Donation Time!


Dear awesome friends and family. The time of year when I ask you for your help has come back around. We have just launched the PCPP grant to fund our very last PC partnered GLOW/TOBE camps that will take place this summer. It is very bittersweet to know that PC will no longer play a part in this amazing camp for teenagers but I know that between the amazing people at our partner NGO Scoala Pentru Viata and all of the great participants from last summers Training of Trainers Workshops, I know that the GLOW and TOBE spirit will not die out in Romania.

Please click on the link below and donate anything that you can to help me finish my service and Peace Corps finish it’s service in Romania with a bang! Plus, it’s tax deductible!





For those of you who haven’t seen my Facebook post or are not friends with me on facebook, I would like to announce that I just received my first acceptance letter to graduate school. It is from The University College of Dublin in the field of Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict. I am beyond ecstatic considering this could not have come at a better time. I have not been myself lately and have been having many personal issues that all just boiled up yesterday and I had an absolutely awful day. One of, if not my lowest day in my entire service.

I am so happy that a huge stress has been lifted off of my shoulders and I now know what I will be doing with my life after July 2, 2013. Those of you that know me, know how huge of a planner I am and the fact that yesterday, I had no idea what I was going to do 4 months from now was stressing me out greatly.

Anyways, just wanted to let you all know that I will be staying in Europe for at least 2 more years.

Thanks to everyone that has believed in me. You are all absolutely amazing!

Overdue Update


I think I have seasonal depression. These very short days are not benefiting me at all, especially when I wake up and it is still dark outside and will be for another hour or so. I have countered the winter blues by tons of reading. And when I say tons, I mean that during January I have read more books in one month than I ever have in my life. Reading books has helped pass the time and not make me go stir crazy.

I have also slowly been taking on extra projects that I am really looking forward to. I have always considered my service here to be much more than just teaching. I know that I am qualified at other things as well and as much as I try, I know I’m not the best teacher. My kids do end up learning things and I do bring a new perspective into the classroom so I guess not all hope is lost there either. Anyways, back to my other projects. I have been working with Loredana (my community mentor and the new director of the county’s CCD (Educator’s Learning and Resource Center). The CCD, which I have mentioned in the past when I did my PDM training, is the part of the education system that offers continuing education and resources for educators throughout the school year. So I am working with her to put on a communication and team building event for all of the county inspectors. The date is set for the weekend of February 22nd when we will all head up to a cabin in the woods where I, along with some fellow PCVs, will facilitate the workshop. I consider the lack of teamwork exercises that students are given in class as a huge problem because as much as they annoyed me while in school, I now see the benefit of them when I look at how most Americans work in groups compared to many Romanian groups where things aren’t as balanced or the leader is not putting in any effort at all. If this one goes successfully, we are looking to put on at least one more for all of the school psychologists throughout the county.

Another thing that I am looking forward to is our COS (Close of Service) conference. This will be the last time that all of us will be together and as much as I am looking forward to it, I am dreading it just the same. This is to take place the last few days of March. We are all to travel to Sibiu for this time where we will discuss the administrative stuff about leaving, any worries we might have, and just hang out with each other. Meg and I are also planning to visit our friends we made during an event that we participated in this summer in Brasov and I can’t wait to see them either because all of them are absolutely amazing and very strong individuals.

Immediately following our COS conference is Scoala Altfel. I talked about this week-long nationwide event for all elementary and high schools where the educators are asked to do different things with their students and break up the standard way of just sitting in a classroom. You can see some of my posts from last year’s event by clicking here, here, here, and here. This year some of the teachers are looking to go on 3-4 day field trips throughout the country which I plan on attending as well.

The week after Scoala Altfel is spreak break and I have yet to fully decide what I am going to do for this time period. We have a week off this year instead of the normal 2 weeks off and some of the options that I have been thinking about are Portugal, Danube Delta, or Ukraine. We will see which one pans out since I have exactly 6 days left of leave that I plan on using.

Following the very eventful first few weeks of April, I will be continuing with trainings and workshops. If the communication and teamwork one goes well with the inspectors, we will have our second run with the school psychologists sometime at the end of April, beginning of May. I am also working with a former GLOW/TOBE TTT participant who is trying to put on her own camp skills transfer workshops in her city of Craivoa in southern Romania. The participant, Carmen, who is a librarian at main city library and who has taught herself English is extremely resourceful and truly wants to help out around her community. After our training, she put together a mini day camp within the library and now she wants to pass along the information to other adults so they can help put on camps throughout the summer. I am partnering with her to put on two various  1-day long workshops with the themes of “teaching and facilitating team building activities” and “games and songs”. It will be nice seeing Carmen again and seeing what great things she has planned for her city come to fruition.

