Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmastime is Here...Happiness and Cheer...Olden Times and Ancient Rhymes...Of Love and Dreams to Share...

It is my pleasure to be here in this place and to share these times as a Peace Corps volunteer with the Romanian people in Brusturoasa and its surrounding communities. It has been the single most wonderful holiday experience I have ever had. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Being away from home is harder than I imagined, but life and God (and Santa, too) always seem to bring the gifts that you need the most when you least expect them. Wish you were here. I hope you will enjoy the photos and video at and my Facebook page. By the way, our bear “costumes” here in the village as you can see were actual bear skins-paws, teeth and all. Any taxidermist would be proud. The entire event was a unique combination of an “Ancient and Horribles” parade, majestic rodeo-style equine processions, old-fashioned European spirited holiday cabaret chorals in traditional hand-made Romanian dress, hilarious comical renderings with cowbells, flutes, drums and horns along with history-relating theatrical ditties reminiscent of Shakespearean lore both by children and adults. All of it ending off three hours later with American-Indian-like rain dances in the dark accompanied by a Fourth of July fireworks finale above enough to shed light on the snow-covered mountains turning red, blue, and yellow as faces in the crowd watched in amazement. We all walked to our homes together following the procession as it trailed away from a huge mass gathering to variously sized groups of friends, neighbors, and happy children saying goodnight and praising the talents and efforts of all who performed. You really haven’t lived until you’ve paraded with the bears---Fabulously Frenetic!! The following is a portion of an article regarding Romanian Christmas traditions, including the steaua, colinde, and the jocul ursului (bear and comics parade), that occur during the holidays here, some of which are unique to the region of Moldova. The original post can be found at The Village Way: Romanian Christmas traditions are based around the idea of time, explains Ion Blajan, head of collections at the Peasant Museum (Muzeul Taranului Roman): the traditional tales and celebrations are based on a 12-day period in which life goes through a chaotic period then starts afresh in the New Year. The practices that surround these traditions are now mostly seen in Northern Romania, around Bucovina and Suceava, and especially in Campulung Moldovenesc. Blajan explains the stories behind them: Romanians believe there is a period of chaos, where the world is broken and anything is possible; dead souls can come back to the earth, and we can communicate between our two worlds, the underworld and the sky. All this is reflected in dancing and songs and parades, and there is no regard for anything serious while it’s going on. Sounds just like a New Year's Eve in London to me! On the last day, when all the celebrations finish, people beat the bushes where they believe dead souls are hiding. They believe the souls must go back to their world or else they’ll threaten people on earth. It may sound like something your mother warned you away from, but the result is a wonderfully creative expression of tradition, with children in amazing costumes, so cleverly constructed and imaginative they could well be on a theatre stage, accompanied by sweet-sounding songs as well as miming and parades. Blajan continues: After the chaos, Christ is born, and from the chaos is born a new world. Children go around with a star and sing songs about the birth of Jesus Christ. Specific activities happen on each of the 12 days, says Blajan: On Christmas Eve the day is very short, and it was thought the sun would die, so a fire is lit on a wheel, which looks like the sun, to help the sun rise again, because without the sun the world would die. On New Year's Eve there are parades in the villages with bands and everyone wears costumes and masks. There are bride and groom masks, which symbolise a new life, and masks of old men and women which represent the old year. Some children dress up as bears – in the past real bears on leashes were led by gypsies in parades, but now sheep or bear skin costumes are used. Often the parade features goats, horses, deer and other animals pulled along on wheels as part of the parade with the band and the rest of the characters in the masks. Then on the last day, January 7th, children go to each house and sing songs about the baptism of St John. *WISHING ALL OF YOU BOTH NEAR AND FAR THE MOST BLESSED OF HOLIDAY SEASONS!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Heal the World

I haven’t written anything all month save the occasional comment on Facebook. Even my journal has suffered my absence for many weeks now as I cannot bear to write the words that ring in my head. It has been a trying time in that I have yet to digest the supreme loss of my best friend to cancer back home and still, I am here in Romania, giving it the daily all, wondering if my service will in fact be the capstone of my life.

