurant Colenica in the garden park.  Then coffee and pastries at The Berlin.  We then returned to the hospital to complete our day with the children.

During dinner we discussed the goals we set at our first meeting.  We also went over activities for the remainder of the week and heard from Mihaela how difficult life was under communism.

We ended our evening with Mihaela’s exciting news that she has been selected to be the Vice Principal of her school.  A well deserved promotion!  Noroc Mihaela!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lessons Learned

We started after breakfast with Ken reading the team journal and Steve’s thought for the day “You never stand so tall as when you stoop to help a child.”  We all regretted the departure of Colleen but subsequent messages throughout the day revealed that she safely arrived home in Omaha after a flight delay in Dallas.  It was off to the hospital and our customers, those marvelous children.  I continue to learn life lessons from them; their nobility through their suffering; their ability to be present in the moment, and the grace they exhibit through their infirmity.  Our day received a jolt from the application of hospital disinfectant, which eradicated naps, but many made it outside in the sunshine.

Our evening was capped with postage stamps, a little wine, a little beer and a lot of carbonated fruit juice.  Problems solved or issues identified included, Mayo Clinic art, Great Lakes water, Dale Chauli exhibits, pythons, and Texas mineral rights, a truly wide ranging discussion.

Friday, September 21, 2012

'Tis Better to Give

After a week's worth of gloriously sunny weather, this morning dawned rainy, overcast (positively  Seattle-ish) and unseasonably cool.  Our spirits were also somewhat dampened, because this would be our last day with our new and great friend, Colleen, who will return to her family in Omaha, Nebraska this weekend.  After a relatively somber breakfast, we caught a couple of cabs to the hospital.

As always, sadness and restrained emotions were just unable to linger once we climbed up to the fourth floor.  We were all immediately absorbed in the joyously chaotic worlds of our twelve very special pals--and the nurses and other medical staff members.  We only had a little under a half day with the kids today, and the time flew by.  Jamie was celebrating her 39th birthday, and she waded through the wet streets to get treats for the nurses-- yup, 'tis better to give, and all that.

We celebrated Jamie's birthday back at the hotel, though she would only let us play a few bars of the Beatles announcing that TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY--HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU.  We had both cake and decadent chocolate pastries, and the dreariness of our early morning was nowhere to be found.

We also wished Colleen a safe and uneventful train trip to Bucharest, and then a series of flights home.  Nila and Bernie prepared for an expedition to Iasi and The Painted Monasteries, while Norma (who is a marvel and a Saint Here Among Us Mortals), Jan, Jamie and I packed for our trip to Transylvania.  Lorraine (also a Saint) and 14 year Tutova/Barlad veteran Steve (more than a Saint, so maybe a Venerated One) elected to stay in Barlad for the weekend.  Bets were strong that they would visit the kids at the hospital while the rest of us were off playing and relaxing.

This experience is good for the kids and the hospital staff, but it is even more nourishing for the souls of us lucky Global Volunteer teammates. We will miss Colleen, but let's head back to the kids and nourish our souls for another wonderful and inspiring week.  Peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Feel the Love

 After breakfast we again made our way to the hospital.  We were greeted with smiles and always feel welcome.

I was giving Lavinia her bottle while across the room Marian was calling Bernie – sure enough here comes Marian’s best friend, Bernie.

I spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon with Ionut and Marius, the two babies.  Both are blind and have feeding tubes.  You think they must see you the way they look at you but the nurses said not.

Of course Delia was her usual self and Alina ambitious as usual giving whoever was watching her plenty of exercise.

Every time I come here I wonder in five-ten-twenty years where will each one of these children be.  Will Delia get the help she needs to live her life – she seems so smart and of course she is so cute.  And each one of the children we hope and pray will get the help and love they need.

Hopefully the bit of love we were able to give them these couple weeks will help them on their life’s journey.

We went out for a wonderful dinner and so ended another rewarding day.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Day of Serving

After the reading of the journal and thought for the day, Mihaela was here and off to the hospital for most of the team.  They were looking forward to seeing how the children would like dry cereal in a paper cup.  The cereal was met with mixed reviews.  But the walker was a breakthrough for Lavinia.

There was a greeting by the doctor before lunch.  She has been here for over thirty years.

At lunch were lucky enough to have the delicious Romanian tomato salad in addition to bread, cheese, yogurt, and local grapes.  Then off to the Berlin for the hospital crew for coffee and deserts, while Jan returned to school to teach two more classes.

