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