Buna Ziua Bucharest (and Transylvania)!

This week has been fantastic!  A school in Iasi has asked us to teach English lessons in the evenings to different Kindergarten classes to supplement their official English classes.  All of the girls are pretty eager for it.  We have paired off and each pair will take a week for the rest of our time here.  I only had two days of work this week, but they were pretty great!  The orphanage just got a trampoline and all the kids were pretty excited about it, it so fun to watch them play!

On Wednesday at 4:00am, I got in a taxi and went to catch a train to Bucharest with Cynthia, Kate, Caroline, Kayla, and Lexi.  We got in around 11:30, and spent a little longer than expected trying to find out how to get bus tickets and where the bus we were supposed to take was.  We finally got it all sorted out and finally found our hostel, a super cute and cozy place on the 6th floor of a bloc building.  We didn’t want to carry all our stuff up, so we took the super small and sketch elevator.  I have never really been afraid of getting stuck in an elevator until Romania.

ImageOn our first day in Bucharest we explored a little around a park and the city, went to eat, and took a walking tour.  The walking tour was so great because we got to hear all the history behind everything we had just explored, and it was so interesting!  It was also really nice to meet some other Americans, because besides us and the Missionaries here, I haven’t met any until now.

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ImageBefore we left the park I just had to get a picture in a telephone booth!  These belong together 🙂Image

In front of the Royal Court church, part of our walking tour!

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On day two of Bucharest, we started out at the House of Parlaiment.  It is the second largest building in the world and was built by the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.  Communism fell in Romania before the building was actually finished.

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ImageAfter this we had lunch and headed over to the Triumph ArchImageAfter this we walked to a Village Museum.  This is basically a huge park with authentic Romanian homes that have be moved or rebuilt to show was life was like.  ImageImageImageImageOur last activity of the day was renting paddleboats.  So much fun!ImageThat night we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe.  It was soo delicious.  After not having any American food (besides McDonalds) for the past two months, I was pretty excited about my twisted mac and cheese and grilled chicken!ImageFriday we got on a train to Transylvania, land of castles, vampires, and beautiful lush green mountains.  We are staying in a little hostel in the city of Brashov.  The first half of a day we had we did a little exploring.ImageImageThe Black Church!ImageBrashov Sign! ImageThat night I wasn’t feeling too hungry so I just ordered a salad. This is what came out to me.  It wasn’t bad, but definitely one of the more strange salads I have eaten!ImageOn Saturday we went on a tour that took us to two castles and one fortress in Transylvania.  I was feeling kind of bummed because I forgot my student ID card in the States, which for pretty much every touristy place you go to will get you a ticket for less than half the price.  My sweet hostel owners allowed me to borrow a card to try to get the student price since I am a student.  It worked every time.  Can you see the resemblance?  (PS – the card is from 1991, and that’s a boy)ImageThe first castle we went to was Peles Castle.  It was so beautiful!  It was built by the first King of Romania, after the country gained its independence.  ImageImagePeles, we drove over to Bran Castle, the home of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  It was very different than Peles, but I really enjoyed it!ImageImageImageImageOur last stop was Rashnov Fortress.  The other fortress we saw was awesome, but I think this one topped my list!  ImageImageCan you say gorgeous view?ImageWhen he found out we were American, this sweet man played Oh Susanna for us!ImageThe tram that got us up to the fortress.ImageOur trusty van driver.  We were so grateful to him for putting up with 6 crazy girls all day!  Image

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Monasteries and Fortresses!

Although this week was tainted by sadness, our group had an awesome opportunity on Saturday!  Mario hired a maxi taxi to take us to 3 monasteries and a fortress in the mountains.  I was able to see some awesome things.  These buildings were old, a few build in the 1400’s, and it is crazy to me to think how much has happened and how amazing it is that those historical landmarks are still here and have been so well preserved. The first monastery we went to was Neamt Monastery.  This one had a museum inside, and we were able to see some very old and important artifacts from the Romanian Orthodox church. Many of the railings and the gazebo were covered in pine boughs, and everything smelled so good here! Image The second monastery we went to was called Secu Monastery.  We didn’t have long here, but it was beautiful.  Here is where I lit a candle for my hospital baby Pîn. ImageImage The last monastery was the Sihastria Monastery.  It was the biggest and I thought the most beautiful of the ones we saw today.  I definitely took the most pictures here! Image Image Image Before we left to go to the fortress, we were told we should go to the bathroom because we wouldn’t have another chance for a few hours.  This was my first time using a bathroom in the countryside, and I kind of hope I never have to again.  It took us about 15 minutes to work up the courage.  Here is why. Image I was not as happy as I look, mostly I was just proud of myself for actually going. We ended the day by going to the Neamt Fortress.  It was awesome!  There was a very small and steep road we had to hike up to get there.  It was short, but still definitely winding! Image At the fortress! Image We had to pay to get in and to take pictures, but it wasn’t much and was so worth it!  We were able to see places where prisoners were kept, a kitchen, a living area, a meeting place for Knights, and more!  Image ImageImage Image On the way back down! Image I seriously loved seeing all this history and I am so excited to go to Brashov and Bucharest next week and see more!

