Monday, December 21, 2009

Early morning thoughts in Otopeni Airport

Sitting here in the corner of the only 24 hour coffee internet hot-spot in this airport waiting for my flight to Seattle at 6:50 am I have ample time to just write and keep myself from falling asleep. The time is 1:02 am and dreamy futuristic wale music is radiating from ceiling speakers producing a sense of euphoria all around, except around the night shift waitress who’s quick jagged movements and deep frown lines almost seem intentionally set on defying the music’s blissful effects, achieving something comical and sad at the same time. People are everywhere folded up and contorted into whatever position will allow for sleep on black chairs with arm rests. Old men sleep sitting up with their Căciulă, fir hats, over their eyes. The women build a nest out of baggage and seem very comfortable. Outside it is a bone sawing -20C, which I just converted to a -4 F. There is lots of snow on the ground though it all happened while I was in Germany. The bus ride from my little town to this airport took longer then a flight to Dortmond and a car ride to Mainz. Its not the snow but pot holes the size of small ships that create the long rides, that and picking up every yokel on the side of the street with a thumb out. I can’t read while in a car or a bus, I get headachy, so I didn’t read. But I still got a headache because this particular bus driver was also transporting Christmas trees to Bucharest, filling up the last three rows with trees that I am allergic to. The headache was also brought on by the endless supply of horrible English music the chauffeur hand picked to play. This one song called ‘I want your love, I want your revenge’ sounded like the lady bit her tongue while drunk and decided to sing about two completely incompatible emotions in a quasi-Lady GaGa style pop rhythm. It was just as bad as the only food I could find along the way, i.e a can of peanuts and an overpriced pickle and cheese sandwich. Usually on your way toward Bucharest you will find people on the curb with glass cups or cheeses in hand but now everyone had scrawny White Spruce trees and when they got together it almost looked like we were getting attacked by a small forest as we dodged pot holes and on coming cars. I hate traveling with anything more than what I can carry on my back. I like the feeling of having everything I own and depend on being as mobile and unburdening as possible. I am not used to traveling with luggage and then having to drag it through the snow with a rope, because the telescoping metal handle ripped off long ago, it felt like I was dragging a dead body around behind me. People kept stopping in mid walk to stare. Taxi’s charge a comical amount of money to deliver you to the airport so I needed to find a regular bus. The regular bus turned into a two-hour odyssey including a trolley ride in the wrong direction and a shuttle that finally dropped me off about a mile from the airport. In Germany it began to snow on the day we were about to head to Marias grandfathers house and once it hit it seemed that everyone just plum forgot how to drive or what the differences were between red and greed or road and sidewalk, it was a free for all. Same thing in Romania, except that in Germany the big busses pulled to the side of the road anticipating trouble where as here my shuttle pulled into oncoming traffic in order to pass a bus that was parked in the middle of the street. Shoveled sidewalks are silly things to expect and my trek to the airport from where the shuttle had left me was like a battle of will over mounds of snow as I pulled my roped luggage behind me. Finally arrived with 10 more hours to kill. Visited the international flights section filled with panicky faces whining and flapping their lips, lots of flights were delayed and some canceled. I hope my flight does its job and I don’t spend Christmas in this silly airport with a stomachache and no money. Apparently Richard Nixon came to this airport in the 60’s to do some business with Romanias brutal dictator Ceausescu and a new VIP lounge was created for him, which I am sure I won’t get to see. The coffee machine also won’t accept bills. Well I got an hour before I get to check in so I hope that everyone has a great holiday and that I to get the chance to catch up. Let me know if you’re in town. La multi ani!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Catalin living with Internet Part 2

What if your roommate was the personification of the Internet? What if English was your second language? Watch the first three scenes of Catalin living with Internet. Redone in Final Cut for higher resolution and some color correction, just two more scenes to go!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Corn and Vodka for Thanksgiving and a run around Abrud

This year instead of having Thanksgiving thrusted upon me by my students in one big surprise dinner I planned my leave in advance and left for a small village where other Peace Corps volunteers would be congregating for a good ol' fashioned Thanksgiving. There is something special that comes about when you come together with other people from your country who get all your jokes and can follow your Simpson references. Just being with other Americans was a great experience for once and I plan on repeating these experiences on a more regular basis. Unfortunately most of the footage I got turned out to be much too inappropriate to upload but lots of wholesome drinking games and unorthodox methods of cooking, grilling as it tuned out, the 45 pound turkey were put into place.

I now have Final Cut Pro 7, the best and most powerful video editing software to date (in my opinion) so I will say good bye to my old editing software with this last little Vlog called 'A Winters Run', the last time I will be using imove.

And as a test of what I have been learning with FinalCut I give you my latest Vlog which really explains nothing and is more confusing than clarifying, it really is just a quick test and with a better camera and an actual green screen instead of a pink bed sheet to key out frames the possibilities are endless.

I went shopping just the other day so don't worry Mom.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Political Campaigning in Abrud

So I woke up today a little earlier than usual thanks to another dose of repetitive folk music that the politicians use for their campaign. I don't know when this got started or who thought it was a good idea but it seems you aren't really running for president if your not blasting music out of some vehicle with your picture on it. I guess the theory is if you get a lot of people to hear this one song over and over again then during election day all you need to do is play that one song and some Pavlovian response kicks in and your vote is assured. It seemed to have worked for Basescu who is the current president running for re-election so he has a huge semi-truck packed with speakers outside the city hall which plays just this one song non stop for a good four hours straight. Mircea Geoana is not the president but wants to be, so of course he also needs to have someone drive around and play some music, but unfortunately he doesn't have a large Semi-truck crammed with speakers like Basescu and therefor isn't as loud, though you can still hear both at the same time. Fortunately my apartment is right next to the city hall so every day or so I get to enjoy some free folk music and occasionally a recorded message from the actual candidate. This morning I decided to give you a personal look into the presidential campaign here in Abrud that makes politics so fun and aesthetic.

Have a great week!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Catalin and Internet, the original odd couple

Here is how much we got done with no practice and two hours. First read the script than see what we managed to do…Their native language is Romanian by the way.


Scene opens with main character Catalin (17) hunched over his desk working on difficult math equations. He appears frustrated and a bit worried. We first see a shot of his math homework then zoom out to both Catalin and his work. A large hand appears and taps Catalin on the left shoulder. This hand is connected to the large personification of the Internet, known simply as ‘Internet’. He is tall and bulky wearing a red shirt which reads ‘INTERNET’ in large white letters. He has a friendly but absentminded look to his face.

Hey Catalin, you have a new message
on your hotmail account

Catalin puts down his pen and looks up at Internet half

Ahh...ok what is it?

Its from a Mr. Hung Lo asking
whether you are getting the most
from your love life, he says he has
a new male enhancing...

