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.