When the workday was over, parting was not sweet sorrow.  The children cried.  A wonderful afternoon for them had come to an end.

We all had a chance to visit before supper was served.  Some skipped dessert to go shopping.

It was the end of another day, learning about and serving in Romania.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Some Time Outside

At the hospital, the children had a special treat of yogurt after their cereal and bottles.  Those that liked it, liked it a lot.  Eating it all.

For lunch, Dan and Jan joined us for pizza.

It was a beautiful day and the highlight was that we were able to take the children outdoors. We were not bothered by bugs, flies or other insects.  There was sun and enough breeze to be pleasant.

The biggest change was in Sammy who on Monday raced around indoors, but outdoors was happy to sit on one spot on the blanket. He was curious and observant of everything within eyesight. He made no attempt to move – he sat smiling and content. He was like a different kid.  He probably would have stayed out longer if possible.

He also was content to walk up the 4 flights of stairs.

After the ride home we had a nice Italian dinner at a local restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.

Monday, September 17, 2012

All the Children

We enjoyed the first day of school festivities.  It was a “Romania Has Talent” show with several students singing and then the Arch of Flowers tradition.  A happy occasion with several generations in attendance.

Then it was off to the children’s hospital.  My heart was in my throat as we walked the staircase to the peds ward, but the minute we saw the children I felt I was meant to be here.  Spitfire Alina greeted Nila with outstretched arms and a smile.  Luca walked around cribs.  Lavinia was held by Lorraine and Steve.  Delia had a bit of stranger anxiety at first, but then flashed her beautiful smile.  Sammy loved the balloons and rocking chair.  Cleo slept.  Ken massaged Andre.  Aleana loved to be tickled. 

I feel like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music as I’m afraid I’ve forgotten a few children.

Lunch was a delicious tomato salad and cold cut sandwich, followed by rich desserts at Berlin.

Back after all the naps and we all rotated babies and activities.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Yesterday I left many sets of the flash cards at the school. Today I was very pleased to see the English teacher already going through them to determine what she might use in her class.

Each class today was Bingo time. We played Bingo last Friday and the kids have begged for it every day. I told them we would do Bingo again on Friday. Bingo gives the students good practice for speaking and hearing numbers.  The winner of Bingo is awarded, not a prize, but the opportunity to call the numbers for the next game.

I had chosen the thought for the day before starting the games, and then saw during Bingo how we fill the jug. The 1st graders will literally count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so forth until they get to the right number, whereas many of the 2nd graders can simply look at the number and speak it. It shows how the jug is filled drop by drop with English classes and English practice between 1st  and 2nd grade.  Bingo, both the game and the song, is also good for helping students learn how to pronounce the English letter, I.

We have been using A-B -C flash cards and one set has astronaut for A. One boy proudly showed me a picture he had drawn today with an astronaut. 
In the evening Lori was taken by Mihaela to Trattoria again – it’s hard duty but someone has to do it!. We were joined by the principal from Primary School # 2. Again a very pleasant evening.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Winter Lessons

Today all my classes started with seeing pictures of the Mississippi River that I have taken just outside my apartment on the trails along the river. I also showed pictures of the ice carvings that are part of Winter Carnival in Saint Paul, something different from what happens in most cities during the winter. Every time we got to these photos the kids would go Wow! They also enjoyed the short video that showed how artists use chisels and saws to make these ice carvings. The remaining time for each class was filled with singing songs, doing Hokey-Pokey, or playing Hangman.  Thank you to Mihaela and Dan for translating.

Some of the students were curious about what I can say in Romanian. I always start with the word for ice cream; that makes students laugh.  Another student asked me if I knew where I was. When I replied, “Bârlad,” he told me I was right!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flash Card Lessons

Wednesday morning at 7:30 found all the Ohio people in the lobby with their luggage, off to catch the 8:04 AM train to Bucharest. Their final destination will be Seattle on Thursday that will go on forever!