Today marks the first three months at my site and it was and still is not without pain and much sacrifice. It is true that the changes that one submits to here in the initial service period are daunting, unpredictable, and never understood by those who have seemed to know you best back home. I hope that in looking back, it will have all been worth it. Some things are out of a person’s reach and scope of understanding. There are things that I will never understand. These things that take you to the depths of despair and to the pinnacles of brightness are all so much a part of it. And I have found that although you may have a heart of gold and the best of hopes and efforts, there are always many and unexpected events and disappointments around the bend.

However, the people here, both young and old, have continued to give me innumerable blessings, some more than I ever dreamed of and those which surpass even the gestures of my closest relationships back in the US---although to them (my Romanian neighbors) I am essentially a stranger in a strange land. The work is gratifying and challenging at the same time. My community is full of people who are open, caring and capable of cultural exchange without fear. I am glad that I was chosen to be here in Brusturoasa.

Now, life is very full of commitments. Places to be, people to see, things to do which fill my calendar and my days. There are tutoring sessions both for myself and others in English, games and activities with the children, family time at the gazda compound, chores, correspondence, teaching at three schools, cooking lessons, providing technology assistance, participating in community activities, and socializing to blend who I am (or who I was) into the landscape. All this while still living, breathing, trying to sleep, wash, eat, and generally being---something which most times came easily back in the US. Here, it is not so easy, as it is like living in the skin of another.

For many days and nights, I have carried a burden of guilt for leaving my home and everyone there. And for many days and nights, I have shed real tears to call to God on what he has planned for me and why this and why now. The answer has yet to be revealed and so I wait, hope and awake to another day, every day although it is full of trials…emotional ones…ones that pull at you to stand tall, stand firm, and stand alone yet equal and involved with everyone here and everyone there.

I have had very many memorable and touching moments, too. For those, I have taken photos, drawn pictures, and recorded video so that someday, if not too far away, I will look back with my grandchild and the rest of my loved ones and be able to make sense of it all, appreciating the losses that have come and respecting myself for enduring it.

If you are curious at all as to one person’s life as a PCV in the first three months of service, in a small town in the Eastern Carpathian mountains of an old-world country, then look to these photos of some of the times of my life, here at

For the other moments---like when my sixth grade and I sang "Heal the World" together to Michael Jackson, and the morning the fourth graders cheered when they learned I had arrived at their school for the day's lesson, and the feelings that I get when all the old ladies who want to chat with me appear on my way to and fro, and how nice it is that all the men say "Sarut mana/I kiss your hand" as I walk by, and what happens to me when I see all the unfathomable smiles and the complexity of thoughts that run deep and clear in the eyes of each of the children here---for all those things and more, I cannot share them with you, although I wish I could.

In closing, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I will admit that yes, I know that I cannot by myself “Heal the World”, but surely, with effort and with honest love, I can, “Make it a Better Place.” The saints I know up in Heaven tell me so.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Most Difficult and Blessed of Days

You can spend your whole life working, playing, planning, travelling, studying, wondering, winning, losing, and oftentimes knowing everything and nothing at all. Or you can join the Peace Corps.

Here I am, in Brusturoasa, Romania, in the heart of Moldavia, thousands of miles away from my home in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. It's been over forty years since I heard the call to action of President Kennedy and a lifetime of memories that I've collected.

I imagined many times what life in the Peace Corps might be. First set in a jungle, then the desert, a tent city, a wattle and daub hut, a houseboat, a high-rise. I imagined muddy water, no water, and cold water from an old well a five-mile hike too far. I imagined dark forests, sandstorms, isolation, crowded trains, and dirty bathrooms. I imagined that I would be eating insects and raw fish, riding camels, living in fear of hidden bears and poisonous snakes and living in wonder of stately elk and gliding eagles. I imagined sleeping on a hard straw bed, having little food or heat, and being lost in the wilderness. I imagined having no electricity to read, no phone to communicate with my loved ones far away, and nothing but blank stares from the crowd of onlookers curiously eyeing my presence there.