And last but not least, we have GLOW camp. This year’s GLOW camp will be held the last week of June immediately after school gets out to help better accommodate the PCVs schedules since we have to COS by the end of July. I am very grateful that I will be able to participate in at least one more GLOW camp before I finish a wonderful two year service in Romania.

At the beginning of this semester I thought to myself, “Wow, I have absolutely nothing planned for the last 5 months of service…” Very soon after that, things started coming in and now I am more than occupied with everything. Don’t forget about submitting grad school applications as well. Those are taking up a nice amount of my time too. In the end, I’m glad that I am keeping busy and trying to contribute as much as I possibly can before I leave.

Until next time,

Va Pup

Budapest and Vienna



New Years Day, after a fairly late start, Megan, Kaitlyn, Robert, and I got on a 3:00pm train headed for Budapest. After our 7 hour train ride, we arrived in the glorious capitol of Hungary and our first mission was to find food. Not just any food though, American food. We ended up at the TGI Friday’s in Deak Ferenc Ter and gorged on big juicy burgers. Witht his meal also came a revelation, I don’t do salt as well as I did before. Western food is way too salty for me and even though the burger was amazing, it was just too intense for my dilapidated taste buds.

The three days we were there were filled with showing Robert around the city, since he had never been, and then meeting up with Meg and later on, Kevin.

After our three day visit, Kevin, Robert, Meg and I headed to Vienna for the last leg of our winter vacation. After checking into our hostel, we decided to spend the first day just roaming around the city. We walked through the downtown area which included many parks/gardens, museums, and shops. We finished day one off by enjoying a traditional Viennese schnitzel and some beer.

Day two brought some awful weather. It was raining fairly hard all day and we were soaked by the end of it. Since it was such a nasty day outside, after roaming around and finding a great bagel place to sit down and eat some lunch, we decided on the Albertina Museum which has an exhibit on Monet and Picasso. It was really cool to see so many beautiful works of art and to learn about the history behind said art. Due to the weather, and the overall dampness of everything, we decided to call it an early day and just lounged around the hostel until midnight when we went back out to get some food so I can officially celebrate Christmas in Balac family style by breaking my Christmas Eve fast.

Day three’s weather was much nicer than the previous day’s. Although the temperatures dropped quite a bit, it was dry which let us roam around the city freely. We first headed to the Hofburg Imperial Palace outside of the center  where the Hapsburg family used to live and took an hour long tour of the building. The building was enormous and very well preserved. The coolest thing that we saw within the palace was the room where a 6 year old Mozart played his first concert. It was such an amazing feeling to stand in the same location that Eurpean royalty once sat while listening to a child prodigy play the piano. After the palace tour, we walked around the vast grounds of the palace which are filled with gardens, zoos, lakes, and even a human maze.

After finishing at the palace, we hurried to the opposite side of town to the cemetery where Beethoven is buried. Unfortunately, we arrived around 4:30 and the sun was almost set that we barely saw the names on the tombstones, let alone found Beethoven’s grave within the enormous complex where over 2 million people are buried.

The last part of our day was going to be listening to a concert at one of the music halls called Muzikverein where an orchestra was performing a medley of several classical pieces but not before we enjoyed some tasty sushi that we have all been missing very much during our service. The concert, enjoyed from our 5 Euro standing room area was extraordinary. It was probably one of my favorite experiences, to enjoy beautiful music in such a culturally rich city.

After a 12 hour day of travel back to Romania, we said goodbye and good luck to Robert, who is moving on to a post in Armenia for the next 6 months.

I finally arrived home about 6pm yesterday and have just now warmed up. My apartment had been abandoned for 2 whole weeks and when I entered, it was so cold I could see my breath. After lighting a roaring fire, I settled down to relax when I was called up by one of my students. He asked if I was busy, I said no, he then said that he along with a few other students and friends of mine were going to stop by to welcome me back. I was greeted with about 10 people at my door ranging between the ages of 15-25. We hung out a little in my living room and after they left, I decided to try to go to sleep in the freezing cold apartment under what I consider the thickest comforter I have ever come in contact with along with sweat pants, two sweat shirts, gloves, a scarf, two hats, and an electric heater along with the fire in the soba.

It’s going to be one long and cold winter!

New Year’s Eve



After Maramures, Robert, Whitley, and I took a 6 hour train ride down to Cluj to ultimately meet up with what felt like half of the PCVs. That day we just relaxed and hung out while Megan and Kaitlyn made their way into Cluj.

