I will be heating my house this winter with a soba.
There are sobas in most houses here, although there is a gradual switch to central heating.
But since I opted to not move into the centrally heated main house in the winter, I will be using a soba. My host family looked at me incredulously when I said I wanted to use the soba.
"Why?" my counterpart asked. "They are much more work and the wood is expensive!"
"Independence is important to me," I tried to explain. The independence to be able to leave my host families house at night and make noise without everyone knowing what I am doing, the independence to come and go without waking up the baby accidentally, the independence to have my own space for two years and not move into another space every few months, depending on the weather... The price of wood and time spent stoking the fire every few hours during the night seemed minuscule to me compared to the beauty of privacy and independence.
So, in order for the wood to be dry in time for the cold months, I needed to buy it this month, which I did a few days ago - three horse carts of wood. But the sobas have little doors, so the wood has to be cut up into relatively little wedges.
That is what we are doing right now. Ciprian expertly hacks at the wood with a giant ax while I cart away the wood wedges to the shed with an ancient, bent-up cart, and stack them.
Ciprian does not wear shoes or eye glasses for protection, which is a staple for American wood-cutting, in my past experiences.
When we get tired, we stop and eat apples from the trees in their yard and yell nice things across the road to the neighbors, who are also getting their wood ready for winter.


A day in the life of my August

August is vacation month for Romania.
Where I live is where some people go for vacation because it is in the mountains and cool in the summer, and because it is quaint and rustic.
Every day is different and I never know what I will be doing when I wake up in the morning.
My window faces the east, so I am learning how to sleep with covers over my head. After laying around for a bit, I climb out of my enormous bed and make my way down the deep stairs that keep old women and dogs from climbing up to my apartment and would be appropriate only for the Easterlund house. I shuffle around making tea and buttering bread for breakfast before I head outside to walk the 20 minutes to school with my laptop.
The first part of the walk is down a dusty road where I will probably have to stand aside for a horse cart or a BMW driving past and a Bunica (old woman/grandmother) will probably start walking with me and asking me if I'm a tourist. After the dirt road, I turn onto the only cemented highway in town and walk down it, past stray dogs and multiple little stores that sell the same thing. It's etiquette here to say "Buna Ziua" (hello, good day), so I exchange "buna ziuas" with the women out shopping and the men watching the cars drive by from inside their fences.
When I get to the school, I hook up my laptop to the internet and spend several hours doing the internet thing before I head back home. This time I normally stop by a store and pick up some tasty pretzels with sesame seeds or strawberry wafers, my current favorites.
When I get home, the Stefan, the baby, is up and the grandma is taking care of him, so I talk to them while I heat up my lunch. After lunch there seems to be an understood siesta time, so I read for a while before I go back down the deep stairs. Yesterday I learned how to do laundry in their washing machine and then Cipri, my host families son who is eleven, asked me if I wanted to go to the river with him. So he showed me where the swimming hole at the river was and we picked up another family member on the way. When I came back, it was time to hang my clothes outside to dry and then go back to the magazine to buy some chicken and potatoes for dinner.
Everything takes longer because I walk everywhere and I am trying to figure out how things work. Gabi, whose kitchen I use, helps me make dinner. For now, we are eating dinner together and I make meals every third day. While we're waiting for the chicken to finish, mama-itza the bunica who lives next door, comes over with a cake for me and we talk about her pension and how village people are nicer than city people. She doesn't wear her teeth very often and it takes me a couple sentences to figure out what she is talking about, but she always greets me with a smile and calls me beautiful miss.
They showed me how to use the well yesterday and while we were there another neighbor came by, "you will find a rich romanian boy, yes?"
Then he pointed at Gabi holding her baby, Stefan, and said, "That will be you in the future."
For the older generation, it seems that the only plausible reason for a single woman to move to a different country is to be looking for a rich man.
My tata, Gabi's dad, laughingly told me, "Romanians are rich and Americans are poor, that's why you are here to find a rich man."
By then, dinner is ready and Ciprian, Gabi, Cipri and I sit down to eat. Over dinner we talk about corrupt mayors and lack of money for projects. After a bit Ciprian brings out a watermelon and it isn't ripe yet, so I learn the Romanian word for ripe. By now it's eleven o'clock and I head off to bed, for another day of who knows what.


people might be basically good...

I left Ploiesti for good on the Sunday night train.
I had bought my ticket earlier in the bed and the type of bed that I had requested on the train was not available so I said "whatever" and assumed they would give me a seat and not a bed. My gazda mom helped me drag my 7 bags to the train station, repeating "sapte bagaj" to me in consternation and concern that all 7 would be stolen from me during the night.
I ungracefully got on the train and found a mostly empty compartment to settle into. Twenty minutes later the conductor came in to check tickets and told me that I actually had a bed, but I pointed to my luggage and said I couldn't carry it all to the next car. I think he told me to wait and left the compartment. So I sat there and waited for I didn't know what. Would the conductor come back? Would he help me move my bags? Would I just be waiting the whole night for the conductor?
A couple stops later the conductor returned and the poor man asked for my heaviest bag and then told me to follow him with the rest of the bags, which I did, right off the train. Was he dumping me off in who-knows where? No, he was still talking to me, so I followed him a couple cars forward were he passed my heaviest bag onto another conductor and said goodnight. I began to follow the other conductor who passed me a bag of sheets, showed me my bed and put my heaviest bag in the conductors compartment for safekeeping or for them to go through on their free time. Either way, I didn't want to sleep with that bag, so I left it there, made my bed and snuggled in with my other bags, including a hard, awkward water filter.
The train was supposed to arrive at Vama at 5 in the morning, so I set my alarm for 4:50 and slept fitfully in fear of missing my stop. By 4:55 I was in the hall waiting to get off and the conductor looked at me, laughed a little and said the train was running late and we wouldn't get there for another 30 minutes. So I stood in the hall with my head out the window watching the first light of dawn and getting ready at each station the train stopped at, only to be told that I wasn't there yet.
When the train did reach Vama my gazda man, Ciprian, and and old blue van with stumps of wood in the back were waiting for me. Home sweet home.
My porch.