Sunday, May 11, 2008

Around the Town of Iasi

May 5, 2008 (Monday)

Today started off kind of slow…I woke up and did TaeBo. Then we leisurely got ready – ran to the store, Piata and internet cafe. I got the worse headache because the guy working there was smoking right behind my desk. Apparently there is no age limit for smoking. You see little kids smoking around the city all the time….weird huh?

So we thought it was going to be a day where nothing much exciting happened – oh we were wrong, and I’m glad we were. We decided to start walking around the city, get a covrig at a local bakery and explore. Apparently covrigs are a Romanian specialty – they are like a breaded pretzel. To be quite honest it wasn’t very good. I ended up throwing mine away, but I guess it depends on where you get them. Anyways, my roommates and I were walking down the little street on our way back home and as we were walking we saw two young boys about 10 or 11 playing on the other side of the fence. Us girls smiled at one another and mentioned that we saw them playing and continued walking. Well I guess the boys saw us because they peaked their heads out of the fence and started yelling at us in Romanian. I heard them say something about us being “blonde” and “frumoasa” (which means pretty in Romanian). There were four of us and three of us were blonde…I guess they were noticing our difference in hair color. Then he yelled “Cum va cheama?” (What’s your name?) We told him our names, and the boys came out and started talking to us and kicking the ball to us back and forth. Of course we don’t speak well, but we tried to communicate the best we could. We figured out their names and ages and simple things like that. They were really good with the soccer ball. They knew all kinds of tricks and you could tell they were trying to show off. They were a lot of fun to play with.

Within about a minute of them meeting us there were about 10 – 15 more kids surrounding us. I have no idea where they all came from, we originally only saw two, but they were all adorable. We had to be careful to watch our pockets though – some of the kids were trying to feel our pockets – I wasn’t worried though because we don’t keep anything in our pockets because of that reason. I carry all my money and credit cards in my bra when I’m out and about – noone’s going to get it there. One thing I thought was interesting was that I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kids – even though you know they would probably steal from you if they could. However, it’s all they’ve been taught. How are they to know better or even care about stealing when the money they gain is what keeps them and their family from going hungry? They were all very dirty and none of their clothes matched, but they seemed quite pleased to have our company. All of us girls had an absolute blast playing with them. It was so much fun. We took a bunch of pictures and the kids LOVED it…Roberto (who was the first one we met and seemed to be the leader of the group) was a little character. Roberto kept talking to me – he seemed to take a liking to me – the other girls noticed as well. After we took a picture or two Roberto wanted us to take even more pictures of him, so did all the rest of the kids. Then we would show them their picture and they would get so excited to see themselves. It was so adorable. They were of all different ages from about 1 to 12 years old. I don’t know if they were street children, I think it was a mixture of gypsy children and street children, but I’m not quite sure. After playing with them for about 20 minutes we decided we should probably go. We have to be careful for our own safety. Apparently girls have been followed to their homes before and the children would wait for them outside and beg for food and money. To make sure we weren’t followed home we took a longer route through the mall and then we went back to our apartment. We want to go back sometime soon though and bring them treats – they’d definitely like that.

After we said goodbye some other random/creepy Romanian guys who were older tried talking to us. I looked at them as tried to talk to us and simply said goodbye very shortly and they left us alone. I’ve noticed that if you look the men in the eyes with confidence and with a “back off’ look they don’t seem to bother you – at least they don’t seem to touch you – however, it seems to be unavoidable to get stared at everywhere we go. Today in the piata MacKenzie saw some guy coming really close to me and looking at me like he was going to grab me – when he was right next to me I just looked him in the eye with a mean look and he didn’t touch me…not to say I don’t need to be careful – but I think showing confidence makes them realize you aren’t a submissive Romanian woman like most of them are there.

When I got home I kept thinking about our experience with the kids on the street. What amazed me was how much I cared for these kids I barely new, had barely spent time with and was hardly able to communicate with. For some reason I just felt for their situation. I kept thinking oh great if I already care for kids I barely know I can only imagine how hard it is going to be for me to leave the kids I serve and work with for several months…hmm….

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