Saturday, September 22, 2007

Whiskey in your water, Sugar in your tea?
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Here's an update on the grocery situation, although I'm sure no one cares. I had to buy eggs. I know it's not October yet and I don't really have any more money to spend on food, but you see I was a fool to start out with less than six eggs, so I allowed myself 1 additonal food purchase and it was a bag of eggs. Now when eggs come in a bag I assumed there were twelve. There were not. There were ten eggs which brought my egg total to 11 on Wednesday.

Today I noticed that one was cracked - so I was going to throw it away, but how do you throw away an egg? or more importantly where do you throw it because it you throw it in the trash it's just going to rot in the trash - and they don't let you bring that kind of thing to political events anymore. So I cracked it into a bowl, and judged it to be fine and added it to what was going to be an omlett but turned into scrambled egges. 3 egg scrambled eggs since I'd already cracked two when I decided to rescue Humpty Dumpty from the would-have-been-trash.

I also had to throw away the rest of my peppers. They have been living in the fridge since before I left for the habitat trip and though I got rid of the bad ones when I returned I managed to save the remainder for quite an additional while, perserving them by cutting them up and letting them float in a covered bowl of cold water in the fridge for an additonal two weeks, but when I noticed the water was cloudy it was time to ditch the peppers.

Without the benefit of peppers, my scrambled onion, cheese and tomato eggs will last me another meal along with the roast potatoes from the night before which were supposed to be potato wedges but they were overdone so this morning they were refried with onion. Sad how as I dished up this rather spectacular breakfast - though cold-ish since I only have one frying pan, I begrudged the early pioneers that they get to have coffee AND tea! An unfortunate by-product of uch a meal (and most meals, actually is I now have to wash every pot, pan, and dish I have!)

I've also noticed I'm rushing through my new jar of honey at quite an alarming speed despite my discovery of where to by honey for 6 lei as opposed to 9. I like a little honey in my tea, but since I have nothing to dish it out with but a teaspoon and you know honey, I probably use more than I should.

Even STASH brand Chai Tea (the best, in my experience) is better with a touch of honey or sugar, and better still with a splash of milk. But my milk spoiled since the only thing I use it for is a touch in my tea, and occasionally when I'm baking -or in oatmeal. I guess I don't use milk often enough to justify buying a new liter and a half. But I do miss a spot of milk in my tea....

What I'm saying is my food may not last me as long as I thought which means next month's budget is not going to be all the fun and games I dreamed it would be. Perhaps no areobic workout ball for me and maybe a Romanian copy of Harry Potter and the Philopher's Stone will have to be put on hold, yet again.

In non food news here's another picture of Bella I thought got posted last time, but I guess not...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's a Girl!!!!
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 United States government doesn't specifically approve of kindness to animals. That said it doesn't disaprove either. Please refer to previous statements made on this issue.
Meet Belladonna. Today I put the kitten in her cardboard box, grapped my English/Romanian dictionary, my notebook and the box her flea medication came in and went to the vet, mostly because my kitten was in need of name. We learned that Bella is a little girl and too young for her vaccinations which she'll get in a month. The vet gave me eyedrops and vitamins and didn't charge me at all for her time. She saw us only briefly without an appointment but there was no one else in the waiting room.

I'm sure she gave me a lot of other good advice about raising a kitten which I probably didn't understand, but I was able to get my questions answered with the vocabulary I have and gestures. The dictionary didn't leave the bag. I also learned that there's no need to repeat the flea treatment I gave her yesterday as long as Bella is an indoor cat - which she is - so my Romanian listening skills are better than I thought.

Now, I will try my best to avoid being one of those people who's forever posting cute pictures/videos of their kittten, but I make no promises and I feel slightly justified in that this kitten is too cute for words.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Kitten, plus
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are my own personally and do not in any way reflect the opinion of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Just when I was starting to think she wasn't going to call and I must have misunderstood my gazda mother, she called me last night at quarter to nine. I said I'd be right over to pick up the kitten, although it could have waited til morning.

She greeted me with a big boquet of flowers from her garden and a zuchini the size of a baseball bat. And in a cardboard box, a little black and white kitten so small it's tail still comes to a point. She instructed me to take it home right away and wash it with shampoo, which I did, and only afterward while drying it off did I discover I didn't just get a kitten. My kitten has fleas.

