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…


Pulling in to Constanta!  We were so tired.



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.



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


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!


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.

IMG_0894 IMG_0897 IMG_0902

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!


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.


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 🙂


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



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!  


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.


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.

Groceries and a Wedding!

Shopping for groceries has been an adventure here in Romania. Here are a few major differences I have noticed:

  • Everything is smaller. The biggest carton of milk is 1.5 liters.  Jars of spaghetti sauce are only good for about 4 uses. They do have family size bags of cereal, but they are about a fourth the size of the malto-meal bags I am used to in the States!
  • Everybody goes grocery shopping frequently, and each time they go they buy about 3-5 items. As I unload my basket full of food, I feel the eyes staring.  No one ever buys as much as we do.
  • They do not give you grocery bags.  You must either buy them from the store or bring them yourself. Carrying my groceries home is not my favorite.  Everything feels super heavy pretty much the second I walk out of the store.
  • We have to buy water here, because tap water is not safe to drink.  I like carrying this home even less than my groceries.

Monday we went on a huge grocery shopping trip.  On Tuesday morning, I woke up to pour myself a bowl of cereal.  When I went to open the fridge, I realized I didn’t need to, because it was already open, and had been all night.  All of the new food we had bought was warm and ruined. Because grocery shopping is not one of my favorite things to do here, I was kind of sad.  I’d also had 3 liters of milk go bad in the past week, so it had been a long time since I ate cereal and I missed it!  Thankfully, it was our day off from the hospital, so after the orphanage we went to the store to replenish our food supply.  We also bought a roll of duct tape to hold our fridge door closed, because we have noticed our fridge never seals very well.  It is not quite as reliable as duct tape in the states, but it has been getting the job done fairly well so far!


This week with the orphanage kids was a little hard.  Miranda and I had to work with one of the more difficult workers for a room for a few days.  She did not allow us to pick up the kids at all, which was really hard for me. She told us that the kids cry when we put them down, but I have never seen that happen.  Our kids our very happy and very quiet for the most part, so I don’t think her reasoning was really grounded.  If she tells us we can not pick up the kids again I will probably talk to someone about it, because although I can do things with the kids in their chairs, I can connect so much better with the children when I am holding them.

One of the most exciting moments of the week was when one of my kids said mama.  I have been working with him since I got here, and so far he has only been able to say one syllable – ah.  When he finally said mama it seriously made my day.  I am going to try to teach him a few more words before the end of the summer.

The hospital was a little rough as well.  There was one particularly naughty little boy that shocked us all and broke our hearts.  He had the the absolute worst black eye I have ever seen in my life.  It was literally solid black.  The day I went to see him, it was obvious he had been sedated, but he quickly gained energy.  His legs were tied to the bars on his crib, and he was not pleased at all.  He began to rip his sheets and totally destroy his bed.  He thrashed around.  When he got really angry he took off his shoes and threw them at the babies.  Lexi was a champ and tried to keep him entertained for about a half an hour with pretty much every child song and nursery rhyme we knew.  I felt so bad for him, and I can not imagine the life he has known.

Today we had an awesome opportunity!  We got to go to a Romanian Orthodox Christian Wedding.  It was so beautiful!  It was the wedding of the friend of the psychologist at the orphanage, and she was gracious enough to allow us to come.  It was at a church near my apartment.  It was a small, intimate ceremony and so different from anything I have witnessed before.  Here are a few pictures from the wedding!

IMG_3194 IMG_3197 IMG_3198


Pacifiers and Paddleboats

This week has been so nice, it has been so great to get into a routine!  I finally decided what room in the orphanage I was going to work in for the rest of the summer.  I had been thinking I was going to work in one of the orphanages satellite apartments (where they prepare kids to go in to foster homes).  I wasn’t able to go to the apartment until Wednesday, so I kept working in the orphanage room I had originally felt comfortable in.  When I went to the apartment on Wednesday, I was miserable.  I missed the kids from the room I had been working in so much!  Thinking about not getting to work with them for the rest of the summer was kind of just depressing.  As soon as I got home, I went and told Aislynn (our facilitator) that I wanted to stay in my orphanage room.  The rest of this week has been so wonderful because of it!

