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Friday, June 4, 2010

Home Again

Well, here I am. Home sweet home. After 27 hours of travel, and a mixup of luggage at the airport, I am finally able to nurse my jet lag in peace. Why is it that jetlag is always so much worse coming back?
I'm already planning a trip back to Oradea next summer, God willing.
And as much as I miss my friends in Oradea, I'm still glad to be weirdly and wonderfully home.

Thank you to everyone who helped support me on this little trip of mine,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Indescrible Experience

Over the weekend, I traveled by bus to the St. Ilie Monastery. The monastery is in Albac, which is an little village tucked away in the mountains. And I don't use "little" or "tucked away" very lightly. The bus ride from Oradea to Albac took about 4 1/2 hours but I really didn't mind because I got see some of the Romanian countryside. The bus was crowded and rather smelly (farmers here aren't particularly concerned with bathing) but the trip really showcased an aspect of this country that you don’t see in the city. Upon arriving in Albac, Father Dionisie picked me up and we drove up to the monastery. St. Ilie Monastery was started by Father Dionisie and his sister, Mother ­­­Meletia. It is now home to ten nuns as well as various cats, goats, and chickens. I don’t have the words, or the time, to describe the following four days. There were liturgies on Sunday and Monday morning, with evening services every night, and a regular morning service on Tuesday morning. The food there was amazing.. I felt like Heidi when she started eating fresh mountain food for the first time. The monastery was so peaceful, I could feel myself sinking into the serenity more and more as the days passed. On Sunday, after a six hour Pentecost liturgy, I went with two of the nuns on a hike into the hills. Oh glory!
The plan had been for me to return on Sunday afternoon, but I was still in church when the last bus went. Then Monday was a holiday, so no buses. Tuesday morning, the first bus just drove right past me and so I had to wait for the next one a few hours later. I took it all as a sign that God really wanted me to spend time there... which was perfectly ok with me!
Did I mention that the nasty, freezing weather we have been having broke on Saturday just as I arrived? It was outrageously beautiful for my entire visit. I took pictures and videos, and I could talk (er, type) until I was blue in the face… but it really wouldn’t give the experience justice.
(While I was there I discovered fresh, warm goat’s milk with honey. I have had store bought goat’s milk before and thought it was pretty gross. This stuff was entirely different… if I could live the rest of my life on warm goat’s milk, I would die a happy person.)

On a different note, I have almost reached the end of my visit here… only four more sleeps until I begin my journey home. To say I have mixed feelings about this would be a gross understatement. My time here feels so removed from my “old” life, I’m not sure how to fit myself back in. Well, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
My trip starts Monday night. My bus from Oradea to Budapest leaves at 1:30am, and my first flight is at 10:00am. It will be a crazy two and a half days. (The real neat part is that I’ll arrive on the same day that I leave, because I’m heading west. It’s kinda like I can travel through time… or something. :P)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Life as Usual

I though it would be good to have some pictures of Istvan the way that I see him. This is him after his morning bottle.

I learned how to make placinte (pronounced Pla-cheen-ta), which is a Romanian pastry. It's soooo yummy.

Kathy, Andrea, and I.
Istvan's new foster parents took him away today. Although I am delighted that he now has parents who obviously love him already, part of my heart is still breaking.

The past week has been busy as per usual. It's been wonderful having a symphony house so close by (a 7 min. walk) with tickets being so cheap (the equivalent of $12 CA). I had never been to a symphony before and I absolutely love it!

Tomorrow morning I get on a bus that will take me into the mountains. I'm going to be spending Pentecost at St. Ilie Monastery, just outside of a little town called Albac. Both the monastery itself, and the surrounding area, is supposed to be very beautiful and I look forward to taking a billion pictures. Also, it will be good to get away from the city a little... both to see more of the country and to soak up the peace and quiet.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This is Elvis (pronounced El-vees). He is one month old and was brought in by his mother after a rat climbed into the box he was sleeping in and bit him on the face. The bite is mostly heeled, but I think it still hurts him. He has the softest, thickest black hair you have ever seen. He is a very serious little thing.
This is Lorena (pronounced Lo-ray-na) and she is two months old. She had some complication with her intestines and is staying in the hospital indefinately. She's happy all the time and cries the least of all the babies. Evertime she sees someone stick their tonue out her whole little face lights up, she thinks it's so funny.

