Sunday, March 11, 2007

Some student's art work -
try not to be amazed!

Isn't it great?
written Saturday March 10th
A Little about School

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

The school where I attend Peace Corps training every weekday is a “middle school” but from what I understand there are grades 1-5th in the morning and 6-8th graders in the afternoon.

The kids have to wear their uniforms in school, which vary, but I see many younger kids wearing little suits with black ties. They love to walk past the Americans and shout “hello” to us in English.

One little boy asked me my name while his friends stood behind him and giggled, and when I told him, and then asked him his name in Romanian, they all thought it was hilarious.

Last week a young man stopped me on the way from the bathroom and said enthusiastically “How do you like Romania? Do you like it here?” “Da, da!” (yes, yes) I replied. “Oh, I’m glad to know that!” he said.

Some of the kids like to show us their impressive collection of American English collected from movies and rap songs - all of it cursing (but as I write this the American movie True Romance is on TV and I’m not surprised at some of the English words these kids pick up. (My gazda mama Lumi came in my room and said there’s a movie on with Brad Pitt – which I find a little bit funny because Brad Pitt’s in this movie for like 1 minute). Or they like to say random phrases in English, like “I love you!” or just whistle.

Also, it’s apparently very interesting to knock on and open and close the doors that have the Peace Corps logo on them when we’re having meetings.

We are told that the students in Romania are much more disciplined when they are in class than American students. Therefore, after sitting in class all day where they have to pay attention and not speak out of turn, they really enjoy a good run down the hallway screaming. On Friday they were particularly nuts.

Also, although I’m told there is no gym to speak of, and that their gym classes are held outside, from the sound of their screams while I’m in language class in the morning, they must be having screaming class because otherwise I would have assumed it was gym (it probably is…in some fashion. Perhaps there Is a gym in the blue building?)

Honestly, the kids are quite loud, and it’s strange to occupy the same building as them. We’re not allowed to use the teacher’s stairwell or entrance. I still don’t know where the teacher’s entrance is but the teacher’s stairs are nice and polished – and close to the Peace Corps bathroom on the third floor. This can create quite a traffic jam in the hallway of little people shouting “Hello! Hello! Hello!” But I think we regard each other as a bit of a curiosity.

They are interesting and fun and loud – but they are kids.
It can be kind of intimidating to walk through a group of Romanian third graders who are talking and laughing loudly when you don’t know what about. But I’m also constantly impressed with their artwork that decorates the hallways and classrooms. Some of the other volunteers are developing quite a report with them though. Once you engage them in a game of soccer after school you’re the coolest thing ever (I’m hoping to be able to do this one of these days) especially if you’re Todd and you’re 6’9’’ or so.

The school staff I’ve met has also been very nice and accommodating and I’m very impressed that Peace Corps volunteers have our own bathroom, an office, a language office and a PCV lounge on the third floor – so I can’t complain.

In other news – this week our Friday Language class was a scavenger hunt with directions to 4 clues and our 5th clue was a subject about which he had to create a skit to be performed in Romanian for the rest of the group. My group got to do a spoof on a Romanian language lesson and I played the student (there’s one in approximately every class) who sits in the back and asks how to say crude and dirty things in Romanian. (Our teachers tell us only so we know what it means if we hear it.) "Cume se spune pe Romaneste 'Eat my butt?'". Overall it was a really fun day in class!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Romania Week 1 written Friday March 2nd
Buna Zuia! (Boona – Zeewa) Good afternoon

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

I’ve been in Ploiesti for eight days now and I wonder if I’m too tired to write this. I had an aggressive plan for studying my Romanian tonight, but I think I’m too mentally exhausted. Tomorrow Luminista (Lumi) my gazda mama and Florintina (Tina) my gazda sora (sister) are taking me shopping outside of Ploieisti because I’m cooking soup for dinner. Lumi has been very accommodating by preparing meals without meat for me, so I hope I can return the favor by doing some cooking on the weekends. I had an interesting vegetarian sausage for dinner tonight.

