In Romania, it is now:

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I love that word--seen often here on everything from store signs to bags of sweets. It has to be something borrowed and refashioned from English. In Romanian it would be amestecat--mixed. But mixt (meekst) just sounds saucier, doesn't it? Anyway, mixt blessings, mixt reactions, mixt bag. This is my blog entry today--mixt. ***** It's been a good week overall. My session with the Roma boys (that always sounds like a gospel singing group) was terrific on Monday. We concentrated on body parts and after the flash cards and pointing, I asked for a volunteer and handed out little post-it notes with "elbow," "knee," "ear," "hand," "nose," etc. on them to all the others. They had to come up one at a time and stick the note to the proper place on the vol's body. The volunteer--Cristi--wants to be a teacher and loves to be in front of the group. He was quite a sight covered in little yellow notes and loved hamming it up! The director took a picture and promised to send it to me, but I don't have it to show you yet. We also sang and acted the ever-popular "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" song, which I was afraid might be too young for them, but they loved it, especially as we went faster and faster. The boys seem to be learning quite well and remember alot from week to week. I'm going to tackle grammar with them tomorrow--present progressive/continuous. After the weeks of mostly songs and vocabulary, they may balk. ***** There was tension in the air last week at school as the county education inspectors visited classrooms and evaluated teachers. I was not part of their evaluation and just smiled and looked American as they tromped through the media center where I was teaching. **** I introduced the Peace wall mural design competition last week and hope we get a few good concepts turned in this week. We PCVs (several anyway) are doing this all over Romania as a salute to the 20 years in Romania, 50 in the world celebration. Our wall will be right at the front entrance to the school, so it better look decent.(!) Of course, I have a hunch that it might get painted over as soon as I'm on a plane back to the states, but for now they are humoring me and the documentarian, a fine artist, is on board to help with making the design work on a large scale. More later on this. **** Wednesday I was in Oradea for the day at the Main Library, judging speeches in English given by 5th-12th grade students. The 30+ kids did a great job, but what I really enjoyed was hearing them speak about such hopeful and uplifting topics, having to do with volunteerism, serving others, etc. Since the communist era these have not been easy values for Romanians to embrace. The younger generation, however, never having experienced the oppression, seems to have a more positive mindset. I found the experience very encouraging and enjoyed meeting other English teachers, especially the 4'10" dynamo who organizes the event each year--a very gracious, intelligent and highly organized person who is also the only Jew I've met here. (Oradea lost 1/3 of its population--Jews--during WWII when they were sent to work camps and never returned.)*** Friday afternoon the "English Club" of eighth graders who want more practice with speaking English had a good meeting. They come to my place, drink Cokes, eat popcorn and cookies, listen to American music from my iPod and speakers, and we play vocabulary games, debate issues, respond to quotes, whatever will get them talking. **** This morning I attended church service at the largest Baptist Church in Romania and the 2nd largest in Europe (Emanuel). The foster parents at the Roma home where I volunteer took me. Wonderful (all male) choir complete with a brass section. I had headphones with English translation of the service. The beautiful round interior with natural light and plants made me think of my UU church in Athens--only about 10 times bigger! It was quite an experience. I sat with visitors from Korea and the UK. Here in a country where 87% are Orthodox, the Baptists are considered the liberal, progressive religion. **** And the week held some down moments, too, part of the mixt package. It's always true that we alone are ultimately responsible for our own happiness--but it seems that when you're thousands of miles from home, speak little of the local language, have a host of expectations placed on you, and are not even sure what you're doing is really needed that the "alone" part of that gets pretty heavy, and as one PCV friend put it, it's enough just to keep from going crazy. And that's why God gave us chocolate, Vivaldi, poetry, Kindles, and a little Transylvanian white wine.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

