I can officially say that I have made it through my first week of Pre-Service Training! It definitely wasn’t any easy task with all the language lessons, technical sessions, talk about poop, and practicum intro but all 39 of us somehow survived! Since I’ve had minimal access to internet this week due to the fact that my gazda’s router is effed up for some reason, I haven’t been able to post/talk to anyone for longer than a 5 minute period. Here is a rundown of how my week went:
We met at one of the local high schools that will act as our training center at about 9 am where the whole group spent a few hours going through basic administrative things such as receiving our PST manuals, learning the basic do’s and don’ts, etc… After several hours of that, we had lunch and then went into another building on that is also part of the high school where PC has rented out the entire floor for us where the offices, PCT lounge, and language classes are located. We were broken up into groups of approximately 10 for our language classes with 2 professors each for this week. After this week, we will be broken off into smaller 5 person language groups with only 1 professor.
We will be re-grouping our language classes bi-weekly I believe based on our progress and will be paired with other PCTs on the same level as us. We started off with the basics Monday such as greetings, the various regions of the country, the verb to be, counting, and telling time. Looking back on my notes, I am now fully realizing the true meaning of “intensive language sessions”. The teachers manage to pack a lot of Romanian into a short amount of time with a surprisingly high success rate.
Our “normal” school schedule is language from 9-1 lunch from 1-2 then technical sessions from 2-5ish. Tuesday was the first true to schedule day and we had language in the morning. My professors are Maria and Simona. They are what I believe to be in their late 20s and this is Maria’s first year teaching for PC while it is Simona’s third and she is very well versed with the ins and outs of the PC and the language program itself.
In class we started putting together basic simple conversations that included things like what is your name? Where are you from? And what is your occupation? We also learned a very long list of vocab words that mainly dealt with objects found in a classroom such as pen, desk, light, dictionary, chair, etc. we went on to learn some grammar with regards to indefinites and definite and the transformations that occur based on gender and switching from one to the other. We also learned possessives and the location of objects such as on, in, under, next to, and between.
At 2pm all the trainees met back up in the big classroom where our technical training consisted of intro to the country of Romania and the culture along with an intro to the Peace Corps service within the country past, present, and future.
We decided to go and get phones today so a few of us went in the general direction of our houses accompanied by a currently PCVL(PC Volunteer Leader aka a PCV who has extended his/her service for an extra year or in some cases 2.) We found a no-name store that does repairs on phones and I went in asking if I could possibly get my iphone unlocked which was unsuccessful. After spending about an hour in the store while the other PCTs were getting their phones, I decided to call it a day and go home. I got home and Denisa and Iza already had dinner prepared so we ate and then they helped me with my homework. I decided to make flashcards with the set of 500 index cards I brought to country. My funny moment of the night was when my host mother came home from work (around 9pm) I tried to ask her if she had a rubber band and instead managed to ask her if she had a spare tire….whoops!!
Wednesday’s language class was fairly low key due to the fact that most of it was review from the past two days of language bombardment. Part of our homework due Wednesday was to come to class with three new vocab words and either draw them, describe them, or act them out so the class can guess what the words are. Mine were bowl, tomato, and orange…can you tell I did my homework in the kitchen? We got a lot of good vocab with some random words thrown in like amazement, and craftsmanship which were next to impossible to figure out and left me wondering where the hell these words came from. The only new things were learned were introducing a 2nd and 3rd person and how to say high five in Romanian. In case any of you were wondering; it’s “Bate palma”
The day’s technical sessions dealt with learning about the Romanian educational system, overview of our possible sites and what our roles in the community will be. A current volunteer also came in with a few of her students and her counterpart to give us a firsthand account as to what she does, how she has impacted her school, and what the students have to say about her. The second part of the session was the introduction to our practicum.
The practicum is basically our training to become sufficient enough teachers. I know all of you teachers are reading this and cringing at the fact that I am supposed to learn enough teaching skills in the next 10 weeks when you earned a 4 year degree on the subject matter and I agree with your thoughts of “How the hell will that work?!” I know that I will be nowhere near as good of a teacher as an actual teacher but I’m going to try my hardest to get the basics down! We were introduced to the 10 or so teachers representing about 5 or so middle schools and high schools that we will get a chance to observe and teach at. We will be the schools two days a week and get about 12-18 hours of experience in a high school (9-12) and another 12-18hours in a middle school (middle schools range from 4th-8th grade).
