Easter Vacation

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Since Orthodox Easter fell in early May this year, instead of having a 2 week long spring vacation, we had 1 week of spring vacation and now we just had a 5 day Easter vacation.

The first day we had off was May 1st which is International Worker’s Day or as we know it in the States as Labor Day. On Wednesday, our first day off, Varvara invited me over to hang out for the day since I hadn’t been over to her house in months. I had been promising her husband Adi some homemade chili so I figured this was the perfect occasion to fulfil my promise. Pot of chili in hand, I headed over to Maieru where I spent the majority of the day relaxing, reminiscing, and enjoying the company of Varvara and her family.

Since I don’t think I can survive if I don’t travel, Thursday morning I headed out to Anthony’s site, Negresti, to spend the rest of the Easter vacation. I have been promising him that I would come visit for the past two years and I FINALLY made it, with 2 months to spare! Anthony spent the weekend introducing me to his closest friends and students and we even got a visit from Jason who was in Iasi for a day and decided to grace us with his presence.

I got a chance to meet two amazing girls, Adnana and Andjelija. They are Anthony’s students and not only are they really good English speakers, they are such sweet girls. Andjelija and I automatically bonded because she has Yugoslavian roots so we were able to speak Serbian to each other. Adnana was also so adorable and she impressed me so much when she told me that she had read my blog before. She even ended up getting us Easter chocolates with a personalized note that she dropped off later on during the weekend.

I also got to finally meet Razvan. Razvan is to Anthony as Ioana is to me. Former student turned best friend. Razvan was Anthony’s student last year and is now a freshman at the university in Iasi. He was in town for the holiday as well and we got to spend some time with him. It was nice finally meeting him because I had talked to him many times before so I felt like I already knew him and just needed to put a face to the name.

Easter Sunday was spent at Anthony’s former gazda’s house. Like any typical EE family, they pulled out all the stops for us and we ended up have a 4 course meal. We visited Dana, who lives about 5 minutes away from Anthony, and we got to not only meet her family but also got a tour of her zoo. When I say zoo, I kind of mean it. This woman loves animals, especially birds. After battling with our eggs (I ended up being the undisputed champion) and our first course, we took our first food “pauza” and headed onto the property. After passing by the newly constructed soccer field/basketball court, Dana, along with her 7 and 4 year old grandsons Luca and Mario took us past the greenhouse where we encountered: a cow, about 5 dogs, many hens, rabbits, some that were born that morning, geese, pheasants  quails, ducks, and last but not least, TWO PEACOCKS. The woman has peacocks. I thought that was beyond awesome.

I left Anthony’s at around 7:30am on Monday morning and after hitchhiking into Iasi (about 50km), since absolutely nothing was running during the holiday, and sitting on a 7 hour long, 90 degree train, I am back home for a few more days until I leave again on Wednesday night for a training in Craiova.

 

Until then,

Va pup

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2 Year Anniversary

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Dear Peace Corps Romania Group 28,

Today, April 28, 2013, marks exactly two years since we stepped foot onto Romanian soil. Little did we know that we would become a family of 3o-something crazy PC Volunteers. I just want to say congrats to my fellow PCVs today and that I love each and every one of you. Thank you for being there for me through the good and the bad, sharing in the amazing moments that will be memories for the rest of my life, empathizing with me during my hardships, and rejoicing with me during my successes. Each of you has impacted me in one way or another and I am a much better person for it. You are all going to be in my heart forever.

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.