Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Way back in the fall, it seems so long ago, I had an incredible opportunity to join some of my collegues and some students on a small walk in my now, favorite part of Petrosani. Like a good volunteer, I did not turn down the invitation and I did not regret it. We all met at the Jiu Shopping Center, some students I was familiar with from my classes were there but other students I had not yet met were also there. We all put on a green shirt, bright colored rubber gloves, and armed ourselves with a garbage bag. I spent the following couple of hours that Saturday morning picking up garbage and chatting with students. I was able to see a different side of my own students as well as meet students from other classes. That day I returned home to reflect on the day and I remember a having a great feeling of satisfaction.
The fall turned in to winter and even though I continued to make excursions with Ernest, the sport teacher, I didn't think of inviting any students along. I didn't even ask if they would be interested. Finally, the first nice week of spring I was having my morning coffee with Ernest whe
n he told me about a trail from my new apartment up to Bradet, the area that we had cleaned in the fall. I was excited to hear that a trail existed. I can see Bradet from my balcony but I thought that the only way up was by the University on the other side of the hill. I had explored a bit the day before as a way of taking advantage of the nice sunny day. We were to meet at 4:00 after English Club at the bank, and from there he would take me to show me the spring near my block and the trail to Bradet. I was excited but I still had a class and English Club left before the hike. On my way out of his office he suggested that I see if some of the students form English Club want to come. What a great idea!!! It wouldn't hurt to mention it to them and if they actually wanted to come it would be nice to partake in an activity outside of school with them. I remembered the joy I got from the trash pick-up in the fall.

When I went to the bank to meet Ernest there were three students from English Club there to join us up to Bradet, the back way. We chatted mostly in English but also in Romanian. I had a lot of fun and I received positive feedback from those students present.

My next opportunity to spend some time with elevi(high-school students) outside of school came during the large Easter break. I joined a large group of mostly 12th graders on a trip through Transylvania. I don't teach 12th grade so the trip was a great opportunity to get to know some students that I have not yet had a chance to meet. I ended up having a great time playing cards on the bus and in the dorm. We exchanged music and walked around medieval cities. We sang together on the bus and followed each other down waterslides in Brasov.
I'm am hoping that the nice spring weather and my new awareness that I can invite students along, will give birth to more opportunities to see, get to know, and have fun with some of my students outside of the school.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Easter in Botiza

Standing in a dark church holding on to an unlit candle I was surrounded by old women 2/3 my height and twice my width. This is where I was at 5am, April 4th, 2010 when the voice of a priest began to chant from behind the golden colored wall in the church. As one dim light appeared from the same location all of the small bunicas(grandmothers) around me became restless. The light grew brighter and the voice louder when a great movement of these short, dark figures around me enclosed in on a point several feet in front of me. Finally the light appeared at the top of a long candle held by a white bearded priest. The bunica’s short stature worked to their disadvantage as the light was held up just out of reach of their stretching, candle holding arms. At the priest’s willing he brought the candle just low enough to appease the stretching arms and thus lit up the entire church with the help of several elders passing their lights to the others in the church, including me.
Even though it was 5am on a non-caffeinated Sunday morning I felt wide awake after stepping outside the door to the sharp teeth of the biting cold Maramures morning. That morning it seemed as if spring had not yet sprung but it worked to my advantage in shocking me awake, enough to carefully observe some of the traditions still kept in that part of the country during their most important religious ceremony. The ceremony didn’t stop or start in that church at 5am in the morning, but as the church rapidly turned from dark to light I stopped for a moment to consider the significance. I didn’t know exactly what the significance was at the time but I could easily tell that it was a significant moment for everyone involved.
Soon after arriving in Romania I learned about Maramures. I learned that it is a place where some of the deepest Romanian traditions are kept. I also learned that it is home to the famous “Merry Cemetery”. My visit to Maramures introduced me to beautiful landscapes, beautiful life, and beautiful people. A fellow Peace Corps volunteer in Botiza openly welcomed me into his home without even knowing me very well, showing me the kind of hospitality that many of us volunteers have received from Romanians.
The 4 full days I spent in Maramures were an even mix of relaxation and activity, with days balancing between reading-time and beautiful country hikes. Even though it was a bit chilly, one of my favorite parts of the day was starting a fire in the soba before it got dark. What more could I ask for in a spring break? Delicious Romanian food. We were not at all let down by the food, eating our hearts out on snitel, pasca and cakes after the long Easter morning. I can't finish the blogpost without mentioning the midday walk that we took to the edge of town only to be stopped by a neighbor that we sat with, practiced our Romanian, watched his kids play soccer, and of course drank horinka.

First Picture: Looking down on Botiza from a nearby hilltop.
Second Picture: Looking down on Easter morning service in the cemetery above the church.