Author Archives: jovankabalac

About jovankabalac

i'm a very carefree person. I like having fun and try to not take things too seriously. I love traveling and hope to somehow, make a difference in this world.

Rompin in Romania

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This past weekend I met up with a group of my fellow PCVs to cheer on 4 members from our group in the Cluj Marathon. They ran as a team so each runner took one leg which was 10k. We had a great time at the race and were very proud of our team “Rompin in Romania” when the last runner crossed the finish line with a total time of 4:17. We followed it up by divulging in none other than American style hamburgers, fries, onion rings, and liter sized beers at a local brewery.

This was the last time that I am going to see several of my closest friends in Romania which means that my waterworks were flowing quite hard. It was difficult saying bye to these people that I have such a bond with and that are the only ones that know exactly what I have been through during my service. I was even emotional most of the 4 hour ride back to site just thinking of how much has happened in the past two years and some of the crazy memories that we have made. I know that I will consider every person from my group as a lifelong friend. I’m also very jealous that many of them will be close to Washington D.C. and will still have each other while I’ll be across the ocean but I know that our paths will cross again sometime.

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Spring Break

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Not even a full 24 hours after I arrived home from the field trip, I was off on an overnight train and then bus ride to the small town of Tulghes which is also where the very amazing PCV Matt Paulson lives. About 8 of us PCVs and Matt’s brother, Will, met up at Matt’s site to celebrate him turning the big 30. We had a cookout with his friends from site and spent those days being bums while listening to our newest 5 favorite songs and eating plenty of cake.

After a few days at Matt’s, Megan, Meg, Kevin, and I headed up to Kevin’s site, Sarasau. Our first full day at Kevin’s we headed into the city and hung out a bit before Kevin’s friend, Maria, came to pick us up and take us to The Village Hotel in Breb. Breb is a tiny village about 25 km outside of Sighetu Marmatiei where the roads aren’t paved, tuica is drunk as medicine, and the livestock outnumber the people.

The Village Hotel is owned by an Englishman named Duncan whom I met at a hostel in Cluj during my birthday weekend. His colleague, Maria, is the one who was born and raised in Breb and is the main contact for the hotel. The hotel is made up of 2 small cottages with a few more currently being built. The cottage we were in had 3 beds and was, for a lack of better words, very quaint. It was a mix of old and new. It had all new amenities but they didn’t disrupt the olden feel of the place and just added to the charm.

The second day we were in Breb, we decided to take a walk through the village and had quite the adventure. We all put on our rubber boots to battle the muddy roads and headed out into the town. It was nice having Kevin with us because he knows some of the locals so we got to stop at a few places and talk to people. We also passed by the house that Prince Charles bought a few years ago. You know, he is part Romanian.

We ended up at the house of Ion and Maria. We randomly saw a bunch of sheep in a yard and decided to stop and take it all in when Ion came out and Kevin remembered meeting him sometime last year. Ion invited us in to hang out while he fed his animals and that was where we met his mother, Maria and where I was officially sold into marriage. Ion is about 45 and is a bachelor. Initially he mentioned how he would take any 3 of us girls as his bride but then after seeing how much the new baby calf liked me, he decided I was the one; that I was the “Romanca adevarata”. Without even having to discuss it, both Meg and Megan offered me up for two cows, one for the each of them and that was it, the deal was made and I was then officially filled in on what had just happened.

Ion and Maria invited us into their house for some carnati cu hrean (fried sausages with horseradish sauce). We hung out inside for about an hour so. Our guests told us about Ion’s recently deceased father, their British friend, William Blacker, who had spent several years in Breb and then later went on to write a book about it (Along the Enchanted Way). They also showed us many pictures including some that were taken with Prince Charles himself. After our lunch, Ion escorted us to the wooden church and that is where we parted ways with our new friend.

We headed back to Sighet after our walk and made a straight shot for the border to walk around the Ukrainian city right next to Sighet. Our final night is Sighet was spent at, in my opinion, one of the best pubs in all of Romania called “Friends”.

After a solid month of travel, I am finally back at home even if it will be only a week. This weekend I’ll be heading to Cluj to cheer on some PCVs in a marathon, celebrate Megan’s birthday, and take care of some issues with my glasses. End of service is only about 65 days away and it is closing in fast. I am staying extremely busy and have almost every weekend planned which will hopefully keep my mind off of the sadness of leaving.

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Școala Altfel

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This year for scoala altfel my school did the same thing as last year which was to create various weeklong workshops that the students could attend. The new one that was added this year was the “tourism” workshop, aka a 5 day field trip, which I decided to chaperone.

