Thursday, May 29, 2008

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

Some weird things happened this week. First of all two friends came to visit me during the week, bringing their friends with them so we could meet and become friends (isn't it nice?) and moreover so they could crash and my apartment while visiting the local tourist sites, one of them being the Castelul Corvinilor or The Corvin Castel in Hunedoara about twenty minutes away by car.

The funny thing is both these friends came with me the first time I saw the castle the Saturday after my birthday. Jesse came over on Sunday night with his Romanian friend Dragos who had never been to Hunedoara and wanted to tourist it up at castle. So Monday, after my meeting at the office the tree of us visited the castle, took a lot of pictures, and noticed while we were there there were a lot of old-fashioned looking wooden carts around, quite a bit of hay and an abundance of ladders made of tree branches.

Jesse left on Tuesday and that day Micah called and said he was visiting with his friend-from-home who he wanted to take to the castle as well as the famous Deva citadel. I wasn't sure if I'd go back to the castle since I'd just been there Monday but I decided to go, because believe-it-or-not Micah and I actually have a project going on with said castle so going there together would give us a chance to discuss work while boring his friend to tears, as I did to Jesse's friend who is not involved in our project.

When we approached the driver of our taxi wasn't allowed in the gate. We'd noticed a lot of trucks and trailers in the street leading up to the castle as well as a few guys in medieval costume, and also horse crap everywhere. Someone at the gate told us if we wanted to go in to the castle we had to hike around to the back entrance.

Once inside we noticed about two dozen people dressed as medieval knights, knights on horseback, and flags and banners that hadn't been around when I was there on Monday. But they still allowed us to pay admission to enter and walk around inside the castle. It turns out the castle was being used to film an Italian movie called Barbarossa (or Red Beard). The castle courtyard was being used as a holding area where the knights with banners, the horse mounted knights, and the horse drawn covered wagons would line up and wait for a signal to come over walkie-talkie, march out of the castle and across the bridge, then turn around and do it again. We got to watch this process about eight times. I counted 22 knights on horseback. I was fascinated by the horses. Big, shiny, healthy, beautiful looking horses the likes of which I haven't seen in a while, neighing loudly in the echoing courtyard. It was so exciting to see! Even though I know nothing about this movie or the actors in it I was instantly star-struck by being surrounded by a production and also suddenly filled with a five-year-old girl desire to always watch the horses - whatever they were doing!

The guy guarding the gate when we crept around front to try and sneak a view of the castle's main entrance didn't understand the question when I said "does the castle pay an Italian castle in the movie?" What I meant was: Is the movie set in Romania? I doubt it, though I was happy to see so many Romanians working as medieval soldiers in the movie.

It was an exciting and unexpected treat. Too bad I left my camera at home because I thought, (shrug) I've seen the castle. I was there days ago and I have pictures of it already!

But if you happen to see the movie Barbarossa - the saddle blankets - totally not period, but I doubt you'll be able to see that in the "storming out of the castle on horseback and across the bridge" scene.

Me and my new friend, Dragos

Friday, May 23, 2008

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

It's times like this when it's hard to be so far away. To know that things are going on at home, you wish you could be there but you can't. Can't do anything about it.

This fire happened in my hometown Wednesday night, Thursday morning, leaving 70 people homeless. One of them is my brother. His apartment burned down and he evacuated with his hat, his wallet, his phone and his car keys.

I'm just glad everyone got out ok and no one was hurt.

But my brother's living at home again. Starting over from nothing. And there's nothing I can do for him from here but ask that you send him positive energy. If you have a couch or somehting that would be nice, but positive energy is more likely the order of the day.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What am I obsessed with today?
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

Usually the answer to that would be Schwepp's Bitter Lemon. Oooh, I love me some Schwepp's Bitter Lemon...

Those of you who know me well, know I don't get in to new music easily. Usually it takes a cd player and at least a five-hour rode trip. See, for me, the purpose of music is to sing along with it (if it's show tunes - like it's your audition) so it's hard for me to get into new music because I almost never listen to anything I don't already know. Then last weekend a friend introduced me to this:

This is Mika. And this:

I realized that finding actual official - released by the band music videos on Youtube can be difficult, but I don't care I want to encourage this.

I was all excited to introduce you to Mika because as I said I don't get into new music very often, so for all I know this guy could be brand new - cds hot off the lazer writer. you guys are all still listening to cds, right?

Then the title of Sam's blog post shattered my image that I was into something new that you guys stateside don't yet know about. There's going to be years of you guys talking to me about movies like Bucket List that I don't know about and have never heard of.

