Monday, March 7, 2011

A Gallop To The Finish

It is hard to believe that we are leaving Romania in a week. Our Ministerial Visa's expire on March 15th, along with soles of our shoes and the linings of our coats. We are tired yet still energized, if those two words can be used in the same sentence. Through phenomenal people, we have experienced amazing things--some heart-warming, some heart-rending. We have traveled by train to the borders, through the mountains, and through the most beautiful countryside anyone can imagine. But...all good things must come to an end and that is good because we are SO EXCITED TO GO HOME!

In January we submitted a project that has become one of our favorites. We wrote it through tears and when it was reviewed in Germany, our Area Welfare Manager was so touched that he booked a flight to Romania to visit Noreen O'Gorman and accompany her on her daily nursing rounds in the villages near Slobozia. Just when we were breaking out the Bon Bons, we got a call telling us that John Mulligan, our supervisor's, supervisor was on his way! He is the man at the top who has the final say in whether a project is approved...or not. We love this man but his timing was a bit inconvenient! We cleared our calendar, put our suitcases away, and made reservations for the hotel, rented a car and arranged a driver. We spent one day visiting two families and returned to Bucharest with a heart-full of stories that we will never forget.

This is John Mulligan, learning first-hand about Romanian wind and snow.


Knowing we would be visiting very poor families, we gathered food, cooking pots, clothes, blankets, and toys and came bearing gifts. In this modest house, in one heated room, a single father is raising three young children. Since he is poor, he is in danger of having to place the children in an orphanage, as that is the only help offered by Child Protection.


The children loved the toys.





We wrapped them in hats and scarves and blankets and they were so happy.


The father cares for the children and cooks on this stove. It is also the heat source for the house.



The next stop was a modest home where all three of the children have been diagnosed with Leigh Syndrome, a rare progressive neurological condition that causes deterioration in the brain, muscle wasting, difficulty breathing and swallowing and eventually leads to death at a young age.
The clothes on the line tell the story.


This little boy can no longer walk or sit unaided or talk.

Noreen examines the five-year-old. She cannot walk or sit by herself.


This little boy is almost three and now developing signs of the disease. He walked at 1 year and now cannot take steps.


This is really a bad picture of Noreen but I wanted to share what true compassion looks like. She is a 'Mother Teresa' to these families. Here, she is quietly explaining the progression of the children's disease. The parents are being told that their children will only live until age 6 or 7. Flori is a social worker who accompanies Noreen on her home visits.


This picture captured the worried look of a loving father.


I couldn't get over the lines of laundry produced by this family.

Noreen regularly visits 300 people who are sick or need help to survive. She is an angel that we will find hard to leave.
Now you know how bitter-sweet this last week will be for us.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Hat Parade

We have loved our mission in Romania! Our experiences have changed us and we will never be the same. We have gained an appreciation for another culture, another way of life, and another part of the world. Eighteen months ago we had to look at a map to locate Romania and now we feel like we ARE Romanian! We counted up our hats the other day and found we own nine. Buying at least one hat in Romania is a must, since letting your head or your ears go uncovered in the winter is an invitation for sure death. If we ever leave our bloc without a hat, well-meaning strangers will usually remind us of the riskiness of our behavior.
About two weeks ago, I began capturing photos of great hats. My photography was sometimes unknown to the models. Enjoy the fashion show.

These hats were purchased in Chisinau, Moldova. Mine is sliver fox and Denny's is mink.


Elders Frandsen and Betteridge make these hats look fun.


Every little child wears a hat. This one is just cute. Others are more functional!


This hat is just covering for the top.


This is not a hat (duh!) but it is a Romanian head covering. Most women wear scarfs.


Romania!


The Maidenform models also wore scarfs.


This man is wearing an Igloo hat. Different!


Beanie Baby.


This is a typical Romanian hat, always worn by men over 50. It is made from baby lambs.


Elder Van Wagoner models his Davy Crockett hat.


This hat has ear flaps that fold down when the need arises. Don't laugh. These hats are not only functional, they are very warm.

