Phew what a week / weekend, and the fact I'm only writing this blog entry tonight instead of yesterday indicates what a week its's been. I'm even going to overlook Liverpool's 6-1 Victory at the weekend (that one's for you Carl!), and get straight to the story of the week.
But first to a brief round up of hospital events. No bottoms were on view this week, and no unfortunate incontience issues, thankfully! There was however an unexpected visit from some kind of 'Centre for legal Justice' - who's job it is to review the human rights of pepole in institutions such as the hospital here. It was a very interesting visit, and the man and woman that came to speak with me and my colleague was very informative about what was happening across Romania, as the Goverment is being required to bring it's policies in line with Eurpopean law. It's a big job, but great to know that there are national bodies and laws, that are not only in place, but are being follwed up and the results and recommendations acted upon. To more practical matters, one of the patients had managed to steal two music flutes from our room, a few weeks ago, I suggested that perhaps the patient was simply wanting to get some early practice in for a Christmas concert... the staff didn't really agree! All in all, we are excited about the next volunteer coming out in 9 days time! Oh and for those of you asking about the kittens, they are still with us, and constantly cry for food and try and get in the house...
So now to the weekend adventures. After a much, much needed pizza and beer on Friday night me and Ali were sat in a nice little pub (Crama) having a beer, when there suddenly appeared a face pressed up against the window, the face was smiling and seemed to be swaying! One look towards each other confirmed our thoughts. It was a recently relased patient (a young girl with what I suspect to be moderate learning difficulties). She was stood at the window chatting away to us, in the middle of the town Friday night. Not quite knowing what to do, we spoke briefly with her suggesting she went home, but she refused to go home and simply stood for the remainder of the time we were there smiling, staring and swaying. We really felt uneasy and tried again to suggest she went home, but to no avail. We ad been joined by my good friend Giany, who took us to a 'Non-Stop' 24 hour bar in the hilsl above the town... some 2 beers and 3 sets of live Romanian music sets later, we decided we should return home, not at least because of the state of dress of the waitress, who was a pretty girl, but showing a bit too much of herself (top-half), in the kind of way, that when she appears everyone at the table just stops talking in some discomfort!
To Saturday, and I was excited about the adventure to Turda.. Yeah I said Turda, the place with the salt mines and the unfortunate name. I was not expecteing (but should have been by now) the fact that the bus just didn't turn up.. I mean the only bus there didn't turn up! I wasn't alone, and a friendly 28 year old Geography teacher was also waiting for her bus, to a different destination, which hadn't turned up either! (Now I know what you're thinking: wow you must have good Romanian to know what she did for a job...well, she spoke perfect English, had visited Manchester and had even lived in Liverpool for a short while!) Anyway, after a few moments of panic, I did the only thing possible... get myself to a place of sanity! Targu-mures was the closest such place, and to my surprise there was a bus just 35 mins later from there to Turda. I had beat my transport curse.. or so I thought!
I arrived in Turda one hour early than was indicated on the bus schedule... and called my friends Dan & Ramona... (the couple I had spoke with for a few minutes at Luton airport on the flight to Romania...). Dan picked me up and took me to his home, where Romona had prepared some food (very tasty soup with mamaliga). We had a quick chat and were soon setting off to some unknown destination (unknown to me), and arrived at what I believe is called the 'keys' -(that's the translation I think). See picture below.There were so many beautiful hills around this town that I had never noticed, and it's not really in the guidebooks! (who needs a lonely planet guide eh!). After a quick introduction to a couple of their friends, me Dan & Ramona set off for a walk through this beautiful valley, see more pictures below.....
After the walk, Dan's friend had a BBQ going and were soon supplied with bread, tomato and mici (pronounced mitch). I think I got the Romanian spelling wrong! The entertainment didn't stop there, Dan's friend (who's name I forgot to write down), got a slide trombone, and horn out of his car and started an inmpromptu brass concert as the sun set.... Dan & Romona, took me home for more chatting and made me feel so at home I thought about moving in! (they were both ill with a 'gripa' - cold - but had insisted on me still coming to visit). After a good nights sleep, some much appreciated internet time, we decided we'd go to the salt mines of Turda, as there has been lots of construction going on since I was last there... The construction was still there, in all it's glory, and unfortuantely they are turning a wonderful natural cavern into a playground with hardly any space... they did have a 'treatment' space - as is common for salt mines to improve respiratory systems such as the lungs! But this treatment space looked like something out of 1970's space film.. get a load of this... (in the middle of a salt mine!) We returned to Dan & Ramona's place to have ice cream, pudding, soup, rice and sauce... I swear I was twice the size I was before I had arrived after eating so much - I love Romanian hospitality!). Though the size of my stomach was nothing in comparison to the size of the pile of dishes in the sink! I thought I better make my excuses to leave and catch the ONLY bus back home, before Ramona made me do the washing up! Dan took my to the bus stop, but was soon picking me back up again an hour or so later as the bus had eiether never arrvied or drove past without so much of a sign in the window! I returned to their flat insisting to Ramona that had returned due to guilt of not doing the washing up and that I could not go home without doing the washing up. I don't think she believed me! So I was once again in a place with no means for getting back home! My hosts came to my rescue and said they'd drive me all the way back home... 90 mins away! But first I was invited to go to the Evangelical church with them for the Sunday service. I was intrigued at the idea of going to see a Romania church service, and I have to say I really enjoyed the experience. Of course finding myself in a Romanian Evangelical Church service in Turda, is perhaps near the top of the list of unexpected life events, but one I was glad to be having. The people were wonderfully nice and friendly, I must admit sitting for two hours trying to listen to what the preacher was saying in Romanian was tiring, but I think I managed the hymn singing pretty well at the very least! So the service ended around 8pm, and I thought ok time to go home.. but no, the hospitality did not stop even there. We went for pizza with the friend from the previous day, who happened to have conducted a brass band that had been playing during the church service! Topics over dinner ranged from religion to football, we even discussed the injustice of extra time at Old Trafford just a week before!
I arrived home in such good spirits after having spent a weekend with these people that I had known for the duration of a flight from England to Romania. They had greeted and treated me like an old friend, as had their friends, and the generousity and kindness displayed by Dan & Ramona was quite overwhelming. It's these kind of experiences that have helped me reflect upon and change my own belief system about human kindness. I don't mean to sound all deep and meaningful, but it's really how I feel after such expereinces. So a huge thank you go out to Dan & Ramona... (Ramona - I have to admit what I said about the dishes wasn't true, but I'd be happy to do your dishes as a thank you anytime!)
Regards from Romania