Saturday, March 23, 2013

Departing from Romania

At 7 a.m. we were at the breakfast table. Around 7:30 Dan arrived and arranged our transportation to the Bârlad train station. Around 8:10 we boarded the train to Bucharest. We elected to travel this way because Corey had never before ridden on a train. The five hours passed rather quickly and then we were at Bucharest Nord. Laura and Corey got a taxi to the hotel for which they had a reservation and Lori got a taxi to the Bucharest airport. And thus our team experience came to an end.

Entry submitted by: Lori

Friday, March 22, 2013

Getting more than we give

Two of us were up early. September is off to Bucharest and Lori got up to tag along and try to help. Dan arrived at the planned time of 6:20 a.m. and we were off to the train station in the rain, which of course created big puddles to avoid, both in the car and by foot. Dan bought September’s ticket and then we waited about ten minutes. The announcement came for which peron (“platform” in English, but peron is also shared in Polish and maybe a few other languages, for this is one word used also by the Netherlands railroad) the train would arrive and we went outside.  Dan helped September get her luggage up into the train and then he and Lori went back to car and then the hotel.

Our team of three joined for breakfast and then held our morning meeting with Dan was usual. We made plans for our trip to Bucharest tomorrow morning.  Corey and Laura were then quickly off to the hospital for their morning work there. Lori was off to the school as usual. Today she had the students do “What do you hear?” She created this exercise, listening for numbers given orally, after some students the day before had expressed astonishment when they thought she was asking them to find fifty objects within an I Spy puzzle, whereas she was really asking for fifteen. Then she also used the homophones “ate/eight” and “to/too/two” and asked them to identify the number word. Neither the morning nor afternoon students could do the “to/too/two” group with accuracy. Perhaps they have not been exposed to the numbers as written words. They could easily do “ate/eight” correctly because they knew “ate” had something to do with “eat.” As usual the second hour consisted of games such as Jingo and Hangman.

Corey and Laura reported they had another good day at the hospital with the children. Again, there were not a lot at the tears when leaving for these two volunteers are determined also to come back and work with these precious children.

Mihaela and Delia joined us for our evening meal. Mihaela graciously thanked us for our service. Most often, as will with this group of volunteers, we feel we get more than we give.

Entry submitted by: Lori 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A few tears

This morning our team was in sync we all had the same meal for breakfast.  Lori brought to the breakfast room the beautiful knitted hats she made for the kids asking us to take them to the hospital. Off we went in our separate directions: Lori, teaching English and the rest of us at the hospital.  Our days all went smoothly, Lori in a routine at school and going with the flow of things even when one of the students did not want to participate. We at the hospital are really getting a routine down with the kids, and our last day is almost here. September did well at the hospital as I only saw her wipe a few tears for she knows she will return soon.

At dinner we decided we all made a great team and that we had reached our goals that we spoke about on the first day we arrived.

Tomorrow we will be one less but still a team and a great one at that.

Entry submitted by: Laura

Message of the Day - Lori: “Life is a great big canvas and you should throw all the paint on it that you can.” - Danny Kaye 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A birthday celebration

This morning we met for breakfast at 8:15 and then had our usual morning meeting with Dan at 8:30. After breakfast, Corey, Laura, and September left with Dan for the hospital. The children greeted us with happy faces. Coca had all the children dressed and ready for the day. Coca takes such good care of the kids. They are lucky to have her.

This morning Alina was ready to dance, dance, and dance! More hokey-pokey and chicken dance .Gabi joined in, too. Luca was in a good mood this morning. Luciana also appeared to be feeling better. For the morning snack Coca mashed bananas and put them into strawberry yogurt. The kids loved it!

At lunch time we celebrated Gabi’s fifth birthday. Oh what a special day! Coca put all the girls in frilly dresses. Dan picked up a special birthday cake.  He also provided special little cakes and soda. We sang “Happy Birthday” in English and the staff sang in Romanian. Everyone had fun, especially the kids. We took many photos of the kids dressed up.

