The Search for My Birth Mother: An Unfinished Story

When I first started telling my friends and family that I was traveling to the country where I was born, the first question they asked was whether I would search for my birth parents. They assumed that I have a hole in my heart where my birth parents should be. However, this has never been the case for me. I grew up with two parents, and they have been the only parents I have known for as long as I can remember. If I had grown up as an orphan without parents, I am sure I would feel differently, but I always felt like I had a family. 

Before arriving in Romania, I had no plans to try and find my biological parents, but Angela, the foundation director at ADV, offered to help me during our first conversation together. She said that ADV could help make an official request to the Rimnicu Sarat, the city where I was born, and we should at least try to find more information. So, I wrote to my adopted parents and asked for all the information about my adoption. In 1991, the bureaucracy was not as organized as it is now, and very little information was needed from the birth parents. Still, we sent the request, in both English and Romanian, to the Romanian national adoption agency with an official stamp from ADV. 

I have to admit, I didn't expect to find anything. Maybe I was afraid to get my hopes up. But in a short while, my birth record was found. My name was Julie Hadir- there was no name on my birth certificate, so my first name was the one my adopted parents gave me before leaving Romania. My birth mother's name was Bobolina Hadir, and she was 19 when she had me, and illiterate. There was no information about my father. According to my adopted mother, I was only able to be adopted because my birth father had not signed my birth certificate. The only information about my birth mother was her name, birthdate, and the city where she lived at the time.

I am sure my friends and family are hungry for the rest of the story- the part where I find and meet my birth mother, but the rest of the story is yet to come... we can't find her. City Hall contacted ADV to say that there was no record of Bobolina Hadir. I assume that this is probably because she was illiterate at the age of 19. How could there be a detailed record of her, and how involved could she be in society? Is she living in a home, or is she a begging mother on the street (which is seen quite often in Romania)? She is only 41 years old- is she still alive? Is she still in Romania, or was she one of the thousands of people who left Romania when the country became part of the European Union? I feel as if a floodgate has been opened. I am more curious than I have ever been to meet her and to know of her fate. 

A woman at the national adoption agency has made it her job to continue looking for information at others institutions and even in different cities. I will return next summer, and perhaps she will be located and I will meet her. Part of me believes that the search will stop here. More than anything, it has been a strong realization that I am indeed the luckiest person I know. I have concluded that circumstances here in Romania would never have been very good. I would have grown up with an illiterate single mother. My choices would have been begging on the street, growing up without education/opportunity, or spending my childhood in an institution with poor conditions. What I wake-up call! Instead, I grew up in Idaho with a mom and dad who raised me and cared for me, with siblings, with grandparents, and a long list of people who support me and love me. I have had every opportunity. I went to college and got a degree. Now, my path is wide open- I can do anything I want. The more I contemplate my change of circumstances, the more I wonder, why? Why was I so lucky? I don't have the answer, but honestly, I will never buy a lottery ticket again- I have already won. 

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Constanta: My Vacation to the Black Sea

So, I know I am supposed to include both positive and negative experiences in my blog, but I seem to have very few bad things to say about this internship! This past weekend, I visited Constanta with a couple of my Romanian friends. We left at 6 AM and poor Lenna had to drive for about nine hours with only an hour or two of sleep the night before. To save money, we stayed in a small apartment rented out to tourists. The owners of the apartment were so wonderful! They were welcoming and generous to all three of us, and they were impressed by my story. Instead of eating out, we cooked everyday in a kitchen outside our room. On our first day, we visited a public beach, which was crowded and dirty. Many times, we passed big piles of garbage sitting on the edges of the beach. We could hardly find a place to sit, let alone sunbath. Still, we stayed for an hour and I swam in the Black Sea for the first time!

