Monday, July 22, 2013

Dansezi cu mine?

"Dansezi cu mi-ne?" (Dance with me?) is probably one of my most used phrases here!  I ask it all the time to my kids in hopes that they will want to. I have always been told that no matter, what your "thing" is, you'll find a way to use it throughout your life. Well, mine is dance and although I was sad to take a break from it during the summer, I actually have been able to find my own ways to keep those dancing feet moving. In fact, I have had some of the best dance partners this summer I could have ever asked for!

First there is my little ICU baby. He lights up when you walk in the room and I am convinced it is because before he knows it, music will be on and we're dancing. He'll hold on tight and even let me lead!

Next is one of my boys from the orphanage. He doesn't need my help, in fact, he's got his own signature moves. He gets in dancing moods where he will stop whatever he is doing and just dance. It is just precious and it gets me every time. Unfortunately, my boys would rather play with cars and throw toys at each other than dance with me, but when they get in the mood I soak it all in!

Then there is one of my favorite little girls in the hospital. She is 5 but is not able to walk because of physical handicaps. She is so sweet and sassy, but best of all, ALWAYS wants to dance with me. I guess it is no coincidence that my favoritism tends to lean towards those who are willing to deal with me. After several days of turning on music in her room and dancing around, she seemed to expect it when I came into the room and cheerfully threw up her arms for me to pick her up when I asked "Vrei muzica" (Do you want music?). She smiled and giggled more than ever and just loves to move. It makes me sad that she will probably never be able to fully move and dance on her own, but regardless it makes her so happy right now.

It is great the simple things that can bring someone up. Often when I am in a hospital room with a child without a mom, I try to make those 30 minutes or hour the most fun they can be for that kid. If that is the only time I - or anyone - get to be with them, I try to do my very best to cater to what they need or want. Luckily, what they need and want most is love which is something I can give. Sometimes it is disguised in dancing, or bubbles, or stickers, or tears, but it is always always there. Other kids from the hospital seem to be drawn to the rooms we are in. The hospital is dull, and dreary, and not an easy place to be in. When there is a little glimpse of excitement, kids flock to that and sometimes we have a whole audience just starring at us. Moms starring, nurses starring, children starring....I'm getting pretty used to it and I just think of it as good performance practicing :)

All of us have something unique to give. As interns, we all interact differently with the kids and that is part of the beauty of the work. We are all able to use our talents in different ways to try our best to bless the lives of these children. I have danced some of my favorite routines here, holding on tight to the hands of these perfect children that crave love and attention.  For just a moment, they can be distracted from the heartache and struggles to enjoy thoughtless, carefree dancing. So, it turns out I didn't have to give it all up after all. Instead, I was reminded the very root reasons why I have loved dance from the beginning.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Creative title, right? It's probably what I struggle with most about blogging! I finally gave up after staring at the "Post title" box for several minutes. Anyway, it's been an eventful week! I don't having "what-ifs" and "wish-I-could-haves", so I decided I would do all I could not to have them in Romania. :) Since we are reaching the end, many of us have unofficial "Romania bucket lists" we are fulfilling. Here are some of the adventures we've been up to recently. First, Air Soft Guns in a nearby mall. We went with our good friend, Radu, from the branch. 
Me and Cynthia were a little skeptical of the Air Soft guns.... First-timers
Air soft guns in Romania with Radu!
 This is what happens when you wear 2 jackets to protect yourself from the shots...
I may have sweated a little bit...
Last weekend we got to go to the countryside with our in country-facilitator, Mario, to see he family. The countryside is beautiful, but along with that, the people live such amazing lives. They are completely self sustained and provide everything for themselves that they need. They have a huge garden with anything and everything you can imagine, chickens for eggs and meat, pigs for meat, cows for milk and meat, horses to help with the work, a well with fresh water, and nearby wheat field they use to make their own flour and bread. What else do you need? Their homes are completely build by their own hands and they are some of the nicest people I've met!
Romanian grandpas give the best hugs
We had a traditional countryside lunch while we were there

Just a small part of the huge garden yard
The cellar where the homemade wine is stored
Last Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the Romania/Moldova mission opening. In celebration we had a ward activity that consisted of a slideshow from the beginning of the Isai branch on. A few of us also were able to be part of a special musical number with the full-time missionaries in Romanian. I really enjoy singing in Romanian because the spirit is the same.
The Branch!!

