Thursday, April 22, 2010

Primavara, You Have Surely Arrived!

Dear readers,

Today, I realized that I hadn't posted a new story in two months, and as the schoolteachers in the region held a strike day, there was a free, but jam-packed-with-stuff-to-do day on the agenda and I thought, well, it would be a good time to revisit these pages! Instead of focusing on one particular event, I'd like to go ahead and show you some of the highlights of my busy, but very blessed, life here in Romania Peace Corps. After 11 months in the country, the language comes with everyday ease, the activities are piling up for the record books, and the rewards that come with volunteering are too endless to count.

I've been in contact with two soon-to-be volunteer trainees, one from the heart of the midwest, where some of my family lives, and one from my much loved college back in Charleston, SC, who will be coming here to experience some of what Romania has given to me. I am very happy for them and can't wait to meet them face to face to spend time being their own personal tour guide and mentor as the anniversary of my first year here approaches. They ask me all of the time what my "typical" day looks like and things like how much to pack and what do I do in my free time. Well, girls, the answers lie below, and they are anything but typical. As for the packing, it'll drive you crazy until you get here and you realize that not only can you do without most of it because you can eventually get it here, but, except for the most needed personal mementos and essential favorites, it's okay to leave the country and merge straight ahead and not look back. You'll find a new world here and for a time, it will be your only love. And lastly, the free time thing...well, free it's not, unless you don't want to be a living, breathing, and dedicated member of your new community that has a big heart which will be filled by each Romanian personal experience you will have.

And now for the news:

March came in like a lamb with a beautiful sunny day at church followed by a lovely family dinner with new friends. The sun was shining and the snow still lingered on the mountaintops. I brought home fresh eggs, and milk which they insisted I have, and then spent some time in the barnyard with the new arrivals. During the week, I was gifted by a huge amount of Martisore, those little tokens of love that appear every March 1st until March 8th according to the Romanian holiday calendar. Then, on the tail end of that, International Women's Day brought out the singers and dancers and the flowers that brightened my home here with every color of spring.

My amazingly precious granddaughter turned six back in the US and it was more than a bit sad to be so far away, but she loves her Nanny just as much as I love her and so for now, the happiness and the growing on both our parts is shared by old fashioned mail and modern technology. It's not perfect, but when I joined the Peace Corps I had to go with it, like it or not.

As the month of March progressed, there were Teatime Conversation classes, one focused on the culture of China as I revisited one of my former teaching destinations, and one fun class with a costumed and balloon festooned book party in the wonderland of Alice. There were some International Cooking with English classes. My favorite, Italian, was a smashing success. In a following class we celebrated the fruitful season by coloring eggs with natural dyes and learning how to make everything from over-easy to omelets.

After all that cooking, it was time to take the sled out a bit more, try some skiing before the snow all melted, and climb the muddy mountain behind the house, just because it was there, to pick some of the freshly sprouted ghioceii that perks up when the winter is ready to take a pause. (See photo above!)

Next, I went out of town for a weekend to judge a speaker's competition for the ESU, met up with a fellow volunteer, stayed in a nice hotel and had a good rest. In classes, we worked on newsletters, the nuances of expressive poetry, storytelling, and travel writing along with some mutual sharing of holiday traditions at Eastertime.

Speaking of Easter, one of the "only in the Peace Corps" experiences was to witness the preparation of the lamb for the religious celebration. I won't describe the details of that here since you can see them in one of my photojournal stories online, but I will say that it was probably one of the most difficult things that I ever will do, however, quite necessary, at least for me, to truly understand and to share with others what the religious tradition here entails. After that, there was a nice long road trip to Dragasani where I met such nice relatives of my gazda and enjoyed another first---Easter dinner outdoors. It was a spiritual week finished off with a huge, traditionally religious commemoration of the dead at our biserica here in the village when we returned. The whole town came out and we brought our delicious table fare outside once again.

I've been to birthdays and funerals, seen a lot more sunsets, planted a vegetable and herb garden, enjoyed my home life and my new toys, and heard sweet music while doing it, all in the course of the last two months which seemed to go by like a shooting star. There have been many sunny days, some with my students, others in church services, still others while out exploring on my own, or day tripping out and about in other small towns and villages in the company of my Romanian pals. There was also a nice long week spent in historic Sibiu with old friends and new, again, in the comfort of a shiny hotel, graciously provided by the Peace Corps, and the visits to museums, galleries, the theatre, a bit of shopping, and those much-missed restaurants. At the end of that I sped over to Galati to visit friends again, relaxed, and caught up. Then, on the way back to my village, went to visit two more elementary schools in the countryside who have also applied for a volunteer, and still had plenty of time to reflect on the peacefully long train rides about the days that had passed and those that would soon be---More sightseeing, more invitations, more memories, and more times to value far into the next years.

Here, I've had more than enough bonuses to weigh. Life has given me more than I ever expected and on March 28th, I also had the 52nd birthday-to-remember when I received a new clothes dryer (yes, no one has one here in the communa!), a brand new camera (for my ireports on CNN and other venues that I frequent to share photos and film), and many, many other beautiful, generous and amazing presents from friends, students, and family. I cannot thank them all enough for knowing what would make me smile like never before.

And that's not all, not only have I easily lost a total of 30 lbs. since leaving the US, but I've never felt better, or more delighted to be alive. Every minute is new, although at times a great responsibility, but still, a wondrously childlike challenge, and filled with unexpected pleasures. I work hard, write a lot(now I have more than a few blogs to contribute to and several sites as well) go out in the fresh air, and try to record what is happening day to day; and in the evenings, I still have a bit of time to keep in touch with family and friends far away. I miss them, I know that they miss me, and someday, we will share a bit of what it's been like for me to finally have a go at my long-wished-for Peace Corps dream. But not now. I have miles to go before I sleep and I am happy to have them here in Romania.

Today we had another special lesson, because it is Earth Day, and again, the children, my colleagues and friends, and my village's sights and sounds, opened up a new world for myself and others to see...just in the bit of time it took to recite a poem, sing a song, draw a picture, and then put the whole thing into motion in order to make a lasting impression. Ninety minutes that would be worth so much more to them in the future. And to me.

You might enjoy a sprinkling of the highlights I just mentioned, and quite a few more, if you visit the links on this blog page. Until the next time...

Drum Bun, Te Pupe, and Hristos Inviat!

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