Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another Clean up Day!

Last Friday our ecological "green team" from the school went out to the lake in our town and cleaned up trash that was surrounding the area. From the field, to the lake, to IN the lake-it was pretty bad.  However, after four hours of hard work, 20 students and 4 teachers (Brittany included), we ended up collecting 100 BAGS OF TRASH and a few tires, a TV, a car bumper, and even a rotting sheep head. Lovely!! It was a great time to hang out with the kids and work together for a great cause. They make me so proud. At the end of the day, the mayor even came down to congratulate us, gave us some chocolate, and invited us to a BBQ he is going to throw for us, for all the hard work they students did! 

But first-another clean up day in a neighboring village next week!
This man was actually fishing out of the lake..the kids even said.."uhhh... no." (We are in the back picking up trash!)

100 bags of trash=Success!

One of the houses that is near the lake...we were cleaning up the field in front of it.

Before we started.

Some of my HS boys pitchin' in to help.

The rotting sheep head. Complete with fur.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ziua Mondiala a Apei (or World Water Day as we say in English)

Yesterday we celebrated International Water Day with the students who are part of our ecological team-Scoala Pentru un Viitor Verde (School for a Green Future) We all piled into a bus and drove to Timisoara where we visited a water plant called "Aquatim". We were led on a guided tour and learned how water is taken from the Bega River here in Timisoara and how it ultimately ends up coming out of our faucets, clean and ready to drink. It was a pretty cool experience to walk along the river, then see the 10 steps of cleaning cycle. 
The beautiful Bega River, Timisoara
The Plant we visited-AquaTim!
One of the water filters.

The kids were into it and they were, as always, wonderful and ready to explain anything in English that I didn't understand.  I love that I don't even have to ask for a translation but inevitably a student will just walk up and ask if I understood, and if not, will willingly try their hardest to explain it to me. 

Happy Water Day Ya'll!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Snaggle-Tooth's official. It appears that my favorite street dog, Snaggle-Tooth has disappeared. The pup has been around ever since I moved to my site and he always greets me as I walk by his usual spot in the park. The poor dog has the worst under-bite and teeth I've never seen on a dog but he's so ugly he's cute. (Ask Brittany, Aron, Katie or Freya!) I usually give him some bread or food when I passed by, a little pat on the head, and he walks off, tail wagging, content for at least that moment.

I just don't know where he has gone. He didn't seem sick, nor too skinny.

I miss him. One of my "constants" in Romania is missing and I just hope he's found a greener, richer patch of grass to lay in for the time being. I can't make myself think anything else.

*This is NOT Snaggle-Tooth but pretty darn close with that under-bite.*

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Primăvară A Sosit! (Spring has arrived!)

It's official. Today, for the first time in months, I rode my bike to school. I felt the warm sun on my face, and finally saw a blue sky for the entire day. Spring is here! I left school and was in shock at how much warmer it felt than even yesterday. I stood in the center park, head towards the open sky and just soaked in the rays for a few minutes-how I have missed the sun! As I continued home, I weaved through people sitting in plastic chairs and enjoying time together outside their homes, obviously relishing in the change of temperature. I haven't seen that many people outside since last fall! With the rolling green hills of vineyards in the distance, I smiled and felt relived that the rough winter months were over. What a great way to start my weekend.

