Monday, September 13, 2010
Westsiders, Brooms, and Bags of Posies
So much to tell!! First--the gathering of the Westsiders in Ineu. One of the volunteers in Group 26 and his director (principal) took it upon themselves to invite all the volunteers serving in northwest Romania--10 of us scattered about--to a weekend of getting acquainted--26ers, 27s and a few 25s--before we get too busy with our teaching assignments. Frankly, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. Friday was chilly and rainy, and getting to Ineu involved walking in the rain about 400yds to a non-covered bus stop, riding the bus (rolling duffel, umbrella and I dripping on everyone) into Oradea, taking a taxi to the train station where I met another volunteer, riding the train into Arad where we spent the night with a third volunteer, and then taking an early train the next morning to Ineu. But I have to say, it was worth it and just what I needed to put me into a great frame of mind to start the school year.*** Justin's school has a guest house for visiting parents when the school used to board students. It was a perfect set-up, and kind staff members provided breakfasts and lunches for us. While it was fun seeing 27s again (my group who spent the summer in training) and getting to know the others, the "field trips" we took were splendidly interesting and fun. The person largely responsible for this was the director or principal of the school. Not only does he successfully manage a school that shines with careful maintenance, innovative programs, bright and cheerful facilities, and an obviously dedicated staff and faculty, but he also serves as "voluntary executive administrator" of a self-sustaining, totally-organic farm where the workers are graduates of his school's vocational program, plying their skills in all seasons to tend crops, hot houses, animals, and to build furniture, preserve food, and make brooms! We were each given a dandy little whisk broom (because traveling with a long one would be just too Harry-Potterish). When the dear man has spare moments, he retires with his wife and 4-yr-old daughter to his cabana (weekend retreat) where he tends various fruit trees and...grapes! Here he, his wife and some staff members hosted a gratar (cookout) for us, complete with his own tuica (a kind of plum brandy) and wine from his grapes. We also were free to take walks around the hilly and beautiful property, and I was actually able to hug one of those Romanian haystacks I love. (see Facebook profile ;-)) The trip home was streamlined with bus rides (2) instead of trains and I got back to the red house while the sun was still shining on Sunday. ***Now I must tell about today's most unique school opening. Well, unique for me, but as my colleagues report in from villages all over Romania, I see that it is the norm here. So here is my journalist eye-report: It's 8:15, foggy, and students and parents are already gathering in the school yard (courtyard) even though the assembly will not start for another 45 minutes. Children--little and big--are carrying bouquets of flowers, some from the shop, others (most dear) handgathered from gardens. At 8:45 the teachers who have been making preparations inside file out along with the principal, the mayor and 3 fully-robed orthodox priests to join at the top of the circle...the DJ!--right there with his sound board and speakers, looking very serious and prepared, playing some happy folk music. The children are arranged into classes amazingly quick, the music stops, and the principal says a few words of introduction. Cue the DJ who plays a loud and moving rendition of the Romanian national anthem that includes a male chorus. Following that the priests sing/chant a longish blessing and prayer, complete with swinging amulet (fumes AND little bells) passing around the circle. Introductions of teachers next and the American one gets applause. ;-) But then--my favorite part: the second graders form a long tunnel--hands joined up high for a flower-clad "roof," and the new first-graders march through, two by two, and process around the circle of classes. There is long and genuine applause from all the classes and such a sweet welcome for these little ones. The happy music (I'm sure someone will start dancing) starts up again as the courtyard empties. The anticlimax is the gathering inside, distribution of textbooks, and faculty meeting following. My big problem of the day was how to carry home all the flowers given to me by students and even a few teachers--all with the lovely double kisses. I used my handy plastic shopping bag I always carry and when it overflowed, Veronica gave me hers. Once again I was a spectacle walking home through the village with my brimming bags of roses, marigolds, goldenrod, and zinnias, but I didn't mind a bit.