Now, after four months in country and one month here in my village, I am experiencing none of this and all of it. The feelings have ebbed and flowed, peaked and sunk, and are those that mirror the ones in my dreams long ago. Yes, I have been cold, anxious, entertained, awestruck, calm, satisfied, challenged, overjoyed, deeply honored, exasperated, cautious, hungry, lonely, content, empowered, heartbroken, and inspired. Every day has been a journey of change after change, many days in minute by minute increments. Seeing the world for the first time again and doing the same for others in my company. Learning new things, revisiting the old, utilizing resourcefulness gained from years of experience. Having the courage and conviction to live every second to the fullest and remaining committed to the belief that goodness is out there and is mine for the asking.

It has been a truly personal mission, one that has taken me to the highest of heights and the lowest of lows. Taking the oath of service, speaking yet another daughter language of Latin, managing daily chores without amenities now commonplace in the US, learning to navigate new areas with and without transportation, making time go further, trying to find private moments alone to reflect, actively being a part of the community, learning to live with sometimes as much as six new people at once, eating things I absolutely don't want to, sharing in nature everyday, being unable to properly grieve while losing my best friend across the ocean to cancer, walking the funeral procession for a child killed in a tragic accident here, receiving heartwarming mail from friends, being able to hold on to my primary relationship back home without fearing too much, reaching hundreds of children and helping them to believe in their future, and so on.

The list is long and interesting. I cannot fully express the details of how much I have been changed for the better by taking the leap of faith and coming to Romania as a Peace Corps volunteer. I realize that I have not done any of this alone and have thanks for all who believed in me both here and in the US and that offered their assistance, knowledge and love unselfishly.

In closing, I would like to leave you with some more anecdotes and observations that might give you a small window into my unforgettable life here in Brusturoasaland. For me, it is all so personal, unique, invigorating, necessary, spiritual, and hour by hour, very rewarding. Then I hope you will write your own story.

In Romania,

You may not be a fan of ciorba, but you can savor the taste of the most delicious tomatoes on the planet.

In Romania,

You are never alone for long and privacy means a few short minutes when you can catch your breath by the riverbank.

In Romania,

You can wash your hair with ice cold water outside by the herb garden while the sheep bleat nextdoor, a lonely cowbell rings, and the train whizzes by and whistles.

In Romania,

Everyone thinks you are rich, but you know that they really are.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

And All the Roads That Lead You Here Are Winding...

Truly this is a fact of life, especially of Peace Corps life. I will try to condense all that has happened in the last three weeks. The good, the bad, the ugly, the tragic, and the sublime: Settling in allowance is gone and have shopped around here and there, mostly there, for overpriced trinkets to stock a modest minimalist kitchen. Taking daily walks along the dirt roads admiring the wildflowers, dodging animals, and thinking about everything over here and over there. Loving working with the children, cooking, learning, enjoying new foods and new friendships. Meeting everyone who lives in this commune of villages and having no trouble being the token American. Teaching everything I know and everything I ever wanted to know to anyone who will listen. Learning how to harvest again and spending time with the dirt, the sun, and the plants. Being invited over to have sarmale and some more sarmale with a big bowl of happiness for dessert. Meeting three great people "from off" in Holland and Cornwall and sharing ideas. Getting a huge classroom for extra curricular projects with a whole slew of windows that look to the south. Finding that we have four new and six old sewing machines in the utility room not being used yet. Having two cups of great coffee in between four or five classes a day. Going to the center of town to schmooze with the dignitaries, the old ones, and the very important the train whistles by overhead and the smell of smokey myce fills the air. Watching everyone having a great time even though it's freezing cold (at least for me!). Going to the magazin for the third time today to ask for something to cook for dinner besides poi with a brewski. Writing the umpteenth millionth page in my journal now four months old. Discussing projects with select groups of people interested in preserving the environment and conserving energy. Attending the St. Mary's Day festival and seeing some really special traditions happening right before my eyes. Listening to the dogs howl at night and the roosters crow in the morning. Having no time all day, but much time at night to contemplate my future, the impact of my service, and the affect all this is having on my relationships and myself. Being heartbroken at walking in and seeing the children in the procession of a small nine year old classmate's funeral who died instantly after being struck by a car outside of her home here. Feeling sadness while teaching in front of her empty desk in grade 3 that is adorned with a perpetual daily tea light, a vase of flowers, and a soft black ribbon tied in a bow. Congregating on the crowded microbus for the weekly five hour round trip trek to the only supermarket and bank in the city closest to here. Relying on the kindness of strangers, who aren't strangers any more. Feeling so honored at having the opportunity to take these children under my wing, if only for a time, and to share experiences, language, and culture from far, far away. Wondering where the boxes are with some more of my clothes and personal things that were mailed to me over a month ago. Waiting for the day that all my studying and networking and active searching for talking partners will pay off and I will become fluent in Romanian. Feeling joy at the sight of the ducks that are growing up faster than ever right before my eyes. Taking the time to write to everyone whenever I can and sending off my second letter to WWS along with a huge DVD loaded with pictures and video. Finishing two knitting projects late in the evening while watching Euronews, CNN International, and assorted old movies on TCM. Understanding that I was blessed to be chosen for this job to be here now and in this time and place. Having the time of my life and seeing things that will stay with me forever. Crying myself to sleep more than once missing the love of my life something awful. Finding something to do every single minute even if I don't have to. Exploring any new road I can find. Having the respect of mature colleagues and enjoying exchanges and smiles. Getting immersed in Romanian culture every day of the week. Wishing that I could bottle the good times, the talking together, the views, the tastes, the smells, the air and take it out whenever I want. Hoping for a good night's sleep with some heat and a soft bed. Having some lavender tea, contemplating new things and enjoying the sunsets. Looking to the future, reminiscing about the past, and living in the moment with both anxiety and a trusting heart. And dreaming of you, my Wonderwall...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What can I tell you about my first two weeks as a PCV???

