Friday, October 3, 2014

When in Romania!

As I write, I am traveling on a bus with 18 Romanian salsa dancers headed for Berlin, Germany.  Yes, let's backtrack a little bit. 

My first week in Romania was incredible. Every morning I wake up at 7am and need to take the 8:45 bus on line 34 from Livada Postei to a grocery store close to the city line of Brasov. From the grocery store I take the civil taxi. And when I say civil taxi, I mean hitch hiking. The drivers are people from the town that are just trying to make a little bit of money. The cost is 4 lei, the same as a one way bus ticket. Quite an experience, let me tell you. It's not what I'm used to. Well I take the civil taxi to Turlengi, a village just outside of Brasov. Upon entering the village you can immediately tell that you're not in Brasov anymore, you see horse-drawn wagons traveling alongside cars, inhabitants are in more traditional attire and the houses are small and weathered. I get to the orphanage at around 9:10. One of the girl's I work with, Ana, reminds me of the movie Annie. Short reddish hair and every morning that I arrive she is mopping, or wiping the floorboards, or cleaning the doors. 12 girls and 12 boys can live at the orphanage at a time. But because the school is small, the kids go in shifts to school. Six at a time. They love red light green light and love to teach me Romanian. We practice the colors in English, Hawaiian and Romanian. Red- rosu, yellow- galben, green- verde. The kids are so smart they can speak to me in broken English, enough for me to understand. Beautiful, joyous children despite the hardships. According to Romanian law, parents can leave the kids at the orphanage and take them out whenever they see fit and can put them right back in. For a young child, it is draining and creates abandonment issues. 

At 11am I have enough time to make it back home, make a sandwich and catch the 13:46 bus to Preyjmer or Sacele to teach at a day centre. When we think of day centre we think daycare, but here, it is not. They are privately owned after school programs that are open for very very poor children and enable them to get help on their studies and keep them off the streets and headed in the right direction. The kids sometimes show up in the same outfit from the day before which I never see in San Jose. We won't even wear the same outfit twice in the same month! But these kids are ready to absorb everything you throw their way. They range from 11 to 13 and still LOVE to play red light green light. I don't think the Monday/Thursday class loves it as much as these kids do! It cracks me up! I got little chocolates for prizes and they nearly had a heart attack. They pretty much inhaled the candy. 

All of the kids I work with, whether at the orphanage or day centre love to hug me. Constantly! They lack so much compassion and nurturing that when they sense that someone cares about them it is overwhelming. 

On Wednesday I gave a presentation to an eleventh grade English class for culture and civilization on Hawaii. Now let's think about how smart these kids are, a class of 36 eleventh graders listening to a presentation by a native English speaker and comprehending every word. I don't think I could've sat through a 50 minute long speech all in Spanish, and understand it! And they take 13 subjects. Thirteen, in one school year! Amazing. 

I spoke about Captain Cook, the islands and their colors, the Pele story, the Kalākaua dynasty and about hula. They were very responsive. And being a recent graduate, I know how to keep attention, with food, of course! Everyone left with at least one candy for answering my questions correctly. They took notes on what I was saying! The names like Lonoikamakahiki and Hi'iakaikapoliopele. I attempted to play hangman but they were screaming the answer before I finished writing the lines! That was a bust! On my way back to the projects abroad office I got a friend request from one of the girls in the class I presented in. She sent me a message that can be seen below. Getting a message from someone that truly appreciates your work is so rewarding. It just takes one. I think she will come to my hula workshop next Saturday. 

Well anyways, I'm going to Berlin for a salsa festival! If you know me, you know that me in a car for 20 hours is impossible, but when in Romania! My roommates and I came up with this catch phrase and made a "yes, man" pact. Everything that we are asked to do, we must say yes. Then we say "When in Romania!" This little catch phrase has forced me to do so many things that are completely out of my comfort zone. 

Now you ask me how Romania is in simpler words. It is amazing, beautiful, I'm learning so much about the culture and about myself. I want to come back. As crazy as that sounds, I really do. I've created relationships with people I never would have if I didn't come. I do not regret one decision I've made. This is exactly where I am supposed to be right now, doing exactly this. I have never felt so fulfilled in my life. Being fulfilled is everything great in life. Better than happiness. Like LIVING ALOHA. 

Love you all, 


  1. Thank you for sharing your journey with us in such great detail, Kanoe. Your dad and I are filled with joy to know what a positive impact you are making and how fulfilled you are at the start of your gap year! We love you more!

  2. Ke Akua gives what we can handle and puts us where we're supposed to be. So happy you are where you are and savoring the experiences. Malama pono.

  3. Okay, I'm going to try to post one more time...what an amazing journey you are on! It sounds like you have made such an impact in so little time already. I know that I'm living through you vicariously--I don't think I ever had the confidence to do what you are doing at 18! much aloha, Aunty Sophia