In Memory of…

This week was the most difficult I have had since I have been in Romania.  On Tuesday I went to the hospital and spent time with my little hospital baby girl.  She was weak, and the worst I had ever seen her.  Her breathing was ragged, and her eyes kept on rolling back in her head.  I realized that she was going to die.  I just didn’t think she would be gone the next day.  

On Wednesday I went to the hospital, and saw that all of the children in her room had been moved to the room next door.  Her room had obviously been recently cleaned and sanitized.  There were only two names on the door, my baby’s (her name was Pîn – meaning pine tree) was gone.  That’s when I knew, even though I hoped that she had just been moved to another area of the hospital.  I just needed to know for sure, and I really hoped that a nurse or doctor who spoke English would be at the hospital because I couldn’t get the nurse to tell me if she was gone.  After spending time with some of the other babies, an English speaking doctor came in, and I was so grateful.  He is great, and he really cares about the orphan and abandoned children in the hospital.  I asked him if he knew where Pîn was.  He just replied that he was so sorry.  She had pneumonia and some heart problems and they couldn’t save her.  

The hardest part is that if she were in the States, she likely would have lived.  If she had the care she could receive there, she likely wouldn’t have even gotten so sick, and that breaks my heart.  This is one of the hardest things to see with all of the children I work with.  So many of them have physical problems that here are debilitating and potentially fatal, simply because they can not receive the proper medical care that they need.  

It is bittersweet, because I love her.  But the reality is that I leave in a month, and I could not be there for her. I would never have known what happened to her, and I would never want her to have to grow up in an orphanage.  Now she is in heaven with those who love her and I am glad her suffering is over, even though I do miss her.  Even though Pîn was just a tiny baby, she has impacted my life in so many ways that I will never forget, and I will never forget her.  

Today we went to some monasteries.  You can buy candles and light them for the living and the dead.  In the orthodox religion, it is like sending a prayer.  I lit one for her.

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Halfway point!

This week marked my halfway point here in Romania, I can’t believe how fast time is going!

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We finally got into the floor of the hospital where my baby is this week.  On Thursday I was finally able to see her again.  She is so sick, I wish I knew exactly what was wrong with her.  A few weeks ago she was doing so well.  She just he got sick so suddenly and is still not much better.  Her breathing is so ragged and her little body is not strong enough for her coughs.  She seemed too weak to even cry on Thursday, and I really hope this week will be better for her.

On Wednesday Lexi and I were supposed to start in the Clinic, sort of like a NICU for babies after they are moved from the children’s hospital.  We have been given specific dates for days we can go, mostly based on what doctor is working (because many of the clinic doctors do not want us there). When we got there, we were turned away after a few minutes of talking to one of the doctors, who was not the one who we were originally supposed to work with.  She told us there was no need for us, and we could call next week before we came to see if they needed us.  After we left we called our in country contact who basically sets up all the places we work at in Iasi.  She will call them and hopefully we will be able to get in, but as we have already been here a month and a half with no success I feel like we may just have to give up on the clinic.

On Wednesday night, the orphanage psychologist Teo invited us to her apartment to watch a documentary on a story she was heavily involved in.  Five years ago, the girls on this internship found a boy in the hospital who had been badly burned in a fire as a result of his alcoholic father.  Both his parents died as his family lived in the country side and the ambulance only had room for one.  Two girl’s family’s worked to bring the boy to the US to get the medical treatment he needed.  It was a long process, but eventually the boy made it to the US with his brother.  You can read more about the story here:

http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/byu-students-help-romanian-burn-victim-get-treatment/article_723acce9-2499-5460-aa05-f9f22b058ffe.html

http://www.voanews.com/content/young-romanian-burn-victim-gets-help-in-california-117517453/170534.html

I really appreciated the opportunity to watch this because it reminded me that although I can’t necessarily do everything these girls were able to for Marius, I am making a huge difference in a lot of children’s lives who are also alone.