Well, let me see....

In Romania,

The days are long, the time goes by slowly, and there are no plans---at least the ones that you know about.

In Romania,

You may meet a horse, a more than friendly cow, some chickens, a turkey or two, or more than a few chickens on the road---or not.

In Romania,

The mountains are green, the water is cool, and the stars at night are like a crazy dream.

In Romania,

You have to light the stove everyday with damp matches, use an outhouse when visiting new friends more often than not, wear your scarf and gloves to bed starting in September---but you can have Satellite TV of course.

In Romania,

There is no Harris Teeter or Walmart, but you can by nothing you need and anything you want at the "magazin-s" because they're Mixt and Non-Stop.

In Romania,

You should always take the road less travelled, lest you miss out on a single woodpecker making his mark in life or the thousands of varieties of nettles and flowers along the wild paths.

In Romania,

The language is not a barrier if you like smiling and waving to the train conductor by your front door or listening to and chatting with the other elders in the village after supper.

In Romania,

It's okay for your clothes not to match in public---at all---and to wear socks with sandals or chizme with a dress and an apron.

In Romania,

They like myce on the grill, tuica in a glass, and never do they miss a chance for ice cream.

In Romania,

The religiosity is palpable, refreshing, comforting, and real.

In Romania,

The land is a hodgepodge of timber, tin, tile, gardens, makeshift sheds, old time bridges, animal farms, lovely people, and churches.

In Romania,

Strangers become friends---and friends become family.

In Romania,

The wells are ancient---and they hold living waters.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Official!

To the kind people of Romania, the Peace Corps' entire administrative staff, our superb language instructors, and my gazda family here in Targoviste,

Today is a day for all of us to look toward the future. A day for reflection on what we have accomplished. And as we stand on the threshold of a promising time, we take notice of our supporters, the Romanian people, who have welcomed us warmly into their country.

Peace Corps Romania is a unique and wonderful opportunity for both our people and yours. Still, for some of us, this day holds a special meaning, one that has shaped our decisions and motivated our desires since we can remember.

In 1961, when John F. Kennedy proposed the inception of this organization, we were children, not yet aware of the impact that our participation could have. The years went by and we learned about ourselves, became adults, had our disappointments and celebrated our successes. We lost and sacrificed and changed and earned and all the while we were gaining wisdom, experience, compassion, and understanding of what it meant to be alive in this era. Some of us became parents, even grandparents, and further we could know the unique joy of this hope for the future.

We lived the "Age of Aquarius", the birth of color television, the first man on the moon, the chaos of the 60's, the assassinations of our most prominent leaders, the Vietnam War, the technological revolution, supersonic air travel, "fast food nation", a booming economy, the dream of an education, and the ability to travel widely and often.

