stellar musings

On Saturday I was at the Planetarium in Suceava.
The presenter at the planetarium was a short, merry, bald-on-top man, who wore a wrinkly sweater over his hunched shoulders. After explaining the north star and constellations, he rotated the night sky above us and projected the twelve zodiak constellations one at a time. Taur (bull) Gemini (twins) Rac (crab/cnacer) Leo (Lion)...
The bull connects three stars in a sort of "A" triangle...The crab's pincher's loom in the planetarium sky.
The astrologists who superimposed these images in the night sky were creative in "earthizing" the far-away suns.
How would I "earthize" the stars? I thought.
Maybe, from the 19th of April to the 20th of May, the great cul-de-sac in the sky. From the 20th of May to the 21st of June, you can see the the encased i-pod rising from the setting sun. And from the 21st of June to the 22nd of July, you can see some summer of 69.


Your husband will be...

Saturday was Saint Andrew day here, Sfantul Andrei. There is a tradition for the evening of Sfantul Andrei. A tradition in line with MASH and pulling petals out of flowers.
Mamitza told me about it tonight. On the night of Sfantul Andrei, you must go to the well with a saint's candle from Easter. If you hold that candle over the night-blackened well water, you might see your future husband on the water. But if you see a coffin, you will die before you become married. Mamitza's mother saw a coffin. If you don't see your future husband in the water, you still have a chance to escape from old-maidenhood. You can pray in each of the four corners of a room and then go to bed and you will dream of your future husband. Mamitza dreamt of her future husband this way.
You can also make dough, roll it out and cut it into four squares. Put jam on top of the four squares and close up the dough to make a triangle. Then you boil the triangle in water. I'm sure this sweetcake has an english name but I don't know it. So you do all this work, and then you put the finished products in a circle and give each cake a name of a perspective husband. Next, call your cat over and whatever sweetcake he chooses will be your husband. Mamitza did it when she was 9 years old. But her cat was a scrounger and wasn't hungry by the time Mamitza had finished putting the named sweetcakes in a circle and refused to choose one. Persnickety cats.



This evening me and my work-out buddies were doing "the cobra" and talking about our weekend plans.
me: You want to hike over the mountain between Vama and Gura Humorlui Monastir on Sunday?
S: Sunday? no no. Sunday is voting day!
D: You should come by and see how we do voting in Romania. This room is actually the voting room.
me: How late is the voting open?
D: Until 10 or 11 at night, I think. Either way, people are here until late. haha. Maybe what happened last year will happen again. Remember when those two old ladies came in.
S: hahaha
D: These two old ladies came in and one of them is beginning to become senile. And they went together to vote so that the one could help the other. And the whole room could hear them deciding who to vote for, because the beginning-to-be-senile one talks really loud.
(I realize at this point that I know these two ladies. They're my neighbors)
S: If you're lucky you can come when they are here. haha.


the change

Last night I watched Food, Inc . I had heard about most of it before - growth hormones, international mixtures of ground meat, corn feed lots for cows, e. coli breakouts in spinach. I have heard complaints about the costs of organic food, and the film explained why buying organic is worth the money because of the longterm environmental and health benefits.
By the time I got to the credits, I was feeling a lot of patriotic embarrassment. But I also felt like I did when I red Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palanciuk last spring. Invisible Monsters is full of plastic surgery, drugs, and seeming superficiality. I sat on my balcony and struggled to get into Palanciuk's story. It felt unrelatable. But I used to like Palanciuk's twisted stories and modern plots, so I must have related in some way.
While Food, Inc was an expose that makes me appreciate my family's deer-hunting, vegetable gardening habits, I kept thinking in the film about how I buy my milk from my neighbor, whose cow I hear coming down from the mountain every evening. When I help Silvia make Ciorba, I run out to her back-yard garden for herbs. Last night, one of my neighbors butchered their young bull, and sold the meat to other villagers. You can't get much closer to your food sources.
Sometimes I forget that I have a different lifestyle here. Thank you Food Inc for reminding me.


wait for it...

Stefan likes to dance. His signature dance move is jerking his right arm back and forth and running in an awkward circle until he gets dizzy. He was doing this yesterday until I brought out my camera.
Then he tells me my phone is on the table. Meanwhile his grandma is trying to get him to dance.
So he improvised a pillow dance for me.


