|Piata Unirii, Oradea|
Dear family and friends,
Greetings from Romania! With today marking the first day of spring, it is fitting for me to not let this day pass without taking the opportunity to finally sit down and write a winter update. I pray that in addition to the words, the pictures I am including will give you a glimpse into my life here in Romania.
December was full of Christmas activities and parties, which meant lots of planning and preparations! I had volunteered to organize the Christmas party for Pyramid Learning Center's (PLC) children and their families, including parents and siblings. We were able to rent a room at a children's play area, which turned out to be an excellent venue. I wanted the party to also be a gift to the therapist's, a time to just have fun and enjoy being with the children. Thus, all preparations needed to done by yours truly. I planned out the activities to have the families rotate through 5 stations: decorating sugar cookies, making an ornament, playing with gingerbread play-dough, exploring Christmas games on the iPads, and then dressing up with funny head bands and glasses to take a family picture. Being a fairly organized person, I had most of the activities prepared well in advance, However, when I went to make the Christmas-scented play dough, I realized I didn't have any cream of tartar. Unfortunately, this is not an ingredient I can get here in Romania. After making a few calls, a dear friend had mercy on me and gave me this coveted ingredient. The simple things we take for granted. The week before the party, I decided to try to bake a trial batch of cookies, only to find out my oven was not working! Each tray of cookies was burning, no matter how low I set the temperature. My oven is electric and is not a typical oven, more like a bad convection oven. Knowing I needed to bake sugar cookies for 50+ people all of the sudden became a frightening task! Thankfully, a fellow missionary invited me to come to her home and helped me with all the baking, including teaching me how to make buttercream frosting. For anyone who knows me well, knows how much I dislike baking, so I was truly grateful for her offer to help. I am also grateful that she was willing to share another coveted, and not easily available item to get here- food coloring. The children, families and therapists had a great time at the party, which also included a visit from Mos Craciun (Santa Claus).
Pyramid Learning Center Christmas Party
Christmas Vacation: Thanks to the generosity of my mom and sister, I was blessed to spend 4 days in Hungary, where I met up with my oldest niece, Khylie. Khylie is currently completing her Master's degree in Edinburgh and decided to come spend her Christmas break with me. I loved getting to show her my favorite city- Budapest. My mom also treated Khylie and I to a day trip to Vienna to experience the famous Christmas Markets. Vienna is only 3 hours from Budapest, so a day trip really is doable. The next day we took a 4 1/2 hour train ride to Oradea. After a good day of rest and introducing Khylie to a delicious home-cooked meal at my Romanian family's home, we then took an 8 hour bus to the beautiful city of Sibiu. Overall, we had about 24 hours in the city, but we both enjoyed exploring the old town, as well as the nearby ASTRA museum (an outdoor ethnographic museum). We ended our time in Sibiu with a visit to the nearby town of Cisnadie to meet up with the Tudose family, Natan, his wife Steluta and their adorable 3 children. Natan and I met on a train to Sibiu in the summer of 2000, and his wife and I worked together in 2004 at an orphanage. This was the first time I had seen them in over 10 years! We had a lovely visit, with the children reenacting the 3 wisemen coming to adore baby Jesus, and then singing carols.
Day trip to Vienna
Christmas was quiet, but beautiful. After attending Christmas Eve services, I was invited to go caroling with a group of friends. Another beautiful Romanian tradition!
After a great week with my niece, I was excited to return to my typical life here in Oradea. While the therapist's took an extra week of vacation, I happily resumed seeing kids in their homes. One of the reasons I especially enjoy doing home visits is that I have more opportunity to really connect with parents and families.
|Luca loving the snow day!|
|Luca and his brother, Toni|
|S.using PECS at home|
Autism Baia Mare
In addition to consulting with therapists and families at PLC, and seeing children in their homes, I also began helping one time a week at the main special education school here in Oradea. After months of consulting, the school agreed to make a sensory room. The staff are excited to begin using this new space. As the weather started to be better, I also started taking Luca on community outings every week. He is doing great at handling the money and also at waiting! We even went to a restaurant to have a tea.
The first weekend in February, PLC hosted a fine motor workshop, completed by yours truly. We had 30 participants, including psychologists, kinetotherapists, parents and teachers. The training was very hands-on which is not typical here. But the participants had loads of fun and were all able to identify strategies they could use with their children. The greatest satisfaction for me was returning to PLC the next week and seeing our therapists applying what they learned.
Fine Motor Training, Oradea
Putting it in to Practice!
The second half of February was spent in Bucharest. I was invited to provide consultation and evaluations in a clinic for children with various disabilities, a new partnership for me. But the main purpose for my visit was to see Liviu, who turned 10 on February 18th. I was blessed to have a 3 day visit with him, including 2 nights in a hotel. We had a great time taking walks, going to Cismigiu park, eating cotton candy, playing games on my iPad, and just talking. Liviu loved his birthday gift- an electric toothbrush.
Liviu's grandmother took Liviu home for his birthday, which meant we got to celebrate as a family! Liviu's twin sister, Crina, and brother, Nicu, were overjoyed to have Liviu at home. Several cousins and neighborhood friends came over to help us celebrate Liviu and Crina's special day.
March 1st a special day in Romania, called Martisor. Martisor is a genuine Romanian holiday, celebrating the arrival of spring. A martisor is a small trinket adorned with red and white entwined cord, tied in a bow. These are typically given to female family members, friends and colleagues as a symbol of friendship, respect and admiration. Traditionally, martisors are worn for 9-12 days. I was blessed with several beautiful martisors and have fully embraced this lovely tradition.
Pyramid Learning Center: The children have been making wonderful progress on their fine motor skills! I have also been working more with some of our newer therapists, and am helping start some new small groups to address social skills and play skills.
March has also been a month full of special birthdays! We at PLC had a surprise party for my little friend, Petre, who turned 5 on March 11th. It was such a delight to bless his parents and he loved coming to the center. We are praying to find a therapist to work with him at the center 1-2 times per week. We also celebrated Luca's 5th birthday. I took him on a special outing to the park and then to eat his favorite food, french fries. We then celebrated his birthday with family and friends at his home.
|Happy Birthday, Petre!|
|Happy Birthday, Luca!|
I pray this update blesses you as you see God's mighty hand in all He is doing here in Romania. I continue to be in awe of how He chooses to use me in spite of my weaknesses, but nevertheless, I am thankful. Thank you for your continued support and prayers, and for joining me in this journey!
All to His Glory,
"Look, the winter is past
and the rains are over and gone.
The flowers are springing up,
The flowers are springing up,
the season of singing birds has come,
and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air".
and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air".