Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving with the Ambassador and Language Weekend.

I am currently on a 9 hour train headed back to my site after a whirlwind of a weekend in Bucuresti and Ploiesti. My journey started with an eventful night train Tuesday night and after switching to a bus and continuing on a 2 hour journey to my friend Sara’s site, I was finally in Moreni Wednesday by 1:00PM. Yes-18 hours after I left Recas I arrived across the country and to my destination. I’m exhausted just typing that.
I had decided to stay with Sara (she’s a PCV in my group) the night before Thanksgiving at the Ambassador’s house because lets face it-after all that travel I needed a good night’s sleep before dressing up and making an appearance at the ambassador’s residence. Sara lives in a beautiful town of about 20,000 called Moreni. We enjoyed catching up and she made some AMAZING chicken parm and garlic bread. Girl can cook. We picked out and finalized outfits for the Thanksgiving dinner (hey-it’s not every day we get to dress up!) and called it an early night.
Moreni-Sara's view every night.
 Everything went as planned on Thanksgiving-we took a maxi-taxi to Bucharest and got ready at the Peace Corps Headquarters. I felt almost like I was back at the dorms in college again-5 girls getting ready, curling hair and trying to iron out the wrinkles in dresses and jackets before heading out. So fun!
The Ambassador’s house was amazing. Beautiful and homey, we were welcomed with open arms by the family and given wonder foods and drinks to enjoy before being seated. Not only were PCVs invited, but there were State Department employees and even the Ambassador from Turkey was there. I ALMOST felt like I was right back in America-complete with the Ambassador’s Labrador “Buddy” strolling around like he owned the place. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a purebred dog. Ha.
Where we ate our meal. Gorgeous!

Go America! Inside the Ambassador's home
 The setting for the meal was gorgeous-tables surrounded the indoor pool which had floating thanksgiving decorations with flowers and candles. And the food-WOW. Everything I could have ever wanted for Thanksgiving and the stuffing was out of this world. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go and have that experience at the ambassador’s. Thanksgiving is always a big holiday (usually spent at the beach!) for my family and while it was sad to be away from them, it was amazing to be surrounded by my PC family and friends.
Mostly excited about the stuffing.

Sara and Tara, PCVs

Barbara, Aran, and Michael, PCVs group 28

Jessica, Sara, Tara, PCVs

The gang!

Megan and I-she got that hat for less that $2.00 at a second hand store!
 After Thankgiving I headed to Ploesti (about an hour outside of Bucharest) for a Romanian Language Learning Weekend. With 12 other volunteers, we met at Jeremy’s site for Romanian lessons with our professor from training, Simona. The theme was “Romanian Cooking” so we learned how to make 4 traditional meals and learned words such as “to strain, to peel, and to sauté” We learned how to make Sarmale (the rolled cabbage meal), ardei impluti (stuffed peppers), zacusca (an AMAZING spread consisting of eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.) and finally, vin fiert-the hot spiced wine served here all winter long.
We're learning! PCVs in Ploiesti for the Language Weekend

Sara is paying attention, as you can see. :)

Oh hey Valerie! 3rd year PCV!

Nick preparing the eggplant for Zacusca

How many PCVs does it take to DESTROY a kitchen? Sorry Jeremy. :)

Aran keeping a close eye on lunch.

Peeling peppers.

Andy making a mess.

MMM eggplant!

And some traditional clothing, because why not?
 We had a little glitch in the weekend when a fellow volunteer was bit by a stray dog at Jeremy’s site. For PCVs, when this happens it means the next few weeks you’re taking your behind to Bucharest for a lovely series of rabies shots! I believe this is the 4th volunteer I’ve heard of having to get rabies shots because of dog bites. While I never had had an issues with dogs in Recas or Timisoara, I know they are a huge issue in Bucharest and over there on the east side. Luckily Stephen was in good spirits and called the doctor right away to schedule the shot cycle. What a pain though!
This week is busy as well with 2 days of classes, then a Romanian holiday on Thursday so no school. I am traveling to the bustling city of Cluj-Napoca for my long weekend then I’m heading to training with UNICEF back in Bucharest on Monday. All the while trying to plan some Christmas activities for my kids at school such as a clothing/food drive, caroling (English AND Romanian!) and a Christmas cantata of sorts with singing and traditional dancing.
So stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, of course.