As you know PC celebrated its 50th Anniversary on March 1st, and I organized a HS competition and dance to celebrate. All month I taught the kids about PC-from basic facts to the goals and motto, to my experience as a PC volunteer.  The kids wrote essays about PC and a few made me tear up when they wrote what it meant to them to have me in their school.  On March 1st, we had a Jeopardy style competition between the HS classes with questions about PC. The teachers and other students all came to watch and it was a great time-congrats 10th grade for rockin it. After the competition we had food and music for the students and teachers and it was a wonderful time to socialize and celebrate PC. I made some "American food" like brownies and apple fritters and some of the students brought in traditional Romanian food-sarmale, eggplant salad, hard-boiled eggs in some sauce-yum.  Together we celebrated and danced until late in the evening.
Setting up the tables with good, American stickers, etc.
The boys helping to set up-but mostly goofing off!
My helpers-11th, 7th, and 9th graders.
My "American" food, brownies and apple fritters!
Ready for everyone!
Romanian/American foods
We were packed in!
Two of my sweet 10th graders.
Dancing the traditional "Penguin" Dance.
More Penguin dance.
Also on March 1st was the Romanian holiday of "Martisor".  I mentioned it earlier but it is basically a celebration of Spring.  Martisoare are made, which are little trinkets that have a white and red string. You wear them as pins on your clothes and give them as gifts.  I stayed with the kids in the center as they sold homemade martisoare as a fundraiser.  They were raising awareness about domestic violence and asking people who were walking by to fill out a questionnaire regarding the same, sparking discussion. It was great to see them work together to fight such a huge problem in Romania and the world. They make me so proud!
Selling Martisoare in the Center
Preparing the questionnaires.
Martisoare, the Center, and the Catholic Church
Some of my 5th graders.
Close up of the Martisoare!
Anca, the PE teacher (left) and the HS students.
The boys from 10th grade asking me the questions from the survey.
Lastly, I've joined an environmental committee at the school that has joined a national cause-Scoala Pentru un Viitor Verde. (School for a Green Future). We are currently discussing a projects for each month until June, and will submit our work to the national foundation to be judged with other schools. To start, a wall of the school has been designed to promote creating a "green" school and to raise awareness about environmental issues. The students did a FANTASTIC job-as you can see below.
The tree they created-each flower on the tree has a picture of a student or teacher in the committee!
My flower.
I think the flowers are so creative.
Working on the wall with the kids.
I LOVE this part-look at the detail of the frog, bird, and the grass on the wall. Beautiful!
The last few weeks have been busy yet wonderful.  My adult classes with Vali have been going on for a month now and they are going very well. I will be looking into started a Mural project soon and also will be starting to volunteer at Generatie Tanara Romania-a NGO that works in Timisoara and around the country to fight human trafficking. Katie and I will be working with them this summer with their summer camps for refugees.

This weekend I will be going to the Opera with some of my students and enjoying some free time to relax and plan for next week. I will be hosting a taco night for some of my Romanian friends as they have never had tacos-can't wait!

Monday, March 7, 2011

You might be in Peace Corps Romania If...

I've been thinking a lot about my service recently-how it's been almost 10 months in country and about all the things that I've done in that time. How my life has changed in ways I probably haven't even realized yet (can't wait to see how I'll react in a Costco or Target-overload!) and how I can't seem to wrap my mind around the fact that I'm one third of the way through with my time here. I was recently looking at another volunteer's FB page and she had an album for PC Romania-"You know you're in PC when..." and I decided to make one of my own. So thank you Chelsea M-some of theses are hers and most are mine. Here we go-the top 15 (in no particular order) reasons why you know you're in PC Romania...

15.  You have eaten cabbage (or VARZA as we call it here) in more ways than you could ever imagine. Honestly, I didn't even know cabbage could be used for so much. And in fact, I'm never calling it cabbage again as "VARZA" is just so much cooler.
It its purest form.
 14.  You find it not in the least bit strange to run into a herd of sheep and their shepherd on the way home from the train station. In fact, you start to wonder where they are and even worry when you don't see them for a few weeks.
New friends.
 13. You are able to talk about the differences between Tuica, Palinca, and Horlinca-all types of homemade liquor. You come to expect it at every dinner invitation and you take pride in the fact that after 10 months in country you can actually drink a glass or two without making that "what is IN THIS?!" face. That stuff is STRONG.
Pretty much sums up the drinking and festivities.
 12. You have set up a Yahoo Messenger account, High Five account, or something else I had never invested time in before because EVERY student has them and they need to contact you about homework..or ask one more time if you ever met Hannah Montana.
They are so heartbroken when they realize I really HAVEN'T met her  
11. You are no longer impressed when you see cows walking themselves home at night.  But DO they know when it is time for dinner? And which way to go!? Ok maybe I'm still kinda impressed.

10. You can't imagine your life without a SHOARMA. How did you live before? The deliciousness of the pita with the chicken and the fries and cabbage and sauces and onions-heaven in your mouth. The common street food turned delicacy. And per Brittany G-"Don't you EVEN waste your time on a small one." Go big or go home.
Will be recreating this in the states.
9. You actually learn how to cook. (Ok maybe this is just me) But you're now able to make cookies and even Romanian dishes from scratch and what is most important is that you can make flour tortillas for those taco night with Volunteers. Thanks mom and dad for all those Taco Seasoning packets!!
Never thought I would love these so much.
8. You become an expert on the Romanian train system. You can describe the differences between a Personnel, Accelerate, Rapid, and Intercity trains without hesitation. You discover that its really not worth it to pay more for the Rapid when you will arrive 2.7 minutes before the Accelerate.  And don't you dare open that train window...
Oh hello Personal Train.

