Groggily opening my eyes to see one of the grandchildren pressing their faces into the glass door and yanking on the bedroom door knob, I wake up. After making expresso and a Romanian breakfast consisting of cucumber, tomato, Romanian cheese, bell pepper, and bread, the morning becomes a mixture of playing and preparing to run out the door to catch the unpredictable bus. Most of us stand in silence, some nursing their morning cup of espresso while others ask when the bus will come, now 5 minutes past schedule. The bus finally arrives as we all huddle together to get on, letting the elderly take the seats. Giving away my seat to a devout Orthodox lady, she along with the majority of the bus members cross themselves as we pass the local Orthodox Church. We sway and jolt with every movement and slamming of brakes from our talented bus driver, as he multitasks with making change, distributes bus tickets, and defend the road from aggressive drivers.
Forty minutes and several stops later, we arrive in an underdeveloped part of Galati. The air tainted with cigarette smoke and ground strewn with garbage, broken bottles, and cigarette butts, I make the trek to the Word Made Flesh Valley Daycenter; the light of hope in the midst of a suffering society. With the second cup of coffee, my professor and I discuss the latest books we’ve read on Romanian history, poverty, and spiritual formation. We pause our deep discussion to gather for chapel with all of the WMFR staff, reflecting on biblical passages, praying, sitting in God’s presence, and sharing what He’s put on our hearts & minds. Finishing our discussion, we call the children to wash their hands and sing a prayer of thanks before lunch: soup and bread with every meal, stuffed peppers with a tomato sauce and pickles on the side, and a bundle of grapes for dessert. After brushing teeth, we go outside to the swings and play pătrățica, a foot-version of four-square. Before homework, we sit in silence, reflecting on the day and discussing our highs & lows. I tutor little ones with their writing, Romanian and mathematics. We have one last play break before the children head home.
Meanwhile, intense two-hour Romanian lessons begin with my Romanian professor, consisting of grammar, stories, and discussions completely in Romanian, with the occasional sprinkle of English. We then part for the evening; I shiver as the bus comes whizzing 25 minutes past. A soft murmur warms the bus from the 3°C chill outside. I come home to Romanian music and my host family canning pickles and bell peppers for winter. We eat dinner together, reflecting on our days completely in Romanian. More family comes to join later in the nighttime, the joyful laughter of a toddler fueling my energy to both play and finish homework. Exhausted after a day full of children, I collapse into bed and write.