the unplanned

This summer, I found out that my biggest brother, the one who sightes-in my gun before hunting season, taught me how to drive the speed limit, showed me up during tennis class, got us stuck in a Singapore jail for several hours, and with whom I lived rent-free post college...he's getting married! Next weekend!
Which means that this weekend, I will be traveling to him and his future wife...and my parents and various relatives.
The trip home starts at 6am Saturday on a train leaving my village which will take me to a city where I will get on a bus which will take me to the airport in Bucuresti. From which I will fly to Amsterdam, then to Houston and then to XNA, the airport built in the middle of nowhere Northwest Arkansas for Wal-Mart. And then I will get in a car with my mom 41 hours after I leave my village, and we will drive home.
And two weeks later I will do the same thing for the return trip.
So at first I wasn't jumping-out-of-my-seat excited about the trip. And then I told my friends and colleagues that I was going home.
"Oh you must be so excited!" they told me, with jumping-out-of-their-seat enthusiasm.
"You will get to see your mother."
"You will get to speak English all the time."
"It's your brother's wedding. You will have so much fun."
"You get out of school for two weeks," my burn-out colleague smiled dreamily at me.
"You will have to take pictures for us."
"I have some gifts for you to take to your brother"
"Tell him Casa de Piatra (House of Rock(what you say in Romania at weddings)) for me," one of my students who had met my other brother told me.
Their attitude has been infectious. I now get shivery when I think that in less than a week I will be talking face to face with my mom, grandma, dad, brothers... I will be driving, drinking large cups of coffee, making chocolate chip cookies, lounging with people who mean a lot to me.


if you learned english 40 years ago...

This week I went to a beginning-of-the-year meeting for all the Suceava county teachers of english as a foreign language. One of the topics at the meeting was the benefits of using the communicative approach when teaching foreign language. The communicative approach is to the more traditional approach as the tango is to the wallflower. Interaction is required.
To demonstrate the ineffectiveness of using conversation in class solely for grammar practice, the speaker used the following conversation which was from a textbook used by his mother in Poland:

John: I am a man. You are a woman.
Mary: I am Mary Brown. You are John Brown.
John: This is a book. That is a pen.
Mary: What is this?
John: That is a pen. What is this?
Mary: That is a book.
John: Is this a book?
Mary: Yes, that is a book. Is this a pen?
John: Yes, that is a pen.
Mary: Is this a door?
John: No, that is not a door. It is a pen. Is this a window?
Mary: No, that is not a window. It's a book.
John: Are these chairs?
Mary: Yes, those are chairs, and these are tables.
John: Mary, what are these?
Mary: Those are books, John.
John: Am I a man, Mary?
Mary: Yes, John, you are a man, and I am a woman.

"What is this conversation about?" the speaker asked.
The teacher next to me, an older woman in a gray suit whispered to me, "It sounds like they are working up to sex."
While the communicative approach may be more effective in teaching conversation, the traditional method is much more entertaining if you're in a roomful of english teachers.
And really, are window and books that easy to confuse with each other?


unbridled enthusiasm

If you could get anyone's autograph, whose would you get? I remember being asked this question as a twelve year old, sitting in a circle of other mk's at the annual missions conference. We were participating in an ice breaker and I was listening to the other kids name off members of dc talk, (a christian rock band), Drew Barrymore, one of the Spice girls. Or that was probably who they were saying. I didn't know who anyone was that they were naming nor was I paying attention.
I was struggling in my mind. Charles Dickens, or maybe Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tolstoy? What about Laurel and Hardy - that would get a laugh. Definitely not Clinton. Or Tchaikovsky? Oh, the Blue Angels would be cool to say.
(ok, so if you didn't have television and your main media influences were Voice of America, tapes of classical music and books left behind in the missionary library, you too might have this same list)
I was undecided, although enthusiastic to have a cool answer.
At Zilelei Vamei on Saturday night, I was walking between the bumper cars to the stage area when Ioana, one of my 5th graders, came running at me out of nowhere.
"Uite-te, teacher" (look teacher). Her face was radiant.
She thrust a picture of Raul, who had sung earlier on that night, into my hand.
Then she turned the picture around. On the back, I saw a blurry signature. Blurry because Ioana was literally jumping up and down as she was showing me.
I don't remember whose signature I ended up choosing at that missions conference, but what I said, there is no way I was enthusiastic as Ioana was about Raoul.


zilelei vamei party time

This weekend my village had a "days of vama" festival. Most romanian towns have a "days of themselves" festival once a year, where there is sure to be some theme park rides, mici (a grilled meat), chocolate filled doughnuts, cotton candy, and a stage with musicians playing back to back.
Not every festival celebrates their 600 year old anniversary, like Vama, my village, did this weekend. 1409 - 2009.
In honor of the anniversary, 20 French visitors from Vama's "sister" french town came, and me and some other peace corps volunteers went, making it, by all rights, an international festival :)
It was held at the stadium and walking from one side to the other, I was greeted by "hello's" from my students and buna ziuas from friends, every few minutes stopping to chat with someone I hadn't seen during the summer.
The best moment?
in the middle of the crowd, there was a large container set up for the film crew filming the traditional musicians that were performing. Music on the lines of this was being played. At one point, I looked over in the direction of the container and an elderly man, dressed traditionally, was dancing by himself above the crowd.
Table-dancing old men. We know how to have a good time.


a midsummer's dream

I wrote the following to a friend describing my summer road trip around Romania. He made my prose into poetry. slanina is pig fat (traditional diet). Sibiu is a medieval city in Romania.

Eating slanina
and onions before
hopping into a hot car on a hot day
for a sticky, smelly environment.
And the Fagaras mountains are craggy
and sulphur springs stink
and the danube is very wide and soft serve
in sibiu
is sexy