I have now been living in Romania for just over three months.  Three months down, three months to go – my halfway point. But I am in no rush for my time here to end.  It feels so good to be here, and even though I love all my friends and family back home in Toronto, I have such a peace about being here at this time.  It’s nice.

In the past month there have been so many changes.  Many pages have turned.  Climactic moments have come and gone.  The weather has changed, almost overnight, from warm and sunny and bright to dark and rainy and cold.  We had it warm here until just three days ago.  I was really hoping we’d last until November…but the rain and cold had to come.  It’s ok…now I have an excuse to sit in cafes and drink hot chocolate.  I moved into a new place – an apartment that is sea-foam green on the outside, and cozy and colourful on the inside. And full of girls.  I live with two lovely girls; one from church (Chiva) and the other from another town, here for university (Nico).  Chiva is so sweet and funny  and makes amazing chicken noodle soup, among other yummy things!  She has a special way of making you feel at home.  Nico is great to chat with, super down-to-earth, and graceful in every way.  And, she is my new hero.  We have this ginormous green bugs that visit our apartment from time to time.  They like to hide in the curtains, or on the window sills, or even in the bathtub…ew.  I am terrified of squishing them…completely grossed out at the thought of feeling them crunch, ew, and squish, ew, under the tissue paper.  But Nico is brave.  Nico grabs a tissue and captures them with ease.  I stand in awe.

During this past month, I also paid a visit to Italy.  My dad was born and raised in the south of Italy in a little town called Dipignano.  With two weeks off from my volunteer work here in Romania, I decided that it would be amazing to go visit my family who lives there, as well as explore other cities in Italy.  I am SO happy that I went.  I stayed with my amazing and beautiful aunt, my Zia Anna.  She fed me and loved me and made sure I was well rested. I haven’t felt so relaxed in a long time.  And her cooking is too amazing for words.  Homemade pasta.  Need I say more.  I also spent a lot of time with my cousin and her wonderful and joyful family, Angelina and her husband Franco, and their children Maria Chiara and Federica.  Everyone was so welcoming and kind to me, and it was great to get to know them more.  I hadn’t seen this part of my family in about ten years!  I hope to see them more often now because waiting another ten years is TOO long!  After four amazing days with my family in Dipignano, I was off to Rome.  Taking the train was great.  My awesome mom bought me an all-Italia pass so I could get off and on trains as I wished.  And that is exactly what I did.

Rome.  Florence.  Pisa.  Venice.

I. LOVE. ITALY.

I could go on and on about all the amazing things I saw, and the food I ate, and the people I met…but that could take forever.  But I must say that I am so thankful for the wonderful friends I made along the way.  I met great people from Turkey, Brazil, Scotland, Japan, USA and Australia.  It was a taste of the backpackers experience, and I absolutely loved it.  Hostels are really quite cool.  The word always sounded so hostile to me…probably because the words are almost the same…but I was overjoyed to stay in places like “The Yellow” in Rome, and “The Emerald Palace” in Florence.  Each place had it’s own distinct character.   “The Yellow” was very social, funky, and full of old movie memorabilia, especially old gangster films.  It began to feel like home after three days.  “The Emerald Palace” was beautiful and impeccably clean.  And to my surprise, it was run by Romanians!  One morning, my second day there, I sat down to breakfast and the woman working said “Pofta buna”, the Romanian way to say “Bon Appetite”.  I beamed and said “Vorbitz romaneste?”  (Do you speak Romanian?)  She had been speaking perfect Italian and English since I arrived at the hostel, but turned out she along with all the other workers were from Romania!! I was so happy, feeling like I had a taste of home being there. There are many Romanians in Italy, and each time I heard the language being spoken around me, I perked up, feeling as though I had some connection to them.

Language is a funny thing.  While the majority of the people I met in Italy spoke English, I was so happy to practice my Italian, and learn bits and bites of other languages.  It’s great to see how many words are shared across borders.  I learned that Romanian has MANY similarities to Italian, and also has words with Turkish roots.  Learning a language is often a ticket into a new culture, and I am in awe of how many multi-lingual people I met.  But food is also a ticket in, and while I stumble my way through new languages, I will smile and eat more food.

Back in Romania, I have begun to help out at an orphanage in a neighbouring community called Voluntari.  It is an orphanage for disabled children, both mental and physical.  The centre itself is amazing, large and very clean, with a small farm out back.  I can hang out with donkeys and goats now in my spare time!  But it is the work I love.  It is unlike anything I’ve done, and I am so grateful for this experience.  I have been learning so much from my time there, working with children with many different conditions such as cerebral palsy, sticklers disease, down syndrome, and hydrocephalus.  My days are spent with the children, helping feed them and teaching them to feed themselves, playing with them, tickling them, helping some of them to walk, and loving them in the best way I can.  They are all such beautiful children, and it is amazing to see the way they laugh and smile when I do something as simple as hold their hand and sing to them.  And I continue to be filled with joy from seeing them each day.  I’m excited to see them continue to grow and develop more skills over these next three months.  The staff at the centre is also amazing, and they have been so welcoming and kind.  And they feed me so much, haha.  I am learning more Romanian as I spend time with them, and enjoy their company. I look forward to sharing stories about my adventures there.  I know many amazing things are still yet to come!

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

1 Corinthians 3:7

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