Something to look forward to :)

mom: Your dad bought another car for you for when you get back
me: really? I told him when I was home that I didn't know my plans and that he shouldn't buy any cars for me.
mom: This is the second car he's bought with you as his excuse. Don't worry. It doesn't work.


walking eleven kilometers

My village has two main schools, a ten minute walk away from each other. On Mondays, I teach one class at the first school, and then rush the ten minutes to the other school to teach another three hours. A math teacher at the school has a similar schedule as mine and we usually hurry to the second school together, buna ziuaing people along the way.
One day I said that it was inefficient it is for us to have to walk to a second school.
"As a new teacher, I taught in Vatra Moldovitza, (a 25-minute-away-by-bus village).
"When I got married, I moved to Vama because my husband lived there, and I commuted to Vatra Moldovitza every day.
"That's a ways to commute every day," I responded, calculating in what I have heard of getting places during the 70's in Romania.
"It took about an hour and a half to get there, so I would get up every morning at 5:00 and got on the bus at 6:00."
"mmhmm." I respond, dodging a pothole in the sidewalk.
"But y'know, during Ceasescu's time, gas wasn't very plentiful, so some days the driver of the bus would tell us he couldn't drive the whole way to Vatra Moldovitza, and would let me off in another village 11 kilometers away. I would start walking. A few times a logging truck would pick me up, but there were a few times I would walk the whole way. It took me about 3 hours, especially if the road was really snowed-under."
"So there were some days when you didn't get to school until 2 1/2 hours after it started?"
"Yeah. My colleagues understood and would cover for me."

Suddenly the not-even half a kilometer walk to the second school seemed piddly.


Spoooky school '09

Last year's Halloween party was a cramped, dark affair. Too many students showed up for one room and freakily, the power went out. But enthusiasm was huge last year.
So I decided that if my 7th and 8th grade students were interested, they could help me put on a Halloween party this year. We had a scavenger hunt, games, a haunted cellar and a disco.

There were 100+ students in attendance and they went through 30 liters of coca cola and fanta within the first hour. Each student had to say trick-or-treat when they entered and then they got a big ticket with questions on it about Halloween. Throughout the school there were facts about Halloween on the wall that answered the questions on the ticket. On the big ticket, there was also 5 smaller tickets, so each student could have the opportunity to play a game.
We had "hit the ghost," inspired by those carnival games where if you hit the bulls eye you got an obnoxiously large stuffed animal. My students got a pencil if they hit a ghost.

We played Scary Bingo. Bingo had the best prize, a glow-in-the-dark skeleton necklace. It looked like ordinary bling bling until you walked into the haunted cellar, which was of course dark.

Blindfolded students got to pin up Frankenstein, although I realize that theoretically they were pinning up a poorly drawn apparition of Dr. Frankenstein's ghoulish creation.

Of course we had a photo booth with a spooky backdrop that one of my students apparently painted in her free time.

And finally, the haunted cellar. The school's cellar is damp and smells like earth. It is about the same size as my room. The students I delegated to haunting the cellar hung up white sheets to create a circle, and painted the sheets with dripping red paint and tore jagged holes into them. Then they put candles down the stairs, in the corners, and in the walls. One of them with a death mask hid behind the sheet and when a group of students would come down, they would jump out at them, screaming. There was a line at the haunted cellar all night.

The night ended with a devilish disco, as all school events should end. And the 7th, 8th graders and myself propping open our tired eyelids to dance the last song. Somehow 5th graders never lose energy.


fitting in

Winter has not so much crept up this year as pounced on me. My room was cold enough to make me put layers of rugs on my drafty floors yesterday, and my soba has been burning a heaping armful of wood each evening. My desk is right next to the soba and my typing, the crackling wood and Tchaikovsky sounds are blending together around me. I spent my weekend with a group of 7th and 8th graders planning and executing a halloween party. There have been few times in my life where i was busy enough I forgot to eat, and this weekend was one of those. I fell asleep Saturday night, after supervising the Halloween dance until 10pm, giddy with the euphoria of success.
Theoretically I teach classes two days a week, but I have found other things to do in my time. I teach a couple classes at the kindergarten where we sing "old McDonald had a farm" and they learn how to say Good Morning Teacher. I have a weekly english club (which sponsored the Halloween party), where we've been talking about Halloween and this month we will talk about American music and dance and Thanksgiving.
grade papers
watch Stefan's mind develop
knit leg warmers
read Paulo Coelho in Romanian
chat with my neighbors
read perezhilton more than the NewYorkTimes
watch Mad Men
eat ciorba
think about where my aspirations will lead me
plan english club lessons
I was walking home one evening, brightfall on all sides, my stomach full of ciorba and pork, my bag full of test papers to grade. A student from last year who is now in high school raced across the road when she saw me to give me a hug and we discussed her new teachers, new challenges. I continued on my way, and when I got home I started a fire, made some ibric coffee and bounced a ball with Stefan for as long as his attention lasted. And I realized that I fit here, right now at least. Not that I am a generally "unfitting" person, but I have channeled lots of energy to fit as I do.
There are also days where I feel like I am a circle being stuffed into a triangle of a children's carpenter set.
But those "fit" days. mmmmm.