Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SITE VISIT!!

I’m back from my site visit to Recas! It was a jam-packed four days, full of meeting people, seeing my school, visiting the town, and basically seeing where and with who I will be spending the next two years of my life with. I’ll just give you a daily schedule so I don’t forget anything!
Tuesday Morning, 6:30AM: My counterpart (his name is Vali) and I head off from Targoviste for our 10 hour drive to Recas. Vali had brought his car to pick me up so that I could take the majority of my stuff to site now, instead of lugging it all on August 7th. He also wanted me to see the countryside and stop a bit along the way at bigger cities. So we headed off bright and early for our journey. The countryside of Romania is beautiful, full of corn fields as well as sunflowers for miles. We stopped first in the city of Targu Jiu, home of the famous sculptor Constantin Brancusi. We went to the central park where we took pictures at some of his famous works, the Endless Column and the Gate of Kiss as well as the Table of Silence. After some pictures, we continued our journey to Petrosani, a beautiful town surrounded by mountains, rivers, and cliffs. Our last stop before Recas with Vali’s hometown of Caransebes. We stopped to meet his mother and brother, who (even though Vali said we were going to stay only five minutes) gave me a table full of ham, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, eggplant salad, a cherry jam, and some sausage. Of course we then sat and ate a bit before heading out. On the way out of the town, Vali told me that I HAD to try the mici in this one restaurant in town. Remember mici is the Romanian meat that is served all the time-it looks like a sausage but it’s filled with three different types of meat, and its served with mustard. Anyways we went to this restaurant and indeed, it was the best meat I’ve ever tasted here. Before we left I said to the owner “Micii au fost cei mai bun din Romania!” which basically translates to the mici was the best in Romania! We headed on our way-our next stop Recas!
About an hour later we arrived at my site. Granted, it was 10:30PM at night so I didn’t see much of it then, but yes, that’s right-our trip took a total of 16 hours!! I actually did not stay in Recas for the evening because my counterpart lives in Timisoara with his fiancĂ©, and they had prepared a place for me to stay in their house. Timisoara was about 20 minutes from my town, and I arrived, met his fiancĂ© who is a wonderful woman, and promptly went to bed. J
The next day we went to visit Recas! We started at my school, which was beautiful. I am working at a school that has grades 1-12, and I will be teaching 9-12th as well as a 4th and 6th grade class. The school is equipped with three computer labs, a biology and chemistry lab, and they even have a smart board-google it! Outside they have an Astroturf soccer field and an indoor gym complete with bleachers. I have to admit I was shocked at the resources available to use in my small town of 5000. The town basically consists of a main street which leads travelers to Timisoara. There are some side streets with houses but any kind of store , the town library, the community development office and the bank are all on the main street. I was able to meet the mayor, and my vice principal. My principal was actually in the hospital because she just had a baby last Sunday, but she will be there for school on September 15th. I was able to also meet one of my students. Her English was incredible but I also heard she was one of the best in the class so I’m still expecting mixed level classes.
The town is surrounded by vineyards, rolling hills, and five surrounding villages. My town, as I’ve said before, is known for its wine. There are several large vineyards with an underground tasting room, and its wines are sold internationally. In the village next to me, they are known for their horse breeding. I’m not sure about the other village as of yet, but I’m sure I will find out soon enough.
In the days that followed, I was able to visit Recas a bit more as well as the lovely city of Timisoara. Timisoara was the city that started it all. It was the first city in Europe to have electric street lamps and the second to introduce horse-drawn trams. In 1989, Timisoara was also the location of the start of the 1989 revolution against communism and Nicholas Ceausescu. Known as one of the most modern and westernized cities in Romania (besides Bucharest), I’m happy that I’m so close to such a great place. It has every comfort that I could need in case I need to relax outside of my site. It has several malls (one of the best in Romania!) and also very nice movie theater. The parks are gorgeous, and the buildings have a Hapsburg influence and they are stunning. I also found a McDonalds and a KFC. (I don’t know why, but KFC is a big deal here. It’s in every major city and they love it…I haven’t figured that one out yet.) Anyways I have put a bunch of pictures up on my facebook account, and I will add some here for you to see.
On Friday night Katie, Breanna (two other volunteers close to my site) and I decided to take a night train back to Targoviste. We figured it would be fun experience and the most convenience since it’s a 10 hour train ride back to site. We bought tickets for a four person “cuseta” and luckily, no one else was in our room so we had it to ourselves. It was the best 10 hour trip I’ve ever had-slept the whole time and at 6:30AM woke up with about an hour left to Bucharest. Once in Burcharest, we hopped on a maxi-taxi for the hour long treck to Targoviste. About 45 minutes in, our maxi taxi broke down in the middle of a small village in the middle of nowhere…which was an adventure. We waited for the driver to repair the engine and took pictures of kittens, the horse-drawn carriages driving by (they are called Caruta) and debated whether we should just hitchhike back. Deciding against hitchhiking, we waited for about thirty minutes and then we were back on the road. Finally home after an insanely crazy long week, I took a shower, unpacked a bit, and went right back out to meet up with the other volunteers who were back in town. J
My experience was great-I’m totally excited to see where I’ll be living for the next two years. Ironically, I actually didn’t see WHERE I’ll be living because my housing is not worked out yet. Cross your fingers for an apartment to become available! However I’m so happy with my site, its gorgeous and everyone that I met is excited to have me and is ready to work with me on schooling and secondary projects. I feel blessed that I have a large city right next to me, and I have another volunteer (Katie) about 15 minutes from my site as well. These next two weeks of training will fly by and on August 6th, 2010, I will officially be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer at the Ambassador’s residence in Bucharest!
“There comes a moment when you realize that anything is possible, that nothing is too good to be true. Don’t just wait for inspiration-pursue it. Give yourself time every day to think and dream for yourself. Let your imagination run free. This is your time, and this is your place. Stretch your wings and fly.” –Anonymous

