Saturday, November 24, 2007
Its 20:01 (8:01 p.m.) on a cold November Wednesday and I am raising my glass while everyone around me is yelling "To Many Years!" with a great eastern european accent. I have just had yet another cross-cultural expereince...in the village when ever you drink a shot of horlinka or alcohol in general you always say "La Multi Ani" which translates directly to "To Many Years." One of the gentlemen at the table asked me what Americans say when they drink whiskey, because every American drinks whiskey...at least that is his persepective, and I tell him that "cheers" is a common expression. But then I tell him and the others at the table that "La Multi Ani" translates to "To Many Years." I wrote it down for everyone to see and together we repeated it out loud 10 to 15 times, They loved it! As you might imagine, everyone at the table was very excited about learning an English expression that relates to drinking, so we practiced and practised, but naturally we could not practise saying "To Many Years" with empty glasses, we had to make the situation as real as possible! My lesson was a complete success, 100% participation and everyone passed with flying colors. As I left the group for bed, everyone in the room stood up...some faster than others, and in unison they let out one last "To Many Years." It is 6:03 (6:03 a.m.) the next morning and it is even colder than the day before. The wood burning stove next to my bed still has a bit of warmth glowing from it but the cold breeze outside is making it difficult to get out from under the covers. I make a dash for my slippers and a sweatshirt and luckly there is still a bit of hot water left over from last nights fire. As I wash away the haze from last nights lesson plan I think about the day ahead... my mission, go to the city and pick up a package from the post office...easy enough, right? In general there is one van that leaves from the village to the city on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it generally leaves at 6:40 a.m., generally being the key word. I skate my way up & down the frozen ashphalt to the center of the village where the van generally leaves from. 6:40 comes and goes, but at least there are others waiting with me, so I know the van is coming, sometime. 7:05 a.m. the roar of the cold, tired motor comes to a scretching stop and I pile into the red van behind the rest of the group, I'm going to the city! The fact my fingers and toes might be frozen does not bother me too bad nor does that fact that my nose is a driping focuet, my main concern is that I don't think my eyes have blinked since I left the house, they might be frozen open...oh well, ce sa fac (what are you going to do?) As I make myself comfortable on the bench (well, two sacks of potatoes with a blanket over them) I over hear the many conversations passing by me. I am able to pick up bits and pieces from a couple of them...the two old men to my right are talking about last nights futbol (soccer) match, but I did not catch the score. The three middle aged women in the corner are discussing the latest and greatest village gossip..."Maria and Ion's pig is bigger than last year, what are they feeding it, it can't be natural!" Meanwhile, the two men directly accross from me are staring at my hair sprouting from under my knit hat, one saying "Do you think he just can't afford a hair cut, I know he is a volunteer, but you would think he would have enough for a trim" and the other responding "That must be it, maybe we could all chip in and help him out, poor guy." I smile under my lips and pretend not to know what they are saying, watching the white clouds from my breath disapear. The frost covered window is starting to let in a ray or two from the rising sun, when I am asked why I am going to the city. I tell the spectators that I received a package and I have to pick it up from the post office in the city. "Where was it sent from and who sent it?"...It was sent from America but I am not sure who sent it, it will be a surprise. "Is it filled with money?"....ha ha, no I dont think so, but that would be a nice surprise. "Is it a bottle of whiskey? I bet it is because everyone from America drinks whiskey."...Maybe, and if it is, I will bring you a glass of it. "Are you married?"...Umm No, no I am not married. "Well I have a daughter, a neice, a friend of my daughter and a cousin of my aunt's sister's friend who are all very nice girls and would love to marry you!"...Oh well thank you, ummm but, well ya, thats nice, thank you, oh it looks like we are here!
It is just approaching 9:59 a.m. and I am the first in line at the special area of the post office where you pick up packages. In the neighboring courtyard I see a troup of men chopping huge tree trunks into nicly organized piles of fire wood, they are going to have to hurry because the sun will be on its way out of town in about 7 hours and they have a lot of work to do. As I keep myself occupied watching the axes slipt the wood, a line is forming behind me and I overhear a murmor "I think he is here to pick up a package of money from America." The doors to the special package office open just after 10:17 a.m. (record time)and I get invited in by the uniformed dressed, stoned faced customs officer. I smile and make small talk with the officer, but it is a one way conversation, I open the box to show him what is inside and he looks disappointed...just a hunch but I think he thought I was getting a box of money from America too. I gave him a handfull of candy my cousins the Hunt's from Colorado sent and that seemed to lift his spirits a bit. As I walk out of the office everyone is trying to get peaks inside my package and one man mumbles, "Did you see it, it had to be at least one thousand if not two!" and as I make my way in search of a cup of coffee I crack a huge smile and laugh out loud. As I wait for the van to leave from the city back to the village, I take advantage of the internet cafes and pizza the city has to offer. I write an email to my parents telling them about my Thanksgiving dinner at the US Ambassadors house in Bucharest last week and how much fun it was. I write my sister and brother-in-law to see how my newly born neice, Emily, is doing and to tell them the pictures they sent of her were great. After this, I write an entry in my blog, which I have not had a chance to do in long while to tell all my friends and family about how great my life is going over here in Romania and especially the village. There are new challenges everyday but more times than not those challenges lead to new adventures and I would never trade those challenges in for certainty, even if I could. Also, I will tell them that I will be home in MI for Christmas and then I will be heading to Las Vegas after the New Year to meet up with my best buddy Fever. Then, from Vegas we will head south down to Phoenix, AZ for a our good buddy Nick's wedding and where we are getting the band back together.
"There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how the play the game
There's nothing you can make that can't me made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
All you need is love
Love is all you need"
- The Beatles