Internet gets cut off by Catalin who is understandably

Internet, I thought I told you I
don’t know a Mr. Hung lo. Please
can’t you see that I am busy here?

Catalin rubs his eyes, takes glasses off


Catallin, you should check
Facebook, three of your friends did
stuff since you last logged on, one
became a fan of something...

Who became a fan of what?

George Popescu became a fan of

Catalin slowly shakes head in annoyance


I forgot to mention


That last conversation was brought
to you by Derby. ‘If you don’t know
Derby then you don’t know Mamaliga’

Uh huh...And?

And this conversation is brought to
you by Timisoariana, the beer that
withstood 2 revolutions and 44
years of communism

Ok, thanks...back to work now!

Catlin, you have just been selected
as the grand prize recipient of
200,000,000 dollars. I just need
you to tell me a bank account that
the money can be deposited into...

Catalin gets up frusterated walking out of the room

Just getting two minutes is a lot of work, wow can't wait for more....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

PEACE CORPS SPA GRANT - Anyone want to help?

Well, spent all day writing for my first Peace Corps SPA Grant, about half finished. Please let me know what doesn't sound right...I can't tell anymore for I have been typing and erasing for 12 hours straight. More creative blog vlogs will appear soon after I am done with this, but until then...I give you

Project Proposal
a. This project intends to create, develop, and put into action new forms of self-expression while relating important technical skills that will open opportunities in media, journalism, and other creative fields. Participants will learn the art of using digital video as a new medium for self-expression and the methodology employed in the five steps to film making. Participants will work together in a team of mixed gender and social backgrounds to help explore and express aspects of their culture and their lives culminating in the development, production, and distribution of a short film or documentary of their choice made entirely by them. There is considerable support for such a project as it gives participants access to education and materials for new forms of expression that have not been available. It also empowers and builds relevant marketable skills for everyone involved as well as instilling confidence and a sense of social inclusion. My counterpart, school director, students in classes beyond of my own, and fellow faculty members are excited and willing to take an active part in this project. Since this project will involve other teachers participation in its implementation and fallow-through it will be a sustainable project as the teachers take over my roll as director and the first year participants move on to more leadership roles. This project also contains all elements of the Peace Corps mission from training to fostering a better understanding of Romanians through the distribution of the end product through film festivals, websites, and other forms of media.

b. The expression of ones feelings, thoughts, and ideas is an important, even fundamental, aspect in what it is to be a social being. Without access to the right tools or guidance necessary to imagine, create, and produce the mind is limited to whatever medium is available, which here in my town of Abrud is not much. The education system in place has no room for lessons that encourage creative thinking and expression, especially in the arts, nor the money to help supply necessary equipment for even the most fundamental mediums i.e. paint brushes, colored pencils, drawing pads. This directly effects the youngest generation, my students, who have all been born after such developments as the computer and the Internet but are not given creative guidance or resources that use said technologies expressively. Lack of knowledge in this field of creativity delimits the possibilities of self-expression and technical competence, closing paths to self-actualization that students never knew were available. Being able to think creatively is of the highest priority for any nation and its expressions and applications are limitless, yet the opposite seems true in terms of its importance in education, as if we are educating out the ability to think and create in exchange for rote learning. This project will allow all students from all types of backgrounds and experiences to work together, learn together, and create something new and expressive that will increase the knowledge and appreciation of their culture while providing new directions of inspiration and personal development.

c. The project is located in a disadvantaged region and all participants face a combination of geographic, economic and social challenges. We have a small Roma community, Gura Rosia, bordering Abrud and a very high rate of unemployment. The initial group involved for this project will come mostly from my current afterschool Film Club that consists of 10 students interested in media, a fellow colleague, and myself, after which we will form a panel for selecting more participants. The purpose of the Film Club is to help broaden the understanding and uses of film for creative expression through observing and critiquing professional films and documentaries then producing original films of our own. I work as the facilitator of relevant materials and steward of topics and equipment along with my colleague; the students bring their own movies, ideas, and directions and could easily manage the club with little help on my part.

d. This project seeks to give the community of Abrud greater control over the conditions that affect their lives by providing education and resources in ways facilitating self-expression and creativity that are currently absent in this community. Media has now become a popular form of expression that can be shared with anyone around the world and an effective platform for cross-cultural communication and understanding. This project will deliver the necessary skills and equipment needed to allow for full participation in this modern and increasingly vital form of communication. It combats feelings of powerlessness and disadvantage and opens not only a persuasive medium that can be used to tackle issues that are important and relevant but also a gives a far-reaching voice to such pursuits through its ease of transference over the Internet. Marketable skills will be developed through the application of creativity and vision, teamwork, and problem solving. This project becomes naturally self-reliant once the education and resources have been properly transferred to those involved, it then requires nothing more than motivation and a desire to express ones idea to the world. First year supporters will become second year leaders, empowering everyone involved and promoting self-confidence.

From the moment of inception to the longer-term goal of self-actualization lie many measurable and achievable goals in between. Each participant will pick which piece of the filmmaking puzzle he or she feels most drawn to i.e. directing, script writing, film editing, etc, and specific lessons and micro-projects will be given for each part. Each part will be connected with the other parts and the team will build together as a group and individually as artists. Simple short 5 min films will be first constructed from existing storylines in the beginning then the development of original script and cinematic style will later take place as knowledge of each field becomes more extensive. Each lesson last for one week and results can be assessed through the quality of each completed project. Participants will advance in knowledge and confidence until the final project of a full film or documentary is realized and deemed feasible.

The students of H.C.C will benefit the most from this project but anyone with a desire to learn is more than welcome. The benefits include but not limited to improvement in team building, communication skills, self-expression, confidence, social inclusion, critical thinking and problem solving, technical skills training, leadership, creativity, storytelling, and self-empowerment.

Beyond the reasons stated above this project will instill a sense of action and immediacy among its participants, which will directly benefit the community since it will be the location of all the projects. Knowledge in this field can lead toward short projects for local tourism, political campaigns, first hand accounts of communism, appeals for government support for historical landmark preservation, etc. Businesses can be created and skills learned transferable to many types of trades, all benefiting the local community in short term publicity and long term creative visions. The community’s assets are its youngest generation who will leave and never look back if there are no resources with which to make a difference.

e. As acting Director I will oversee the logistics and make sure the process is following the schedule as best as possible from day to day, with help from a chosen colleague who will act as co-director and take over after I have finished my service. I will also help with the structuring of lesson plans and teach the editing portion of Final Cut Pro since I believe I am the only one with that specific skill set. The rest of the duties will be given to the teachers/ Community members who express interest and are committed to the project. My counterpart will help with the language barriers in communication between guest speaker and professional trainers in Romania. The list of tasks required to carry out the project are as follows:

1. Consolidating those who will help administer and follow through with the educational side of the project.
A) This will consist of three to five teachers each choosing a particular field they would like to learn more about and help teach, one additional teacher who will serve as co-director, and active contact with professional on-line help with a couple film schools I will be working with back in America including the North West Film School in conjunction with Western Washington University.
B) The creation of weekly lessons and projects for each topic that coincide with the other parts of the film making process as well as activities for the weekly meetings i.e. movie and documentary observations and creative exercises.
C) Set up initial contacts and potential times for guest speakers and professional trainers to coincide with the second half of the project. Also set up room dedicated to project which will have electricity, computers, a projector borrowed from the English room, and time schedules for students.
D) Prepare for publication of event, plan motivational first day with expectations, goals, visions, commitments, including refreshments and film with team building exercises. Include hand outs of what benefits such a project will provide plus written commitments from participants.
2. Purchasing of necessary equipment including: A camera that can render in broadcast quality, sound equipment, a tripod, an external hard drive with at least 1 terabyte of memory, plus all cables and burnable DVD’s for networking and final project distribution. Then set available room with all necessary equipment. All labor will be provided from within the community through students and teachers. The materials must be purchased from outside the community because no electronics store exists for the simple parts and the sound and camera equipment must be ordered from Bucharest.
3. A) Initial class with everyone who wishes to participate including a meeting held weekly to check on progress, watch movies, turn in weekly projects, and discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly…
B) Next we will break into groups of essential parts; film theory/ story telling, script writing, story boarding, camera and sound navigation, and film editing. All in such an order that one could attend all five classes or which ever one he or she has most interest in. Each class falls on a specific day and time each week. Each class is taught by one teacher who will focus exclusively on the topic of choice through out the project.
C) These preliminary lessons will be given over a period of 4 to 5 weeks for initial understanding of each component. (Lesson Plans will be available soon).
D) The guest speakers in specific areas and professional trainers will come to visit around this time (mid March) in preparation for the second and final phase of the project: implementation of an original documentary or film developed and produced be the students.
4. The final project will begin with brain storming of the central themes that could include Identity, community, Past, Present, and Future, then the delegating of parts and responsibilities that will fallow through the five phases of the film making process. The first phase will involve the development of the script, its viability, and the gathering of resources. The second phase includes the pre-production elements. The third phase is just the production and execution of film with camera. The forth phase involves the post-production including editing, sound design, any visual effects, and mastering. The fifth and final phase is the distribution of the film over the Internet and delivery at the school assembly on the first of May, 2010.
The potential problems of participants quitting prematurely can be limited by keeping the participants excited and committed to the project from the beginning and putting this commitment in writing. Staying involved and listening to everyone’s input and ideas will also help bridge any problems before they get too big.

Weekly timeline:
Week one: Consolidation and lesson Prep
Week two: Set up room, purchase equipment, set up potential training, lesson Prep
Week Three: Lesson Prep, announce first meeting, set up and work with equipment
Weeks 4-8: Begin the first of four preliminary lessons for each topic, have weekly meetings to discuss what’s working and what’s not.
Week 9: Guest and professional trainers come for visit, first phase of development begins
Week 10: Second phase of Pre-Production
Week 11: Third Phase of Production
Week 12: Fourth Phase of Post-Production
Week 13: Distribution and enjoyment of end product.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am like a cloud: a puff of an ever morphing image blown by currents beyond my control, then I rain and become alive in everything!

Something extraordinary happened to me about 9 days ago, I returned home from a full days worth of entertaining my students to find my computers power cord dead, fried to a crisp right on top of my favorite blue sock, both now rendered useless including my computer until I can find a replacement Mac power cord. I guess I have been over working the poor power cord, whom I will call ‘Jim’, since I had internet installed a couple months ago, supplying the necessary energy for continuous day and night downloading, but why on my blue sock… I have now only two pairs left.

I can remember myself before that point feeling very stressed and in a rut. School was moving along just fine and there was nothing really to complain about, except for maybe the large white van blaring traditional Romanian music outside my apartment for the up coming elections. It was this daily routine I somehow found myself in which involved mostly me and my computer which I hadn’t recognized until ‘Jim’ decided to burn out before his time, ending my dependence on this ‘tool’ and thereby pulling myself out of my rut. Of course initially I cursed who ever was the author of my misfortune and spent a brief period in morning hunched over my cold powerless device, but then maybe somethings happen for a reason, or perhaps, we attach reason for somethings that happen. I couldn’t watch the new episode of ‘The Office’ or listen to my German audio books of Heidegger, or find out about the newest catastrophe on, I had no internet, no FinalCut, no movies…no problem! I needed some ‘me’ time anyway. I figured if I can no longer use my computer this might be an opportunity to try to go without other things I have been depending on so I tapped all of the light switches to the ‘off’ position and bought 8 candles for the equivalent of 3 dollars which have lasted for now almost a week and a half. Just light a candle and watch as shadows dance and mingle with everyone else appearing as if there was always some lively party going on behind the scenes rendered insensible by the cold bright light from above that I had always used without thinking before. I spent one night with my candle just focusing on Van Goughs painting ‘The Potato Eaters’. The more I contemplated this picture the more I appreciated life, the artist, history, the senses, and I felt relieved. I just gained time because I had less places to spend it. I don’t need a computer to see this painting on my kitchen wall; I can connect to it without one. With my computer and the internet I am lost on an infinite road leading everywhere, I shot myself into space with galaxies of information, my ship can take me anywhere and I am on a search for new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before, but new knowledge doesn’t satisfy, being just a hitch hiker on the road to everywhere. Just arriving and staying seems to be more Zen and purposeful, if there is such a thing. I am forced to deal with time and have been using the struggle and boredom to my advantage, directing it toward observations and ideas, lots of reading and writing with good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. Anyway I could speak of this forever, and my school will be closing soon, so I will move on.

So much has happened since I had stopped updating this blog and its because my focus has changed and so must this blog if I am to be able to keep using it as a means of connection and self expression. I am shifting toward turning my ‘Blog’ into a ‘Vlog’, yes a video log, which I have already written several scripts for but without my computer I can’t do anything yet but enjoy the time until my power cord arrives. Soon big things will be happening and I hope to be ready for them. I have my secondary project lined up and once in place with the necessary funding and participation, which hopefully shouldn’t be to difficult, I will have produced with my kids a full length documentary film about Abrud, the town that I live in, dealing with issues that lay behind the surface of this once prosperous town and what a sense of ‘community’ means and how it might have changed since Romania moved from a communist to a capitalist mindset. I am in contact with the director of the NorthWest Film School who will be providing some much needed advice as to the steps required in script based production. Now it’s just spending the time in writing grants and NGO’s for some funding, and time is all I have back home.

