what I do on

I took my camera with me on Tuesday...which is very much like Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
so this is a day in the life of my school week.


I don't mind my students

I recently assigned my 8th grade students a project which was to provide closure to their first semester with me. A semester in which they wrote descriptions, made up stories and were creative. The assignment, inspired by a prompt from Peace Begins with Us, the Romania Peace Corps publication integrating student's creativity and Volunteers experiences, was to write a story about your life if Romania were occupied by foreign forces. I introduced the prompt with a lesson in which we as a class wrote a short story on the blackboard and then assigned the prompt to be due in one week. Later that week, my Romanian english teacher counterpart came up to me and said that some of my students were very confused and overwhelmed by the assignment. So the stories that were supposed to be due in a week became due in a month with an extra few weeks for me to help the students correct their own papers before they handed in their final copies. Despite my emphasis on story-telling and creativity, many of the papers I have received are dry text-book translations of life in Romania during World War II. Two papers have made me laugh and smile and love my students. With very minor corrections:
Extraterrestrial Florin wrote:
Romania is occupied by foreign forces who are from the planet Mars. Their soldiers are called martians. They arrived in Romania with the help of modern spaceships. Martians have the power to take any form of people, so they have created a total confusion among Romanians. Anyways, these powers could be used up at 12 a.m.
After this time, Martians turn into very ugly creatures and each had a speaker costume. First Romanian territory conquered by martians was the capital of Romania, Bucuresti. Martians attacked only until 12 so that their mission was much easier being that they looked like ordinary people. In one week Romanian army was abolished in fully. Now the martians walk the streets all country, causing chaos and panic among the Romanians because of their ugly faces. Martians have decided to take hostages for their experiments, in which they try to learn more about people. In the end they took all Romanians to Mars. Here, everyone was used in experiments. Martians poke fun of their failed experiments. People are transformed into creatures aimed to amuse the martians. In all this time, Romania has transformed into a place where only wild animals live.

Radu and his surprise, if abrupt, ending:

Last year Romania has been occupied by America because it has more money and natural resources. The president Bush, talking with Basescu [Romanian president] to kill people.

People are very scared because they wouldn't have water and food.

The president is run to the country of America.

The conflict zone is: Maresti and Cluj. We are defeated because America has more tanks and avions [airplanes].

The life is not very good because people die every day and doctors are killed.

The hero of this war is the new president of America, Obama, because he stop the war and now the countrys are friends.


I'm sorry, future children of mine.

Every culture has their oddities to other cultures.
That's why we're not all one big culture. Thank goodness.

So I went skiing on Sunday. My second time skiing. You know when you learn how to ride a bike and the skill is never supposed to leave you? Well, skiing is apparently a skill that leaves. Because I remembered nothing from the last time I went skiing in high school.
It took me 3 tries to get on the ski lift the first time - one try involved me barely hanging on and thinking I was successful until the man at the bottom yelled up that I'd left my ski sticks behind.
And every time I got off the lift I would start sliding back down and so crash myself to keep from having to redo the lift again. So after the first 15 minutes my backside was several feet of wet and ice and snow...
After a couple hours of falling and learning how to turn without breaking my knees and getting encouraging nods from fellow skiiers, me and my colleague, Natalie, took our skis back down to the ski house.
"Ay!" exclaimed the man collecting our skis. "Your children will be deformed!"
Natalie and I look at each other confusedly. Then a spark of remembrance in our eyes: Walking barefoot, sitting on the floor, and any other way that you could remotely be exposing your ovaries to cold and floor means that you are killing your ovaries.
My icy snowy backside was killing my ovaries!
"You will have to come back with your children so I can make sure they're ok!" said the man as we left, half joking, half worried.


what Robert Kaplan says...

