Friday, December 17, 2010

A Filling and a Puppy

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I’d sent Peter an email inquiring about how much the filling would cost for the kid who lost his. I may never raise funds for all the kids to have a dental exam, but I can help this one kid who happened to lose a filling while I’m here. And, if a one-hour massage is under $10.00, how much could one little filling be?

I got to the St. Francis house just as the kids were saying the ‘thanks for the grub’ prayer after dinner. While Peter and I were talking about the dentist I noticed a bit of commotion brewing and then saw a bowl of bananas and what looked like tangerines coming from the kitchen service window. This was the only time I’d seen the kids scrambling for any type of food. Funny how most kids grab for sweets, not fruit.

I was later told by Edit, the English teacher, that in addition to the personality conflicts T.B., the director of the house, has with many in the village, there are serious nutritional concerns for the children as well and many of them get sick from an improper diet.

Peter had also told me after I’d had tap water to drink, that the well for the house is contaminated. A few sips won’t do any harm but I can only hope that future Nevelok and children are advised not to drink it.

Tuesday was ‘bring an American to class’ day. I joined Edit in her four English classes where I recognized many smiling faces from the St. Francis home and ‘my’ kids from the Tusnad house.

I was told I’d be assisting individual kids with their English work during class but it turns out, Edit asked me to just take over the class, talk a bit and maybe do some games. The first class was sixth grade and I was completely unprepared. I felt flushed, like I was actually in the sixth grade again, asked to present something to the class. I know nothing about teaching kids, let alone non-English speaking kids!

Edit introduced me as being from California and prompted me to speak a little bit about where I was from and that took all of ten minutes. She bought me some time by having them sing Jingle Bells and If You’re Happy And You Know It.

Some of the kids wanted to practice the dialogues they’ve been learning which include asking about favorite colors, hobbies, pets, etc. After that exercise I was thinking of questions to ask them as they sat in a circle around me, all I could think was not to ask them typical questions about their parents, favorite toys or foods. I was so afraid I was going to blurt those words out, like if there’s a midget in the room and you concentrate so hard to not say ‘midget’ and then it slips out.

Edit then translated questions they had for me like what was my favorite music, food, animal and the inevitable, “How old are you?” Edit and I shared a knowing laugh and I answered, forty-six. The room filled with Hungarian whispers before Edit translated, “The children say you look much younger.”

I hate to admit that vanity has not escaped me while I’ve been here; it was flattering to hear they thought I looked younger.

The next class I found myself a little more comfortable and during the question and answer time the daughter of massage therapist, who I’d seen at the spa, asked if I wanted another massage. One boy asked which place is better; Romania or California and I said it’s how you feel where you are that matters. The questions ended with how old I was and again I was relieved to hear that they, too, thought I was younger.

In the Eighth grade class I was asked what religion I was. The area is heavily Roman Catholic and I didn’t know how my truthful answer would be received but I said I didn’t practice any formal religion and that I believed in God and felt that God is everywhere. Immediately, Barni, who I’d gone to Church with on Sunday, blurted something out and Edit translated that’s what he believes, too.

At noon, I walked Ishti home and turned around to go get Mr. Independent, Mozes, from Nursery School. He doesn’t like to hold hands while walking and can do everything for himself, until he falls in the snow and needs a brushing off and his mittens put back on.

Back at the house, we played some computer games I downloaded for them. It’s a challenge to get the younger ones to take turns and not slap all the keys on my thankfully sturdy, Mac Book Pro. I think Laci, Barni and Lorika enjoyed the mystery game they played, and even the Plants vs. Zombies game proved entertaining for all ages.

That morning, Felix had asked me if I would come get him from school at four o’clock when he was done with Judo. The Nevelok was scoffing at the idea of my going to get him because of his age, but I wanted to.

But it was on the walk home that I was really, seriously challenged. A small helpless adorable puppy came running, as best it could, through the snow, in the street, on the sidewalk and right over to me.

It was shivering and wagging its stumpy tail at the same time while grunting pitifully. I made the mistake of picking it up. Most of you know how I am with animals. This was a challenge. It’s heart breaking enough to see all the adult dogs running wild, but to see a small helpless puppy was just too much.

