On Monday, October 28th, we here in Ireland celebrated a bank holiday which meant no school for me on Monday OR Tuesday. Taking advantage of a solid week of no classes I hopped on a plane last Thursday night and headed to Romania. Lore and Teo had invited me a little while ago to be their son Andrei’s god mother and I initially thought I wasn’t going to be able to find a free time in my schedule that would be able to work for all of us until I found out about this holiday. I skyped with Lore and they were okay with the idea of having the christening on the 27th of October so I could attend as well.
After spending the night in London by Denisa’s I arrived to Cluj around 1:30pm local time where I found Teo waiting for me. We headed straight for Singeorz-Bai and after a quick pitstop in Bistrita, arrived to Lore and Teo’s apartment around 4pm. After hanging out for a little bit, catching up, and snuggling the baby, Lore and I got read to head to the Freshman Ball that was taking place that night. We arrived shortly after the competition had started and after being greeted and hugged by every former student and friend that we passed while walking in, we finally made it to our seats. We spent the rest of the night hanging out with the professors and students and catching up with friends that I hadn’t seen in several months.
Most of my day Saturday was spent at the some sort of cafe drinking tea, coffee, lemonade, you name it. I spent the greater part of the day hanging out and catching up with friends and even got to see some of them that came home from college for the weekend. Sunday morning we all woke up and imediately started getting ready for the christening. At about 11am, all of Lore and Teo’s family started arriving into the small apartment. A little after noon we all headed towards the church for the wonderful event of turning little Andrei into an Orthodox Christian. The christening in and of itself was fairly short, about half an hour and was very similar to what a Serbian Orthodox christening is like. Following the church we all headed across the street to the restaurant where we had our meal ready and waiting for us.
Monday I spent the greater part of the morning and early afternoon at school disrupting classes and substituting for a sick teacher. I visited every class that I taught last year and made it a point to hang out a little more with the 12th graders. After school, I headed out to lunch with my friend Paul where we finally got to have a nice conversation and catch up in private and not be bothered by random loud music like we were at the ball. Monday night Vasi and Dana invited us over to their house for dinner where we spent most of the evening eating, drinking, and just having a great time. These random little get togethers that I had throughout my visit only amplified the amount I miss Romania and Singeorz-Bai.
Tuesday was my last day in Romania as well as my travel day in Cluj. Lore insisted that they would drive me to Cluj we so bundled up the little one and headed out on Andrei’s first road trip. They dropped me off in Cluj around 4pm where I headed off to my hostel to settle in. Shortly after I called up Ioana and headed over to her apartment to meet up with her and her roommates (all my former students). That night I took Ioana, Popishor, and Tudor out to dinner at none other than Klausen Burger. It was what I consider the best restaurant in Romania with the best beer as well.
This trip could not have come at a better time. Before Romania I was beyond stressed out with school work and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. As soon as I landed, all my problems faded and I barely thought about school during the week I was there. I enjoyed chatting and catching up with everyone even though there are still many people that I wish I could have seen. I’m back in Ireland ready to face the second half of the semester. I just turned in one major paper and have 5 more to write by the time the semester is over. Hopefully I can manage my time well enough to get it all done and leave for my Christmas vacation back home in 6 weeks.
Mary came over the other night and we got into a long discussion about the Romanian school system and how it works and what not so here are some facts that I have learned.
- School starts September 15th
- First break is from Christmas which starts December 23rd and will go until January 15th. This is different from previous years. Before, Christmas break would only be 2 weeks and then there would be another break somewhere in February that classified as the semester break. The Ministry of Education has decided to get rid of that break and extend Christmas and I think spring break a week.
