Category Archives: PST

The End of The Beginning


As of 1pm (Romanian) Thursday, I am an official Peace Corps Volunteer. I have joined the ranks of the previous 1100 volunteers that have served in this amazing country. The PCTs and our host families hopped on a bus at 8:30am yesterday morning and headed to the American Ambassador’s house in Bucharest for our swearing in ceremony.  The ceremony started around 11am with a speech by our Country Director, Sheila.  After Sheila, Mark Gitenstein, The American Ambassador to Romania addressed us, followed by the Romanian Head of Foreign Affairs.  Two of our fellow volunteers, Kevin and Andrea, also prepared speeches which they presented in both English and Romanian.


The entire ceremony was amazing and very emotional for me. This entire week I have been randomly crying out of sheer joy, fear, and sadness. I am so excited to finally get to wear my Peace Corps Romania pin since after all, it took me about a year and a half to get if you count the application process.  I am so scared about going to site and about being far away from my support network and the people that have become my family. They have picked me up when I was down, made me laugh, cry, and think. I am also scared about my future two years. I hope that I will be a successful volunteer and make an impact in my community and leave with a legacy.  And finally, I am sad to leave PST.  Everyone complains how difficult PST is but it honestly was an amazing experienced. I enjoyed everything about it, well minus some technical sessions. I have fallen in love with my host family and even the dirty little city of Targoviste with it’s vagabond dogs, communist blocs, and shaorma stands on every corner. It will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to the wonderful people that have taken me into their home and have become my friends and mentors within my community.


After swearing in, we were taken to the Peace Corps Office and received a tour and then were let loose. Those who chose to go back to Targoviste on the bus did while a group of about 12 of us stayed to hang out in Bucharest for the night. We got to roam the city a bit, see some of the architecture, and hang out with the PCVLs along with some older volunteers.


We returned back to Targoviste around 3pm today, exhausted, sweaty, and excited to depart for our sites this weekend. I have been packing for the last few hours and am getting ready to depart on a 4:09am train to Moldova for a GLOW(Girls Leading Our World) camp with one of my group 28ers, Ester, and a few of the older volunteers who are the ones running the camp. We will be camping in a little village for a week with a group of Romanian teenage girls. After the camp, I will finally depart on my 9 hour overnight train ride without a cuseta (sleeping car) to my village. I should return back to civilization by the 17th and will update everyone on the GLOW camp then.


Until Next Time.

Va Pup!


Suntem Voluntarii

LPI Rating


Today we receive our LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) scores. How the rating goes is Novice Low, Novice Mid, Novice High, Intermediate Low, Intermediate Mid, Intermediate High, Advanced Low, Advanced Mid, Advanced High, Superior Low, Superior Mid, Superior High. The PC requires us to be at an Intermediate Low which means you can form coherent sentences, string together verbs,and use, for the most part, correct grammar by the time we swear in. Superior is synonymous with fluent.


We also received our diplomatic ID cards and it was stressed to us that we DO NOT have diplomatic immunity.


A Weekend to Remember


Since this was our last week in classes, everything has been starting to wind down and even though we were thoroughly practicing for our upcoming LPI exams, we definitely had a lot more fun than usual. Tuesday, a group of us got together for “Seara cu Taco” or Taco night which was such a great success!


Friday we had our last day of language classes which were followed by a TALENT SHOW! Below are the videos.


Grant and the gang from Hawaii doing a hula


Some of the neighborhood children joined us


Whitley wrote a beautiful poem about our experience so far.


Matt’s Chewbacca Impression


Octavian, one of the language instructors, making up a song on the spot.


Saturday, Theron and Sarah’s gazda family threw all the volunteers a big party. It started at 3pm and went well into the night. It was an amazing time and a great chance to hang out with all the volunteers for our last weekend in Targoviste. There was a grill, drinks, and even a dj and waiter were hired.


Sunday we put on a 4th of July party in honor of all of our gazda families which ended up being a HUGE success! We created a pot luck so we would have enough food which inadvertently started a gazda cook off competition with several gazda moms trying to cook the best dish. We had face painting, a covrigi eating contest for the kids, seed spitting contest, water balloon toss, frisbee, and even a local Romanian folklore group came to perform for the guests. Sheila, our country director, spoke a little bit and thanked all the gazda families for taking us into their homes and helping us assimilate to our host country. They were all given certificates of appreciation along with some Peace Corps swag which they really appreciated.


This next week is going to be filled with many ups and downs. Tomorrow our LPI language exams start, followed by the swear in ceremony on Thursday at the American Ambassador’s house in Bucharest. Friday people will start saying their goodbyes as they begin departing for their sites.