The next day, we chose a private beach, and although it cost $20 a person, it was well worth it. We met up with a friend from Iasi, Alexandra, and her daughter, as well as another another of her friends. Alexandra knew a hotel owner in Mamaia, who was, like most of the people I have encountered here, extremely generous- even giving up his personal parking space for us. In Romania, most people take their vacation in August, and even the private beaches were completely packed. We spent the entire day with Alexandra, lounging on the beach and swimming in the sea. By the middle of the day, the edges of the water were covered with algae and plants. That night, my friends and I shared a bottle of champagne at our apartment, talking and laughing until past midnight. I have gotten very close with Lenna, my colleague at ADV, these past 8 weeks. It was great to get to know her friend, Georgiana, better as well. She is SO funny. Both girls are such great people, and so beautiful! I feel so lucky that I have been surrounded by such wonderful people while in Romania. I will miss them when I leave. 

The following day was more of the same. We went back to the private beach and worked on our tans. That night, we visited the best club in Romania, and the nicest I have every been to- Le Gaga. It holds 4,000 people, and had a row of live dancers in the middle of the dance floor. Stefan had reserved us a table (which must have been VERY expensive), and he took care of everything the entire night. I danced the whole time- it was amazing. He even offered us a free room at his hotel!  So, instead of leaving Sunday, we stayed an extra day with Stefan, who made it his personal mission to make my time in Constanta a success. We went to another private beach an had a great time. That night, we all went to an outdoor restaurant right on the beach. I am trying to learn Romanian, and could understand some of the Romanian conversation, which shocked my friends. I am sure most Romanians are not used to foreigners learning their language. The owner of the restaurant, Tanase Garciu, was also an accomplished singer, and Stefan told him my story. He came over and sang for us while we ate, and dedicated a Romanian song to me. I was sad that I couldn't understand the lyrics, but it was still one of the coolest experiences I have ever had.  I can only describe it as magical.

 One interesting thing we talked about was how nothing in life seems to happen by chance. I realized that this idea has applied to my internship experience. Originally, I had planned an internship in France, since I speak the language. However, I happened to notice an internship in Bucharest through the internship website, and applied. I was accepted, and I planned to spend my time in Romania at the university in Bucharest, advising students coming to America. At the last minute, another internship was offered to me because of my unique background. It was an internship tour of different orphanages in Romania. I knew I couldn't afford it, but I accepted anyway, and sold my car to help pay for the trip. Then, things changed again. All the other applicants had dropped out because of the high price, so my supervisor decided to station me in Lasi. Over and over, the details of my internship kept changing, but in a way, I feel like I was always meant to end up here in Iasi, where I have made life-long friendships and learned some of the most important lessons of my life. 

I have been invited back to Constanta whenever I can make it, and I plan to return to Romania next summer. The sea will always be one of my fondest memories of my internship!

 
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Home-Grown and Home-Cooked: Sunday Brunch with My Romanian Friends

On Sunday, I had lunch with Angela and Sorin's parents, Ion and Silvia. Neither of them speak English, but I went with my Romanian friend, Lenna, so she was able to help translate. Their house was so lovely, with a huge front yard scattered with fruit trees, and an enormous backyard that turned out to be one giant garden. We were fed meat, potatoes, cheese, bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, small sweet pies, and beer/wine. Most of the items had come from Ion and Silvia's garden, including the wine, which they made themselves. Needless to say, it was the best wine I have ever had- and so sweet! I was given a tour of the garden by Ion, who took me down every aisle of the garden, pointing out huge cucumbers and tomatoes, rows upon rows of grape vines, and tall fruit trees that dotted the yard. The view from their house was beautiful- a long span of the rolling green hills that surround Iasi. I am in love with this city!

During lunch, Lenna was explaining to me her preparations to go to a friend's wedding. She told me that in Romania, every guest is expected to bring around $150 for the bride and groom, to help them start their new life, and to help pay for their meal during the reception. I was shocked! This tradition is so different from the US, where the bride's parents are expected to fork over thousands of dollars to feed and entertain hundreds of guests. In Romania, the bride and groom can end up with five or six thousand dollars from their wedding, to help them get on their feet. I told Sylvia that I want to come back to Romania to get married. She laughed, but I was serious...