Lori joined us for Gabi’s birthday, too.  She had a nice visit to the Children’s Hospital. At 1 p.m. we all met in the restaurant for lunch. Everyone ate chicken snitzel one last time! Yummy!

At 3 p.m. we returned to the hospital with Dan. Some of the kids were still asleep. The afternoon went well. We put a blanket on the floor and played with the kids. At 5:30 it was time to leave. This is still the hardest part of our day. It is hard to say goodbye to our new-found angels.

Lori had a lovely afternoon with the sixth graders.  They had a bit of trouble with the numbers while playing Multiplication Bingo, but really knew worldwide landmarks when playing Landmark Bingo. Lori mentioned they must have a very good geography teacher.

At 6:30 we met in the hotel restaurant for the evening meal. We spoke about how our trip is coming to an end.  We will never forget our time with these little sweet souls.

Entry submitted by: September 

Message of the Day - Laura: “I slept, and I dreamt that life was all joy. I woke, and saw that life was service. I served, and discovered that service was joy.” - Rabindranath Tagore
Yes, it’s a repeat from last week, but it’s such a good idea that it deserves to be repeated as it provides a foundation for our day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A yogurt treat for the children

The day began just as most have, we all met up in the hotel restaurant downstairs at around 8:15 a.m. It was a quiet morning due to some of us being tired. September was having a little trouble sleeping from thinking so much about the children at the hospital. After breakfast, Corey, Laura, and September departed for the hospital with Dan, who would also be transporting Lori to and from the school for the day.

The morning at the hospital was one of the easier that we have encountered, mostly due to the fact that we are so used to the schedule now! Corey sat with Andrei and Clio for much of the morning because Andrei was fussy and Clio just needed some well-deserved attention. Laura and September spent a lot of the morning dancing with the children to the “Chicken Dance” and the “Hokey Pokey.” The kids just love hearing those songs over and over and over!

Bananas and yogurt were had by all, which the kids really enjoy. The morning also brought about the first of a few diaper changes Corey finally did! Overall the morning went well with a less than tearful goodbye until the afternoon. Back to the hotel for lunch!

After lunch, we headed back to a very quick passing afternoon. Filled with laughter from all the kids, even from Luca! It was wonderful to see him laugh even while sick. Today was probably the easiest goodbye yet. Very few baby tears! Only two/three days left with the little ones though. We're all dreading leaving!

For dinner, Mihaela took us to the delicious Italian restaurant where we probably all ended up overeating, but it was too good to pass up! At dinner we heard about Lori's good morning with her students and then her afternoon with the older kids. As it was a different group from the day before, they were not quite as advanced. It was a good day, and night, had by all.

Entry submitted by: Corey

Message of the Day - Lori: “Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." - Warren Buffett

Special Note: Dan said this message of the day made him think of a Romanian proverb, “To have a meaningful life – plant a tree, dig a well, build a house, and have a child.” The tree is for bringing comfort to others, the well is for bringing needed water and nourishment to others, the house is all about family, and the child is about the future.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Learning about Romanian culture

Despite being tired from the weekend trip, September, Laura, and Lori were up a bit early and took a walk to the outdoor market. They had a fine time admiring all the vegetables for sale, and Laura and Lori each bought a jar of honey.

Back at the hotel we held our usual morning meeting with Dan. Lori’s afternoon assignment has changed from 4th graders to 6th graders from the “high school.” Today she had students in both groups describe what they did on the weekend. It was amazing how many reported they had spent Saturday doing homework. The next most popular activity was computer games. In addition to this discussion, they used letter stickers to make their name and then wrote 4-6 words for each letter of their name in both English and Romanian. The rest of the class time included Hangman and various Jingo games. After afternoon school Lori went with Dan to the “Chinese store” to buy window blinds for the hospital rooms where the precious children stay.

The hospital team members reported the children have seemed to settle into a schedule with the volunteers. The kids are surely being kids, showing jealousy when  someone else is getting attention and also moving fast and slipping away in just an instance of time. All expressed concern about Clio’s change of health status. And, one little lady now has her own necklace and she doesn’t have to feel sad in the afternoon when the volunteers leave. A special treat for the toddlers today was yogurt and bananas – food that may seem common to us, but something they don’t see often.

