the train travel

I went to Cluj (bit city in Transilvania) for a weekend of fun and to get there I took a 5 hour train ride. In my train compartment was a man in his late twenties. When I first got on the train I was reading my book As I Lay Dying, he had a laptop and a blackberry from which he had created his own little office on his part of the almost empty compartment. At some point we were crossing the mountains which are still covered in snow and he commented in surprise about the snow and I commented about it and then he asked if I was from there and I said no and we started a conversation in which we discovered that he works for a company based out of Phoenix, Arizona, where my brother lives, he has an 11 month old child (yes, he showed me a picture of his baby in diapers on his cell phone), a high school friend who works in Seattle, a younger brother in college, he was going to Cluj for business and staying with someone he had never met so when he exited the train station all he knew to look for would be a green car.
It seems to be a general understanding that if you are traveling on a train, you are there to provide interesting conversation to whoever you are traveling with. I suppose sitting on seats that face each is always an added catalyst to this interaction.
Once I was in a train compartment with 5 other people, all over their 40's and all very talkative. During that trip I was told I would be perfect marriage material for Mama Doina's son (she told me to call her that), I should visit and stay with one of the women when I visit her side of Romania, I was asked why America is so hard to travel to, I was put on the phone with one of their neices who spoke English well ... and I said at one point that I had never tasted unfermented wine, which spurred a man who had not moved from his seat for two hours to take his backpack down and pull out a 2 liter bottle of unfermented wine for me to taste, after which the entire car took a sip (from the same 2 liter bottle).
Oh the Eastern Europe.


my hero

I saw the music video, "I want to be a disko boy" recently
and I have never related to a music video quite as much as I did that moment.
Shantel is my Bucovina hero.


one more time...

Several evenings a week I meet with a couple other teachers at my school for an hour of workout at the sala de sport.
The workouts are partly gossip hour, with the addition of a worn-out treadmill, one weight-lifting machine and thick mats.
One day, I brought my laptop so we would have music.
And after I had set up my laptop, I remembered that I had a pilates workout routine on my desktop.
So I opened it and Silvia and I started doing mermaid poses and scissoring our legs in synch with the woman on the laptop screen.
My abs were sore the next day, although not so much from the pilates as from the laughter.
Me and Silvia are laying on mats next to each with our legs up at 45 degree angles, our heads and shoulders off the ground, pumping our arms up and down, while counting. The pilates woman doing the same motions happily talking. "15 more, 14 more, 13 more."
"No more," gasps Silvia next to me, letting her legs and shoulders relax on the mat.
"12 mai! Cum pot sa fac asa?( 12 more, how am I supposed to do that?)" asks Gabi, laughing and letting her legs fall in a very un-controlled, un-pilates manner onto the mat.
Later, while the pilates woman is talking us through some odd pose, and we are trying to figure out how we are supposed to be positioning our arms and knees and feet, Silvia let's out an exasperated, "ce vrei? ce vrei, fata?" (what do you want, woman?) This time, I collapse on my mat, laughing big belly-jolly guffaws.

I so I have continued to bring my pilates workout over the last week and we are becoming experts, with the occasional, "ce vrei, fata?" interspersed between leg lifts and sit-ups. And we look so odd lined up next to each other.


a compliment?

Because I am one person and my village is 7,000 people, almost everyone here knows who I am, but I don't know who they are. (incidentally, this is strangely similar to how I felt when my family came home on furloughs and everyone in our home church would hug me and give me food and i had no clue who they were)
So one day I was in the teacher's lounge and one of the teachers talked to me enough so that I couldn't ask her what her name was at the end of the conversation. So when I went home that evening I asked Gabi what her name was.
"Ea este mica, grasa, si vorbeste mult" (She is little, fat and talkes a lot)
Gabi laughed and told me that the woman's name was Ioana.
A few days later, a woman I work with came up to me and told me that she heard I had described Ioana as mica, grasa, si vorbeste mult. She said, "I laughed so hard when I heard it. In fact, all of us teachers were laughing about it. You described Ioana perfectly!"
Oh no, I thought, Ioana will probably find out that I had to ask about her name and that I called her fat.
Yesterday, as I was walking through town, Ioana saw me across the street and crossed the street to talk with me, her face beaming.
"I heard that you described me as little, fat and talks a lot," she told me, chucklin. "You described me so perfectly. I laughed so hard when they told me!" And then Ioana gave me a bouquet of flowers.
So that's what you get in my village when you call someone fat.



I was walking down the incredibly-muddy-my-boots-slide-around-in-it road and saw a horse hooked up to a cart which had a huge pile of hay stacked on it. A man was standing on top of the hay with a pitchfork pitching the hay into the attic of his barn.
This scene is a daily occurrence here and something I don't even think about anymore. Although in America I would have had to pay some museum fee to see a mannequin doing the same thing...or visit the amish.
I have gotten used to
men in high rubber boats and knit wool jackets walk through the center of town with their ax slung over their shoulder (woodsman as career choice)
the smell of sheep farm lingering in a room after a neighbor's visit.
writing my internet to-do list throughout the week and then spending a concentrated three hours of checking off the list on Fridays
not knowing what is going on in the world (colleagues at school ask me, "did you hear about that big storm in America?" I reply, "huh")
subtitles on almost everything.
the option of drinking in the teacher's lounge
buying frozen vegetables with Ukrainian written all over it. No wonder Europeans know many languages. Life would be so frustrating if you didn't.
brushing my teeth with water from a bottle. Darn frozen water in frozen pipes in frozen winter.
eating at other people's houses at least 3 meals a week.
walking past a bunch of horses hooked up to their carts across the street from the old man bar. (drunk horse-cart driving anyone?)
starting fires to be warm

so you get the idea. I'm a changed person. kind of.