The Hand of Help Children
At about 10:30 a.m. we woke up to curious children outside our door wanting to know who had arrived from America. Upon waking and realizing where I was, the memories of the van ride only a few hours previous haunted me. But I quickly got off my bed to get dressed and see who the little voices were on the other side of the door. Dale was already dressed; I think he slept in his clothes, he would do that quite often. Not me, I needed the softness of pajamas to really relax and sleep. The blankets on the beds were the old olive green, itchy, army-type, and even with a sheet folded over the top, they were still not comfortable. Wow, did I have a lot of adjusting to do!
As soon as Dale could, he flung the door open inviting all the little strangers inside. Of course, they knew to head right for the suitcases! Americans had been there plenty of times before and they knew better than we did; that meant goodies! Sure enough, little hands were soon pointing and words came forth in a whimpering sort of way asking for something in the suitcase. We soon learned to recognize this very typical “voice” of the beggar as we walked the streets and became accustomed to the same words in the same tone offered to anyone who appeared to be a foreigner of any means.
The children were beautiful! We loved them right away. Who wouldn’t? They seem to sweep you off your feet and before you knew it you had promised them something that you had no idea about! It’s amazing how the lack of a common language allowed for this. This happened often, especially with Dale. His personality is such that kids seem to know there are just some grown men who carry the title, “ Pied Piper.” They are just simply fun to be around, and Dale was one of them!
We had soon been escorted down four flights of stairs to the main lobby, and then on to the cafeteria where we met the orphanage director, Michael. Later, we would meet his wife, Virginia, and son Michael Jr; they usually did not appear until the afternoon. Michael was a very kind and friendly man. While still feeling tired, we thoroughly enjoyed having some fresh bread and soup; it was good! Some of the children were hanging around as others were getting ready to leave for afternoon school. In Romania, we learned that they could only provide half days of school for the children. The younger children attended in the morning, the older in the afternoon.
The names of the children were hard to understand and pronounce as we were not accustomed to them, and we did not know the Romanian language. We had learned a few words in preparation for our trip, along with some that our friend, Gene, tried teaching us on the way over. But Gene didn’t have the accent down very well, so we pretty much learned by listening to the children. They responded to smiles and fun. They had been used to visitors and knew how to play them to get treats as often as possible.
There was so much we were to learn about Romanian life; the people, the customs, and what it means when someone says, “No problem” and most of all patience. Things moved rather slowly, especially for Americans who kept schedules. Appointments were especially a source of testing with us. It seemed time had little value, or at least our time. We became aware that if we had discussed meeting at a certain time, you could usually add 2 hrs to it and that’s actually when the appointment would occur. Appointments to meet people were always delayed, plans were vague, and trying to pin down anyone was virtually impossible. As the days passed our hopes of meeting someone who could help with adoption issues began to wane, we were feeling a bit desperate. Gene, our guide, seemed to like their system of time too. So we felt pretty much left to ourselves to find our way and adapt to this new system of operating.
There were about 100 children at HOH, ages 1–18. Dale was “Mr. Fun” and many children flocked around him. He did tricks with quarters and pretty much was their new source of entertainment. I was looking for something practical to do and offered to and discovered that many children needed haircuts. Rather than send them to the barber for a small fee, I offered to cut their hair. I was handed a sheet and we set up a makeshift barbershop on the second-floor landing. I began giving haircuts to any children who needed them. Soon one of the workers had children lined up for me. Some of the girls wanted their hair long, which I agreed with, but the worker told me to cut it short as it’s easier to deal with unexpected lice infestation and in keeping it clean. Well, one little 9-year-old girl named Anca Filip (…later Demary), wouldn’t have it! She jumped into the chair with big brown eyes begging me to only cut a little. I tried the best I could to accommodate her request while the woman in charge wasn’t looking.
So by the end of our first full day, we were glad we had come, in spite of the cultural adaptations to be made. No matter what the future held for us with adoption, our hearts were glad to have finally embraced the children at this orphanage that we had been praying for and financially supporting. We were there, and that’s all that mattered.
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