Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I drink it with milk and sugar but this is so true....
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

***You Are a Soy Latte***
At your best, you are: free spirited, down to earth, and relaxed
At your worst, you are: dogmatic and picky
You drink coffee when: you need a pick me up, and green tea isn't cutting it
Your caffeine addiction level: medium
What Kind of Coffee Are You?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

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

Sometimes so much is wrong at once that it's funny.

We all know Bella is recovering from her operation and unhappily trying to get into as much mischief as possible in spite of her funnel collar. My computer is far far away - so no movies or Internet at home for me. Last week my telephone decided to go berserk so if I call someone it likes to spontaneously hang up on me. I've been to two stores that offer "service" (phone fixing) that have told me they can't help me. My last resort is to once again try a new battery (which I already tried but the phone wouldn't turn on with the new battery) from a different store on Thursday (when they'll have the battery I need).

Just when you say to yourself "sigh", the lights go out.

Sunday afternoon I blew a fuse. Something I thought I could deal with yesterday but after I replaced the fuse I found out there's an electrical problem in my apartment. The TV and the refrigerator still work, but no lights - which is difficult because it still gets very dark by 5:00 . Too dark to read or knit. Luckily I still have the TV or I'd be crazy by now. And my neighbor found some other woman in our building to lend me a lamp. Eating by candle light is romantic. Cooking and showering by candle light - not so much.

This ordeal has sapped me of all desire to do anything productive, and yet I've been drinking coffee and watching Animal Planet until 2 a.m more nights in a row than I care to remember.

I called the landlord from my office today and we'll see if he fixes it when he comes over this afternoon between two and five. So in a little while I'm going home and going back to bed before something else can go wrong.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Oh Cruel Humanity!
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 took Bella in to be spayed on Wednesday. When I picked her up at the vet's she was asleep on her feet in her carrier - tongue hanging out. When I let her out of the cage she insisted on staggering around the apartment like a drunk person. She was determined to continue her usual movements around the apartment - jumping on and off furniture and following me around - just a little slower. Impressive when I'd heard from a friend that her cat recovering from surgery was unable to walk. Eventually I had to insist that she settle down and sleep by locking her in her cage.

Thursday I caught her trying trying to rip out her stitches so I marched her back to the vet and made them put the funnel collar on her. Apparently most of the time Romanian animals don't try to rip out their stitches because stitches don't automatically come with a funnel collar. I initially asked the vet about it and he was like They usually don't need one, but do you want a collar? and I said yes, but I had to take her back there for them to put it on her anyway because I couldn't figure out how to make it stay.

By now she's forgotten all about the surgery and is just utterly miserable because of the funnel collar. I'm sure she thinks the vet and I put the collar on her just to torture her.

She has to leave it on for seven more days from today. One thing I understood that the vet said was "intestines" which makes me think I did the right thing and not ripping out her stitches is at the Important end of the spectrum rather than the - oh leave her alone end of the spectrum. After a very messy process of experimentation I discovered the easiest feeding method for her is pieces of dried food soaked in water set on top of an upside down bowl. Drinking is harder but at least she's getting some water through her soaked food.

So we're struggling through. By now she's used to the collar but it's hard to watch her not be able to do normal things like play. She also can't clean herself (not that she's not clean) which must be terrible for her since she's usually bathing before and after every nap - so 12 times a day.

It was strange though - last night all the stray cats in the neighborhood got together somewhere near my building and decided to have a screaming contest while I watched the HBO movie The Laramie Project. Bella was asleep on my lap and missed the whole thing but it was decidedly eerie.

Even with her funnel collar and her tortured expression she still looks cute and I would post a picture here but the office computer doesn't have the same photo software I do.

In other news Kwarou is being repaired and will be shipped to me in Romania in early February due to a screw up on HP's end - instead of being delivered to me in Romania for free and now. Also, my cell phone is broken so I can't really communicate with anyone except through borrowed Internet in the office - so if you'd like to get in touch with me, there's postcards, smoke signals and telepathy. Or you could just email - but I haven't been getting all of my messages.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Stars Have the Farthest To Fall
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, although this post has nothing to do with the Peace Corps.

I was in high school when Princess Diana died. My best friend Jessica slept over Saturday night and on Sunday morning we went to church. I remember walking through the church parking lot on this spring morning and Jessica said "the world usually looks different after someone dies, but it today it still looks the same." The news was so new I didn't know what she was talking about.

The world doesn't look different today, either.

