A Travellerspoint blog

One Month to Go! The Ultimate Packing Guide

Some Suggestions on Items to Pack

Personal Items...

  • Prescription medications and Simple first aid supplies.
  • Toiletry items (Face cloths are non-existent in Europe) & dental care (tooth pick, floss) – Make sure you pack a towel too!
  • Family photos to show new friends AND item to share with the group during our first dinner
  • Neck pouch for passport (superior to fanny packs or money belts worn on the exterior)
  • Passport and 2 copies of your passport ID page (in separate places in your luggage… just in case!)
  • Emergency contact phone and FAX numbers of family/friends in the US.
  • ATM Card/cash/etc… You can use your ATM cards in all locations to take our the currency in Hungary and Romania. This proves to be a lot easier than taking traveler’s checks!

Clothing items...

  • Shoes (one sandals or flip-flops, one casual nice, one for muddy work/hiking)
  • One nice, special outfit (for church, last night dinner perhaps)
  • Daily work and play clothes: Romanian weather tends to be warm during this time of year, but we might have cooler mornings. I suggest bringing pants and shorts to work in, plus long sleeve and short sleeve t-shirts.
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket or lined windbreaker/sweat shirt/sweat pants
  • Hat for rain and shine!
  • Work Gloves
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses (maybe even a bathing suit, you never know!)

Travel items...

  • Travel alarm clock, if you like them
  • Folding umbrella
  • Camera, film, extra batteries
  • Games/cards/puzzles/etc
  • An extra set of clothes in your carry-on luggage (just in case!)
  • Bug Repellent for the evenings and sun screen for the days

I'll be sending a wish list of items from the affiliate of any tools or supplies they might need in the next few weeks. If you have any questions about what to pack for the trip, please feel free to ask!

Posted by gooberkn 18:49 Archived in USA Tagged romania habitat habitat_for_humanity hfh Comments (0)

Our Schedule for the Week

35 days and counting!

At this point, you might be wondering what our week will look like. Well here you go!

On Saturday afternoon, everyone will arrive at Hotel Medosz, it's on the Pest side of Budapest. I'll probably be hanging around the lobby awaiting your arrival. I'll leave a note for you at the front desk if I am not around. We will plan to meet up as a team in the lobby area for dinner around 7:30 - a late dinner - but it will give folks a chance to settle in and shower after the long day of traveling.

For Saturday night's dinner -- please bring something small with you to share with the group - this will be something to introduce yourself to the team. It can be a photo, a small item, anything. We'll go around the table at dinner and share our items.

On Sunday morning, you will have some free time to explore Budapest. We will leave for Oradea around 2:00pm. The ride to Oradea will take about 4-5 hours depending on traffic. We'll be traveling by mini coach bus/van type of vehicle. We'll stop along the way for dinner. We'll arrive in Oradea in the evening, get settled in our rooms at Caminul Felix. You will get a chance to meet Emil, the volunteer coordinator at Habitat, and you'll get a quick introduction to the week.


On Monday morning, we wake up bright and early and have breakfast at Caminul Felix - it's a mixture of egg dishes, yogurt and granola, and probably some fresh fruit. Then we will head to our work site and they will give us another orientation. You'll meet everyone from the Habitat affiliate and probably a few of the homeowners that might be on site that day. I'm not sure what exact tasks we will be doing yet - or what stage the house is on - we'll find out when it gets closer. We'll work until lunch (with a mini coffee break in the morning) and then head to a restaurant for a quick bite to eat - or we may have lunch delivered to us on site. Lunch will usually be make your own sandwiches and soups, maybe some salads. It's family buffet style. Then back to the worksite for more building! We'll end around 4pm and head back to our house to shower and enjoy the evening. We'll have a quick team meeting and go to dinner together but then the rest of the evening is yours.


On Wednesday evening, we will pack our bags and head to the beautiful town of Beius. We will check into our hotel there and explore the town. We will be building for the remainder of the week around Beius. This will give you a great chance to experience a city in Romania (Oradea is a smaller city of about 200,000 people and the beautiful town of Beius with a population of 12,000 people.


The rest of the week will be very similar to Monday. We will have a few "cultural events" throughout the week. For example, we might visit one of the orphanages in town or go to the bear caves one evening. We'll take a tour of "Habitat" and you can see the office, previous houses, different types of builds, etc. The town of Beius is beautiful. There's a coffee shop, several other outside restaurants to catch a soccer game on tv, and plenty of places to go for a nice walk or run.