 My room has kids from about 1 year to 4 years, and a few that are older.  Most of them have some kind of handicap and are not really able to verbally communicate.  Only one of the children in my room can walk, and she is severely autistic.  She can be a little difficult to work with, but I love her.  I love them all. 

One of my favorite little girls was born without any hip bones.  Her legs are tiny and have to stay crossed, but she is a pro at crawling on her hands (she is pretty much one of the strongest little girls I have ever met) and is so agile with her wheelchair.  I taught her to say my name and it is adorable.  She loves my hand sanitizer, and asks for some everyday. 

Another little girl that I love has muscular dystrophy and hydrocephalus.  She is almost two and her muscles are very weak, she can’t even hold up her own head, but my goal is to help her to hold up her head and maybe even sit by the end of the summer.  She loves it when I sing to her, especially primary songs.  It is hard for me though, because so many of my favorite songs are about having loving parents.  She doesn’t, and I so wish that she did.  I do know that she and all these kids have a loving Heavenly Father though; they mean so much to him and he loves them all.  I am so grateful for the chance I have so share some of this love with them. 

I still love the hospital, even though it is still heartbreaking.  My little girl is still there, and hopefully she will be next week too. She was more fussy this week for some reason, and she must be starving because she is consistently making sucking motions with her mouth.  She tried to suck my arm, and I just wished I had a bottle to give her.  Rachel had a pacifier, so I gave her that, but the nurse got upset about it when she came in.  Honestly though, what harm can a pacifier do? 

Friday night we went to the Forza Zu Radio Concert.  There was a huge stage in front of the cultural palace of Iasi about a block from my apartment.  Tons of the biggest Romanian bands and singers were there, and 100,000 people came to this thing.  It was chaos, I have never seen so many people in one place in my life!  It was such a fun night though, and I found quite a few Romanian artists that I love!  I have been hearing songs around the city that I really like, and this concert made them a lot easier to find!  The concert started at 7, and went so late!  From out apartment, we could see that there were still thousands of people all over the streets when we went to bed at 1:30, and the concert seemed to still be going strong.  It was so much fun. Here we are waiting for the music to start!




Yesterday we went to a nearby lake with our branch.  It was so much fun!  We played games, ate snacks, and rented paddleboats.  Here we are at the lake! My legs are just a little bit sore. I definitely want to go back though, paddleboat rentals are not bad at all!



First days at the hospital and orphanage

This week has been simply amazing, but hard.  We were able to get into both the children’s hospital and the orphanage sooner than expected, which made us super happy.  It has been so much fun traveling and seeing this beautiful country, and I will definitely be doing more over the rest of this summer, but it has been nice to kind of start going in to a schedule!

On Wednesday morning we went to the orphanage.  It was a lot harder for me than I expected it to be.  We went around to each of the rooms in the orphanage as a group (there are 5) to meet the kids and get a feel for the rooms.  We also visited two satellite apartments (these are where kids go to prepare for foster care).  Seeing some of these kids was really difficult just because of the state they are in.  A lot of them are much smaller than they should be, and some of them have little bodies that are so deformed.  They have flat heads from lying in cribs and their legs are bent in odd directions.  Yet, when you talk to these kids and ruffle their hair, they smile like they are the happiest kids in the world.  I love them.  Some of the kids were playing outside when we visited their rooms, so we went outside to meet them.  When we walked outside, they all ran to us with their arms out reached.  They were all screaming and excited, they loved us instantly.  It broke my heart to see all of these precious children and the situation they are in. 

