Where do I start? Let’s begin with the week before the trip, shall we? Okay, so it was Tuesday when we received the email with information about the mid-term evaluation (an assessment halfway through your volunteering project). Upon getting the email, we immediately gathered to discuss our travel plans: should we go by train or use BlaBlaCar? We definitely had the train option since there were four of us, and no, I didn’t want to be crammed in a BlaBlaCar with them. Don’t get me wrong, I like my colleagues, but personal space is important to me. So, the first step was to buy train tickets, which were very cheap as expected—83 lei or 16 euros from Sighisoara to Bucharest, a 6-hour journey. I wanted to die. Let me tell you, I’ve been on a 36-hour bus ride, but this train drained my soul and left me dizzy, which is unusual for me but, well, acceptable, I guess.

The only important information we got was the hotel location and the dates. It felt like one of those blind trips where you pay for everything upfront and could end up in Cancun or Scotland. Finally, after a long 6-hour train ride, we arrived in Bucharest. We ordered a Bolt because it’s cheap and we were four people. I indicated that there were four of us in the app, but the Romanian driver who arrived seemed a bit annoyed that someone had to sit next to him. Despite some awkward moments, we arrived at the hotel, which was somewhere between fancy and creepy (it reminded me of a game of Backrooms on Roblox, to be honest).

Upon arrival, the receptionist provided the crucial information we were missing: meal times. Breakfast was from 7-10, lunch from 1 PM, and dinner from 7 PM. I thought, are we British? I’m Spanish, and in Spain, a normal dinner time could be between 9 and 10 PM, or even later. After checking in, we went to our rooms, and luckily, each of us had a separate room. The rooms were fancy, with carpeted floors and plush pillows. It was very cool. We left our things there and went for a walk because we were hungry and had nothing to do until the next day. We didn’t even know what we were supposed to do or with whom we were going to do it. There was a lot of uncertainty.

We walked for about 25 minutes and ended up on a commercial street full of food stores—the good kind, like those bakeries surrounded by bees. We went to a Korean-Japanese store, which was very expensive but super cool, with all kinds of ramen, sauces, sweets—everything was on point. However, the only BUT, they only had BTS/Blackpink photocards, nothing from Twice, Le Sserafim, or New Jeans. We ate some good things like a cheddar-gouda cheese bagel, which was damn good. We returned to the hotel and hung out in Alejandro’s room until it was dinner time. Dinner was an experience: the dining room-restaurant seemed to be hosting either a baby shower, a baptism, or perhaps a bar mitzvah—it was hard to tell, but it was noisy.

If my memory serves me right, dinner was chicken breast with potato salad and quinoa or couscous. The food was pretty decent. After a long day, we went to sleep, wondering what awaited us the next day. We woke up and, as planned, went to eat breakfast at 8:30 to have a good sleep and enough time to eat calmly. Breakfast was definitely the best meal of the day. It was a buffet with all kinds of food, from yogurt with fruit and cereal to onion rings and tater tots. My go-to was scrambled eggs, tater tots, and toast with turkey ham and cheese, followed by coffee and a cereal bowl. I felt kind of heavy after that but thank goodness because we had a lot to do. Of course, I made a turkey ham and cheese sandwich to keep in my room—if I eat dinner at 7, I’m going to be hungry by 11.

After hours of not knowing anything, we received a message instructing us to come to the 6th floor, to the first room. That was scary, but the email hadn’t seemed like that, I promise. We arrived and met two people, Andrei and Mariann, who introduced themselves and had us play some icebreaker games. They explained our first activity, a mission (im)possible. We had to complete a lot of tasks, such as making a list of 20 things that are better in Romania than in our home countries. For example, Romania has some of the best internet in Europe. We also had to take a group picture with something indicating we were in the Carpathians. There were many activities, and I’ll share some pictures here.

When we finished our activity, we had a coffee break. The coffee was very good but so hot that I had to wait the entire 30 minutes for it to cool down. The cheese biscuits and jam biscuits were okay but nothing special. When we returned to the meeting room, we finally did the task we were supposed to complete before coming: presenting our association. The first team was the Mediterranean team—Chiara, Laura, and Carolina (they’re from Portugal, Spain, and France). They presented a video about their association, covering where they come from, what they do, who they share rooms with, etc. They are the luckiest because they live only an hour by bus from Bucharest, so they can explore the big city every weekend.