On Saturday, we may work a half day (or may not - depending on their schedule) and then have a full day of sight-seeing adventures in Romania. You will get to see why I love coming back to Romania every summer. Then on Sunday morning we will pack our bags and leave after breakfast for Budapest. We'll check into our hotel in the Castle District on the Buda side and then I have a special evening surprise/final dinner celebration that evening. You will love it! And then we say goodbye.

And that's our week! I've attached a few pictures from Budapest to get you excited about the trip!


Posted by gooberkn 07:33 Archived in USA Tagged habitat_for_humanity Comments (0)

Who's On the Team This Year?


Here's a look at our amazing team that will be building houses in Beius this summer!

6/23 Update - Please welcome Ralph and Landon to the team!!! Their bios are below :)

Hello, everyone! My name is Ralph Basner. As a “latecomer” I’ve had the advantage of reading everyone’s bios and quickly realized what a diverse and fascinating crew I’ll have the pleasure of spending a week with! I am a happily married (my 25th anniversary is July 8) father of two sons. Logan, my oldest (21) will soon be returning from a “study abroad” program in Argentina, through his home university at the University of Minnesota/Twin Cities. My youngest son, Landon (17), who I will be accompanying on this trip, just finished his junior year at Colony High School and was part of the 2014 state champion, high school soccer squad! My wife, Diana is an elementary teacher at a Waldorf inspired charter school here in Palmer, Alaska. As for me, I am a 30-plus year Navigability Specialist at the Department of the Interior. My job has taken me to some of the wildest and remote parts of our country here in Alaska, but I am anxious to resume my zest for international travel (I’ve been to 25-plus countries), experience Romania, its people and culture; and make a positive contribution in people’s lives at the same time!


Hi! My name is Landon Basner and I am 17 years old. I live in Palmer Alaska and will be a senior in high school this upcoming fall. I enjoy playing sports and traveling. I will be with my dad (Ralph Basner) on this trip. I’m really looking forward to meeting and volunteering with everybody.


Katie Boland is a high school history teacher at Trumbull High School. I have been an avid volunteer with Habitat for Humanity since my high school days when I helped build my first house in Bridgeport, Connecticut with Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County. Since then I have led numerous Collegiate Challenge and Global Village trips and I look forward to showing you all why I love Romania. Besides volunteering with Habitat, I also enjoy running (new found love - still have the love/hate relationship with running though) and I am an avid history buff (early American history is my favorite time period). I advise two groups at my high school -- my Model UN team is one of the top 100 teams in the country and my We the People team made it to Nationals this year! ! I'm so proud of all of my students :) However, I can't wait for the summer and to meet you all in Budapest!


Hi, my name is Dennis Hope. I am a dual citizen of Canada and the US. I was born and raised in rural Alberta with seven brothers and sisters. I spent most of my professional career in commercial real estate and I have been fortunate to have lived in numerous cities in both Canada and the US. I am now semi-retired and spend my time between Chicago and Scottsdale. I have been on several Habitat builds and liked Bieus so much that I am returning for second tour of duty. I am very much looking forward to meeting everyone.


Hi all! My name is Brandy Johnson and I am 30 years old. I grew up in Jacksboro, Texas and currently live in sunny San Diego. During the past decade I have graduated from college twice, held different jobs including being a paralegal and a grant writer, and have moved coast to coast twice thanks to my husband’s military career. The one thing I did not accomplish in my 20s was focusing on something important to me and traveling oversees to volunteer. So, I figure why not start my 30s with this amazing experience? After some research, I decided Habitat was the perfect match for me. I’m ecstatic to be able to share this experience with two of my younger siblings (Kyle and Logan) and a friend (Sara). I can’t wait to meet the team and I’m so thrilled to be able to make a direct, positive impact on someone’s life through this amazing opportunity.


Sarah Kamp - I am 25 years old and from Burleson, TX. I went to Texas Tech and have a bachelors degree in Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. I am currently running an allergy lab in a doctors office in Grandview, TX as an allergy specialist. I do not have any kids but I have two dogs. Baylee, who is 6 years old, and Piper, who is only 5 months old. I have never done anything like this before so I am super excited! :)


Hello everybody. I'm Kyle Kinder. I'm 25 and currently live in Burleson, Texas. I was raised in small town Jacksboro, Texas. I work in the oilfield as a crane operator. I decided that I wanted to travel somewhere this year and I thought what better way to it than going to help people. I'm super excited about meeting all you new folks and looking forward to all the experiences that await on this trip