I am thankful for...a family that loves me and supports me unconditionally in the decisions I make for my life.

I am thankful for...friends that I can go months without talking to but when we do get the chance to catch up-we pick right back up where we left off.

I am thankful for...the opportunity to teach English to amazing kids in Romania.

I am thankful for...a McDonalds with wireless internet in Bucharest. Layovers in the train schedules aren't so bad now.

I am thankful for...heat in my house. I know I said this in the last post BUT IT'S TRUE. There are many volunteers here without adequate heat and I know how lucky I am in my apartment. Did I mention it's FREEZING here now??

I am thankful for...an Ambassador who whole-heartedly supports Peace Corps and who is hosting an amazing American Thanksgiving Meal for us volunteers tomorrow. Hello turkey and pumpkin pie...where have you been for the last 20 months.

I am thankful for...badass bunicas (grandmothers) on the trains. Last night proved to be a bit freaky when a crazy, drunk, and smellllyyy man wouldn't leave me alone then tried to steal my water bottle. From my lap. Good ol' bunica kicked him right in the shin and he hobbled off. Love my train grandmas a.k.a. guardian angels.

I am thankful for...my PCV support system of friends. The only ones who truly understand this PC experience-the good, the bad, and the downright hilarious.

I am thankful for...care packages. Really-pumpkin spice latte mix?! Goldfish?? VOGUE!? You all SPOIL me!

I am thankful for...a counterpart who is literally amazing. Supportive, understanding, never upset-Vali you are wonderful to work with. Thank you for encouraging me to try any project I want and to fight for my ideas with the other professors. You make my job SO much better. (And I know every other PCV agrees with me!)

I am thankful for...real bacon that I just discovered in my village. You heard me. Bacon.

I am thankful for...my family's tradition of going to the Outer Banks every Thanksgiving. Football on the beach, Capt'n Franks hotdogs, Brew Thru, Eli's birthday, getting stuck in the house elevator, frosted oreos and seafood dinners- SO many memories and I wish I was there with you all now. I hope you enjoy your week-and don't forget to hit up that outlet sale in Duck!

Hoping you ALL have a blessed Thanksgiving week.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fill in the blank Sunday

I know, I know it has been forever since I've posted-I seem to be in a bit of a blog funk. In my defense, it has been a crazy and hectic last two weeks and this week will be no exception-complete with Thanksgiving dinner at the Ambassador's house in Bucharest! More information to come regarding what the heck I've been up to since my last post, but for now-something fun.

1.   A nervous habit I have is   picking mascara off of my eyelashes. Then the mascara gets on my fingers and I can't stand that so it's a vicious cycle. LUCKILY I've been doing a lot better managing stress so this hasn't happened in awhile.

2.   Something that makes me sad is  thinking about my last day in Romania. Saying goodbye to my students/friends/new family who have been with me the past 2 years and who have taught me so much will no doubt be one of the hardest days in my life.

3.  Today I am thankful for   a working heater and hot water!! It is FREEZING in Romania today.

4. My favorite room in my house is   my kitchen. Cooking has turned into one of my new favorite hobbies. Yeah-I hear you laughing from the US now. :)

5.  I can't stand  when girls wear spandex as pants. 

6.  If I had an extra $100 to spend on whatever I wanted today I would   not spend it. That is 300 lei and a lot of money to me these days! :) I would put it towards my trip in the spring-it would go right into the "DON"T YOU DARE SPEND THIS UNTIL MARCH" envelope.

7.  The last person I hung out with was   6 wonderful PCVs who came to visit this weekend! Chili and cornbread, a wine tasting, tours of my school/town, trip to Timisoara and an amazing meal our last night-it was a great weekend with amazing people.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Puppy Pack.

