Thursday, October 29, 2009

John Wayne

John Wayne, an American Icon. The John Wayne I know was the tall heroic cowboy type in those western films that I grew up watching from time to time. What does this have to do with being in Romania?

My infatuation with the west started back at Corning Community College when I took my first History of the American West course. Not only did we learn both sides of the story but the last few weeks of class were dedicated to western films, John Wayne being an actor of interest. Later on at SUNY Cortland I had the option to take an elective and I chose the only Grad class that I now have under my belt, Issues of the American West. This class forced us to dive into several novels about the west as well as western films. The summer following that class I got a job working for security at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, daily exposure to life in the West. Soon after that job ended another job began, a job in which brought me to California. I found myself living in the West and loving it. My pre-Romanian American west exposure ended with me finishing the first season of Deadwood the week before departing for Romania.

In Romania I have picked back up on Deadwood, finishing the second season last week. About a month before that I had finished my first book in Romania, the western, Appaloosa which I followed with the movie. My Colorado native site-mate tells me that the mountains here remind him of home, in the west. Now that snowboarding season is coming around I have been thinking a lot about my time in California, and I have been watching snowboard videos largely set out west. In addition, I have been mesmerized by photos of various excursions in America's National Parks posted on facebook by friends. Another sign supporting this infatuation popped out at me when I was browsing through a second-hand two days ago.

Here is where I give some background on second-hand shopping. I started second-hand shopping in the states when I wanted a cheap, easy, and sometimes comedic way to dress up for celebrations (e.g. New Years Eve, St. Patty's). My second-hand shopping has reached a whole new level in Romania. Right now I can think of 9 second-hand shops in Petrosani and I'm pretty sure I don't know about all of them yet. Most of these shops get their stock imported from other European countries and if you are there at the right time you can catch a great deal on some great clothes. Two days ago, it wasn't a piece of clothing that caught my eye.

I think it's a table cloth. Either way, when I first spotted it folded on the shelf, all that I could really make out was the desert mountain landscape in the background. I immediately unfolded it and smiling up at me was one of my childhood heroes, John Wayne. What a find. I didn't have the money for it right there and closing time was approaching so all I could do was hope that the next day I would see it right there where I had let it down. The next day school ended and I started walking to the other side of town where that particular second-hand was located. Sure enough it was sitting right there and luckily for me, it was 25% off. Now its hanging on my wall.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

From the road.

Today, from the road, I saw...

Their babies.
A really cool black and white bird that wouldn't let me take a picture of it
and a T-Rex.

If you're a reader living in Romania then the only surprise might be the T-Rex. I was joking about the T-Rex. If you are a reader from the US then you might think I went to a farm.

When I was assigned to serve in a city of 45,000 people I did not expect to be able to see these kinds of animals often, and most of them I do not see often. There are always pigeons outside my windows. A neighbor lady has roosters and hens. There has been horses sited on my street from time to time. I saw a cow once next to a block on my street. I see goats everyday. All of these I see in the environment of a 45,000 person Romanian city. Today I discovered that within an hour's walk I can see all of these things and more in the country.

Today was a beautiful day and though the snow has melted off of most of the nearby hills I could see the snow covered peaks of Parâng. I decided to go for a walk exploring the borders of town to try and find a good spot to take some nice fall photos of the peaks. I failed in my quest in finding a good view of the mountains but succeeded in finding fresh air and a good view of rural Romanian life. Just beyond Şcoala Informatica, where the road changes from asphalt to stone and dirt, is where this view began. This place is where city abruptly turns to country.

