…and really starting to feel settled in Chisinau.
Today started with my usual bus trip to placement. Although the second bus I catch seems to have a mind of its own and it stopped two stops earlier than I needed, much to the bemusement of me and the locals on the bus. I then had a 20 minute walk in 28 degree heat to placement, not so much fun. I was greated at placement by the clients (I think I’ll start referring to them as ‘young adults’) like a celebrity, with a crowd wanting to offers me good morning handshakes and greetings of “Salut!”. Always good for the ego.
We soon packed up and got into the centre’s minibus for a trip to the park. Our young adults made a beeline for the outdoor gym equipment (most parks in Chișinău have basic outdoor gym equipment located next to the children’s play parks – great idea!) and it was fascinating to watch them. Some were reluctant to exercise, some seemed to love it and some seemed very keen to perform, if they noticed you watching them. The occupational therapy geek in me loved it as an opportunity to observe their individual movement patterns and level of volition for this type of occupation. After some time we moved to a shady part of the park and the group self-divided into groups to play tennis, football, badminton, basketball and group ball-passing games. My status as ‘the new person’ meant I was in high demand for playing every game but it was great to see the levels of cooperation and inclusion throughout the group, and the way the activity allowed the young adults to select activities they most enjoyed. The atmosphere was relaxed and the group were very content to sit and chat as, one by one, they ran out of energy for active games. One sad part I was acutely aware of was the reactions of the Chisinau residents to our group… We cleared the fitness park with our arrival and every person we met regarded the young adults with a look of fear. The stigma regarding learning disabilities here is apparent. And I suspect this is, in part, why the opportunities for our group to have independence are so limited. I was discussing this client group with my host and explaining how about some of the group, if they lived in the UK, functioned well enough to have paid employment. The idea totally shocked her.
We were picked up by our minibus just before lunch, and drove back to the centre via the canteen that provides lunches for the young adults. Well, that was fascinating! It was a Soviet style kitchen of a restaurant that I doubt has changed much since it was under Soviet State control. It’s hard to put into words but felt like stepping back about 40 years.
Anyway, back to the centre for lunch and I had an early finish as I had a Romanian language lesson. I’m not sure how much I learned, but hoping the opportunity to practice at the centre will help consolidate it more than when I learned other foreign languages at school.
I had another new experience today, the ‘Maxi Taxi’. These are minibuses that run on the main trolleybus routes, they cost approximately 15p per trip, compared to the 10p for the bus and are quite an experience. Each passenger boards and finds a seat (if there are any left), they then pass their fare towards the driver with other passengers also paying sorting out the change between them, before the money reaches the driver. Great system!
I also visited the local swimming pool to get times and costs, so hopefully I’ll brave that one soon. I travelled back to my accommodation on my own and even brave the local kiosk to purchase a drink with my new, extremely basic, Romanian skills (I noticed the price of cigarettes here, they ranged from 25p to £1.50 per pack – it’s funny, despite them being so cheap I’ve noticed only the same number of smokers as in the UK, though my host assures me lots of people do smoke).
Bit by bit it’s coming together, I’m really having a good time now!