On Thursday, we paired up and spent 30 minutes in each room to kind of get a feel for where we want to work for the rest of the summer.  I loved the kids in each room, but there are some rooms that I think I would have a really hard time in.  As of right now, I will be working in one of the satellite apartments in the mornings, and the hospital and clinic in the afternoons.  I am a little conflicted though because yesterday, I worked in one of the orphanage rooms because we can’t start in the apartments until next week.  I loved the kids in this room so. dang. much.  This room has fairly normal developing babies and toddlers who are in wheelchairs.  They had such strong spirits and were so happy and so sweet, and I would be so happy to be working with them this summer. I am excited to see how the apartment goes on Monday though, because I am sure I will love those kids just as much. 

The hospital.  I LOVE the hospital.  Actually the conditions there make me really sad.  It is very rudimentary and there are so often a lot of kids (the most I’ve seen is 6) packed in to tiny rooms.  The moms lie on the small beds with their children and stay with them every day.  There is no food at the hospital so parents have to bring their own to feed their kids.  There are 8 floors in the hospital, with 2 wings on each one.  We go to each one and ask the nurses if there are any children without moms.  If there are, they take us to them and we will change their diapers, massage them, play with them, and just spend time with them for a little while.  My current favorite baby is in the ICU, and when she is gone from the hospital I am going to be really sad.  Looking at her, you would think she should be in an incubator but she is just in an old crib with a feeding tube and oxygen mask, which is pretty much the size of her face and she does not like it at all.  She is about the length of my forearm and weights maybe 4 pounds, and I love her so much.  She is adorable and I have no idea when she was born or if she even has a name, but she is so special – all the kids I have been with in that hospital are.    

The hospital is super hot inside.  They may open windows, but they usually don’t because if they do they have to close the door, and they believe the cross breeze (what they call curent) and air conditioning can make you sick.  All the babies wear at least 2 layers, hats, and are covered in a blanket, so when we get to them they are wet with sweat.  I cannot imagine feeling like that all the time.  I am dying just being in my scrubs for 3 hours. I love being in the hospital because I feel like I am really needed there.  Although I feel needed in the orphanage too (a ton of workers there have quit lately), there are workers to take care of the kids.  At the hospital, the orphan or abandoned children have no one but the nurses, who seem to do pretty much the bare minimum of feeding and changing diapers.  They get very little, if any, of the human touch and contact that is so necessary for development.  For just a little while, I get to provide that kind of care to them and that is so special to me. 

Today Shellie, Rachel and I went and people watched on the Palas lawn.  Palas is a new and really nice area that was just built behind my apartment.  It has a huge and super nice mall, outdoor bars, fountains, the cultural palace and a huge lush green lawn.  It is kind of the hang outplace, and there are always a ton of people playing and hanging out there.  It is kind of interesting to see the contrast between my front yard and my back yard. 

Here is my front yard –Image

Here are a few pics of my backyard – 



We saw so many interesting things, from a wedding party taking pictures to what looked like the tail end of a dance battle that had been going on (that was really interesting).  There is a carousel there, here are some gypsy kids that wanted to ride it.  Not too long after this picture they were shooed out of Palas by security.  There is a lot of racism against gypsies here.


In light of mother’s day, I have been thinking about this experience and how grateful I am for my parents and for everything they have done to guide me, teach me, and provide for me.  I am so grateful for my mom and everything she has done for me over the two decades.  She is so strong and such a great example to me and I love her so much.  I only wish that all these children I have met so far had been blessed with a mom as great as mine.  I love you mom! 


First few days in Romania

So far, I love Romania!  Since we can’t get in to work yet, we have just been soaking up the city. I am also loving my cute little communist bloc apartment.  Here are a few pics –


My bed room



Our little kitchen


Our living room!

On our first big day, we went shopping at the piață (an open air market).  There are vendors selling all sorts of fruits, veggies, spices, bread, meat, cheese, and other random trinkets.  We made some of our first real purchases in Romanian!  Mel was pretty excited about the bread, you can get a fresh loaf for about 30 cents!



