A Travellerspoint blog

We've Made it to Beius!

Great first day on site!


We're finally in Romania! It is so nice to return back to my summer home and see all my friends at Habitat Beius. The drive from Budapest to Beius was so familiar yesterday and so wonderful. I'm privilege to be able to come back and visit my Romanian family in Beius every summer.

We had a great meal last night with introductions from Florin and Marcel from the affiliate and then of course we had to watch the a World Cup!

This morning we woke up bright and early and were on site for safety introductions and the morning meeting. We then paused for a quick group photo.

Today we were building with the Turle Family in Buntesti, a town about 20km from Beius. Dumitru, the father, worked on site with us all day today and his wife Nicoleta brought us over wonderful "cheesy bread" at the end of the day. The Turles have two children, Darius (7 years old) and Diana (4 months old). Darius came to visit his dad on site a few times today.

Dumitru's habitat house is almost done and you could tell he was so proud of all the work that he and many volunteers (led by the talented and amazing Habitat Beius staff) have done over the past few months. We had a crew taping and mudding the walls inside and another crew outside applying the soffits to the house. It was a packed day!

So now let me introduce you to my team!!!

Landon Basner from Alaska

Ralph Basner from Alaska

Dennis Hope, aka Old Dennis, from Illinois

Brandy Johnson from California

Sarah Kamp from Texas

Kyle Kinder from Texas

Logan Kinder from Texas

Dennis Langley, aka Young Dennis, from Illinois

Joel Rowland from California

Dave Tirsell from Michigan

And of course your leader, Katie Boland from Connecticut (with my buddy Nelu)

Now it's off to dinner! Thank you to the Habitat Beius site for being wonderful and patient teachers on site. I have a lot of new habitat folks on my team who came away from the day feeling accomplished and proud - and that's all from the help of you!

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings us!

Posted by gooberkn 08:29 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

The team is here and we're enjoying Budapest...

But we're off to Beius today!!!


It's Sunday morning in Budapest right now and I have a few minutes to update you all on our trip.

Everyone arrived on Saturday throughout the day. We had a few delayed flights but nothing major. Everyone came with all their luggage - that's always a good thing!

We enjoyed a nice dinner at a new restaurant last night and the food was fantastic. We sat inside and enjoyed our very own piano player for the evening. We even were able to surprise our two birthday folks with Happy Birthday playing on the piano and traditional Hungarian desserts.


Happy Birthday to Logan!

Happy Birthday to Kyle!


This morning the team is off exploring Budapest. Dave and I went to mass at the beautiful St Stephen's Basilica - a yearly tradition for me.

And now the exciting part... Emil from Habitat Beius is picking us up in an hour and we're heading to my summer hometown!!! I can't wait to see the beautiful valley of Beius and the mountains in the distance! And I can't wait to see the crew and begin work tomorrow!!! We have one quick stop though - we're picking up Joel along the way in Oradea. :)

Until then, keep smiling! My next post will be in Romania!!!

Posted by gooberkn 01:46 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

I Have Landed in Budapest

Budapest - My favorite European City

Hello from Budapest!

I had a great travel experience from New York City to Budapest - no delays, no hassles with lines and security, empty seats next to me, and met some nice folks on the plane. Couldn't have asked for anything more!

I spent last night wandering the city and remembering why I love it so much. It is so beautiful here and the people are so nice. I picked out my restaurant for my first team dinner and the waiter happens to be Romanian from the same city we're heading to!

Today I went for a cool 4 mile run along Heroes Square/Millennium Park. There's a story that if you touch the pen of Anonymous, a huge statue, that it would bring you good luck - of course I did that for my team!

Here are a few cloudy and rainy pictures from my morning run:
Andrassy Street - today's running path





Tomorrow my team arrives! I'm beyond excited to finally meet them all. I hope they have safe and easy travels from the US. I already heard that Ralph and Landon were delayed 12 hours in Frankfurt. Hopefully that's it!

I'm off to explore this city some more - every year I keep finding new things!

Posted by gooberkn 05:33 Archived in Hungary Comments (1)

The Adventure Begins!