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pictures of Timisoara: The "BIG CITY" next to my site!







The beautiful Timisoara!
























Part of the town square.









3 weeks left...AGH!

Whew-where to start?! This last week has again flown by! I received my site, had my first weekend of sickness, and have been preparing for our Counterpart Conference, which is this coming weekend. Lets back up though-I GOT MY SITE!! We had a huge “Site Announcement” ceremony last Wednesday. The RO country director was there and we were lucky enough to also have the US Ambassador in attendance! He came with his family and spoke to us about our role here in Romania. He is a big PC advocate and even invited all the volunteers to his house for Thanksgiving dinner! Now, unfortunately, I cannot post my exact location or village name on this public blog, but I can tell you a bit about where I’ll be. If you want to know the exact location, please email me or shoot me a Facebook message and I’ll let you know!

I can say that I will be in the Western part of the country, which borders Serbia and Hungary. I am located close to the bustling city of Timisoara, which you can find TONS of information on online. I’m really, really excited about being near a large city while still getting the small village experience at my site. My site has less than 9,000 people, which will be quite a change from the over 1 million in Fairfax County!! I will be teaching 9-12th grade, with three 4th grade classes thrown in. J My pupils will consist of Romanian decent, but I will also have Croatians, Hungarians and Roma. I will most likely teach secondary classes such as American culture or American history in addition to my English classes. There is so much more information I could write here but I’ll wait until I get to my site and get a better idea of everything before I add it! One last little point is that apparently I will have Internet, phone, and cell service at my location---WAHOO!

I will be traveling to my site next Tuesday, but first we have our Counterpart Conference this weekend. A Counterpart is a Romanian teacher from our respective schools (in our cases, another English teacher but native Romanian) who has been assigned to work with us and lead us in our new sites. They work with us on lesson planning, community integration, and hopefully will be one of our first friends at site. This weekend we will meet our counterparts for the first time and get to know them through a series of training and cultural sessions. Once the conference is over, I will go with my counterpart to my site and will be there until next Friday, the 23rd. (My Dad’s birthday!! Happy Birthday Dad!!)

I am nervous, excited, anxious-so many emotions all wrapped up together at this point. This is what I’ve been waiting for. The last 3 weeks are the final steps in this whole training process and then we’ll be ready to head out on our own. I am sad to leave my friends (who have quickly become my Romanian family) and professors who have tirelessly taught us Romanian in only two months. The PC training has been intense, yet intensely rewarding. There are moments that dragged by, yet now I can’t believe that we’re almost on week 9 of 11. My trip to site will be amazing. Finally, after a yearlong application process, and 11 weeks of training, I’ll be able to see where I’ll be serving for the next two years of my life-incredible!

More to come either this weekend or when I’m home from my sight visit. More pictures to come as well. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." William James

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Photos- Fourth of July and Practicum!

MY SCAR!
















My friend Doreen at the 4th of July Party

















































SITE ANNOUNCEMENTS-WEDNESDAY!!