All joined together for lunch with Dan. We asked questions about the vegetables we had seen in the market that were unusual to us. We also learned about the building history in Bârlad. Much doesn’t look “old” here because of a devastating earthquake in 1975 followed by more destruction of buildings by the Communist administrators.  Mihaela joined us for evening meal at the hotel. We had a wide ranging conversation at dinner, too. A fine time had by all. Our weekend tour plus all of these wonderful meal-time discussions with Dan and Mihaela help us achieve another team goal: to learn more about Romanian culture and language.

Entry submitted by: Lori

Message of the Day – Corey: “Don't be stressed, just be confident at what you do and that you did it. Understand that there is more than one road you take to your happiness.”  - Steve Breaston (University of Michigan football player and now at free agent status in the NFL)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A weekend getaway

Saturday and Sunday Free Time

We awoke in Brasov with directions to be ready around 8:30 for breakfast. There was still a touch of snow outdoors. At the left is our van with its dusting of overnight snow.

The breakfast buffet at the City Centre Hotel was a nice change of pace. Being able to refill the coffee cup was a great luxury. When done with breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and loaded everything into Dorel’s van and then drove part of the way to Black Church. We walked some of the same route we had done the previous evening, but this time we could really see the beautiful buildings of Brasov main square, shown at the right. But first we saw some interesting glass mosaic art along the street.

We arrived at the Black Church and paid our 6 lei for admission, deeply regretting the notice that said NO PHOTOGRAPHY. We were all amazed at the interior for it is decorated with certainly at least 100+ Turkish rugs, each about 3x5 feet. None of us had ever seen such a sight before. We walked about trying to take in all the information we could sort out and translate from German. (On Monday Dan explained to us that the rugs were provided by German traders who would travel to and from Anatolia, present day Turkey. They would donate a rug each time they returned in thanksgiving for a safe trip.)

We also saw a pillar that appeared to have gun shots – the work projectile is used in the Romanian and German signage – from December 1, 1989. Regretfully we forgot to ask about the history and meaning of this when discussing our weekend trip with Dan.  We surely enjoyed seeing such a unique church interior. We slowly made our way our way back to van enjoying again all the beautiful architecture that is in Brasov.

We headed to Bran. Once there we went to Club Vila Bran and checked in. Our rooms were not ready. Thus, we went to lunch with most of us again trying new foods found on the extensive menu. Then we walked to the Bran Castle and enjoyed the tour there very much. The views inside the castle are very interesting and at points in the tour one gets onto terraces and can get views of the surrounding countryside as well.

Following the tour we spent some time in the markets. Then we found our trusty driver, Dorel, and he took us back to Club Vila Bran. By now we could get the keys to our rooms. We walked up a long staircase from the parking area to a terrace, and from the terrace up more stairs to the entry to Vila 1, only to discover our rooms with numbers like 10, 11, and 12 were not on first floor as Europeans count, but actually on 2nd floor (3rd floor as Americans count) - up more stairs to very lovely rooms.

September and Lori rested for bit, while Corey and Laura went exploring. Corey tried a bit of horseback riding. Good thing, because they knew the layout of the resort and could get us to the restaurant for dinner at 7 p.m. when it was dark. This required about five minutes of walking up staircases, but when we got there, the restaurant was lovely, the food was great, and we surely satisfied achievement of one team goal – having fun.  We were most grateful that the trip back to Vila 1 was all downhill. 

We met Dorel at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. We all thought we were going to breakfast with him. Something was lost in translation somewhere along the line!  We instead drove directly to Peles Castle. Dorel parked the van and led us the area where we could buy tickets. Immediately the word was WOW. Peles Castle, seen at the left, is truly magnificent. We really enjoyed the tour, despite the requirement to go up and down a lot of stairs and not lose a slipper.