I thought of bringing it to the Romanian Church but Felix’s eyes grew wide in apprehension at my gesture of holding the puppy toward the Church gates.

I had no choice but to put the puppy back down in the snow. It nearly killed me to do so, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I’m in a village that has no regard for strays, seemingly no spay and neuter program, and I’m dealing with a huge language barrier. I hoped for the best and watched as he followed a young couple up the sidewalk and I didn’t look back. In my fantasy, they took him in and he will have a good life.

Later that afternoon, Felix, Judit and Mozes and I were playing computer games when all of a sudden the scary Nevelok abruptly came in and yelled at them. She made them get off the couch and arranged three stools for them to sit on facing the couch. I stood up waiting for my instructions but she left me alone for a moment. Just as I went to sit down she grabbed my arm and pulled me toward another end of the couch where she smiled and pushed my shoulders down, “sit!” And I did. We waited for her to leave the room and looked at one another trying to figure out what happened. When I patted on the couch for Mozes to join me he shook his head ‘no’, obviously in fear of the tempermental Nevelok.

On Wednesday I walked the kids to school and the plan was for me to join Edit in her English classes from nine o’clock until one o’clock when I walk the kids home.

In the teacher’s room, Edit was visibly upset. Her little girl was sick with a fever and she needed to leave to take her to the Doctor. She taught her nine o’clock class and then asked me if I would take her third grade class. She had some Christmas crossword puzzle for them to work on and I’d brought my computer with a slideshow of pictures from home.

I entered the class full of smiling faces and girls patting the chairs next to them, pleading, “Patti, Patti,” inviting me to sit next to them.

They loved seeing the pictures and I was able to help them with the crossword puzzle. Toward the end of class is when the girls started braiding my hair and one by one they all gave me their Christmas tree drawings. I think that will be my most treasured gift this holiday.

I grabbed a quick bite to eat an was heading back to school to pick up Ishti and Judit when all of a sudden who do I see but that damn puppy. Only now his shivering is much worse and I’m afraid he’s going to freeze to death. I scoop him up in my arms and recall hearing there was a woman in one of the nearby shops who feeds the stray dogs. A frail long-toothed woman opened the door to a second hand store and I tried to communicate the dog will die if it doesn’t get out of the weather. She makes a sweet face at the dog and I gather from what she says that she has too many dogs already.

I carry the puppy to the school where all the kids gather around and pet him. I’m trying desperately to let them know he needs a home and he’ll die if he stays out in the cold much longer. The kids smile and keep petting him and eventually it’s just the puppy, me, Ishti and Judit and we’re late to pick up Mozes.

At Mozes’s nursery school I decide to call Enco for help. I can’t return the puppy to the streets and I start thinking of how I can get him vaccinated and documented before my return trip home. Enco tells me to bring the puppy to the house and we’ll figure it out later. Relief.

I assume bringing the puppy to the house means ‘in’ the house, but the Nevelok made me put him in a cold storage room; still better than where he was.

When I talked to Enco later, she said the puppy has a home for Christmas. I was shocked. So my silly idea of placing stray dogs with the orphanage homes has already worked! And maybe it will just be that one dog in that one house, and that’s fine.

Felix was excited and surprised to not only see the puppy again but to know they get to keep it. And, ‘he’ turned out to be a ‘she’. I’m curious what they’ll name her. I heard Rexi getting tossed around, but with seven of them to agree on a name it may be a few days before they decide.

That night I went to the St. Francis House and Peter told me he spoke with the dentist and the boy had an appointment for Thursday morning. Total cost for the filling, $60 Lei. Best $19.00 U.S. dollars I ever spent.


  1. I'm so glad you got that kid a filling. Good for you.

  2. Patti, I saw they play Judo! Yippee! What a great sport .. heh, heh, heh ... Nice work with the puppy, I DO know how you are with animals. Hopefully, she'll have a home for some time to come. You've a big heart, my sister. Love, Brad

  3. Patti, I'm fascinated with your adventure, your courage, and your writing! Can't wait to read your next post...Hugs, Judy

  4. update on the boy, he was scared at the dentist but didn't cry - and the Nevelok was so thankful. I saw her a few days ago at the St. Francis house.
    Thanks for reading - it really means a lot to me.