Sunday, December 19, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This past weekend I was able to spend some time in Timisoara with PCVs Katie and Ellis as well as my counterpart and his wife, Vali and Ionela.  There was a beautiful snow almost all weekend so we decided to go out and take some pictures and visit the Christmas village set up in the center.  We bundled up (it is FREEZING here) and set off.

Bundled up, hanging out in a piata.

Katie and I in the center--in the back you can see the Cathedral.

Explaining to Ellis that this was the start of the '89 revolution. I was showing him bullet holes in the buildings.

I was wearing hiking boots and it was still slick--man down!

ANY meat you could ever need being sold in the center.

La Multi Ani! Goes for Happy Birthday, or any congratulatory saying really.

Walking towards the center of Timisoara.

While we were walking in the center, I was talking to Katie when I heard another couple say in English, "Are those Americans?"  Now finding Americans is rare here in Romania, so I turned around quickly and said "Yes! We are! Are you!?" And sure enough, they were. And not only were they Americans, they were from MY CITY IN THE STATES and they had gone to rival High Schools!  Shocked, I about died when the guy said, "Oh, and I was a Peace Corps Volunteer too!" What are the odds?? Apparently he was a volunteer in the Republic of Moldova and completed his service in 2003, now working for the government.  What a small world.

Another highlight of the weekend-my tree is up and decorated! (Pictures to come soon)


My parents come in exactly 7 days!!!!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Silent Night

Tonight I went to my school's Christmas concert and listened to my students sing, play music, and act the story of the Nativity.  As I struggled to make out the Romanian words to the carols, all of a sudden one of my students started singing Silent Night in English.  The whole crowd grew silent and listened in awe as her beautiful voice filled the auditorium.  The words almost brought me to tears and I remembered my family and friends back home, preparing for the holidays. But as she continued singing I felt this awesome sense of peace.  It was one of those affirmation moments, those "you are exactly where you're supposed to be, right here, right now" moments that I love so much. They happen to me a lot here in Romania and I treasure each and every one.  They make me feel alive.

Christmas is coming...and I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Traditional Christmas Pig Killing-Say What?

So it's been awhile since I updated but I have an excuse! I just got back from 1.5 weeks in Sibiu for Peace Corps training.  After 6 months at site, PC hosts "IST" which is "In Service Training".  All the volunteers from my group got together for courses in Romanian language, culture, teaching, etc.  It was great to see everyone and hear all the stories, and fun memories at site from each volunteer.  The time flew by mostly because we had a packed schedule which kept us busy, but we managed to get Chinese food (my first here!), see some beautiful sites, and drink Vin Fiert-which is red wine heated, with fruit and cinnamon-amazing.
Beautiful Piata Mica-Sibiu

A walk to the Center, Sibiu
I arrived back at site yesterday morning, only to discover I did not have any heat in my house-no bueno when it's snowing and freeeezing.  With no response from the "fix it" man, I dreaded going home after school.  During one of my breaks, I got this text from one of my 12th grade students: "My dad is killing pigs today after school if you want to come! Let me know." Knowing that killing a pig for Christmas is a big tradition here, it was definitely something I wanted to watch so I of course said yes.
As soon as I got to the house where the slaughter was to take place, I was promptly given old clothes to change into-wait...what? I was PARTICIPATING? My heart started beating faster-I was just getting used to the idea of watching a pig get his throat slit, but actually participating? That was another story.  I was also given boots, because "blood isn't good on shoes". Ohh Lord help. I changed, and walked slowly outside, not ready at all for what was about to take place.

The only way to keep warm! Oh-And check out that Pig Slaughtering outfit.
It was freezing outside. A soft snow fell and I could hear the sounds of the fire cracking and a biiig pot of water boiling over it.  The only other sound was that of the pigs in their pen-I felt they knew what was about to come.  Three huge men looked at me and said, "Ready?"  (Ok well it was in Romanian) and off we went.  The men wrangled one pig and tied off his mouth with what looked like a wire, the noise coming from the pig is indescribable, so I won't even try to put into words what I heard.  Before I knew it, the pig was on his side, squealing to high heaven, and before I could cover my eyes the throat was cut and the pig was dead.  Was it really over that fast? Suddenly, the pig started to spasm, moving his legs and making noises but apparently that is normal for the muscles after death, even in pigs. They kept assuring me that he was dead...but uhh. He was moving alot, until all of a sudden he was still. Little did I know this was just the beginning.
The second pig that was killed. Take a look at my face right here...
A second pig was brought out of the pen, and the same thing happened: squeal, side, throat slit, collecting blood in a big bowl, then silence. Until my student's father lit up the blow torch. WHAT? Yeahhh the pigs were then scorched with a blow torch to remove all the hair.  This was a long process until the big was blackened.  It was then our job to scrub the pigs with big brushes to remove the burnt skin.  It was after this process that I was given a piece of the skin to eat, they said it was the best.  When in ROMania, right? It actually was pretty good, if you can get past the idea what you just saw Wilbur alive less than 10 minutes before.

