Saturday, June 26, 2010

PRACTICUM, Minor Surgery, and American Burgers

WHEW. One week of Practicum DONE! I just finished teaching thirty 5th graders and I am Starting last Monday, I taught with Freya and Julie for 3 hours a day at a school in town. My theme for the week was music and I taught the kids musical instruments, music genres, the cha-cha slide (woot!) and my students created their own band and album covers. It was such a great experience-their language level was incredible and we were able to communicate without problems. By the end of the week I was sad to see them go-a few brought me flowers and chocolate on the last day! I felt right at home teaching and I'm happy that I'll be doing this for the next two years!!

I had a little bump in the road on Wednesday-I went to Bucharest for some minor surgery-a mole removal-fun!! Haha. It was painless and only took about 20 minutes-but now I have stitches and that part is painful. Luckily I have Brittany-shout out!-to change my bandages every I'll get the stitches out in about 3 days, and everything should be good. The PC doctors took care of me and it was free-so can't complain!

Language classes are going well-I have a huuuge test or "evaluation" on Monday. There are six stations set up in the school and I have 5 minutes at each station with a scenario-like ordering food at a restaurant, buying tickets at a train station, buying clothes, etc. There is a professor running each scenario and I'll be graded on how I preform. Wish me luck!!

Today I'm at my friend Aron's house with about 10 other volunteers working on lesson plans for next week. He lives in a nice house outside of town and he has WIRELESS INTERNET!! So we're here today. We prepared a nice American BBQ for his family including real American burgers!! Little known fact-if you order a hamburger here you will most likely receive a chicken to have a real ground beef burger was so excellent today.

We find out our sites in 1.5 weeks--I cannot believe it. We start week 6 on Monday--week 6!!! Can't believe I've been there here this long. Time is flying by since we're so busy.

More to come later. I miss you all-love you!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

IFV to Onesti

This past weekend I went to the small town of Onesti, located about 6 hours north of where I live. It has a population of about 56,000 and is known for being the birthplace of the famous gymnast Nadia Comaneci who participated in the1976 Olympics. I was in Onesti for the Peace Corps Integrated Field Visit, or IFV. The point of IFV is to visit a current volunteer in his or her site to see their work, home, and town to get a better idea of what is out there waiting for us! So my language group and Romanian professor headed out Saturday afternoon. We took a “maxi-taxi” or large shuttle van for the 6 hour trip. All was fine except for the insane heat. With no air conditioning and only one window open due to the “curent”, we were sweltering. The easiest thing to do was to fall asleep and pray we got there sooner rather than later. J
We arrived in Onesti, met up with PC volunteer Liz, and she led us to our hotel. We ate dinner at a restaurant where we could watch the World Cup and then called it a night.

On Sunday, we had language lessons with our professor then headed out to meet up with Liz. In the PC, you have your main job assignment, then secondary projects that you work on to better your community. In Liz’s case, she is a TEFL volunteer-or English teacher. On the side, she works with a local non-profit orphanage that holds approximately 100 children. The majority of the kids (90%) are severely mentally and physically disabled. They do not attend school nor will they ever. On Saturday, we took the able bodied kids out to the park to spend time with them. We had so much fun just hanging out and getting to know the kids. We bought them water and ice cream, and we swung on swings and chased one of the kids all over the park since he was in rollerblades. Lucky for me-the majority of the kids spoke Spanish (they learned from Spanish Soap Operas) so I was able to speak in broken Romanian and fluent Spanish-crazy!

Monday was spent at Liz’s school, where we met her Romanian counterpart and saw her classroom. She shared with us her lesson planning book (YES!) and we met a few principals and students. One of the most surprising aspects of the afternoon was the fact that lady gaga was blasting on the loud speakers in between classes. Lady Gaga and Pink. Strange.

Monday afternoon we picked up more kids from the orphanage, although this time we took our some children with severe disabilities. We walked them to the park and mostly swung on the swings with them, just letting them enjoy the nice weather away from the center. It was quite an experience for me, and so amazing to see my fellow volunteers interact together with such kindness and patience with each child. It was an experience I will never forget, and we were honored to spend time with each one of those children.

Monday night we spent one last dinner with Liz, hearing more and more about her experience with the PC and welcoming her advice. (Don’t spend more than 34 lei on shoes, do not compare your PC experience with other volunteers, and when you get to site, accept every dinner or event invitation to help integrate yourself into the community.) We headed to bed early because we headed back to Targoviste this morning at 6:15AM. I walked into my apartment and promptly fell asleep for 5 hours…exhausted from the weekend and the heat!!