I was planning on leaving the kitten in the cardboard box in the kitchen overnight anyway. And He/she's not getting out of the kitchen until he/she proves effectively litter trained. Despite the quarentine I was still up all night basically waiting for morning so I could go out and buy a flea shampoo - and after two more baths this morning I am tired, hungry, and had one unhappy kitten on my hands.

Later I'll be returning to the pet store for an anti-flea medication which gets in the bloodstream I'm told. You just can't tell a cat that you're bathing it in the sink for it's own good. And on top of that, today had to be a day when we have no hot water in town. So I boiled it's pillow case it spent the night with last night. Washed everything I was wearing and scrubbed down the little feline. Poor thing. I haven't even had it 24 hours and I feel like all I've done is been told what a bad mother I am for making it suffer!

When you inquire as to the name of the cat, I have to be honest and say it's too young to know if it's a boy or a girl. But I have a feeling it's a boy and in that case I feel a little funny about it. I've always imagined that if I had a cat it would be a girl. Maybe it's because all the dogs I've ever had have been boys I think of cats as girls and dogs as boys. But we'll see. I have two names picked out and soon I will let you know.

In the meantime we've graduated from rice boiled in milk to canned kitten food and so far she/he approves because there is quite an appetite there. When she'/he's not sitting in the corner of her/his cardboard box sulking and crying because I made it get wet.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Frugal Gourmet (Laura gives up food shopping)
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 have put a limit on my grocery shopping - no more. I am not spending any more money on food until I use all the food that is currently in my apartment. This limitation comes on the heels of the realization that I spend far too much money on food. So, no more.

I think it will take until November to eat all the food I have, but it is difficult to keep up with the fresh vegetables in the fridge. Also, I have to make a few exceptions. I'm allowed to purchase a few additional staples, bread, milk, buttter and eggs. Also popcorn. I don't expect I'll run out of popcorn, but I wanted it stated there anyway.

Exempt from this vow is going out to eat, which I only do on special occassions like when someone comes to town to visit (unfortunately I have a popular town where at least two of my friends have to come to pick up their international packages) and any money I spend going out to eat while I'm out of town. Mostly I'm concerned about spending too much at the market and grocery stores. But if my friends come and visit me and they want something to take back to my apartment to prepare and they buy it - that's fair too. (like if I offer to make my favorite spinach and sun-dried tomato pizza but I don't have any motzerella cheese, spiniach, mushrooms or zuchini, because let's face it I'm not going to run out of garlic.)

Also, this deal doesn't include any food given to me that I bring home without paying for. For example, I went to visit my second gazda last night and she gave me a bag of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, a block of parmesean cheese and two jars of jam. I didn't ask for this, but graciously accepted her hospitality. What I could really use is eggs... (why oh why did I only buy six eggs?!)

The other thing that must come up is the definition of "all the food in the apartment" - that is not until I'm eating mustard with a spoon, but until I can no longer reasonably and creatively fashion meals out of what I have - without breaking in too much to the pickles, tomatoes, peaches, zacusca and plums I have personally canned for the winter. As I have been known to make a meal out of rice, butter, garlic and dried herbs, we will see.

Tonight's menu looks like an onion and pepper, tomato omlett (which would be better with mushrooms, but I'm not buying mushrooms!) and potatoes as I had finally made a dent in my 3 kilos of potatoes when my gazda gave me another sack of potatoes.

Regardless this is going to get interesting, as I can not buy any more eggs, milk, or butter until next month as I have already over spent the money I allow myself to spend each month. However, if I make it til next month I'll have lots of extra spending money not wasted on food to spend on coffee and cigarettes, or more likely - on the new kitten I may or may not be picking up tonight. You never can tell what's going to happen when you make plans with someone so we'll see. I've never been a cat owner before so this will definately prove exciting!

As it stands I have 1 leu left to spend and I'm off to the piata to see if that will get me a loaf of bread. I'll try to provide frequent updates on how I'm doing with pledge.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Habitat for Humanity Euro Blitz-Build '07 Photos
Disclaimer: This site is my own and does not represent the opinons of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government. Photos courtesy of Tabita and Daniel Sandulean whose house I worked on, and my friend Lisa who put her pictures up on a webpage where I could steal them. (Sorry, I didn't take any pictures of my own.)
This photo, courtesy of Lisa is the construction site at the begining of the week. Foundations and piles of wood.

This is just part of our hard working crew on the Hungarian house. Every house had a flag fora different E.U. country.