Meanwhile Lori was back at Primary School #2 for two classes in the morning and 2 classes in the afternoon.  What do we do with the intermediate students? One day they each received a flash card about a North American animal. They were asked to present the animal, explain where it lived, desert or sea, for example; what it ate; and what its babies are called. Another day this group used flash cards about the states of the U.S. Lori explained that the states’ names come from English, Spanish, and American Indians languages. This helped the students learn how to pronounce some sounds in English and also helps them learn why the language seems to be so complex. After this lesson about the states, one student came up to Lori and said, “I love geography!” The last class in the afternoon, today, had 21 young students of varying abilities. I was glad to have Dan there to help me with this class. They are full of enthusiasm and energy, and 21 pieces of energy is a lot of energy!

At 6 PM the principal from the school, along with his son and daughter, arrived to take Lori to “the best pastry shop in Bărlad. The claim is true! The cake was lovely, and so was the ice cream.

After this great food, we went to the nearby city park and walked about through the children’s area and then along the major boulevards in the park. It was a lovely evening for a stroll. We were lucky for at 5 PM there had been a major thunderstorm and when the principal returned Lori to the hotel at 8:30 PM, the rain began again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Special Goodbyes

We all arrived at breakfast at 8:00, but for some reason service was very slow, the slowest we had encountered. This made Lori nervous as she had to be at her school at 9:00 for a class. Finally it arrived at about the same time as did Dan and Mihaela. Mihaela and Lori were quickly off to Primary School # 2 where Lori was expecting a class of adult teachers. However, plans had changed and during the morning she had three classes of beginner students.  Back at the hotel for lunch Lori enjoyed another Bulgarian Salad.  Then it was back to Primary School # 2 for two afternoon classes.

Meanwhile the Ohio group was off to the hospital for their last day with the children there. They came back later in the day sad to leave the children, but with wonderful memories in their hearts of these special children and well as charming versions of “I love you” recorded on their mobile phones.

At around 6:15 PM, two students arrived from a high school and walked us back there. A group of students, mostly 10th graders right now, had many questions about how they might study in the United States.  After the class we walked across the street to Restaurant Alona for another wonderful dinner. We all walked back to the hotel and Mihaela went with the Ohio group to the LIdl store to buy some food for their Wednesday breakfast, since they will be leaving in the morning before breakfast is served at the hotel. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Few Fun Outings

When we arose the weather was cold and foggy, but by 9 AM – a new sight – sun! We started our day as usual – Riane, Coley, Sarah, and Andrew to the hospital and Lori to Primary School # 2 for our usual service work.

The Ohio volunteers arrived at the hospital to find sweaty children all bundled up as usual. By late morning it was clear that the heat was putting a natural limit on both the children’s and our activity level but we all still managed to have fun interactions with the kidos in our own way.

At noon some hopped in the car with Dan for a scenic drive through the nearby countryside while others were driven by teachers from Romanian schools.

Our first stop was the High School in Zorleni. The Principal of the school welcomed us and then we moved to the school library to hear a short presentation about the school. We learned it has over 1000 students organized into 32 different classes. We then each introduced ourselves, as did the Romanian teachers who accompanied us.

 The principal took us to the school art museum. The Romanian sculptor, Marcel Guguianu, was once a student at this school. The school has a few pieces of his work as well as a book collection he donated to the school. The principal interrupted an accounting class so that we could see what a high school classroom looked like in this school. The school staff is rightfully proud that they have won two European certificates that recognize the excellence of the education provided in this school.

We then drove on the Bujoreni Monastery.  To reach the monastery one drives about 10 minutes down a gravel/stone road through a forest. Then the trees open and one sees a sight of great beauty.  We learned this monastery has its beginnings back in the 4th century. Then during an invasion its most precious icon was hidden in a tree for protection, and subsequently knowledge lost about its location for a very, very long time. The story continues that some centuries later very rich merchants camped in the forest as they were trekking through the country and a donkey carrying the gold strayed from the camp. After a great search, the donkey was found kneeling in front of a tree in which the icon was found to be hidden. This led to a renewal of the monastery.  For many years it was knows as the Donkey Monastery, but its present name is Bujoreni.

It continued to grow and operate until the Communist takeover, following World War II. It was nearly ruined by neglect in the 50 years that ensued. In 1992 a few monks came back and began restoring the monastery buildings and grounds. They continue to work to this day, as the piles of lumber attest.

We toured the “old church,” overcome by its beauty. Then we trekked to the “new church.” Because this is a building under construction, not yet a dedicated church, we were able to take all the photos we wanted.

We toured through the farm buildings, learning that the monks keep fowl for eggs, bees for honey, and cows for milk and the making of cheese.
I am quite sure that no one in our group will soon forget the splendor of this place. And this afternoon trip further helped us achieve a team goal of learning more about Romanian culture.