This next week I will be focusing on my Practicum. Practicum is when the trainees teach here in town for two weeks and we are observed and given advice on our teaching. We have to come up with all lesson plans and teach an hour each day to HS and then to Middle School. I’m very nervous but also excited-just need to do my lesson plans! J
Missing you all. Hope you’re enjoying the AC back at home!! Haha. Until later,


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More Pictures!

Freya and I at the Lion Club!

Finishing up Ultimate Frisbee


Hello from my apartment!

View from my bloc...

My host mama told me that when we eat cherries we put them over our this. WHEN IN ROMANIA!!! haha.

We found a playground at night, this ride was pretty hilarious. We are 18-29 years old. Haha.

Ruins near my house-Dracula lived here!

Roses are pretty!

Ladies at the BBQ!

Teaching them how to shuffle.

A Romanian BBQ-Tomato and Cucumber Salad!

Highway to Hell


Thank you to those who commented on my blog and sent me emails in response-I love getting comments. I wanted to answer some more questions that you all had.

I am not supposed to be specific as far as exact location of where I live. However, I am about an hour south of the capital city-Bucharest. It is a fairly large town and there are no mountains around me. Mostly flat land, some small hills and forests but mostly flat and at the moment-HOT. My walk to school is about 30 minutes in the morning, and I’m sweating by the time I walk into class..lovely right? It is insanely hot and let me explain something interesting about this country…they do not believe in opening doors and windows at the same time because of the “curent” (or flow of air) that will make you sick. Everything is blamed on the curent.

For example-when you are in a hot, sticky bus traveling for a long (or short) distance, you might be sweltering but no one is going to open a window because the air flow will make you sick. Sick as in ear aches, headaches, a cold, the flu, you name it-it’s the “curent’s” fault.

Another example-when in class, it is perfectly fine to open our window and let the air in, but if the window is open, the door is shut, or vice versa. Lastly-this is true in my house as well. I can sit on my bed, windows open with a nice breeze keeping me cool but I MUST have my bedroom door shut. Interesting, right?

I had a pretty amazing weekend and I wanted to tell you all about it. Friday night I went with my friend Freya and her host sister to a club on the outskirts of town. Now, this was my first Romanian club experience and I didn’t know what to expect-but I definitely was shocked when I walked into the place. This club was AMAZING. Huge, beautiful, ornate, loud music, crowded-a typical American club! However, this had an extra little addition-a LION. Now animal rights people-you know that I’m the biggest animal hugger around, but something about having a caged lion in a beautiful club while in Romania was UNREAL. It was definitely a “first” for me and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I frequent the “lion club” as the volunteers have named it. And did I mention that it was built to resemble a castle?? Lions, castles, Romania-ha!

Saturday was a great day as well. One of our volunteers (Kyle from DC-woot!) celebrated his 25th birthday so all 44 of us headed to a large park to spend the day in the sun together. We played (the boys played) Ultimate frisbee, we sang, ate good food, played cards, and just spent time together. It was surreal to be playing games in this huge field and not 200 yards away from us was a tower that DRACULA used to live in. Amazing. I have pictures and I’ll post them soon. My host mom was concerned about me being gone all afternoon without lunch. I tried to explain in my broken Romanian that we were all bringing food and I would be ok but it sounded like.. “uh….mergem la parc…nu am nevoie mancare ta rog…” and I don’t think it was clear because she packed me a sandwich anyways. And a drink. And a chocolate bar. And an apple. Our host families love to feed us! (Tangent-just tonight, I walked in from school and my momma said “Hungry?” I said yes, thinking I would get a snack and she ushered me into the kitchen where there was a HUGE spread of food. I had a chunk of fish (watch the bones-Lauren…Espana??) I had a huge heap of rice with a mysterious but amazing green sauce over it. Then there was a bowl of salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives and feta cheese. When I thought I was done she pulls out from the microwave some cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and seasoning (typical Romanian dish) AND finally, some mamaliga, another traditional dish which is a corn meal bread thing with a white cheese mixed in…picture will come soon. To make a long story short-I have learned to say “I’m full” pretty quickly so fewer courses come out!)

