In Romania, it is now:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Satul Meu (My Village)

I'm back at my training site and should be doing my homework, but just had to post a quick entry to say that my visit to my assignment site, a village near Oradea, was very informative and thoroughly enjoyable. I was introduced to the mayor, the principal and staff of the school, the other Romanian English teacher, the librarian, police chief, the post mistress, the clerk at the general store, the Orthodox priest, the librarians in Oradea, and a few of the children of the school. The school is a friendly, cheery, clean place with conveniences and modern equipment. Veronica was a great hostess, translator, travel companion (18-hr. train trip north) and tour guide. She and her brother and sister made me feel very welcome. Her dear brother transported me all over the area and lugged my luggage around, which was muchly appreciated since I was trying to move some of my belonging here for storage until I move down in 2 weeks. (My lodging is not ready yet, so I and my extra luggage ended up in V's apartment.) V's sister is a gourmet cook and insisted on bringing wonderful dishes over--the last a big tray of her special tiramisu! The librarian and husband had me over for a cook out, and the principal and his wife prepared a multi-course lunch with lemon vodka appertif and "Bull's Blood" red wine for the meal of traditional meats with cabbage and soup, finishing with fresh fruit. We were instructed that it is wise to accept all invitations, but I would have anyway! Romanians take pride in their cooking and do it well!! Overall, I felt very welcomed and quite honestly didn't want to leave.****Oradea is very close to my village--only about 4 miles through fields of sunflowers and corn. It's a fabulous city. Budapest is just over the border and a short drive or train ride away. This is a fine location for visitors to find me. (hint, hint)**** I've posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook. If you're a "friend," take a look. Now, I MUST do my homework and study so I'll be able to stumble through conversations with the villagers sounding less like a 2-yr. old with a speech impediment. Oh, one bit of humor--Peace Corps is Corpul Pacii in Romanian, but some native speakers want to say it in English. At times, after those long train rides and umpteen meetings, being called a Peace Corpse seems altogether fitting. ;-)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Veronica, The Little Green Man, and the Superfeet of Romanian Women

I've met my counterpart and she's terrific! Veronica is intelligent, understanding, attractive and just idealistic enough to make a great partner for forward-thinking projects. We both love Hemingway, poetry, movies and Sandra Bullock. Neither of us has ever been able to keep pet fish alive and after getting lost on our way back from the train station to the university (when we decided to use our 2-hour lunch to purchase our tickets for Monday night's 15-hour train trip) we confessed that neither of us has a smidgen of directional sense. I really like this young woman and want my son Dan to visit soon. ;-) (I know, I know--but mother knows best.) **** The traffic in our training site city is insane--in a sort of Italy-meets-Bali choreography that keeps pedestrians--well, on their toes. The little green man crossing signal is merely a suggestion that this might be the best time to take your life in your hands (feet?) and attempt a crossing. Drivers DO NOT see this as a mandatory stop signal for them. If you are directly in front of one, he/she will screech to a halt and literally rev the motor waiting for you to get out of the way. I have--many times--been in the middle of a crosswalk and had cars whizzing by in front of me and behind me. Sometimes they weave AROUND me. The best thing to do is stand as near a little old bunica as you can and cross when she crosses. Yet--I've never witnessed an accident and don't hear of hits--except for the poor stray dogs whose population is somewhat controlled in this way. *** When I meet a well-dressed Romanian woman on the street, I can see her eyes focus immediately on my shoes. I can just read her thoughts about my ugly walking sandals. Because Romanian women wear pretty shoes. In stiletto-heeled or high-wedged, bow-trimmed or ankle-strapped, lipstick red, sunflower yellow, or lime green shoes, they sashay down the rough-paved sidewalks, around the standing rain water, through construction sites with the adroitness of mountain goats and the grace of butterflies. And they do this for block after block. I stand in awe. Walking only a few (3 on most days) miles a day, I still need something cushy and reasonably low to carry me along without injury. And still, I've had some minor ankle problems and some swelling. I'm trying to reason that it's an age thing, but I've seen plenty of older women in those fashionable little torture chambers, too. Veronica and I agreed today that heels definitely make women's legs look better and we like that, but... She, by the way, took a middle path today with pretty medium-wedge sandals. I? Well, yes, I was in the more attractive of my two pairs of walking sandals. ;-)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Brasov--"Probably the Best City in the World"