I'm off to the airport today!!!

Today around 3:00pm I leave for John F. Kennedy International Airport and head to Budapest and begin my global village adventures! All the hotels are booked, the details are organized, the binder is complete, the bags are packed. Everything is done and ahead of time - which is very good for me!


I can't wait for my flight and of course I have a few nerves along the way:

  • Will my flight take off/land okay? Will I have any delays?
  • Will my teammates arrive on time? What will they be like? Will they all get along? I only know one person on the team ahead of time so I can't wait to meet the 9 others that I have been communicating with over the past few months.
  • Is everything going to run smoothly during the ten days with the team?
  • Will I have any injuries? A few years ago, I sent one lady to the eye doctor with a massive infection and another with a bad cough. It's a good thing that all the doctors in the area are incredibly friendly!
  • Finally, will all my teammates enjoy their experience, work hard throughout the week, and appreciate the mission of Habitat for Humanity and want to continue its work when they arrive home?

This trip has been amazing already for me as I have been able to reflect on the last decade plus of my service to Habitat for Humanity. I have looked through all the photo albums, remembered all the people along the way that have joined me for a few teams or just one team, and remember all the families that have been helped along the way. The back of my binder this year shows all 11 teams to Beius:


Speaking of Habitat Binders... this year's front cover might be my favorite! I'm kind of a dork when it comes to making binders for Habitat (and any school trips I go on) but I love having everything organized divided into sections. I carry this with me throughout the entire trip and I let my team members know where it is as a "just in case" precaution.

To get in the spirit of Habitat and to learn more of why I love it, here are some quotes from Habitat's magizine Habitat World that shows its impact since its founding in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller:

“Habitat gives us an opportunity which is very difficult to find: to reach out and work side by side with those who never have had a decent home—but work with them on a completely equal basis. It’s not a big-shot, little-shot relationship. It’s a sense of equality.”—former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, September 2008 issue

“No matter the location of the build site, the religion, gender or ethnicity of the homeowners or volunteers, there is a sense of authentic community that links Habitat partners. It’s exactly this kind of shared commitment that has sustained Habitat for three decades, and, similarly, it will be a renewed commitment that’s necessary to meet the challenges ahead. I don’t have to remind you that the need for decent housing is immense. Our tenacity is equally vast.”—Jonathan Reckford, Habitat CEO, June 2006 issue

“I have come to believe that I belong—which is as much a part of Habitat as the homeownership. I belong as a community member. I also have something to contribute. … Habitat for Humanity has given me the chance to feel that I have hope for the future. For the first time in my life, I have the time to stop worrying about survival long enough to plan for the future.”—SueAnn Belknap, Habitat homeowner in Corvallis, Ore., December 1995/January 1996 issue

And here are a few of my favorite quotes/posters:



3 hours and my next Habitat adventure begins as I celebrate my 12th team to Romania. I can't wait!!!

Next blog entry will come from BUDAPEST!!!

Posted by gooberkn 09:04 Archived in USA Tagged habitat habitat_for_humanity hfh global_village Comments (0)

Meet the Partner Families We Will Be Working With

Building Hope with Homes

In 24 hours I leave for my 12th team to Beius, Romania! I just heard from Emil, our host coordinator, about our plan for the week.

We will be working in villages outside of Beius for the beginning part of the week and helping out two families. On Friday, we will head to Oradea and help build rebar and the concrete foundations in their ongoing project there.

While we are in Beius, we are going to be working with two families. Here's a brief introduction from Habitat Beius:


The Bunta family story

Cristi (35 years old) and Neolina (35 years old) got married in 2001 after finishing their university studies. Three months later they moved to Beius. Over time, their three children came into this world, Isiah (12 years old), Timotei (9 years old) and Stefania (2 years old). Their children are the joy of their lives, although overshadowed by the fact that they don’t have their own home and they’ve needed to move periodically from one rented accommodation to another with their three children after them.

