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 fa├žade, 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.