Me, applying wet cement to the styrofoam screwed to the wooden walls. This was a fun job as no one would let me stand on the scafolding and I got to do most of the bottom half of the house. I also got a lot of cement dripped in my hair. :)

Over the cement went this white acrylic compound that looked like oatmeal and tasted...delicous. No joke though, I don't think my jeans will ever be the same...

Check out that long pony-tail! I guess no one got any pictures of me working with a hammer on the roof!

This is Tabita, our homeowner. She and her husband Daniel plan to move in to this house in early October.

This is a traditional bread for the house blessings we did at the end of the week. The priests came to bless each house and each family.

This picture of Lisa's almost does justice to the amount of mud there was. Almost.

A finished bedroom minus the floor. Oh, it doesn't look like much now but a lot of work went into that insulation and drywall.

A "completed" house at the end of the week.

27 houses mid-week in various stages of getting their roofs on. (well, don't count them, this is just one side of the road.)

(Ok, can I just say right now I have no idea what's up with Blogger? Why are some pictures bigger than others? Where did my font menu go? Why is it SO HARD to post pictures in the order I want? This, ladies and gentlemen is why I don't have a nice professional looking blog. Anyway, I just had to vent. Thanks for listening!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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

As of Tuesday morning at 1:30 a.m because my train was late - I'm back in Deva. I left September 1st, and traveled for 12 hours to Suceava and then hung out at friends apartment for a few hours before another 3 hour train ride to the city of Radauti where I participated in the Habitat For Humanity Euro Blitz Build. 27 new houses were built in 5 days. One for every member of the European Union.

When I signed up for this trip I thought it would be fun to see another part of the country - Bucovinia, not Moldova as I erroneously stated previously, and that it would be good to get out of my town for a while, see my friends from my training class and do some manual labor for a change. I also worried that it would be too hot and I wouldn't have anything to wear. All of these things were good and fulfilling reasons to go to Habitat and my worry about not having anything to wear would come true - but not for the reasons I expected.

We stayed in a school "dorm" which was a large room with 8 cots in it. I wish I 'd known pillows and blankets were provided. Individual shower stalls were in the shower room at the end of the hall across from the latrines (which smelled like one) and there was also a "sink room" which was a room full of sinks. I guess the toliet seats and shower curtians had been purchased for us. We had been warned before our arrival that there were some problems with the housing but it was definately functional. Not bad for a Peace Corps volunteer - and I forgot to mention that we didn't have to pay. Other Habitat volunteers coming from the United States or Europe had to shell out something in the hundreds of euros for the honor of working on this project, so there were really no complaints from the Peace Corps volunteers. Except it was interesting that one shower controlled the temperature for all of them. It was a gift to have hot water available to us though. For some, it was too hot.

Along with not having to pay the Peace Corps volunteers weren't included in breakfast or the shuttle service to the build site - so we had a 40 minute walk to look forward to each morning and evening. As we got progressively more and more tired through the week it began to be an hour and 20 minute walk, but closer to the end of the week we were also able to hitch rides with the shuttle vans since it was likely we were soaking wet with rain and covered in mud, cement, plaster, or fiberglass insulation.

Some volunteers didn't stay and work the whole five days. That never occurred to me, but it would have been nice, since building a house is a lot of hard work. It was especially for me because I was on a team with 5 middle aged or older men, three Romanian high school girls, two women who were around intermittently but didn't show up until day 3 and me. So I threw myself into every task with a fearless vigor in order to prove my mettle to these guys and earn my right to swing a hammer. The second morning I defied a fear of hights and helped assemble the roof (this mostly involved lifting and grabbing sheets of that wood that's made of glued together wood chips and holding them while people who could reach nailed them down) until noon because after climbing down I doubted I had the strength left in my arms to haul myself up the ladder again or could trust my hands to grip a hammer without sending it flying off the roof. Also defied, fears of chainsaws and trucks...

The third and fourth day it rained. We got soaked. I brought only 1 pair of work pants, and 1 pair of boots. I was also out of socks and underware. Soon everything I brought with me was soaking wet. That last day I didn't relish the though of walking an hour in wet jeans without undies, but luckily a friend came through for me and lent me a clean dry pair, which made pulling on those cold wet jeans all the more bareable. Luckily the sun came out that day and my pants were mostly dry before noon.

I didn't mention that the first day Sunday - after the opening ceremony I ate some bad mushrooms and was sick with vomiting and on the toliet all night. I was actually feeling gross earlier Sunday since I hadn't eaten all day - except coffee. A lot of coffee. Therefore, after and hour and half of sleep on the train Saturday night and probably about four hours not spent in the bathroom Sunday - I slept in until 10am on Monday and missed raising the frames of the houses. That's as long as my sick spell lasted (thank God for my "emergency Amodium" in my personal stash) and I was able to work hard for the rest of the week, but I was not a happy camper Monday lunch time when they told me the caterer's forgot to prepare a vegetarian option.