Now we admit that our journeys have not ended. We take all that we have learned and known and travel onward to begin our volunteer service in Romania. We are proud of our heritage, we are humbled by the privilege of the daunting tasks before us. We leave behind beloved friends and families; we accept our fate and answer our calling many years in the making.

We thank you for all that you have given to us already and also for all that we will share with you during the next two years of our lives. We have prepared for this moment in earnest and we are part of the last of the Kennedy generation of Peace Corps volunteers who will go abroad to be of service to others in a foreign nation.

We are fortunate to be here now on the brink of the 50th anniversary of the US Peace Corps and we will always be grateful to have been born in such an auspicious time. We look ahead to our days in Romania and when our service ends, we will say once again, "The Best is Yet to Come!"

Natalie Montanaro
US Peace Corps

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Land of Bread and Honey

What can I tell you about Brusturoasa?

Once I had a dream that I was in the old world, and the sound of the train crept by like a whisper in the starriest of nights along the cool and clean river. And in that dream there was laughter, green fields of colorful wildflowers and red fruit, vines that hung low and high along fences made of seasoned wood, birds that flew overhead into the sunset and the horsecarts' wheels made time with the clop, clop, clop of a stately animal with a long, golden mane.

This was the dream that I dreamt of "times gone by" and I realized it this week when I saw my new home for the next two years. Every person that I met, either down the road, in the church, at the school where I will teach, and among my gazda family, each of them, were welcoming, curious, anxious, and full of wishes for our time together.

I slept well for the first time in a while and I knew that this was a place that I could call home. The town is small and the people have much to do. There are holidays, birthdays, weddings and funerals in the tradition of a true Romania. There is peacefulness and fresh air. The mountains lie right behind the house where I will live, complete with a large working garden and animals that sustain the property. There are two dogs, a horse, many chickens, roosters, and turkeys, five pigs, and two cows. We will eat branza cured in fir tree bark, sip homemade palinka and elderflower tea, and admire all the freshness there that will grace our table. And I will be fortunate enough in time to bear witness to the beauty of many seasons of cultivation. There will be very cold winters, lots of cultural diversions, and a short spring and summer, yet days that hold surprises in nature around every corner, and hopes for a wonderful Peace Corps service with a multitude of possibilities.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Deluge of Rain and Tears is Over!

Hello All!

The Fourth of July Party was great...All 45 minutes of it until the rains came! We all made such wonderful food and the decorations were great and truly the setting as well was so nice in beautiful Chindia Park. But as nature would have it, we were soaked to the skin and had to abandon our day's plans. I spent the remainder of Saturday together with my gazda family and we talked, ate and drank, played games and surely a good time was had by all. The rest of the week was a long, long wait until Wednesday since watching the memorial service for Michael Jackson was bittersweet, especially since it is now a chapter in my life that is closed having grown up with him and his music. I especially loved the letter from Miss Diana Ross whom I had the occasion to meet in 1986 back in RI. When Wednesday finally did arrive, however, we were rewarded when a-la-The Academy Awards, we all individually walked the red carpet (literally) and we were so very pleased to get confirmation of where we would be living in the next two years of our service. FYI: I will be in a small village called Brusturoasa, in the Carpathian foothills, on the border of the Moldovan region of Romania. It's actually part of Transylvania, but you knew that I would get there someday, didn't you? I will live with the mayor and his wife and their small children in an idyllic place and teach middle school and help with summer projects and camps. I couldn't have asked for a better situation to live out my Peace Corps dream! The English teaching and technology and cultural training are needed here and the children are so excited that they will be getting an American teacher. They and their current teacher already sent me today a huge surprise box of the most wonderful hand-made dolls, a tapestry, pictures, letters, a picture of my new home made with grasses and leaves, a basket of sweet little chicks, a sheep's wool mask sewn together with leather and made of various colors of coat, another funny traditional clay mask, a CD of the area, and to top it all off a golden horseshoe. I am blessed! It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and I look forward to meeting all of my new students and the people of Brusturoasa. They rock already!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Experiencing Some Romanian Orthodox Traditions

The following are entries from my journal about two aspects of the concepts of death and dying expressed by Romanian Orthodox followers in two small villages on two different weekends which I was fortunate to share in first hand this month. I felt the need to write about these in light of how we all contemplate death at some time or another, especially this week, when the world has experienced the too early loss of the iconic and supremely talented King of Pop, Michael Jackson. And so it is---an unfortunate and unavoidable part of living.

June 6, 2009:

Today will surely be one of the most memorable days I will spend in Romania. I believe it. My gazda family and I went to a biserica in a small village on the outskirts of Targoviste called Razvad. Here we visited during the ceremony for the Remembrance of the Dead. All brought large baskets filled with cakes decorated by traditional crucifixes and libations in old soda bottles that were lit by long, thin candles as the Parenti (Priest/Father) chanted in Romanian as there the visitors looked after their relatives and friends since gone. As the doors to the altar opened and closed and the incense and holy waters were passed among them, I thought of how in earlier times this ritual was the same. The blessing of the basket offerings ensued and the people young and old took part in age-old customs. For over 500 years, this structure had welcomed those who looked after the memory of their dead and it made me realize the meaning of my own ties to religion and how it has always been such a huge part of my life. The music was deep and I will never forget how it touched me for the first time as a visitor to Romania. We then walked out with baskets to commemorate the day and offer the libations and cake to each other and especially to the deceased as they lie silent in their graves beside the church in the yard. I was invited to the country home of a bunica and her family who offered me more cakes and plate of eggs, chicken, chocolate, nuts, and cheese to feast upon and drink it all in under the arbor of newly bloomed, young green grapes.

June 27, 2009

Another wonderful and spiritually laced day in the tara (countryside). This time I visited with my gazda family their extended immediate family in the village of Marcesti, about 30 minutes outside of Targoviste. I met my gazda's brother and sister-in-law and their children and her elderly father the bunic (grandfather). I got a tour of their modest property, complete with garden, cherry trees, and an assortment of animals in pens and loosely exploring the grass and mounds of dirt left astray for their enjoyment. The place was alive despite the concrete garage open bucaterie (kitchen) and the old and many times repaired wooden sheds that housed animal feed, supplies, tools and the like. The house had been restored and retained remnants of the original roof and flooring and was appointed with many books and an array of oriental-style rugs. It was clean and busy and the family made us ciorba, pork and salad complete with fresh cheese from their cow whom I was able to milk later on in the day (My first time and no movie-style kicks, thank goodness!) The best part of the day however, was to attend the funeral of a local man, 76, and with a large family. The whole village came out and as I sat in the small room next to the body laid out for the past three days in the hall in a grand casket with a veil, I remembered how my mother told of the Polish custom similar to this in her girlhood and felt so lucky to be welcome here. The granddaughter pinned a small black velvet band on my blouse and looked at me with tired but friendly eyes that seemed to say "thank you" or maybe just "I am a young girl, wondering everything here---welcome stranger." The ritual went on as one of the aunts and a cousin passed a live chicken and a pot of red roses under the coffin as it crossed the threshold to bless the deceased and the crowd followed the horse drawn carriage, all of us, as the wife, sisters, and children wailed and cried aloud asking why and how this could be. As the gentleman was brought to first the church and the cemetary, I could only think of how calm and peaceful he seemed, how strong his hands were, and how much he was loved, despite the blue black visage of rigor mortis which had taken hold. I thanked my gazda family for this day of blessings and went to bed early in hopes of another tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First Week Teaching 5th Grade

This has been a great week and I thought that I might share some of that with you. First of all, I have been "chomping at the bit" to start working and being able to teach finally has been a fabulous burst of energy for me. The children are endearing and intelligent, some shy, some very dramatic, and of course this makes it so much more interesting. Monday was a lesson on Charleston, SC with a follow-up to their creating a brochure of their own about Targoviste. All of them know how to say "Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places!" and we had a great time. The second day, teaching was in poetry format and I read some original as well as a couple of short poems to illustrate how to create free verse from photos and mental pictures. I had cut up a National Geographic and they went to town with that. Today there was weather instruction for the first hour and geography the last hour. One of my favorites to teach in an English class. I really love that the children all now know how to say and define climate, meteorology, precipitation, Appalachian, Mississipi, and Tornado Alley. Kind of cool for us EFL teachers since we can use all subjects to get the message across. My second day had a little glitch and it was kind of funny later since I helped the med staff present nosebleeds and eye injuries, so go figure, I get a nosebleed in the middle of Tuesday's class. No problem---since I've done this before---and so we marched on with the lesson.

