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.