This past weekend the W(h)ine and Wisdom group (over-50 PCVs) met in Brasov, Transylvania, for gabbing, sightseeing and venting. The 3-hour bus ride up through the Carpathian Mountains was beautiful, and the city itself was a treat (see my Facebook page for pictures I'll gradually post). The weather was strange, but made for great lighting as the dark sky formed a backdrop for the lovely old buildings when the afternoon sun spotlighted them. We did eventually have a gully-washer Saturday evening that drove us inside from our sidewalk seating at an Italian restaurant. Brasov's architecture is a wonderful mixture of Gothic, Medieval, but mostly the stately 18th century style Austrian architects brought to it. Cobblestone streets and flower boxes spilling over with petunias, magnificent churches and bustling squares all charmed us. We took in museums and churches and a breathtaking cable car ride to see the city from high above. We all loved the fact that the city slogan appearing everywhere on cafe umbrellas was "Probably the Best City in the World."***The women in our group were fun to meet, many making long train rides to get there from their sites. Interesting women, every one, with wild stories of their bungles and triumphs in Romania. We stayed at a well-run and well-located hostel which was quite an experience in itself.***I'm now back to the training "camp" and behind in my journal writing homework (in Romanian, of course) and with a pile of dirty clothes, but it was worth it.***Coming next weekend is our Counterpart Conference when our Romanian teacher counterparts whom we'll be working with the next 2 years arrive here for a 3-day meeting after which we'll journey with them (a 10-hour train ride in my case) back to our sites. We'll spend all next week working with them, making plans, and getting our lodging arranged. Then we come back to our training site and prepare for the language exam and our swearing-in ceremony in Bucharest on August 6. I feel I'm on the crest of a giant wave, holding my breath as it sweeps me to the shore where I hope to glide in with only a few sand burns on my knees. May it be so. ;-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Site Placement News

Site announcements today and much excitement as we 44 are assigned to locations all over the country. Just a quick note to let you know I'll be in a village near the city of Oradea in Northwest Romania, near the Hungarian border. It will actually be quicker for me to get to Budapest than to Bucharest. Oradea has an airport it seems! The assignment is not what I was lead to believe I'd get when I went through the interview process, but I'm assured by some of the current volunteers who know the country well that this is a beautiful area and that the people here are forward-thinking and hospitable. I'll be working with 5th-8th graders. And though I had wanted high school students, apparently the need in the village is something the placement officials saw as right for me. I'm trying to find out more about the area and will visit there with my counterpart in a couple of weeks. Will let you know more as I find out in the next few days. To those of you who knew the assignment I thought I would have--well, with the Peace Corps, you just never know.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Sunny Window

After two weeks of practicum teaching (with observation evaluations), an intestinal ailment, an oral exam, classes, homework, a journal and notebook to be turned in, my site interview, and rain, rain, rain, I find myself feeling fit and relaxed at a sunny window--the only to-do's being to meet a friend this morning to finally climb Dracula's tower, wash clothes and bake brownies for tomorrow's 4th of July picnic. ***The teaching was great! The second week with ninth graders reminded me of why I chose high school teaching--working with those bright minds, grappling with some literature and with social issues in debate was inspiring. I wasn't sure after being out of the classroom for 7 years how I'd feel about returning, but this gave me my answer--I'm ready for the challenge. My observations went well and the kids seemed appreciative--even got hugs from 15-yr. old BOYS! We asked them on Monday what kinds of things they wanted to know about and we would try to fit the topics in during the week. One of the things the boys wanted to know about was video game production/computer programing. They are big World of Warcraft fans. So I was able to enlist Dan's help and made a Skype appointment with him for 10am here, midnight in California. There he was, God bless him, talking to my students via my netbook and Skype about his work, what he had to do to end up working for Blizzard (World of Warcraft), life in Southern California, answering their questions--and often mine since they were a bit shy. Other topics we covered during the week were contemporary poetry (of course!), the environment (they completed a neat project), controversial social issues, and a plethora of vocabulary building activities. My partner--a fine dancer--even taught them to do the Cupid Shuffle on the final day of class. They, in turn, showed us the hora and other traditional dances. **** The oral exam, by the way, proved to be even more difficult than I imagined because upon entering each station, we had to draw a "role" to act out. I totally bombed in the "post office" when I had to explain that there was a mistake with a package I had received 2 weeks ago but I wasn't sure which counter to go to. (?!) Anyway, I received 4 B's and 2 C's for the six stations--a very generous assessment. I wouldn't have given myself those marks! :-) I think I'll have some mastery of enough of the language to get by at my future site, but I'll definitely take the continuing tutoring offered by the PC after training. Many of us who "used to be" A students are feeling like dunces, but we're continually being told that that's normal--especially for the over-50 crowd.***Tomorrow we celebrate the 4th of July with our gazda families at a picnic, which is totally organized and sponsored by the trainees. We're cooking out, playing games with the kids, singing, etc. Hope the weather cooperates. I'm sending wishes to you all for a Happy 4th! in the states. Living abroad certainly makes one aware of what a splendid nation we have--warts and all. *** I'll put the word out Wednesday as to site placement announcements. It's THE BIG DAY for us! Wish me luck.