After arriving home from COS conference I had a day long break to detox and then had to repack my bags and head out for another week. We all met in front of the high school at 8am sharp on Monday morning where we loaded up the busses and headed to our adventure. Here is a list, by day, of all of the places we visited.

Day 1:

  • Cluj city center
  • Turda salt mine
  • Turda Canyon
  • Alba Iulia Citadel
  • Deva

Day 2:

  • Hunedoara castle
  • Prislop Monastery
  • Targu Jiu (Kissing gate, Table of Silence, Infinity Column)
  • Tismana Monastery

Day 3:

  • Drobeta Turnu Severin
  • Iron gates outside of Orsova
  • Orsova (Danube boat cruise)
  • (we also spent the night at a high school dorm in Orsova. Said dorm has a capacity of 700 students and only has 11 students currently living in it. The conditions we stayed in were laughable. Without warm water or heat, we made the most of our time there and the 40 students crowded into 3 rooms for warmth.

Day 4:

  • Resita train museum
  • Dacian/Roman museum and ruins in Sarmizegetusa
  • Densus church which was constructed in the 3rd century
  • Deva
  • (We stayed at the gymnastics high school that trains all of Romania’s gymnasts and where Nadia Comaneci trained)

Day 5:

  • Deva Citadel
  • Monastery – can’t remember the name
  • Gold Museum in Brad
  • Dinner in Cluj
  • HOME!

We encountered some pretty bad weather at times, forgot a student after a stop, froze and almost got pneumonia, but all in all it was a fun trip and i’m happy I got to have a good time with my kids.

 

COS Conference

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COS (Close of Service) is just around the corner, 85 days away for me, and the last and final group in Peace Corps Romania got together this weekend for our very last conference during our service and the very last time to see some of our fellow volunteers.

Wednesday, Megan, Meg, and arrived in Sibiu around 5pm from Meg’s site and headed to our hotel. We unpacked, met up with a larger group and headed to dinner. Dinner was followed by drinks and a night of some pretty interesting karaoke.

Thursday and Friday we had sessions from 9-5pm. Some were very emotional and reflective which made some of us tear up and others were more administrative based discussing paperwork and various procedures. My favorite part of the conference was when the program managers gave us letters that we had written to ourselves the day before we took our oath as volunteers. I totally forgot about them and couldn’t remember what I wrote. I was so surprised to see what I wrote that I immediately teared up because I had achieved my goal that I set for myself two years prior. My letter read as follows: “I want to empower the youth of ROmania (main the girls) to be all they can be and for them to believe that anything is possible.” Our last session on Friday was held at the Astra outdoor village museum just outside of Sibiu. We danced some traditional dances, at some cozonac and got to tour the facility in horse drawn carts, bikes, or on foot.

After we got back we hung out at the hotel and slowly got ready for our dinner that staff was going to throw for us. I also took my LPI (language proficiency interview) at this time and am happy to say that I scored an Advanced High-Superior level on Romanian knowledge which lets me officially say that I am somewhat “fluent” in the language.

At the dinner we celebrated our service and were awarded superlatives both from PC Staff and a committee of PCVs chosen at random. The superlative it got from staff was “Most GLOW-ing” and the one I got from my fellow PCVs was “The Romanian Army Knife” because I apparently can do anything. There is a story behind the second superlative but we won’t go into that.The night ended in the wee hours of the morning just before sunrise. I said bye to the volunteers that I wouldn’t get to see before the end of service and went up to me room for a 3 hour nap before heading on a bus back to site.

I’m currently at site until Monday morning when I leave again, this time with my school, for a week long field trip around Romania.

Until then, Va pup!

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Tanja & Nemanja

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So the main reason why I decided to take a week off of school is to celebrate the wedding of two very special people. After a total of 12 hours on a train and then another 2 or so due to a freak blizzard, I finally arrived to my aunt and uncles house Friday around 1am.

Despite my long travel, it doesn’t compare to other wedding guests’ such as the bride’s dad’s whom lives in Austria and was on one of the buses that got stuck in 3 meter snow drifts for about 20 hours in Hungary during the very same blizzard. Thankfully, he did make it in time for a quick shower before all of the houses guests were due for the wedding.

The day was very beautiful and sunny although quite cold and most of the ground that wasn’t covered in mud, was still covered in a layer of snow. Luckily for all of us, there was plenty of rakija to go around and keep us all warm throughout the day.