This is one difference in tradition between the United States and Romania, and in my opinion, it is the result of the differences in mentality. In the US, people are more individualistic- individual people are expected to bring wealth and prosperity to themselves. Romania, in general, has a sense of collectivism- members of the community come together to bring prosperity to the entire group. It is not for me to say whether one idea is more correct or better. It is just a tradition that derives from historical and cultural differences. The more I learn about Romania, the more time I spend considering my own culture and its practices. While most will agree that the standard of living in the United States is higher that in Romania, I have noticed areas where I respect the traditions of Romania more than those in the culture in which I grew up. Rather than succumb to the symptoms of culture shock, I have tried to accept Romanian culture as simply a different way of living, learning, and experiencing life. 

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Walking Tour of Iasi: Highlights of the Seven Hills City

    When I first arrived in Iasi, my supervisor from the University of Oregon spent the first ten days of the internship with me. In the beginning, this made me anxious. I had never met Lindi before the internship. More importantly, I didn't know what to expect from Romania and I was fearful  of being alone for 9 weeks without anyone from the U.S. to help me. However, it was clear within minutes of meeting Lindi that I was in good hands. She had a kind smile, welcoming words, and was over the moon that I was launching the internship in Romania. Lindi has come to Romania to volunteer at ADV for the past 13 years, teaching at the summer school and making friends wherever she goes. It was impossible not to become friends instantly. She is such a friendly, happy person all the time! She has put me in contact with the people at the foundation and many other important and interesting people in Iasi, including doctors, professors, psychologists, politicians and other professionals who have given me insight to different aspects of Romania. I should also mention the strength and courage that Lindi has shown me. We became close very quickly, and she felt comfortable telling me some very personal things. She has seen the effects of HIV first-hand in her own family, and has been forced to raise two kids on her own. Although she is single, she is one of the happiest and most vibrant people I have ever met. Her trials have made her a very open and giving person. She told me that her goal is to spend the rest of her life helping others- talk about having your priorities in the right place! For example, Lindi just had her 66th birthday this year. Instead of focusing on herself, she resolved to do 66 random acts of kindness, including giving out flowers and even leaving money on top of parking meters! Anyways, she prepared a photo scavenger hunt for me during my trip, and the last item is to find and take a picture of a person I admire. Well, I found that person and I didn't have to look very hard at all.      

After arriving in Iasi, Lindi and I hit the ground running with a walking tour of Iasi, given by a friend of Lindi's from ADV, Diana. I immediately liked her- she smiled constantly and laughed easily.  Diana was so excited to show me around her city, and was clear after the tour that I was in the right place. Iasi is a pretty interesting city. We visited the National Theater, which was built in 1896 in the same style as the national theater in Vienna. It was an amazing building, with marble floors in the entrance area and gold lining the walls within the theater (I posted pictures below).      

We also visited Piata Unirii (Union Square) and took pictures of the Traian Grand hotel, built in 1882 by Gustave Eiffel (who, of course, also designed the Eiffel Tower). I remember two years ago, when I visited Nice, France on a study abroad trip, there was a hotel on the Promenade des Anglais that was built in the style of Romanian Architecture- Hotel Negresco. It had many windows, high pillars, and was huge. In Romania, I have seen many buildings in the same style, and now I can better appreciate and identify Romanian architecture.      

We visited an Armenian monastery, as well. Iasi has over one hundred churches in the city, so I have been to several since that first day. It is so foreign to me to see monks all dressed in black walking the grounds of the monasteries- foreign, but interesting. Surrounding Iasi are seven green hills with vineyards on each one, making for a gorgeous view if you can get a few miles outside of the city with its many spacious buildings.   

