Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Little Brother.

 Yesterday was my little brother's birthday (and my Aunt's!! Happy Birthday Auntie M!) so I decided to dedicate a blog to him today. Travis-you are such an important part of my life and I don't know what I would do without you. Life would definitely be boring...what would I do if I didn't have a brother who....

...wore cool aviators in the pimped out Volvo station wagon?

...stopped everything to make a ramp off the front porch in the middle of a blizzard? At age 21?

...has mad ups?

...creeped on almost every picture taken within a 20 foot vicinity? excited about candy Thanksgiving turkeys?

...woke up looking like this? Even on Christmas morning?? (Don't kill me for this...I've lived with that morning face for 23 years. :) 

...was there for me no matter what, through thick and thin. And to match clothes with. Ok-not planned.

 ...rocked the long Bieber shag long before it was cool.

 ...loved pumpkin patches just as much as I do. Maybe even more.

...eventually parted with the Bieber shag and turned into the man he is today.

I love you little brother, I'm so proud of you and I'm honored to be called your sister. Rock out your 23rd year and I'll see you in 2012. Miss you.

                  (Insert secret handshake)


Finally, FINALLY fall is here! 

 My favorite season has arrived and I couldn't be happier. Lately the mornings here in Recas have been deceivingly cool because by the time I leave school it is blazing hot, which makes the walk home pretty uncomfortable. I've been desperately waiting to feel the crisp cool air that represents my favorite time of time. Finally, I got my wish. Today I walked outside for the first time in 2 days (I've been sick...that "back to school" flu I get every year from being around my little rug rats again.) and "that" air was there. I took a deep breath (as well as I could considering the circumstances) and closed my eyes. When I opened them, I noticed for the first time the leaves have actually changed colors and even started to fall onto the ground. Fall has crept into my little village and I hadn't even noticed. Funny how it takes something like being sick to make us slow down and appreciate our surroundings.
picture by Michael Stecker

Fall. It was this time last year when I felt most homesick. You see, for me fall represents the best part of the year in so many ways. Pumpkin patches, crisp air, hot apple cider, pumpkins and gourds on every front porch, my birthday. I love being able to wear warm, over-sized sweaters and scarves while sitting on a hayride and picking out my own pumpkin from a patch that spans for as far as the eye can see. And I actually really, really love carving pumpkins and pulling out all that nasty pulp. Gross.

So I left my house today in a foul mood, sick and feeling bad that I had a mountain of dirty dishes in my sink, a bathroom to clean, lessons to plan and an article to write that I just can't seem to get right no matter how many times I stare at the words on my screen. My goal was simply to go to the store and buy soap to clean said dirty dishes and detergent to do laundry (oh-yeah that has been piling up too). But when I walked out my door my mood instantly changed as the cool air hit me. It also helped that I found a kitten trailing me on the path to the store. The tiniest kitten I've seen in awhile was playfully batting at my shoelaces and chasing me. I finally relented (OK after about 5 seconds) and picked her up. She snuggled close for some love and started needing into my warm, over-sized sweater. Then just as quickly as she arrived, she jumped away, running down the path for a new adventure.

Nothing like Fall in New England

So today my mood has been lifted. I've opened all my windows letting the cool breeze flow over me and my little apartment while I do laundry, clean those dishes, nurse my sickness, and start planning for my school's Halloween Festival. After all, 'tis the season.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer Adventures from my 10th Grade

So I had my 10th graders write a short story about their summer. They were told to be as creative as possible, and the story didn't necessarily have to be true. The catch was that they were to write the first sentence, then pass their paper to the next person who adds to the story. Then the third person, and so one. At the end, the story is usually hilarious and this time I wasn't disappointed. I told them to start with the following sentence: "This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY!" Some of the stories flowed, some of them-not so much. Here are my favorites. (I changed some of the spelling/grammar mistakes so that you could read them a bit more easily...)