After the tour we walked around the exterior of the castle taking photos. Then we stopped at the coffee bar for cappuccino or hot chocolate. We slowly made our way back to where the van was parked – the folks from Texas and Arizona being particularly chilled by the 27 degree weather, but yet marveling at the beauty of the snow fall. As soon as Dorel saw us cross the castle gate, he drove the van to meet us, waiting while two team members purchased penguins!

We had decided we didn’t want to do the cable car ride up a mountain. The combination of snow and clouds would make it impossible to really see anything special from the mountain tops. We stopped for lunch at a lovely café. Then we headed back to Bârlad, arriving at about 5:45.

We quickly dropped our luggage in our room and then Laura, September, and Lori headed off to the Gypsy King House. Returning, we made a stop at Lidl only to discover that it closed at 5:00 on Sunday. On the way back to the hotel we stopped by Penny Market, too, to check on sizes of diapers, finding nothing there was the right size. However, they were; Lori made a mistake in her conversion of kilograms to pounds, actually doing the math backwards!

Back at the hotel we gathered for supper at 6:30. We made a plan for covering the journals for the coming week. We are surprised that our time suddenly seems so short and soon we will be leaving Bârlad.

Entry submitted by: Lori

Friday, March 15, 2013

Looking forward to the children each morning

This morning was breakfast as usual, concluding with our traditional team meeting that includes the message of the day and the journal from the previous day. Today is our fifth day together. So far we are a wonderful team!

After breakfast Laura, Corey, and I left with Dan for the hospital. We look forward to greeting the children each morning. Alina was especially excited to see Laura as she loves taking Laura’s necklace and putting it on to wear herself.  Gabi was in good spirits. She really loved dancing to the songs we played – the hokey-pokey and the chicken dance. Alina, of course, wanted us to play the songs over and over again. Needless to say we got quite a workout.

Luca wasn’t feeling too well today. Corey spent time with Luca, trying to comfort him. Dan took Luciana to the adult hospital. She has an ear infection. She will be getting IV antibiotics later today.

At 12:30 we left the hospital to meet our team for lunch. This will be our last meal with Rich and Margaret as they leave tomorrow for Turkey. They will be missed next week.

At School #2 Rich and Margaret repeated their rocket experiment for another group of students. Lori played a DVD featuring “Dem Bones” and “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” with her students. In the second hour her students played Multiplication Bingo and Food Jingo. She said the kids were lovely.

At 2 p.m. Dorel picked up Lori, Corey, Laura, and me for a trip to Brasov. It was about a four-and-a-half-hour drive. Dorel is an excellent driver! We enjoyed great conversations with each other. It made the time go fast. (At breakfast on Monday following our trip, we also spoke about how much we enjoyed seeing the countryside between Bârlad and Brasov equally as much as all the special places we visited during the trip.)

Around 6:30 pm we arrived in Brasov and checked in at Hotel City Center. Our rooms were very nice. We were all pleased.

After we checked in, we quickly left for the city center. Everyone was hungry. Dorel took us to an excellent restaurant, Butoiul Sasului. We were each treated with a complimentary glass of schnapps. Schnapps is hot going down!

Entry submitted by:
Some of us ordered gulyas (goulash in English, but certainly nothing like what Midwest Americans mean when they say “goulash.”) It was delicious. Everyone enjoyed the meal. On our walk back to the hotel it started to snow. Even though we were all freezing, we still enjoyed the snow. Cheers for a wonderful evening.

Entry submitted by: September

Message of the Day – Laura: “The doors that we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” - Flora Whittemore 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spirit and enthusiasm for learning

The morning began with our usual breakfast along with some additional cups of coffee. We all spoke of being extra tired in the mornings and think it may be due to the weather which has been quite dreary, at least for us Western people.

Our team split up after breakfast. The hospital team found their little cherubs a little extra tired and needy today, too. Luciana was having some ear issues, Clio went out for some x-rays, and the rest were in need of some extra cuddling.

We all met up for lunch,  Margaret and Rich needed a little extra rest time and Lori was in need of paper for class activities, but we would all meet up for dinner.

