Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patty's Day Message from Mom

Top of the mornin' to all you American born Peace Corps volunteers residing in Romania who have some Irish blood in them even though their last name may sound more like Russian, like say Matusick and who take a likin' to a good Irish band like,say one named The Town Pants which just so happens to be rolling into a small town in upstate New York round about tomorrow nite, a tad late for Saint Patty's Day, but better late than never. I'll be thinkin' of my green beer lovin', green blazer wearin', part green blood smilin' eyed son in a special way today. Love, Mom

Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day everyone! I'm listening to The Town Pants right now!

Picture: St. Patty's Day at the Snooty Pig in Corning New York, 2008. The blazer, the beer, the music, the festivities, and the friends made for an incredible, memorable experience.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The first time I stepped onto a train with my host in Petrosani I asked him, "don't we need a ticket?", he said, "shh nasul" with a smerk on his face.

This will be one of those stories about "a friend" that had yet another interesting cultural encounter involving transportation in Romania.

This "friend" had to take the night train from Petrosani to Bucharest. He had taken that particular train before. He was very accustomed to the train scheldule and how long it would take him to get to the train station, but still in his natural procrastinating, always rushing ways he decided to get a late start on packing, forcing him to basically have to run to the train station. As he was crossing the catwalk above the tracks he looked down to see that on this particular night his train happened to be on time and his phone told him that he only had one minute until it departs. There was no time to buy a ticket.

As the tired, obviously not Romanian, volunteer approached the cfr(train company) authorities he asked if it would be ok if he could buy the ticket on the train. They said "yes" of course and then told him the price was 61 lei. My friend was surprised. He had never paid over 50 lei for a ticket and he only had 51 lei in his wallet. He showed the authorities that he did not have 61 lei but they told him to board the train anyway. When the authorities came around to check tickets they told my friend to come out of the compartment. My friend gave the man all of his money, 51 lei, and the man said that it wasn't enough. He told my friend that it costs 68 lei. Naturally, my friend thought "is it 61 or 68 or even cheaper than 50 lei like I'm used to". After giving up his 50 lei my the man who took the money told my friend to tell anybody asking that he was going to Craiova instead of Bucharest.

It was hard to sleep for the first couple of hours on the train. He was nervous about the upcoming encounter where he would have to lie, wondering if it would even work. There is the chance that the last man just kept the money and my friend would be kicked off the train, or even worse, fined. It wasn't until after Craiova had passed when someone finally came in to check the tickets. That someone was a man that was not dressed in a proper uniform but he had two uniformed men behind him. He checked the tickets of the other men in the compartment and completely ignored my friend who was relieved after the encounter and could finally sleep.

Within an hour from Bucharest, almost there, and 4 old men enter my friends compartment. He knew that someone would be around to check their tickets. He looked out for someone to come, someone came, checked tickets, but this time my friend completely ignored the man checking the tickets. The man didn't press my friend too hard for the ticket as my friend pretended to be just waking up, posing as someone who has been on the train for a while and therefor his ticket doesn't need to be checked again. The act worked and my friend cruised in to Bucharest on the Arad-Constanta line.

"Nasul" means "The Godfather" in Romanian and when my host first said that on the train he was refering to corruption. My "friend" doesn't condone or approve of this kind of activity however this particular time he found himself in situations where "nasul" saved him.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Typing Practice

"But how, you might ask, does living outdoors on the terrace enable me to escape that other form of isolation, the solitary confinement of the mind? For there are the bad moments, or were, especially at the beginning of my life here, when I would sit down at the table for supper inside the housetrailer and discover with a sudden shock that I was alone. There was nobody, nobody at all, on the other side of the table. Aloneness become loneliness and the sensation was strong enough to remind me (how could I have forgotten?) that the one thing better than solitude, the only thing better than solitude, is society.

By society I do not mean the roar of city streets or the cultured and cultural talk of the schoolmen (reach for your revolver!) or human life in general. I mean the society of a friend or friends or a good, friendly women.

Strange as it might seem, I found that eating my supper out back made a difference. Inside the trailer, surrounded by the artifacture of America, I was reminded insistently of all that I had, for a season, left behind; the plywood walls and the dusty venetian blinds and the light bulbs and the smell of butane made me think of Albuquerque. By taking my meal outside by the burning juniper in the fireplace with more desert and mountains that I could explore in a lifetime open to view, I was invited to contemplate a far larger world, one which extends into a past and into a future without any limits known to the human kind. By taking off my shoes and digging my toes in the sand I made contact with that larger world- an exhilarating feeling which leads to equanimity. Certainly I was still by myself, so to speak- there were no other people around and there still are none- but in the midst of such a grand tableau it was impossible to give full and serious consideration to Albuquerque. All that is human melted with the sky and faded out beyond the mountains and I felt, as I feel- is it a paradox?- that a man can never find or need better companionship than that of himself."
pg. 121
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
Edward Abbey