The next update will come with a video accompaniment, please check these two quick videos I made before I lost my computer. One is me just going through the process of fire making and the other is a series I am doing with my advanced students which we plan on submitting to our Pen Pals at Stadium, Tacoma Washington. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The 12 signs of the Zodiac

Teal screen with sea foam swirls

The Title appears in white letters-

‘The 12 signs of the Zodiac’

MUSIC. Edith Piaf’s “Milord”

Before Edith begins to belt out her song the CREDITS ROLL over images of the bucolic surroundings of Romania, the concrete grey of its block apartments, and competing grandmothers selling fruit and cheese on each side of a road that scribbles off into the distance. Next we see a young couple cramped in the back of an old 1970’s DACIA, the tight turns and maniacal maneuvers of who ever is driving can be seen in the rear window behind the two, though their faces remain sanguine and lost in thought. The screen cuts to the two standing in the parking lot of a large boxy supermarket arguing with the driver over how much is owed for the ride. One of the two pulls out what looks to be a credit card and mimes the process of taking money out of an ATM, the driver nods, and the two enter the supermarket and exit out the other side. Edith begins her second chorus as the two are seen looking a bit more disheveled as they both take turns holding a sign with their next destination written in bubble letters – Sylvan - on a white crumpled paper. Shots of cars no bigger than a Geo Metro with 5 to 6 people inside, each person with a miserable pained expression across their face, slowly drift on by. As credits continue we see our two now in the middle of a van, one on the lap of the other, both flanked by large flabby arms that swell both sides of the screen. Both faces are exhausted and one flares his nostrils from some fresh odor released. It is now dusk and the two are seen squeezing out of the van as if it were giving birth. They are in Sylvan, a small pack of dogs limp on by and the two gradually make their way along the towns’ only road toward a concrete apartment.



A wide angled shot of the inside of a school gymnasium filled with students on one side and parents and teachers on the other. A large assembly is ready to launch with all the towns students, their parents and of course teachers weighting for the assembly to officially begin. The screen cuts to a group of teachers standing uncomfortably amongst parents and screeching babies. They are looking across the basketball court at their new supply of unruly kids with looks of pale resignation, except for one who seems to be in another place entirely as he smiles from ear to ear. His name is Zodiac Bankelsanger, a new teacher among the group, and has just been introduced to his future colleagues. From behind the shoulders of Zodiac and another teacher the sounds of incomprehensible babblings and nefarious laughter seem to only get louder as images of kids playfully kicking and chasing each other can be seen. No order.
Camera stays behind the two as they look onward at the chaos. Only the backs of their heads can be seen as well as the kids playing in front of them

Wow, these kids sure seem really excited for
school to begin

Yas, thay want for these announcements to start
and finish

Me too… Hey shouldn’t someone tell that strange looking boy over there to quit kicking people?

That just so happens to be my daughter


Oh, I am so embarrassed; I don’t have my glasses with me. I didn’t know you were her father

I’m her mother!!

The half bearded teacher shoots Zodiac with a death look as he silently moves eyes forward and swallows hard. The camera pans right to reveal the principle waltzing up to the stage and grabbing the mic.

Buana Dimineata!!

The principle begins to rattle off non-sequiturs in a rough accent that is eventually squelched by the voice of the narrator, a deep sympathetic voice--James Earl Johnes, perhaps;

Some say that success in life, in anything, depends upon the number of persons that one can make himself agreeable to.

Camera slowly zooming toward Zodiac still smiling absentmindedly in between two teachers dressed in their Sundays best, Zodiacs usual sports jacket and collard shirt appears shocking and flamboyant in comparison.

Others say that circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.

All the teachers and parents are now standing in a line as a white bearded priest slowly mutters some Latin under his breath and dashes holly water on each person who gladly receives the blessing. We see Zodiac waiting in line and as the priest approaches, flinging holly water in all directions, he gets some in his eye and sneezes loudly

This is a story of revelation

We see everyone around Zodiac throwing look daggers in his general direction, especially the bearded woman to his left. Zodiac seems unaware of his latest faux pas and excuses himself in broken Romanian to a hushed crowed.

It also happens to be the story of Zodiac


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nothing had any lasting shape, but everything got in the way of everything else; for, within that one body, cold warred with hot, moist with dry...

I had a moment about three weeks ago, as I was hovering over my toilet painting dark blue spirals on the wall, that I realized I haven’t really updated my blog lately. A week later as I was distilling Tuica the same thought came to mind, “Why don’t I write anymore?” These self-reflective moments continued to crop up like ripe pieces of fruit, yet I have let them rot on the vine. Now my room is cluttered with memories and I must clean house literally and figuratively before I can begin any other task, it’s just that the clutter is so thick I just don’t know where to begin, hence my procrastination. So lets just start with this morning, 5:24 AM to be exact.
I normally wake up at 6:35 AM to one of the three highly unoriginal jingles my cell phone allows, then fall back to sleep awaking only minutes before bolting out of my fifth floor apartment to meet my ride for class. This morning I awoke filled from some unmapped source of energy and being unable to fall back to sleep decided to watch the sun rise. My town of Abrud is centered in the middle of a bowl of mountains and I have yet never seen the sun rise, but for this I needed to climb a large hill and trek through uneven footpaths, avoid the gang of roaming dogs, make sure not to tread too close to the northern serpent, and even if I keep to the path I still would need to pass the horns of the hostile Bull, past the Dacian Archer and the jaws of the raging Lion, let alone the clutching claws of the Crab. I mounted the hill unscathed and found a suitable spot to watch the earth rotate forward, the sky nearly clear except for one dark cloud, the mountains folding away into the distance, the sounds of roosters and cows in the distance calling everyone to attention. There I stood, waiting for the mountains to spill its light onto the rolling hills beside me, the moment was close at hand. But the closer the moment approached the closer this little black cloud came dangerously near to where the eventual sun rise would take place. By this time I had been standing on this hill for nearly 40 minutes to see my first sunrise and here comes this black cloud just loafing around, seemingly bent on completely obscuring the very moment I had been waiting for. And as the sun rose behind the only black cloud in the sky I was reminded of how it is not in the destination but the journey where the rich luminescence of experience emanates from. I saw my entire Peace Corps experience in that early morning trip, as either something that ends in disillusionment or something filled with worthy adventures and intentions that keep me walking up the hills of life. I will choose the latter.

Up to this point in my journey I have never really witnessed a community event so strongly regarded and passionately revered as I had with the Orthodox Easter in my little town. I had returned on a Saturday evening from a lovely week with Maria and her Family and having had a full day of travel I was prepared for a full days rest when I by chance ran into a friend who invited me to the midnight mass. The Orthodox Easter is a week after the Catholic mass, and having already gone through all the standing and sitting and hymning less than a week before, I was less than enthusiastic about doing it all over again, but of course I decided to attend. Now for weeks you could hear cannons firing off in the mountains in preparation for this event, a local tradition, which I got to tryout myself before leaving on spring break. It is a tradition followed by the youth who have big bonfires at night around steel pipe cannons and fire them to ward of the malevolent spirits. Every group of kids have their own canons to fire and on the big night 15 cannons were erected next to a roaring fire up in the hills blasting away, which were then answered by another group of kids across town with their 15 cannons and so on. That night I dressed in my Sundays best, and thinking that I would be inside a church I brought only my dress coat for warmth. Ioana met me with three candles in her glove-covered hands and we walked to the town church slowly converging with more and more people until we finally arrived outside the Basilica. Everyone and I mean everyone was there and though it was packed little above a murmur was heard. We walked passed the growing crowed of people toward the candle lit cemetery that rose far off into the night where everyone paid their respects to friends and family that they had. We lit a candle for Ioana’s Grandmother and placed it next to the others on her grave then returned down the well-trodden pathway toward the ever-growing mass of people. The entire town had surrounded their humble little church waiting with candles in hand for the priest to bring them the ‘light’. At a little past 12 am the doors swung open and out popped the priest with a lit candle from which others lit their candles and so on until the ‘light’ reached me and soon the entire field was alight with gleaming faces. This year was a special year I found out because this years light originated from Jerusalem and was brought to Bucuresti, where our local priest lit his candle to bring it to us. After we were all lit the priest began his first of three long and arduous orbits around the church, stopping at every cross section to sing and hymn, then continued on his path around the church followed by everyone in the town who joined in behind him. I couldn’t help but compare the priests long hymns to a slow reggae chant, sort of similar to how ‘Shaggy’ sounds, which definitely gave the whole experience an interesting twist. Before he even finished his first revolution around the church my candle had burnt out and I was the only one without a back-up candle, receiving more than one old lady glare for my ignorance. The whole time with canon blasts echoing through the mountains the hymns could be heard, and the throng of people behind the priest continued to swell as I joined its ranks for one last circling. Finally, the priest ended in front of the church door proclaiming “Hristos a inviat” (Christ has been resurrected) to which the people cried “Adevarat a inviat” (It is true, he has been resurrected). Then everyone who could crammed into the church, the rest went home to wine and bread, and I just went home to bed completely dazzled.

One would think that this event would mark the wrapping up of the celebration but it was really just the beginning. The next day I was picked up by my counterpart’s husband to visit friends and spray the women down with perfume as part of the festivities of spring, a ritual specific to the Transylvanian region which heralds back to when the Hungarians where in control of these parts. The woman in return for getting repeatedly honored with sprays of perfume served coffee and cake. I was told this was a celebration of spring and beauty with the smell of flowers, but after a day worth of getting sprayed with perfume, the smell no longer gives the impression of a nice wholesome spring. In the evening we had a huge family dinner where lamb was served, in fact every part of the lamb including lamb intestine loaf and lamb brain soup. I was and still am confused as to why to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection you eat lamb, wasn’t Jesus a shepherd protecting his flock from predators? I think that 21st century Jesus would be vegetarian anyway. Plus it seems that everyone is trying to consume Jesus, they drink his blood (wine) and eat his bones (bread) like a bunch of ogres, but maybe I am just incredibly misinformed, which is of course the case. After the diner we smashed finely decorated hard boiled eggs against each other symbolizing I don’t know what, but before you smashed the point of your egg with another’s you would say “Hristos a inviat” and your opponent would counter with “Adeverat a inviat” then you collide them together resulting in one loser egg that got smashed and one egg that remains unadulterated, until the next bout.

For nearly a whole week my kids barely came to class, and it was understood that this was because of the Easter celebrations that seemed to never end. “Hristos a inviat” became the new greeting that could be heard on the street and in the faculty lounge, “adeverat a inviat” you would say in reply. This went on for weeks and I began to wonder when, if ever, this saying would peter out which it finally did almost three weeks later.

During the day that we were spraying women I had been invited by a friend to comeback to his house a couple weeks later and make Tuica with the family. Tuica if you don’t know is the Romanian equivalent to German Schnapps, distilled from apples or prunes, but it is part of the Romanian heritage and tradition and everyone makes there own; you can’t find the stuff in stores because apparently it is ‘outlawed’ to make, but know one cares. It can be up to 90 proof and helps the digestion, so they say, since it helps break down the large amount of fatty foods the people eat in the winter, but that’s not all it does. My friend and his family have been living in the same house for generations; his grandfather planted the apple trees that now stand nearly 40 feet tall. The process starts in the fall where the fallen apples are collected and put into big drums where they sit throughout the winter and early spring months. By this time the apples have rotten, fermented, and are ready to boil. This is when the whole family gets involved, conducting an operation which lasts four straight days and nights, we came on day three. 1,500 Kg of mushy apples needed to be boiled, its steam passing through a metal tube that went from the furnace to a vat of water where the tube coiled around inside, cooling the steam into liquid, eventually pouring out of a faucet at the bottom of the vat into an ever overflowing bucket that needed constant emptying. Once the first round is completed the liquid is boiled again a second time for it to become ‘real’ Tuica, before it is just called Vodka. A constant roaring fire must be maintained and more apple mush filled throughout the day and night, so everyone takes turns. In the evening we roasted pig fat over the blazing fire like marshmallows, a spongy confection that no one has ever heard of around here, and drank our newly made Tuica long into the night.

Lately since Maria has moved to Sibiu I have been heading down to see her after my last class on Fridays and last Friday was no different, except that it was my birthday so a few modification needed to be made. In Romania unlike in the States, when you have a birthday people don’t buy you drinks and take you out to some fancy restaurant, even if there was one here in Abrud. No, you buy them drinks and food and being fully aware of this ritual I bought enough cake and Mountain Dew to appease all the teachers in the lounge and smoking room. I also actually wore a tie and dress pants. During our big 20 minute break between 3rd and 4th period all the teachers sang for me the ‘La multi Ani’ song, I stood in line and received everyone’s cheek kisses, then they presented me with my three pre-selected history of art books to take home, which I believe they took from the Library. The problem was that I was so well dressed that nobody wanted to give me a ride, I must have looked like the mafia or some politician who could afford his own car, because what normally takes 15 minutes max took over an hour just waiting with my big sign in hand. Then once I arrived in Alba Iulia where I had to hitch hike the rest of the way the same thing happened, I waited and waited until finally I waved down a bus heading toward Sibiu, but for that I needed to pay. I finally arrived later in the evening and Maria had made me some pasta and a nice pudding cake for desert. For one of my presents I received a techno colored dream scarf, which marks a major step toward complete European assimilation as far as dress is concerned. The next day we went with Maria’s Cousin Horia and his girlfriend Mihiela on a picnic in the mountains, near Sibiu. We drove through a little village called Sibiel and fallowed a winding river 3 kilometers up toward an old Monastery built in the 18th century. The story goes that kids would have to walk up to the monastery for school since only the priests new how to read and write. We found a lovely sun lit patch of green right next to the river, not a single other Romanian in sight. Maria and I had a conversation about the name ‘Zodiac’ that I want to give for my son, she said it wasn’t really a name but something like a category or system which wouldn’t be a suitable title, I disagreed, and Horia pulled out his book on Astrology he just so happened to be reading. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, people ended up around us like flies. Groups of Romanians with their plump uncovered bellies began lying all over the place like pregnant seals and we soon had to continue our discussion another time for the picnic was over.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

All rules for study are summed up in this one: learn only in order to create.

I guess that I just need to start writing to get the proverbial juices flowing. So what the hell I will talk about how my last week transformed from the one before that and so on. Pickling is also another big tradition here in Romania. My counterpart brought me two mammoth jars of pickled cucumbers and pickled peppers but this was before I had found out that I would be leaving school immediately for Bucharest for a dental check up and physical examination and whatever else comes to mind as fingers type… ah here we go.

For the past month I have been following a schedule of particular engagements so meticulously that I could set my watch to it, if I had one. These daily routines of consecutive activities, from 6:30 am to 11:00 pm, keep me on task with the illusion of productivity and control. But it was my lack of an actual timepiece and the presence of daylight savings that sent this past weeks program sailing into chaos, only now as the clouds begin to clear, can I begin salvaging my precious schedule from the wreckage. I woke up for class last Monday full of beans, ready to tackle whatever my kids would throw me, got dressed, waited outside for my ride which would never come, then walked to school. It seemed brighter than usual with less cars and more dogs on the road. My suspicions were raised after noticing a lack of old men waddling their way toward the local saloon, and instead, found them already drunk inside, and these guys hit the bars like clockwork. These suspicions were confirmed later upon arrival. I really needed a watch, which was conveniently on my old phone before it slipped out of my pocket in some random car over a month ago. It was the second phone to have been lost in this manner and I really had no desire to fork up more cash for something that would inevitably get lost again, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to wear one on my wrist. But this resistance was now affecting my work, so I had to figure the most economical way of getting a new phone which I was able to do quite nicely and in short order.

The next day I remembered that the Peace Corps requires yearly medical check ups and dentist visits in Bucuresti, where I could also pick up a phone for 119 Lei (35 dollars), and possibly get my travel costs paid for with the right maneuvering and I could pay for the phone with the per diem given during my visit. Unfortunately the only time available for the dentists was on a Thursday at 3 pm, meaning I would have to leave for the closest city to catch the train at 4 o’clock Wednesday afternoon. I made the appointment and told the office to reserve a couple of nights lodging then looked at the clock; it was 1:15 pm Wednesday. I was in the middle of teaching class when it all went down and with only two hours to get home, get packed, hitch a ride, and make the train.

After class my counterpart agreed to drop me off at my place, but as we left the school she stopped to help the janitor lift two enormous jars of pickled peppers into her car, which she intend for me to take home. We eventually made it to my apartment but the substantial weight of the two uncooperative jars made the 5 flights of stairs nearly insurmountable against time. As I lugged the 2 jars up the stairs I remembered this one time while eating a big dinner with a group of Georgians and Romanians and a big bucket of pickled tomatoes was brought out as an appetizer. I only had one, which squirted pickled tomato juice right into the eye of a Georgian who happened to be complaining about pickled tomatoes. I only had time to grab my toothbrush then dash out of the apartment with my sign for Alba.

I was in a rush so I grabbed the first car that pulled to the side of the road. It was a beat up 1970’s Dacia that looked like it had developed naturally out of the roadside trash piles that are liberally sprinkled through out this beautiful region. The inside smelled like a warm toilet but I couldn’t be picky so off we went, me in the back with two other hitchhikers, my knees touching my chest. Of course I picked the car whose speedometer is broken, its needle shaking wildly from 0 to 140 Km as the driver oscillates between cartwheel and bullet speeds. After 30 minutes into the experience my left kneecap begins to cramp, but with the drivers Herculean wife loaded into the front seat I had no room for relief. We arrived so late that I had missed my 4 o’clock train, leaving me the only option of taking a slow night train three hours later. This guy then tries to charge me 15 lei for the trip, which only costs 10 lei by bus, without the smell or pain. I decided then and there that he would receive no money from me, which I told him much to his displeasure. I actually didn’t have money anyway since I ran out of the house with only my bank card and usually when I tell people that I am a volunteer and work with kids without getting paid they don’t charge. Not this guy. After extracting money from the others he worked through the whole spectrum of bodily gestures trying to convince me to pay him, arms flailing, feet kicking. I considered this to be my afternoon entertainment since I now had several hours to kill. But after half an hour of this performance he decided to make me an offer. That I meet him at some place in time in the future where I can pay him, I immediately forgot the time and location and agreed. As collateral he took the pin I had in my hand, which would be given back to me upon payment.

I eventually made it to Bucuresti 8 hours later. The next day was packed with visits to the Doctor, Dentist, and department store for the cell phone. The dentist was an interesting experience. All that I have ever known was my hometown dentist and his hometown ways of teeth cleaning. This dentist scraped my teeth with a medal vibrating hook than used this communist grade sandpaper dental floss to really define where the tooth ends and the space begins. I remember lots of metal, more medal than plastic, metal chairs and metal machines making clinking sounds. One thing that I liked was the little TV harnessed to the ceiling allowing me to watch an episode of Animal planet where renegade monkeys turn on their owners, but the sound was turned off and replaced with soothing Enya music playing from behind the metal speakers. It all still seemed to make sense and I don’t have cavities thank goodness.

Got the damn cell phone which was the source of all my discombobulation and now my sights were set for Sibiu, where Maria works as an intern for its German newspaper ‘Hermannstadter Zeitung’. Arrived late Friday afternoon with plenty of hours left to sit on the benches in the grand plaza and watch the pigeons try to have sex with each other. Its disgusting really, the male pigeons puff them selves up and spin around in circles and act a damn fool, then they get it on in one big massive horde, right in front of little kids and the elderly. What a show.

