Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ringing in the New

Here I am, 19 months and 11 days since embarking on a journey in the U.S. Peace Corps which has taken me from East to West Romania traveling throughout this country of contrasts, all the while making a conscious effort to share the experience with audiences near and far. It's difficult sometimes to try to express the emotions which come with being in this position. On any given day, I have short and long conversations with people who may or may not remain in my life. Whether it be in Romanian (which most times it is) or in English peppered with Hungarian (a more frequent occurence these days here in Transylvania), I've gotten used to the nature of my existence and every day go to bed with an attitude of thankfulness waking up with the knowledge and the responsibility of what it means to be a Peace Corps volunteer. Many have asked me why I do what I do. They've gotten an earful of my President Kennedy commitment, the insight into how this mission has affected my choices along the way, and a sense of one person's European-American globally grounded outlook with a large dose of personal belief that open and honest extensions of friendship will inevitably change the way we all may view our own corner of the world. I've visited families, taught hundreds of children, seen spectacular architecture, worshiped in historic churches, braved the winters I'd left behind in New England long ago, learned about things I've never expected, and made the most of every minute s a volunteer abroad. Now, well into year-two of my service, I've had a hard time realizing that my birthplace still exists and that one day, certainly, I will tell these stories of Romania and all its people whom I've come to know from across the miles instead. It's not a day which I look forward to, although I miss my friends and family who've been beside me in spirit all the way. I think about how I can inspire others who might wish to take a similar journey Surely there will be years...the rest of my life...to retell, relate, and renew the times of this life which are already seeming too brief. Those times which are a part of me now, the present, which will someday migrate to the past, and which will become the fabric in the veritable quilt of these years spent overseas. All the words in the English language cannot do enough to describe sufficiently the who, what, when, where and how of the life I've had here in Romania. There are days which I feel as if I've always been here, and other days when I catch the edge of the sun going down and with it a glimpse of the life I once had in South Carolina. Neither is it a life without meaning nor is it without gratitude. Either in the United States or in Romania, I have been blessed (it's only the way I see it) with great memories, cursed by situations out of my control, and gifted with a fresh outlook while being touched by visions of my own Eastern European ancestry on my mother's side through present-day traditions still being performed diligently and religiously here in this country. The first part of my service began in training, then it brought me to Moldavia and ultimately here into the Transylvanian heartland. Romania has had its surprises and I've been changed forever by them. Even in the moments when there have been hardships, there has never been a time when I've allowed those negative circumstances to deter me from what I believe to be the most important work of my life. I've had to say heartbreaking goodbyes, back in the U.S. because of death or distance, and here in-country as well. But either here or there, because we are human, our brains dictate that we feel both pleasure and pain sometimes unexpected and undeserved, but in all ways valuable to who and what we will become. Until that day when we take our last breath, we can choose to be vulnerable to all of it, or not. I've chosen this path to be that willing subject of life's never-ending roller coaster of joy and disappointment, effort and effortlessness, work and rest, comfort and discomfort, conformity and enormity, love and loss, success, promises broken, challenges and change. My Peace Corps life has been that every step of the way. And now that 2010 has come to a close, I can safely say that "ringing in the new" in 2011 was just as exciting as it was on the brink of 2010. Then as now, I see the hope and the realization of yet some more dreams made possible by those simple words said almost 50 years ago. From far away along the airwaves and into a black and white television set to a modest home back in Providence, Rhode Island, the voice had sincerely asked what we could do for our country and now all these years later, the Peace Corps has answered time and time again. Now, I can leave behind "auld aquaintances", yet still keep them close, taking another few steps each day and another giant leap of faith into this next year and beyond without abandoning the old or the dear or the familiar. Here's to 2010: Romania days to remember---for its friendships, its celebrations, its enlightenments, and always and forever, its praises---as a Peace Corps life in living color. La Multi Ani!
video

Just another day in Paradise

Just another day in Paradise

To Welcome Me to the Biserica

MISTO!

MISTO!
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