Hey there! My name is Logan Suzanne Kinder, I am currently 18 years old but will be turning 19 on July 12th! (During the trip:D) Me and my brother, Kyle, who is also going on the trip, have the same bday! So he'll be turning another year older on this trip as well.
I have a brother, a half brother, two step brothers, a step sister, and two half sisters! & if that isn't confusing I don't know what is!! But in other words, I kinda have a big family. My hometown is Godley Texas, where I graduated high school last year. Currently, I attend college at Texas State University in San Marcos. There, I'm a business major and apart of the Greek Sorority Zeta Tau Alpha! I aspire to become the owner of my own business one day, but I might change my mind in a year or so. Still deciding! lol
When I'm not sleeping, doing school work, or hanging out with my friends, I enjoy watching movies, reading books, cooking, or going for a run. Cats are by far my favorite animal, but I love all animals as well. I enjoy traveling more than anything! I hope to one day travel the world, and help people along the way if I can. Which is why this trip is going to be the greatest experience of mine yet! I'm super friendly, so I've been told, so I can't wait to meet everyone and help others together! (; See ya soon!


Dennis Langley - I am 61 years old, have been married for 36 years and have three adult children. I have lived in the Chicago area for the past 27 years. I am originally from New Jersey, just outside NYC. I work in the hotel industry as an owner/operator of various brands of hotels. In addition to living in the Chicago area, my wife and I previously lived in Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Seattle as well a three-year assignment in Italy in the mid 1970’s. This will be my first HFH build and I very much look forward to working with our team!


Amy Manser is from Southern California - She's brand new to our team and will be sending us her bio shortly!

Hi team! My name is Joel Rowland and I'm looking forward to returning to Beius with Habitat and Katie, combining two things I like to do: travel and working to benefit those who are in need. This will be my 15th trip to Romania, 8th with Habitat, 7th to Beius, and 5th with team leader Katie. Why do I keep going back to Romania? Well, that's a story for another time - until then I'll just say I really enjoy working with the Habitat affiliate in Beius, and visiting the country and my friends there. I live in Fremont, California and work as a software engineer for Elekta. Our company produces software and systems used in cancer treatment centers. When I'm not working, I like reading, hiking, movies and... visiting Romania!


Dave Tirsell has volunteered with Habitat locally in Michigan for 20 years, and been able to build with 8 other affiliates in the U.S. This will be my 7th Global Village experience, with team experience to Romania (Comanesti); Argentina; Guatemala; Trinidad/Tobago; Nunavut, Canada; Costa Rica and a build after Hurricane Katrina in Mobile, AL. I have led church mission teams to Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, and Estonia (3 times). I have been able to travel to 34 different nations, often with my wife, Lila. I am on staff part time with Macomb County Habitat, recruiting volunteers and funding from the faith community. My home affiliate is a tithing partner with Habitat Romania, and I look forward to learning more about the great things being done there and experience serving others in another culture again.


That's it for now :) I am interviewing a few folks this week so our team may grow. I look forward to meeting all of you in 45 days.


Posted by gooberkn 18:57 Archived in USA Tagged romania habitat habitat_for_humanity hfh Comments (0)

Easter Build - Habitat for Humanity Beius

A look at Habitat's annual project

(All information was taken from Habitat for Humanity Beius's website. You can find more info at Habitat Beius Website or on Facebook at Habitat Beius - Facebook

Easter House

In 2000, Habitat for Humanity Beiuş launched its most successful and most publicized event which we named "Easter House". Through this project, at least one needy family is helped to live in safe, healthy and decent conditions. So, Romanian and international volunteers build together with the home beneficiaries up until Easter week when the home is inaugurated on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.


Finding out about his story, many local volunteers and volunteers from abroad have jumped at the chance to help him. A team of volunteers from Neuchâtel Junior College in Switzerland have given up their vacation to work on the Easter house. At the same time, as part of the project "A different type of school", volunteers from the Economic College, Partenie Cosma in Oradea and also the Pentecostal Theological High School Betel mobilized themselves to participate in the actual raising of the house.


Alongside these hearty youth, the project was supported by multinational companies and companies from Oradea. Wienerberger donated the bricks necessary for the construction, Faist participated with 20 volunteers for a day and supported the project financially and Comau quickly mobilized 50 volunteers who worked for 2 days on the site and supported the costs of necessary materials. Last but not least, Endles from Sînmartin helped us with depositing and transporting of materials for the Easter House.

Marinel Pistuka’s story:

Marinel Pistuka was born in the village of Ciutelec near Marghita and was abandoned at birth. Up until he was 4 years old, he lived in orphanage in Tinca and then in Oradea. It was here in Oradea that he met the teacher Vasile Sferle, who was teaching Technology education. Children in the orphanage would beat each other and were beaten also by supervisors. Marinel became attached to this teacher, in whom he found support and a protector. Marinel finished carpentry school and then found a job. At the age of 18, when youth move out of orphanages on to the street, without a future, Vasile took him into his care and helped him find a job.