The following day we took Robert and Kaitlyn around the city since it was their first time visiting. We went ice skating, walked around and saw the churches, and headed to the mall. We also met two volunteers serving in Albania that were also staying at the hostel. We all went out together and met up with Kevin, Anthony, and four more pcvs at a bar in Piata Unirii that played nothing bus 50s-80s music which we rocked out to all night long. It was a great new years celebration and so relaxing to speak English with everyone. I also really enjoyed talking to Eric and Garret, the Albania pcvs, about their experiences at their sites and sectors.

This NYE marked year 4 that Kaitlyn and I have spent together and we have already started  planning next year’s. We are currently in Budapest staying with Kait and I’ll be sure to update about yet another trip to the land of the Magyars.




Mine and Robert’s trip started in the early morning of the 27th with a 6 hour personal train ride to Sighetu Marmatiei, which is the city next to Kevin’s site. We arrived at the train station at noon where we were met by Kevin and Anthony and after checking into our hostel, headed to the center to see the festivities that were taking place for the winter traditions festival. When we arrived to the center, there was a parade going on with groups from many parts of Romania representing their local area’s traditional dress and customs for this specific time of year. The groups were also caroling from time to time and the group from Botosani, the north eastern county of Romania, came dressed as bears and goats and performed traditional dances that go with those costumes. We continued walking through the center and saw some dance performances while feasting on a piping hot bowl of gulas. After we had finished with our meal, we walked around some more an  then headed to Toma’s house (Kevin’s counterpart). We spent a few hours hanging out with Toma and his wife while enjoying some sarmale, aiutura, and homemade wine that Kevin and Toma had made earlier in the year. We ended our day rather early since we had barely slept the night before and had 2 more days to explore Sighet.

On our second day, the first order of business was Ukraine. Sighet is on the border and after a 20 minute walk, we were at the customs point. Many Romanians go into Ukraine to shop because things are so much cheaper there than on the other side and what we encountered was nothing but Romanian. We barely heard any Ukrainian being spoken and the main difference was the  much poorer quality of infrastructure. We hung around across the border a little bit and explored the shops and bought some delicious chocolates. Once we got back to the Romanian side, we headed to the hostel to meet up with another PCV, Whitley, that had just arrived. We hung out at the hostel for a while and then headed to a very traditional Romanian restaurant which sits right next to the childhood home of Elie Wiesel, the famous Jewish author and Nobel laureate. We spent quite a bit of time at the restaurant where we enjoyed meals such as tocanita, paprikas, and mamaliga cu branza. We ended  our night there with some live populara music and great company.

Our last day in Sighet was our most eventful. We started off by heading to the communist museum which is situated within an old communist prison and gulag. It not only had a lot of info about Romanian communism but also about the regime in other countries as well. After the museum we roamed around the Russian market and then headed to Sapanta where the Merry Cemetery is located. The Merry Cemetery is kind of what it sounds like. All of the tombstones are a vibrant blue and have pictures on them with a rhyming story about the deceased’s life and the way he/she died. The reasons and stories are obviously fairly somber maybe even more than at a normal cemetery because you feel a closer connection to the people because you know more about them. After making it back to Sighet in the freezing cold, we chilled at the hostel for a while and then finished off a great trip to Maramures at an American karaoke bar.

Christmas Eve


Badnja Vece (Christmas Eve in Serbian) has always been my favorite day of the year, that being January 6th not December 24th. After the past two Christmases spent in Singeorz-Bai, I have realized that the 24th is always one of my favorite days of the year and it is thanks to my students and them showing me the wonderful traditions that come with this day.

Romanians have a lovely tradition of caroling for the night of Christmas Eve that starts sometime after dinner and can go as late as the next morning. They as friends, family, or classmates, go from house to house caroling where they are then invited inside for a drink, treat, and some great company. I spent this particular night at my house with Robert waiting for my students to come caroling. We bought the drinks, I made about 150 brownies, and we were ready just in time when the first class showed up around 8pm. I was visited by almost all of the classes that I teach as well as last year’s 12A class that has graduated and is on to college. The last group that came was the current 12A that stayed until about 1am. The whole night was an absolute blast and I am so happy that I decided to stay at home and spend this holiday with my kids.

We are in town until the 27th when we head off to Sighetu Marmatiei to meet up with Anthony at Kevin’s site to celebrate the holidays Maramures style!

Until then,

Va pup si va doresc un craciun fericit!


Me with some of the kids from 12A



Every year my school’s last day before winter vacation tradition is to put on a Christmas caroling competition. Here are some of the pictures and videos from this year’s competition: