Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Music: My Escape.

As most of you know I love music. I love listening to it, I love playing it, and I love creating it. While here in Romania, I knew I would eventually buy a guitar here instead of bringing one just to save on the amount of bags I was bringing one. My first couple months in the country were hell because I couldn't leave Târgoviste to go and buy one because of Peace Corps policies for trainees. Then came the first weekend we could leave Jd. Dumbavița and the first place I went was a music shop in the neighboring county. I was recommended to the store by a language teacher and as it turned, I got to wait another couple weeks until I could have my own guitar again since you only order from the store, then once it arrives you pick it up. Oh well, at least I would have a guitar soon enough.

While I was away visiting my site, I got a phone call while out with some teachers enjoying a summer meal of grilled mici. My guitar had arrived and I could go and pick it up when I was ready. That weekend I came back, I went to Ploiești and got my guitar. Having that guitar brought me back to my original self. So much of the daily stress I had was taken away by being able to play my guitar once again. It was even commented by another volunteer that once I got my guitar, my language learning improved as well. I guess we all learn our specific ways.

Once I arrived at site, I was invited to a guitar class which was held at the clubul eleviilor (student's club). It was the cantece de munte (mountain songs) and they have a rich musical culture where I am. Quickly I was drawn into the simple, yet beautiful music about love, nature, and the mountains, most of which is all connected in the songs. Gabi, who had invited me to the class, was going to be leaving soon to work in Spain, and Piti the other teacher would be taking over as the main instructor. Not soon later, I was asked if I would teach along with Piti, especially if he is gone. I was elated. Not only would I be learning an amazing part of culture, I would also be teaching it.

Every week I am going twice to the club and playing and teaching with the students. There is something peaceful about a room of music, no matter how loud it can get. Around Christmas I was playing along their traditional carols while playing some English carols as well. I went caroling with the group and had an amazing time. Now with the weather becoming warmer, we will start spending weekends in the mountains, eating, drinking, and playing surrounded by the very things which have inspired these songs.

Below are three videos of the class, along with Piti and I, playing some of these songs. Enjoy.

This first song is called Mare Neagra (Black Sea). It is about the Black Sea and how important of a symbol it is to Romania and the power it has.

Ninge Astazi Pentru Tine (It's Snowing Today for You) as you can guess by the title is a love song.

Noapte la Mare, Noapte la Munte (Goodnight to the Sea, Goodnight to the Mountain).

While the music is simple, it still holds a strong meaning to me. Being surrounded by a beautiful landscape, its understandable that so many songs would be written about it. These classes and these songs have been my escape from whatever stresses I may have while being away. My home is truly wherever music is being loved, and this has been the thing which has made Victoria feel so much like home these past months.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

One semester down!

So as I look back on last semester, I cannot help but see how much I have grown not only as an educator, but also as a person. I have really seen the difference in educational culture between the US and Romania, but also how I have adapted to that change in the way I teach. But enough of that, here's what I did on my break.

So I ended school on Thursday and made my way to Babeni to hang out with Tara for a couple days before we headed out. We decided to hitchhike across Romania to where we would be picking up the train to Serbia. After a fairly uneventful ride from Babeni to Sibiu, we were picked up by a really nice truck driver who was able to take us about halfway to Deva. Not only was he a really nice guy, he had a really nice truck too. We had the chance to talk to him and share somethings between our cultures (mainly food). Once in Deva, we got some dinner really quick at the American Embassy (McDonald's) and went back out to the road. The next guy to pick us up was younger and was heading halfway from Deva to Timisoara and was a great guy as well. He even took us to the spot in Jugoj to where we would hitch from. And low and behold, in 30 seconds we had our final ride into Timisoara. After talking to the guy who was taking us for a short while, we told him we were from the US and he then wanted us to start speaking English with him so he could practice him English. When we arrived in Timisoara, he came with us to have a beer while we waited until 5:50 in the morning to leave. Glad to know I have a new friend in Timisoara.

It was another really cold night in Romania so we were hopping to places where it would be warm until the train left. The train was a fairly short ride and we came into a freezing cold Serbian morning. We spent the morning hopping from site to cafe, to site, to bar, etc to keep warm while we wandered the city. We were staying with a younger couple who lived in the city in their flat and they were amazing hosts. Telling us where to go, what to see, etc. We saw most of the sites around the city minus most of the museums, but we did go to the ethnographic museum which was very interesting since we were able to see the various costumes and lifestyles of traditional Serbia.

The next day we left for Bosnia. The bus ride wasn't too long, but was through some of the more scenic areas I've seen in a while. We arrived in Sarajevo around 7:30 at night and took a taxi to our Hostel. We were greeted by Jasmina, our hostel owner, and she was an amazing host. The next morning we woke up and went out for coffee with her and afterwards went and toured the Peace Tunnel. This was a 800m tunnel built during the Siege of Sarajevo in 1992 and today serves as a museum to what was happeningduring this period. Jasmina told us her personal stories of the siege and what her life was like while that was happening. It added a new element to seeing all of the buildings with bullet holes from that time.

Later that day, we wandered around the old city center and bazaar. Sarajevo is over 50% Muslim so it has a very different feel to it as a city than any other I have been to yet since coming here. Being surrounded by coffee houses, hearing the calls to prayer, and wandering past handcrafted goods really took me away from my everyday life in Romania. we also managed to stumble upon the Sarajevska Brewery and we enjoyed some of their fine makes. That night we met up with Ryan and Sara, both PC volunteers in Romania, and had dinner, drank rachiya, and went out later. It was good to see friendly faces there as well.

The next day we visited a few mosques in the city, and then we were back on our way to Serbia for one final night. We arrived fairly late and had trouble finding the hostel so we just called it a night there. We walked around the city that last day only to come across a massive anti-government protest. We wandered past just to see what was going on and soon met up with Ryan and Sara to head back home to Romania.

While on the train, there was a moment where I felt back at home. When the customs agents came on the train from Romania and were speaking Romanian, I felt an extreme comfort I hadn't felt in a while. Who knows what I will feel when I get back to the US. We spent the night in Recas with Sara before heading back out on the road. Overall it was a fairly uneventful ride, but one that had a little more character. our 2nd ride was an overpacked Dacia from the early 90's so we were squeezed in tight, then our next ride from Deva to Sibiu had to be one of the craziest Turkish truck drivers ever, but a cool guy none the less. We were trying to get into Sibiu in time for Tara to take her bus back to Rm. Valcea which we eventually made it into the bus stop with about a minute to spare thanks to a guy who picked us up on the outside of the city and drove us there. I hitched my way back to Victoria and got to work for the next day of school.

Overall a long trip, but a good one. It felt good to leave the country but nothing is ever as good as coming home. Its odd to think that coming back to Romania for me is coming home now, but it truly has become that for me. Now with a year and a half to go, who knows what my mind will be thinking when it comes time to go back to the United States.