Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crispy Rice

I don't even need to say this again on my blog, but I will. You all know I can't cook. I try, I really do.  I have held dinner parties, made cookies for my students, started a Cooking Club at school (Lord help me), but no matter what, something always seems to go wrong.

 (The only thing I have in common which this picture is the utter look of confusion on her face.)

I've burnt pasta. I've put pepper where salt should be. I don't even want to tell you how many times I've set off the fire alarm in my apartment. But here I am, not giving up, and hoping that one day it'll just "click" and the cooking gods will shine upon me. It hasn't happened yet.

Flash forward to tonight. Once again, I invited some friends over for dinner.  Last time, I thought I would "do something easy" and picked spaghetti. I am embarrassed to say that I burned the pasta (too much in the pot) and instead of serving a meal to my friends, my friends were running around, adding water to one pot, moving spaghetti to another...I would rather not talk about it. ANYWAYS tonight I decided to go for something I KNOW I'm good at. STIR FRY! And Romanians don't eat that kind of food so I knew it would be a new experience for them.  I had everything chopped and ready, purchased some chicken which is a big deal as meat is EXPENSIVE here, and put the rice in the pot to cook.  I had timed everything perfectly, so when they walked in the door the veggies, meat, and rice were ready to be served.

(Ok, so this is not a picture of MY stir fry. But its close, minus the chop sticks..and cute plate. And broccoli.)
We all sat down at the table, and I explained to them that we put soy sauce on it, and I showed them how. Then, they took their first bites. It went something like this:

(chew chew chew...)
Catalin: "Mmm! This is good! You need to tell me how to make rice like this."

Me: (Thinking--WHAT? Make rice like what?) "Oh I'm so glad you like it! What do you mean about the rice? How is it different?"

Catalin: "It is crunchy! It is so good. I've never had homemade Chinese food."

Me: (MORTIFIED, WHICH RESULTED IN QUICK THINKING) "OH! Yeah I don't do anything special, just take the rice off the burner before you're supposed to. I think it adds something to the stir fry."


Catalin, this is my apology.  The rice was not supposed to be crunchy. In fact, and I swear, I have never made crunchy rice in my life. It was undercooked and I'm sorry that in my moment of complete mortification (is that a word?) I took credit for the wonderful crunchy rice, the crunch was not intentional. 

But I'm glad you liked it. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yes. Justin Bieber. Thanks to Amanda Decenzo.

I'm currently creating a flyer for the Fall Festival I'm helping to organize next week at school..the whirl of my washing machine blends quite nicely with the Justin Bieber song that is currently playing on my ITunes. Yes. Bieber.  THANKS AMANDA! :) I'm cold but I've cranked up the heat so hopefully that will kick in soon. Ah, another night in Recas.

Things are going well here at site.  I've gotten into the "teaching groove" and really am enjoying my classes.  I've given an few tests and am pleased with the progress that my student's have made, especially 9th grade. My 5th and 6th grades are OBSESSED with the "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" song (we're doing body parts) and they even performed it for my counterpart. Haha! My high school kids are always fun to have in class, and they are currently working on past tense verbs by keeping journals of their daily schedule-in English of course. I explained to them that I did this when I was in training in Targoviste, and I read them a few examples of my journals in Romanian. They got a big kick out of my accent but mostly seemed fine with the idea and I've noticed small changes such as " I DID my homework", not "I MADE my homework." I also always seem to read, "I looked at the TV" instead of "I watched the TV". I had to make that correction real fast and they laughed when I asked them if they sat there and looked at the TV as it was off... :)

Good weekend to come-I've been invited by the High School to be a judge for Mr. & Mrs. Recas at the Prom on Friday! Excited about that then off to Arad for a Peace Corps 80's night. Should be spectacular. pics of my 80's hair to come for sure.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cinderella, Cinderella...

I just finished scrubbing all my floors on my hands and feet, hence the title of this blog post. I guess I could have bought a mop, but I'm kinda strapped for cash this month so until we get paid from Peace Corps, I will continue cleaning without one. With some Eminem (don't judge! I always clean to hip hop) blaring in the background, I scrubbed and cleaned and my knees now hurt but I feel so much better. Who likes a dirty floor? "Cinderella, Cinderella.."

I have to admit I'm in a bit of a funk. Recently I've been hearing comments about Peace Corps Romania. For example, we get the "Oh, that's POSH Corps over there, you have everything!"  I've been made fun of for having a TV. I've been told that my job as a teacher isn't a real PC job-I'm not "roughing it" enough.  I've been told that because I am able to find brown sugar at my grocery store I'm spoiled.  Where is this negativity coming from?