At first I was a bit leery to continue. I didn't know where the road led. Was it somebody's driveway? I thought, what better time to explore then on a sunny fall day. These were my first steps to the outskirts of the city without a fluent speaker of Romanian accompanying me. Though there were several houses on the road each one seemed to have their own little farm. They all had some kind of animal grazing on the grass and usually had space for a garden. Pumpkins were the common site today though I did see some small corn fields as well. From this little road I caught site of a variety of animals, stacks of hay, hills, and beautiful scenes. I also caught site of many Romanians out in their yards taking advantage of the great weather, getting work done. Seeing them with my limited language ability was a little bit intimidating but a simple "Buna Ziua" was good enough for them for the time being. Maybe next time I venture up that road I will have enough confidence in my language to stop and chat for a while.

Point of the story is that my placement in a city atmosphere has provided me with a certain experience while, keeping me from other, more rural, and maybe more interesting experiences. Despite this fact, I learned today that sights and sounds of a more rural site are just beyond that point where the asphalt turns to dirt and stone. Maybe next time, when I take the time to talk to, meet, and get to know those people working in their garden, or transporting hay on the caruţa it won't only be the sights and sounds that I get, but a rural experience as well.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


July 2009

My 2008 new years resolution was a simple one. Read more! Until then, I spent most of my free time doing other things like social networking, watching TV, and whatever other unproductive forms of entertainment I could get myself into. I guess I see reading as a more productive form of entertainment. I was holding true, and reading some great books up until I came to Romania seven weeks ago. I have been super busy with learning the language so it's understandable that I have put my reading on hold, but recently I stumbled across a book that may be good or bad, but either way it attracted my attention.

Books written in English can be found in Targoviste, but they are a bit more expensive than they would be in the US and at this point my cash is only going toward the few things I need, and some traveling. Before coming to Romania my interest in the American West was revived when my brother and I worked our way through rented copies of the HBO series Deadwood from the library. He made it further than I did but only because I got bogged down with Romania preparation.

The free books box in our lounge is mostly full of sci fi novels and whatever else I don't like, but I keep my eye on them to see what new books will come through. Yesterday I found Appaloosa. The only thing I know about Appaloosa is what I learned browsing through redbox movies and catching the cowboy hats on the cover. I new it was a western. I also knew from my experience working at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art that Appaloosa is the name of specific looking horse used in the American West, if I remember correctly. It all fell into place when I looked at Mikes large list of movies and recognized the name. That redbox cover is within reach, and so is the book that it follows. This is a prime opportunity to read the book before the movie, which is an order that I have a history of screwing up. They might both suck, but they are still a small break from Romanian. Both versions may also be awesome. I guess we'll see.

I found out that a good time to do my Appaloosa reading is while I'm waiting for the bus. There are times when I find myself waiting for up to 30 minutes and I usually carry the reading over to the 15 min bus ride home. What better way to get that American culture fix than an American western?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

3rd day thoughs.

June 01,

Finally I’m getting around to starting a blog about my experience in Romania. When my Country Director(CD) asked who in the room was writing a blog all but maybe 5 had their hands raised, so in doing this one could say that I’m following the heard. I’m OK with that. A blog seems like a good way to make this experience remembered and easily accessed by friends and family.
A little catch up to start. Last May I decided to apply for the Peace Corps. After a long application process a little over a year later I sit here in my room at my host families house in Targoviste, Romania. The trip here included 2 flight delays, 2 days in DC, 10 hours in Amsterdam and many hours in the air. Throughout that time I met, and started to get to know 36 others going through pretty much the same experience. I will be here in Targoviste for 11 weeks and then I get sent out to a yet to be disclosed location in the country where I will probably be alone at first with a limited knowledge of the language.
Targoviste is a city of about 70,000 people located roughly an hour northwest of Bucuresti. The city was a little bit scary for me at first mostly because I am from a town of less than 10,000 that all speak my language. Plus, we arrived at one in the morning and were greeted by stray dogs barking in the middle of the road. The longer I stay in Targoviste the more I like it. This is only my third day but I can see my time hear being very fun, memorable, and exciting mostly because of the people that I know. I am a part of a very friendly, and easy to get along with training class. I know that they will be people that I look forward to seeing everyday.
Yesterday I met my host family(gazda). It was one of the most stressful mornings of my life. I was very nervous not knowing fully how to act around them, what to say to them, if they will like me, if I will like them. Quickly they set my mind at ease. I think that my eleven weeks with them will be a great time in many ways. They speak English well which makes it easier to communicate with them initially but may hinder my ability to learn Romanian quickly. They are all very friendly and in many ways they have already started teaching me how Romania and America are both similar and different.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Care e fresh?