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I was on holiday with my friends. I visited my grandparents and my old friends. I went to a girl! Awesome! I have a girlfriend! I have a girlfriend! I a falling star...oh my god! I love it! She's hot! I ate very much in this summer. I bought a big bear, it is nice. Summer time is beautiful." -started by Elena

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I rode my bike. I have alot of troubles with my girlfriend..she doesn't want to go to the disco with me and my motorbike...aaaaa!! I went shopping and i lost all my money. I met a beautiful boy....I fell in love. It's fun and it makes me happy. I ate many, many peaches and I drank 3 liters of water a day...and you know what happened after that...crazy!" -started by Alexandru 

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I was baking a big cake and I couldn't get it out from the oven. I got spooked and it started to smell like burned hair, and I was very scared because the smell was very strong. Then, I threw up. I threw the cake into the bathroom and the smell disappeared. After that i went and smoked a lot of weed. I climbed into a tree and I fell into a lake with water snakes." -started by Amalia

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I was at a wedding and I had a drinking contest with a friend, and I won. I want to drink too! But I won't! This is such a crazy story that I don't understand anything." -started by Costi 

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I want to go to another country. London, UK! What do you think? Yes, I do think that is good, but Hawaii is an even better idea for a holiday! At the end of my summer I went to Las Vegas and lost a lot of money." -started by Alexandru

 "This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! We saw a bear who was chasing us for more than an hour. We just ran and ran and were scared, and then we ran into a vampire. I fought with the vampire and I broke his arm. Then we played football. I went home and stayed in bed, I fell asleep with the doors and windows open." -started by Diana

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I was in Arad at my grandmother's and I broke a window. But it was good because I didn't break the window with my ball, I broke it with my hand! :) I like facebook! :)" -started by Luciana

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I went to Oltenia to meet my grandparents. After I saw my grandparents I went to Felix. Then I went to the sea and I almost drowned in the sea because I didn't know how to swim. After that I started to run half-naked home, through the woods and I had the impression someone was chasing me. After that I went home and went shopping. And to see a movie." -started by Alexandru

"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! In this summer I was in Herculane and I did alot of swimming even though I don't know how to swim. Afterwards, I went to a pizza restaurant and I ate 2 pizzas and 4 colas. And I ate a lot of fruit. I like pizza and in this summer I ate pizza every Saturday. I eat a lot of canned food." -started by Sami


"This summer was the best summer of my life, but it was CRAZY! I was shopping and a car hit me. Then I woke up in a hospital. When I saw where I was I screamed and the doctors put me with the crazy people. I make friends there and I tried to escape with the crazy people. I escaped but the police saw me and caught me and put me in a horrible room with rats. And the rats had babies and they made a horrible noise." -started by Laura
Just some of my creative 10th graders.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Things that go bump in the night.

Tonight is one of those nights...a night where I can't seem to fall asleep and every little noise in my apartment is making my heart beat just a bit faster than normal. It is 3:17AM and I am wide awake. I can't explain why I occasionally get like this...sometimes once my head hits the pillow I'm out light a light.  But other times, such as tonight, it is just not happening.  It might have something to do with the fact that I had random and scary knocking and beating on my window at 9:30PM tonight. It might be that I took a nap this afternoon after school and probably slept a bit longer than I should have. Maybe it has to do with the start of the school year this week, and my mind is racing with things to plan, projects to implement. Or maybe, it's just one of those nights. A night when I'm hit with that feeling of being utterly alone at night, in an apartment in western Romania.

Now I'm not scared of the dark, and never really have been. (OK-I admit as a child...ok teenager....I ran like hell up the basement stairs once I turned the lights off..can you honestly say YOU didn't?!) But when I'm in this apartment at night, my eyes deceive me and that towel hanging on the door is just plain creepy.  The curtains seem to have shadows in human form.

I sleep with my bedroom door open so that I can hear if my gas meter goes off in the kitchen. (This has happened a few times and let me tell you just how disconcerting it is to wake up to your carbon monoxide meter going ain't fun. Probably a malfunction, but still.) So in order to hear the alarm, the door stays open and my bed faces the door and sometimes, that just freaks me out too. Add that to the random water I hear trickling from the upper apartments and the rooster than randomly crows outside, and you have one scary setup for 3:00AM. And if the electricity goes out? Forget about it.

I realize, after reading this, that I probably sound like a 6 year old complaining about the Boogieman under her bed. I mean, I've been here over a year. I love my town, my apartment, neighbors and community. It is one of the safest places I've ever lived. (Anyone recall my stories from Guatemala? Gunshots, dead bodies, drug trafficking?) So WHY do I lay here utterly freaked out at times?

That is yet to be determined. In the meantime...I invite and any all visitors. That includes all of you in the states.

