Smiling child with a bobble hat
Catch up with life in SOS Children's Village Bucharest, and the SOS International College in Ghana
Now that spring is coming, I'd like to talk about how winter affects us, and it depends on if we talk about our Village or the entire city.
In the city after a few hours of snow, the streets became messy and dirty and agglomerated. If you don’t have a car you have to walk on the streets because the snowplows give all on snow on the sidewalk, but if you have a car you have to be very calm and patient because the traffic is unimaginable. The perfect winter for Bucharest would be with very little snow. But last year we had very, very much snow. For the city it was infernal but for our Village it was heaven. Children were playing, white snow all around, white and beautiful alleys, sleds and snowballs flying, all the people in the village armed with spades to give away the snow from the alleys. We even made a sleds contest because we have a small hill in the village, perfect for sleighing. It was beautiful.
At the end of winter, we have celebrated traditions that only happen in Romania. We have “Martisorul” for the 1st of March which is a Balkan traditional holiday celebrating the arrival of spring. On this occasion the ladies receive trinkets, symbol of the good and welfare. Tradition said that those were made of white and red hemp or wool, were tied in a figure 8 which was hung with gold and silver coins. Now is just a white and red lace that is wearing on the hand as a bracelet for a couple of days until the trees are blooming.
We also have the Romanian alternative to Valentine’s Day. Our day is called “Dragobetele” and is only practiced by the Romanians. Marked each year on 24 February, the habit is typical of southern Romania. Dragobetele marks the transition from a dead period, the winter, to the rebirth of life. Rituals that are on this day were about fertility. Plants rebirth, birds find their mate, as well as people. In our days the youngsters celebrate this in the same way as Valentine’s Day. Dinners in 2, flowers, presents for the lovers.
These and many other events are celebrated throughout the Village, during winter and beyond!
We are well into the second semester of our school year, and things are heating up. Ghana just experienced its seasonal “Harmattan” that comes from the Sahara and brings with it a remarkable cloud of dust, sand, and smog. This year’s event lasted about two months and it was intense.
The locals seem to appreciate the Harmattan as it forces the temperatures to cool (a relative thing here on the equator), but its side effects are cars, trees, and houses coated in layers of dirt, limited visibility on the roads and walkways, and lots of people sporting some very uncomfortable coughs.
Now that the dust has drifted away, we can feel the heat. We can also see some serious days of cleaning ahead of us.
Among the many admirable qualities of the SOS students here at the SOS International College is that they work together to tidy their shared living spaces, tend their gardens, and present themselves nicely. This weekend they had an inspection team of teachers and administrators walk through their hostels and assess the overall presentability of each space. I have grown to love the sounds of the compound on the night before each inspection. Soon after classes close on Friday afternoon, a flurry of activity commences. From my side of the wall I hear rakes rattling through gardens, sponges scouring the walls, and water washing away the grime. Students share the unpleasant task of cleaning out drains and scrubbing toilets while they sing along to a variety of upbeat songs. It’s really inspiring! The general intensity of it all set me to work on my own house this weekend. I’m not sure that my place would pass inspection, but it’s nice to be a part of the village when there is work to be done.