All Good Things Come to an End


There isn’t much to say other than we are the legacy group. The Peace Corps has decided to pull out of Romania after my service. Read the article below. It is very bittersweet for all of us.

Slow Week


After the hustle and bustle that started with counterpart conference, I am more than thrilled to say that this week was quite mundane and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Getting back into the language groove after site visits was fairly difficult for the group as a whole. At least one person in my class was “off” every day and we just felt defeated most of the time. Friday we had a practice LPI exam which we were told mimics very closely what we will see in our exams in a week. I felt I did alright but definitely not nearly up to my potential. I find it difficult that our language skill can be measured in a 20 minute conversation discussing and comparing our families and our cities and then having us ask some questions to the interviewer, but oh well. We find out tomorrow how we fared and that will help me gauge how much I need to study this upcoming week.


There isn’t really much to update all of you on. There was a music festival in town this weekend so my nights were spent in the center then followed by nachos at the Celt ( it’s the little piece of America that we all crave every weekend). My host family took me to the salt mines in Prahova County today and that was definitely a new experience. I didn’t really know what to expect but when we got down there, my business loving side was blown away. The county has created quite the money make with this salted underground cavern. On top of paying an entry of 14lei per person, there is a snack bar, gift shop area, a few scooter type rides, a section of twin beds that can be rented out, ping pong tables, and pool tables all that cost money. I would have never expected to see either of the latter 200 meters below ground but they are there and they seem to be cash cows.


The story behind this mine is that it was used between 1943-1970 before the “new” mine was built close by. The total excavated space occupies about 3 million meters cubed and has a depth of 208 meters which the dinky little elevator spans in 90 seconds. The mine temperature is a constant 12 degrees Celsius year around.


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Back To The Grind


After an amazing week at site, the last thing any of us wanted to do was go back to technical and language sessions. Luckily, the PC Staff was already very well aware of this and took it easy on us. We had a site visit debrief in the morning and then the self picked language/cultural sessions started after lunch. These types of sessions are so much easier to handle than regular classes because we get to choose what we get to learn and when talking about the cultural aspects, the classes are all in English so it’s a nice break from being forced to speak Romanian. Friday night was filled with the usual activities of  getting dinner and then hanging out in the center.

Saturday was one of my favorite days so far. I spent the early afternoon having a picnic in the park, eating avocado and cheese sandwiches and listening to music. The picnic was followed by a peer support session which was for the two new peer support people of our group and anyone else who wanted to join. Peer support is basically just like it sounds. These people are the ones that the groups elects as the people whom the individuals of the group feel the most comfortable contacting about any issues we may be having. The session was followed by a group dinner and then a night spent in the park. It was so nice to just sit in the park and hang out with the volunteers in my group and the many others that came into town for the weekend.

Sunday I woke up fairly early and got ready for a new adventure. Theron and Sarah’s host dad offered to take them and two of their friends up to the Bran Castle outside of Brasov. For those of you that are not aware, Bran Castle was the alleged home of none other than the famous Dracula. The 3 hour car ride was absolutely beautiful and when we got to Bran I was stunned. The castle is MUCH bigger than I expected it to be and we had a lot of fun trying to figured out the layout of it and what floor we were on at any given point in time. After getting very little sleep all weekend, I was ready to crash as soon as I got home. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depends on how you look at it, this country has a spell on me and I can’t fall asleep until very late and I still manage to wake up very early. I decided to head to the center and meet up with a friend. We hung out a little bit and then went to one of the cafe’s where I met up with my host family. Coincidentally enough, the PCVLs were sitting at a table right next to them so it was nice to hang out with them and get to know the PCVLs a little bit better.

Hopefully I rest up this week because my host family already planned out most of the upcoming weekend for me!

Until next time, VA PUP! (ljubim vas/kisses to you all)

Site Visit Continued


View of the city from a hilltop

This week was one of the most adventurous and amazing times so far. As you all know, I visited my future volunteer site Sângeorz-Băi this past week. After a much-needed slumber, I woke up Tuesday morning refreshed and ready to take on the tiny town. The day started off at 9am in front of Marys house. We walked to the high school together where she introduced me to some of the staff and director who ended up walking me across the street to the mayor’s office for some more introductions.


I got to sit in on some of Mary’s classes and even though it was the end of the school year and things were coming to an end, I managed learn a lot about the classes and how the day-to-day things run. The school is a theoretic high school and is one of the best in the county. All of the students seem very well-educated and even more so well-behaved. I havent gotten a chance to see if this is specifically Mary’s own doing or just the environment of the school. Ideas and random thoughts about possible future projects were running through my brain so fast I couldn’t even write them all down.