Just like every other Peace Corps Volunteer out there I decided to give two years of my life to service in another country.  I also said goodbye to family members, friends, loved ones.  I sold my car, said goodbye to a nice paycheck, I paid off all debts before I left, and threw myself into another culture, language, way of life.  Yes, I have a TV, and yes I can get the Discovery Channel. But that is if my TV is actually working, or the channels are coming in clear.  Yes, my house has heat. But even with the heat it can be freezing here!  And yes, yes I do have a washing machine.  But my clothes still air dry on a line inside my house, and that can take days, and days, and days this time of year.

I have worked hard to be here, and I am continuing to work hard here in country.  I have learned Romanian. I know how to cook Romanian meals. I have integrated into my community, and become a better teacher with better lessons and practices. All of this hasn't been easy. I guess what I'm saying is that it strikes a nerve in me each time someone tells me that PC Romania is easy. No, we don't live in huts in Africa, we don't have to take malaria pills, and we do not have to get our water out of a stream, boil it, then drink it.  But we have our challenges too, in different ways.  In many ways it is so hard because this country is similar to the US, but then you find out that it is actually more different than you could ever have imagined. The similarities are deceiving.

Thank you to all of you who are supporting me and sending love my way, I miss you more than you know.  I'm sorry this blog has a sort of negative vibe but I want to be truthful with you, have you ride out the good times and bad with me.
A student in my 10th grade told me today, "Sara, you're always happy. You always have a smile on your face." And I am, I really am happy here. I love teaching. I love this country, and I know I'm right where I should be.  So thank you to those whose faith in me got me this far.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm still here!

Just wanted to shoot a message out there saying I am sorry I haven't posted in awhile! I was gone last weekend on a wonderful trip then jumped right back into school this week and haven't had a second.  Actually right now the pictures I want to post on here from last weekend are not cooperating so as soon as I get them straightened out I will post all about my trip to Oradea and Negreni!

Thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes and comments. :) And thank you Mom, Dad, Troy and Caitlin for the wonderful packages!! Pumpkin bread mix..yum. :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Birthday Suprises :)

So I was working on lesson plans just now, watching some Discovery Channel (Animal Rescue!) and someone knocked on my door. I looked through the peephole and saw my friend Silvia and her mother.  I opened the door and they started singing Happy Birthday! Silvia was carrying presents, flowers,  and a beauutiful homemade cake!! What a beautiful surprise.  They also  brought a CD player and some great traditional music and taught me Romanian dances! Here are some pictures...

 Beautiful flowers and Cake!
 Silvia's momma! Love this lady!
 About to cut the cake...
 Listening to traditional music :)
Sooo delicious!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

School Stories

It is hard to believe that I am starting my FOURTH week of school at this point--FOURTH! It has flown by, and I'm sorry I haven't written about it yet.  I wanted to give you an idea of my weekly schedule at this point in my service.

I teach 16 hours a week at my school-I teach 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders and each class has 2 hours of English a week.  However, I work with the other three Romanian English teachers and split their classes with them. For example, the 5th grade class has 30 students.  We split them in half, and I see 15 of them on Monday, and will see the other 15 on Wednesday, when they have their second English hour. Here is a picture of one of the classrooms-although not mine.  I will get some pictures of my room this week.

All my students have been fantastic. They are so excited to have an English teacher from the states, I feel so welcomed every time I walk in my classroom.  While there is one class that is a little more "rambunctious" that the rest, they are for the most part attentive, respectful, and a joy to teach. I refuse to speak Romanian in the classroom-I find the best way to learn a foreign language is total immersion. However, yesterday when explaining the concept of keeping a journal of your daily events for English class, I read my HS students my journal from Romanian classes in Targoviste-my daily schedule in Romanian. They LOVED it.  Anytime they hear me speak Romanian they are amazed and it is fun to see their shocked faces. :)

A funny translation story from yesterday-one of my 11th graders was working on his journal as I asked them to do in class. I could tell he really didn't want to work, he looked exhausted and when I asked him why he wasn't working, he looked at his blank paper, looked at me,  and said in perfect English, perfectly serious "Teacher, I will resolve this at my house tonight." Lol. Resolve.

The teachers have been wonderful, accepting me as the newbie and giving me helpful advice on the students, the school, and my life here in Romania in general.  I have been given homemade jams, fresh homemade bread (Cozonac-it's a traditional and very delicious bread), homemade bean, mushroom and eggplant spreads-I am overwhelmed by the generosity of my new friends here and am so grateful!
Here is a picture of Cozonac:

I will soon be starting a cooking club (ironic, I know), and continuing a film club that my Counterpart Vali started last year. I am excited about both.  I'm also looking into doing something for Halloween but we'll see.

Tonight, I'm making my first cookies from scratch. In Romania, when it is your birthday, YOU bring sweets for other people, unlike in the US. SO I am making sugar cookies--we will see how they turn out.

Oh-PS it is freeeezing! Only October and currently I am wearing 5 layers (2 pair of socks) in my house.  Thank goodness for long underwear.  This might have to be my next purchase...