This is Tunde (pronounced Toon-day) and she's less then 1 month old. She still sleeps most of the time, but when she is awake you can see her eyes are starting to focus on things. I'm not really sure why she's in the hospital... sometimes the doctors tell us and sometimes they don't.

This is David (pronounced Da-veed) and he is 5 months old. David (on account of being the oldest) is the most active. He has two of the most adorable dimples that act as an early warning system whenever he is about to smile. He has a problem in his throat that make him very susseptible to choaking when he's eating. However, they tried to return him to his family and they refused to take him. This is farely common, the families won't accept the baby back but they won't sign him over to the state either. So the child lives in the hospital, and every few months the ambulance takes them home to try to get the mother to take him. Sometimes the children can be in the hosptial for years. Holding him is Dora, Vera's daugher.

And this is Istvan (pronounced Eesht-van) and yes, he's still in the hosptial. Over the past few days he has started getting worse again, and he lost all the colour that he had been gaining. He quite likes being in the smaller room because, even when I'm not holding him, he can always see me. When he's not sleeping, he's watching me. He started talking, or at least making noises when I talk to him. He has the cutes laugh but lately, whenever he laughs, it turns into a coughing fit

This has been a truly crazy week. They are doing renovations at the hospital and as a result, we had to move our babies into a different room. This wouldn't be a problem if we didn't have seven babies and if the new room wasn't half the size of the old one. David and Darius (the twins) aren't even with us right now, they are in the next room over. And if that wasn't making things interesting enough, some kind of ruptured cyst under her arm that just won't heal. The doctors have pumped her full of medication and places her on bedrest for one week. Her daughter, Dora, and I have been holding down the fort. Between spending approx. 7 1/2 hours at the hospital everyday and helping with Codi and Andrea when I get home, blogging just sort of fell to the bottom of my to-do list. And yet, it has been an amazing week. The little babies are so tiny, so fragile, so young. And yet you can already see their individual little personalities. Watching Elvis stare in fascination at his own fingers, or seeing Tunde focus her gaze on something for a few seconds... it makes me feel blessed that I'm given the chance to see those moments. I could literally talk forever about all the little happenings that occur over the course of the day when you are surrounded by five little infants.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Half Way

I'm now working on the second half of my trip. It feels like I have been here forever, and at the same time it feels like I only just arrived. This past weekend was an eventful one... sometimes mundane, sometimes joy filled, sometimes heartbreaking. Saturday was chore day. Kathy had two sets of guests coming over the next day (Sunday) and we had to get the house ready. I washed all the windows in the sun room and it looks so nice! There's just something rewarding about washing windows.
The neighbors have an old, broken down car that has just been sitting in the courtyard. They told the girls that they could play in it if they wanted. They have spent every available second in it since.

