EPI’s eldest daughter went off to Romania a few days ago. She’s there for a month to work in an orphanage in a region about an hour out of Bucharest. She’s a medical student, going into her fourth year in September, and last summer she was in Slovakia to work in a hospital with a bunch of other med students from around the world – including one other Icelander. This year, however, she’s on her own.
She was a little worried, mostly because she didn’t know what to expect. She’d be travelling alone through rural areas in Romania, where people’s level of English isn’t necessarily the greatest. And let’s face it – Romania is not a country a lot of people know a lot about. More significantly, the kids in the orphanage are aged 12 and up – meaning that a lot of them were probably very small children in the notoriously evil orphanages run under Ceaucescu. You may remember that when the dictator was overthrown and executed and the country’s orphanages were opened up, the children were revealed to be living in horrific conditions: starving, sick, neglected and abused.
Just before she left, she said, people kept talking to her about the orphanages. She heard stories of people – Icelanders – who had adopted children from Romania. Almost without exception, these children – now adolescents – were severely impaired in their ability to trust or to experience human intimacy or contact. One little boy came here at the age of three, and in his first years, whenever he was served a meal, he would hunch over his plate, surrounding it with his left arm, and eat as fast as he possibly could, like an animal fearing an assault. And whenever he was given anything new – be it a toy or a new pair of shoes – he would take it to his bed and sleep with it underneath the covers.
The day before she set off, EPI went to help her run some errands. The errands consisted of buying a whole bunch of sweets and then distributing them evenly into 50 little plastic bags that they then tied with a gift ribbon. She also bought one football and one basketball – both deflated – plus a little pump, some playing cards with pictures of Iceland on them, and a jigsaw puzzle with a map of Iceland on the front. This she packed in her suitcase… and was ready to go.
We were relieved to get a text message a couple of days after she left [she stayed in Denmark for one night] to say that she’d arrived safely. Another text message came the following day, saying that the candy bags had been a big hit. Then yesterday, she called. She loved it, she said. The people were wonderful, the food exceptional, and she never felt frightened. Plus everything was really cheap – she’d gone to a fancy restaurant and ordered the most expensive thing on the menu for ISK 500 – which doesn’t even buy a beer in a local pub in Reykjavík. A lot of things had come as a pleasant surprise. The only thing that wasn’t so great was that her room had virtually nothing in it – except roaches.
Doozie of a storm that was yesterday, boy! Cars with trailers blowing off the road, roofing material torn off, trampolines [the current craze in Reykjavík], barbecues and lawn furniture blowing out of house gardens, and shipping containers – yes – blowing off the dock in Kópavogur and into the sea. Anyway, it grew calmer towards evening, enough for EPI and YT to manage a run without being propelled over the rainbow to Oz. Today it’s been much nicer, in terms of wind at least, and some of you will be happy to know that current temps are not 12°C but a whopping 15. Daybreak today was 03.42 and nightfall is set for 23.20.