Okay - so I have known for months that this trip was coming up. Clint convinced me to go to Romania with him again - I am not a traveler, seriously! I am totally content sitting in my house with my little family and knowing that we can't get injured or harmed in any way - did you know I have a paranoia problem? Well, I admit that I fear life a little (lot) more than I should, so I am stuck with my own little battle of traveling and leaving the kids. Now, before you say it's a mom thing - it is, but times twenty - so Clint has convinced me that he will help me through this by making me travel. Well, long story short - I told him that if I was going to go, then I wanted to take time to see another country in Europe. (This is why we pay for all of our traveling and lodging expenses - we make it a little vacation amongst the charity work).
Anyway - Italy quickly became the first stop on our trip. So, fear of flying? Make that 8 flights in as many days and you have one scared little wife saying, what the heck was I thinking???
So, we had 3 flights to get to Rome, Italy. We planned on taking the train to get to our hotel, but wouldn't you know it there was a strike so the trains were closed that day. Into the shuttle with 2 other couples from the USA and introduction to driving in Italy - let's just say they know how to get around those little cobblestone streets and have no problems honking horns and cutting anyone off. Pedestrian? Well - you need to watch for the cars, 'cause they ain't looking for you.
BUT - holy cow! I will say we met the nicest people in Italy - I am not kidding, they were so great and helpful. I could listen to them speak forever because the language is absolutely beautiful.
By the time we checked into our hotel and started walking around I was exhausted. It had be 24 hours since I left home and I didn't sleep on the planes like I wanted to. It was hot too - so humid and I wore pants - huge mistake! So, I sat for a bit in the shade and grasped the fact that I made it here without any turbulence.
Because of the strike that day, the Colosseum was closed and so was our tour! So, we walked around the city and I found plenty of things to take pictures of. I chose a few of my favorites to share with you. This is just a gate door that I thought was beautiful and I couldn't help but just stare at it.
We went to the Vatican City and surrounding Museums. This is just a taste of how amazing it was - everything I saw had quilting potential. I look at things so differently now because of my quilting. It never ceases to amaze me the work that goes into creating something beautiful.
Okay, Clint and I were in Saint Peter's Square on Wednesday when the Pope made his weekly speech. We watched him ride in on the Pope Mobile and the crowd just went crazy! It was really cool being there and seeing him in person. We have video of him riding right past us.
Here he is - not the best picture, but this is a super zoom camera shot because we were so far away.
We were able to get into the Colosseum that same day. We lost out on our tour, but we were able to walk around. The size is unbelievable - huge, massive! and then to read about the gladiators and the other things that went on - wow. I had to really grasp the fact that this building was over 2000 years old. Amazing. The detail and workmanship was unreal and I would give anything to be a time traveler and see it in its day. I am still baffled. The whole city of Rome was just incredible and I will always remember how it felt to be there.
You should go, you would love it. Just warning you though, you have to learn how to say "no thanks" a ton because the soliciting there is rampant. They get you coming and going at every turn, selling anything that would make them a quick buck.
I loved the trees there, but I am a huge fan of trees. The fact that this group of trees were growing up on the wall and close to the buildings - even better.
Clint and I had a wonderful time in Italy - it was a much needed getaway for us.
Now the charity work begins. We flew to Romania from Italy - an easier 2 hour flight for me. Gica - the man in charge of the Archway Foundation in Romania picked us up and we got to work. The boys in the picture with me are orphans, but Gica has given them the opportunity to work with him and the Foundation and they were there to help us out. We spent the morning shopping for food and school supplies. That is where your donations come in. With your donations we were able to get 30 back packs stuffed with school supplies for kids starting school, who wouldn't have had these if we didn't get it for them and also food for 50 families. Thank you again for everyone who donated.
Here we are with Gica. Seriously the nicest and most giving man I have met. He works with all of the kids and their families and he has such a giving heart.
At this point I was having fun just collecting supplies, I had no idea what the rest of the day would bring. It was an emotional roller coaster for me.
Here is the van packed and ready to go. We were dropping off food, quilts and the back packs to the people most in need. At the first stop we were just bringing food and we walked into an apartment where a Mom, Dad and 6 kids sleep in a room no bigger than 10' x 10' - I noticed that the single bed in this room had a quilt from last years trip nicely laid out on the bed. It made me feel good to know that the quilts you donate are being loved and used. It was a beautiful addition to the sad living conditions these people are in.
When we were walking out I saw a lot of little kids - all of these kids were in the same living situation as the peoples whose room I had just left, but aren't being helped by the foundation and I felt it was a good time to give some quilts out. So, I told Clint and we asked Gica to have the kids gather around the van. What I didn't realize is that this would create a situation where desperate people, kids and adults were so anxious and hopeful to get a quilt that they started to get a little pushy and we had to stop. The boys that were helping Gica and Clint and me were very protective and at one point (because of the aggression of a few adults) had to shove me back into the van and close the door and we had to drive away. It was so sad, I wish I had had a quilt for each one of these people, but most of all for the kids. They looked up at me and were so anxious to get a quilt and it just broke my heart that we had to drive away.
But, to the kids who did receive a quilt - they were so grateful. Their grateful hearts and the sweet "thank you" they gave us made all of the chaos before worth it.
I witnessed so many families and kids in situations that were so sad to me. It made me realize how truly blessed I am. I saw kids that were sleeping on the floor in the rooms of abandoned homes. These homes should be condemned, there is no working plumbing and the rooms smelled like wet mold. The stairs had no railings and had nails sticking out, plus they were ready to fall apart. These families move from place to place as they get kicked out because they have no where else to go. I found out that some of these people that grow up as orphans don't have identification. They are "unknown" in their country. One of the places that was hardest for me to witness was in an abandoned home where a new mom and teenage mom was sleeping on the floor with her baby on a pillow next to her. I left bawling, I couldn't imagine how hard that must be. I have a room for each of my kids, I have food in my fridge - I have a husband and father to my kids - and these people don't have any of that. It was such a hard thing to witness, but it also made me realize that what we are doing is helping, even if it is just a little bit.
It was an experience that I will never forget. And, although I don't think I can make it each year with Clint, I will be a better and more supportive wife when it comes to him going. I have struggled, and have been a little selfish just wanting him to stay home, but I realize how important this is. I won't ever be the same, I pray that I can teach my kids how lucky they are and also that serving others will help bring peace and joy into their life. I know it has mine and I pray that we can all just do a little to make a big difference in the lives of those in need around us.
Side note - we will have a charity video with more of what went on - so keep a look out for that. Clint just has a few orders to catch up with before we can finish the video.