Goodbye Stranger | Panciu – Lumea Lui Pinocchio

I can’t believe I am writing this but yes – I am back. Back home in Germany, back to the life I left behind almost a year ago and of course, back to the people I love the most. It kind of feels like nothing really has changed here whereas I am a completely different person – as I experienced the biggest adventure of my life in the meanwhile.


One year ago, I received an email inviting me to Romania to be an ESC volunteer at Lumea lui Pinocchio, a daily center for children of mostly disadvantaged background in Panciu, a small town in the east of the country. It’s crazy how I did not know anything about Romania, the children and the other volunteers at the Center back then and now all of this is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.


Now when I think about Panciu, I think about taking endless walks and getting lost but always finding my way back, always meeting people on the street and secretly hoping to meet the kids and walk a bit together. I think about hugging the children and dancing Manele with them, arguing when they don’t want to do their homework and trying not to laugh when I have to be strict with them.       When I think about Panciu now, I think about home, even if I am not there anymore.


But of course, I also remember how I didn’t know anyone when I arrived, and I could not say more than three words in Romanian. In the beginning, everything seemed like an unbearable challenge, from going to the supermarket alone to explaining maths to a child in Romanian – and -to be honest- I was so afraid of almost everything that I did not know.

Obviously not everything has always been easy. But in a way, the moments in which I was challenged made me grow the most. And with every challenge that we overcame, alone or as a team, I felt more and more like a part of something big and powerful. I was so happy when I started being able to understand the children, planning and doing my own activities with them and then finally seeing that I was able to support them, even if it was just something very small. I am so thankful for the relationships that I could establish, with them but also with the volunteers and the staff I worked with, even strangers that I met on the street.

Now all of this is over, but what stays are the memories, the experiences and skills I could gain and of course, the way that I grew in this time – and I really see the difference!


Situations that I was afraid of or even avoiding do not scare me anymore. I am more confident and more grateful for what I have. I feel empowered and energetic and I want to go on supporting projects that I believe in – and I really like this version of myself : )

At the same time, I have to readapt to a new situation that used to be my life here which has been a bit strange at first. It took me a while to realize that I can not blame anyone for not understanding how life in Panciu feels like, but I am trying to show them simply by sharing what I experienced and like this, connecting. And now people tell me that my eyes light up when I talk about Romania.


When I got back home by car with another Panciu volunteer, I was listening to Goodbye stranger and a bunch of feelings overwhelmed me and I was once again, unbelievably grateful for being a part of this project. And in a way it was true, I said goodbye to Romania – but I am not a stranger anymore.

Atunci, Mulţumesc România şi ne vedem ȋn curând!