Our journey from Bacau began early in the morning and took us, by bus, further west to Vaslui. Village after village lined the road, unfolding rural scenes hardly changed by time: Flocks of geese scattered in our wake; kittens scrambled over the wobbly wooden fences around single story houses and smallholdings; older ladies sat under head scarves by the side of the road, chatting as they watched the day begin; smartly turned out younger people emerged from unlikely houses to board our bus and head to work; a whole family carried large baskets towards a field ready to fill with crops; elsewhere a man strode out across a field with an axe over his shoulder. At one point we overtook a struggling calf travelling by horse and cart and it felt like every village cliche was here to see. What was noticeable though was that plastic windows had largely replaced wooden ones and new tiled or zinc roofs were in evidence, as well as new houses being built. Village life can't be easy, but it is thriving in many ways.
In Vaslui we were returning to visit a school for deaf children, although the school's students also include increasing numbers of children with autism. It is eight years since these Local Partners received introductory training from us and over the last couple of years the implementation of dedicated music sessions has been slowing down, though several teachers who had received training spoke with enthusiasm about the benefits their children find from using music in their classes: ‘it calms hyperactive children’ and ‘we achieve things that we don’t in other activities’. The teachers spoke honestly about several factors that were making it difficult for them to continue such as a lack of appropriate space and timetable issues but the changing client group and staff turn over may also play a part. "Deaf children get bored easily." said one teacher, who had run music sessions but found her children quickly tired of the repetitive activities. We discussed whether the aims were appropriate. Perhaps the activities were too easy and could be developed. It's easy to make suggestions when you aren't doing the work, and the staff were appreciative of our ideas. But an injection of energy is needed, as the staff themselves said, "We want a new beginning."
Our return felt a little hollow as we didn't bring anything concrete to help the team and they had little to report to us, directly relating to music. However they did show us a film of a sessions they had run two years previously, where musical activities were being used to create a very child-led experience that needed no words for the children to enjoy. But, as we said our goodbyes and headed for our next train, we do at least know what our Local Partners here would like from us and we can see if we can work out a helpful way to provide it.
Becca and Alexia