Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Healing Water

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monday morning I got to the Tusnad house at 6:45 a.m. to have a breakfast of bread with butter and a bologna type of meat with the kids before walking them to school. Mozes, the youngest, kept running ahead and I was concerned he’d run into the street; in fact he started to cross the street by himself at his nursery school drop-off. I have to remind myself this is common for them; even at such young ages, they don’t have an adult with them at all times.

As I was leaving the school grounds I turned back to look into Felix’s classroom and he was waving at me, not the least bit embarrassed as I remember being when my mother dared to acknowledge she even knew me in Mrs. Vaccaro’s 5th grade class.

I met up with the kids back at the house for a lunch of rice and liver. I should remember to put a small portion in my bowl to taste before committing to a whole serving; it’s unthinkable to throw out food.

The Nevelok in the house that day even had me on my toes and I felt a bit like one of the children. I don’t understand a word she says but her admonishing shrill tone cuts through any language barrier.

I don’t understand the circumstances under which she yells at the kids but we may be playing a game and she’ll enter the room to yell at two or three of them at a time. I find myself sitting with my hands crossed, avoiding her eyes, hoping not to hear my name called.

I brought over the game, Memory, easy enough to play without having to speak a common language. I found myself oddly frustrated with the younger kids while I was setting up the game and trying to show them how to turn the cards over to play and keep them in order so other players have a chance at selecting two matching cards.

It took me a little time to remember they aren’t exposed to the typical games so many other kids are used to playing. Laci and I played two rounds of Memory that ended up being pretty close games.

I modified the game for Judit, Ishti and Mozes by just holding up one card and having them search the pile of cards for a match to see who could find one first.

In the late afternoon after I pried myself away from the kids who literally were grabbing onto me to stay, I headed for the Hotel Tusnad to experience the orange mineral water bath I’d heard about. On my way I saw Felix who wanted me to walk back to the house with him. I was kind of surprised as he is a little older, but it made sense, as he’s a little more shy and would probably do well with some one on one time.

I paid the 15 Lei entrance for the ‘spa’; $4.70 U.S. dollars. I navigated the creaky old hallways with torn red carpet and brown paneled walls like a rat in a maze and ended up in an area where there were a few women wearing white coats.

Had I not known I was in a Hotel, I could just have easily been in an institution for the insane. From the darkened halls with flickering fluorescent lights, crooked letters or none at all on door after door to nowhere to the echoing sounds of people in a room you can’t quite find, it was all very unsettling but enjoyable at the same time because I was experiencing something completely new.

The white coat woman walked me through yet more hallways, through old changing rooms to water soaked floors where the sounds of people were louder. I asked her if she did massage and she said, “Yes, in one hour?” I agreed.

She let me change in a room that had 4 brown and rusted Jacuzzi baths that looked like they hadn’t seen water since the 1970’s. I swiped a towel that was laying over the radiator since who knows when and headed for the door leading to the ‘bath’.

There was an open shower area with a very slippery floor before the room opened to a pool sized terra cotta colored water ‘bath’ with a mix of locals and European visitors soaking in the healing water.

I couldn’t and didn’t want to see what was in the water as I walked willingly into the warmth and moved my aching back from side to side. After travelling, sleeping on a firm surface and carrying my backpack everywhere, my body was relieved to be submerged in water.

I then went to find my white coat massage therapist and she led me to a wood paneled room and put a thin sheet on the antique massage table. While the draping wasn’t as modest as it is in the States, and the room was cold, the hour-long massage felt wonderful. I’m almost ashamed to tell you that including tip the massage was 30 Lei; $9.40 U.S dollars. I kid you not.

After the massage I headed to the St. Francis home where the energy was quite different from the night before. The halls were dark and echoing with the wailing inconsolable sobs of a lone child. Other children’s yells, laughs and cries provided the chorus but the main verse was the constant wailing.

I had been visiting a new quad of girls when I found myself drawn downstairs toward the sound of discontent only to find it was the little giggly boy from the night before who’d grabbed onto my leg and had such joy in his eyes.

I imagine there are as many moods in the St. Francis Home as there are words for snow in Alaska.

I met Leon, a highly tattooed Nevelok who almost didn’t survive T.B.’s judgment, who cares for 10-15 girls. He plays rough with them, like they were little boys. I found the younger ones climbing up on me like a vine in spring you’re happy to see but quickly becomes invasive. But then they smile and hug me and are so starving for attention that I can’t help but extend my arms, my lap, my hair they like to fluff; anything I can to let them know for that moment someone cares for them.

Leaving for the night is an ordeal as the girls tug at me and practically beg me to stay. I don’t really have any good reason for leaving other than I am exhausted from the day and need to rest for the morning routine of walking the kids to school.

And so the sounds of the little girls pleading “Patti” start to fade as I walk downstairs and out into the snowy night.

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