It’s been a long three years and from day one it was clear that Peace Corps wasn’t going to be one of those experiences that would just “fly by”. Days are long when you’re struggling to find out what is going on around you, days are long when you roam around a large city with a 50 pound backpack, days are long when you’re standing in front of 15 kids who think and know they can do whatever they want and you can’t do anything about it, days are long when you see what you think is the top but when you reach it you realize that there is much more climbing to do. The experience over these past three was surely a long one and it did not fly by, instead I would say that it kind of dragged. They say that time flies when you’re having fun but I no longer agree with that statement 100%. Through the good times and the bad, the challenges and the accomplishments, the experience was surely a fun one, but it did not fly by.
Chapter 1: PST
This blog was started shortly after my first chapter in Romania ended, Pre-service Training (PST). PST was 11 weeks of intense technical and language training that took place in Targoviste, the old Romanian capital just 1.5 hours north of the current one. PST is a time of training but it is also a time when a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) gets to know fellow group members, members of other groups already in-country, and Peace Corps staff. It is also a time to begin working on integration into a new Romanian community. All trainees live with hosts during PST where they must address both communication challenges as well as challenges adapting to a new place. The most nerve racking experience of my life was the morning when I met my host and I’ll never forget it. Once my host came and sat down in the seat across from me my emotions were eased as she was a young student speaking English, leading her brother and her mother through the experience of hosting a volunteer. Her brother, taller than her but younger, stood next to her wearing corn-rows and a hip hop t-shirt added some comedic relief to the situation.
Those three, led by my host sister Denisa, took my hand and helped me through my first integration experience in Romania. They taught me so much about life in Romania in such a short time and I’ll never forget our experiences hiking through the field behind the house, visiting grandma in the next village down the road, or sitting on the terasa eating dinner, a snack, or just chatting.
PST Thank yous:
Thanks to my host family, Ofelia, Denisa, Iulian senior and Iulian junior. Thank you to my fellow volunteers who I kicked it with at the old man bar after sessions, to language staff for making lessons fun and engaging, to training staff for all of the planning and understanding when we fell asleep during sessions, to the PCVLs and other PCV trainers for sharing their experiences and helping us through our first weeks, and to the CD for his inspiring words.
Chapter 2: Petrosani
The stars aligned and I arrived in Petrosani. I couldn’t have conceived of a more fitting location for me. The small mining hub in the west of Romania welcomed me in to its valley surrounded by beautiful mountains following an exciting cruise through a winding gorge. The Jiu valley is known throughout Romania as being a pretty depressed region but it is known throughout Peace Corps Romania as being an especially hospitable region. Even though school was difficult at times I always had things to look forward to in Petrosani, whether it be my English club on Tuesday or a nice hike in Parang on Saturday. I got to know the region well by kicking around it with my community member and maybe even a few students or friends loyal to the idea of getting up kind of early to have a good time on a Saturday. While teaching English to students of Dimitrie Leonida those same students where teaching me how things work in an industrial school in Romania, life in the Jiu Valley, and how to motivate students in the classroom. Petrosani is my second home and I will always be looking forward to my next visit back.
Petrosani Thank yous:
Thanks to Ester for bringing me there, Anca and Zina for the first welcome, and the rest of my colleagues for having me in their cancelaria, chatting with me and having patients. Thanks to Joel for being like an older, wiser brother showing me the ropes and introducing me to some great people. Thanks to Leddy and Dan for making me a part of their family. The Damians for all of the great conversation and practice, during and after the tutor sessions. Sanda for the Romanian help. Alin, Arpi, and Amanda for carrying our English club activities into friendships. Last but most certainly not least, thanks to Ernest for guiding me through life in Petrosani from start to finish, all of the help, the daily coffees, good conversation, and for making this an unforgettable experience.
Chapter 3: Bucharest
After such a great time in Petrosani and progress with the language, a one year extension was in order. The desire for something new led me to a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) position at the Peace Corps office in Bucharest. This position gave me the opportunity to work in an office, train fellow volunteers, work with a local NGO (MaiMultVerde), and so much more. In just one year I feel like I accomplished much. My position as a volunteer coordinator at MaiMultVerde allowed me the opportunity to meet volunteers, young and old, get to know them, and develop relationships with them. Even if I was only there for just one year, those relationships made leaving Bucharest difficult. The Peace Corps office was a great place for me to sit around and chat. I got to know the staff so well, see how things run at that level and also have time for some volunteer support. Even though so much hanging around and chatting goes on at the Peace Corps office, I felt that I was working with an extremely professional group of people who are the best, and do the best job that they can in the office. I learned so much about work relationships at the Peace Corps office.
Bucharest Thank yous:
PCV’s for your good conversations and telling me stories about what’s happening at your sites. The program team for always being there to help me with things that I’m doing, questions that I have. Manuela for the sweet sounds soothing me into an afternoon work jam. Thanks to Courtney for sharing the experience with me and being a great friend. Thanks to Sheila and Erin for the chatting and guidance. Finally to all other PCRo staff for doing what you do so well and welcoming me into the office. All MMV staff for making me feel like part of the team and for working so hard on projects that get Romanians out, lending a helping hand for their environment. To MMV volunteers for taking time out of your week to work a bit for a better Romania. You are all very special people. Finally thanks to Mihaela, Flori, Tataia and Mamaia for welcoming to their family and making my Bucharest a much brighter place for me.
Multumesc pentru tot ceea ce ati facut pentru mine.
O sa imi fie dor de voi.
Mai vedem in curand.
The crowd at the Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert on my last night in Romania. Thanks MMV for the tickets. A special and unexpected ending to a special experience.