Next, we visited the Palace of Culture. It is closed for renovation for the next couple months, so unfortunately I was unable to go inside, but the palace is amazing to look at. The gardens surrounding the palace are a popular place for Romanians to spend their time, and walking through the palace gardens at dusk was enchanting. Finished in 1925, the palace was built in a neogothic style atop the ruins of the mediaeval princely courts and the former neoclassical palace. It served as the Palace of Justice until 1955, when it became a museum.   

One surprising and foreign aspect of Romania is the stray dogs that roam around the city. They walk on the sidewalks along side the people, find food, and bark all night long. Lenna (that gorgeous Romanian friend I mentioned earlier) explained to me that there is nowhere to put the dogs, so Iasi is their city, too! When I told her that stray dogs don't really exist in the same way in America, she looked shocked. To her, it seemed cruel to take dogs and put them all in cages, euthanizing some and trying to get most to be adopted. When I started explaining our system of pounds and humane societies, it didn't sound that great to me, either. The dogs have become accustomed to the city, and I even took a picture of a dog crossing the street, looking both ways and waiting for cars to pass and people to walk so he could cross, too!       

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Bucharest: My Trip to the Capitol

Two days ago, I took a day trip to Bucharest, the capitol of Romania. I was interested to see the city since originally, I planned to accept a Fulbright internship working at the university in Bucharest. I tried to do some research on the city, and I found mixed feelings. I have learned that most people living in Iasi prefer their city, since Bucharest is so big. The people are not as friendly, and the city has horrible traffic. The population is close to 2 million people, and many people commute from other cities to work there. 

My first impression of Bucharest was that it wasn't nearly as pretty as Iasi. Although both cities are filled with the old, block apartments that were built during Ceausescu's time, Iasi has many beautiful areas and buildings, including the many universities and churches around the city. It is also surrounded by seven green hills with beautiful views. Iasi has a lot of rich culture and history, but Bucharest is a different story. It is the business/bureaucratic center in Romania. I noticed an overwhelming number of modern skyscrapers sitting next to very old, weather-worn apartments. Parts of the city were pretty- the opera house, the government buildings, and the art museums were amazing, but I did notice a difference with the people. In Iasi, the people are very friendly. Taxi drivers, store owners, and random people seemed more welcoming in Iasi than in Bucharest. Also, the traffic in Bucharest is horrible. It took us forever to get from one side of the city to the next, and my supervisor said on the wrong day it can take hours to move through the city if there is a traffic jam. Since the city is so big, there is a lot more crime, more drugs, and a higher gypsy population. 

On a side note, I wanted to explain a little about the gypsy population in Romania. The gypsies (or Roma, as they are called) have a long history of violence and crime- specifically, theft. I feel like it is a cycle. For generations, many gypsies have made their living from stealing, and they receive hatred wherever they go. The discrimination against them only furthers the cycle, since they cannot rise above the hatred that many Romanians (and let's face it, Europeans in general) have for them. My first encounter with a gypsy in Romania was during my walking tour of Iasi. I saw a girl who looked about 15 years old carrying a child and wearing a long, bright yellow skirt with sequins. She had darker skin that the majority of Romanians, and long black hair. I have learned that gypsies marry off their girls very young, ages 12-14, and then they have many children. It's part of their culture. My supervisor told me a story about when she was taking a bus in Romania. A Romanian man on the bus was yelling at a gypsy, and later she learned that the gypsy had taken some of his belongings. The gypsy was defensive, saying, "I left you half of your things. Why are you complaining?" I don't mean to make light of the situation, though, and I think it's important to note that not every gypsy steals or begs, and an educated member of society is accepted in Romania no matter the race. My good friend from the United States, who was also born in Romania, has gypsy ancestry. Needless to say, she is one of the brightest people I have ever met. 

I had a great time in Bucharest, but I feel good about how short the trip was. Within a few hours, I was ready to return to Iasi, which has already become 'home' to me. While driving home, my friends from ADV who drove me pointed to the different cities we passed. We drove through Buzau, the city where my adopted sister was born. We even drove through Ramnicu Sarat, the town where I was born. There isn't a lot to say about it. It looked very small, very dirty, and very poor. Still, I can't believe I have driven through the city where I was born! 

