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.