Sorry it has been so long since I’ve updated! Things have been crazy-the last two weeks I had Practicum and I barely had a minute to sleep much less update. So here goes!

Practicum was amazing-like I said the first week I had 5th grade and the second was 8th. My kids were wonderful, attentive and willing to learn which made teaching them very fun! Some highlights were when one of my fifth graders asked if I was coming back next year, because I was her “most favorite” teacher. J In the 8th grade, one of my favorite memories was when I taught a whole lesson on Stereotyping. I wasn’t sure how the kids were going to take it but the lesson went amazingly well and as they were walking out at the end of the day, one of my more rambunctious boys said “That was a fun lesson! It was a great day!” Nothing like getting the stamp of approval from a student who is one of the most difficult to entertain! On the last day both weeks I received bouquets of flowers, chocolate, a cute coffee mug, and a little religious artwork from Targoviste. While it was a hard and tiring experience (creating lesson plans and the pressure of being observed by PC, all while continuing language lessons in Romanian and homework from language class), I am so grateful for the experience and will miss my kids! I learned a lot, got to observe some other trainees, and received great feedback from the PC staff. Another PST milestone-ACHIEVED!

NEXT STEP IS SITE PLACEMENT! Throughout PST, we’ve had interviews with the Country Director and the Site Placement Officers to determine where we will be placed for the next two years. We’ve been asked questions like “would you rather teach Highschool or Middle School?” and “If you had to choose, would you like a small village or a middle-sized town?” I’ve tried to come into the interviews with no expectations or specifications for a site, or even special requests, because I know we cannot always get what we want. I trust in the system and trust that I’ll be placed where I need to be and make the best of wherever that may be! So we find out our sites on WEDNESDAY! There is a ceremony here at our school; the Ambassador and his family are coming-I can’t wait to meet them! I’ve told my parents to call me at 3:00 sharp when it’s over to share the good news. I’m so excited I think that Tuesday is going to DRAGGG by.

Hope you all had a Happy 4th of July!! It was surreal to be here for such an American Holiday, and I have to admit I missed seeing fireworks, but we ended up having a GREAT bbq with our gazdas (host families). We trainees organized an American 4th of July Party for our families complete with face painting and an egg toss! We made American salads such as potato and macaroni salad, and the apple crisp was a sweet success-thanks Ryan! Meat for hamburgers is incredibly expensive here, and honestly REALLLLY not the same as in the US, so we grilled chicken and mici-a Romanian meat that looks like a hamburger/hotdog but is actually a mixture of different kinds of meat formed into sausage like shapes. Delicious with mustard, mici is my favorite meat here. Although Maria-it is no Churasco from Guatemala! J

After the gazdas left, we cleaned up and went to a fellow volunteer’s house to have our “American” party! Her gazda has a beautiful home, and we filled the guest house (yes, guest house-it was huge), eating, drinking, dancing, and just enjoying being together. We played mafia, danced to Cotton-Eyed Joe, sang other American songs and around 11PM left to finish all the homework we had put off all weekend. Haha. It was a great 4th of July-one of three that I will spend in Romania!

Side note-I did go to Bucharest Sunday morning to get my stitches removed. Picture to come soon. All is well!

On a personal note-I am loving my time here in Romania. There are moments, just like in the states, when I am frustrated, tired, and lonely for my friends and family. However, I truly love what I am doing and am so honored to be in this place. Every day I fall a little more in love with the people here, the food, the customs, and the language. My fellow trainees are inspiring and we really have a wonderful network of support and friendship. Learning new ways each day to be a successful volunteer is rewarding and exciting. Learning the differences (and similarities!) between Americans and Romanians is hilarious and at times, downright puzzling. I did a lesson with my kids on Superstitions: America v. Romania. Here are some of the Romanian Superstitions I thought you might be interested in:

1. Do not whistle in the house-it is bad luck.

2. When you leave the house, make sure you step out with your right foot first. If you leave with your left, you will have bad luck all day.

3. If someone steps on your foot, you must step on his or your mother will die. (Similar to our-step on a crack and break your mother’s back??)

4. It is bad luck to own a rabbit, a fish, or a bird.

5. If you sit at the corner of a table, you will never marry.

Lastly-I want to say Happy Birthday (or La Multi Ani!) to my wonderful sister, Mary. Happy 20th girl! You are an inspiration to me and I hope that you have an amazing day across the pond. I love you and miss you-maybe you could be here for your 21st? J

Hope you all are happy, healthy and well. Continue to live with passion, embrace the unknown, and get out there and experience LIFE!