My "Pot 'o Blood" from Wilbur. This would be used later for blood sausages.

Blow Torching the Pig to remove the hair. The shovel is also to scrap the hair off.

Don't worry're not next.

He's still concerned.

More fire and hair removal.

Scrubbing the burnt part off.
After the pig was all cleaned up, he was sliced right in half from bottom to top, and off came the head. (not to be throw away though, as brains and other yummy goodness would be cooked up later.  OH but instead of waiting to be cooked later, parts of the ear were cut off for me to eat RIGHT THEN. Again, putting all thoughts of poor Wilbur aside, I ate that ear with gusto.  Actually, it was delicious.
Oh yeah...pig ear. Delicious.

I don't even know what to say here..

The slicing begins...

No head. Sorry to all my queasy people out there. I documented every step.


That was one sharp knife.
  The rest of the day was spent preparing meat, in every way imaginable.  I ate heart, liver, skin, ears-you name it. I helped make the sausage, and that "cleaning of the intestines" part I could do without...lets be real.  And even though I had seen the entire process from the killing to preparing the sausage to seeing the brains while still in the pig-I was able to sit down with the entire family and eat an amazing dinner of, well, Wilbur. It was delicious.

Bowl filled with parts. intestines. Best. Part.

Preparing bags of meat to freeze, and making sausages.
Without a doubt, this was one of the best days I've had here in Romania. What an amazing thing to be a part of, I was so excited to be invited to this sort of event and so honored that this family let me participate.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures. :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is it really December?!

Wow...time is flying by and here we find ourselves already in DECEMBER!! It's crazy!  I hope you all had a wonderful and yummy Thanksgiving back at home.  We were able to gather up about 14 volunteers and our Romanian friends for a huuuge Thanksgiving meal!  We baked and cooked together and we were able to show our Romanian counterparts what a true American Thanksgiving meal looks like (ok, minus the cranberry sauce...we can't find it anywhere here!) We had a bonfire, tuica (because what would a Romanian get together be without it?!) and just enjoyed spending time together.  Enjoy some pictures!
Most of the gang hanging out after the meal, enjoying some wine and vin fiert (hot wine!)

My crew from Recas! Love these people.

My Counterpart and his Wife

Oh yeah..making mashed potatoes for 50 people. Slaving away in that kitchen. Can you tell!? Haha

We found a heart-shaped potato!

Some wonderful volunteers, Brittany and Susan.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I know several of you have asked for the letter that I wrote to my Grandfather for his funeral, the one that my brother read for me at the service.  Instead of putting it up here on my VERY public blog, please send me an email and I will gladly forward it to you. Email:


and HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my family and friends at home.  I will miss being at the beach and watching football with you!  Also big shout out to my cousin, Eli-HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF MY FAVORITE COUSINS. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Again-old pics! Halloween Festival at my School

I organized a Halloween festival at my school for the kiddies-complete with face painting, apple bobbing, pumpkin carving contest, races, costume contest, guessing games, prizes, and a pie in the face contest (which was a fund raiser) that let the students throw pie in the teacher's faces-including me!  It was a huge success, and we even had parents show up to participate and take pictures.  At the end, while mopping up all the whip cream, the kids made me promise we would do it again next year. :)
Awesome costumes from my kids

Vampires were big this year.

This is the school's class president.

Quite the crowd showed up to watch!

They had to reach their hands into the boxes to feel the "hearts" (peeled tomatoes) "worms" (spaghetti) "eyeballs" (peeled grapes) and "brains" (sponges). It was a big hit.

Bobbing for apples!

I was covered in whipped cream. All for a good cause!


Some of the winners for the "Best Costume".

At the Pumpkin Carving Table

My Counterpart, Vali, with the best costume!

Welcoming the crowd and explaining the stations at the festival with Vali.

Guessing how many beans are in the jar. 

The 5th graders sang a Halloween song in English to start the festivities!

Face Painting, another fund raiser.
My favorite pumpkin..or squash. Whatever it was.

I love this picture-touching the brains!!
More Pumpkins!