For our 10 weeks of training in Ploiesti we are well taken care of by our gazda (host) families. Everyday Lumi gives me a ride to the training center which is in a middle school (grades 1-8) in Ploiesti. This is a subject of great amusement for the other PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) who walk or take the bus. Lumi will drive me right up to the gate of the building where I have language class (this involves driving on the sidewalk.) Our gazdas were only supposed to take us to school for the first day of training. I did get to take the bus home on Thursday because I told her the other volunteers would help me get home to our bloc, but I was too busy talking to my friend Jim to ask what number bus to take in the morning. I hope to eventually learn the bus schedule though I will miss the Romanian lessons Lumi gives me during the morning ride.

At school we study language in the morning for four hours and then in the afternoon we have other Peace Corps training events. Language class is a lot fun but it’s also like being in first grade in Romanian. I am very surprised at how well the language training is going. After the first week I am able to speak a very broken present tense form of Rom-glish. I have successfully purchased an alarm clock, a plug adapter, a coffee, a tea, a bunch of flowers and oranges. I love it when one of our profesoarele (professors) Simona says to us “Jesus. You guys going to be all right?” with her Romanian accent.

Lumi speaks English very well, but doesn’t always understand me, and Tina will answer me in Romanian if I ask her a question in English. Tina is a good teacher who taught me my colors and recently discovered coming into my room to point to things and ask “Ce este?” (what is this?) Tina teaches me new words about 45 at a time, and then she says in Romanian “do you need anything else?” Lumi is very good about quizzing me on things she’s already told me and asking me “Cut e chasul, pe Romaneste?” (What is the time in Romanian?)

Tonight I brought home some oranges from the market next to the school and Lumi made a fruit salad while I sat at the table and tried to ask for less butter in the cucumber and cheese sandwiches she packs in my lunch. I asked (in Romanian) what I could do to help and she said “Nimic, multumesc. (nothing, thank you.) Nimic means nothing. Write it down.”

I get very excited every time I can form a sentence in Romanian although I’m afraid Lumi might find me demanding or doesn’t understand that I’m working on plurals in class so it’s an achievement for me to announce at the table “I like cucumbers!” (Romanian plurals, by the way, don’t even make sense to Romanians.)

Last night Lumi came into my room to see if I needed help with my homework and I read from a page in my notebook the sentences I managed put together: “I like cabbage rolls with cabbage. Not with meat. Maybe I learn I make one day.” She said Ok, and left the room. My friend Micah and I were walking together discussing what our practice of our vocabulary sounded like to the Romanians: “Couch! Bed! Sink! Door! Carpet! Kitchen! Living Room! Blue! Red! Yellow!”

The first of March is a holiday here similar to Valentine’s day or mother’s day when men and boys give ladies and female family members flowers and little corsages with red and white cords and little metal trinkets to celebrate the coming of Spring. I got a snowman one from Tina and very nice handmade card. One of the boy students at the school where we train gave me another Martzie Shor trinket with a four leaf clover on it, but the best was before school Lumi gave me a very nice red and white cord with tassels like a book mark and a little Peace sign. I was able to say “I like peace very much. Perfect!” And I think she was happy.

In our other Peace Corps training we just began our practicum projects. We are put into teams with other volunteers in our area (mine is institutional development) and we have approximately six weeks to do a project in partnership with a local nonprofit or a government office. My team is working with Casa Eva – a sort of halfway house for orphans which teaches life skills in a collective setting sort of like a family situation where kids are grouped together with a supervisor/teacher. This is opposed to the institutional setting of orphanages during communism. Today we met with the director and coordinator and some of the kids. We had an interesting session since they speak only Romanian and German and this is the only day we will have a member of the Peace Corps staff to escort us and translate for us. We got a lot of information but it’s way too early to begin thinking about what kind of project we’ll be doing and I’m not sure how much about the organization I’m allowed to publish, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing something more about this project as it develops.

I’m really enjoying the training thus far, despite the Peace Corps bathroom being on the 4th floor (American, 3rd European floor) of another building, and the bathrooms where I have class are a step with a porcelain slab with a hole in it that you squat over. I try to keep a spare handful of toilet paper in my pockets because it’s not provided in the student bathroom. Also the PCT lounge gets quite loud at lunchtime and there are 3 computers with internet access for 40 of us. I’m sure it’ll get more stressful as I begin to exit what Peace Corps calls the “tourist phase.” After all I’ve only been here 1 week, but so far, so foarte bine (very good)!