Many weeks have passed. Many things have changed. Friends were made, people did leave. How is it possible to describe all of the many things we did in the last weeks? Let us try to make some order and give an overview of our activities.
Hundreds of kilometres, days of travel
The first week of march was filled with travels. Different places in and around Romania were visited. Every volunteer followed a different path, every person visited distinct places, but ultimately they found each other again. Five volunteers, eight destinations. Are you already curious? Jonathan, as a hard worker, spent some days in Cluj-Napoca for conference, organised by YMCA Europe. The Conference was on the initiative of the religious wing of this international organization. These days were filled with singing, speeches and devotion. Inbetween the praying there was time for Japanese food. Afterwards our dear Jonathan was more than happy to meet up with Angelika. The city of Cluj stole their hearts as both got to know a side of the city they had not yet seen before. At this point Angelika had already a few days of traveling behind her. Oradea was her relaxing first stop on the long journey. The entire morning was spent in a spa in an attempt to avoid the Siberian winter that prevailed outside. She would go on to visit Turda and hereafter spent some time in Cluj. Here she met up with her old companion from northern Europe, before she did return to Baia Mare.
At the exact same time, the rest of the team was in Ukraine. After repeated complaints about the weather in Romania, karma proved to be harsh mistress. Minus 20 degrees? Yes, this temperature is not a myth anymore! But the real adventures started earlier, before reaching the country’s border. A few minutes before the departure of the first bus to Sighet, Cecilia’s suitcase broke. With the help of Barbara and Maeliss the suitcase could be fixed, right in time to catch the bus. Crossing the bridge was a touching moment. No man’s land ! Finally they had arrived in Ukraine. A long journey by train brought them to Lviv, one of the most beautiful cities of Ukraine. The ladies were amazed by the architecture, the squares and the interesting places in the city. In only a few days’ time they went to a Chocolate factory, a Coffee factory, they visited countless churches, they walked in the city for hours, they ate traditional specialities and they escaped the merciless cold in bars and cafes. Even though their stay in Lviv was short, their stay was so intense that it felt like they had been there for ages. Exhausted but fulfilled did they board their train and made their way back to Romania, and back to Baia Mare.
What followed? The Ukrainian three decided to split up. Barbara joined with Jonathan and Angelika, whom had already made their way to Sibiu. The three were very impressed by the medieval character of the city, the visible traces of German culture and the paintings in the Brukenthal Museum. They did also celebrate women’s day here and, respecting the tradition, carried colourful flowers with them.
Although each volunteer lived a different adventure, all shared their final destination. The last stop was Timisoara, this city would accommodate the general assembly of YMCA Romania. The entire team was invited to be part of this assembly. We wished to join, even if this meant that we had to travel for many hours to get to our destination. Barbara, Angelika and Jonathan hitchhiked from Sibiu to Timisoara, but not before they had visited Hunedoara and its famous castle. Afterwards, they would spend one night in Arad, where they were hosted by befriended volunteers. In Arad, they were also joined by Cecilia and Maeliss. Having spent some days in Baia Mare, these ladies took a bus to get to Arad.
The next day the five took a train to Timisoara. Here, they celebrated Barbara’s birthday. It was a great surprise for her to be greeted and congratulated by the enitre board of the Romanian YMCA. We ate cake, we had a drink and enjoyed the evening in a warm and spring-like Timisoara. We also presented our project before the assembly and were enlightened about the activities of the YMCA in all the separate, local establishments of our organisation.
Building a project, this time in practice
The next week revolved around Barbara’s event. Barbara’s workshop did at last blossom and her long and tiresome efforts did become a bright reality. The whole team was involved in the preparations of project Hideaway. This event sought to give a voice to refugees in Europe. Barbara collected three stories. These stories had been gathered over the years. She recalled her experiences from her activities in Mozambique and she also talked with refugees in Romania as part of her preparation. The result consisted of three stories: one narrating the story of an Congolese woman, one giving details about the heart-breaking story of a young Burundian girl, the last story reflected the annoyances of a Turkish refugee in Romania.
Barbara proved to be an excellent project manager. She delegated the task to a large group of active volunteers. Brainstorm sessions were arranged, people were given tasks that corresponded with their personal capacities and interests. The entire week before the event was concerned with the event’s preparations. When the day arrived, many people showed up. The event was a great success. The audience listened breathlessly to the stories. They were given the opportunity to write their own ending for the stories. They engaged in debate about the refugee crisis that has roamed for years. At the end, a real refugee told his personal story. This added to the overall impression of the stories.
Every person that had been present, volunteer and audience alike, left the event filled with emotion. The stories were heavy, their themes had left a huge impression and the knowledge that all stories were grounded in reality, added to the experience. Even when the event had reached its ending and the audience moved homewards, they were silent. The stories had left an imposing mark on each separate person.