The reception was one of the best that I have ever been to. It was a fairly young crowd and everything from the location, decor, program, and music were just spot on. The newlyweds did a great job planning the wedding and we all had a great time helping them celebrate their special day.

Pasul Rotunda

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For the weekend of March 8th, about 15 of the profs decided to head out to one of the peaks within our local mountain range and spend a few nights in a wonderful and secluded cabin. Friday night we headed to the cabin and spent the night unpacking, relaxing, and cooking dinner. Saturday was spent by a cozy fire, taking a hike which was cut short due to extreme fog and so much humidity in the air that my hair iced over, and riding around the mountain on an 8×8 which is like a mini tank and was such a surreal experience since the visibility was at around 50ft. At certain points it felt like there was absolutely nothing around us and we were just surrounded by snow. All in all it was a very fun weekend and really nice to hang out with my fellow colleagues.

This Thursday I’ll be heading to Serbia for Tanja’s wedding and am very excited to see one of my good and oldest friends get married. I’ll be there for a week and then I’ll be heading back to Romania for a girls weekend in Brasov followed by our COS (close of service) conference in Sibiu.

Until then,

Va pup!

International Women’s Day

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La multi ani tuturor doamnelor is domnisoarelor! Srecan 8mi Mart! HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY!

I love being a woman today and even more being a teacher because I am showered with hugs, kisses, flowers, candies, and cakes. Who wouldn’t want that!?

I just got done with school and am now getting ready to head to a weekend in the mountains with all of the professors.

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Sada jedna pjesma sa sve cerke:

Happy Spring!

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Today is Mărțișor which is celebrated as the first day of spring in Romania and I think it’s an awesome holiday just because of the promise that spring is right around the corner even if that corner is over a month long. That’s okay. Last year I wrote a post about this holiday that you can read here. To read more about the traditions you can also read the wikidpedia page here.

The weather, in fact, has been getting warmer and hovering in the low 40s this week with a forecasted dip back into the 20s this weekend. I’m really hoping that by next week I can pack away the parka and snowboots.

Teamwork and Communication Workshop

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This past weekend I did something that, even a year ago, I never thought I would be able to do. I facilitated a weekend long training workshop IN ROMANIAN! I’m not gonna lie i’m pretty proud of myself and ecstatic that it went so much better than I had planned.

About 2 months ago, Loredana approached me with the idea of creating a weekend long getaway for all of the county inspectors to help them develop their teamwork skills while also giving them something they can take back to the classroom. I was a little skeptical at first since it was going to be all in Romanian and it would just be me presenting about 90% of the time. After a few more “please”s I caved and agreed to do it.

The inspectors couldn’t work out a good weekend to attend since they are in the midst of all of the academic olympics competitions so we got the school psychologists to come instead. Matt and Megan were kind enough to offer their help for the training so I had them come up as well.

Friday after school, the psychological county director picked the 4 of us up and we headed to a secluded cabin in the even more secluded village of Fiad which is just over a mountain to the west of me. After dinner, we did some basic introductions and then just had a very relaxed social meet and greet hang out. Around 10pm is when things started getting very interesting. I was working upstairs in my room with Loredana and prepping for the following day when I hear the very distinct “w0oo”s of Megan and Matt. I go downstairs to check out what is going out and it is a full on dance party. Every single person was dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. At that moment I knew this was going to be a fun group to work with.

Saturday started off a little rocky since some last minute changes had to be made to the agenda but since no one knew the agenda except for me, all things were good! We talked about being a team and grouped them off into teams that would compete with each other for the rest of the weekend doing various exercises to earn points. The day was followed by some American football taught by Matt which they got REALLY into. Matt brought all of his flag football gear but that did not stop the group of mainly women to tackle each other into the snow as if they had full pads on. After lunch we had an egg drop activity, jeopardy, and we ended the day with a dance competition which Loredana and I judged.

Sunday morning was more communication activities and the last event was a scavenger hung with a list of 20 things the teams were to find around the cabin/area. Some of them got very creative such as finding pictures of a cow in a newspaper while others wanted to be as authentic as possible and went out into the village searching for a cow they could take a picture with.

After all of the activities we debriefed about the entire weekend and I was really glad to see that some of the participants were very reflective and realized the issues that presented themselves throughout the weekend in regards to functioning as a team and that they were discussing way to incorporate all of the activities into the classroom.

I would not have been able to do this without my amazing fellow PCVs Megan and Matt and I thank them so much for being the social butterflies they are and hanging out when I needed to plan or just recharge.