The afternoon went wonderful for our seasoned professor, Lori. She is always amazed at the little things the students teach her. Lori was also able to film Richard and Margaret's class experiment. Margaret and Richard love the students’ spirit and enthusiasm for learning and how polite they all are. Their day went great and the science experiment was a hit!

The afternoon at the hospital was full of cuddles and lots of walking and soothing. The hardest part of the day is when we leave and the children cry. It breaks all of our hearts! September may just sneak back and stay the night!

Dinner was with Mihaela, Dan, and Delia who treated us to an authentic Romanian meal of sarmele, a type of cabbage roll. Mihaela's mother prepared our special meal. What a special treat to be welcomed into their home. We are all so very grateful for their hospitality.

Entry submitted by: Laura

Message of the Day - Richard: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” - Betty Reese

Thought for the evening - Laura: “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”  - Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Service is joy

Our group of volunteers met in the hotel restaurant for breakfast and our daily meeting at 8:15 a.m. Richard was particularly tired due to the fact he awoke at 3:00 a.m. revising the planning for the experiment that he and Margaret would be teaching the children that day. Before finishing breakfast, September, Lori, Laura, and Corey began to discuss with Dan the weekend plans for visiting Brasov. After breakfast, we all parted ways and headed to the hospital/school.

Today was a less hectic day at the hospital, mainly due to the fact that it is our third day and we have gotten into a rhythm with the children and their schedule. Alina was still full of energy as always and Gabi ate her meals better today. Little Delia was not so cooperative, but she was still as happy as ever. Clio and Andrei were near each other in the morning. Luca walked with all of us today, which is good for him. Luciana was very active and baby Ema was all smiles until we had to leave for lunch.

We arrived back at the hotel for lunch with Dan. Lunch was a potato soup and some fried chicken with fries. Finishing up, we headed back to our rooms to rest for the second part of the day!

Arriving back at the hospital at 3 o'clock the children all needed to be woken up from their naps and be fed again. The afternoon went pretty smoothly seeing as we were mostly by ourselves with WONDERFUL Coca leaving at 4 o'clock. She really is a saint! The most traumatic event of the day happened to September! She decided to change Ema's diaper under Laura's supervision and oh boy! It was messy! But just like everything else, we got through it. Saying goodbye was not as tearful, but still just as hard.

At dinner we heard that Lori had another good day teaching her students. And then Richard and Margaret described how their propulsion experiment worked, but as with any other experiment, not as planned. But being the quick thinkers Muggsy and Rich are, they improvised and the children loved it! The dinner was a quick one, only lasting about an hour, but there was an exchange of family pictures. It was nice seeing how everyone else lived back home.

Entry submitted by: Corey

Message of the Day - Margaret: “I slept, and I dreamt that life was all joy. I woke, and saw that life was service. I served, and discovered that service was joy.” - Rabindranath Tagore 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Getting the hang of things

This day had the same schedule as Monday for the volunteers going to the hospital and the school. During the morning meeting we also made a plan to go to an Italian restaurant for the evening meal. Mihaela went to the school with the teaching volunteers and Dan went to the hospital with the volunteers caring for the children. Teaching went more smoothly for Rich and me. We are beginning to get the hang of things! Lori has loaned us some of the game to play with the students and that is a big help. Flexibility is the key. Today Lori learned a new Romanian word, insecta, which means “insect” in English. Some verbs are close to English, too, but most are very different.

The hospital volunteers found things a little more difficult today. The kids slept more, seeming to be tired out from the all the activity and stimulation by the volunteers on Monday. The children also cried more today when the volunteers left. Delia, daughter of Dan and Mihaela, is with us much of the time. She is delightful! Her English skills are above average because of her exposure to the Global Volunteers.

Hotel Moldova is better than our expectations. It is clean, has nice bathrooms, and we get fresh towels daily. The restaurant has good food.

Today was also a pastry day. Both groups went to the Berlin Café; the teaching volunteers went with the school principal where they were privileged to hear Mr. Stefanik’s memories of the revolution and how it played out in Bârlad. The evening meal at Trattoria da Vinci was especially good. The team members are having fun getting to know each other better.  Good communication!