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Happy Independence Day from Romania

Today, I came into work wearing red, white, and blue, but expecting a normal day of work. Instead, my colleagues at ADV surprised me with a shirt and pillow they had made me, and wished me a Happy Independence day! I couldn't believe it! Once again, I can't stress enough how much I have been welcomed since I have been here. Romanians are some of the most generous people I have ever met. This place already holds a special place in my heart.   I thought it would be fitting to share some interesting similarities and differences I have found while living in Romania.

   Music- I have been shocked to hear so much American music on the radio! They have a lot of top 40's songs, including Rihanna, Pink, Mackelemore, ect. Also, I have heard American music from the 80's and 90's. In fact, a lot of Romanian singers sing in English. I believe this is a big part of the reason that so many Romanians understand or speak English.

  Clothing- I have seen a lot of clothing with English. It's trendy to wear screen tees with English! Also, women dress very feminine here- I see a lot of dresses and heels, which I love!

  Food- I have already mentioned that Romanians eat a lot of meat. Although the food is a little different, it's still a lot like America. We love to eat meat!

  Air conditioning- Not everyone here believes in constant air conditioning, and it is relatively new. Many Romanians will turn on the air conditioning for a few minutes and then keep it.off until it gets unbearably hot again. I learned that they believe that leaving the air conditioning on all day or night will give them a cold or make them sick!   

Driving- In Romania, it is very difficult and expensive to get your driver's license. You have to be a REALLY good driver. The driving style here is a little crazy. The driving lines are not necessarily used, and you better move quickly and drive aggressively, or you won't get anywhere. However, they are more courteous that Salt Lake City drivers!!!

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Romanian Food: More Meat, Please!

  I wanted to share a little about what I have learned about Romanian food. I have only been here for two and a half weeks, but I have already noticed a common theme- most Romanian dishes have meat!  I would not say I am a vegetarian by any means- I love a good cheeseburger as well as the next person. But my stomach has definately had to adjust to eating so much meat with almost every meal. The first time that Sorin and Angela took us out, our appetizer was a delicious chicken pate, but the restaurant was Italian, so I didn't get a feel for the type of food normally served in Romania. The second time they fed us, at their home, with Sorin's mother as our cook, almost every dish was meat! They served mici, a traditional Romanian dish made of 3 different types of meat rolled together and grilled. Along with mici, there was grilled sausages, barbecued chicken wings,  vegetables, and a cheese that I had never seen before. The third time that Sorin and Angela took us out (notice that in 2 and a half weeks, they graciously fed me on multiple occasions... It's that Romanian hospitality!), we went to a VERY nice international restaurant where I ordered Sorin's recommendation- the beef steak. My supervisor ordered venison, which also tasted amazing. The restaurant had a pianist, and I couldn't help but glance over ever couple minutes. I have played piano for 14 years, and to me, there is nothing more comforting than listening to piano music. When I mentioned this to Sorin and Angela, they invited me to play. I played for the entire restaurant, loving every minute of it.  Anyways, I suppose that in America most people eat a great deal of meat... but to me, it has been an adjustment. I can't wait to continue experiencing the wonderful food here. I have a weird feeling that I will come back a full-blown carnivore.     