After the classes we partook in a lunch that one of the teachers provided for her 10 year anniversary at the school. The food was delicious, the homemade wine and vișinata(cherry brandy) were very welcomed by all the teachers and the conversation was,as always in this country, very interesting. Some of the older male teachers were discussing how I should find myself a nice handsome Romanian boy and stay in the city forever, others were discussing a fellow teacher and the possibilities of setting the two of us up, and my other,non-English speaking counterpart and myself were having a tutoring session as to how to pronounce entrepreneurship in Romanian (which I have yet to succeed at).


Loredana, the non english speaking CP of mine headed to the train station after lunch in an attempt to reserve my train ticket in a sleeper car. Just like typical Romanian fashion something went wrong. The computer broke and After waiting a half hour for it to start back up again, we gave up and headed to my future apartment for my tour.


My apartment is breathtaking. I am on the top/4th floor of a very nice block apartment. When I walked into the flat I was astonished. The place was ten fold better than anything I had expected or even imagined. I have hardwood floors, 2 bedrooms,a living room, 2 balconies, 1 opened and 1 closed in, a very nicely sized and new bathroom and a large kitchen. The walls are vibrantly painted and it is pre-furnished with very elegant looking furniture. Leave it to Romania to bring me back down from my apartment bliss. I don’t have central heating. I will be using a soba which is a big terracotta stove in the center of my apartment. It will be interesting trying to find wood, get it chopped, and get it up 4 flights of stairs.


After visiting the apartment. Loredana, Mary and I decided it would be great fun to visit the circus that was in town for the week. It was an interesting experience to say the least… When you picture a circus in the states, you pictures lots of exotic animals, acrobats, clowns etc… This circus had 1 pathetic attempt at a clown, 3 dogs, 1 pony, and a juggler. The kids seemed to enjoy themselves so I guess it was worth it.


The second day/last day of my site visit was another action packed day. I met up with Mary for breakfast and to plan out my last day. After a large 3lei sandwich of șunca, cașcaval, varza, and mayo, Mary and I met up with Loredana and headed to the local Museum of Comparative Art. It is amazing that such a beautiful museum exists in a small town. That is one of those things that doesn’t usually happen in the states. After we visited the museum, Mary, her boyfriend, his cousin, and myself went for a fairly easy walk/hike up one of the hills surrounding the town. When we got to the top was when I truly felt at home. It was such a breathtaking view that I could have sat there all day long and just stared out over the town. After spending some time on the hill-top, we decided to come back down and get some food before I headed out to my train. We stopped by a local pizzeria that has a gorgeous patio with very good tasting pizza and legitimately spicy hot sauce. Hot sauce is a very rare find in this country so imagine my surprise when I actually felt my mouth burn!


At 8pm I was dropped off at the neighboring town by both of my counterparts and another French/English teacher. We said our goodbyes and see you soons and I was off on my first ever Romanian train journey. I was required to ride the train to Salva which is a town about 25km away from mine. At that point my train would merge with another one where I would have to get out of my car and move to the sleeping car. As I was walking on the platform to the sleeping car, I ran across a fellow volunteer Kevin. We were so happy to see each other that we automatically entered into a big bear hug. He was very quick to tell me about another American named Jessica that he discovered on the train. She is a post-graduate student making her way through Romania all by herself for the next 10 days with NO knowledge of the language. We got to talking in her sleeper car and ended up hanging out for quite a while. She was saying how she is so impressed that we are in the Peace Corps when we were even more impressed with her large amount of courage to come to a country where not only you donțt speak the language, but a country where you can’t be too sure you will find people who speak English in the smaller locations. I ended up sharing the sleeper car with her where her generosity surprised me. She gifted me with a large back of mixed snack pack chocolates like Almond Joy, Hershey Bars, Kit Kat, and the ever elusive and rare REESES PEANUT BUTTER CUPS!!!!! I got so excited and explained to her how peanut butter cups among PCTs in this country are like cigarettes in prison. We went to bed around 1130 and although the beds were fairly comfortable, I couldn’t help but toss and turn. The noise the train would make on the tracks would get loud at times and wake me up. When we were stopped at a station it got hot fairly quickly and while we were moving the blowing wind cooled down the room so it was a lot blanket movement going on. My sleeper mate had to get up at 4am because she was getting off at Brașov and I said I would be more than happy to help her with her bags since she was nice enough to let me stay in her cabin since my original cabin mate kept the room temperature at a balmy 90 degrees. God forbid the curent caught up to her on the train and killed her ovaries in her sleep! I saw Jessica off in Brașov, translated a few things for her, and went back to my compartment. At around 6am, Kevin came into my compartment and we just chatted until we arrived in Ploiești at 7:30am. We got on the 8:27 train to Târgoviște which took 1.5 hours to travel about 50km. When we finally arrived at the train station it was a huge sigh of relief! Although neither of us wanted to leave our sites, it felt good to be back in a location that we have grown to know very well. Tomorrow we are back to the normal grind with a site debrief and then some more language review. These next three weeks are definitely going to be bittersweet.