Having a lot of long days since I am out exploring town and on the weekends spend lots of time with my gazda family. Next week, I will be teaching high school and then we all find out about our permanent sites on the 8th of July. I can't wait to start researching the new home and planning for the move. Had a meeting with the country director this afternoon and will meet with the TEFL placement director tomorrow so wish me luck!!!

PS: Language classes are going great and that's one of the perks that I joined PC for. I hope that when I get to my site there are many opportunities for chatting it up with the locals. Yesterday I had a nice long talk with an old man outside the pharmacy and in the park on Sunday was able to meet a nice Bunica and her grandaughters and we talked while being serenaded by accordians and music from the Orthodox church as a wedding ceremony began.

So, I am on my way home before dark again....the caine vagabonde (stray dogs) have been out in force and the packs keep us up at night with the growling, howling, and barking right outside the window. Like a good student, I will write a poem about that in Romanian for you next week.

Bye for now and remember---Be well, do good work, and keep in touch!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On the Way to Onesti

If this trip to Romania weren't surreal enough, then how about some of the most amazing scenery from back in time? I am in awe of the fabulously friendly people and how hard they work day to day to bring to life their land and to carry their heritage on their backs for all to see. In their faces are the hardships and the lasting memories that their grandparents, their "bunici", gave them. The cities here are paradoxical, the countryside is fantastical, and the days here are sweet.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bine ati Venit Targoveste!

Today after the first week of Peace Corps training I am grateful for the sunshine to take a long walk this morning from the train station to classes at the other end of town. I am grateful for my Romanian Gazda family who are most gracious hosts and I am grateful for the time to get to know these people whose geography I will share for a time all too short. I am grateful for knowing enough Romanian to get around on my own sometimes and grateful for the diversity of my fellow PC trainees. I am grateful that I was not on Air France last week. I am grateful for the continued success of the Peace Corps and the mission which JFK conceived. I am grateful for the fluffy towel I remembered to bring with me. I am grateful for the health and happiness of my friends and family until we can meet again. I am grateful also for the absence of spitting and canine droppings on the sidewalks that I encountered in China and Italy on former trips abroad respectively and, I am grateful that I will be having the time of my life in multiple ways.

Talk to you next week when I will post photos!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We Who Are About to Embark on an Awesome Journey Salute You

For those of you who know me well, the preparation to get to this point has been excruciatingly slow, expensive in more ways than one, filled with highs and lows, and most certainly coloured with all the mundane and gory details that accompany the likes of planning for your final trip to some afterlife. (I won't again mention the tooth extraction incident where I screamed like a monkey as the anesthetic wore off somewhere between the slicing of the gum with the scalpel and the grinding of bone with the saw)! And although it took me 45 years to get from what was initially just a young kid's yearning to be a part of something bigger instilled by the words of JFK, to this time when that same young person is somehow transcended into a grown-up who can fulfill the commitment to serve in the Peace Corps, still, I am so very grateful that I am finally about to realize the gravity of the dream that is now about to unfold. Nonetheless, it truly seems as if I needed one more week to say "La Revedere" to all of you who have made my life so rich. Thanks for all the sendoffs, hugs, kisses, shows of emotion, gifts, and precious pieces of yourselves that I will take with me always. It is my sincere hope that this detour from my Charleston life will be enlightening and joyful, filled with experiences that are enriching, challenging, and long-saved in memory. Good or bad, rough or smooth, communal or savoured alone, I look forward to sharing a few of my Peace Corps experiences with you.

Just another day in Paradise

Just another day in Paradise

To Welcome Me to the Biserica


We have surely arrived!

I'm Going to Brusturoasa!

I'm Going to Brusturoasa!
Can't Wait to Meet My New Neighbors

My Wonderful Gazda Family!

My Wonderful Gazda Family!
On the Way to the Party on the 4th