Food is good(bye)
At this point the last weekend of Angelika had become a fact. She insisted on a food-filled goodbye. A huge party was organised on Saturday. The intention was that every person would bring some traditional food with him or her in order to celebrate. This party was all the more special, because we were accompanied by Spanish guests. Three Spanish volunteers from Râmnicu Vâlcea visited Baia Mare this weekend and resided in our flat. Their presence made the party all the more special. We ate a lot of delicious food from different countries and cultures. The following Sunday saw the continuation of this food marathon. Sunday we focussed on Romanian traditional food. We went to Bastion, a rather traditional restaurant in Baia Mare. We ate a huge placinta and ended with very tasty Mamaliga. Does it end here? No it does not! Another special dinner was prepared for the Monday. Our YMCA- friend Tudor came to our appartment to prepare a spicy vegan dinner consisting of stuffed pineapples. Who could have expected Angelika’s culinary adventure to end with Carribean food? On Monday, we were actually not that hungry. The Monday afternoon had granted us plenty of food. A surprise party had been organised by our coordinator. All the children from the HHC, the foster care homes we regularly visited, were gathered to say goodbye in a big way. There was a lot of pizza and enough to drink.
Then, on Tuesday, the time of saying goodbye has finally arrived. Angelika’s time of departure was there. The Austrian part of our family, the youngest volunteer in our organisation packed her stuff and returned to her countries. The apartment was filled with sadness and sorrow, the volunteers had tears in their eyes. We did one last group hug before to say goodbye.
The entire week consisted of saying goodbye These days were all about the final evaluation in the schools. It was amazing to see how the youth was welcoming us, in High School 21 we were welcoming with lots of sarmale and placinta, in High School 8 thousands of biscuits were there for us and impossible to forget Copelnic and the beautiful party in the school gym with music and love. Our little Hungarian children gave us a beautiful handmade bracelet each. It was very emotional saying goodbye to ‘our’ kids. We looked back at a long history with these kids and having to say goodbye for the last time was not easy. To sooth our sadness, our treasured coordinator Alina invited us to join her and go to a performance in the municipal theatre of Baia Mare. We agreed with pleasure. The theatre featured Hungarian Operette. What followed, were two hours of singing and dancing. We did not understand the language, but the experience was nonetheless amazing and oddly satisfying.
Recording and fastening our memories
And suddenly, we were already in the last weekend of our Fantastic Five team (minus one, sadly enough). We decided to go to Oradea to enjoy the first days of spring. Maëliss decided to stay in Baia Mare to have some rest. The rest, Jonathan, Barbara and Cecilia started this little adventure. We were joined by two persons from our circle of international friends, the always-exiting Turkish Volunteer Pelin and our favourite French intern Tibo.
We planned to stay one night in Oradea. As an extra addition to our adventure, we decided to get to the city by means of hitchhiking. The entire experience turned out to be a super nice weekend. It started on Saturday morning and we were very lucky because a bus arrived only after a few minutes of waiting. This bus was a regular connection between Baia Mare and Oradea, but its driver nonetheless decided to take all of us with him for free. Because of this, it was pretty early when we arrived in Oradea. At arrival it was sunny and warm, making it a perfect day to discover the city, enjoy its cafés and restaurants and visit the city’s old Cittadella. Our activities continued into the early Sunday morning, after a rough night. We were determined to get a ride back to Baia Mare. This time, however, we wanted to add some excitement to the adventure. We made our hitchhiking a competition between two teams: one consisting of the girls and one consisting of the boys. The losing team was supposed to buy ice cream for the wining team. Guess who is it the stronger sex? THE GIRLS DID WIN! And thus, we ate our first ice-cream in Baia Mare and we did inaugurate the sunny season!
The entire last week we spent on making a video. This video is supposed to reflect our activities of the last few months. We spent many hours filming, recording, choosing music and editing. The result is beautiful. We invite all the readers of our blog to watch it. Click here to watch it.
The last week of march was already here! Maëliss and Barbara were packing their luggage to start a new chapter. Maëliss was ready to return to France and start with her new studies. She intends to enrol in Psychology in the university of Lyon. Barbara is at the point of starting a new adventure as an au-pair girl in France. It was a strange week and uncomfortable feelings roamed within the two whom were to be left behind. Jonathan and Cecilia will stay for a few more months. The two were sad because they saw their good friend depart. On the other hand, they saw that a new adventure was beginning, their project was over and a new one was to commence. A tiny new project with new challenges.
When Easter did arrive, the house was almost empty. Barbara and Maëliss had definitely left. But Cecilia and Jonathan were not alone. We opened the month of April with the celebration of Catholic Easter. The two were invited in Maison Pop to enjoy traditional food. We had the chance to eat Pasca, a traditional cake with cheese and raisins, stuffed chicken, eggs and stuffed pepper and tomatoes. It was a special Easter and although the weather was very rainy and chilly spring had really started. It was about time…
Yearning for more videos?
Was one video not enough? Do you want to know more about our experiences? In the next few weeks, we will post more videos online. In these videos we will share our greatest lessons from our Romanian adventure. We will also talk about our future plans. Keep an eye on the YMCA social media. In a few weeks, the first video will be placed online.