We  have lots of Movie nights here! With 10 other girls, we have "girls nights" every single night and it is so fun. Granted, we don't have any time away from each other, but I haven't gotten sick of it yet. I love these girls and am so happy we all were able to experience this together!
Movie Night!!
Giving a show to the people behind us ;)
Attempting to work out in our small dark apartment
We love vendors. We find the coolest stuff there and meet some cool people as well.
The vendor tents!
This man made me a leather belt fit especially for me!
Something on my bucket list was to see a dance concert while here in Romania. Being the dancer that I am, I was curious what it would be like here. Unfortunately, I found out....Don't get me wrong I was so glad I was able to go, but it was the weirdest experience I have ever had! Me and Shelly, both studying contemporary dance at BYU, went together and were quite surprised at the show. Regardless, it was fun to experience and we have some fun insights and memories from the night!
Something that does feel like home is the rainstorms we have here. I have never been in a strom that is comparable to good ol' Texas thunderstorms, but they compare pretty good here!
Watching one of the many storms roll by
Finally, we had a bridal shower for Aislynn who is getting married in just a couple weeks!!We went to a little drink and dessert place and then back to the apartment for gifts and games!

Looking back, we've done a lot these few months in Romania. In addition the last week has been full of a lot of reflection and memories. No matter how many things we really do accomplish and cross off the "bucket-list", the memories and forgettable experiences are the things that will stick with us the longest.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A lesson to be learned

Less than a week left with my kids. In all aspects of life, I hate getting to the point of preparing to leave - Thinking about how I'm going to say goodbye, anticipating the end, making everything that happens extra sentimental. Off of a sudden even the least appealing of things seems to be extra meaningful even though I never liked it to begin with. Maybe some day I will miss the sketchy elevators or countless number of stray dogs, but I know without doubt the things that I will miss.

The truth of the work is that some days are hard. Like the day I had earlier this week. How do the boys happen to have bad days all on the same morning! Within the first 20 minutes I had been hit hard by all the boys and the rest of the morning was just as promising. As we left Caroline had bite marks on her hands, I had nail impressions on my neck, and we were both exhausted. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE these boys, but my patience is tried and I know I am becoming better because of it.

Throughout the morning I thought of the scripture that encourages us to become like a child. I had a moment of thinking "okay, I'll scream, not share, hit, and change moods every second", but it didn't take long until the rest of the verse came to find. Mosiah 3:19 tells us that the natural man "becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father". Am I willing to submit to the will of the Lord like these children demonstrate? This got me thinking about what it really means to become as a little child. We are not told to become little children, but rather to become like little children.

Children are a key to helping us to become like our Father in Heaven. Jean A. Stevens said "children provide examples of some of the childlike qualities we need to develop or rediscover in ourselves. They are bright spirits who are untarnished by the world - teachable and full of faith. It is no wonder the Savior has a special love and appreciation for little children". There are times when I don't understand why the children have the challenges they have, but I know to some extent they are here to teach me lessons I personally need to learn.

The helpless child in a hospital crib that is too small; the child affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, whose life will forever be changed because of choices he did not make; the child who is not only abandoned once, but every time his mom comes to visit for a short while and then leaves; the tiny newborns who don't know what it feels like to have anything other than a nose feeding tube and oxygen mask hooked up to them; the older child in a body of a toddler, with limbs twisted and immovable; the child with nothing who smiles simply because of the touch of his face  - These are the teachers that I have had this summer, teaching me valuable lessons I will never forget.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Muzica, muzica, muzica!

12 years ago I started piano lessons and have grown to love it and have kept up with it since then. What a blessing to have the opportunity to develop my talents and discover new ones that I love. There was always music on in my house whether it was one of us kids practicing, my mom playing the piano, or quiet music playing in the background as we go throughout our day. My love for music was fostered and developed from a very young age and continues to be a large part of my life.

One of my little boys hasn't had as much exposure or opportunity to foster his love for music, yet he absolutely LOVES it. The first day I went into the room to meet all the kids, he ran up to me asking for music. I pulled out my iPod and played him some of my favorite songs. Happy that I was able to provide something for him that he enjoyed, I didn't realize I got myself in a trap. Now, everyday as I walk in I get non-stopping requests for music. I have watched him as he listens to and explores with music. He memorizes lyrics, learns the tunes, and whistles them with me. He recognizes instruments and picks out his favorite. It breaks my heart to think that such interest is confined to listening to music videos on TV and dying toys without batteries.