Well, bring it on. Because I challenge you to name the song on this album I am completely obsessed with. I'll give you two hints - A) it sounds like Killer Queen and B) It's me, c'mon guys this shouldn't be hard.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Flat Broke
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

I was thinking about what to write in my blog entry when I remembered I'm flat @$$ broke this month. Seriously. I shudder to think of it.

What happened was when I got back from vacation last month - I had just enough in my account to pay my rent. But I don't have to pay my rent on any fixed schedule, just whenever I see my landlord. So the last week in April I decided to take some of my rent money out of the bank and buy groceries. I didn't even spend it all. Just a little bit more than half.

Then at the end of April I either got paid for April or got my "allowance" for May - however you like to look at it, but since my landlord came by to drop off a brand-spanking new stove and oven last week I thought I should pay him the rent for April and May out of the same chunk of money which was automatically deposited in my account at the end of April. At the same time I withdrew 400 lei to pay the bills for April.

Recently my internet/cable company has decided to start charging people every other month for two months at a time. Which means I probably didn't pay a cable/internet bill in March - but what happened to the money? Who knows? Or more accurately I probably spent it on coffees and deserts when I was on vacation.

So after rent and bills I was already left with 71 lei for the month of May - and May hadn't started yet. That's about $29.58. And food is roughly the same price here as it is in the USA (so when I a jar of spaghetti sauce is roughly $3 in the USA - it's roughly 7 lei here.) Luckily I already bought enough groceries to (hopefully) last me the month.

That and I got 25 lei out of my change jar, and I had about 8 lei left over after I paid the bills.

However, I have two problems.

1) I went out for pizza today - because when a friend comes to town and you actually have someone visiting that you can sit at a table and speak English with, someone who is regularly denied pizza as much as I am denied opportunities to leave my apartment without spending money - you get 10 lei out of your change jar and go out to lunch with them.

2) I'm leaving on Thursday to go to a Peace Corps conference. Well, I'm leaving Thursday to visit a friend and going to the conference Monday through Thursday - but as I'll be gone for six days I need to show up to the person watching my cat with a week's supply of cat food and cat litter and I'm pretty sure to make it through the week I'm going to need to buy toilet paper, matches and yeast.

I'd like some milk for my tea too, but that's just silly when I'm leaving Thursday. A liter of milk will spoil and I can't afford it.

But I do need bus fair because tomorrow morning I have big meeting in another town at the time I'm usually opening my eyes and trying to decide if I can reasonably hit snooze for another half hour - and it's probably going to be about 10 lei round trip not to mention it would be good form to pay for the friend-who's-going-with-me-because-she-speaks-Romanian-better-than-I-do-although-English-isn't-her-first-language-either.

So I'm in a bit of a bind.

Also, I eat only fruits and vegetables. Or rather, because I'm a vegetarian I like to think I eat only fruits and vegetables but I actually eat mostly Schwepp's bitter lemon, banana peanut butter and honey sandwiches, potatoes, cheese, eggs and olives. But if you buy a month's supply of fruits and vegetables, specifically if you buy them at the end of last month - they go bad quickly. Which is why right now I have half a pizza in the fridge along with a big bowl of Greek salad, four carrots, and all the necessary ingredients to make another pizza - but all of which should be eaten before the end of the week.

Thankfully I have the unnatural luck of having a freezer so I can make another pizza and freeze it because I'm going to need to eat something later in the month. Too bad I can't do all my eating these first two weeks when I have access to good fresh food and then just not eat the rest of the month.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to make. No matter how low funds are I always have to remind myself that my needs will be met. Even when I've been really broke, I've never been totally broke. I mean, yeah, I've eaten nothing but rice and popcorn for a week. But I've always had a Safety Net - in college I would say I'm just going to eat this bag of apples and nothing else, but then I could go out to dinner and put it on my credit card. Here I have the option of using my American bank account (which I have only done three times and once was so I could buy medicine for my sore throat and which only has money in it because I found a wealthy pirate named Magwhich to be my patron). Or there was that time I was contacted by a collection agency because my health insurance never paid a bill I thought they had paid and I split the bill three ways with my parents.

Anyway, I attribute my ability to get by - to find a way to meet my needs - to live on a corner of a dollar more to privilege than to my own intelligence. In Moorhead I got to ride the bus for free - lucky me. Here, well I get reimbursed by Peace Corps for that medicine, eventually, so that will help me make it through the month.

So I'm not complaining. It's nice to know when you're broke that you're not really going to go under. It's an amusing challenge to see how far you can make it. Am I going eat plain baked potatoes with nothing but salt at the end of the month? Maybe. But I know I won't starve.

So if you're reading this take a moment to appreciate all the times you've had a Safety Net and then maybe go to The Hunger Site or something. Do something for someone who doesn't have a safety net. I know I will be doing that - after I make it through the week.