This is just a crazy hat!


Sometime you wonder if there's an animal alive under there! This is definitely home-made!


This man was very proud of his beaver hat. It has to be combed!


Another beaver!


This nice Romanian modeled his traditional lamb hat. (I don't think they really call them that!)


Another lamb hat!


This man is wearing an elderly lamb hat. Don't ask!

This picture was taken today, February 23, 2011. With yet another snowstorm to brighten his day, Elder Linerud is cheerfully working hard to the end! Thank goodness for a warm hat!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Visit To Slobozia


We had no clue, when we exuberantly walked through the doors of the MTC almost 17 months ago (but who's counting?) that we were in for a life-changing experience. There is no way to adequately put into words what we have experienced while we have served our mission in Romania. Having never met Mother Teresa, we feel fortunate that we have met others like her and we have been inspired and moved beyond words.
This week we ventured to Slobozia, a small town in southeast Romania. We had been told of a wonderful foundation and a director who had devoted her life to helping the poor, the dying, the neglected, and the disabled. Before our mission ended, we wanted to meet this woman and possibly fit in one more project. Little did we know that the trip would be our greatest travel trial we would endure.


The first train left Bucharest at 5:15 a.m. The train was decent but it had been sitting at the station all night in below freezing temperatures and the chill never left the air (or the seats we were sitting in) for the first 2 hours of the trip. We had to change trains in the middle of nowhere and that required a 30-minute wait standing outside on an icy platform since there was no train station. The temperature was 10 degrees. Finally, the train lumbered in and we excitedly climbed the 2' step. This was what the locals call the "P" train. It connects villages and is the cheapest and only form of transportation for the common folk. We have seen these trains before. In the summer, they are hot and crowded and you will see people literally hanging out the windows just to get some moving air. In the winter, it is different. There is no heat and people sit stoically, bundled up as if they were riding a chair lift. We endured this for more than an hour before we reached our destination. We couldn't feel our feet.


We asked someone to take our picture and even managed to smile!


Pictures never do justice! The seats were Naugahyde and the windows were completed frosted over, on the inside!


We finally got to our destination and unloaded onto more frozen turf.


Next came a 2-hour white-knuckle car ride which was arranged so we could visit yet another foundation. Five of us were crammed into a Dacia, a Romanian version of a Gio (only not so luxurious!) All we can say is that we lived to tell!


This is Lina. She is a fireball who began a foundation to aid autistic children. We were impressed with her dedication and will write a project that will provide play equipment to be used if the snow ever melts.


Imagine monkey bars and swings.


Lina began this foundation when her own son (right) was diagnosed with autism. This is the only facility for autistic children in the area.


We posed with the other care-givers before we said good-bye.


Back in the car . . .


When we finally arrived to meet Noreen O'Gorman, we had been going at it for 12 hours. As we talked, we realized she had also put in a day more exhausting then ours. She started a foundation to rescue and care for terribly disabled children. She is an RN from London and has devoted her life to these children and also travels to the surrounding villages offering assistance in a home health program.


As we visited, we watched in awe as Noreen interacted with the children.


They love her. . .


. . .and she loves them.


Each one received hugs and kisses.


By now it was 6:30 and time for dinner. Noreen whips up blended soups and other delights in this cracked blender. It is on the project list to be replaced.

At 8:30 pm we met Noreen for dinner in our hotel. She is an amazing woman and we totally enjoyed becoming acquainted with her. We collapsed in our hotel at 10:30 and she went back to her center where she did the nightly rounds and slept in her office so she would not have to use precious funds to hire a night nurse. She is amazing!


The next morning we decided to scrap the return train and take a bus back to Bucharest. It was a step up (if you would call a 15 passenger bus with 21 people, UP!) We stopped 13 times and the trip took 2 & 1/2 hours. At least it was warm!

This weekend we will write two projects. We've finally reached our fill of train excitement and we're pretty sure we can fill the remaining 6 weeks (but who's counting?) of our mission staying close to home.