Earlier in the week, Vera (the woman I work with in the hospital) had invited me to attend church with her and her family. So Sunday morning, I walked to their church. After the service (they are Baptists) we all piled into their car and went back to her house for lunch. And by all I mean myself, Vera, her five children, her daughter-in-law, two family friends, five children from one of the local orphanage, and two visiting Dutchmen who support Kathy's ministry. Needless to say, it took a few trips. Vera made enough food to feed thirty-eight people, not eighteen, and it was so good. Afterwards, I got to know some of the children from the orphanage. Vera's oldest son and his wife (who is American) bring some children to church every Sunday, take them back to Vera for lunch, and then return them to the orphanage. The older children spoke some English and were delighted to meet someone from "America" (I explained to them that I was from Canada, but they were too excited about the idea of me being American to listen). I really hit it off with one of the girls, Alexandra, who is 14 years old. We talked about music (when Usher came up she gave this impish grin and said, "He is a very beautiful boy!") and played clapping games. After they left, Dora told me about the situation at the orphanage. There are about 80 children, ranging in ages from 3 to 18. Aside from school, they have absolutely no extracurricular activities. The so called 'care givers' really couldn't care less about the children. The children aren't taught any life skills such as cooking or cleaning... nothing. As you can imagine, the children look forward to Sunday's very much. But the 'care givers' know this and if a child misbehaves, they take won't allow them to go.
Most of the children in the orphanage actually have families, sometimes parents. The families either can't or won't look after them, but they won't sign the papers to give the children up for adoption either, and the children spend their formative years sitting in an institution.
Alexandra came up in the conversation and Dora told me her story. When she was seven, she watched her father stab her mother to death in a drunken rage. She has been in the orphanage ever since. Then two months ago, the police picked her up for prostitution. She's only fourteen years old. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that this person I was hearing about was the same little girl who so proudly showed me her new pink shoes. Story after story, she told me about what the reality these kids have to live in. I sat on that porch in the sunshine and felt a bit of my heart break.
I looked at Vera and her family. The seven of them depend entirely on Vera's salary from the hospital and here they are so involved in these children's lives. While others I've met, who literally had more money then they know what to do with, try to deny the existence of abandoned children in Romania! There is such a need here. And not just in the hospitals and the orphanages. The government has just made a major cut to pensions, scholarships, and salary funds. So many people are already living hand to mouth, this new cut just makes things that much worse. And yet, for all the impoverishment and corruption, it's a beautiful country. I've found the people to be hospitable and strangely optimistic, even those who don't appear to have any reason for optimism. And physically speaking, the country is stunning. The buildings exude history and character, while the country side is incredibly beautiful.
But, back to my weekend. After that massive lunch at Vera's, I and the two Dutch gentlemen went back to Kathy's for dinner. And she made a massive meal. I didn't really want to eat, but she made mash potatoes and so I had to eat some. (It is physically impossible for me to turn down mash potatoes.) Then near the end of the meal, Kim phoned and said that a bunch of them were meeting at her house and could I meet her at Rogerius at 7:30pm? Which meant I had fifteen minutes. Ah! Anyway, I spent the evening playing ping and foosball and, you guessed it, eating all the leftovers from lunch that Vera had sent. I knew I had reached my limit when I sat down and the button at the top of my jeans popped off! It was like a bad comedy, they way it flew across the floor. Talk about embarrassing. I did a McGyver with some thread that I ripped off one of the hems at the bottom of the leg. Aside from that, it was a really fun night.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

There is a storm blowing in and it is absolutely glorious!!! Last night I sat on the porch at midnight and felt the weather change. I turned off all the lights (everyone else was in bed already) and just sat. I had lost my peace of mind over the past week and last night went a long way to getting it back.

On Saturday my dad phoned. That alone told me something was wrong (we talk over Skype usually) and every since I left home I've been expecting news about Maggie. They had to put her down on Saturday morning, the vet said she was bleeding eternally. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well that night. Sunday, Andrea and I stayed home from church sick. But in the afternoon we all went to lunch at a friends house. They are Charismatic Christians (at least, I think its name) and I had some very interesting conversations. When faced with people like that I'm never sure what to say. I personally believe that simply praying for something doesn't automatically bring the thing about. You ask, and then God decides. But for them, if you ask and do not receive then your faith must not be strong enough. Kathy began feeling "odd" on the way home, we just got home in time for her to become violently ill. I took care of the girls until bedtime and after they were in bed, I turned my attention to her. I honestly don't know what she does when she gets sick ordinarily. The girls need constant attention/supervision.