Entry submitted by: Margaret

Message of the Day – Corey: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Our first day at the school and hospital

The six of us gathered for breakfast around 8:00. Dan, co-country manager, came in after breakfast. We held the typical morning meeting with the message for the day and the journal reading. Richard volunteered to write the journal for Tuesday and September offered to bring the message for the day. After breakfast all volunteers returned to their rooms for final preparation before starting the day’s work.

Today was our first day at the school and hospital. Margaret, Lori, and I went to the school while Laura, Corey, and September went to the hospital. As Margaret and I are not teachers, today was a bit nervous for us. Around 12:00 we “teachers” returned to the hotel and met the hospital team, and we compared our morning. The first morning at school ended with mixed results. Rich and Margaret found that the morning students were less proficient in English than was expected. There was a need to change the program for the afternoon group. Flexibility is a necessity. Lori played Multiplication Bingo (for other journal readers – this game is used to give practice saying the numbers, from 1-144, in English, not to teach math) with her class and had a good morning with them. The hospital team all had a rewarding time with the children.  September wondered how hard it’s going to be say goodbye to them. Corey had a good time, as he expected, running up and down the corridors with one of the little girls.

After lunch we returned to the hospital and school. Richard and Margaret’s revised program worked better, and the afternoon group is also more proficient in English. We had to go over vowel sounds, an important beginning concept for all the classes. We had them write small sentences and then we played Hangman and Food Jingo. We had a good afternoon at the school.

Entry submitted by: Richard

Message of the Day – September: “Anybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Becoming a team

Our team of six assembled at the Bucharest airport. When all had arrived, the luggage was quickly loaded into the van for the trip to Bârlad. We traveled about two hours and then stopped in Bazau for supper at McDonald’s.  Then it was another two hours north. North of Bazau we began to see the vineyards, of course in a dormant phase during March. We also saw snow banks clinging to sheltered areas where the early spring sun was not yet warm enough to melt them.

It was dark by the time we arrived in Bârlad. We quickly checked into Hotel Moldova. The first question we had: What’s the password for the wireless? Most had good luck getting connected. Laura, Corey, and Lori went to the Penny Market hunting for important needs: wine and chocolate. Most retired for an early night as jet lag is alive and well among the volunteers.

Sunday morning found us all at breakfast around 9:00. Afterwards some went for a morning walk. At 11:30 Mihaela arrived. She led us on a bit of tour of Bârlad and then to the Alona restaurant where we had lunch. New volunteers were amazed by the restaurant’s décor which certainly can be described as “eclectic!”  While we waited for the food to arrive, Mihaela explained the Global Volunteers’ history in Bârlad. We all did a personal introduction, but truthfully we had covered introductions in the van and at breakfast as well.  Following lunch, we walked to the school at which Mihaela is both teacher and vice-principal. There we worked on establishing personal and team goals. The team goals we established are:
(1) To better a child’s life
(2) to learn about Romanian people and culture
(3) To help students
(4) To have fun.

Next we established Characteristics of an Effective Team, namely: 
ability/willingness to learn new things


We walked about the school building, admiring the beautiful architecture. Then we came back to the hotel for a break that appeared to include some naps!

At 5:15 we gathered again in the hotel dining room. Mihaela started a Romanian language lesson, but when we were joined by Mr. Stefanik, the vice-principal of the school where some of the volunteers will be teaching, we changed to discussing the plans for the school teaching program. Mihaela then went on to plan with the volunteers who will be working at the Children’s Hospital. We did return to the Romanian language lesson, making valiant effort to roll the Rs.

Final plans for the days are to have breakfast at 8:15, team meeting at 8:30 for the journal and message of the day, departure of volunteers to the hospital at 9:00, and departure of the teaching volunteers at 9:40. We will review the day’s activities at a team meeting over the evening meal.

Entry submitted by: Lori  

Message of the Day - Dan: “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of a candle will not be shortened. Happiness is never decreased by being shared.” - Buddha