Sunday was going to be a lazy day for me-I had planned to watch a movie with my house sister “P.S. I Love You” and do homework, but around 12:30 she gets a call from her boyfriend asking if we want to go to the country for a BBQ and of course we said yes. We got ready and her boyfriend and 4 other friends picked us up for a drive into the country. I had SO MUCH FUN. We drove to a site about 20 minutes from my town and parked the car right in the forest. Everyone started pulling out blankets and food. Knowing that this was a bbq, I figured I would see some hot dogs, or hamburgers, or maybe even sandwiches but this is Romania and of course they don’t have American BBQs. It was even better- fresh cheese, bread, tomato and cucumber salad, hard boiled eggs, salami, Coke, and popcorn! We sat around and ate, played cards (I’m learning more Romanian card games!) and then set off into the forest to pick wild strawberries. They actually aren’t strawberries they are much tinier and look like our strawberries but I don’t know the Romanian word for them yet so for now-that’s what I’ll call them. J The whole time we’re eating and picking berries the car stereo is on and I feel like I’m in the twilight zone because all that is coming out of that car is American rock and roll or hip hop. As I’m in the forest searching for elusive berries and surrounded by amazing flowers and trees-“Highway to Hell” is blasting and I can’t help but laugh. Most Romanians might not know how to speak in English, but they can sing every word to every American song that plays here. It’s amazing! After Highway to Hell we had some Little John and the Eastside Boys. Then some “Dream On” by Aerosmith. I taught the boys how to shuffle cards and they taught me how to play Romanian Rummey. We stayed until around 7:30 then drove home, exhausted, eaten alive (still hurtin!) by mosquitos, but I now have 4 new Romanian friends have experienced my very first Romanian BBQ!

This week at training is going well. We’ve had some current volunteers come speak to us about teaching English to multi-level classes and ways to teach English to beginners. We’re all excited because Saturday we leave for a four day trip to visit a current volunteer at their site somewhere in Romania! We will be traveling with our language classes (I have 5 in my class) and with our professor. We’re not sure where we’re going yet but we find out on Thursday! It will be great to see a current PCV and to see his/her site and how they live. More info for you when I find out more myself!

Ok time for some studying and HW. The plural masculine and feminine are killing me. Oh-and the adjectives. Whereas in English we have one adjective for everything (the ball is red, the balls are red, that ball is red, those balls are red) in Romanian you have to say the adjective in four different ways depending on the noun you’re describing. FUN! La revedere for now. Love & Miss you all. Pa!

Friday, June 4, 2010


A view from the Tower where Dracula had lived.

Gogos! Amazing donuts..8 for $2.00.

The pond at a big park near my house. Beautiful!

My new friend!!

In the country where we stopped to pick flowers.

A day in the life...

Buna din Romania!

Hello again from Romania. ☺ I wanted to answer the questions I received after my last blog and update you all on my training and activities over here. It’s 10:14PM here (a mere 7 hours ahead of most of you!) and the dogs are barking/fighting in the street, the confused rooster is still crowing-I find that he likes the hours of 6AM, 7AM, 5:30PM and any other hour of the evening that he fancies that day. So with roosters, dogs, and my lady gaga playing in the background, its time to blog!
So my dear Aunt Mary asked me what the typical food was-what I eat on an average day. Well I will tell you all what I ate this very day to give you an idea. I’ll also include my schedule for the day so you know what I’m up to.

6:45AM-Usually wake up to the rooster crowing, the dogs barking, and sometimes the occasional cat fight outside my window. None of these things bother me as I ALWAYS wake up to a nice sunny morning-so bring on the animal noises.

7:15AM-My house sister knocks and asks me if I’m coming to the table for breakfast. Obviously I say “da!” and I head to the kitchen where my host mama has laid out meal for us. This morning I had these chocolate corn flakes-now here is where it gets interesting. They pour the milk (lapte) into the bowl BEFORE the cereal, and they heat it in the microwave-warm milk ready for some cereal. I had to eventually tell them that I preferred my milk cold. ☺ Anyways-I had chocolate corn flake cereal, and cut up potatoes with cheese sprinkled over them and sliced tomato. Tomato is almost always at every meal, and I now happen to love the tomatoes for breakfast.

8:00AM-I meet my friend and “blocmate” (I live in an old communist bloc apartment) Freya to walk to school. This usually takes about 30 minutes and we meet other PC volunteers along the way. Tomorrow we are determined to stop and buy a pastry from this bakery we pass every day. We can put it off no longer! The smells are amazing and since it’ll be Friday-we’re going to treat ourselves.