Because we had a late luncheon at the monastery, we were not truly hungry for an evening meal, but the warm day made ice cream sound good. Thus, we walked back to Trattoria for just dessert. Over ice cream and coffee, we reviewed the progress towards our goals and agreed they were being achieved.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Coley, Riane, and Lori went with Dan to Iasi. Dan and Mihaela graciously provided this trip in exchange for the driving Lori does when the country managers come to Minnesota.  (This trip was so wonderful that they will get 5 more years of driving time in Minnesota! )

Our drive started out in rain and then about midway the clouds got very black. There was heavy rain and even a few moments of pea-sized hail. Thankfully the rain was left behind when we arrived in Iasi.

The first stop was the Botanical Garden since the rain had ceased – but who knows when it would begin again.  We had a lovely time wandering through the conservatory as well the outside gardens, and then the rain drops made us all run for the car.

Our next stop was a building at the university. We viewed the beautiful hallway with frescos that showed Romanian myths or actual history and also concepts such as knowledge. Then Dan asked the building manager if we could see the Aula. What a treat. This room is incredible. The building manager explained its design and told us that at points in time, this Aula was the meeting place for the Romanian parliament.  He went on to say that students may attend the university for 3-4 years and never enter this room, so we were indeed provided with some very gracious Romanian hospitality.

Our next stop was the Orthodox Cathedral. Dan explained the story of the saint to which this cathedral is dedicated. We were able to enter the Cathedral and see the beautiful stained glass windows and the splendid altar which features perhaps 24 incredible icons – well they all are incredible, it’s the number that may be wrong.

We walked towards the Palace of Culture. As expected, it is closed for renovation. We did, however, enjoy the market in the plaza area, taking home some items to bring memories of Romania.

We walked then to and St. Nicholas church and we were able to witness a few moments of a wedding. The choir music was amazing – like the voices of angels.
Our next stop was the food court in the Moldova Mall for a late lunch. We then wandered back to the car and were on way back to Bărlad. The sunny weather made is possible to truly enjoy the beautiful valleys along this route. We had a great day.

In the evening the Ohio group made sure that Andrew properly celebrated his birthday.  The report is that filet migon was found at Restaurant Alona.

Weekend journal prepared by Lori

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Quiet Day

Coley and Riane, helped by Andrew as the “chauffeur,” went to the hospital and worked with the children from 10 AM – 1 PM. They reported it was a very quiet day.  They then went with Andrew for lunch and later toured a sculpture museum in Bărlad.  Meanwhile Lori was just wandering around town. Sarah was trying to recover from an illness. All who left the hotel had to watch out for rain showers off and on all of the day.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Today we played music
and danced to songs like "acorn brown" and "the ants go marching
one by one". Alina showed us her marching skills while saying
"march" in her mouse's voice, Luca danced with Andrew, another
volunteer, and Delia danced back and forth in her seat. 

We then had a
fantastic time playing with bubbles! Gabby especially loved to make the bubbles
pop with her nose! Luca wasn't quite sure what to think of them. I blew some
bubbles for Cleo, Lavinia and Emanuela - we got some big smiles from them. Even
Delia was flipping over in her crib to get to the bubbles I blew for her! 

Afterwards we were
given the sad news that Gabby and Lavinia would be going back to the placement
center today. We said our sad "Pa"s to them as they got ready to
leave. We each were left thinking “I just wish I had more time to spend with



Thursday, May 17, 2012


Today was our second day at the hospital. It was wonderful to arrive in the morning and already see looks of happy familiarity on the children's faces. We got right to work, taking children outside, for walks down the hall, or for cuddles in a cozy chair. The day continued as it started, full of laughter (and some tears), songs, dancing, and lots of "Oh, he/she is so sweet!  A particularly funny moment came when a male member of our team attempted to pick out a new outfit for Luca. Despite an honest effort, Luca ended up in a too-short shirt and mismatched pants. He, of course, did not care one bit about his outfit, and we all had a good laugh.

 It is wonderful to hear the laughter in the halls throughout the day. Although it is a tiring day, the tiredness is more than made up for by the warmth of the children and staff. We're looking forward to another full and fulfilling day tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More Firsts

Today was our [the newly arrived volunteers] first full day in Romania. We all slept well after a long travel day and met at 8 for breakfast and then to go over our team goals before headlining off to the hospital.

