This is it!

Well this is it.  Last blog post, last Sunday in Romania.  This Wednesday I will be driving down to Bucharest to catch an early flight out of there on Thursday. We took this with the branch after church today!ImageWeek updates!

Caroline and I had to break up a fight between little boys in the hospital this week.  It was kind of crazy.  We went into a room with four boys.  Two were brothers without a mom.  We busted out the bubbles and coloring books for them.  There were 2 little boys in the room next door that probably just wanted to play, but they were making faces through the window and it did not make the older of the two boys happy (he was eight).  After a few minutes, he got up and went into the room.  I thought he was just going in there to invite them over or tell them to stop.  Not so much.  Caroline said they were fighting, but I kind of just brushed it off and continued playing with the other boys.  About 45 seconds later I heard Caroline call my name.  I stood up in time to see our kid throwing a punch and kicking one of the boys from the other room.  I ran in to help pull them off of each other, and the boy from the room slumped to the bed, curled in to the fetal position, and cried.  We figured we should go tell the nurse because we did not know what type of sick kids that particular floor was for.  I went out, found a nurse, and asked if she spoke English.  Nope.  In broken Romanian, I tried to explain.  Băiat (boy)…. plunge (crying)… (insert me motioning punches here).  Thankfully she understood, and went in to help.  This happened Tuesday and the nurses haven’t really wanted us back on that floor since…

On Friday we threw Aislynn a little Bachelorette party, as she will be getting married in a few weeks!  We are all so excited for her and her wonderful fiancé (who also was a facilitator for the program and served his mission in Romania).  We went to a cute little café for drinks and treat, and then went back to my apartment for games and presents.  Such a fun night!ImageImageImageToday we had the awesome opportunity to go to the baptism of a baby from the orphanage.  Our favorite psychologist Teo was the one who organized the baptism, and she is now the beautiful baby girl’s godmother.  It was such a beautiful ceremony and the baby was precious.  I am so grateful I got to be there for it!ImageThis week I have just been thinking about my kids a lot, and how grateful I was able to come here and meet them.  This has been an amazing 3 months, and as difficult it has been, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  For the internship, I have to do write ups on each of the children I have worked with explaining what I have done with them and where some of their abilities are at for the next interns.  I completed these write ups this week.  Sometimes it is hard to feel or see the difference I am making here, but after writing down the improvements my kids have made this semester, no matter how small, I have been able to see a small part of that difference. 

Some of the differences are simply the smiles and laughter of the children who wouldn’t change their facial expressions no matter how much I would try to coax them during the first few weeks.  The children who didn’t want to be touched that now cuddle up with me.  The weak 1 ½ year old little boy who can now sit up on his own.  The little girl who can count to 10.  The children who can now hold their heads up on their own.  These are just a few of the small miracles that I have been able to see this summer, the differences were definitely not all me, but I am so grateful for the small part I was blessed to have in making them happen!  This experience has truly changed me, and I will never forget these children and the tremendous impact they have had on my life.  I love them.

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I like bananas, I like watermelon, I like plums and cherries too!

This week was so fantastic!  I mentioned that we were going to start teaching English in the afternoons to 3 classes at a kindergarten here in Iasi.  My teaching partner was Caroline, so all this week we spent about an hour planning lessons, and then we left to go teach half hour classes from 4 to 5:30.   For the first half of the week Aislynn came with us to help translate, but the last two days we were on our own.  Kate being the wonderful El Ed major she is came and helped us the last two days.  Those kids were so stinking cute and so dang smart!  This week we taught them animals, but we also reviewed the topics of the last two weeks, colors and fruits.  Some of the girls found a song on you tube to help the kids learn the fruits.  They all have it memorized and now, so do I.  It has been stuck in my head all week! Caution – this will get stuck in your head. 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_J-SK00Oaw

I love love love the hospital, but it is really hard to be there.  It was kind of nice to be in a place where children are developing normally and clearly loved by their parents.  And I love their energy and their adorable accents. Here’s a pic of Caroline and I after lessons!ImageThis Saturday we had the awesome opportunity to go visit Marionella’s (our in country facilitator) family in the countryside.  It was such an eye opening experience and they were so welcoming to us.  They live simply on a small plot of land.  They built their own house, and they have a garden and small vineyard.  They are pretty much completely self-sufficient and so resourceful.  From their animals and the things they grown on their farm, they are able to produce almost everything they need.  Their life seems so fulfilling and so low stress, and as much as I am grateful for all of the technology that today’s world has to offer, I loved seeing the happiness that existed on that simple little farm that lacks many of today’s modern conveniences. We were fed a delicious little meal.  When we got there, it was still cooking on the stove.ImageFor desert, we had honeycomb Mario had picked up from a nearby neighbor.  It was so good!Image

I am getting really excited to be home, but I will also really miss Romanian things, so I thought I would make some lists! 