Maria and I spent the nights in her family’s village home in a small near by town called Sibiel, and I am talking about a real village here folks. We had to get water from the well since the pipes were turned off for the winter. This archaic task of fetching the water, turning the big wheel, lowering a rope, and pulling up a bucket of yellow water felt surprisingly therapeutic, even though I complained through out the entire chore. I also gained a new appreciation for outhouses. Regular toilet seats just don’t feel the same once your ass has had a wooden seat polished from generations of use. Plus now flushing feels labored and unnecessary. Its that extra effort that feels like I am working, in an out house you just go and go, freed from the task of initiating flushing sequence, like a king. The nights we spent sipping hot wine while working on a world map puzzle while listening to the BBC. Fun

This Friday I will be in Weisbaden Germany for Easter, where apparently Maria’s parents already have eggs waiting for me to paint. Maybe they know why eggs are painted in the first place.
La revedere und auf wiedersehen

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The world does not impose the norms of science and morality on us; we impose those norms on the world

The events of this past month have led me to believe that something has changed, I see it everywhere that I look, in the faces of my students and fellow teachers, in the people that I meet while jogging or buying groceries, in the snow and in the sun and more frequently both at the same time. A sense of immeasurable happiness and an awareness of peace within myself that I have never recognized before, as if I discovered a new sense with which to understand my relation to this world, which any many ways I have created for myself. My priorities have changed to coincide with forces that are out of my control and it is in respect to these forces that I regain a sense of control. I recently discovered that I love teaching and the unique form of creativity and purpose that it provides for not only myself but also my students. I love my life here in this small little town where an hours jog around the rolling hills and bucolic settings hint at some last vestige of truth in this modern world, free of concepts without substance, just pure experience and freedom.

So with that said, much has happened within the past month and I guess what motivated me to begin writing again was what I happened to witness this morning while in the school parking lot. I get out of the car as usual and for no good reason at all I begin to stare off into the back parking lot of the local restaurant across the street from the school, like I was day dreaming or something, but then I realized that I was witnessing from start to finish a pig getting slaughtered, the students walking to class paid it no attention as if the act was meant just for me to see, sort of altering my day a little as a result.

The first of March in Romania is known as martisoare, which is the celebration of Women day and one this day you are to give women in your life these little trinkets and flowers that they pin on their label. In the local villages, red and white wool yarn was pinned on gates, tied around the horns of cattle, around the handles of buckets to protect against the stink eye and bad spirits. The legend has it that there was a time when the Sun used to turn into a young man and descent on Earth to dance a jig among the people folk, but I guess some dragon found out about this and captured him in his castle. The birds stopped singing and children couldn’t laugh anymore but no one dared to confront the dragon. One day a brave young man set out to free the Sun and this journey lasted three seasons: summer, autumn, and winter. The guy found the sun, an epic battle was had which led to the defeat of the Dragon and the release of the sun but the brave young man suffered mortal wounds and his warm blood was drained on the snow which melted and produced flowers called snowdrops, the signals of spring. And this long ridiculous story explains why these red and white colored tassels are everywhere during this time of March.

I bought myself the most perfect old mans pipe, which I picked up from a Gypsy camp. Went home to boil any villainous remnant out of the thing but instead I just boiled the cool curve out of the stem and now it looks more like a question mark than a pipe. During my most recent funeral attendance I found out that a teacher in my school is a famous accordion player, and after trying to play the accordion for the teachers at one of our teacher gatherings, he came up to me and pleaded that I stop and let him teach me. So today was our first lesson, and I can now play the Romanian equivalent to the happy birthday song called ‘la multi ani’, but instead of merely repeating that you are another year older the song requests that the lord give you everything you wish for including days with no clouds and happiness.

Anyway booked my flight to Germany for the next break, started an international current events club with my fellow teachers, I am now a Hegelian… I want to continue this conversation but it is 3 in the morn and I got class so maybe next month…

Friday, February 20, 2009

"I am the king and I want my dumplings!"

I am waiting for spring more then ever as I look out my frosty classroom windows. Today it actually became warm enough to snow ending a short two day snow sabbatical colder then a wizard’s nipple, as my dad would say. Winter here has lingered on like a stale fart that just won’t clear the room and I can only pretend I don’t smell it for so long. To escape the winter’s stench I will be spending my weekend in Sibu, the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007, and hopefully come back with some decent loafs of German bread.

Played European handball last night with some of the locals and not only is it completely different then the handball we have in the States, but its like 3 times as dangerous and fun as well. Instead of smacking around a little ball in a court you have two teams of seven who try to throw a ball the size of a kid’s soccer ball into a goal about twice the width of a normal doorway. Its like what happens when you combine ultimate Frisbee with basketball and football. Fouling is seen as good strategy for disrupting the opponents concentration and apparently you don’t have to skip the third helping of mamalega in order to be fit enough to play, half of the townspeople on my team could barely see their own feet let alone wear our teams blue colored singlet. This being my first time seeing or playing handball I wasn’t sure how I would fair, the opposing team looked pretty intimidating and hungry. But the feeling one gets after knocking over a 300 pound fat man with your throw just can’t be beat.

In the beginning of the school year I would pass out chocolates to the students who did all their work and participated in class but it turned out to not be as effective or healthy as my new method of bribery. Now for correct answers and class participation I pass out chewable one a day multivitamins as a reward and I have noticed a remarkable improvement in my more malnourished students. For the past week I have been focusing mainly on the wide world of adjectives and today when asking the students to throw out some adjectives they would associate with feeling, the first word is yelled out, “pain”, every time. We have very happy bunch here on Firdays.

If you ever come here to Abrud, Romania there will probably be a few things that might furrow your brow in puzzlement. Let’s start with the local shops. At the local market you will find all of your alcoholic beverages resting lazily inside a whole row of refrigerators, giving the impression that they are actually on and cooling said beverages. This is something that will take some getting used to because it is hard to accept the fact that they are just being used to hold and not cool, acting as very expensive shelves and nothing more, but this is Romania and this phenomenon is seen in nearly every city. Lets say you want a 3 liter bottle of Ciuc (beer) which will cost you around 5.40 lei, about 2 dollars. You would think that after giving the casher 6 lei for your purchase 60 bon is owed to you, but instead you receive two sticks of gum. This means that the store is out of change and now has reverted to trade; this too is universally accepted as payment. But collecting the sticks of gum that have accumulated over the months and trying to buy something of lesser or equal value will not work, so don’t even bother. Waiting in line with the elderly or derelict should be avoided since you will find yourself at the end of it anyway.

My ride is here so I hope you all have a good weekend.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hope is a Waking Dream

Today marks the day of internets glorious return to my humble little village. I don’t know what the hell happened the last three weeks, maybe the wooden wheels of the ox drawn service provider fell apart or maybe the string between the two tin cans snapped. Either way I don’t know how long this will last. Again I will try to pick what has occurred within the last month and grind it into some sort of palatable tasty read, though it still might bring indigestion.

