Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Year in the Life...

Dear Readers,

This day marks year one in of my Peace Corps journey and as I sit down to write, I just cannot think of how to express all that has happened. Usually, I am not at a loss for words. And for the past 13 months, writing has been such a big part of the experience here in Romania. Last night, I gave an interview after having written a story to a CNN producer based in London. The day before that, there was the writing of a piece for ACUM TV. Last weekend, there was a narrated slideshow for the In Their Own Words section of Peace Corps' Coverdell World Wise Schools. And on and on, I've written a history of sorts because all of the days are filled with things to share, note, describe, relate, and otherwise record for posterity.

During the time that I've been here, I've had so many things change and be changed, both for the worse and for the better. I credit my continuous faith in God for seeing me through each of those. Here in Romania, I've been able to see more of how the people's faith, ritual, spirituality and the teachings of old enriches the lives of so many on a daily basis. I've been present at each and every holiday both as a conscientious observer and as a member of this community. I've seen funerals, baptisms, Christmas and Easter, and various other celebrations and commemorations, all recorded for the camera and all will forever occupy a huge chunk of the annals of my memories. They are fresh reminders each time of why I am here and alive. A saying that I've now learned in Romanian which comes to mind is "Ati gustat cat de bun este Domnul".

And speaking of the camera, it's now become my obsession. The children whom I teach will now have lasting looks at their work, their play and their lives during a time when the Peace Corps paid a visit. The parents, the neighbors and friends will also have something to reflect upon when the day comes (if it does at all) for me to leave and continue on the paths that I will eventually be led to. I cannot wait to hear and to see what the futures of all of them might be. And so, by continuing to document everything, it is my sincere hope that these "archives" of a Peace Corps volunteer will be used to refresh the memories of the past of each and every one of them.

Ah, the past. Well, many say that is best kept in the past...but I don't believe that. My family, my dear friends back in Charleston and other parts of the world, and the things that have shaped my life all have an impact on what I think, do and feel about being a volunteer here in Eastern Europe. To be a volunteer has always been for me the single most important mission. Without the various hours, days, weeks, and years of volunteering for others, I cannot say that my life would have been filled to the brim.

Starting out as a summer camp volunteer, then a hospital volunteer in the NICU, and several years volunteering as a firefighter, I found that time spent working to help (or save) others was a time to both give and receive multiple gifts. Time was not wasted. Time was not lost. Then, as I got older, volunteering for afterschool programs, volunteering for city projects, volunteering for the promotion of art and culture, volunteering for the elderly, the Red Cross Disaster Response Team,and so on, were all ways that changed me, my fellow volunteers, and everyone that we came in contact with...albeit sometimes in small, not yet quite detectable ways. I've made many friends, been a mentor, seriously challenged my limits, learned quite a bit, had such wonderful times, and certainly have been blessed by the faces of those whose lives I have touched as they have touched me.

My decision to volunteer and serve in the Peace Corps has been graciously named by others to be courageous, impressive, highly American, dedicated, powerful, awe-inspiring and other things. The people who write to me or speak to me directly each day have credited me with having all of these traits. To them all, I send a big thank you and much love back for their praise, support, understanding and interest in what I am doing here. But now, I give credit to the Romanians, yes, all of them young and old, Peace Corps staff, the citizens of Brusturoasa and neighboring villages and towns where I have new friends, a new and exciting lifestyle, and a look into a window that I never expected to see, and of course, the hundreds of children here who mean so much to the future of Romania, for all that this year has meant for myself, my friends, and family, and anyone else who has read about what goes on in this corner of the world through my blog postings, or any other of the news agencies, newspapers, or websites that have carried these stories of Peace Corps life in "Romanialand".

Without them, it would all have been "dust and shadow".

I can't wait to be here another year and hope that you will continue on this journey with me whenever you have time to take a look, drop a line, or laugh a little when you see me try to dodge a great big cow or two on the road!

(Hey...I just heard one of those cowbells...must mean it's another time again to take the Road Less Travelled...)


PS: This poetry reading was excerpted from

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