Last night at 12:45 I was in bed and I got a text message that Heath Ledger was found dead. I couldn't believe it. He was 28. A year older than me. I knew he had a two year old baby, but I didn't know he and his wife had split up. I feel sad, that it's such a loss of a young life and a talented person. He was the youngest ever actor to be nominated for Best Actor (male) in the Academy Awards.*

Of course, it's sad when it happens to anyone, not just someone famous. Sadly, it's kind of the same as Kassie Dallmann who I always liked and respected; a terrible tragedy. Kassie's death is no less tragic than a celebrity's but it's strange how it feels more real with someone I've never met, but have on DVD. I was thinking how am I going to watch Brokeback Mountain or the Brother's Grimm again. It won't be the same now. And I was so looking forward to Dark Knight Returns - looking forward to it on a perverse fantatic kind of level. I still want to see it and think it will be good, but it will be like watching James Dean where you know that more brilliant work could have come from this person, and now it won't.

I was laying in bed last night thinking about how when I was a kid I would play war and I always had invisible friends who were wounded, on the brink of death or dying. For a while I think I romanticised death, that whole Life fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse kind of thing - which is fine until everyone forgets you.

I won't forget you Heath Ledger.

*that's because an eight or nine year old girl won Best Actress once.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Worrier is Unfortunately Vindicated
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'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing with the trains, I'm just saying...

I'll say at the beginning that this story has a happy ending...

I spent the weekend in the villiage again. On the whole it was a great weekend. A bunch of volunteers got together. We got to watch a movie and have a knitting night and on Saturday we went to two schools to adjudicate the middle school and high school english monologue contests - watching students perform their original english monologues. It was fun. Then we made tacos. As I said, it was a great weekend, with great food and great company.

Except I left my kitten alone. For the second weekend in a row. Last weekend I was in the villiage coaching the villiage students for the monologue contest and when I came home on sunday after leaving Friday afternoon I found that Bella had done a number on the kitchen. This time I did a better job kitten - proofing the apartment. No dishes in the dishrack, nothing on the stove that could be knocked down, no way to knock over the empty trash can and fresh sticky tape on the kitchen windowsill. Still, it was hard for me to leave her for the second weekend in a row. Circumstances led me to reconsider this decision and I almost at the last minute decided to take her with me but since we would be A) knitting, and B) gone from the villiage all day Saturday and she'd be alone in someone else's apartment anyway I thought Why disturb her with a two hour train ride. This second-guessing though caused me to spend most of the time on the train picturining terrible situations that could occur as a result of my decison to leave her alone. Throughout the weekend I was given to muttering "I hope Bella is ok." My concern was always quickly met with a "She's fine."

Things started to go downhill Sunday when I got on the Personel train. Personel trains are the cheapest and slowest because they stop at all the little villiages. They are a great inexpensive way to get around. Usually. I suddenly discovered that the price of a ticket had more than doubled since my outgoing trip on Friday. Usually the return ticket is just a touch more expensive since I have to purchase it on the train from the Controler and sometimes they try to charge you a tax for not having a ticket or finding the Controler right away and explaining your need to purchase a ticket. This wasn't that. This was three Controlers showing me a chart with kilometers on it and explaining in a very official way that my ticket was more than double the usual price - if I moved to second class because I had accidentally sat in the first class seats on the Personel train. Feeling like I didn't have a let to stand on with an arguement I gave them more than half of my money and insisted I didn't have any more. I did. But I was only 1 leu short of the price they were telling me was the new cost of a ticket.

Then I had to go to the bathroom. It was my goal to never go to the bathroom on the Personel train for as long as I am in Romania. But I had two cups of tea that morning and another hour to go on the train. All I will say is even on the nicer trains if you find soap, water and toliet paper all in the same place at the same time you should take a picture because you won't see it very often. usually people become acustomed to traveling with their own toliet paper but for some reason I've been flirting with irresponsibility lately. All I will say is It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Then the nightmare sencario: coming home to a kitten who's been alone for two whole days makes the walk between the station and my apartment forever. I literally can't get there fast enough. Right as I'm turning the last corner who do I run into but my neighbor who immiedately begins telling me "you left your kitchen window open and your cat got out."
"Really? Where is she? I didn't leave the window open. It was closed when I left."
"The window was open and the cat got out"

There followed a lot of shouting and a lot of stuff that I didn't understand. What I grasped was this - my kitchen window, which doesn't have a screen, and doesn't close completely came open. Bella went out on the little landing above the door to the apartment building. I have let her go out there twice and always I'm watching her like a hawk. She can't jump to the ground or to a tree from there - but that doesn't mean she won't try. The worst she could do would be to cross the landing get into someone else's window box and possibly if the window is open - get into their kitchen.
Which is what she did.