8:40-12:30PM: ROMANIAN LANGUAGE CLASSES. Let me tell you-they are intense. Today alone we received and went over 82 vocabulary words and there are 7 more verbs to learn and conjugate in the lesson. The classes however are wonderful—I only have 6 volunteers in my class so the small, one on one attention helps us to learn even faster. For example today we learned fruits and vegetables. We all had to bring in a fruit or veggie because after we learned all the names, we prepared a fruit and veggie salad-all the while learning the verbs for “wash, peel, cut, put in (the bowl) and eat. The Peace Corps does a great job of creating fun activities to get the lesson across-activities I’ll have to use in my own classes soon!

12:30-1:30PM: Lunch. This is when I usually check my email (none of you are up yet at this point! Haha) Lunch is a sandwich made by my mother, with yogurt, an apple, or some other type of fruit and usually a small dessert made by her. Let me explain lunch time because its hilarious. The Romanian host mothers think we don’t eat enough, and every day we take out our lunches to see how many sandwiches have been packed for us-the record right now is five. FIVE! Haha I told my mother that one was plenty so luckily I haven’t had to ration any off. On my sandwiches is usually a cheese spread with cut up cucumbers-sounds interesting but its very good. I will sometimes have ham and cheese with cucumbers-something that I’m definitely brining back to the states!

1:30-5:00PM: PC technical training. These afternoon sessions are where we learn more about teaching English as volunteers, safety and security issues in Romania, Medical information such as information about the pin worms we have a 75% chance of getting during service (look them up!). Today we had a current volunteer come and speak to us about teaching techniques for speaking and listening activities. Always good information and a nice way to end the day- the training instead of conjugating verbs. ☺

5:30-8:00PM: Sometimes I hang out with other trainees after school, doing homework and chatting before we head home. We’ve found some great cafes and bars with CHEAP prices (less than 75 cents for a beer) and so we usually hang out a bit before we part ways for the evening. When I walk to my bloc and walk the numerous flights up the stairs to my apartment, my house mom usually greats me with plenty of questions about my day at school. She then ushers me into the kitchen to feed me dinner. Tonight I had a meatball soup for an appetizer, then a plate of this cabbage mixture with a thick bacon-like meat on the side. She served it with a tea she makes from a flower from Romania-its AMAZING. I’ll get the name and tell you. She always has fresh fruit too, which I love. Strawberries are her favorite so I get plenty of those. Also she likes kiwi so I find the occasional kiwi surprise in my lunch. Yum!

8:30-11:30PM: During this time I’m either playing cards with my host sister and her bf who is over every night for dinner, or doing homework and studying. I’ve learned to play this card game called “Macowa” it’s very similar to Uno in the states. They have also taught me the names of each card in Romanian (hearts, clubs) which is cool. When I can’t keep my eyes open any more-I go to bed and sleep like a baby!

SO to answer your question Aunt Mary-the food is actually pretty amazing. I love the breakfasts of cheeses, cucumber, tomato and a bit of meat with bread. I have also found some amazing hamburgers (ok they call it a hamburger-it’s a chicken patty) for only TWO RON. That is less that 75 cents for a huge burger. They also put French fries right on the burger-which I’m bringing back to the states too. Ha! I find they use a lot of potatoes as well as make a lot of different kinds of soups. Cabbage is also widely used. I haven’t seen a lot of red meat, but we’ve had chicken a few nights.

This weekend should be fun. The house sister is taking me to a salsa dance night tomorrow and then Saturday I’ll be in the park with the rest of the volunteers for Kyle’s b-day party. (Another volunteer). Sunday my house momma asked me to cook dinner sooo I need to figure out what to make—they wanted something American but then I started talking about tacos and now they want Mexican. Go figure.

I wanted to tell you about a dog I’ve befriended on my walk to school. He is ADORABLE-looks a bit like a beagle but definitely has pointer in him or something. Anyways, he always has his tongue sticking outside the right side of his mouth and I asked my host sister why it was like that. She said when he was a puppy he chewed through an electric cord and got electrocuted! Hence the tongue always flopping around outside of his mouth. I will get a picture soon!!

I am also adding some pictures on here of the Romanian countryside. I went with my friend Freya to her family’s country home. We played with LITTLE kittens, and picked poppies on the side of the road, and met a family of geese. Amazing.

Before I sign off-weather: It is beautiful here right now, probably high seventies or low eighties, sunny, and gorgeous! However it is supposed to get VERY hot in the near future, so I anticipate we’ll be sweating all the way to school each morning. Luckily I have hot water at my place so showers are no problem! Once I get to site…that could be a different story… ☺

Miss you all. Love you!