“The only thing that he dreams of, is having his own home. He buys nothing, not even medication or clothes, he just saves money to fulfil his dream” says Mr Sferle.

Around 10 years ago, Marinel decided to build himself a home and since then everything he’s done has been towards this goal. So he applied to the local council to receive a piece of land according to the law 15/2003, which provides land to build a home, to youth up to the age of 35 years old. His application was approved in the summer of 2007 and with money that he had saved up until then, he made the project and with his own strength built the foundation.

In 2008, Habitat started a project in Oradea and Marinel found out about the organization and put his hope in them, that they could help him to build his home. He participated as a volunteer and passed through all the different selection stages, and became one of the happy ones who will benefit from a Habitat house.

“After I will have my own house, I will be able to have a family, to have children who will not have any worries, to live well, not how I spent my childhood,” said Marinel. “I will make all the furniture in my home as I like carpentry work and I can make anything.”

Posted by gooberkn 08:45 Archived in USA Tagged habitat habitat_for_humanity hfh global_village Comments (0)

Habitat for Humanity Romania

Information about our host country

(Special thanks to Habitat for Humanity International for all the information - you can find more at http://www.habitat.org/where-we-build/romania).

Country Profile:
In 1996, Romania became Habitat for Humanity’s 50th country worldwide. Since then, Habitat Romania has overseen seven affiliates in Beius, Cluj, Craiova, Comanesti, Cumpana, Pitesti and Radauti. In 2011, another affiliate will open in Ploiesti, which is only 60 km away from the capital and will have a significant strategic importance for the development of Habitat projects in Romania. The affiliates are spread across the three historic provinces of the country, with the national office in Bucharest.

The Housing Need in Romania
According to the national statistics, 35 percent of the housing stock in Romania is in a state of complete neglect and needs urgent repairs. Progress toward a stable market economy has been slow and difficult after years of the oppressive rule of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Real wages for working Romanian families have dropped by about 40 percent, putting additional pressure on the strained social system. The unemployed, farmers and housewives are the social categories most affected by severe poverty. Two-thirds of Romania’s poor live in rural areas.

In the cities, many dwellers live in cramped apartments in condominium complexes. Much of Romania’s housing stock is low quality and deteriorating because of a lack of maintenance. A family of eight is more likely to live in a two-room flat than in a house. More than 10,000 blocks of flats were constructed before 1980 and now need serious renovation to their infrastructure, heating systems and roofs. More than half of rural communities have no access to piped water.

Since 2005, Romania has faced its worst floods in the past 100 years. The summers of 2008 and 2010 brought new floods in the country, leaving thousands of people in temporary shelters.

How Habitat Addresses the Need:
Habitat Romania acts as a catalyst for improving housing conditions and offering support, expertise and experience to various groups and parties. The organization has taken leadership on tackling repairs, renovations and rehabilitation of old communist-era block apartments and disaster response projects.

(My 2009 team standing outside our completed home)

Here are some examples of Habitat projects in Romania:

Construction and rehabilitation of homes and apartment blocks
Habitat for Humanity Romania builds and renovates homes in partnership with low-income families throughout the country. This can range from one-house builds to blitzes of 10 or more houses in just one week. Rehabilitation work is aimed at improving living conditions for families in the communist-era apartment blocks.

Energy-efficient housing
Habitat Romania helps families all over the country to save on energy cost by thermo insulating houses and doing minor repairs that will minimize the heat loss. In addition to this, 160 families in Moinesti , Comanesti and Darmanesti area will receive trainings covering practical tips for more energy efficient households.

Affordable housing for vulnerable groups
Habitat for Humanity Romania is actively working to provide simple and decent shelter for vulnerable groups such as the Roma, the mentally disabled and former orphans raised in state-run institutions. These groups are marginalized in society and have no access to funds to improve their housing situations.

Disaster response program
Thousands of families are left without houses following natural disasters: floods, earthquakes, landslides and wildfires. Over the years, Habitat Romania has helped more than 750 families in all the areas of the country affected by floods. Wherever possible, Habitat Romania has rehabilitated homes destroyed by water, but often has had to rebuild them entirely. This is by far their biggest program, carried out in partnership with government and local governments.