I was saying Will you help me? Do you know where she is? No. Is she in that woman's kitchen? No. Apparently after breaking and entering Bella was identified as my cat, turned out into the hallway with chicken and milk and bread provided in front of my door. She went to the bottom of the stairwell and crawled under a big electrical box and when my neighbor urged me to look for her there I called her and she came running. Stupid cat! Moreover - stupid window that I can't close.

My neighbor followed me into my apartment admonishing me for leaving the window open even after I explained that I didnt' and it doesn't stay closed. Theives could break in to your apartment, she said. Why is your backpack so big? What's in it? -Clothes and blankets. -Blankets? Why blankets? You went to Baru Mare? -Yes my collegues there don't have extra beds so I had to sleep on the floor? - You have blankets? - Yes, for sleeping on the floor. At this point my neighbor crossed herself because there is a belief in Romania that walking on the cold floor barefoot or without slippers will make you sterile. Sitting on the floor will make you sterile, and sitting on something cold or washing with cold water will give you an infection.

I don't know if my neighbor is as much as master of non sequiturs as she seems or it's my lack of understanding, but I think she is. She kept talking to me about I don't know what but eventually she left after I gave her a hug. Greatful just to have found my cat again - after fearing the worst.

So now Bella home and fine except that I had to leave my apartment today and she was eyeing the pigeons on the landing this morning. So we'll see.

On the plus side she didn't leave last night when I went to see the movie Stardust that's playing in Deva for the weekend. Maybe it was the culumination of a lot of stress, but you know I'm prone to have big reactions to things when I'm in movie theatres. When Robert DeNiro the gay pirate captain is outed to his crew and they respond by making him tea and saying "We already knew. And you'll always be our captain." I burst into tears.

Monday, January 07, 2008

2007 End of the Year Survey!
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 working on this post for a while and I saved it to my stick so I could post from the office when I actually have internet access - so take the time to read it PULL-EASE!!
Coming soon - Photos of New Years Eve in Deva!

In 2007...
Did you do something you thought you would never do?

I don’t know. I never thought I’d do anything like Carpathian Challenge and I set a goal to do it in summer of 2009. I thought I’d never learn a foreign language and be as good as I am with Romanian. I’m not great but I’m pretty proud of myself because I almost didn’t join the Peace Corps because I didn’t think I could learn another language. I certainly never thought I’d speak on the phone in Romanian or give a speech in Romanian to 75 people.

Did you keep any New Year's Resolutions?

Not New Year’s Resolutions. Last year I think I resolved to play more drinking games and, sadly, I have not honored that once in 2007. I’ve been resolving to keep a better journal for the last four years, but I have kept to my personal goal of doing yoga every morning and training exercises for Carpathian Challenge. Not very intense training exercises but exercises nonetheless.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

No one so close to me I can think of it right now, so no.

Did anyone close to you die?

My Grandma Rogers

Did you visit any countries?

Just Romania.
And the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany but I’d been there before.

What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

More projects and people willing to work on them with me. More knowledge of how to speak Romanian. Maybe more structured time. More communication with friends from home that I miss.

Will any date from 2007 stay etched in your memory forever?

Maybe the day we were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers. In May.

What was your biggest achievement of 2007?

I ate a raw onion like an apple. No I didn’t really do that. I just wish I did. I have gotten really good and chopping onions though. These Transylvanian onions used to make me cry all the time and now they barely make me tear up. As I write this, I have just accomplished an entire bottle of wine by myself but that’s not really an achievement. I want to say that at our in-service training conference Mihaela said of the Peace Corps volunteers that the fact that someone would leave their country and come to work in Romania for two years makes her believe that humanity can’t be as bad as she thought it was. This is my biggest accomplishment so far but since I accomplished it just by coming here and by doing nothing else, I will say that at Special Olympics I gave an impromptu speech in Romanian in front of 75 parents. This is the thing I’ll say I’m most proud of.

What was your biggest failure?

Not making more Romanian friends or not speaking Romanian well enough to engage the people who might be my friends. I’m pretty OK alone in my apartment and I’m fantastic in my apartment with my cat, so it hasn’t really hit me that I need to get out more.

Also I could be a lot better and finding out more about what’s going on with my primary organization and what their needs are.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

My worst illness was when I had no symptoms other than my lymph nodes swelling up painfully, becoming hard and making me fear that I had cancer and that I'd get sent home and I'd have to orphan my cat. Other than that I haven’t been any sicker than the cold I got in January when visiting my friends in NYC. My worst injury probably happened at the Habitat for Humanity blitz build. I don’t remember any injuries but I remember bruises.

What was the best thing you bought in '07?