Together Caroline and I sought out a small piano keyboard to give him as a gift so he could have something else to spend his time with. When we leave, our iPods leave with us, so we wanted him to have something that could actually help him and he could continue to learn with. After finding the only large music store in the city, we left with the perfect one for him. It has several choices of songs, tunes, different instruments the piano can make, and was the perfect size.
For me, the height of the excitement was when we finally gave him the piano. That moment was easily one of the best I've had here. We brought in the bag and told the worker and the boy that we had a present for him. All the boys gathered around as we pulled the box out and started taking out the keyboard. Just the cardboard stuffing inside excited and pacified the youngest of the boys. For the first moment, all the boys were happy at once. Not just content, but happy with smiles of pure joy on their face! The boy was sitting on the floor holding the piano with Caroline and I on each side of him and 10 little hands reaching to explore the keys. When we started  showing him how to use it and playing the songs, the boys were all around us, shaking things to make noise, clapping their hands, hitting the box like a drum, and dancing. It is amazing what something so simple can do to brighten the mood and lift you up. I wish I could have captured that moment so I could replay it over and over, but luckily I have one more week to go and experience it. 

After that we went outside and instead of asking for our iPods, he could not stop asking to go inside so he could play with his "pian". As we were walking hand in hand, he said something to me in Romanian I did not understand. I asked the worker what that meant and she said "I'm happy". That's all he had to say to make it all worth it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Celebrations, Romanian style!

I had the most unique 4th of July celebration this year than I have ever before. Not being in the country mixes it up a bit, however, it appeared to be common knowledge that it was some some kind of American holiday because several people wore their American flag shirts around. 

Notice Teo's American shirt :)
Festivities started when a common grocery store had “American week” and sold all sorts of American food (i.e. Brownies, Marshmallows, onion rings, fries, hamburgers, BBQ sauce, ice cream, pancake mix, and much more unhealthy American food).

We were so excited and left with full bags of this so called “authentic” food. It was so funny to see what is considered American food and see all the red/white/blue labels.

The highlight, however, was finding my favorite cereal ever! Rice Krispies followed me all the way to Romania and guess what, folks, they snap, crackle, AND pop! True bliss!

On the Forth of July, we celebrated by going to a restaurant called LITTLE TEXAS! When I thought it couldn’t get more exciting after finding my cereal, there is an entire restaurant based on my home state! There was even a flag! It really was so much fun and a worthy way to spend the Forth. The 4 sets of missionaries in the area apparently had the same idea, so we saw them there also. 
Just feels like home!

The Americans take over!!
All any true American does, we dressed up for the holiday and strutted our red, white and blue!
Roomie pic!

If we hadn’t had enough celebration this week, we had two birthdays this week! Caroline’s Birthday was Saturday and Rachel’s was Sunday! We love excuses to do fun things out of the norm and birthdays are the perfect time! On Saturday to celebrate Caroline’s fading youth and 20th birthday, we went to a pool in Iasi. There were 4 diving platforms (The tallest, 30f ft) and two huge pools! It was really fun even though it got interrupted by a huge rainstorm. Just picture 11 American girls with towels on their heads shoveling into taxis.. that was us! 
Wet little Romanian rats

Birthday girl wearing her birthday crown!

Luckily, it cleared up and we had a little cookout American style with the Hamburgers we bought. Finally, we ended the day with a Poetry Slam, as requested for her Birthday by Caroline. For those not familiar with Poetry Slams, you write a poem (preferably over dramatic and fun) and go together to a place to have a recitation where each poem is followed by snaps. It’s only for the most artsy of us and I think we pulled it off pretty good. Lots of fun! So far, it looks like we’ve figured out how to party in Romania!
Hipster poses?

 Just a bonus picture we took. Right before the picture took, one of the girls yelled out "Do smies (Smile-eyes where you can't smile with your mouth), so this was the group and missionaries' attempt to master the pose!! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Things I love

Traveling is a large part of my experience here in Romania, but I never forget the reason I am here. It is easier to post about the things I take pictures of or experience, but I want to help you have a glimpse of the beauty of the work I get to do everyday here.

They say pictures are worth a thousand words, so I won't be able to type enough to make up for not having a picture to show of my precious kids, but I'll try to share a small snapshot of their contagious personalities. Here are five things I love from 5 of my favorite people!

1. One of my boys is very musically talented. He has always had an obsession with my iPod and could spend hours flipping through the hundreds of songs I have on there. When I first met him, he would recite some English songs like "Twinkle Twinkle" or "Ring around the Rosies". After spending a summer with me, Caroline, and my iPod, he is singing Taylor Swift and Train! He has found his favorite songs among my large selection and asks for them.. frequently! One of my favorite things we do together is whistle the tunes of the songs he likes. I will start and he follows along PERFECTLY!  The first thing he asks for when I want into the door is for music. Sometimes we try to hold out so we do more than just listen to music. The morning is full of things like "nu acum" "nu am muzica" and "oleaca"  (Not now/I don't have music/Later), but when I finally give in he has the biggest smile and best happy dance I've seen!