Country Facts:
Capital: Bucharest
Main country facts: Joined NATO in 2004, joined the EU in 2007
Population: Over 22 million
Urbanization: 54 percent live in cities
Life expectancy: 72 years
Unemployment rate: 7.8 percent
Population living below poverty line: 25 percent

Habitat Romania Facts:
When the program started: 1996
Highlights: Eclipse Build 1999, Euro Habitat Build 2007, Big Build 2009 and 2010
Families served: More than 2,600
Global Village volunteers hosted: More than 4,000
Housing solutions: New houses, Renovations and repairs, Energy-efficient housing, and Housing for vulnerable groups

Next update will be on information about Habitat in Beius and the work they have done!

Until next time,
Keep smiling and building,

Posted by gooberkn 09:12 Archived in USA Tagged romania habitat beius global_village Comments (0)

A little bit about Beius

My Summer Home

A little bit about Beiuş, Romania thanks to Wikipedia.

Beiuş is a city in Bihor County, Romania near the Apuseni Mountains. The river Crişul Negru flows through Beiuş.
According to the 2002 Census, Beiuş has a population of 10,996 inhabitants.
The ethnic structure of the population is:

  • Romanian 89.56%
  • Hungarian 8.45%
  • Others 0.46 %

Beiuş's earliest mention in recorded history was in the year 1263, where it was mentioned as being burned down during a Mongol invasion in 1241. During the time of the Habsburg Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire, between the late 18th and very early 20th centuries, Beiuş constituted one of the most important learning centers of the Romanian language in Transylvania. This occurred during a period when Romanians had little or no political rights and their representation was very poor.

Romania Map

Romania Map

Today, Beiuş is a peaceful place, combining few ethnicities and three times as many religions as in previous times. The city contains superb architectural edifices, including a few old churches and the "Samuil Vulcan" highschool, built in 1828, which obtained the "National College" designation in 1998. The city is a key point in reaching the Apuseni Mountains and their rich mines, or mountain resorts like Stâna de Vale or Arieşeni through smaller but picturesque communities and villages like Budureasa or Vascǎu. The nearby mountains are hosts to some of the most dense and spectacular limestone cave systems in the world. These caves contain remains of the extinct cave bear (Ursus speleus) and prehistoric humans, huge colonies of bats, subterranean lakes, striking calcareous formations and giant earthworms that live in the guano-flooded cave floor.
Beiuş has its own city museum which houses over 3,000 pieces. The museum exhibits reflect its natural history, military history and art, but most famous are its folkloric artifacts: peasant tools, pottery, garments and folk art gathered from the entire central and southern county of Bihor. The underground tunnels in the city are also famous, as they are believed to link together and act as escape routes used during the Medieval Age. Their construction began during the rule of Hungarian king Bela IV. The nearby landscape includes: agricultural hills with crops ranging from corn, wheat and potato to fruit orchards like apple, pears, plums and strawberries. A long stretch of wildlife depleted forest that is rich in flora begins in the north-east of the city. Industry is represented mainly through production of furniture and fashion destined for European markets. The nearby distillery and beverage factory of Sudrigiu also employs a large part of the city's labour force.

The view of the town from above

Available or popular sports in or around Beiuş are: fresh water fishing (trout, catfish, carp, barbel chub dace and at least a dozen other edible species), speleology (spelunking), soccer (Sunday soccer is a local ritual for all ages), skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tennis, hiking, camping, backpacking and rock climbing. Hunting for species like: wild boar, roe deer, rabbit, pheasant, dove, partridge or ducks (mainly mallards) is also popular.

A beautiful old orthodox church about ten minutes outside of town:

If you are interested in joining my team on this adventure, feel free to email me at gooberkn@mac.com. No experience necessary! All you need is a willingness to help and a love for traveling!

Posted by gooberkn 13:52 Archived in USA Tagged romania habitat habitat_for_humanity hfh Comments (0)

Welcome to my GV Beius 2014 Page!

I'm very excited to be leading my 12th team to Beius Romania this summer. Find out all the information here!

Exciting News

Don't miss out on the trip of a lifetime!

Join Katie's 12th Global Village team to Beius, Romania this summer!
Katie's 11th team - August 2013

Katie's 11th team - August 2013

Trip Dates: July 11th-21st, 2014

Destination: Beius, Romania

Costs: $1750 (tentative) + airfare. This includes the following:
---All accommodations in Budapest, Hungary and Beius, Romania
---All meals and snacks - plenty of water and Gatorade on site
---All in-country transportation
---Some cultural events and activities
---Generous donations to Habitat Beius to cover building supplies
---Celebration Event at the end of the build
---Lots of great memories, laughs, sore muscles, and new friends
---There will be fundraising opportunities available!

If you are interested, contact Katie for more information at gooberkn@mac.com.

Posted by gooberkn 16:13 Archived in USA Tagged romania habitat habitat_for_humanity hfh Comments (0)

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