Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday morning leaving the house at 6:45 a.m. was the coldest it’s been since I’ve been here; -4 (F). It was the kind of cold where you can feel your nostril hair stiffening as you breathe in. Before I joined the kids for the breakfast of sliced meat on bread and luke warm fruit tea, I opened the storage room door for ‘Terra’, the dog. No one had let her out that morning and there was poop right by the door.
I’ve been trying not to sound like a crazy nag about the dog, but it’s really hard. They feed her bread for breakfast if they remember and I’ve seen one Nevelok gently kick her from the front door. I have to keep telling myself at least she has a home and is off the streets but I can’t help but think how different Terra’s life would be in LA. She’d have a special dog bed inside the house, the best nutritional food, chew toys, squeaky toys and cute reindeer antlers on her head for Christmas pictures.
Of course the same could be said for the kids, minus the antlers for pictures. However, while there are too many children under government care, I do think they at least have stability, education and a network of charitable organizations that provide monetary support and one on one support through groups like Mondo Challenge, the organization I went through. The kids will be getting Christmas presents from sponsors and in the summer there will be up to twenty-five volunteers coming through to spend time with the various group homes.
Walking to school, Mr. Independent, Mozes, actually waited for me at the curb to grab his hand before crossing the street to drop him off at nursery school. Ishti and Judit held my hands the rest of the way to their school and Felix is always close by even though he’s closer in age to the older boys, Lorika, Laci and Barni who always run ahead as teenagers will do.
The afternoon is filled with the older kids playing Halo, Plants vs. Zombies and Stuntmania, games I downloaded for them. I even find myself playing Plants vs. Zombies at night to decompress from the day.
At four-thirty I hurried to the Tusnad Hotel to the Spa area where I was hoping to have another massage but the thick choking cigarette smoke coming from the massage area and the two prickly bearded men producing the smoke indicated I was too late. “No, no.” was what the auburn haired woman said as I slightly pushed open the door asking for, “massage?”
I took my aches and pains to the St. Francis house where I wanted to lose myself in service. They had a Christmas gathering where the kids got to see the tree and presents donated by sponsors were given out to all the children. The air was electric, the house reverberated with laughter, no echoes of sobbing that night. I surrendered to the chaos, and let it guide me.
I was literally pulled, physically, quite strongly by the group of girls who I’d spent time with before. They were unsupervised at the moment and Bobbi, a fair skinned raven-haired girl with bangs was literally running with scissors. When I managed to get them away from her within minutes I saw her chasing another girl with scissors, threatening to cut her hair. I took that pair away from her and then saw her yet again with another pair that she held open in defiance to her own throat as I tried to grab them from her. She chased after girls using both hands to open and close the scissors quickly at the backs of their heads.
One girl emerged in tears holding a piece of her hair that Bobbi had cut. I had three pairs of scissors in my back pocket as I went to meet the Nevelok coming up the stairs and in broken communication, informed her of what I can only assume was not an isolated incident.
That night, the house reminded me of a dormitory but full of little kids, many of them raising each other. I could see the effect on the children of being in institutionalized care. Some of them exhibit sexualized behavior, they are overly clingy, groping for attention and affection. They hit and slap each other and have too much unsupervised time.
I helped Sabi and Angnes with some ironing as the boys watched movies and used my computer. The boys would eat dinner in their own quad that night and I helped carry plates and a dish of sour cream sauce up to what was Peter’s group, now Ava’s.
I met the infamous, T.B. (Tibor) when he came into the boys room to take pictures. He was younger and less mean looking than I imagined him to be. In fact, he seemed quite pleasant as he took pictures of the kids sitting at their dining table where a large bowl of stuffed cabbage was steaming. The boys ate by candlelight that night and I got video of them saying their Rub a dub-dub prayers to send to Peter.
I help clear dishes and bring them downstairs to the kitchen where the scene was loud and chaotic with clanging plates and squealing children running all over the place with bags of candy. Many of them stuff candy into my pockets and say, “please?” as they offer me wrapped candy. It’s no use to say no, they are relentless and I’m touched at how these children with so little are so willing to share what they do have.
I didn’t want to leave the festive environment, but all the Nevelok and Tibor were spending some celebratory time together in the dining room and I felt like an outsider. As I started to put my coat on, Belag, another Nevelok, invited me to stay for hot wine. I was thankful for the invitation, feeling a bit orphaned myself, it was nice to be welcomed.
The room filled with twenty or so Nevelok once they put their groups of kids to bed and we all sat around, sipping hot wine, smiling, laughing and embracing the warmth of connection.
Tibor carried in bags of gifts to give out to his employees and volunteers and I was shocked to be the first one he placed a bag in front of. It was a small bag of sweet treats and I know it wasn’t planned because he had no idea who I was before that evening. That’s what made his gesture so considerate. I felt guilty for judging him but then again I don’t have to work for him.
I was smiling on the walk home and stopped to take in the bright moon glistening on the snow in this little village that I have become so fond of and hope to return to one day.