“It’s very hard to always be looking for a new shelter, a new place to live. Until now, we’ve had to move 5 times for different reasons, whether it’s been for more space as our family grew or whether it’s because the owners were selling the home. So, we’ve always dreamt to have a home, where we have the stability and safety that it offers,” says Cristi Buna.

With the money that they received at their wedding, they bought some land in Soimi where they thought about building a house. But they only had enough money to obtain the necessary documentation and to build the foundation.

“We were aware that at this rate, we wouldn’t succeed in finishing the house until we’re pensioners, so we called on Habitat’s help” said Cristi.

Neolina and Cristi are involved in serving in the Baptist Church in Soimi, in a large community of roma and upon finishing their house, they want to be able to offer their home for periodic meetings which they organize within the church, where Neolina is a social worker and works with poor children and with children from roma families in the area.

They know Habitat very well from when Cristi worked at Good Samaritan Beius, an organisation that deals with the integration of orphans into the community and with whom Habitat has had a long partnership. Cristi participated as a volunteer on many occasions together with youth working on Habitat homes. Now he is looking forward to working again with volunteers, this time on their own home.


The Turle Family

Ten years ago, Dumitru Turle, who today is a young man of 29 year old, moved with his father and older brother from a different part of the country, to Buntesti (a locality 20km from Beius), to work in an abattoir in the area. It was here that he met Nicoleta, a girl from the village with whom he got married in 2006. On getting married they moved together into Nicoleta’s grandparents’ home, where they still live today. With time, Dumitru lost his job at the abattoir, but he then got a job of which he is very proud, in a bakery where he is today.

The house in which they live is really overcrowded as there are a total of 10 people living there: the grandparents, Nicoleta’s parents, an unmarried brother-in-law, a disabled uncle and their two children. Dumitru, Nicoleta and their children Darius and Diana, live in a single room which is just 16 m2. The only toilet is in the garden, they don’t have a bathroom or kitchen or any other space. All they have is crowded into that one room, where they cook, eat and sleep. Dumitru washes at his work place, Nicoleta washes at friends, relatives and other people she knows in the village. Only Darius (7 years old) and Diana (4 months old) wash in the house.

Nicoleta’s grandparents, Catita and Aurel, have given them a piece of land in the village where they can build their own home. With great effort, they have put money aside and bought some of the materials necessary to build the home and slowly but surely they have started work on the foundation.

„For a long time we have dreamt of having a life like everyone else, to have quietness, space, water.... It may seem like trivial things for everyone, but we miss them a lot. But we’d like it so that at least our children don’t miss out on them” said Dumitru with emotion.

After finding out that 4 years ago, the Easter House was built in their village, they put all their hope in the help that Habitat could offer them. Although they had succeeded in gathering some of the necessary construction materials, there is still a lot of work to be done.

24 hours to go until I leave and start my journey!!!

Posted by gooberkn 14:28 Archived in USA Tagged habitat habitat_for_humanity hfh global_village Comments (0)

A Little Bit about Oradea

Our home for the beginning of the week

Located just 8 miles from the Hungarian border and spanning both shores of the Crisu Repede River, the elegant city of Oradea is a great starting point for exploring Romania.

First documented in 1113, under the Latin name Varadinum, the city was administered at various times by the Principality of Transylvania, the Ottoman Empire, and the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1598, the Oradea fortress was besieged and, on August 27, 1660, it fell to the Ottoman raids, only to be seized in 1692 by the Austrians.

Until the construction of flood-banks along the length of the Crisu Repede River, Oradea was facing constant flooding threats. In 1836 a large part of the town was destroyed by fire. The picturesque town of present-day Oradea was rebuilt in the 18th century to the plans of Viennese engineer Franz Anton Hillebrandt following the then-trendy Austrian architectural style called Secession with its richly decorated facades of pale pink, blue, green and white. In addition to the many Baroque buildings, Oradea is remarkable for its particularly rich collection of Art Nouveau architecture.

Oradea University, one of the largest in Eastern Europe, is an excellent educational center in literature, as well as in medicine and sciences.

Baile Felix, a spa resort located only 5 miles south of the city, is home to several thermal springs and medical centers offering treatments that alleviate rheumatism, arthritis, and neurological problems.

