Starting the day, the first thoughts in my mind were ‘Please give me another hour in bed!’ Wednesday’s travel really drained me, and it took me a while to get the hang of things. After our breakfast we got on the bus to Negru Voda, which was a half-hour drive. We were welcomed to the cultural centre beside the primary school. While I knew that it was International Women’s Day, I didn’t understand just how seriously it was taken in Romania. It is effectively a second birthday for women, and all the female members of the group were given a bracelet and a flower.
The Romanian group leaders told us about the town and the local schools. We then watched a play that the kindergarten children had prepared, as well as traditional Romanian dancing. This was very fun because the dancers were very talented.
When we were finished watching the performance, we had a break and our Romanian peers showed us around the town of Negru Voda. The town is small and the buildings were old and worn but the people we met were happy. The image that will stick with me was the horse-drawn carriages travelling on the road next to the cars.
The highlight of the day was without a doubt meeting the beneficiaries in the first group home we went to. The smiles on their faces as the bus arrived at the houses was indescribable. We were greeted with food first and a small number of the beneficiaries did a dance that they prepared. The effort that must have gone into preparing the food and dance – it was unbelievable. As a picky eater, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy much of the food, but it was actually very tasty. The sausages were my favourite! We spent an hour or so in groups with a small number of beneficiaries in each. We did arts and crafts with them. They enjoyed the stickers and balloons a lot. I was sad leaving but, similar to the week’s motto, the idea that I made a big difference to them is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
After this, we visited what was in fact the first Aurelia Trust group home. The building was old and worn but the building wasn’t indicative of the home. When we were speaking to one of the women who runs it, I learned a lot about our two cultures. In Romania, they aren’t very materialistic. Family and friends come first. I think that we could learn a lot from Romania in that sense, because we’ve really let go of that in Ireland.
When we got back to the hotel, we had a lesson about the Romanian language. We were given a sheet with basic Romanian phrases. Considering I had no Romanian whatsoever, the lesson was very helpful. That meant that for the rest of the week I could at least try and communicate with non-English speakers even if that was only ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’
It was a long and tiring day but at the end of it all, it was a most enjoyable one. Now I can really look forward to the rest of the week with lots of optimism.