Post 61: On The Road To Romania
A high, thick fence, obviously for security reasons, surrounded the property. We were warmly welcomed by a husband and wife into a home of shiny marble floors, thick woven rugs, art and comfortable furniture. They showed me to my well-furnished bedroom and bathroom, complete with a toilet stool and a roll of toilet paper.
I listened to their conversation, and occasionally Dr. G would explain something, but mostly I enjoyed the ambiance of listening to these old friends catching up. The gentleman was apparently a successful entrepreneur who owned a number of businesses. Successful enough that he required personal security. I noticed several other men patrolling the property and manning the gate. It felt kind of strange and that feeling grew as the evening developed.
Our hosts were taking us out to dinner, Dr. G informed me. We left in their large Mercedes Benz and were soon in the country. The sun set as we drove through flat farm land, the roads growing narrower and rougher. It was kind of spooky, the dark countryside, riding in a Mercedes, heading to a restaurant seemingly in the middle of nowhere. After what seemed like forty-five minutes, I saw some lights of a modern building, maybe three stories high, secured, with manicured grounds. Only fields surrounded it. We pulled in and our doors were opened by staff members of what appeared to be a small, boutique hotel. It was a Saturday evening, yet there were no other cars visible. The staff ushered us through a small, luxurious lobby and into a private dining room set for the four of us. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what was served. I do remember it was excellent and we were served several courses by an extremely attentive wait staff.
Standing in the marble bathroom before we left, I quietly asked, “Dr. G, this is beautiful, why are there no other guests here?”
He shifted, somewhat uncomfortably, and almost in a whisper said, “Beeal, he bring his business clients here.” He smiled and walked out the door. I would later surmise much of this man’s business included dealing with the government; he probably owned or controlled components of industry owned by the state prior to the breakup of communism. I think most major entities the communist government owned were now privately held or controlled. Much of it by former government officials.
The next day I said goodbye to our hosts. Dr. G remained with his friends and would meet me at the airport late the next day. One of the host’s staff drove me to the Bucharest SOS Children’s Village, which was a several hour drive.
I ate dinner with one of the SOS families. The children were excited to host a foreigner, amazed I came from so far away and some little ones surprised I didn’t speak Romanian. Some of the teens tried out a few words of their English with me. I followed some of the young kids on a tour of the Village and watched as they excitedly showed me their playground and the tricks they could do on the equipment and swings. I felt like I was home in my own SOS Village.
In the morning I spoke with several of the staff, social workers, therapists and several ‘mothers’ and again realized how similar our Villages are. In spite of different languages and cultural differences, neglect, abandonment, abuse and the need for love and acceptance is the same worldwide. Through several staff who spoke English we were able to share some of the stories of our kids, the issues we faced, and discussed how we handled different situations in our own countries and Villages. We discussed the causes (again the similarities and the differences) for the children being in our care and how our governments were or were not addressing these important issues.
It felt gratifying to realize, similar to my first career with the YMCA, how I became a part of something much bigger than myself. I belonged to an international brotherhood of people caring for the at-risk, the needy, the unwanted, the hidden kids of our world.
Next week: Compartments of the Mind