- School ends sometimes in June
- Students choose what area they would like to specify their studies in. These are usually broken down by Math/IT, Philology(Social Sciences), Languages, etc. (my school is kind of different is this respect)
- Each grade level is broken up into A,B,C,D, and the letters continue depending on how large the highschool is. The letter of the group the student is in usually depends on the student’s intelligence. The smartest kids get into the A group, next is the B group and so on. So within the Math/IT specialization there is 9A,9B,9C,9D,10A,10B, and so on. then there is Philology 9A,9B,etc. After the year is over 9A becomes 10A, 10A becomes 11A and so on. I know that movement within the groups does occur but I don’t believe it happens very often. (my school is different in this respect as well)
- Since my high school is fairly small, the specializations and the letter groups are paired together. In my school the A group is Math/IT, the B group is Philology, the C group is Chemistry/Bio and the D group is Economics. Since the Math/IT specialization is said to be the most difficult, the best students usually tend to gravitate for that one and going into their freshman year, they choose to go into 9A. Philology is said to be the next in terms of difficulty and therefore that is 9B. The next two is where it gets a little confusing. Chem/Bio is 9C but I was told that in general, 9D(Econ) has better students compared to 9C which is Chem/Bio. I was confused as to how Chem/Bio could be the “least smart” group of people when neither of those sciences are easy and I was told that although that is their specialization, the other groups, especially A, has more intensive bio and chem classes than the bio and chem specialization does. Some things I just don’t fully understand.
- Students are not required to take an entrance exam to get into colleges within the country such as our SAT or ACT
- At the end of their senior year, students are required to take the Baccalaureate which is in some ways a comparable to our final exams. The bac. encompasses everything the students have learned and these are one of the main things that colleges look at.
- Admittance into colleges depends heavily on one’s grades since it is a rating system. The students with the best grades can secure their spots and then those that are left open are available for the next category of students with lower grades and so on.
- In college, the number of credits a class is worth is not hour based like it is in the states but importance based. The most important classes for a student that are mandatory for his/her major can be worth 6 or 7 credits, while other classes that are also mandatory for one to graduate but don’t necessarily encompass elements of the student’s major might be worth 4 or 5 and so on.
I think that’s about all I can recall from our conversation. Hope I remember everything correctly!
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 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!
Pronounced Trgovishte – This city of around 100K will be our training site for the next few months! Here are some fun facts about the city from none other than Wikipedia.
- Dâmboviţa County Capitol
- About 40miles north of Bucharest
- First Attested in 1396
- Trial and execution site of Nicolae Ceaușescu
- Twin city of Miami, FL
- Known for its PC gamers? WTF?! They even have counter strike dedicated server?!?!
And now some of my self discovered facts:
- The roads are awful…I was told that this can be said for most of the country. It is rare to find a local road without a stretch of potholes every 100 feet or so.
- There are more dogs than people. Romania is known for its stray dog population. some dogs have tags on them that the city is using to track but there are still many more out there.
- The dogs are not bilingual and therefore will not respond if you yell at them in english.
- Property value is non-existant. on 1 street, you can see anything from mansions to shacks all build side by side.
- Huge range of old vs. new world. There are horse drawn carriages along with bmws
After the group spent most of the day sitting inside the hotel’s meeting room participating in orientation, we got to wander around the city for the rest of the night. The majority of the group decided to visit one of the local bar/restaurant/cafes while about 5 of us decided to walk around and see the city first. The city is small but very quaint. There is a nice amount of greenery with a cellphone shop on every corner. We took a walk through the park and got to know each other a little better as well.
The "Metropolitan" church
- Nick (looking like a fool) Meg and Lindsey
The day started off with an hour and a half language lesson that actually went much better than I had anticipated. We went over money, numbers, and basic greetings. After our lesson we had a short meeting about our homestay experience. We were given the basic do’s and don’ts when it came to living with our host family and what the expectations were from us and from them as well.
After lunch, we went back into the meeting room where we waited for our host families to come and pick us up. I was extremely nervous and hoping that someone in my family would at least know a few basic sentences in English. A lady and two teenage girls came up to me and introduced themselves as my host mom and sisters..IN ENGLISH! I was ecstatic! Maria, the mom, doesn’t know much English but can understand a lot more. Denisa(19) and Izabela(12) were more conversational. Denisa is fluent in English and Izabela is conversational. They told me how I am their 3rd volunteer so they are very familiar with the homestay program.
