Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
Peace Corps will reimburse me to have a language tutor. This is a very good idea because learning the language is critical to our community integration. In fact my class is the first class in Romania that's required to have a language tutor and we're regularly tested on our language ability. When I found this out I was very excited because I wanted to remain very motivated to continue to study and improve my Romanian.
So why am I dreading each session with my tutor? Well, there are a lot of reasons I find learning Romanian from one particular person frustrating. It can't be easy when you're used to teaching a foriegn language (English) to high school kids to suddenly find yourself teaching your native language to a foriegner. Especially when this person taught themselves english and speaks it textbook correctly (or so I'm told). To an American English speaker (generally more fluent in slang) this can sound either funny or pretty weird. But what can I do? I haven't studied English grammar. If you say "present imperfect" in English I don't know what you're talking about. And no, I can't explain the difference between "kind of" and "sort of" - but there is a difference.
But despite having my English grammar corrected, there are other conflicts about the nature of the curriculum. This person insists that I learn formal Romanian because the informal kind is spoken by people who don't have a very good education. (And it was implied that maybe I picked up some of my informal Romanian from my new gazda). This person explains grammar to me in Romanian, and speaks to me so fast it's clearly assumed I understand everything, when at the same time I'm offered the most basic excercises - as if I didn't understand any Romanian at all.
But there's another issue here too that goes beyond language. When this person asked me to write an essay the topic was given "Why are some people successful and others are not?" This person went on to describe for me the reasons and I was supposed to translate them into Romanian. The reasons given were some people are lazy and unwilling to try things that will bring them economic success. I decided this was not a topic for an essay I was willing to write - in Romanian or in English.
Once we were interrupted by someone who rang the bell and asked if they could take out the garbage. People "Beggers" come to the door and ask if they can take out your garbage for money - it was explained to me. Do you have beggers in the U.S? Well, yes, but they don't offer to take out your garbage (something I would seriously consider depending on how much garbage there is - as this person lives on the 4th floor). This person proceeded to complain to me about all the people who didn't have jobs and were unwilling to work. Apparently it hadn't occured to this person that the man at the door was willing to take out her garbage - and that's more than sitting on the street with a cup begging for money.
My language tutor is someone I find on my own who agrees to teach me and I pay them the Peace Corps designated hourly rate and am reimbursed for it. It's up to me for the first time ever to hire or fire someone. This person, in our various meetings has whether intentionally or untentionally made it very clear to me that they do not need this money. I don't know if I would call this person "rich" - because we all have our own stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be rich. And of course different cultural definitions come in to play. By no stretch of the imagination would you consider this person "rich" by American standards.
There have been assumptions made by this person about how much money I have - which is fine - I was prepared to encounter the Rich American stereotype. But I just wonder if I wouldn't be happier employing someone who actually needed the money.
Why am I so uncomfortable working along side a Romanain who is actually "doing well?" I do want Romanians and Romania to be doing well. Is it true that I just have an aversion to money and people with money - even if they seem to like me?
This person has always been nice to me - and offered to take me out of town on a day trip to another local city and even invited me to go on vacation to Egypt together (assuming I could afford it). This person is not a bad person. We're just different. Going to a huge all-inclusive resort is not my idea of a fun vacation. I'll probably never go on a cruise because flushing my toliet in the ocean just isn't cool to me. I'm not interested in immitation designer handbags.
And apparently this person is even willing to tutor me out of the goodness of their heart - because when I explained the hourly rate at which Peace Corps allows me to pay a tutor (which has just been raised actually) I was told I wouldn't find anyone to teach me for that amount and for that amount this person may as well just watch TV. This person went on to explain that they would teach me anyway just because they like me.
I mean, I guess it really shouldn't matter. And I don't know. Maybe I wouldn't be feeling so strongly about this if this person were also a better teacher for me.