On a happier note: Darius and David are gone from the hospital... because their parents came for them! Turns out there was something wrong with their house (my minuscule Romanian vocabulary doesn't allow for much detail) but they were both very happy to see the boys. Sometimes the parents come and you just want to snatch the babies back. Often the babies end up coming back anyway, sometimes on the verge of death. But these two seems like genuinely good people. The father smiled politely, but I don't think the mother even saw me... she was so focused on the boys. And David's face when his mother picked him up. David never smiled much, I think he has autism or something similar. But his whole little face lit up when he saw his mother.
An example of when you don't want to give the babies came today. Tibor's grandmother came for him. His mother wasn't with them.. because she's only 13 years old! The grandmother has ten children, the oldest in only 19, and they all still live at home. They have a one room house and when the children don't get enough to eat they substitute with garbage. Part of me hopes that they bring him back, but part of me knows that they will only do so if he gets incredibly sick. There's no happy outcome. All I can do is remember that for 9 days he was well fed, warm, and loved.

Today, I did something awful. I was holding Istvan. He had just eaten and was dropping off to sleep. He loves looking at me when he falls to sleep. Every now and then he'll crack one eyelid open and make sure I'm still there. I looked down at him and realized that I had been blatantly entertaining the thought of taking him home with me... as in home to Canada. I promised myself months before I came that I would never, ever let myself think like that. I'm not quite sure how to love a baby, know that you are one of the few people who has ever really shown him love, but somehow 'not get attached'. Kathy said that you get attached, you love them, and your heartbreak when they leave is the price for their happiness. And I am more than happy to live with that.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Crummy Few Days and One Glorious Evening

One of these pictures was taken by Kathy and one was taken by Andrea... see if you can guess which is which. :P

Well, that cough that I've been fighting won on Wednesday. By the time I got home from the hospital I was hacking something fierce. Thursday morning I knew the moment I woke up that I would not be going to the hospital. The first problem was I had no voice (as in no voice at all) and the second was that the simple act of bending down to pick up my socks sent me into a coughing fit. Oh yeah. As a person who never really gets coughs it was kinda novel... for about an hour. Then it was just exhausting. I spend the day in bed, feeling incredibly sorry for myself. Kathy had to go to the hospital in my place because, with every crib full of sick babies, Vera needed all the help she could get. Last week Kathy had bought tickets for her and I to go see the Oradea Philharmonic preform at the nearby symphony house. So I stuffed myself full of antibiotics, we got all dressed up, and off we went. (I'd like to add that Kathy did my hair in french braids around my head and I wore my adorable new shoes... I looked pretty fine, if I do say so myself.) It was absolutely amazing! It was in the restored symphony house at Oradea's school for fine arts and the musicians were very good. The piano concerto was played by a young man my age... wow. Just wow. (Why is it that all pianist, or wannabe pianists, have long-ish crazy hair?) Afterwards, a friend of Kathy's took us downstairs and we met the pianist, the conductor, and a few of the musicians. On our way out, we somehow got talking to this old man in the lobby. He is an adorable, old, Romanian gentleman. He was the conductor of the Oradea philharmonic for 40 years and has been all over Europe with various orchestras. We ended up walking home with him. The three of us walked down the street arm in arm, talking about music. It was amazing. He told us an old Italian saying: 'If you don't have an old person in your home, go out and buy one!'. He says that it's a pity he's old enough to by Kathy's father and my grandfather and that he wishes he was younger. :) Anywho, the evening ended with us intiving him over after dinner the next day (aka today).

This morning I woke up and discovered that my cough had transformed into the worst head cold I can remember having! Yippee. I feel fuzzy and slow and grumpy and sick. The only highlight when said old man (Domnule Raitiu) came over after dinner. He brought chocolate for the girls and flowers for Kathy and me. He really is the sweetest old man. He's going to introduce us to his ex-wife next week. I can't really describe him for you except to say that he is an true European gentleman. Tomorrow Kathy's church is having a picnic day in the country. I would love to go, but we'll see how I feel in the morning.