Things I miss about America

  1. My family (and friends)  – I am so excited to see them again!
  2. Air conditioning – It is so hot here.  We do have rain sometimes, and that helps a ton, but when it is like 90 degrees with 85 percent humidity, I just miss air conditioning so much.  Opening the windows in the apartment only gets us so far, and we have no screens so it also gets us a million mosquito bites.
  3. Not having to light my stove/oven with a match – it is kind of hard to do, and I am not always successful with the oven.  At least I have Miranda to help with that!  Also there is no temperature indication on my oven, so I just turn the gas on about halfway and hope for the best!
  4. Speaking English – Although a quite a few younger people here do speak English, this summer has been filled with lots of broken Romania and hand gestures!
  5. Being alone – for safety reasons, I am always supposed to be with one, but preferably two, other people.  Sometimes I just miss going to the grocery store by myself.
  6. American food – Romanian food is not bad, but I am kind of over it.  There is not as much variety here as there is in the states, and I am so excited for some café rio and chipoltle!
  7. Not having to buy water – I hate carrying home 5 liter jugs of water. Hate it. I just want to get a drink from the tap!
  8. Looking cute – there is just no point here.  I do get ready on Sunday, but the rest of the week I am hot and sweaty with kids that are also hot and sweaty and sometimes sick as well.  The kids don’t care if look cute, they love me no matter what!  So for pretty much every day of the week, natural face and pony tail it is!
  9. Dryers  – The washing machine we have is so hard on our clothes and then we have to hang our clothes out on a clothes line to dry.  Unfortunately the humidity sometimes makes it take 2 days to dry, and by that time are clothes stink again and also get so stiff that they can pretty much stand up on their own.  Dryers are beautiful things.
  10. Not being stared at – I feel like I am stared at all the time here.  And unlike America, when you catch someone staring, they don’t look away.  They keep staring.  This happens most often at the hospital for sure, but it happens multiple times every day all over the city.  Everyone knows we are foreign, even if we don’t speak.  They just have some 6th sense or something. 

Things I will miss about Romania

  1. My kids!  I love them so much, I am so happy for the chance I have gotten to get to know them, and I will miss them so much!  They have seriously made this experience and impacted my life in so many wonderful ways.  I only wish I could know what their futures will be like…
  2. Pastries – A major weakness of mine.  I am a little obsessed and I usually buy a few a week at least.  But they are so cheap and soo delicious.  My favorite pastry place is called Petru, and they have these things called covridogs.  They are a sausage wrapped in a soft pretzel and so so so good.
  3. Chocolate – The chocolate here is significantly better than in the states and cheaper too.  I will be bringing quite a bit back with me.  That is all.
  4. The Piata! – This is the open air market, and they is one right in front of my bloc.  Fresh fruits and veggies of all kinds are sold by venders for much cheaper than the grocery stores.  My favorite things to buy are raspberries  and cherries.  I love them.
  5. Romanian music – Although I can’t understand a lot of what the lyrics say, songs are so fun and catchy here.  I have acquired quite the list of favorite songs.  Included with these are the silly little kid’s songs on a cd the orphanage has, they are just so catchy!
  6. No tax! – It is so great to buy something for 10 lei and not have to pay any tax on it.  That is going to be hard to get used to again when I go back!
  7. Being in a place with so much history – America is such a young country.  There is so much history here in this region.  I have been able to go into churches and buildings from as old as the 1400s, it is just amazing to see the history here and I love learning about it! 
  8. Taking Taxi’s – Although taxi’s are super sketch sometimes, they are fun, easy, and such a cheap and efficient way to get around.  The most I have spent on a taxi ride is about 2 dollars, but more often it’s about 60 cents.  It’s great!
  9. The wonderful Romanian people I have met this summer – there are so many people here who have helped to make this experience great.  The branch members here, Mario, Teo, some of my orphanage workers and some of the doctors and nurses on the hospital staff – I am just so grateful for the chance I have had to know them.  Like my kids at the orphanage and the hospital, they have impacted my life in a huge way with their kindness and friendship.  
  10.  Romanian outings with my fellow interns – Although living with 10 girls all summer has not been the easiest, I love all the girls I was able to have amazing adventures with all summer.  We have seen some remarkable things, ate delicious food, and have been in some of the craziest situations of our lives together.  This experience here with these great girls been priceless, and I will miss our Romanian adventures!

Just a week and a half to go, I have to make the most of it!Image

2 and a half weeks to go!

This week was kind of crazy, mostly because I am starting to realize how little time I have left here.