Words spoken by the bread lady that went unnoticed until I was halfway between Ted’s bread stand and my garsoniera, as I stopped, bread in hand, ‘did she just say fresh?’.

Language has been a struggle. I could probably get through an entire day without speaking a word of Romanian and some days that is a very attractive option. This particular day I walked up to the bread stand on my way home from school and ordered the usual, sliced wheat bread. She put two loafs in front of me, asked me which was more “fresh”, I squeezed, chose, and went on my way. After about a 50 second delay I realized exactly what she had said.

By now it is no secret that there is a foreigner in the neighborhood. I have talked to a few people on the benches outside of my block, and Cristi has introduced me to many others in the neighborhood. When I realized what my bread lady said I felt stunned, but after giving it some thought I realized that my presence here affects many. Before this little incident I had been so preoccupied with making sure this is a smooth transition for me. I have been doing much to make sure I settle in, and get accustomed to life here. I have been well aware and thankful of all of the help I have been receiving from the people here, but for many of them it wasn’t a choice to have a foreigner around. I did chose to go and serve in a foreign country and therefore it is my responsibility to speak the language as much as possible, try my hardest in those common social situations, and progress. Language learning here has been a difficult, time-consuming, rewarding, and oftentimes amusing experience. Sometimes in my anxiety, I forget that there are two sides to the conversation and that the other person is trying as well. They are trying to make their sentences simple but still hold a conversation, trying to speak slowly, and in Ernest’s case, developing an entirely new brand of Romenglish (eg.jumpeaza). Though it is important for me to feel comfortable at site, it is also important to work hard on the language everyday especially in these first few months. I would love to go back to Târgoviste in a couple of months and show off my language skills to my gazda, who in August, I was speaking to almost entirely in English.

Today a student asked me if I speak Romanian. I told him that I do speak some Romanian and that after living here for two years I hope to be able to speak Romanian well. Until then there will be people like the bread lady sneaking in surprise English words to try and make this experience a bit easier on me.

Garsoniera- 1 room apartment
Gazda- host
Târgoviste- my PST training city

Monday, October 12, 2009

The smell of dying leaves

Bine aţi venit! Welcome to my blog! So far I am having a great experience as a TEFL volunteer, I only regret not starting this blog up just before staging. Better late than never. Enjoy!

The smell of the leaves is taking me home. I’ve never wanted to be at a high school football game quite this much. Fall has hit this city pretty hard. It was about two weeks ago that I left Christi’s place and was stunned by the smell. There were signs of the season before, but it was one of those moments that takes you by surprise. It made me think back to the first few months of high school when I was regrouping with my friends anticipating that Friday night football game just for something to do. The walk to Aniello's during the last quarter was always the best part.

I have realized that besides the changing seasons, Petrosani is not very much at all like the home that I’m used to. There are football games but they're not quite played the same. There is a pizza place in town but it is nothing like Aniello's. I feel like I have friends and family here, but they’re not the friends and family that I’m used to back in Corning. I am just now realizing how much I like the autumn.

In all honesty, I have it pretty good. This is not at all what I expected when I sent in that application to the Peace Corps. I live in a clean neighborhood of a nice town surrounded by people who want to see me succeed. I have a nice, small, studio apartment, the internet, and a cell phone. Even though from time to time I miss the traditions, family, friends, sights, smells, tastes, and sounds of home, upstate NY, I recover when I consider both the warmth of the people I’ve met so far on this adventure, and the support that I have from my friends and family in NY. Thanks!