Editor’s note: For a week beginning in late September, News Tribune staff writer C.R. Roberts accompanied four Washington residents who traveled to Romania to visit some of the orphanages sponsored by Kidstown International.
Before we left on our journey, the Kidstown International vice president for Romania, Chuck Valley, told me, “Sometimes you don’t understand it until you get back.”
I’m back, and I still don’t understand.
There were moments when I found parts of myself I’d forgotten existed. What fun I had, wiggling my ears for two dozen children and watching them attempting to do the same. What fun to do a simple magic trick, poorly, and yet watching the children look on in awe.
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I found myself talking German, a language I have not spoken since Mrs. Ackerman’s 11th-grade language class.
“Vielen Apfel diese Jahre,” I said, probably incorrectly.
There are many apples this year.
In the garden of a parsonage near Brasov, I found peace — in a garden where a soft breeze rustled the last of the summer roses, where fat grapes hung on a wall, where birdsong mixed with the random ring of a faraway cowbell.
And what joy I saw in their faces as the children were given letters from sponsors. What joy in simple play. What heartbreak in their stories.
And then the other side, visiting the homes where other children live in squalor, sleeping on rags, infested with despair.
At one such home I became angry at a father whose abuse I cannot and will not describe.
He preferred to keep his children at home, where some can earn money working in the fields of neighboring farms, even though he knows the children would be welcomed into an orphanage where they could attend school, and be well fed, and clothed, and loved.
I wanted to take the guy down — not a good move for a foreign journalist. Instead, I walked away.
And what wonderful children I met, bright, curious, happy together. I met the people who care for these kids, and I benefited from their generosity as much as I was humbled by their dedication.
When I left, I wanted to stay. And if I go back, maybe then I’ll understand.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535