Looking back, looking forward

I guess when you are about to move onto something new it is always about giving yourself enough time to reflect but not too much time so that you become stuck in the past. It’s time to move on, I was always going to be here for a limited period of time. I move on with a sad heart and a face covered in kisses from all the wonderful people I have met.

I look forward and I see my freedom. The freedom that I have in my life in order to move on and go to new places strikes an ugly contrast to those lives I leave behind. No one would ever have all the answers to how all of these people could be set free. I am off tomorrow to continue my journey, because that is always what was going to happen, but it can’t stop me glancing over my shoulder in a wistful way. The sun will always set but the story continues.Lake BezidI’m off to Brașov now and will be back in England in a couple of weeks, I so look forward to seeing my lovely friends again.

 

Hope with me for their future

Life always passes on by, I’m into my last week at the hospital and will be leaving Târnăveni next Monday. I feel like it’s hard to let go, I’ve settled in and got into a real routine with the patients and consider them real friends. Yet I understand that my life moves on even if theirs may not do. It’s a bitter bite to swallow. Sometimes I resent the world for moving on when they have no options or opportunities for the same experience of life. I have sometimes described my experience of being here like grief. I’ve grieved for the patients and their past lives, I’ve grieved for them and what their future holds. And most of all I’ve grieved for their present; and the state I’ve seen these wonderful people in. Never have I felt so many conflicted emotions, and how could you ever leave such turmoil and lives behind.

Life is meant for living, but what happens if you’re prevented from living it? Or if your life becomes a brutal, abusive existence and there is no opportunity for improvement? I would give anything to see my friends leave and live their lives with freedom and opportunity. The beauty of the world they could experience and the reality that could be theirs. I will always think of you my friends, when life is good and when life is bad.

Hitch-hiking the Transfăgărășan road

 

 

 

I started off in Sibiu on Friday, such a beautiful town and well worth a visit. 016Saturday I then caught a bus from Sibiu heading in the direction of Făgărăș and got off at the start of the Transfăgărășan road. The road was built in the 70’s by the communist dictator Ceaușescu and literally goes through the mountains. Look up the top gear youtube video of the drive they did on this road!

A friendly Romanian couple took pity on me with my thumb out and let me get in.

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Such an amazing drive, I got out at the cable car and took that the rest of the way up. It was a ride in itself, so high off the ground and you really feel like you’re dangled on 2 bits of string. It rocks and sways very precariously!087 139

I got to Bâlea Lake near the top of the mountains, absolutely stunning, see the snow! It was quite cold if the sun went in.148 152A cheeky little selfie.

165The road stretching out in little squiggles. Hitch-hiking down was easy, I picked up a lift with a Dutch couple who got very confused when I tried to speak Romanian to them, and then a Romanian man who spoke perfect English and dropped me off at Sibiu train station. An amazing adventure!

I have to admit the last couple of weeks I have found especially hard, we have witnessed more negative things than usual, or at least it feels that way. Sometimes things stick in your mind and it’s harder to see the positive. A lot of the time so much is harder than it should be. I guess it is true that as you get to the end of your placement things seem to be more difficult. I guess I’ve started to wonder what the longer-lasting impact will be. If you get too caught up in the long-term it can make everything seem impossible.

The days speed past so quickly; blurs of endless worrying and frustration combined with such friendship and happiness. Every day shows me that the good comes with the bad, the best of humanity and the worst of humanity can be shown in the same place, in the same second. It’s a beautiful, ugly coin that can flip with breath-taking ease. The powerlessness that comes with it is mind-numbing.

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I look forward to coming home and sharing my experience with people. Would I recommend you do it too? Absolutely. But be prepared for the emotional turmoil!

Prietenie (friendship)

The things I most like to do with the people in the hospital are activities that take all of our minds away from the reality of the situation. It’s beautiful when they forget where they are and act as if they are free. Friendship is one of the things that overcomes all barriers and breaks through bars. It brings equality and freedom, a sense of living and purpose. But when we have finished our placements at the hospital, what becomes of our friends? I wonder how they view the small opportune moments that are few and far between, and the fleeting glimpse of freedom that is graced once a week. How much would you pay to ensure that someone else would see freedom once a week? How much time could you commit?

http://www.vfmh.org.uk

If you would like to find out how to get involved I’d love to hear from you

Positive thoughts come to those who wait… maybe

Ah, the positives. The sweet sense that something is being achieved. We’ve done so much together in the last 2 1/2 months that we cannot fail at some point to congratulate ourselves on what has been achieved. My positive thoughts may still be stained with the idea that not enough has been done, but a lot of people have rightly pointed out to me recently that things are better for us being here.

Smelling the roses
Smelling the roses

Sometimes I thoroughly believe this, and other times not so much. But I am definitely a cynic, and being a cynic in a place where it’s 2 steps forward and at least 1 1/2 back is a cynical place to be! It’s difficult to question the work that you do; but I really think that to get things right you have to question whether you are actually making a difference. Pin-pointing the need is a need indeed.

So today I would really like to share with you what has been achieved behind the scenes. Every week all of the people in the closed section of Tarnaveni psychiatric institution have the opportunity to leave the ward for at least an hour. They have coffee, they have us to humanize them, the luxury of spending time in a quiet clean place and the opportunity to give them some of their identity back again. They do the activities they want to do and we try and pamper them as much as we can.

This is what we do on a daily basis, sometimes I think it can be easy to underestimate the impact. If I were in this institution would I rather that we were here? Definitely.

TED talk Shmed talk, some might say

I came across this TED talk the other day. It’s really good, definitely recommend you watch it. Although this is specifically about orphaned children a lot of what Georgette is speaking about is very true for the adults that we are currently working with. I especially like the way in which she doesn’t lay blame but just encourages action.

It’s about telling the facts and then offering hope, and an understanding of how things can change.

Fate (soartă)

Just over half-way through my placement now, in some ways it has gone so quickly but in others it feels like it has been one of the slowest couple of months. Not because I want it to end but more because there has been so much to comprehend and so much to do. It has all required a lot of thought and debate. Many moral debates have been held with myself… and I hold myself to account! It is quite tough within my head, you probably wouldn’t want to be there!

The OT sessions are running well, we are fine-tuning our program so that as many people as possible get the benefit from some respite off the locked wards for an hour a week. We try to give people as many options as possible in the activities that we offer them. I’m getting to know the individuals well, and I look back over the last 2 months and see what has been achieved. In a way, a lot, but in others, nothing at all.

Nobody expects to save the world, and nobody should be arrogant enough to think they can. But is it too much to believe that you could save one person from a lifetime’s insitutionalisation? I wish and I dream of this. Just one person… to begin with.

Don’t let these people pass you by.

There are some things you know that will stay with you forever. I’ve learnt of new feelings, like a feeling of desperation when you realise sometimes things don’t change in the ways you wish they would. I think in our capitalist dream we isolate ourselves, we make ourselves believe that we are invincible, a hedonistic ‘I can do anything I set my mind to’ approach. I completely understand why, how beautifully empowering to forget that there are others that have nothing.

Sometimes things don’t change for the people that they really should do. In a world filled with money, with people, with power, there are people like you and me that suffer in the most undignified way possible. A spectrum of abuse, neglect and hunger. It spurs you into action. But it also makes you grind to a halt in panic. To search out every single ounce of emotional resource to show these people how much you care. Sometimes care can be disabling. To care so much that you almost don’t want to look at the dirt anymore. But then to care so much that you can’t not see. Sometimes the impact of what you see takes your breath away in a sob. I know I will never forget.

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Life is so short, don’t cover your eyes and let these people pass you by.