Of course we don't mind. Corina returns 15 minutes later, and we head out the door to walk through the darkening streets of her hometown. Her pride in its restoration is obvious, as she tells us the history of each building and landmark.
But we would be interrupted at least three more times that evening by people whose lives seem rather beyond restoration this side of heaven. As we walk through the streets with Corina, beggars and prostitutes approach her with the familiarity of long-time acquaintances, which of course is exactly what they are.
The most memorable of these is a young man somewhere between 20 and 30, with his mind stuck at age four. He stands all of four feet tall, his form twisted to accommodate a severe hunchback. He's been on the streets begging all day, and he asks Corina if she can pay a taxi to drive him home. But Corina's out of cash. She stops and ponders, then turns to me.
"Do you mind if we take him to his home? What do you think?" she asks, concerned for our comfort level.
I assure her that we're happy to take him home. We walk toward Corina's car in the deepening dusk, and our diminutive friend slips between my two daughters, reaching a hand up to each. They take his hands, and he limps along between them like a happy child, grinning from ear to ear. "You rascal, you're just taking advantage, aren't you?" Corina asks, as he giggles with delight.
As we drive toward his home several miles away, Corina tells us in English that this young man, born severely deformed, spends his days begging to support his able-bodied mother and siblings. He's come all that way to the city center on foot this morning, and if we hadn't happened along, that's how he would have returned. He's being terribly used by those who should be protecting and supporting him, but it's still preferable to life in a state institution.
In Romanian, she's reviewing the days of the week with our passenger. "Today's Monday," he says. "Tomorrow's Tuesday, then Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday."
"Don't forget Friday!" Corina tells him, and he responds with an uproarious laugh. To us: "He can never remember Friday. I tell him over and over, but he forgets it every time." This recitation is repeated at least a half-dozen times until we arrive at his door. I quietly translate the childish conversation for my girls. It's just at the level of vocabulary where I can understand every word.