It has been dang hot here, so after we made our purchases we got our first taste of Romanian ice cream.  Soo good!



Yesterday we walked up to visit one of the monasteries in Iasi. On our way there we stopped at a cemetery and talked to the priest at the Orthodox Christian Church there (this is the predominant religion in Romania).  He was so willing to talk to talk to us and was very helpful.  Before we left he gave us all traditional Romanian Easter Eggs.  They are all decorated with beeswax and then died red.  This is because Mary, the mother of Christ had a basket of eggs at the foot of Christ’s cross and his blood dripped down, dying the eggs red.  Here are our eggs!




On our trek up to the monastery we stopped at the top of the hill, you could see pretty much the whole city, it is so beautiful!



We finally made it to the monastery, The churches here are so beautiful.  Here is a picture of one inside the monastery.




Last night we went to the Midnight Easter service.  Everyone has candle that they light, symbolic of spreading the light of Christ.  It was so interesting to see the service and how others worship.  The service was beautiful and went till about 4 am, but we only stayed until a little after 1 am because we were so tired.  Here we are with our candles after the service!


Overall, its been a successful few days!  Tomorrow we travel to Moldova and Tuesday we are visiting the Botanical gardens.  I love all this traveling but I can’t wait to start doing what I really came her to do! 









First stop: London!

Holy cow, the last few days have been amazing and indescribable!  It is still a little weird to think that I have been across the an ocean and on the other side of the world, but it is finally sinking in.  London was so much fun, even though we were only there for a few days I can’t believe how much we were able to squish in to just a few days!  

Once we finally all found each other in the airport, we took the underground to our hotel.  I am so glad we bought an unlimited pass because we used the tube to get to pretty much everywhere we went while we were in London.  We first went to our hotel.  Super cute, but it was truly the tiniest room and bathroom I had ever seen!  We got to pull our 50 pound bags  up four flights of stairs to our room, so that was an experience as well!  






On our first day were pretty exhausted from our trips, so we went to church, ate and and explored a little and called it an early night.  Monday, we woke up and headed out to get our double decker bus tour tickets.  I enjoyed this so much, it was narrated and took us by all the major tourist attractions in London.  Here is us as we rode across the Tower Bridge on our bus!



We stopped at the tower of London and saw the crown Jewels!  Here is us with some beefeaters inside the tower!


After this we took a scenic cruise down the river Thames and went to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham palace!  It was crazy actually being at these places that I have seen countless times in books and movies, and I am so grateful for the opportunity we had to go to London.



On Tuesday Lexi joined us from Paris, and we rode the subway to platform 9 3/4.  It was so much fun!  They had a line for pictures and people who acted as if they were actually sending you off.  They had scarves you could wear, and a store where you could buy all sorts of harry potter paraphernalia.  We took so many pictures here!  


Later on we checked out the National Gallery.  After my semi-painful humanities class this last semester, I thought I hated all things art. But seriously, seeing the original work of van Gogh, Constable, Monet, Caravaggio, and other world famous artists, I was humbled and blown away.  Here we are in front of the gallery 🙂



Since Lexi missed the day we went and saw Westminster Abbey, we stopped by to get a picture on our way back to the hotel.


To end our stay in London, we went to Wicked!  I completely and absolutely loved it!  I was on such a high after that show.  I love musicals, and seeing one in the west end of London was so worth it!  Overall London was such a great experience, and I am so glad I got to travel there with Shellie, Kate, and Lexi.  I love those girls!

Wednesday was completely devoted to traveling to Romania.  I am now settled in to my apartment in the city of Iasi and so excited to get started with everything I am going to be doing this summer.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), Romania is celebrating Easter right now and things will be closed until the 7th of May because of this holiday, so we will probably not be able to get in to the orphanage until later next week.  This is a little sad, but we will be able to get some great exploring and traveling in before then, so I am excited for everything ahead!