These past few days have been some of the most eventful yet stressful days in my life thus far. So where do we begin? Tuesday was the big day. I woke up, not even realizing that this would be the very last time I sleep in that bed for over two years. I finished some last minute packing of things which I would be using that morning and I was ready to go. My family and I went out to breakfast before departing for the hotel for staging. The ride up was fine until the last mile on the highway when we got stuck in traffic. It was then I began to feel my heart racing, and me asking, "Is this for real?"
We moved past the traffic and finally made our way to the hotel. I grabbed my bags and went into the hotel with my parents close behind as they wanted to "check the place out" and by that I mean use the bathroom before heading back home. As soon as I entered the hotel I was greeted by Brittany and Ellis who had just checked in themselves. We had been talking on Facebook about what we would be needing, packing, etc so it felt like I knew them quite well. I checked in an said goodbye to my parents. As I grabbed my bags and went to the elevator to my room I watched as they entered the car to leave. This would be the last time I would see them in person for over two years unless they came out to visit at some point. Once I got upstairs and into the room, I met Ellis once again, but this time as my roommate for the evening.
We went downstairs to see if anyone else was at the restaurant in the hotel so we had the chance to meet even more people who I'm sure as time goes on, will be some of the best friends I will ever meet. Eventually it was time to begin staging and as we filtered in, I saw more and more faces which were familiar since I had come to know them thanks to the wonderful world that is known as the internet. I felt as if I were meeting with friends from long past but this was the first time meeting many of them. Now started the program which would make me feel like I was back in high school or college doing exercises on team building as well as doing things about our fears and expectations. Fairly basic things but it was good just so we could get to know each other.
We had dinner, came back to the restaurant for a couple drinks, and went to bed. Waking up in the morning I wasn't really realizing we were about to be travelling for nearly 20 hours between Chicago and our training site. I was one of 6 group leaders and one of the 2 bus leaders so luckily I was busy and my mind was focused on other things. We arrived at the airport, waited to check in, checked in, went through security, and made our way to the gate. After getting lunch, we had a small jam session waiting for our plan to board. I really need to find a guitar here as I know I can't go too long without playing. We eventually boarded and then there was the fun of sitting on a plane, in the middle seat or the middle section, for over 8 hours. Needless to say, that was the BEST* plane ride ever. *Please note the caps lock indication of sarcasm
We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany and decided to hunt down a restaurant for some breakfast. I'm going to go ahead and say we found the best place for a German breakfast. Matt and myself ordered the Munich Breakfast which consisted of two veal sausages, a pretzel, served with stone ground honey-mustard. And of course, as per the restaurant's suggesting, it was all washed down with a Paulaner Heffeweisen. A great way to say gutentaag and alvetasene to Frankfurt. Now there was only a 2 and a half hour flight into Bucharest and as soon as we arrived we were greeted by the Peace Corps Romania staff. I knew they would be one heck of a group to be working with and they seemed like they would all be great fun for the coming years.
We boarded the bus and that's when it hit me. I'm in freakin' Romania for over two years!!! We then headed out to our training site. They made a quick pit stop for those who needed to use the restroom and that's when I saw my first (and certainly not my last) Romanian stray dog. I acknowledged that fact, and fell right asleep against the bus window. I awoke and we were driving through the city on our way to the hotel. It was truly a sight to see and as we pulled up to the hotel it became real once again.
We checked in after getting our bags, and went upstairs and got settled. This meant a small nap, and changing out of the gross airplane clothes which had been on me for over 20 hours. We went down for dinner and all I can say is holy crap do Romanians like to feed you. First course was a fried whitefish served with a vegetable goulash, then the second course of salad, then came beef served with a wine sauce and potatoes, followed by a desert of fruit and Nutella crepes. Way too much food, but so good. Marco (my new roommate for my time in the hotel) and I decided to head over to the Irish Pub in town, The Celt. No it's not my sixth sense in terms of finding a Guinness in a town, but just that it was right across the street. We enjoyed one of those blackened beauties and headed back to the hotel for some shut eye since it had been such an exhausting day. If we only knew what the next day would have in store, we would have slept earlier.
We started out the day with breakfast followed by our introduction to Peace Corps Romania. We had a couple information sessions followed by more information sessions, intermixed with a visit to Dr. Dan (Peace Corps Medical Officer) where he gladly shot us up if we needed it. We had lunch, followed by more sessions in the afternoon until we eventually ended at 5pm. Dinner once again was massive. This time I learned to not eat everything on the plate, unless I want to gain 20 lbs. a day. We had decided to walk around the neighborhood we were in and made our way over to the ruins in the city only to realize the park is closed as that time of night. So we continued to walk around and decided we should go get a drink with it being our last night together as a group. We walked and walked, and eventually made our way into a small restaurant near the city plaza named Restaurant Bavaria.
We entered and put a couple tables together because that was all that was left. There were two other parties there as well so all tables were now filled. We ordered Ursus and were enjoying them when Dan, the restaurant owner came over and we started talking. I told him we were from the United States with the Peace Corps to which he asked if we had ever had the drink which Romania was famous for. I said Twika first, then Palinka, to where he finally acknowledged that and went to the bar. He had a round of Palinka for us all and we were "introduced into the culture" you could say. We were sitting chatting when another PC trainee came in, and then or course the owner returns with another round of Palinka because we had a new friend and he needed to try it. That one burned a little more than the others. Next walks in NIck, who came right as one of the other parties began to dance. Soon we found out that he was the chief of police for the city and now Brad was dancing with them and enjoying life. So we have our fun, and now realize it is late, and decide it is time to leave. But wait, Dan brings us another round of Palinka to say goodbye while also handing me his business card saying if we need anything, to give him a call. I went in with the gang for a celebratory good bye beer, and it turned into one of the most fun nights I can recall in a long time.
We came back to the hotel to find another part of the group enjoying karaoke in the hotel's bar. We stayed for a little while enjoying the fun, recanting our story about Restaurant Bavaria. We worked our way out of the bar and back up to our room where we had certainly one good night's sleep. we would need it as the next day would enter us into a world where I would have to be as easy going as I could have ever expected.