On Friday I got to go with two of my favorite kids from the orphanage to palace, the super nice area behind my apartment.  I got to push my favorite little 4 year old (the girl who was born without hip bones) around in her wheelchair.  We went and walked around outside a little first, looking at all the flowers and fountains.  The wonder in the kid’s eyes is priceless.  Before we went back, we went to Auchan, a large grocery store at Palace.  This was my little girl’s first time in a grocery store, and she was pretty much in awe.  She wanted to touch everything, and loved running her hands down the rows and rows of 2 liter coke bottles near the front of the store.  When we got to the checkout, the sweetest old lady was in front of us in line and bought each of the kids a little package of cookies.  I was so touched by her kindness, and reminded that even though we have had to deal with some frustrating people here, Romania is full of genuinely kind people.

Yesterday I went with Kate and Cynthia to a monastery in Iasi.  We went to a monastery during the first week we were here and it was pretty, but this one was beautiful!  After exploring everything within the walls we walked around the outside of the monastery.  We found a short trail that took us to a spot where we could see so much of Iasi and all the gorgeous rolling green hills beyond the city.  I took so many pictures, but it is so hard to capture everything I want to in a picture.  I did my best though!

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Black Sea Vacation!

This was a fabulous week.  I had 3 days of work, and then I headed down to the black sea.  The orphanage was great this week, but a little bittersweet.  A few of the kids went in to foster care or were adopted, which is so so great because a family is definitely the ideal place for these children to be, but we have grown to love them and will miss them.  We are so happy they going to homes though!  Here foster care is pretty much like adoption.  The family will take care of a child until they turn 18, but will usually continue to help provide for them after that because they have become part of their family.  I also find it interesting that most people want older, not younger children here, whereas in the US, I feel like people usually prefer to adopt babies.  One of my original babies left this week though, and I am so happy for him.  He does have a heart condition, but other than that he is a happy, energetic little boy and I am so glad he is going to grow up in what I hope will be a loving home!

We were still not allowed in the wing of the hospital with my baby girl this week, but I had an awesome day at the hospital on Wednesday.  The kids there were just so happy when we came.  There was a new perfect baby there a floor we had never been allowed on before.  Apparently there was nothing wrong with him, but he is only 2 months old and mother abandoned him.  There was another little boy in the room next to his that was seriously one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen.  Bright blue eyes and blond hair.  He did have a mother, but kept peeking around the corner when we saw that we had bubbles.  He was just too precious so we played with him for a while too.  His little laugh was just so happy!

On Wednesday night, our train left Iasi at 10:30 pm.  It was a horrible night.  Even though I train went overnight, it wasn’t a sleeper train and we didn’t have our little compartments like we thought we would.  The 6 of us in our little group were facing each other at least.  It was pretty much impossible for me to sleep.  They didn’t turn the lights off and I just have a really hard time sleeping sitting up.  The train is stop and go, and we definitely waited in some super sketch train stations around 3 in the morning.  At 7:30 am we finally rolled in to Constanta.  It was weird because it was morning but it felt like there was never a night.  We got a taxi to our hotel, put on our swim suits and headed straight for the beach.  Here are a few pics…

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Pulling in to Constanta!  We were so tired.

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The rest of the day we explored and hung out at the beach more.  Because we were so exhausted we called it an early night, and apparently we were a bit of an anomaly in Mamaia for this reason.  One of our cab drivers asked us what we were doing in at the black sea.  The girls told him we were there for the beach.  He was a little baffled, because according to him, no one goes there for the beach, they go there for the clubs.  We definitely got some invitations over the few nights we were there.

Day 2 was a full day on the beach.  We went and bought a volleyball, and some Romanian 20 something year olds came and asked to play with us.  It was so fun!  It was fun to talk to people our age and get their take on different things and learn about their school systems and jobs and lives.  They were super funny, and they really struggled to say some of our names.  We had trouble with one of theirs too, so he told that his name was just  Bryan.

That night we went to the mall in Constanta.  We took a Gondola ride halfway there.

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After we got off we walked through a little carnival and city park.  It was fun to go exploring!

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When we got to the mall there was an elephant in front because of a circus that was going on.  It seemed a little sketch because no one was really watching him and he didn’t have much to fence him in, but naturally we took pictures with him!

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On our last full day, we went to the beach (again).  Lexi’s birthday was Sunday, so we celebrated Saturday since we were on train pretty much all day on Sunday.  We went out for dinner at a little Italian place on the boardwalk.  When we walked up, there were 3 guys sitting outside at the front of the restaurant, and we realized they were speaking English.  Turns out they were Marines.  We were all a little excited because we never run into Americans here.  Ever.  Everyone here also assumes we are British or Italian, and are always surprised when they find out we are from America.  They tried to buy us drinks, but we are Mormon BYU students interning with orphans – so that wasn’t happening.  In the end, they just bought 6 tequila shots for themselves. Here are some pictures from dinner.