Monday was the last day of our trip in Brasov, and we ended our trip off pretty great!  We had planned on hiking up to the Brasov sign, but it had been rainy and chilly pretty much the entire time we had been in Brasov and our hostel owners were worried the trail had been washed out.  Instead of hiking, we ended up taking the most sketch gondola ride up the mountain.  Basically you stand in a box attached to a wire, they stuff in as many people as the possibly can, then you ride up the mountain.  It was so worth it though!  The view from the top was so beautiful!  Seriously, the countryside of Romania is so lush, green, and gorgeous.  Standing up at the lookout on the top of the mountain you could see the rolling green mountains to the left, the cute city below, and the golden fields ahead. ImageAfter the sign, we went and got some lunch, shopped around a little bit, and then rented some bikes to explore the city.  This ended up being a little anticlimactic, particularly because I did not know how to ride a bike on tiny sidewalks and streets packed with people without being in everyone’s way, but for a buck it was definitely worth it! ImageThat night ate out at a restaurant we had liked when we first got there and watched a chick flik.  Great end to a fantastic trip!

The next morning, we left at 6 am to get on a bus that would take us to the train station.  We had a 2 ½ train ride from Brasov to Bucharest, and then we chilled at the McDonalds in Bucharest Train Station (because they had free wifi and bathrooms if you buy something) before we left for our 7 hour train back home to Iasi.  This train was interesting.  We got in to our section and realized half of the seats we had paid for did not exist.  An elderly lady was in the seat by our 3 seats that did exist, and tried to help us.  She couldn’t find the seats either, but made 3 of us sit down in the seats she knew we had.  Kayla went to check on the other seats.  Turned out the conductor had a list of seat numbers that corresponded with the numbers on our tickets, so it was good we asked him!  We finally figured everything out and we were on our way!  But the lady next to us didn’t leave us alone.  She shut the window on the train and also covered up the air conditioning vent next to us with curtains, a hat, and her purse.  She was really worried about current (moving air/ cross breeze that some Romanians believe can make you sick).  She told Caroline how to sleep, where we all needed to put our bags, and grabbed my hand for help a few times.  She was really sweet and meant well, but I was really hoping she wouldn’t be riding next to me the entire 7 hours.  But she did.  At the end of the ride, she wished us good health and we got into a taxi to go home. When I got back to my apartment, I thought how nice it was to be home.  It is strange to think that for the past few months, Iasi has been my home.

The next day I got to go back to the orphanage and it was so great to see my kids again!  I loved seeing their happy faces, and I was so excited to be with them.  I was also really happy because I have not been able to hold one of my favorite baby girls for the last month because she cries to much when she is put down.  I finally got to hold her again this week and it made me so happy.  Her little muscles are so tense and tight and still very week, but she is so close to being able to roll over and sometimes can even hold up her head by herself now!  Another one of my favorite little boys is so close to standing up by himself, and he has gotten so good this week at standing up while holding on to something.

On Thursday after work we put on our red white and blue and went to probably the only American Restaurant in Iasi, Little Texas.  It is a tex mex place and even though it wasn’t quite American, I was so grateful for the Nachos, Chicken Strips and Peach Cobbler that I was able to enjoy there!

Here is the group plus Teo sporting some American pride!IMG_1262

Roomie picIMG_1301

Saturday was Caroline’s birthday and we started out by going to a big pool in Iasi.  Unfortunately, it started raining like crazy not too long after we got there, so we had to cut our pool day a little short.  I was surprised at how little regulation was at the pool.  It was not closed due to lightning, and there were no life guards that I saw.  Not even on the 4 tall platforms at different levels (the tallest was about 30 ft) that people were jumping into the pool  from.IMG_3881 IMG_3872

That night we had burgers and fries for dinner, and then held a Poetry slam.  We went and sat by the fountains and stairs at palace.  A few times we attracted a little crowd, and that was interesting.  After all the poems had been read, Caroline’s special birthday crown fell of her head and into the fountain.  Attempts were made to get it back, but unfortunately it was lost to cultural palace.Image

Sunday was Rachel’s birthday and we attempted to make Café Rio in her honor.  It actually was delicious, but unfortunately we could not find cilantro anywhere so we had to stick to regular ranch dressing.  We were grateful for it though because they don’t sell it (or really any salad dressing) here.  Some of the girls had the foresight to bring ranch packets with them to Romania, so that was great.  For dessert we had pazookies.  Cooking American food here takes some improvising, but it usually turns out pretty well!IMG_3891

I have 2 and a half weeks to go before I get on a plane home.  I can’t believe how fast time is going.  On one hand I feel like I have been here forever, and on the other I feel like I just got here yesterday.  As amazing as this experience has been though, I am getting really excited to be back in America!

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.

ImageWalking through the park

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

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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