This is Part One of my journal detailing my experience volunteering in an orphanage in Iasi, Romania.
I’m in a foreign country. That still feels so strange to say. I’m a twenty-five year old who’s never flown, never left the States. But in the past two days, I’ve been pressurized, de-pressurized, checked, patted, waved through, held back, and been lost enough for a lifetime. And now I’m in Romania, ready to do something I’ve always wanted to do. For the next four months, I’m going to be living in the city of Iasi, where I’ll be volunteering with the children in a local orphanage.
My journey started with a total of three airplane rides. I was nervous, but the whole thing was glorious: the pull of the takeoff, and then the world swirling into a carousel of earth and sky as the plane circled. Even the turbulence felt freeing as I fell back towards the earth, just for a few seconds.
At least, that’s how the first flight went. But by the time I stumbled off the plane in Bucharest, after a layover in Chicago and another in Zurich, I wasn’t even sure what day it was. It was so bad that I was wearing socks with sandals. Most of you who know me know that I have a propensity for fancy, vintage-style clothing, but by that point, I didn’t even care. I probably would have even worn Crocs (shudder).
But we weren’t to our destination yet. Oh, no. We still had a six-hour bus ride to Iasi, one that would take us all night. During this leg of the trip, I discovered that Romanians are insanely aggressive drivers, which, as someone with what my mother terms “road rage issues,” I can really get behind. They use the shoulder of the road as a passing lane, since most highways only have two, and they pass much more closely than Americans would be comfortable with. We made a stop at McDonald’s, where I discovered that I can say semi-coherent things in Romanian, which I studied as best I could in the months before I left, and people seem to understand.
By the time we rolled into Iasi, it was 4 am. But I’d made it. I was there. After wrestling with the handheld shower head and dripping dry with a blanket (“I definitely don’t need a towel, Mom. I’m sure they’ll have them there!”), I collapsed.
The next day, I learned several things: books are cheap in Romania, you should weigh your fruit before you bring it to the checkout counter or you will look like a stupid American, and there are tons of juice flavors we are not capitalizing on in America. I also learned, disappointingly, that we won’t be able to start work at the orphanage for another week because of paperwork. But that’s okay, because it will give me time to adjust. My eyes and ears can’t get enough of everything I’m seeing and hearing all at once. I don’t think I’ll ever want to stop this traveling thing.