Friday, January 6, 2012
The week is winding down and I felt by mid-week that my body had gotten used to the time change. It took a couple of days, but I also feel like I’m getting into the swing of things at the hospital as well. The city of Barlad is a lot different than my home, Boston. It’s a welcomed change though. The best part about my hotel room is the view. In the morning, I am able to look out the window and see the sun come up over the city. Shades of pink, yellow and orange illuminate the sky and add color to the landscape. Immediately, the differences between home and Barlad become apparent. The houses are built close together and most have smoke flowing out of the chimneys. The skyline seems to be dominated by churches with industrial type buildings mixed in intermittently. My teammates and I congregate in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Having been here before, Michelle and Keagan have been a huge help to me. When the weather is nicer, we opt to walk to the hospital. Locals overhear our conversations in English and some offer up a “hello”. Having traveled to other parts of Europe, I can definitely say that the people of Barlad are some of the most friendly I’ve encountered. Everyone from the nurses and aides at the hospital to the hotel staff to the employees at local stores make a valiant effort to converse with us. Keagan and Michelle introduced me to a delicious café, Berlin. The coffee and pastries here are awesome! This is a typical hang out spot during our lunch period.
I have to say that the hospital is my favorite place to be though. The staff is so friendly which leads me to believe that our help is genuinely appreciated. The best part upon our arrival in the morning and after lunch is the expressions on the children’s faces. Alina squeals with delight, Delia’s face could light up an entire room and Gabi offers up her shy smile. This reaction elicits a feeling that can’t be replicated any anything else here. It becomes obvious why programs like Global Volunteers exist. These children are absolutely amazing and are elated to see us each and every day. While the children clearly benefit from this program, the volunteers do as well. For me, this experience has made me more appreciative of what I have and also how important it is to give back. These children don’t long for expensive toys or fancy outfits, they just want companionship. It is important to remember that the most important things in life aren’t actually things and are typically free, they just cost a little time.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Yesterday was Keagan and Michelle’s last day and it was a bit sad for all of us. The kids weren’t feeling too well either. Luca didn’t have much of an appetite and Delia was cranky. We think she might have some teeth coming in. Alina didn’t seem to miss a beat, but occasionally found herself channeling her enormous amount of energy inappropriately. Needless to say, we made a couple of trips to the corner. Mihaela took us to a wonderful farewell dinner in Barlad. Michelle recommended a traditional Romanian dish consisting of pork, polenta and a fried egg. It was delicious! For dessert, we all shared a banana split. We decided to say “see you later” as opposed to “goodbye”. Although we were only together for a week, the three of us seemed to have bonded while caring for the kids. I definitely look forward to volunteering with them again sometime. I’ve found that all the people I’ve met whom are associated with this program are so compassionate. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity.
This weekend, in my off time, I am taking a trip to Transylvania, which is a region about five hours away. I am told we will be visiting the Black Church of Brasov, Brahn (Dracula’s) Castle as well as the Peles Castle. I am excited to explore other parts of this country. This is definitely the icing on the top of my Global Volunteers experience. However, I do have a feeling that from time to time I’ll find myself wondering what the kids are up to.
Tuesday January 10, 2012
Transylvania was gorgeous! Brasov reminded me of both Prague and Heidelberg, Germany. There were a ton of shops and restaurants. We had lunch at a great Irish pub after touring the church, and then continued onto the Brahn Castle area. This town resembled a resort type village. We had reservations at a very cozy and quaint villa. It was very afforadable and in a good location. The Brahn Castle provided a great historical background of not only Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) but also Romania. After this, we traveled to the Presel Castle. This castle was completely furnished and actually a summer home for King Carl. Here, tours in English were available and the guides were extremely informative. The food was great. I definitely recommend experimenting with Romanian cuisine.
I did miss the children though and couldn’t wait to see their cheery faces on Monday. Unfortunately, Luca’s weekend didn’t go so well. He wasn’t feeling well Friday and was eventually moved to a room with sicker kids. They started an IV line on him for medicine. On the flip side, Delia seemed to be 100% better! She was very chatty and social. Alina was happy to see us as usual and was in the mood to dance. We gave Gabi some chocolate today. Not more than five minutes later, we noticed she was being a little too quiet…. She was covered in chocolate!! It was so cute and funny, she loved it. What she did not love was getting cleaned up. I spent most of the day with Luca. He didn’t want his bottle again, but did want to cuddle. We did a lot of that. I hope he gets to feeling better soon!
Wednesday January 11, 2012
Good news! Luca is feeling better and was moved back to the room with the girls! He still has a mean cough and runny nose but is more like himself today. He even took his bottle. Delia is becoming a big fan of sitting upright now. I think she gets a better view of what’s going on that way. She is still very chatty and loves talking to the other kids and stuffed animals. Cleo was a little cranky today and just wanted to be held. It can be difficult to tend to just one kid when there’s a limited number of staff. Alina is doing a lot better with the other kids! Her trips to the corner have become less frequent. She took an extra-long nap today. She must have worm herself out this morning. I have to say, Alina finds new ways to surprise me on a daily basis. She is so bright and definitely an entertainer. This evening, as we were getting ready to leave, Mihaela put Alina in a shopping bag as if she was going to leave with us. Alina though this was hilarious and was ready to go! She has definitely grown on me over these two weeks. I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet her.
Friday January 13, 2012
Today was my last day at the hospital. I am walking away from this experience with so much more than I anticipated. This has been an amazing program to be a part of. When I stepped onto the floor and eventually headed into the room, I noticed that is was unusually quiet. Sadly, Alina and Gabi had returned to the placement center. I was a little upset that I didn’t get to say “farewell” to my girls. Hopefully, I’ll see them again. I’m sure Alina’s pictures will be posted on the Global Volunteers Facebook page soon enough.
One of my goals, after meeting the children, was to get Luca to be able to stand on his own. We came so close today! I’m really proud of him. He seems unsure of himself and scared of falling. Today, I stood him up and let each hand hold onto my knees lightly. A week ago, I tried this and he whined and cried until I picked him up. Today he stood up straight and even smiled! He’ll be walking soon enough I’m sure of it. I am so sad to be leaving him but his future seems bright. Delia sat up in a chair today and loved it! Coca did a lot of work today and you can see her personality developing right before your eyes. I think Delia is going to be a very social and independent girl. She loves to dance and sing along with the music videos on the television. Cleo looked a lot better today too. She was laughing and even tried to suck her thumb. She is such a sweet little girl, I wish there was more I could do for her.
Saying goodbye to the staff and kids today was hard. I really hope I can come back someday. To me, this has been a win-win situation. I really couldn’t have asked for a better volunteering experience. I’d like to thank Global Volunteers, Mihaela and Dan, Michelle and Keagan and the staff at the hospital for such a wonderful Romanian trip!