I hear the Boogieman goes down easier when there are at least two of us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer Recap

I just returned to my apartment after a month of camps, PC trainings, and a bit of volunteer visiting. It has been an amazing (and busy!) summer and it keeps getting better because my brother Troy and sister-in-law Caitlin arrived today for a visit! They are currently passed out (its 9:15PM) and so I'm going to take this time to let you know what I've been up to the last four weeks.

GLOW Camp: Maramures (Northern Romania)-As I stated in the last post, I spent a week helping fellow PCV Sara Monson work this camp for young girls, empowering them as women and teaching them life skills such as (but not limited to!)  safe sex, how to be a leader, volunteerism and the importance of it, effective communication, giving positive feedback, and the incredibly important skill of.... tie-dying t-shirts!

Our shirts, drying on the line.
There was lot of hair braiding going on. And Tie Dye.

The group in our tie dye creations!
It was a great week, complete with talent show, campfire (we taught the Romanians how to make s'mores!) and at the end of the week, everyone was in tears saying goodbye.  The idea of a structured, girls-only camp is pretty foreign in Romania and so we were all really happy with the outcome and overall positive response from the girls. They were begging us to do it again next year!

MST (Mid-service training): Sinaia, Central Romania-Sara and I took a night train directly to Sinaia after the camp (12 hours!) and showed up about 5:30am to the Grand Rina Sinaia Hotel. I love trainings mostly because we get to stay in a nice hotel in a beautiful city with air seriously though,  the trainings are great because we get to see the volunteers in country and learn a thing to two to help us along with our service.  This training was focused on legacy projects and teaching skills in the classroom. Since Peace Corps has announced we are leaving Romania in the year 2013, we are focused on creating and implementing small or even one large legacy project before we go. More on that later.

This training was unique because we had group 27 (my group) and 28 there, the newbies. It was nice to meet everyone and be together for the week. I enjoyed witnessing the fresh-faced optimism and I was renewed while hearing how excited they were to be here and how ready they were to make a difference. I have absolutely no pictures from Sinaia but trust me when I say it was a beautiful town, surrounded by mountains and much cooler weather.  However, the service around town left a lot to be desired. Every restaurant we went to seemed to have an ornery waiter or we waited forreverrr for our food. Then, on the second to last night, my phone was stolen right out of my purse while we were out at a bar. That was fun.

BRASOV: Central Romania-So after a week of PC trainings, a group of us decided to go to Brasov-a neighboring town and one of the most beautiful cities in Romania. We enjoyed actual Mexican food (and tequila shots on the house!) as well as a real burger (usually they are made with chicken, or a mixture of pork, chicken, and beef here..ugh). We visited the Black Church, the largest Gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul, and took a ride up the mountain to the "Brasov" sign, much like our Hollywood sign.

Me, Chelsea, and Julie. Love these ladies!

Jeremy and I checking out Brasov from the mountain.

Standing in one of the narrowest streets in Europe-Rope Street. 1.32 Meters wide!

Riding the telegonda to the Brasov sign. Chelsea might be freaking out just a bit.

Main Piata in Brasov.

Freya and Julie in the Piata. You can see the Black Church in the background.

A church on the site of the first school in Romania.


Freya and I-can you see the "Brasov" sign on the mountain?

Peace Corps travel right here.
We met an amazing girl from London who currently teaches English in Russia (Moscow) and we've decided to visit her this winter! I know...Russia in the winter...but we're doing it. More details to come as we find a sponsor and work out or visas for the trip.

PLOIESTI: Southern Romania-After Brasov I headed down to visit Ploiesti and the surrounding area.  It was a wonderful and relaxing week-it's always fun to visit other volunteer's homes and villages.  There was a lot of cooking, walking around town, meeting neighbors, and feeding stray dogs.  We found a neighbor who sold homemade wine and stopped in to buy some. For a mere 25RON (roughly $8) we bought a 5 liter jug. Can't beat that. The man then showed us around his home, farm, and garden and loaded us up with homegrown veggies-I love Romanian hospitality! We ended the week celebrating Aran's  (PCV from group 28) birthday. I headed back to site Sunday night and after a month of being gone, collapsed into my bed and slept for hours.

Aran the birthday boy in the middle and Candice, another PCV

Candice the dog whisperer. Feeding the strays.

And now, Troy and Caitlin are here to visit and we're going to do a wine tasting tomorrow and my site's winery, then head into Timisoara for some touring around. We'll then go to Sibiu (Central Romania) on Friday and stay a few days then head back for the first day of school on MONDAY. Yes-school is starting up again and I can't believe it! More to come later...