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Working in Romania

It has been a whirlwind so far, but I would like to take some time to describe my duties at ADV, the foundation where I am working, and some of the people I have met while I have been here. I have gone to dinner with the foundation director twice, once in the Palace mall (it's huge- and nicer than any mall I have ever been in I think) at this really nice Italian restaurant. The international music festival is going on right now here, so the Romanian symphony was at the mall, serenading us while we ate. The culture here is to offer you more and more food for the entire meal. The director' s husband is a wine expert and kept ordering us more Romanian wine, which is really good! I think I will have a taste for wine by the time I get back. Anyways, that night we went and hung out at the palace gardens (just a big park in front of the palace in Iasi) and talked with them. Angela, the director, called child services in the city I was born in, and I am going to make an official request for more information about my birth parents, which the foundation will stamp to make official. I can't believe it!!!! Anyways, the foundation is an amazing place. It's set up like a business for different clients. The rooms have different services- for example, one of them has a bunch of sewing machines and clients can order uniforms, which the youth, ages 13 to 19 make. Another room has like 10 professional copy machines, and clients can order invitations or whatever. The youth are either orphans, impoverished youth, or infected with HIV, and they are hired by the foundation. Most would never be able to work if it wasn't for the foundation, and in most cases, they are not as efficient as factory workers or machines, so, for example, if it would normally be $1 to make a product, it might take the youth $2, and the foundation pays for the difference. It's a really nice building, too. One of the nicer buildings I have seen here, and it is a haven for youth who would ordinarily be unable to work. The other night, I went to dinner at the foundation director's house. They have a really nice house with a gorgeous yard, and they live in one of the best neighborhoods in Iasi. I ate so much food and had a lot of wine, because they just keep offering me more and more. Angela's mother cooked for us, and she gave me a gift- a beautiful white lace cloth that is a traditional Romanian style. Today, I went and had a tour of the university of Cuza, with one of the professors. It is a really old university with a lot of history! I will post pictures. Anyways at the foundation I am being trained in all of the different areas. So far I have been making bracelets with this really sweet old Romanian woman who speaks no English, but she's still able to teach me. I also have been scanning documents into electronic form, which is boring but needs to be done. This week, I will start learning more about the different sectors or the foundation. More to come!

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Education in Iasi: A Center for Learning

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the University of Cuza in Lasi. The university is the oldest institute of higher education in Romania, beginning in 1860. It has over 26,000 students ans 800 faculty members. I was given a tour by a university professor who is also an important member of the Senate, or governing body over the univeristy. He is a very highly- esteemed member of the staff with a lot of knowledge about the university. I was given a tour of the international center, as well as one of the buildings. The univeristy has multiple buildings that are split into divisions offering programs in Chemistry, Law, Letters, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics, and Catholic Theology, Biology, Geography, Geology, Economics, Business Administration, Education Sciences, ans many others.

I was also given a tour of the international center. Since my major at the University of Utah was International Studies, this was very interesting to me. The University of Cuza is dedicated to disseminating Romanian language and culture on an international level, and it has relationships of academic cooperation in Europe, the United States, China, Japan, Australia, Singapore, and South America.

During my tour, I took as many pictures as I could. On the bottom level near the entrance of the building I toured, there were paintings lining every wall of different Romanian mythological entities. It was an amazing experience, and I have to admit- although I love my own university, I wouldn't mind spending my time in such a beautiful building with that much history.

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Making Friends: Romanian Hospitality

When I started my research on Romania, I found many different opinions on the country and its people. One of the opinions that stuck out to me was given to me by a lady working a jewelry store. I mentioned that I would soon be leaving on an internship, and the lady behind the jewelry counter, a sweet Asian woman, asked me why I chose Romania. I explained my background, and she nodded in a strange way. She dropped her voice a little, and explained to me that her son-in-law had gone on an LDS mission to Romania, and she felt she needed to warn me. She explained that the country was full of people who wanted to steal from me. "Don't wear any jewelry or nice clothes, and never go anywhere alone." According to her, the Romanian people were inhospitable and untrustworthy. I can't even describe how worried I felt before coming, for her opinion was not the only negative view of the country I had heard. I only brought clothes that didn't stick out, not wanting to attract attention to myself. I brought a lock for my suitcase, a money belt, and a small safe for my money.