At Any Moment Now

I'm finally finding a little pocket of time for my blog writing and am feeling some of you may have wondered where I was. I don't know who reads my entries but since Christmas I've watched my "stats" and know that I am about to reach 5,000 hits--probably with this piece. It seems a sort of milestone. I find this amazing, to be honest, and though I know some bloggers have much greater audiences, this reception far exceeds my original thought of letting the "folks back home" know what I'm up to. I'm gratified, too, to think that I'm addressing the Peace Corps' third goal (helping Americans understand the host country better)AND the second goal (helping the host country understand Americans better) since most of my readers are in America and Romania. Many of my American friends have indicated a new awareness of and appreciation for this complex and beautiful country. So here I am back "home" after a short, sweet rendezvous with Lee in Barcelona, and it DOES feel like home--even if it's a rainy, chilly home that seems very resistant to springing into spring. Barcelona weather wasn't terribly different the few days I was there though we had two and a half glorious days of sun, and with the sea, the food, and the architecture and art, it was a happy venue as a get-away with my hubby. I won't elaborate on the city--that's not what my blog is about-- but I'll give some links to my photos (with comments) of the streets and seaside, the cathedral of the Sagrada Familia, and the amazing Casa Bolla, my favorite Gaudi building.****Back here in my village, I'm feeling a bit energized by the longer days, even when they're rainy, and with highs in the 40's and low 50's, I've put away my heavy coat and wear only my all-weather coat. Some of the layering is gone, too. No more long undies. So I'm feeling I'm gradually crawling out of my winter cocoon and want desperately to be able to stretch these wings in warm air. The celebration of Women's Day on the 8th was lovely, by the way, with gifts of flowers, plants, candy, bath products, and glass ware from my students...even some of the adult ones. So my apartment is blooming with pretty plants, which I had to ask the ten-year-old downstairs to water for me while I was gone. I have a score of things on my to-do list; the projects I thought were hopelessly detoured seem to be back on track and demanding some attention. We have another PC report to file in a few days and I've resumed my language lessons on a steady schedule. I'm not only tutoring the Roma boys at the foster home, but have started an English Club for ambitious 8th graders, and am visiting weekly some neighborhood children who attend school in the city but would like some time with me, too. My adult class also meets every Wednesday night. Beyond these activities and my regular classes, I have to cook (no restaurants nor fast food in my village), wash and hang clothes, buy groceries, and keep my apartment reasonably clean. Sometimes when I get up feeling tired and think Oh, fiddly-dee, it's the age thing, I consider all I'm doing (plus walking 4 kilometers a day) and think this could make anyone tired. But, of course, when things are going well, it's a very good tired. When they're not, well, I KNOW spring is any moment now, and I know a warm breeze will be tinkling the Gaudi wind chimes I just bought. I know I'll be visiting family and friends in June. Sometimes just knowing is enough.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

So Let the Sunshine In--Please!

It's been a difficult week. Many disappointments--projects taking unexpected detours, poor attendance in my adult class and in the English Club for my 8th grade students and cancellation of my Roma boys' session, a travel agent standing me up, an expired bank card, my brother canceling his trip to visit me (for good reasons, albeit), technology problems, and many of the little daily irritations that seem to accumulate into ball-and-chain hindrances. And to top it off, the weather was just awful--dreary gray and cold, fog or mist or snow in the mornings, mud and overcast skies in the afternoons. We've had so little sun here in the past few months. I've become fairly neurotic about my sun hunger. If there is a ray peeking through and I'm home, I'll grab my sunglasses and peel off as much as I can get away with without neighborhood scandal and sit on the end of my desk at the big window there. I pretend I'm a solar cell and imagine the light seeping into my bones where it will store. I wrote a poem about a fire eater this week, I read travel guides on Spain, and I taught my students two sunshine songs! Yes, I know it sounds desperate, but somehow singing about sunshine seemed to create the illusion. So I mugged, mimed, and otherwise entertained as I sang "Let the sunshine in, face it with a grin," and "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine." Interestingly, they had a difficult time saying "sunshine," which is surprising since the "sh" sound is so prevalent in their language. Anyway, they seemed to enjoy it and paid polite though clueless attention when I tried to explain Seasonal Affective Disorder. (Just get on with the singing, Doamna).****But as with most of my weeks here, this one was not without a few positives--we celebrated the Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary and Peace Corps Romania's 20th. Balloons, banners, M&Ms, and some short videos of Kennedy's original announcement were part of my lessons this week. It was good to hear the original goals again. And Tuesday, March 1st, was also Martisor--a celebration welcoming spring--on which day lovely little trinkets tied with red and white threads are given to girls and women. As with all Romanian holidays and tradtions, much lore and symbolism accompanies the custom--in particular, the woven red and white threads signify the joining of man, wisdom, winter (white) to woman, passion, spring (red) and the various flowers, spirals, icons, and figures (one is a chimney sweep!) have long-held importance in honoring spring. These "martisoare" are supposed to be worn every day from the first to the eighth when women are honored in Romania's version of Mothers' Day (Ziua Mamei), which is International Woman's Day in much of the world. I've heard it's a big deal here and noticed the flower shops stocking up. I'm curious to see how it's celebrated this Tuesday, but mostly I'm just hoping for sunny weather, which, like spring, is promised.