Sunday, December 19, 2010

Her Name is Ildiko

Friday, December 17, 2010

On Thursday late afternoon I had tomato and noodle soup with Ishti, Felix and Judit. When Judit accidentally dripped a tiny speck of soup on the worn off white tablecloth the Nevelok, who’s name is Ildiko, went into an angry huff, yelling at her for her mistake. The three of them hung their heads low and continued eating in silence.

Not too long after that, Mozes spilled a little of the yellow broth from the potato soup and his eyes widened in fear. I quickly took the bread dish and covered the spill. When Ildiko was roaming from room to room on her cell phone I grabbed a damp cloth and dabbed at the spill. As I was cleaning Judit’s tiny tomato spill, Ildiko turned the corner and saw what I was doing. I wasn’t sure if she was going to yell at me, so I just kept dabbing and slinked into the kitchen. I don’t think she knows I fear her as much as the kids do, she smiles a forced fake grin at me and offers me coffee.

As I say my goodbyes, I can sense their sadness that I’ll be gone for two days and I feel it, too.

I went to the house to pack my backpack for Brasov and Ilonka and Zoltan were around so we ‘chatted’ and had a small glass of Palinka. They showed me more video of the traditional Hungarian dancing and I learned that Ilonka is an instructor and quite famous in Hungary apparently.

It was eleven a.m. when I got to Brasov and found my hotel in the Old Town Square, decorated with a huge Christmas tree and some small wooden shacks selling dried meats, wine and Christmas trinkets.

My room wouldn’t be ready for a while and a restaurant called Sergiano’s was recommended. I felt like I was a grown-up again walking into the exposed brick, well-lit dining space with black and white attired waiters. I’ve been used to my pizza place and Szekely Fogado, both very quaint establishments. When my duck arrived I realized I hadn’t used a knife in a week. It felt good to use that other utensil.

My hotel room with two single beds and a single frayed bath towel, felt like a suite. It was warm, had a great view of the square and the bathroom had one of those amazing towel warmers.

My taxi driver from the train station, John, had given me his number and told me to call him if I wanted to go to Bran Castle. He would take me for $150 Lei, $46 U.S. dollars. I decided to splurge rather than navigate trying to find the bus station and taking the bus thirty miles to the castle.

Bran Castle was empty and I enjoyed walking through the creaky cold rooms imagining what Princess Ileana of Romania did in each room during the summer months when she stayed there. I envisioned her in some gauzy flowing white dress with a bouquet of freshly picked wildflowers ready to be put into a vase and displayed on the table in the outdoor patio dining room used in the summer months.

I saw her skipping merrily in the courtyard like a fairy, bringing joy to those around her.

Most of the rooms had the wood-burning stoves decorated with beautiful sculpted and painted tiles. I don’t know how they got those rooms warm in the winter months. Brasov was colder than Baile Tusnad and it started snowing heavily as I walked down the steep path to the taxi. I hurried past two small puppies playing in the souvenier kiosk area. One puppy is enough to deal with.

My thoughts kept drifting to the kids and what they were doing and whether Ildiko was yelling at them and if they remembered there was a puppy in the storage room.

That evening, I ventured out to a restaurant called Festival 39, a dimly lit, cozy place that played classic 20’s – 40’s music like ‘I wanna be loved by you’ and ‘We’ll meet again’. The paper placemat had a picture of young lovers from the 30’s. Coincidentally, I’d brought paper to write notes on that were Xerox copies of my Great Grandparents, Morris and Sophie Marcus. I arranged their pictures next to the ones on the placemat to photograph. I felt like I’d stepped back in time and experienced a little of what they might have in those early years they were in Iasi, Romania as a young couple.

After dinner I decided to check out an Irish bar in town called Deane’s Irish Pub. A group called Drum Up was on stage. Three energetic and engaging guys had the bar laughing and joining in on the performance. Orlando had a cache of drums, tambourines and congas that he’d hold up over his head until someone came forth to claim the instrument. Eventually, he instructed them in groups and the end result was an amazing percussion performance.

I slept well in my single bed in my warm room and spent most of the morning sitting at the desk on my computer. Later I visited the Black Church, named from a fire in 1689 that destroyed much of the town but only blackened the walls of the Church.

After lunch, I picked up some pastries from a German bakery for the kids and some magazines from the train station kiosk, and then experienced the frustration of dealing with an inconsistent Romanian rail system that Enco had warned me about.

While I was waiting for my train that never arrived, I saw a young scruffy boy carrying a stock pot and a plastic bag with what looked like leftover food inside. He stood on the platform as people were boarding a train. A woman from the train came to the door and called something that sounded like, ‘Pepiloo’ and the boy ran over to take an orange and half a sandwich she handed to him. He scurried back to his pot and put the sandwich in the bag and immediately starting peeling the orange. He finished the orange, leaving the peel behind as he carried his stuff back down the stairs from the train platform.

I had wanted to arrive in Tusnad at six o’clock to have a chance to say good-bye to Peter. As it turned out, I was arriving on the train he was leaving on and as the train slowed in Tusnad, I saw all the children lined up on the stairs above the platform to see Peter off. It wasn’t until I got off the train that I could hear them crying. It was heartbreaking.

Peter was boarding the train, saying his last goodbyes to his group of boys that he basically has parented for the past 2 years. All the other children were standing still, sobbing softly. I hugged Enco who was also in tears, and Sabi who has worked along side Peter for two years.

I don’t know what the mood will be like at the St. Francis house but I heard the director had visitors in from out of town and didn’t want all the kids crying in the hallways. You’d think he’d see the kid’s sadness as a testament to the caliber of caregiver they employ, but he obviously doesn’t see it that way. It’s a good thing T.B. and I have a language barrier because I’d have a few things to say to him.

1 comment:

  1. Wow ... what a knack for storytelling you have. I could see (yes, without looking at the photos) the scenes you describe and feel much of what you must have felt like with the kids, the separation and the simple pleasures. Keep it up, please....