Walking in I was excited and nervous, I had read and heard about what to expect but to meet these children and work with them hands on was unlike anything I had prepared myself for. We walked around and were introduced to the children and the nurses. Bonds seemed to be made instantly between each team member and the children. Some team members took the older children outside while others sat entertaining the younger or were in the nursery caring for the infants. The children varied in age and disability but each responded warmly to and returned our affection. Throughout the day we all took on different roles trying to make sure each child received much needed attention. We took a break for lunch and enjoyed a wonderful Italian meal at Trattoria de Vinci before returning to the hospital. Once back we resumed our roles with the children and began to help get them ready for bed.  We all left tired but happy after a wonderful first day with these amazing children. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Surprise

Today Lori had two classes of intermediate students in the morning. Today the school was having an Open House and many parents and community members were about, as well as other children. Things were really humming. Between the two morning classes, a TV reporter came to interview Lori. She asked: “What is your project?” Lori explained that Global Volunteers come to help the host community achieve their goals; we don’t come to tell people what to do. And an interesting observation: This interview was totally conducted in English, and the camera man spoke very good English too.

A surprise arrived in the afternoon. Lori had been expecting groups of beginner students, but instead some were students from yesterday who are more advanced than beginners. It took a bit of modification to come with a different lesson using only the flash cards that were in Lori’s bag for beginner lessons. One thing is certain—what these kids know – they really know. They have not learned English by rote memory. They have real concepts attached to the words. And every class today did Hokey-Pokey! That’s a lot of Hokey-Pokey!

When Dan was returning Lori to the hotel, the heavens opened and Bârlad had an intense thunderstorm.  We tried to get the computer to attach to the internet, but discovered the hotel’s internet was down.  We gave up for a later try. Finally at 5:30 PM there was a successful connection to the internet on the first floor sitting area.  Mihaela arrived at 7 to take Lori to dinner, again at Restaurant Alona , and she shared  that the other volunteers were on the train coming from Bucharest.  At 9:00 PM Dan, Mihaela, and Lori  met the arriving volunteers at the train station, and we all returned to the hotel, where the arriving volunteers had a late supper, and plans were made for a team meeting after breakfast on Wednesday.  Then they asked if there was a trick to getting connected to the internet and that brought laughter considering the work done in the past two days to make a connection. However, before bedtime, all of the newly arriving volunteers were in the first floor sitting area of the hotel easily connected to the internet and assuring everyone they had arrived in Bârlad.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Teaching Day 1

First teaching day! Lori had two groups of younger beginner students in the morning; Mihaela went with Lori and did any needed translation with the staff or students. The school staff are very gracious and the students are quite motivated.   And someone at the school can make a wonderful cup of coffee – not to be taken for granted when one is trying to accommodate to an 8 hour time change. Lori returned to the hotel for a lunch of soup and salad – although salad comes looking a bit different in Bârlad. Then it was back to the school for two more classes, this time with more advanced students.  Dan went along this time to help with the translation. One class in particular is quite advanced and what to do with them will be a challenge.

In the evening Mihala and Lori went back to Trattoria da Vinci for an evening meal. Lori topped it off with a wonderful dish of Ice cream.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Over Slept

Lori had a nice breakfast at the hotel, and then managed to fall asleep afterwards and had to be awakened by Mihaela’s phone call for the planned meeting. The principal of the school where Lori will teach was waiting to meet her – embarrassing – but hopefully people understand jet lag. Miheala and Lori met to start the team goals and team characteristics. More team members will be arriving on Tuesday, and the team goals and characteristics will be furthered developed then.

Off to a lovely lunch at the Trattoria Da Vinci. The food at this restaurant is wonderful and what good news – we will probably return more during this stay.  Lori worked with the hotel staff to try to find a room in which the wireless will work – without luck.  We decided to give up and try another room tomorrow. After a time of rest, it was off to eat again, this time at Restaurant Alona. Lori tried Romania dishes of stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cabbage, and mammalgia. All was very good. The wind is still howling.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A day of Sandwiches

This service team began when Dan met Lori in Bucharest. It was a very hot day in Bucharest, but the air conditioning in the car made the trip to Bârlad easy. On the way they saw many different aspects of Romanian terrain and life, including vendors along the road selling wine, cherries, and tomato and pepper plants for gardens. They stopped for an early supper at the McDonald’s in Bazău.  After a day of sandwiches on the various planes, a salad at McDonald’s tasted good to Lori.