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Counterpart Conference


This weekend was pack filled with rules, regulations, expectations, and role play. Our counterparts came into town to get to know us and learn more about the adventure that we will be embarking on together. We had a “meet and greet” activity planned where we got to know our counterparts and started the conversations that everyone has been dying to ask for weeks. What is the city like? Where am i going to live? Will I have my own place? Does it have a washer? How is the school? etc…


For those of you that aren’t aware, a counterpart is a current teacher of English at the school where we will be teaching that will act as our mentor and community liaison if you will for the next few years. There are many different uses for the counterparts from integrating into the community, getting to your site, and just knowing the ins and outs of the Romanian school system. I found out that my counterpart’s name is Maria and she is what seems to be the slightly older version of me. She is 26 and has been teaching high school English for about 3 years now. We hit it off right away while discussing our love of travel and the need to be outdoors. We shared some random facts about each other like her dislike of eggs and cheese and my dislike of milk. We had a breakout session where we broke out into regions of Moldova, Transylvania and Wallachia/Dobrogea. We talked about what we found out about our counterparts and got to know the other counterparts within our areas. There were some matches that seemed perfect for each other and others that will be interesting to watch develop. Maria and I spent the whole day discussing our likes and dislikes and we are literally the same person. I have a feeling that we will have an amazing working relationship and an even better friendship.


We were initially supposed to take a train from Ploiești ( a city about an hour away from Târgoviște) straight to my site of Sângeorz-Băi. The ride is supposed to last about 12-14 hours and we were originally supposed to depart from Târgoviște at 2pm and end up at Sângeorz-Băi around 4am. Luckily, another counterpart that came from Bistrița(about 50km south) offered to take us along since he drove down to pick up his volunteer and there is room for the two of us in the car. I am excited about this because we will be taking the scenic route and I’ll get to see the gorgeous landscapes of Transylvania. Since my apartment is all ready, I will be able to take some of my luggage and leave it at site so when I move, I won’t have to schlep around 2 suitcases and 2 backpacks. We are leaving at 10am tomorrow and we should get to my city around 7ish. Claud, the other counterpart, mentioned how he wants to make a stop in the mountains to grill some mici (cevapi for you serbs, a type of amazingly delicious grilled sausage that is found in EE). Here are some pictures from this weekend.


Shoutout to Whitley’s dad: The running joke is whenever your daughter and I do anything together, she just tells me “don’t forget to blog about it”. I have made sure to include some pictures of her so you know that she is alive and well 🙂




Site announcements were today and man was it interesting. The staff did a great job setting up the school’s cantina for us. They decorated it with American flags, banners, and streamers. They set the announcements up like the Emmy’s so it was really fun to watch. My site is called Sangeorz-Bai. From the information I have gathered, it is a town of about 11,000 people. I will be teaching at the theoretical highschool and they have a lot of extra curriculars like Junior Achievement, entrepreneurship classes, and several ecotourism initiatives. The town is known as a spa town due to it’s 8 different mineral baths so It should be very nice. It’s in the foothills of the Carpathians and I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful. Walking up all those hills should give me an ass like JLo’s by the time my 2 years are up! Below is a little video I took of the adorably decorated cantina.



It was a very emotional day and, naturally, I cried. I didn’t cry because I was so happy to receive the highschool of my choice or what sounds like such an amazing location. I cried because I am sad. I am sad to leave this family that I have become a part of with my fellow trainees. I know, it’s so typical of me, but I just can’t help it. I value relationships with people so much that I know I’m going to be homesick for PST and Targoviste.


Enough of the emotional stuff, here are some facts that came within my packet:

  • I will have my own apartment
  • School Name: Liceul Teoretic “Solomon Halita”
  • Teaching 16 hours a week
  • Class size of about 25
  • Might be teaching a history content course
  • Extracurricular activities: English Film Club, Baccalaureate prep classes, small business practice firms, junior achievement
  • They want to start the school newspaper back up and have an English section
  • Job market classes

All in all I’m ecstatic for my high school and site. It’s the one that I really wanted when they mentioned it to me in my site interview and I’m happy I got it. I am going to be in the most picturesque part of the country and I just can’t wait to go visit it this weekend.


Our counterparts come in on Saturday and then on Sunday night we will be traveling to my new site for a few days!