Out of the darkness of limping around Radauti for a week in wet socks, wet boots, and going commando, covered with mud, there was a bright spot. I discovered: Hot wine. Hot red wine on the menu in this cool old fashioned bar called, in a combination of Romanian and English, URSO BREWERY which means "Bear Brewery". Hot wine is delicous and heated with just a few cloves, and you add your own sugar. It's just thing after a day of wandering around a muddy construction site in the rain hoping for someone to give you a job more dignified than "Wash these tools, or go find me a ..." (These things I did, however, but only for Harry our House Leader. I don't know where Harry was from in the U.S. but he was a nice guy and a pleasure to work for).

It was a good experience working on the Habitat Build and at times a lot of fun. At times it was a freezing cold, wet, pain in the ass, but I was never unaware that I signed up for this. I wanted to be there. I made friends with the homeowners who's house we were building Tabita and Daniel, and promised to come and visit them the next time I'm in the area. I hope to. They expect they'll be able to move in around October 1st, since at the end of the week I have to say our house was in pretty good shape! We had the roof on, the three layers of the exterior done except for the sanding to get ready for paint, and inside the insulation, drywall and joint compound were done, the doors framed and hung and the windows up and ready. The only things that still needed to be done were installing the fixtures like the toliet and sinks, and kitchen cabinets, the rest of the electrical wiring, the sub floor and the floor. So, ok, a lot still has to be done, but it was 5 days and we had put a house where before only a foundation stood!

After all this on Saturday September 8th I was quite ready to go back to Deva. We were all tired bruised sore and I was sorely missing dry clean clothes, my own bedroom, and a hot bath (although the week held plenty of hot showers with the rain and the messy sate we returned from the work site in. I don't usually shower every day). But a return journey home was not in the plan. We had to go to Bucharest on Sunday where Peace Corps had a hotel reservation for us. On Monday we had a Doctor appointment for the first of our HPV vaccines. So that meant Saturday we had to find somewhere to go to spend the night.

Turns out my closest friend by proximity (she's two hours away and we do a lot together) had come down with the flu by Friday night and wasn't feeling up to travel. We spent all day Saturday with two volunteers stationed in Radauti seeing if she would feel better enough for us to take the train to Suceava. Eventually I left with a bunch of other volunteers on a free Habitat shuttle to Suceava and let Dru spend a more comfortable restful night in Raudati. I accompaniend the gang to Dennis and Holly's where 9 volunteers were sleeping over in a two person apartment, one more was supposed to show up with his parents but their flight got canceled. It was estentially an all night party, but I'm not sure how long the hosts were up. I was thankful for an excellent Itailian meal a the local restruant that I splurged on, and a corner of the couch as I had to be up at 6:30 to get on the train to bucharest.

By 2:30 we were in Bucharest, 3:30 at the hotel. By five I was showered I spread my damp sink washed clothing around the room to dry and by quarter to six asleep. Dru was feeling better and we were both hungry so we explored Bucharest eventually finding some moderately priced traditional Romanain cuisine with a lot of vegetarian options.

The next day we raided the library in the Peace Corps office PCV lounge, recieved our vacinations, and ditched our bags long enough to search out a Thai restaurant in Bucharest at which to spend our Per Diem money on lunch. We ended up treking around for quite a hungry-have-to-pee while, but the trip resulted in the purchases of new handbags, backpacks, and sneakers for everyone but me (I'm set in the shoe and baggage department). Eventually we stumbled upon an Indian restruant and abandoned our hopes of Thai food. It was a delicous, filling, and expensive (but well worth it) lunch - and not too far from the Peace Corps office. Afterward, it was only my sitting down to chat with our program manager and not watching the time that made us nearly late for our train. A short sprint and three metro stops later we were in pulling out of Bucharest and thankfully heading home - after an eight hour train ride.

But I made it back! So far the weather in Deva has greeted me with cold and gloom, but I even made it out of my apartment yesterday - an accomplishment in the pouring rain, after a hot (well, warm) bath and two loads of laundry. Now, I'm about to put a pot of soup on the stove and celebrate that by the cold and the rain Autumn has come to Deva, but thankfully, I don't have to leave again until the begining of October.