2. We have a future football star among us. The youngest of my boys, 2, lights up when he sees a ball. At the beginning of the summer he was associated with tantrums and lack of emotion, but now he giggles, smiles, and kicks a soccer ball around with us. One of my favorite moments was when we were outside playing. There in the parking lot near the park, there were 3 older teenage boys playing football (Soccer). My little toddler ran right up to them and just watched.. starred! The boys offered to let him play but he was too much amazement and admiration to play. Maybe one day he'll be able to play a real game with friends and a real soccer ball.

3. Another boy, who is 4 but has the age and speech of a toddler we've nicknamed "Maimuta", which is monkey in English. Apart from his adorable face and little voice, my favorite thing is when he latched on so hard to you when you pick him up. He wraps his legs and arms completely around you, so I don't even need to hold him. I just love it.

4. I understand the term "terrible 2's" now because my other toddler has off and on unexplainable outbursts of unhappiness. This is not my favorite! But luckily, as quickly as it comes, it also goes. His face, as happy as can be, on the swing is the cutest thing I have ever seen. He gives me high fives every time he swings down and manages to have the biggest smile on his face while going up. 

5. The last boy is definitely a challenge, but he has my heart. This little boy has me wrapped around his finger, but also knows how to get me worked up (For example: biting me, pulling out my braids, pinching, pushing....). Despite this, when he has your attention, which I happily give him a lot, he is the sweetest most loving boy ever. He reminds me of myself when I was a kid because he just wants to be touching or attached to you at all times. (I was the kid attached to my moms leg, my Sunday school teacher's lap, etc). When we are at the play ground, he grabs my hand and insists that I go through the playground equipment with him. Even when I tell him "Sunt mai mare" (I am too big), he helps me out by pulling me farther. I just can't deny his little hand taking me whereever he goes. One of my favorite moments was when he wanted to play with a new set of toys. The boys don't seem to have a huge concept of cleaning up, but my mom engrained it too well into me to ignore it. I attempted to tell this boy in Romanian that he needed to help me clean first. He grabbed my hand and walked all around the room, while holding on to me of course, and picked up each toy and put it away. I have never before seen him clean, so I was very excited!

One of my favorite quotes is "When love is our motive, the Lord will strengthen us to accomplish His purposes to help His children". - Pres. Oscothorpe

I had special experience the other day in the hospital. The hospital is bittersweet for me. It is such a miserable place to be, however, I have some of my most memorable experiences there. I don't want kids to have to be there, yet at the same time I love when they are so I can be with them. As I said, mixed emotions! Anyway, I was in a room with a little girl the other day. She was 5, so so was able to speak a lot and easily communicate what she wanted. She has a little disfigured body and was laying down, so I started rubbing her tummy and singing songs. After awhile she didn't want me to rub her belly anymore, but I continued to stand by her crib singing (Yes, 5 years old and in a tiny crib). She was on the verge of falling asleep for about half an hour but wouldn't give in. I asked if she was tired and if she wanted me to leave but she said "no vreau" (No, I don't want). Finally, she asked me to stop singing but still insisted I stay there standing by her crib. She must have gotten sick of my primary songs/Disney song/Wicked soundtrack mini concert I was giving her, which was fine by me because I was running out of songs I knew the words to (Actually I had reached that point a long time before that and had begun making up my own versions. Thank goodness no one else was in the room and she only understands Romanian!). I stayed there for awhile until I finally had to leave, but it was interesting to me that it was important for her just to have me there. I remember being a kid and just wanting my mom in the room. I remember being a teenager and just wanting my mom in the room. And even now, I just love having people around me so I know I am not alone. That is all this sweet little girl wanted was to know someone was there and sometimes

Today was the last fast Sunday I'll be in Iasi. I took the opportunity to bear my testimony in Romanian for myself and for the branch to know I have a testimony of this Gospel. This was my simple testimony I bore (O Maturie mea foarte simpla):

Eu stiu ca Isus Hristos traieste si ca Duhul Sfant este real. Eu stiu ca Biserica lui Isus Hristos a sfintilor din Zilele din Urma este adevarata. Eu stiu ca Isus Hristos amurit pentru noi si Dumnezeu aude ragacunile noastre. Sunt reconoscatoare pentru familia mea si Salvatorul meu. Sunt reconoscatoare pentru Cartea lui Mormon si Eu stiu ca este adevarata. Am spus aceste lucruri in numele lui Isus Hristos, Amin.