These pups are the "bloc" dogs-in other words the ones that hang around outside my apartment. Today they decided to follow me to my door after I arrived in the center from the train station. They looked rather cute in the process so I snapped some shots.  Some of them have been around since I arrived, others have been born in the time since I've been here, and they are always together sleeping near the dumpsters. I wish I could take them all in!

It's hard to get a shot of all of them...its not like they know to sit or stay when asked.

Oh hey guys! This one on the right is an old man.

Skinny boy..but really sweet and usually the first to approach me.

I love the guy in the middle-just staring at me.

My favorite! He sits and waits for me to come out of my apartment then follows me around.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Love from the States.

Today I woke up early, excited to travel to Timisoara and pick up two care packages that had arrived! I love love love care packages from home. I am so blessed to have friends and family that have been supporting me non-stop since I arrived in Romania-I am so grateful. On the way to the train station I decided I would document this trip with photos so you can see what I do and where I go to pick up all these wonderful presents. So here it is.

The "VAMA" or the post office were I get my international mail is only opened on the weekdays from 8-12 and therefore the only day I can go is Friday when I don't have class. Being Friday-today was the day! I left my house around 8:45AM to catch the 9:33AM train from Recas to Timisoara. I guess I was half asleep because as soon as I bought my ticket and sat down to wait, I realized my shirt was on inside-out and I was missing an earring. Struggle.

Sheep on the route.

The train came and after about a 30 minute ride, I arrived in Timisoara. Luckily, the Vama is right next to the train station so it was just a hop skip and a jump next door. I entered the building and immediately walked up these steps.

I reached the first floor-but this is not where I need to be. This is where I would go if I need to mail something, or buy stamps or supplies. So I continued onward.

After climbing another set of stairs, I reached the second floor. I took a left  (as the sign says, "enter after the corner") and I found myself in a waiting room of sorts.

 The waiting room.

Ah, here is the door I need and so I entered. Once I'm in this room I have to show my passport, sign for the packages and occasionally pay the holding fee if the packages have been here for more than a week. I LOVE the people at the vama and always make sure to give them some candy or wine from Recas when I come. They are always interested in"what has arrived from America!" and always ask if it's from a husband or boyfriend. Every. Time.

I always bring a bag to transport all my goodies because it's much more convenient than trying to haul boxes back. I walk a long way from my train station home so my handy-dandy bag on wheels (isn't it chic?) always does the job.

I'm usually done by around 10:30AM but the next train back to Recas doesn't leave until 1PM. So I hang out around the mall or go grocery shopping for the week-it's cheaper to shop at a larger store than in my village. Around 12:30 I head back to the train station and buy another ticket home. Then I wait for my train.

Nice graffiti. I think he loves his toys!

And there is our train! Wheelie and myself board and 30 minutes later we're back in Recas. After another 20 minutes of walking, we arrive home and I get to open everything and freak out and miss America and all my friends and family. Ahh, goodies from afar. They make my MONTH. Thank you so much to EVERYONE who has sent me some love in the form of  socks, candy, toiletries, candles, food, and so much more. I miss you more than you know.

Oh who has some pumpkin spiced latte mix?!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eco-Fashion Show.

After looking through my photos from my time in Romania I realized that I never posted pictures of the Eco-Friendly Fashion Show that my school hosted at the end of the school year last May! It was part of the "Scoala Pentru un Viitor Verde" campaign (School for a Green Future) and the contestants had to design their outfits entirely out of paper, plastic, and "trash" materials. I was amazed at the creativity of the designs and with the school traditional dance team performing mid show-it was a successful and fun experience for all. Take a look!
Birdhouses my students made for an ECO project!

Getting the dresses ready! These are made out of newspaper and crepe paper.

On the jury and hanging out with Silvia!

And it starts! Amazing outfits. On the right you can see a girl with a plastic plate skirt.

Love the robot.

This dress was awesome and made entirely out of paper and a black plastic bag.

Students singing and dancing in traditional outfits.

Made out of tissues!

Trash Bag Dress.

Aluminum foil and newspaper!

And of course, VALI! Best counterpart in Romania, hands down.