Kwarou my laptop computer, but technically I bought it in December I think and it arrived in January, I’m not sure. I would say my kitten but I didn’t buy her she was given to me, so I’ll say the second best thing was a share of a cow from Heifer International.

Did your behavior change over the year?

Definitely. I think I’m more confident. I’m able to present my opinions, more subtly – or maybe I just think so. I also stopped eating lunch and I’m able to get up at a consistently early time in the morning whether or not I have any plans for the day. I’m better at structuring my time and holding myself responsible for things. I think I’m more positive and maybe a little more inspired. I definitely don’t let things get to me as much.

Where did you spend most of your money?

In the piaţa and the pet supply store. Definitely the piaţa here and in Ploieşti. And the grocery stores.

Are you happier than this time last year?

I don’t know if I’m happier. I’m more fufilled, less expectant. At this time last year I knew I would be doing something like this in 2007. I just didn’t know what it would be like.

What song will remind you of 2007?

It Comes Around by Justin Timberlake. Maybe also Feelin’ Good by Michael Bublé.

What do you wish you would have done more of?

Made plans for vacation or for visits from friends. Now I feel a lot of pressure to have awesome vacations but I can’t really plan them till I know when and if people are coming to visit. And I wish I’d spent more time with my friends before I left but considering I left in February I think I did pretty good. I should also have spent more time studying Romanian.

What do you wish you would have done less of?

I always wish I had done less worrying about money. I wish I spent less time worrying in general. I wish I spent less time discussing weight and clothing or less time listening to other people talking about what they eat and what size they wear because I really don’t care.

What did/will you do for Christmas '07?

I’m visited Micah and his friend and his host family in Ocna Mureş. We baked cookies, ate huge breakfasts and watched movies – most importantly the Muppet Christmas Carol. It was a great time!

Did you fall in love in 2007?

No, not exactly.

Did you get your heart broken in 2007?

No, not exactly.

Favorite TV program of '07?

The West Wing and Jack and Bobby because it was on TV for a while in Romania or else The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, as always.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Yes. I have reawakened a hatred for this guy I went to college with. I don’t remember his name. I think it was Eric? He was president of the campus Republicans in 2000 and he made these comments about Edward James Olmos when he came to speak at our campus. Clearly he couldn’t understand or try to understand the viewpoint of someone who isn’t white. Edward James Olmos for crying out loud! You listen to him and listen good! But that’s not why I hate him. I hate him because he was trying to date my roommate and coming on really strong. He just “decided” that they were going to go on a walk together one day so she got out of the room to be away when he called to make plans because she didn’t like him. But I stayed in the room and he called an woke me up from a nap and he was really rude that my roommate wasn’t there so he couldn’t do whatever he wanted like all things must come to him, Mr. White Male Privilege. What a dick. He didn’t even say sorry for waking me up! Anyway, that-guy-whose-name-I-don’t-remember is a jerk. I just remembered him one day and remembered I have hatred in my heart for him.

What was the best book you read and/or movie you saw?

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I’ve seen many good movies in 2007 but the number of movies I saw in 2007 that I hadn’t already seen before 2007 is very few. So the best new movies I saw in 2007 were The Simpson’s Movie and the Battlestar Galatica miniseries.

What was your greatest discovery?

Not everyone makes it a goal to watch the entire Lord of the Rings extended edition trilogy once a year and that Americans love to eat and talk about eating Mexican food where ever they are in the world – you introduce two Americans who don’t know each other – they start taking about Mexican food. I also discovered what a huge difference having a pet makes. I lived alone before and didn’t think it was stressful to live just me alone in an apartment and in Romania wasn’t any different. And then I brought home my kitten and it is such a huge change for the better to have someone waiting for you when you get home. I don’t know how I ever got along without her.

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?

The day I turned 27 I watched Lord of the Rings with two friends who came to visit me and found out my computer hard drive didn’t have to be wiped and rebuilt. We ate my favorite homemade pizza and Schwepp’s Bitter Lemon. The next day we visited Hunedoara castle, went out to lunch, watched The Princess Bride with my colleges from work, made another delicious pizza and served it with yellow cake and homemade icing – then stayed up late talking. It was a great birthday!

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Two things that would have made my year immeasurably more satisfying would be 1) a complete and effortless understanding of Romanian language and grammar and 2) on at least two occasions – waterproof boots!!! Oh, I don’t need waterproof boots, huh? Well you walk around in Reşitia for a week with wet socks. Now (although it’s January) the ground is covered with icy slush and guess what? My boots have holes in them! So there’s nowhere I can go without getting freezing cold wet feet!

How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2007?

