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I do not know if my brain has even started to wrap my head around the experiences that I have recently enjoyed. I have not processed my experiences, nor do I think I will for a long time. However…

The trip to Romania was better than I even imagined. The experience with the refugees was life changing. It is so cliché to say, but they have taught me so much. I have experience a new kind of person; a type of person I wish encompassed my life more often. I am so grateful to be able to extend my time with them.

The highlight of the trip for me was the everyday life with the refugees, from playing volleyball to Easter to sharing fabulous meals. In some ways, the refugees are very similar to us. They are looking for opportunities and trying to provide for their family, but they are also very different from us due to their experiences and process to get freedom.

One of the biggest things I realized was that if someone walked in looking for a job and did not speak English fluently I most likely would have turned the other way to a more “qualified” person. However, the refugees are some of the hardest workers I have ever met and are willing to do whatever is needed, so that they can provide for their families. I most likely would not have given them the equal opportunity that they deserved.

In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics he states, “Those who are quick to treat each other in friendly ways wish to be friends, but are not friends, unless they are also lovable and know this.”

I believe that they refugees are lovable and know this, just as I believe all the volunteers are.

Other highlights:

I really enjoyed the re-education center.  You can tell that positive change is happening. I did not realize that such advanced psychological programs were in Eastern Europe.

Speaking with the students from Moldova and Romania was interesting. They were two very different groups and the comparison between them showed a lot about their countries.

I was surprised and impressed with the generosity of the US government in countries of poverty.  I appreciate that time that John spent showing us the projects that are developing in Moldova.

My idea of wanting to serve has been farther renewed. I am excited and grateful to start my journey with the refugees again. The next journey will be very different, because I will not have Adrian, Caitlin, Chris, and Naomi accompanying me. New memories and stories to follow.

Easter Weekend

Friday April 22, 2011

On Friday, we arrived at camp around 9:30 am, because we had a meeting with all the refugees at 10 am. The meeting covered the logistics of the

Their Eggs

camp. At the end, the refugees were allowed to ask any questions. They

made it very clear that Good Friday was a day for prayer. After the meeting, Caitlin played the card game Rummy with them. As soon as I realized what they were doing, I joined them. Sissy and I decided to teach them a game. We thought the easiest to learn was Go Fish. They are very very smart and picked it up very quickly. We then taught them Crazy 8s. They picked this one up quickly as well.

Around 2 pm, we left for church. We walked for a little bit and then took a bus. It was very, very hot. I was sweating. There were so many of us in the bus that I did not have a strong grip and I kept falling into the refugees. It was nice though, as I could tell that they felt like they were protecting me. When we arrived at the church, I just sat back and observed. I loved watching their rituals. There were many people in line waiting to go to the shrine in the center of the cathedral. When the first refugees arrived at the shrine, the priests started to move some things around in the church. I thought to myself that there could not have been a worse time. However, it did not seem to bother the refugees. They just kept praying. After a while, I went outside and sat on the steps. I had a wonderful conversation with one of the refugees. We all took many pictures together.

The day was a very low-key day with many phone calls but we still had a really nice time together.  In addition to going to the meeting, going to church, and playing cards, we also fit in one game of soccer and I even tried cricket with the Pakistani asylum seekers.

What a day… what an experience!

Saturday April 23, 2011

Saturday was a magical day. When I arrived, Caitlin was teaching the refugees how to make friendship bracelets. I immediately joined in on the fun. I was not the best teacher. I tried helping someone and it was not successful. Caitlin had to do all the hard work. One time I stopped to count the number of refugees making bracelets. There was over a 1/3 of them participating, around 11 or 12. Some of them caught on very quickly, while others did not. Once we were done, we started to play volleyball in a circle. When there were enough people for a game, we moved to the court. We exchanged our different ways of playing. I felt like a novice, a little lost and disoriented, which was interesting, as I have played volleyball competitively for many years. They kick the ball with their feet. I wonder if this is because the ground is so hard that they do not want to dive for fear of getting hurt. They also are very good futbol players so they have a lot of control with their feet. As time progressed, we began to give each other high fives. I even taught them how to fist pump. It is pretty awesome! In the end, some of them were even doing “exploding fist pumps”.  At the end of the game if your team lost, the winning team would tell you to “kneel down” which means that you have to do 5 pushups. After

My candle

the games (and we played so many games), they told Caitlin that I play like a man. I did not know how to take this, but Caitlin assured me that it was the nicest of compliments.

Saturday April 23, 2011 – Sunday April 24, 2011: Easter Vigil Mass

The streets during church

The street during mass

Caitlin, Naomi and I arrived at the camp around 9:30 pm, because we were leaving for church at 10 pm. The two women that were going to mass looked absolutely beautiful in their traditional Eritrean dresses. When we arrived at the church, they began their rituals. It was VERY  moving. Chairs lined the inside walls of the church. We all took our seats until older Romanian women arrived. We waited for

two hours and then the sermon began. During the sermon, the lights go off and then come back on. When the lights come back on, the priest lights everyone’s’ candle. When the priest walks through the center of the church, everyone begins to sing. Outside of the church, there are thousands of people all holding candles.

