Over the past two months, I have worked remotely from the village where I grew up in Romania. It was nice to be back, strolling the streets, greeting people and meeting my old friends, neighbors and relatives. I have spent time with them at church, eating, talking or just taking walks.
This time I wanted to do something different though. I have always wanted to meet the kids in the school there. My middle school time is, for me, a space in time where I did not have that many dreams or ambitions and that’s probably normal for that age. I was curious though but there were not that many sources of new information. I did not have an internet connection until 10th grade. I had my TV where I had the two national channels – good documentaries in there ha-ha.
So, I texted the school principal at the school, and we talked over the phone. After a few days, we both met at school, talked more and got to know each other. Two days later, I was in front of around 17 8th graders.
I sat there, in front of them and I was questioning myself: ‘Ok Abel… what now? What’s the best way to help? How can you inspire? What do they need?’
I described myself and what I have done and where I have been. They became curious. I tried to make them understand that they should by no means try to do just what I did. I wanted to show them that there’s something else in the world that they may not know about and maybe would like to try. I have also told them that I can help if they need it.
But, mainly I wanted to make sure they see me as one of them and not as a kind of alien who studies abroad and has nothing to do with the village anymore. I have told them that we probably listen to the same Romanian music, and I enjoy our local food, so I am not in any way that different to them.
They asked me to stay longer and we became friends, I think! I wish I had more time there with them. Some of them texted me and asked more questions, which just thrills me but also makes me realize that in our education system, we face major challenges.
The kids, in private messages, pointed them out to me. This makes me happy. They pinpointed problems and want to speak up. I did not have that when I was their age. I can definitely say they are a lot smarter than I was at that age.
However, some heart-melting messages came through as well: ‘You know Abel… not a lot of people listen to us, we’re just kids in a village’, ‘I just go back home after seven hours on screen.. 🙁 ’, ‘I want to leave this country… then who knows what I’ll do’.
Some nice messages came through as well though, I may have shown them that they can dream too, and it is possible that even someone from a village in Romania can do great things; not that I would have done anything special in my life or extremely out of the ordinary, no.
But for them, it does seem to mean a lot that someone from the same village, Giulvăz, went to study abroad. If it makes them proud… well… I am happy. I have ended up missing those kids so much! Later on, I met 7th graders too and the 8th graders invited me to go with them on a school trip. It meant a lot to me. I felt like a kid again.
These days, however, some very sad messages are arriving. They can see what is happening around the world and most of them understand English. All of them use social media now so, of course, they see what is happening.
‘Abel… are we going to die?’
Who am I to answer this? What can one say to this?
‘Of course not!’
Emotions are intense now, Romania is close to Ukraine, there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, and kids are also seeing it too.
Education in Romania is and will remain a challenge. We talk about it in Denmark, what can we say about other countries then? And yet… if there is something that keeps me going, working, studying, volunteering… well… for a big part, it’s these kids. I was exactly like them and to be honest, I would’ve liked someone to come back to me and tell me that I can dream of other stuff too. There was none of that back then. So, I am trying to be the one now!
We have learned these days that peace is not something to take for granted, and education is the same. In Denmark, we’re so fortunate, but let’s not forget that some others are not as lucky as we are here. I am thinking of holding a summer school in the village most probably next year, so if you want to help in any way, contact me and let’s see what we can do together!
I know some of the kids will see this message, so… Hi there, kids!