Since I didn’t manage to get my iphone unlocked on Tuesday, I decided that today was going to be the day that I would go out on my own and get myself a Romanian phone and sim card. Luckily for me, when we left school, it was absolutely POURING. Being the stubborn individual that I am, I was not deterred from my previously mentioned task and headed straight for the center with my umbrella in hand. Luckily, there are more wireless carrier shops here than Starbucks in the US. Without exaggerating, on one block, we found 3 Vodafone shops, 2 Cosmote shops, 3 Orange shops, and a few independent dealers as well. I managed to get a dinky Vodafone brand cell phone with a pay as you go plan for a total of 126RON or about 15 dollars. I always forget how much of a rip off cell phones are in the states…
I accomplished a huge milestone today and that was having my first successful conversation with my host parents in Romanian without any of Denisa’s translating help. We talked about what my parent’s do, where I come from, how long I lived in the states and other random facts that I can’t think of off the top of my head. It’s amazing to see how many language barriers intonation, body language, and pantomiming break.
Thursday’s language session was, of course, another intense one. We learned a crapload of new vocab including what the rooms in the house are called and the names for most of the objects found in a house. Today was also national “Man’s Day” so our professors sang “La Multi Ani” (The happy birthday song that doesn’t have the same melody has our version and can work for many other events such as this one). We also learned how to say here, there, this, and that and of course these are said differently depending if the word is masculine or feminine. We learned the verb to have and its forms along with to need.
Today’s technical sessions were very amusing mainly because the main topic was about diarrhea and it was present by Dr. Dan who looks EXACTLY like Lieutenant Dan from Forest Gump and is absolutely hysterical with a sarcastic sense of humor. We learned about how all of us will most likely get pin worms at least once, how the food is the best tasting in the country but might not always be the safest, water safety, and nutrition. The second session was about safety and security and our chances of getting hit by a car vs. attacked by a stray dog in country.
I came straight home after school and hung out with Denisa and Iza for the day. We have become close with each other and enjoy each other’s company. I love practicing my Romanian with Iza ( the 12 yr old) she has a sarcastic way about her and I mess up some words and she just shakes her head at me because she is repeating the same word for the 10th time in a matter of 5 minutes. My favorite moment with her was when she was helping me study with my flashcards. I couldn’t manage to remember the word for “the light switch” which is intrerupatorul and we sat there for a solid minute or two repeating intrerupatorul over and over and OVER again. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking if I were on the other end and her some random Romanian in the US repeating “the light switch” like a maniac. I ended the day showing my host mom some pictures of my friends and family back home.
Ahhh Practicum observation day! Our schedules were a little flip flopped today since we were in the schools in the morning observing our teachers and classes that we will be working with for the next few weeks. My group of 5 consists of Ashley, Whitley, Megan, and Kevin which I can say is a very solid group. This group will also be our new language group for the next few weeks. We observed a 9th,10th, and 12th grade English class and the day was very amusing and our teacher is awesome. You can tell she really enjoys what she does and has absolutely amazing and detail lesson plans. We were also surprised with personalized cups. Our teacher each gave us a coffee cup with our name painted on it which was so cute.
We went back to the training center once we were done at our schools for a shorter language lesson. Today was another review and another day where we brought in new vocab words and once again, there were some ridiculous ones such as heap, ancestor, and business deal. Yeah…don’t ask… I would like to point out that as much language we get thrown at us, we have actually learned most of it and have already started implementing what we know. The PC language program truly is astonishing.
After training, we deiced we needed to blow of some steam and went out to dinner. We went to this cute pizza place that I went to with some others the night before. There ended up being around 15 of us and we had a blast. Melissa’s host brother Mihai (17)joined us and we fully welcomed his company entertainment. We hung out at the pizza place until around 10. The group separated and I stayed back with Nick because his host father called him and told him that he was coming to join us for a beer. As Nick and I are sitting waiting for them, we see most of the family walk up. We go into the closest café, sit down, and start communicating in awful Romanian on our part, and English on their part thanks to the help of Nick’s bilingual host sister.
His family is precious and his host dad is a very jovial man that likes to enjoy himself. We were enjoying our drinks and beers which most of the conversation was about due to its name. It is called Ursus and its logo is “The king of beers in Romania”. Urs means bear and there is a bear on the label. Megan and Matt joined us later and we had a great time hanging out with Nick’s family and other PCTs at some obscure café that we basically took over with size and volume.
All in all this week was absolutely amazing. I can’t remember the last time I have been so busy yet still enjoyed myself so much. I’m not finding a large issue with the language and getting around yet. As you all know, my sense of direction is fairly accurate so that’s a plus at least. The people here are very helpful and hospitable and it is very surprising how many people speak English. I enjoy the company of my training group and we have already started becoming fairly close friends, granted we don’t have much of a choice when we are the only people we know but traveling and being in a foreign country always seems to have some magical affect on people it’s a huge catalyst for friendships.
Hopefully I won’t have many more of these novel length posts and will be able to update everyone more frequently. Love you all and hope you enjoyed! Here are some pictures i’ve taken in the past week, if you want to see the rest, just go to my picasa album via the link on the right.