7. You cannot send a letter home without it taking weeks (OK or months-I heard some of you just got my Christmas cards!)  but you can download an entire TV series in a matter of a few hours and that new movie you saw just came out in the states? Yeah I got that too.
My new obsession. Mad Men.
 6. Mamaliga has become your "staple" food during that last week before you get paid every month. You've become incredibly savvy and creative with the corn meal, adding things like cheese, eggs, sour cream, salami, and even a bit of sugar if you're eating it for breakfast.
Oh yeah..look at that Mamaliga.

5. The street dogs are the smartest damn dogs you've ever seen.  They cross the street at the appropriate crosswalks, sit where they will get the most food, and always escort me to the train station when I'm alone.  I've adopted several of them and know each one that hangs out on my walk to school.

4. You start to crave anything spicy.  Your wish list home includes things like curry sauce, chili pepper and Tabasco sauce. However, once you actually get a hold of something spicy you realize you can't even handle it anymore because your taste buds aren't used to it. (I'm not giving up though!)

3.  You will forever consider American weddings slow and SHORT after attending Romanian ones.  For it truly is not a wedding unless you're dancing, drinking, and eating until 5 or 6 in the morning and the bride has been stolen and returned to the party. Seriously.  And pace yourself with the food, because the 7 course meal just keeps coming and coming.
One of the weddings I attended!
 2. Your Romanian expressions randomly come out when talking to people back at home and much confusion ensues. But "o sa vedem" sounds so much better than "We'll see" and "ce sa fac?" is just more poetic that "what can I do?" And I'm also never saying "sour cream" again..."Smantana" will forever be it's replacement.

1. Your travel plans now include places like Bosnia, Serbia, Cyprus and Istanbul.  You also take any opportunity you can to see more of Romania.  From Transylvania to the Black Sea, Moldova to Banat, there are thousands and things to do, see, and explore. The people, the food, the customs-life is never boring here in the land of Dracula and there is no where I'd rather be during my PC service!
Traditional Costumes and Dancing in Maramures, Northern Romania

There are so many more and I'll continue to update these as time continues to fly by!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Martisor!

Today is a huge holiday in Romania-MARTISOR! It is basically the celebration of spring arriving (ironic since it is the COLDEST it's been in awhile) and students give teachers (females) little trinkets with a red and white string, you wear them like a pin. Also given are flowers and chocolates. Here is some information about the holiday that was sent to me...

Locating the ... Mărțișor (Romanian pronunciation: [mərtsiʃor]) is a traditional celebration of the beginning of Spring celebrated in Romania, Moldova, and all territories inhabited by Romanians and also Aromanians. Almost the same custom can be found in Bulgaria (see Martenitsa) and similar ones in Albania and Italy.

Giving it a name …  Mărțișor is the diminutive of marț, the old folk name for March Martie, in modern Romanian), and thus literally means "little" or "dear March". It is also the folk name for this month. 

A little bit of meaning Mărțișor, marţ and mărțiguș are all names for the red and white (or black and white, also blue and white) string, from which usually a small decoration is tied, and which is offered by people on the 1st day of March. Giving this Talisman to other people is an old custom, and it is believed that the one who wears the red and white string will be powerful and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming spring. Usually, women wear it pinned to their blouses for the first 12 days of this month, until other certain spring celebrations, or until the bloom of certain fruit-trees.

A little bit of history in the past, martisors were made with black and white threads to signify the opposing forces of the world: good and evil, life and death, darkness and light. This tradition persists in some regions, though it has largely been replaced with the colors of love. Today, martisors are made with red and white threads. The red color symbolizes blood and womanhood and the white color represents the male spirit and snow, their combination meaningful for relationships. 

Today was also the 50th Anniversary of the PEACE CORPS! So Vali and I planned a huge Peace Corps Jeopardy competition for the HS and then a dance complete with food-American and Romanian. It was AMAZING! More pictures and details to come with the next blog... :)
Happy Martisor/Spring/Peace Corps Anniversary!!