Shortly thereafter, Bârlad began to appear on the road signs, and after 4 hours of driving since the start at Bucharest, they arrived at the Hotel Occident.

Dan got Lori water to use during her stay, and then was away to home after a long day of driving back and forth to Bucharest.  The weather began to be very windy, but Lori went for a short walk anyway in the area around the hotel, mostly observing the places of worship nearby. The wind continued to howl through the night.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


A strong woman knows she has the strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is the journey where she will become strong.



We enjoyed another fun and busy day. We began the day meeting the new nursing students who will be spending 3 weeks training in the hospital. They were very friendly and it was nice to not be the “new ones” for once and we were actually able to demonstrate to them how some things are done, and what activities the children enjoy. One exciting event was we observed Marius imitate one of the older children building with the blocks. This was very interesting because his typical activity with the blocks, no matter how many times we demonstrate how to build with them is to dump them out and then put them back in the bag. With the extra help we were able to look for pictures in magazines to use for our English lesson with the middle school students on Wednesday. The older children from the floor enjoyed trying to identify the pictures in Romanian and English. After lunch and our daily coffee and cake we explored the grocery store nearby the hospital. We were in awe of all the different kinds of cured meats the grocery store carried. We also went on a hunt for peanut butter which we were told was not available in Romania. Sure enough, none could be found. As Americans, we were perplexed by how others could joyfully go on with life without our much loved peanut butter! When we arrive after lunch the younger children were still napping so Laura began an English lesson with Postolache. She would name an animal in English, and he would write it in English and then in Romanian. He is a very smart boy!

Blog 3

Quote of the day

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." - Leo Buscaglia


Laura and I started Friday with our daily stair and walk the hall of our Hotel workout. We are hoping that this will counteract our new habit of dessert after lunch at Berlin pastry shop where we walk to every day. Wishful thinking I know. After breakfast we headed to the hospital to see our kids. Cleo was in much better spirits today and was back to her smiley self. Delia was a bit more fussy that usual, but after Coca applied some teething medicine she was much better. Laura took Marius on some walks around the hospital and he loved that. In fact, after he learned that by grasping her hand she would go almost where ever he wanted, he didn’t want to stop. While she was doing that I rocked with Luca and talked to Cleo. Friday afternoon we headed to Bran. We checked in to our charming villa, and then walk to town for dinner. Saturday, I took in the towns sites, read and napped while Dan and Laura visited Peles Castle. Dan made us a wonderful dinner of garlic chicken which we had with kiwi, bread and cheese. Sunday we headed to Brasov and saw the Black Church and did some souvenir shopping. On our way back to Barlad we stopped and bought some kurtis kolac, which I loved. It is sweet bread made into a long, hollow tube, rolled in honey, and then they add nuts, coconuts or cinnamon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Darci Lechner on Romania service program -hospital

Quote of the Day:

“Tell everyone you know: 'My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.' And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they’re doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel – and then, you’ll love them all. Because the only reason you don’t love them, is because you’re using them as your excuse to not feel good.” ~Abraham Hicks

Journal: January 18, 2012

Today was a bit different than our first two days. When we arrived some of the children were still sleeping, and the others were not as active. Maybe we wore the kids out as much as they wore us out on Tuesday! This worked out fine though because this gave us some one on one time to work with the Physical Therapist. She gave my teammate and I each a lesson on how to do the physical therapy moves on the children, and then supervised us while we practiced the new skills we learn. We were very sad that one of the children we worked with, Elena left us to go back to the children’s home. A new girl who is twelve, Hannah, joined us today. Laura spent much of the morning getting acquainted with Hannah and helping her get familiar with the new environment and children. I spent most of the morning rocking and snuggling with Luca, who was not as active as the previous two days. After lunch Luca was back to his active self, so Laura worked on walking with him, and then let him practice on his own in the walker. He enjoyed that very much, but that kept Laura busy because in many ways he is a typical toddler…going after everything in the room, trash, diapers, clothes, that he was not suppose to. I work with Hannah on some simple following direction and mimicking exercises. This started out well, but she quickly learned it was more fun to be defiant and prove to me she was in control. Tomorrow I will try to find some more reinforcers that I can use with her, and hopefully I can find some things that are more important to her than control.