When we got to their house, we hung out in the kitchen a little bit, talked, and I got to meet their dog Bijou. Bijou is a feisty chihuahua/jack russell mix that loves to bark and you gnaw on your fingers and toes. After about a few hours of attempting to befriend, Bijou, he finally accepted me and stopped trying to bite my toes off. When my gazda(landlord) dad came home, we ate dinner and I was told there was a “surpriza” in store for me. It was a cake that Maria had made that had “WELCOME!” written on it and tasted chocolate and fruit mixed heaven in my mouth. When dinner was over I told my host mom “Sera muna pentru masa” which literally means I kiss your hand for the meal which is a HUGE compliment. She was so surprised that I knew what that meant and went on to wish that I grow even taller and more beautiful. Thanks to one of the PCVLs (PC volunteer leaders) Zach, for teaching me how to kiss ass 🙂 While talking with the family, I learned that Denisa is graduating highschool in about a month and has applied to go to college in the U.K. and Denmark. She goes to the bi-lingual highschool in the center and knows French and Latin as well. Here are a few pictures of my accommodations:
My gazda family's apartment
After dinner, Denisa and I picked up her friend Diana and we went to the center for some coffee and then for a walk around. Denisa showed me her highschool and the places where the PCVs like to hangout. During one of our conversations I learned the Romanian equivalent of a “Guido”. Denisa was telling me how men (usually older than our typical guidos) listen to a certain genre of gypsy music called Mandele. She was telling me about a type of men that wear very thick chains, dress in expensive clothing, flaunt their wealth, and essentially make it rain with money on these gypsy performers called cocolari. The girl equivalent are called pitzipoance. They are known to take pictures with the “duck” face. I guess some things are the same, no matter where you go.
Today we really didn’t do much other than go to the “countryside” where Maria’s mom lives to visit with Denisa’s cousin “Johnny” that flew in from London this morning. We spent the day hanging out and ate an amazingly tasty lunch. Denisa and I came back to the house a little bit ago and are just hanging out for the rest of the day. Tomorrow is my first day at training. Our host families are required to walk us to and from school with the hopes of being able to find our own way to school Tuesday like big kids 🙂
Until next time, love and miss you all! and my texting app is in order so if you want to text me (for free, or so it says) the number is 740-651-4703
I have lost all sense of time. I have no clue what day it is, my body doesn’t know the time, and I can’t recall the last time I’ve slept…
The journey to get here was definitely a long and tiring one. Starting off at our hotel in Philly, we left for JFK at 9:30am. After checking in and getting through security, we sat around at our gate for hours upon hours until our plane was ready to board at 5:15. When I got to my seat, I literally yelped! Why, might you ask? Well, because I got an exit row seat aka a crap load of leg room! We sat on the tarmac for about an hour or so after we boarded and we never really got to find out why but once we were up in the air it was smooth sailing. I sat next to Grant which is one of my fellow volunteers and talking to him made the trip MUCH shorter. We landed in Munich around 8:50am local time and an hour late. Our flight to Bucharest was supposed to take off at 9:25 but luckily, was also delayed due to heavy fog. We ended up sitting on the tarmac with this second flight as well and all in all made it to Bucharest about an hour later than we were scheduled to. My luggage made the trip through but two other volunteers were not as lucky. One persons luggage got sent to Vienna and another person’s luggage was MIA so hopefully theirs ends up here soon. After we were so kindly greeted by a very large PC staff, we hopped on another bus and drove about two hours to the small city of Targoviste which will be the site of our training.
Here are a few pictures of the countryside from the airplane and the view out of my hotel window.
We’ve got about an hour to kill before we have to meet back down to fill out more paperwork but just wanted to give everyone a quick update and to let you know that I made it to Romania is one piece!