Dru’s hand-me-ups. As she loses weight she passes her clothes on to me. I’ve gotten more than six pairs of pants and some nice skirts – a lot of cool outfits this way and it saves me the trouble of shopping for clothing my size in Romania. Her clothes are all really nice and I appreciate it and everything, but sometimes I feel like I’m dressed like Dru and not like Laura. You know, it would be like (if we were the same size) I gave all my clothes to Sam and that’s all she had to wear. Sam has her own style and it’s not the same as Laura’s style. But most of the time it works out.

Who are you most thankful that you met?

Probably Micah because I have a feeling if we didn’t meet in Peace Corps we would have met some other way since we have so much in common. Probably not literally true that we would have met some other way but it "feels" true. Truthiness.

Who did you wish you did not meet?

That guy in the park in Ploiesti who was masturbating but I didn’t really meet him, he was just standing there looking at me. Other than that, maybe the one rather rude older gentleman but I don’t want to say too much.

Who was your best friend?

My best friends have been Bella the cat and Micah, other than that Andy and Nicole as always.

Who was your enemy?

My enemy was the Dark Lord, He Who Must Not Be Named

Who do you miss?

I miss my family, “The Family” and Harry, Ron and Hermione. Sorry, but it won’t be the same now, after 2007, guys.

Who will you never forget?

I’ll never forget my first gazda Lumi, gazda sister Tina and my second gazda mother Miluta. I’ll never forget Scott Bruner and Jason even though they went home. They’re cool guys I’m glad I met them. And I’ll never forget those who gave their lives in the final battle against the Dark Lord.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007

I learned you can spend a lot of time wishing someone pain and not be happy when they get it – in fact when they get it you can still be utterly miserable for them. Seems self evident but when it happens to you it takes you by surprise.

What will you always remember about 2007

PST in Ploiesti, being sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer, my flight to Romania, meeting my new friends, learning to speak Romanian and my first Christmas without my family. I’m sure there’s plenty of other things that I’ll always remember but I’ve forgotten them right now.

Aspirations for 2008...

What do you want to do in '08 that you couldn't in '07?

Successful projects! Training for Carpathian Challenge ’09! GLOW Camp! I feel like I’m in a position to finally get started. Maybe I could eventually become really busy…but I’ve felt that way before. Either way I’m eager to get going!

Any resolutions?

I’ve resolved not to add honey to my green tea, anymore. Well, this morning I forgot and added it, but I’m trying not to add honey to my green tea. Notice I didn’t say anything about not adding honey to my black tea, my chai tea, my cinnamon apple spice tea, my chamomile tea, or my medicinal teas – because honey is really good for medicinal teas, especially for a cough. In general I think honey is just good for you because it’s a natural sugar, but maybe not with the amount of tea that I drink.

What will be different about 2008 than 2007?

I already have four new friends – two from France and 1 from Belgium and 1 from Argentina, and I feel like I’m finally making the connections for projects to start happening! Let’s hope so!

Anything you want to change about yourself for 2008?

I want to worry less – about money, about what people think, about the future. I want to focus on myself and what I want and do what I need to to make it happen. For now.

Do you want to make more friends in 2008?

Ba Da. As my great role model Chi Chi Rodriguez said “no one is so rich they can afford to throw away a friend.” Chi Chi Rodriguez? Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Almost Perfect Christmas Photos
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 are some pictures from Christmas! For videos see two posts below but here are some pictures of things I didn't get video of - and I didn't get as much video of myself and my friends speaking Romanian because at dinner on Christmas my batteries died.

Micah giving cookies to our carolers.

A shining aray of gift plates - look at all the baking we did!

Micah gets his coat on!

Iulia tastes a chocolate covered pretzel.

Have a drink of tuica!

or palinka (twice distilled plum brandy)

Christmas trees are different in Romania because I don't think they are farmed for Christmas. Also I see many people carrying their tree home under their arm. This is a huge tree for a little Romanian apartment and very beautiful. It was the first year I haven't had a Christmas tree and neither did Micah.

Micah got a Romanian book from his friend and former tutor Iulia.

There was a scarf and a new hat under the tree for me even though I'd met Iulia once before and I'd never met her parents!

Visiting Micah's gazda bunicia (grandmother). We delievered a plate of goodies and caroled and then sampled more Romanian holiday treats.

Plates of tasty treats and a bottle of a sweet cherry juice from the orchard.

Christmas day a strange parade passed by the apartment with people in colorful animal costumes and beating the drums. They walked around the bloc apartments in a loop a couple times.

Another volunteer, Jesse, came over for Christmas day and we had dinner (and cookies) with Micah's host family.