If I would have known, at that moment in the jewelry store, that I would soon be meeting some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever known, I might have yelled at the woman behind the counter. I have barely paid for a single meal- Romanian friends have been eager to feed me. I have barely had a night in doors- the city is alive at night with families, couples, and friends enjoying their summer at the palace gardens in Iasi. I have felt more at home here that I would have thought possible. My Romanian friends who speak English are eager to help me learn the language, and even those who don't have tried to communicate with me on some level. Even the taxi drivers have been helpful, although our conversations usually end quickly, as most of them so far haven't spoken English, and my Romanian is coming along very slowly.

I would like to single out a few of my friends in particular. Lenna, a gorgeous, tall Romanian girl just finishing her Master's degree at the University of Cuza in Iasi, has offered to help me on every level. When I had a bug bite, she offered to take me to the pharmacy herself. When I complained that my air conditioner was broken, she wanted to call my apartment manager and chew him out. Today, she is coming to the grocery store with me. Although I could do this alone, she wants to come so she can help me find the best food at the cheapest price. She would give me the shirt off her back if I needed it. Everyday she takes time to.make sure I am feeling comfortable, and she says she is proud that I am here learning about her country.

Lenna's aunt and uncle are also some of the most charitable and giving people I have met here. Angela works constantly as the director of ADV, and she still finds time to help me get acquainted with the staff and find places to work within the foundation. She is a big part of the reason I have felt so comfortable during my internship. Her husband speaks very good English and knows a great deal about Romanian wine. They have taken us out to eat on a few different occasions, and he has ordered me some of the best wine I have ever tasted. Iasi is often called the seven hills city, since the city is surrounded by seven different hills, many of which have vineyards. I am sure I will have a taste for Romanian wine by the end of my trip!

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Angela, the foundation director with her son, Alexandru at the Palace Gardens. Great people!!!!

Angela, the foundation director with her son, Alexandru at the Palace Gardens. Great people!!!!

A Holy City: Monasteries in Iasi

When I found our I was spending my internship in Iasi, I had no idea how religious the city was. There are over 100 churches in this city alone, and most are from the 16th century. I couldn't believe how grand and ornate the churches were. However, the few monasteries I have visited so far were not renovated unless there had been damage. The pictures on the walls are still the original paintings, and every one has towers or high ceilings. It was a great learning experience, and I had an amazing tour guide. His name is Ciprian, and he was the youngest deputy mayor in Romania. He is still involved in politics, and he was kind enoughtl to let me interview him about his views on the government and how it has evolved in the last. 20 years. I will post my notes and impressions about the interview later on.   One thing that really struck me about the last monastery we visited was a small table ouside the church that was collecting signatures. As people entered or left services, they would sign their name without too many questions. I found out that the signatures were actually a petition against genetic research. Very few of the people understood what they were signing for, but they trusted their church leaders and signed their names. Although I would like to be open and tolerant of every religion, this reminded me of the social manipulation that occurs in my own country, through religion. It was a little disheartening, but very interesting. 

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Back to My Roots: Adventures in Romania

   My name is Julie Clark, and I was born in Rîmnicu Sarat, Romania in 1991, just following the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. I was adopted by an American couple as an infant, along with another girl from Buzau. After studying International Studies at the University of Utah, I found an internship working in Iasi, Romania for three months. I am working at Fundatia Alaturi de Voi (ADV), or the Close to You foundation in Iasi (pronounced 'yash'). Iasi is the second largest city in Romania, and is the education center in the country with over ten different universities, five of which are state universities. Education is highly valued in this city.  Romania as a whole has changed drastically in the last 20 years. The cities are more modernized, while small villages and towns still exist everywhere.  However, an enormous amount of corruption still exists in the government, causing major economic problems for the people. A major problem in Romania is the conditions for disabled and HIV-infected youth. Ten years ago, children with HIV or disabilities could not go to school, and were treated like outcasts from society. ADV has played a major role in prioritizing the needs of these children, and my job at the foundation will be to help in any way I can.   I am also excited to experience my home country for the first time. I will walk the streets of the city where I was born, and learn about the culture and history of Romania. My experiences will be documented here, so please feel free to share this blog!