To say that this weekend was great would be the understatement of a lifetime. My great weekend started off early Friday when I head to school. This past week was my first FULL week of classes by myself. For those of you that don’t have facebook or missed my status updates, some of the things my students said this week include:12A Me: “The human body has 206 bones” Boy student: “Some of us have 207” – class erupts in laughter 11B Boy student: “Jovanka! ‘girl student’ is being a bitch!” Girl student: “Just like his mother!” since her comeback was good enough, I felt no need to step in.
The school day was cut short on Friday due to a retirement party that was being held in honor of one of the teachers. Since he didn’t know when he could officially retire, he started off the school year just in case he was a few months short. All 40 teachers and spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends/ and in my case, mothers, gathered at a local restaurant to celebrate the retirement. All of the teachers have gotten to know my mother and have tried putting their best English speaking foot forward which was very interesting to watch. We had some tuica, at a lot of food, and had a very good time. After my mom designating herself as the event photographer and making her rounds around the restaurant with her digital camera, we decided to head back home and to pack up for the trip.
When we got to Gara de Nord(Bucharest train station) we headed on the Henri Coanda Express which was the train that was to take us directly to the airport, or so we thought. After about a half hour train ride, the train stopped at a little platform literally in the middle of no where. We were both confused and when my mom asked me what we do now, all I could say was “follow everyone else”. At the end of the platform, there was a man standing next to a maxi-taxi (glorified van) with his trunk open. We piled all of our luggage into the maxi taxi and entrusted this man with getting us where we needed to be. During our ride, my mom turns to me as says “This is like those kidnapper movies when they just take you from one car to another.” That made me feel much more reassured. 5 minutes later, low and behold, we were pulling up to the departure gate at the airport.. THANK JESUS. Apparently the maxi taxi ride is part of the train ride and that is just how the system works…who knew?
We checked my mom into her flight and after I saw her disappear into the mob of people past security, I headed back to the train ticket counter to buy my return ticket. While I was in line, I saw a few guys in the mid 20s speaking in perfect English about currency rates. Naturally, I had to but in and offer them my currency rate knowledge and just inquire as to where they were from since they were all native English speakers. I saw that they were also buying tickets for the train back to Gara de Nord, and me being the good PCV I am, felt compelled to help them out since they would probably be totally confused and freaked out when they found out how they would actually be getting to the train station.
Since we had about 40 minutes to kill at the platform we started up a conversation and I found out that the 6 of them are engineering students at the University of Calgary and are on a year long intership with various companies in Switzerland. They usually travel to various countries during most of their free weekends, and this weekend they chose Romania. They told me they were headed to Brasov and I gave them some basic travel tips about dogs and the taxis and certain things to see in Brasov. Since my plan was to head up to Ploiesti to visit Aran and Jeremy, I extended the invite to them and they accepted.
We got into Ploiesti Sud around 2pm where we were met by Aran who then took us back to his apartment. We hung out there a little bit and I left my backpack and then we made our way out to the center. As I was talking to our taxi driver, he mentioned that this Festivalul de Toama (Autumn Festival) was occurring and we decided to just go their instead. When we got their there were stalls set up with vendors selling everything from cheeses to fresh produce to sarmale and mamaliga. There was also a very large stage where traditional dances were being performed. I gave the Canadians a basic run down of typical Romanian food and it was decided that they wanted to try it all. We went up to what looked to be the best grill and ordered 1 of everything, 10 mici, a serving of sarmale, 3 servings of mamaliga, and two rings of covrigi along with 8 glasses of vin fiert (hot spiced red wine that is amazing).
I was happy to see that they loved all of the food and we even got the vegetarians in the group to try some of the irresistibly delicious smelling mici. After we had our fill of great food and another walk around the festival, we hopped into cabs and headed out towards the train station. Aran and I dropped the group off at the station and helped them buy tickets for Brasov. After saying our goodbyes and planning our reunion in Bucharest the following day, the two of us headed off to the maxi taxi stand that headed into Valea Calugareasca (Jeremy’s site)
Aran and I arrived at Jeremy’s around 8pm where we were greeted by an amazing dinner prepared by the best cook in all of Peace Corps. We also had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy’s tutor, Iliana, and her boyfriend. We had a nice time catching up and I ended up passing out around 11 due to the exhaustion of traveling the previous night. Sunday we woke up, ate breakfast, and went on a little tour of the school grounds. It was nice seeing a different type of high school than mine and comparing and contrasting the two. After our tour and a brief hailstorm, we headed back out to Ploiesti to meet up with Simona (one of the language instructors) and her boyfriend for lunch.
Seeing Simona made my day. She is one of my favorite languages instructors and has become a good friend. We got to catch up on girl talk while the boys talked about who knows what. After a few hours spent with Simona and Mihai, we parted ways, said “See you in December” and headed back to Aran’s apartment to pick up our stuff. We caught the 7:41pm train back to Bucharest that was absolutely packed with college kids going back to school from a weekend at home and finally made it back to Gara de Nord at around 9pm.
We met back up with our new Canadian friends and since they were celebrating Philip’s birthday, he got to decide what we were to do that night. Our first stop after getting out of the gara was to head for the People’s Palace. When we got their, its hugeness was even more exaggerated with all of the dramatic lighting on the building and it was definitely a site to see. We all exchanged info we new about the building such as being the heaviest building in the world and being the second largest next to the pentagon.
We then headed towards Piata Unirii and then towards their Hostel. After arriving at the Hostel, we left them to settle in and Aran accompanied me back to Flowers B&B ( the hostel Peace Corps puts us up in) to check in. We checked in around 10pm and headed back out to meet the Canadians. The rest of the night was spent getting to know each other, showing them around downtown and some of the Bucharest nightlife, and generally having an all around great time. At about 5am, we said our goodbyes and wished them a safe flight back to Switzerland as we headed back to Flowers. Aran picked up his stuff and headed to the train station to catch the earliest train back to Ploiesti while I went to bed to get a few hours of sleep before my doctor’s appointment.
I’ve had an annoying cough for about 2 months now and since it hasn’t gotten any better, Dr. Dan decided to take some x-rays. Apparently my lungs are fairly inflamed and something suspicious showed up on the x-ray. He thinks its either the start of pneumonia or tuberculosis so I was given a TB test, flu shot, and 3 more different types of pills to take. Since Dr. Iliana will be coming up to my site on Wednesday, she will be able to check my TB test. Until then, I’ll be praying to every god in existence that I do not have tuberculosis.