I have spent one year of fundraising, exams and UCAS applications wishing myself back in Romania after spending week there last summer. However, I’m ashamed to say the first thing I did on arrival at Casa Albert was fall asleep in a starfish position on the bed. Days went by and eventually I woke up ready for two months of helping people live better lives……..after shaving all the hair on my head off.
My travels to Casa Lumina have been brief but never lacking in excitement. We took 4 of the guys swimming; Lili, once you get her in a pool you can’t get her out, Christina, with a tendency towards the deep end of the pool but a disliking of any floating apart from me, Maria, the one that you have to tease into the pool and Radu, a man completely smitten with my fellow gapper Wren to the point where I seriously feel like a third wheel. I also had the honour of meeting the English Ambassador in Romania when he came to look at Casa Lumina. I became all flustered and called him “your excellence” and he tried to say “just call me Paul.” But it was too late, I’d already committed to a half bow.
Construction with Steve and construction with Beth are two very different things. With Steve we work through the heat of the Romanian sun, shovelling 4 part sand, to 1 part cement, to 1 part water into a mixer on repeat all day. It sounds like a gruelling task but I’ve never stood on a slab of concrete before and felt so proud. Construction with Beth is far more difficult, I had to paint bunting within the lines set for me. When it was accepted that this task was one step too far for me I was put to work marking out where to hole punch, I just about managed this.
The day centre held at Casa Albert is my favourite place to be. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I get to play, for a day, until the kids go away, yeah it’s pretty okay. So imagine my joy when I realise that I get to spend a whole week with them at the beach. Not even stuffy shared rooms of 8 people could ruin it, or communal showers, or tasteless stodgy food or the 8 hour drive. To see those kids on the first day when they saw the sea for the first time it broke and filled my heart (which is of course a flawed metaphor as if you tried to fill something that was broken it would just spill out – but it did happen). Whether I was fighting waves with Andreea, singing Frozen songs with Madalina, kicking a ball around with Octav and George or being horribly humiliated at chess by Gabi. We were watching weak-bladdered elephants at the circus, going up and down the slides at the aqua park until our tickets ran out, strolling around a nature reserve, making animal noises and sometimes just chilling at the beach. That week will take some beating.
As I write this, the first group is just arriving, one of them has already found the guitar, I’m looking forward to this, here we go……