Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Bittersweet Day

The last day of the camp was phenomenal. Everyone was so excited to go to the zoo. We met the kids in Străşeni. It was a glorious moment, watching the volunteers greet them: hugs, kisses, and smiles all around. It almost made me cry. We then took minibuses to Chișinău. Finally, we made it to the zoo, the long awaited event of the week! We were lucky enough to have more than one wheelchair (we only had one the previous few days) to take on our trip. So some volunteers pushed wheelchairs, as some held kids hands, and others walked with their arms around each other. 


The kids seemed to like the animals. I didn’t know what they were saying, but from what I hear, it was all good things about the zoo. However, the thing that I noticed most was not that the kids loved looking at the animals, but they loved being with the volunteers, with people. Smiles of love filled the air this day. I think that the kids really appreciated that they could be in public with people who aren’t ashamed to be with them, and will have a good time with them. 

At the end of the morning, everyone was exhausted. We needed to find energy from somewhere. So what better place than Andy’s Pizza! We brought the kids to the patio, to a huge table set with pizzas. I was not pleased, though, with the reaction of other people sitting on the patio. One table glared at us, I’m sure wondering, “Why are they here?! They don’t belong here.” At this point, I was thankful that I didn’t speak Romanian, because I would have gone over there and scolded them. I was livid. Throughout our meal, they continued to glare over at us, but I chose to ignore them and just focus on the kids. Maybe they could learn from us, that it is fun to be with those kids, and that they are people just like everyone else. 

            It was a great time at the pizza place. Some people made a huge straw out of smaller straws so they could steal juice from other people’s glasses. It was quite funny, and the kids loved it! I was sitting by one of the older kids, and randomly he asked me, “How are you?” in English! I was so surprised. And later he said, “Do you like the pizza?” It was so neat to feel like I could communicate verbally with one of the kids.
At the end of lunch, we were given little stuffed bunny keychain. If you press its stomach, it says “I love you” in Russian. It was the perfect gift. I think that it sums up part of what we accomplished: that the kids feel loved and accepted. 

            The next thing we knew, we were on our way back to Străşeni. It was a long day, and almost everyone in the bus fell asleep. But quickly, the time came for us to say goodbye to the kids. It was such a bittersweet moment. Everyone knew that it was a magical week, that wonderful things happened, and so much love was spread around. However, it was VERY hard to say goodbye to each other. A few kids asked, “You’re coming back tomorrow, right?” It was hard for the volunteers to say no. I had tears in my eyes, and I know that other people did too. Once the kids left, we thanked the volunteers and, of course, tears started falling again. Everyone knew that this was something special. It definitely had an impact on the volunteers and the kids. However, it’s not goodbye for many of them; it’s “until we meet again.” Many of the volunteers plan on meeting the kids again in September. It’s quite exciting to hear some of the plans that they have with the kids. But that’s not until next post. So until next time…peace and blessing to all.  

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