Interesting facts:

  • There are over 100 religious sites of different denomination in Oradea, including three synagogues, the biggest Baptist Church in Eastern Europe and the Church of the Moon (Biserica cu Luna) – featuring an astronomical clock depicting the phases of the moon.
  • Austrian mathematician Georg von Peuerbach (1423 – 1461) worked at the Observatory of Varadinum (present-day Oradea), using it as the reference or prime meridian of Earth in his Tabula Varadiensis, published posthumously in 1464.

Information was taken from http://www.romaniatourism.com/oradea.html.

Here's a bit about our home in Oradea thanks to http://actionfelix.org/en/noble-house.

Noble House is the result of the vision and passion of the late Linda Hörnberg. The house originally was created as a studio for arts, crafts and antique refinishing projects. It was envisioned as a place where the children of Caminul Felix could develop and learn applicable skills. In her loving memory, the building was finished in the Spring of 2006.

Currently Noble House serves as a rustic guesthouse/small hotel. It currently offers 12 modern double guestrooms with private bathrooms. Each room is pleasantly appointed, with hardwood floors and tile bathroom. The house also offers meeting rooms and a Gathering Hall decorated with Romanian antiques.

Here are a few pictures of our home in Oradea from last summer:
Sunrise at Caminul Felix

The farm beside Caminul Felix

Noble House all quiet at sunrise

There may even be a sprinkler to cool you off after a long work day

I'll see you all in Budapest in 12 days!!!

Posted by gooberkn 09:26 Archived in USA Tagged for habitat humanity global_village Comments (0)

Looking forward to my 12th team to Romania

Here's a look back at my previous 11 teams

In 2003, I led my first team to Beius Romania with Habitat for Humanity. Seth Fischer and I knew little about the country, the affiliate, and our team. We were excited to travel to Eastern Europe and thrilled with our project. We worked on a four-family apartment style house right in the town of Beius. It was incredible. Emil, our host coordinator, showed us the town of Beius and the surrounding areas. He was so patient with our team and had such passion about his town, affiliate, and country. It was infectious! I knew at the end of the two week trip that I wanted to come back the following summer.

Beius 2003 July Group Shot

Beius 2003 July Group Shot

Alice and Katie working hard in Beius - July 2003

Alice and Katie working hard in Beius - July 2003

In 2004, Alice and I brought another team to Beius. We learned about "Emil Surprises" in which Emil would constantly surprise us with new adventures during our free time in Beius. Sam and Tracy (the boy as he was called) came to Romania this year which added a new element of fun to the group!

Beius 2004 July Group Shot

Beius 2004 July Group Shot

Beius 2004 July

Beius 2004 July

In the summer of 2005 I convinced my good friend Tyler to join me on the Habitat trip. Kris, my good friend from Habitat for Humanity International's office in Americus GA (volunteered there in 2001-2002), and I led a team in July. The summer heat didn't stop us working hard on the houses in the village of Mizies. We spent a long time putting the trusses for the roof together this week. Our arm muscles were huge by the end of the week from all the hammering we did!

Beius 2005 July Group Shot

Beius 2005 July Group Shot

Beius July 2005 - Busy Working

Beius July 2005 - Busy Working

After my trip in July, Tyler and I travelled throughout Europe including heading to Bratislava, Vienna, and ITALY! It was a great adventure. I then went back to Beius for another team! That's right - I led two teams that summer to Beius!!! My August team was the first one that I led by myself and will always hold a special fond memory in my heart. All those trusses we put together in July - well my August team got to dissemble them and re-do them since Habitat changed their dimensions of the roof! Only I knew that secret - although now everyone does! This was also the team where I was able to participate in my first dedication ceremony at Habitat. Beautiful event! It was heartwarming to witness the homeowner receiving her own keys to her house.