The second team was the Baia Mare team, Zeynep and Bogdan. They talked about their association’s activities, which are super cool. Every week they prepare a themed event, like a Harry Potter week with activities in schools and centers for the disabled. The third team, consisting of Oussama, Diana, and Tasnim, is from a place I can’t quite remember, but they also did cool activities, like helping in a nursery and taking care of kids aged 1 to 3 years old.

The fourth team, the Timisoara team—Benjamin, Anna, and Iasmina—does activities similar to ours. They are two Serbians and one Romanian, and since they live near the Serbian border, they speak Romanian fluently. Finally, there was our team: Abde, Murat, Undine, and Alejandro, representing Keresztur and Ata. We do a lot of things, which you can read about on the blog where you’re reading this.

To wrap up the day, we had lunch at 1 PM, like the British. Lunch was not impressive. As a Muslim, I found limited options: only chicken wings and lettuce salad, while everything else was pork. There was potato salad with pork, pork in creamy sauce, pork ribs, and chicken wings without any sauce, plus lettuce with oil and salt.

After the day’s activities, we went out for drinks (non-alcoholic, for legal reasons). We were looking for bars to chat, drink, and laugh a bit. We started at a bar 25 minutes away and ended at one near the river. It was a super cool night to meet each other, talk, drink, laugh, and take pictures. Overall rating of the night: 9 (the Coca-Cola was 10 lei).

Starting with Tuesday, breakfast was the same as before: tater tots, onion rings, scrambled eggs, cheese, pork ham, turkey ham, cereal, yogurts, muffins, juices—a typical breakfast buffet. I chose the same every day: scrambled eggs and toast with cheese and turkey, juice, and coffee for later. The first activity of the day involved making a book where we would write everything we wanted to analyse about the past month of our volunteering. It was very cool, but the questions we had to answer in our journal or book were difficult. One question I remember was, “What is something you really didn’t like in the project and made you think of dropping out?” Honestly, I didn’t know how to answer because the project has been pretty good so far, with its ups and downs. Life is about consistency, so I had to write a fake story and pretend it was genuine.

Soon, it was lunchtime, and this time the food was somewhat better: Chinese rice, roast garlic green beans, and chicken thighs. It was good because we needed a lot of energy for the afternoon activity. We had to complete a list of tasks in the center of Bucharest, like taking a picture with the city’s kilometer zero marker, talking to a musician, and photographing things we liked and didn’t like about Bucharest. It was funny, rushed, tiring, and very busy. We had from 1:30 PM until 6:30 PM to finish as many activities as possible. I’ll include some pictures here.

To conclude this mid-term, the last day was probably the most boring but necessary. We talked about the future, the Youth Pass, and our plans after finishing the project. Many people are enthusiastic about continuing to volunteer, but we are only entitled to volunteer for 12 months in our lifetime, though short-term volunteering is unlimited. However, life isn’t just about volunteering—you still need to play an active role in society by working, studying, or doing something that contributes to the economy. While you can’t be a volunteer for life, you can cherish the memories forever.

On that day, we discussed the brain—how we think, how we experience joy, what love feels like, and the nature of our emotions. All of it can be summarized in one answer: brain chemistry. Pheromones, hormones, serotonin, and dopamine all contribute to who we are and influence our decisions. Did you know that 90% of our choices and decisions are guided by our brain chemistry? Interesting, right? (I know this sounds like a TED Talk, but that’s not my intention—I just find it fascinating.)

With all this adrenaline in our bodies and joy in our brains, we concluded the mid-term evaluation with new friends, new cities to discover, and new flavors to explore. We said goodbye to Bucharest with a strange aftertaste—it was an amazing time, but so short and intense that I just wanted to sleep. I have to admit, we were a bit late for my taste catching the train. We had a train scheduled for Thursday at 14:45, and Alejandro wanted to book the Bolt at 14:25, just 20 minutes before our train was set to leave. We could have ended up stranded! Luckily, there wasn’t much traffic, and we arrived just in time. The train was there, and I ran to catch it. There was no way I was staying in Bucharest and paying for another train ticket. No way.

That was our mid-term experience. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. I’d give it an 8.5 out of 10. Nos, viszlát és később találkozunk!