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After dinner we went and got mocktails on the beach because it was Lexi’s 21st .  We went to cute little place with awesome chairs and the nicest waiter ever.  He made us delicious special grapefruit drinks in honor of Lexi’s birthday, and brought us blankets because it was chilly.  It was so fun!

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Sunday we went to church in Constanta before we boarded the horrid train.  It was in kind of an out of the way place, but it is so comforting to walk into a church building.  I love that even when I feel lost and completely out of place, I can walk into a LDS church building and feel welcomed and right at home, because it is the same everywhere you go.

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The train ride home was not quite as utterly horrible as the way there, but 10 hours on a train is never fun.  At least we were actually supposed to be awake during the time we were on this one!  We played a lot of card games 🙂

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Overall, Mamaia was beautiful and I had so much fun with these lovely ladies!

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21st Birthday and exploding lightbulbs

Sometimes our light bulbs explode out of their sockets.  This is particularly scary because it is super loud, and sometimes they shatter.  This week it happened again, only this time we lost all our light power.  The electricity for other things still worked, but the lights didn’t.  I am more used to living here now, but it was still a little scary coming home to a completely dark apartment.  Thankfully it only took two nights to get it fixed, but I am embarrassed to admit that the clothes drying on the close line outside my window definitely started to look like hooded figures around midnight.

My hospital baby was sick this week, which was so sad.  She was getting ready to be moved to a different area of the hospital but she came down with something and is still where she was before.  She was coughing way too hard for her tiny body to handle and she couldn’t keep anything down.  One of the days I was with her she was spitting up milk through her mouth and nose and was super fussy between her coughs.  I felt so bad that she was so sick and I couldn’t stay with her longer. I am so grateful for the mom whose child is in the same room though.  This mother is simply amazing.  Her child has been in the hospital for almost two weeks now and she is always there with him.  She goes above and beyond by helping the 2 other motherless babies in the room, something I have rarely seen in the hospital.  When they are crying she comforts them, and when they get sick she helps clean them up.  She is such a selfless woman, and I really admire her.

Friday was my birthday, and it was pretty fantastic!  I woke up and was served a delicious French toast breakfast by my roommates and the girls upstairs.  We then went to the orphanage, where I was presented beautiful flowers by the Pordu girls.  I changed in to my scrubs and went upstairs to my room where I was greeted by my favorite workers for my room.  They were so excited to see me and wished me happy birthday several times.  They made me an adorable card and sang me happy birthday in English (which was special because they don’t speak any).  I just felt so loved!Image

The hospital was the one dark spot on my day.  When we tried to go to the floor with the most children, including my baby, we were told they did not have any children and were turned away.  We tried to talk to them and at least leave diapers for the babies, but they just kept telling us they did not have any children.  They had at least 6, so we were very upset.  There wasn’t really much we could do though, because we did not speak enough Romanian to really call them out on what they were telling us.  Thankfully some of the girls went yesterday and were able to get in to that floor, but only for 20 minutes.  Still, it is better than nothing.  I just hope we can work back up to spending the time there that we used to be able to.

Later, I was made an awesome chik-fil-a style dinner, and it definitely hit the spot.  Then came the best part of my day – going out for cheesecake!  Cheesecake is my favorite, and I am so glad they have it here!  We found out they had mock tails too but we decided to wait on those until Lexi turns 21 next week.  The cheesecake was great.  Definitely not as sweet as in the states, but it was just what I needed.  Shellie made me a birthday crown that I wore to cheesecake.  I thought I was stared at before, but I think I got more looks than I ever have here on the way to the little shop.  Children were pointing at me and staring at me with wide eyes, it was kind of hilarious.  That night I got to talk to my family, and overall it turned out to be a pretty fantastic birthday!  Thanks to all the birthday wishes from everyone back in the States!  

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On Saturday we went and bought souvenirs from a ton of venders who were set up outside of the Cultural Palace.  They were selling various different crafts, and there were so many awesome authentic Romanian things!  Gorgeous painted eggs, beautiful wood carvings, leather bags and belts, pottery and so much more!  Some of the venders were doing their work inside their tents.  Here is a guy throwing a pot.

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This week we are heading off to Mamaia, a Black sea resort.  I am so excited to spend a few relaxing days just chilling on the beach!

Also, sorry I cannot be more specific about the children I work with or put up pictures.  Because of the contract we have signed and Romanian child protection laws, doing this could jeopardize the continuation of this program.