It was such a cool experience to share mt testimony with the people in the Iasi branch. For two months I've wanted to get to know them and understand them, but the language barrier makes it so difficult sometimes. Studying personally how to say my testimony helped me to understand other testimonies given because I had studied that part of the language. I was able to talk to members about the church better and I felt more involved. As it always is with testimonies, the more you share it, the stronger it grows. I hope I meet some Romanians in the States, because I have the desire more than ever to share what I Romanian :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Oh the places I've been!

This past week, I took a week off to travel around Romania and see some amazing things! The trip was fun filled and relaxing at the same time, but I was definitely ready for some little toddler kisses when I got back. A few months ago I hardly knew where Romania was located on a map and now I consider myself an experienced Romanian native :) Okay, maybe not native, but I have gotten very familiar with traveling across the countryside and many cities of Romania.

It started with a train ride. In Europe, everything starts with a train ride. Through the better and the worse, we arrived safely everywhere we needed. After the 4th train ride that week, I felt pretty at home sitting amongst my newly found Romanian acquaintances, nodding my head and pretending to understand our conversation.
Yay for attractive train-ride outfits...

There we had an incredibly difficult time finding people that spoke English so I ran around the Train Station for an hour asking everyone "vorbiti Engleza??". After lots of trial and error and some prayers, we walked past two young men dressed up in ties and name tags. You guessed it, our very own LDS missionaries saved the day! Transfers were just about a week ago so one of the Elders that was serving in our branch was transferred to the Bucharest branch. His train was delayed so him and his comp were waiting for their next train right at the moment when we needed help figuring out what we needed to do. Can you say answered prayer!

First stop: Bucuresti (Or Bucharest in English) 
Capitol of Romania
Pictures will describe the trip better than my hands can type, so here are a few of our adventures!

First place we stopped was a beautiful park
Reenacting statues is one of our favorite things

The night we got in we found out about a free walking tour around the city,. Luckily it was in English and it was wonderful! There is so much history in this city and there was no other way to find out than going and experiencing each place. The tour guide was awesome and we met some great people. I am getting more and more used to introducing myself from the United States rather than my State or City. I just feel so general saying I am from the United States, but when you are meeting people all over the world it becomes more normal.
Our tour group around the city! It was great to meet other travelers!

Bucharest is called "Little France" for a reason
The beautiful theater!
 Hostel Cozyness: Our hostel was AWESOME! It was my first experience in a hostel and a dang good one! There was a very fun and young filled atmosphere and they treated us very well! It didn't take us long to be known as the "American Mormon girls" and for that reason we ended up having several late night talks with travelers we met. I even found a better home for my Romanian Book of Mormon. 
Just hanging out in the Cozyness!
The Parliament Palace AKA the "People's Palace" (Ironic because they were Communist when it was built) was our next stop. Behind the Pentagon in the US, it is the 2nd largest building in the world. Our 2.5 hour tour barely even dented the amount to see there.
Me and Caroline trying to be as big as the building
Do we look like tourists?
One of the things we were looking forward to was going to the Hard Rock Cafe in Bucharest for some AMERICAN FOOD! It did not disappoint!

Can I stress how wonderful this meal was!

On the way back, we came across a little stand that was personalizing Coke cans for free!
And we stopped by a traditional Romanian village along the way!

And found some paddle boats!

Next Stop: Brasov 
Home of Dracula's Castle and Romania's vampires!
We spent a day visiting castles and fortresses in around Brasov. There were some unbelievable views and great hikes! 
 Sorry for the length, but it is nearly impossible to wrap up the trip in one blog post! Other things we did in Brasov include another walking tour, a hike to the Brasov sign (Like the Hollywood sign), and biking around the city!

Peles Castle

Bran Castle. Romanian's must have been short back then..

Me and Caroline at Dracula's Castles

Really cool fortress in Rasnov

Smallest street in Eastern Europe!

Rainy cold day in July + Hot Chocolate = Perfect!

Biking in Brasov!

BYU Study Abroad pride right there!

I love these girls!

And I love Romania
On the way to the fortress, there was a man playing the accordion. We stopped, gave him some money, and listened to him play. He stopped and asked us where we were from. When we said "America" he perked up and started playing "Oh Suzanna" as joyful as can be. We continued to dance and cheer him on for his American pride! {watch the end of the second video}

We went to the branch on Sunday for church. I always meet the coolest people there who continue to strengthen my testimony that the church is just as true in Romania as it is in the States.

It ended up being a great trip with some great girls! Just as it started, it ended with a train ride back home. Crazy how our definition of "home" can be so malleable sometimes. This city that was once so strange and foreign to me really does feel like a type of home for the time being. There has been lots of talk about returning to our real home and families back in the States, but that time will come. As for now, I am enjoying my experiences and soaking in all that I can!