Kaplan, a reporter, traveled through the Balkans in the early 90's, and wrote a book called Balkan Ghosts. He started his Romanian travels in Bucharest and made a circle around the country, hitting my region, Bucovina, halfway through his travels. I am now going to unplagiarizing use his words:
"Bucovina is actually the northern part of Moldavia, anexxed by the Habsburg Austrians in 1774 [...] The southern part [of Bucovina] has always been part of Romania.
"On the eve of World War II, in an observation about Bucovina that was as true in 1990 as it was then, Sacheverell Sitwell wrote: 'In no other district that I have ever visited, be it Spain or Portugal, In Sweden or the Gaeltacht of Western Ireland, is there this sensation of remoteness...a land of green meadows and firwoods.'
"As in other parts of rural Romania, I saw hay-ricks and horse-drawn leiterwagens bearing peasants in sleeveless sheepskin vests, white homespun linen, and black fleece headgear. Elsewhere in the country, such things were juxtaposed against ugly factories and cheap apartment blocks to form a picture of industrial poverty. In Bucovina, however, they were details in an idyllic picture of early-century Europe.
"Among the wide bank of beech trees the soft hills were garlanded with pines, birches, and massive, black-pointed firs. Poplars and linden trees lined the roads, and apple trees filled the adjacent fields [...] I felt as if the black-and-white part of my Romanian journey had suddenly ended and the Technicolor sequence had begun."

So come visit sometime. It's technicolor here.



As a peace corps volunteer, I have signed my right away to drive a vehicle in Romania for the next year and a half.
And Romanians have cars and Gabi has a car that I ride to school in some mornings. But they are their cars and since I can't drive, I can't borrow their cars and no one wants to be an unpaid chauffeur.
So I have refined my thumb-waving skills and rarely travel after dark. And it gets dark at a depressingly early hour, which means that unless I'm spending the night somewhere else, I rarely leave my village during the week.
On Tuesday, a group of 4 mechanical engineering students from America who were doing a semester abroad in France, decided to visit Romania during their week off. So they rented a car and drove around Romania.
And they came here for an afternoon and we had great conversations in our mutually native language and I got to play show-and-tell with my village and then they drove me to the nearby city to meet up with other peace corps volunteers. And it was after dark and then they drove me home after dinner.
For all their fume-belching, asphalt hungry selves, privately owned vehicles are really a wonderful idea.



I don't have an english library to visit so I have made other volunteers' houses into my library...the results are sometimes lacking...but here are a couple of not pitifuls:

I don't care for numbers and when I read numbers in books I tend to blur over them. This might be the first time I have actually read numbers. With chapters titled "Why drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms" and you learn that drug dealers operate on a similar business plan as a the door-to-door sales company I worked for...why not read it?

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:
My introduction to contemporary Japanese literature. A slow start ended in an asianish take on magic realism. So it was like reading an asian Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sublime.

MTV.ro. I enjoy these too much.

Sofia, Sofia...

disregard this music video. This is the balkan remix

Oh likey likey

The boy does nothing


the big city

I went to the big city for a day during my break
and we walked around a mall and I bought skinny jeans because there's something about stores with changing rooms and clothes laid out for everyone to touch that comforts my consumerism.
And then we were a group of 10 Americans walking around in a cloud of english, but people walking by us on the street, or in the stores - they understand what we were saying.
And it was a university town, so I actually saw large groups of young romanians. I felt like I was an organ-grinder's monkey on a trip to the zoo.


a raise?

In the fall 2008, an important man in the Romanian government decided that teachers needed more money. Therefore, he drafted a paper that would give all teachers in Romania a 50% raise. The morning after this news was announced all the teachers in my school were smiling...
The same morning after this news was announced all the non-teacher government workers in Romania got in a tizzy,understandably.
So the bill was sat on somewhere in government for a few months and rumors of a strike among the teachers began circulating in November.
"Will you strike?" I asked my colleagues.
"Here, in Vama? no. besides, if we strike, we have to make up for the days we didn't work by working on Saturdays."
And let's be honest, I wouldn't strike either if it would mean working on Saturdays. Some teachers in bigger cities did strike, but nothing seemed to happen.
Before Christmas, the Romanian congress introduced a new bill that would allow for a raise for more than just teachers, but that would only be a 27% raise.
Last night Gabi and I were talking.
"Do you remember when they were going to give teachers a 50% raise?" she asked me.
"They just passed the bill through congress. We will be getting a 5% raise now. And after taxes and stuff are cut out..."
Gabi and I decided that she might be getting enough money to pay for the gas to drive to the nearest town.
ok. So some romanians might have a right to their infamous pessimism.