Beius 2005 August Group Shot

Beius 2005 August Group Shot

Beius 2005 August - Installing Floors with Valer

Beius 2005 August - Installing Floors with Valer

During my summer in Beius, I had a conversation with Emil about how I wished to see Beius in the winter. Sure enough, by the time I left in August, he had put me on the schedule for a team in February 2006. This time, I convinced my good friends Mike and George to join me on the team. It took a lot of nudging (Mike hates the cold), but after a few promises of making chocolate chip cookies and a few sessions at Archies, I convinced the two of them to join me. We had my smallest group - only 7 members - but to our joy, it was in the 50s while we were building! We didn't see any sunflowers along the way, but we did get to really learn about the town of Beius and its wonderful people.

Beius 2006 February Group Shot

Beius 2006 February Group Shot

Working Hard in February 2006

Working Hard in February 2006

In July 2006, Tyler and I were back again leading another team to Beius. We joked with Valer and Florin, our construction supervisors, that we made a "Hunks of Romania" calendar to raise funds to come back again. We actually made the calendar for the them of all action shots from the previous summer. After a lot of laughs, we were back to work again in the summer heat. I was missing the cooler temps of February! Helen and Declan, two members that met on my team, are actually married right now and living happily ever after! Who would have thought that you can find love on a Habitat site in Romania!

July 2006 - Group Shot

July 2006 - Group Shot

Our transport

Our transport

Hammering the frame of the house

Hammering the frame of the house

July 2007 marked my 7th team to Beius. In celebration of six teams already completed, Emil organized an accelerated build for my group. We started and finished a house in six days! It was hard work, temperatures were over 100 degrees all week, but we managed to dedicate the house on the last day and share the first meal inside the newly painted house! It was a definite celebration in Beius, I was actually on a morning talk show (similar to Oprah) and had my own personal translator. We built in a village about 30 minutes outside of Beius and had a great experience. The house was built in the back of the grandparents current home. The grandparents, parents, and two children were all living in a small, cramped, two room house without indoor plumbing. I was in charge of drywalling their new bathroom in the new house! So exciting!!!

Group Shot - July 2007

Group Shot - July 2007

Almost done!

Almost done!

House is Finished - Dedication Ceremony!

House is Finished - Dedication Ceremony!

In July of 2008, I took a summer off from doing Habitat trips and missed it tremendously. I came back strong in August 2009 with a new group. It was great to be reunited with my friends from Beius and to meet a whole new group of eager volunteers in my team. Heather and Duncan would come back again with me the following summer. Patrick would then spend a year in Budapest after our trip. It was an amazing experience, yet again.
Beius August 2009 Group Shot

Beius August 2009 Group Shot

Working Hard with Cement Mixers

Working Hard with Cement Mixers

In 2010, I returned again to Beius. This time we worked for a few days at Caminul Felix in Oradea (mentioned in my last blog entry) and once again Emil surprised me. We were able to spend an afternoon at the water park! We went on water slides, relaxed our muscles in the thermal baths, and had a great BBQ after! My good friend Sam (he's been on my Mexico trip, Chile trip, and Romania in 2004) came back again this year as well as my good friends Rich and Geralynn from Chile and Costa Rica trips.
Beius July 2010 Group Shot

Beius July 2010 Group Shot

Manuela and Katie

Manuela and Katie

Miranda and Steve stomping the ground and getting ready for a foundation

Miranda and Steve stomping the ground and getting ready for a foundation

Finally, in 2011 I returned to Beius again for a special 10th build celebration. We built a house in one week! We started on the foundation and finished the house by the end of the busy week. I had a few folks back on my team again like Manuela and Miranda and I had the chance to meet a ton of other folks. It was a great week. These are just a few of the photos to show you from the week:

In August of 2013 I returned to Beius for my 11th team. This time we worked for the beginning part of the week in Oradea and the end in Beius. It was so nice to go back to my "summer home" after not seeing my good friends the summer before!

Katie and Emil


I leave for Budapest in two weeks from Wednesday. I can't wait to meet an entirely new team of individuals and look forward to seeing Joel and my Romanian friends again. Be sure to follow along this blog as I will update you on our trip and the progress we make throughout the week!

Until next time, have a great day!

Posted by gooberkn 07:02 Archived in USA Tagged habitat_for_humanity Comments (2)

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