Let’s see here, our trip to Sweden proved to be a great change in climate both in temperature and attitude. While waiting in the airport we had the opportunity to check out the local shops with Hungarian hand crafted gifts to buy, including a whole row of crucified Jesuses and large wooden dice with different sexual positions painted on each side. The thing was that they were right next to each other and the look on his face as he looked down on all of those dice was just priceless. We booked our flights with Wizzair, a discount airline, and in exchange for 15 Euro plane tickets we were dropped off in a small town hours away from Stockholm. The cost of taking a shuttle to the city and back cost more than the flight itself and I would have felt ripped off had it not been for that drunken woman barking out obscenities at whoever was speaking Arabic in the back of the bus. We stayed with a group of EVS volunteers living inside an apartment connected to the school they volunteer in. The cultural differences were obvious from the moment we got to the metro station. Everyone spoke perfect English, metros were on time, no gypsies or crazy old men could be heard, clean, and venders sold fresh produce along with REAL coffee. The Swedes love coffee and I love the Swedes. You will find coffee shops every where, even in places that I would never have thought a coffee shop should belong; like in a bath and body shop or a pharmacy or a movie rental. I was also impressed with what little clothing the women were wearing considering how cold it was outside, I had two jackets on over a long sleeve shirt and I was still freezing.

Stockholm is wonderful for how clean and organized it seems to be, even in the heart of the city I saw barely any traffic and zero homeless. In Sweden education is free (you even get paid to go to school), as well as child care and hospital visits. I read in the latest magazine of ‘The Economist’ that people in countries who have a more socialized government like those in Northern Europe believe less in god since all their needs are taken care of, while the belief in god rises in governments who provide less for their people; USA was second to the last on the list, above Turkey. People greet each other by saying ‘Hey Hey’ and it is hard to spot a road without at least one candy shop and one souvenir shop selling post cards of the king. When visiting the kings palace you will still find dressed up guards standing perfectly still like little pawns around its perimeter. All of the lakes around the city as well as parts of the Baltic Sea were frozen and there were more people on the ice skating then on the sidewalks with full families hand in hand, mothers skating with baby carriages, fathers racing their sons, it brought a tear to my eye. We barrowed some ice skates of our own and skated across to a lonely island where I nursed my sore heels. I can’t ice skate to save my life, I appear to have epileptic seizures with every movement forward and it was the duty of every Swede who passed to give his or her own opinion on how not to look like a complete idiot, but it helped little.

Now Sweden isn’t all gum drops and candy canes for those who have to weather the weather during the winter months and apparently many people take anti-depression pills as a result. What I was told however is that the tap water actually has a large amount of this medication in it because it can’t be filtered completely out of the water supply. I am not sure if this is true or not but it sure did taste nice. In Sweden it is very important to scream if you drop anything on the ground to warn the Gnomes so they can get out of the way and avoid a bad knock on the noggin. Apparently if you don’t they will come to your house and hide your stuff, like car keys or birth control pills. I also like the wide variety of cozy Ikea like shops all selling interesting appliances and house wares and coffee, making me wish I had a house to put them all in. I bought this great neon green spork, which combines the spoon, fork, and even the knife, into one multi-ethnic master utensil. I figured it would cut the time I spend doing the dishes by more then a third. Now I carry it with me where ever I go and it’s been so helpful I am thinking about knighting it and giving it a name, like Sir Sporksalot, but I got nothing so far. In the heart of the city the ‘Publikhause’ towers over the main plaza, the clothing stores, and candy shops. The public house is where we spent most of our time and is something that I wish would be copied in the States, but never will. The first floor was a cool medieval museum with free games and a miniature floor model of old and new Stockholm. The second floor had a huge Ikea like library with a place to sit and read all of the world newspapers that filled one side of the hallway or listen to new music that you could check out while sipping coffee. The third floor was a combination Child care play room packed with mothers and cartoon furniture and a modern art exhibit on the other side. The last floor was a large restaurant slash coffee shop for students which gave a panoramic view of the main city square. Looking down we watched as people gathered to protest the continued conflict in Sri Lanka as a panel of professors across the room discussed the latest actions of the Swedish government. The fact that it was all free seemed to surprise no one else but myself. I could live here very easily.

Our time came too quickly and soon we found ourselves on the plane again, heading toward Budapest, which turned out to be another city I would easily say yes to living in. Beautiful, historic, clean, and well managed, I never wanted to leave though that first night Maria and I weren’t feeling too well on account of a whole days worth of bad dietary choices. For breakfast we had Cinnamon rolls and jam, an airport sandwich for lunch and after finding no place agreeable after landing, we for some reason ate at Burger King, not one whopper, but two…each. Our first night with Debi, our couch surfing host, didn’t go as planned since we just flopped on her couch and instantly fell asleep. The next day we walked along the Danube River on the Buda side, taking in the sights of old castles and historic monuments. On the Pest side I got sucked into walking along the fashion street where we stared at clothes we could never afford. We walked past opera houses and beautiful buildings, showing influences from every period since the 15th century. The people proved to be the most helpful people I have come to meet so far, I you pause to look at a sign for more then a second people will cross the street just to ask if you need help. We were on our way to look at the torture museum but we kept getting side tracked by coffee shops and book stores. I picked up a great book on the revolutionary year of 1848 in Europe and tried in vain to find a shop selling old man pipes. That night Debi brought us to her favorite hang out spot which you would never had noticed if you didn’t know where it was. There was a secret knock too and this place turned out to be what looked like someone’s apartment tuned speak easy bar. It was furnished with antiques, people were drinking on top of sowing machine tables, others on top of an antique bread making machine, the place was packed, and you could only get in if you or your friend had a ‘key’. I was introduced to some new types of Indian (India) Trance which was more then tolerable and informed about the many bad ass music festivals during the summer that I will have to check out. We stumbled home happy but sad that we had only planned two days for Budapest. Our plane back to Romania was delayed by more then 5 hours which brought a sobering sense of what I was in store for back home.

I received my first education inspection from my organization yesterday and it went better then I had hoped. Apparently all the students and teachers think that I am doing a great job and the lesson I had planned for her inspection involving the use of metaphor gave the impression that I know what I am doing. Alls well that ends well and now I just have to begin my secondary project with the community and see it through before the semester ends.

Before I left for Sweden my English counterpart and our schools music teacher got together and found me an accordion to play, which has been coming along quite nicely. My previous knowledge of the piano has made learning it fairly easy and I now have all the Mario Theme songs down including the water level from Mario 1 and the main theme from Mario 2. I strap the accordion to my chest while I study so I don’t have to move if I want to take a break. I hope to start learning some traditional Romanian songs which I have been trying to find to play on this site, but no luck just yet.