The decorations

We were not aware that they had been gathering outside, because we had been inside for so long. The tradition in Eritrea and Romania is to walk around the church three times. We onlywalked around once, because of time and the number of people. When we got onto the bus to return home, the Eritreans began to sing. It was the most JOYOUS sound. (My previous blog is of them singing). The bus was overflowing with HAPPINESS. I was very close to crying. (If measuring my emotions with fingers, they were almost touching each other). PURE MAGIC. A HOLY CELEBRATION.

EASTER:

Our Meal

In America, I do the same thing for Easter every year. I would not have it any other way. We always go to my aunt and uncle’s home and we follow the same traditions. I look forward to the day every year. If you were to tell me that I could find an equally wonderful time in Romania, I would have thought you were joking.

When we arrived at camp, everything was very mellow. But, oh, how a day can change.

The first thing we did was decorate eggs. Their paintings were amazing. My favorite egg was of the traditional Eritrean woman. After we decorated the eggs, we sat down to the most amazing lunch. The refugees decorated the room with grass and leaves and dandelions from outside. I was surprised with how beautiful you can make a room with these

Their village on an egg

Traditional Eritrean Woman

simple things. The main dish is pronounced zigaknee (you must say it very fast). It was a red soup with pureed tomatoes and onions with large chucks of chicken. It was delicious. Each person had their own loaf of bread to sop up all of the yumminess. There was also a salad that had tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and cucumbers. It was drowning in some liquid dressing. I never thought mushy salad could be so good. The meal was filled with wonderful conversation. I did not communicate too much, because the food was delicious and I could not stop eating. There are no words to explain this meal. I want to say more, but you simply had to be there. During lunch, a few of us left to go and hide the eggs. When they came out, they stood against the building. Chris whistled to explain the rules. A whistle clearly means start in Eritrean; I am guessing that it is like a gun at a race. Old grown men were running around. It was clearly a competition.

After everything was cleaned up, we started a game of volleyball. This tournament lasted about 5 hours. Let’s just say that I am rather sore today. They made jokes that I should play by myself against six opponents. They would say 1 versus 6. I told them that this would be impossible. However, we did try 2 versus 6. I did not realize how hard playing doubles would be when you cannot communicate effectively with your partner. The games slowly began to unravel as everyone became tired. They invited Caitlin and me to join them for dinner. Neither of us were hungry after our gigantic lunch, but how could we possibly refuse since they were so nice. Around 8:30 pm, we had dinner. They asked us many questions about what America would be like. You could tell they are worried about their finances, but who is not.  We learned about them, too.  One of the refugees is an artist, and he showed us all of his work.

THE BEST ERITREAN EASTER EVER!

The Camp

UNHCR freeing the refugees

UNHCR freeing the refugees

The Most Joyous Sound

The Most Joyous Sound

Instructions:

  1. Double click on the link (it is underlined above)
  2. Wait for the Powerpoint to download
  3. Open the Powerpoint
  4. There is a play button on the middle of the Powerpoint page
  5. Double click the play button
  6. Turn up the volume
  7. ENJOY!

I will write more about this experience later, but this had to be shared immediately.

The following video talks about the refugees arrival and the fun things we have been doing with them at the camp:

Here are a few news reports about the refugees arrival:

http://www.daylife.com/photo/04RF8sk3Ydd5p?__site=daylife&q=Eritrea

http://www.actmedia.eu/2011/04/22/top+story/several+dozens+of+refugees+originating+from+eritrea+arrived+in+timisoara+/33344

http://www.flickr.com/photos/unhcrce/5640588674/in/photostream/

http://www.unhcr.org.uk/news-and-views/news-list/news-detail/article/eritrean-refugees-arrive-in-romanian-emergency-transit-centre-from-tunisia.html

http://allafrica.com/stories/201104211226.html

http://english.hotnews.ro/stiri-top_news-8523387-compliments-romania-for-hosting-refugees-from-eritrea.htm

Moldova Day 2

So our second day in Moldova was super busy so I had to separate the video into two segments.

Thanks to Marie and her husband John, we were able to go to Moldova. We arrived on Monday morning and had an absolutely amazing experience. John was the host of all hosts.

The following video blog talks about our first day with John and Marie in Moldova:

If you do not know where Moldova is look on a map. Actually, it is between Romania and the Ukraine.

Three weeks ago, we were in Budapest and I left with sunburn on my face. Last week we went to Bran and Brasov, Romania and there was snow everywhere. Let us just say that I did not check the weather report and was not properly prepared. In Bran, we walked into a restaurant and a nice elderly man asked me if I was cold. This was a rhetorical question, because my bottom lip was chattering.

The following video talks about my experience with Dragos and how he saved the trip:

Last week we went to a Romanian University. At the university, the students study journalism, communication, and political science.

Here is the link to my video blog about the Romanian University:

Re-Education Center

On April 12th, we went to a re-education center in Romania for juvenile boys.

Here is the link to the video blog:

I have wanted to put this video post up since our second day in Romania. However, at the time I was not aware that we could not use refugees names. I have edited this video (not very well), so that it does not include the man’s name. I am not a technologically sound person. Who knew trying to edit a video was so difficult. I think I just need a new software program.

To view the video blog:

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