Monday, February 18, 2008

What a great Day!

In honor of Valentines Day I had the kids I teach make "I Love..." Poems. Simply enough they were asked to write "I Love" 25 times on a piece of paper and then fill in the blanks with what they love. Ion in 5th grade asked me what Love is. I answered his question with the Romanian translation for love. He looked at me kind of confussed and said "no I know what the word is in Romanian, but what does love mean?" I laughed a bit and thought to myself what did I get myself into! At first the kids were a bit shy but once I started writing a couple of my "I love" lines they felt much more comfortable and started to write. Except for the couple of kids who copied their neighbors lines the rest really put a lot of thought and effort into there work...can't win all the battles, at least they are writing in English. From my experience in the Romanian school system, creativity is not practiced and/or encouraged. I am trying really hard to change those ideals but it will not happen over night. Most of my fellow teachers think I am a bit crazy for doing things like poems, song lyrics and other "new aged" teaching methods such as walking around the classroom interacting with the kids instead of staying at the black board in front of the room and lecturing. Even the majority of my students did not understand when I ask them a very subjective question such as "What you do prefer ketchup or mustard?" and tell them there is no right or wrong answer. Even with the "I love..." poems I had a student ask if her line "I love pizza" was correct or wrong. I was blown away at how into these poems the kids were and how many questions I received about word translations, they were really trying to expnad their vocabulary. Some of the highlights that were written were as follows...

*I love Love - Amazing!
*I love my cell phone charger - When asked why, this student resonded "because with out the charger my cell phone will not work and I won't be able to text message...good point I thought.
*I love my english teacher - An "A" for her
*I love the color of the sky everyday - A Romanian Bob Dylan

That night I stayed up very proud of my successful lesson writing my own "I Love..." Poem...

I love my family
I love my friends
I love Chipotle Burritos
I love traveling
I love being told I can not do something
I love sun rises
I love sun sets
I love the mountains
I love the beach
I love to laugh
I love to smile
I love to love
I love to be loved
I love to day dream
I love my brother's laugh
I love living in my village in Romania
I love being outside
I love Music
I love playing the same great song on repeat
I love t-shirts and jeans
I love reading the New York Times
I love to be curious
I love to explore
I love the sound of accustic guitars
I love to be challenged
I love the feeling of nerves, excitement, happiness, sadness anything that is real
I love not being told what to do
I love to drive with the windows down
I love road trips
I love making mistakes and learning from them
I love to get lost
I love what I am doing
I love LIfe
I love to Shake Up the World

Much Love to all :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Every Little Thing is Going to be Alright

2008 is only a month old, but what I year it has already been! I had a wonderful visit back to the States for the holidays. It was so nice to be with family and friends that I had not seen in many months and/or years. My travels back to Romania were long, tiring, adventourous, fun, eventul and did I mention tiring?! Despite the 3 days of no sleep and going from Planes, trains to automobiles I arrived into the village with a smile on my face and plenty of questions to answer. Everyone was so curious about my visit to the states, if I had fun, what I did for christmas and New Years?, How was my family?, How were my friends?, Do you have pictures?, How was Las Vegas?, Did I drink a lot of whiskey?, Was I glad to be back in the village?, did I get married while I was home?, and plenty of others. For my first week back, I spent the majoirity of it trying to lose the jet-lag that filled my head and get back into the lifestyle that is the village. Naturally, everyone was concerned I did not have "fresh food" while I was home, meaning village food. As a result every house I passed would command me to the dinner table for more than enough pork, potatoes, cabbage rolls and of course horlinka...I did not complain! All of my kids were excited to have me back in school, they all were very curious about my travels and when I showed them on a world map the travels I had made in the last 3 weeks the intrigue flowed even more. 99% of my kids have not even been to another city than one 60km from the village, much less out of the country, none of them could not even comprehend the roads I had traveled in a short time, but it was a great teaching lesson! Ever since my return, I have had parents coming up to me saying that their son doesn't want to get his hair cut and wants to go to Budapest, Hungry for summer vacation...opps so much for a good influeance at least they are saying please and thank you now!
Once my head cleared of the jet-lag and I caught up on my sleep, I picked up right where I left off, helping with whatever needs to be done. At the house, we were in need of some fire wood, wood for a new fence and wood to use for building a new room in the attic of the house I live in, in other words we needed wood. Therefore, one friday morning Ion (the husband of the family I live with), Vasile (the brother-in-law of Ion) and I took off to a specific part of the forest in the surrounding mountains. We left the house at the crack of dawn with an old creeky wagon attached to two dark brown beautiful horses. Straped on the wagon was a chainsaw, bought in the Ukraine and smuggled into Romania but with a sticker on it "Made in Tucson, AZ"!) two freshly sharpend axes and one very excited American. The journey to the part of the forest that we needed to get to was a long, bumpy one with a lot of snow and ice that tripped me up more than it did the horses, in all it was probably a 5 mile treck. It was crisp, clear and cold as the Mountain air chapped our noses and cheeks but the warmth of the sun was on the rise. Once, we arrived at out destination I dried off the horses with their respective blankets after which I placed on their backs to keep them warm while they ate. Ion gathered some hay from a feeding post while vasile loosed the riens in the horses mouthes to allow them to eat easier. Obvoiusly, Ion and Vasile knew exactly what they were doing, where as I was all eyes and ears as it was my first time chopping down a tree. You can imagine it is not rocket science cutting down a tree but as with anything there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, Ion and Vasile do things the right way. I was in charge of clearing the snow from the base of the tree we desired and to chop away the first couple inches of bark from the ground. After which, Ion cut a wedge into the base with the chain saw in the direciton he wanted it to fall and then finally another wedge on the other side of the tree then...TIMBER! Once the tree fell, Vasile and I, with the axes, shaved all the branches from the trunk and then cleared a path for the horses and wagon. All in all we cleared five trees for the forest, 3 of them being at least 8 feet long and each weighing way more than I ever thought 3 people could lift. Once again, my perception was wrong! After lunch, which consited of pig fat back, onions, bread, creek water and a shot of horlinka we discussed what trees would be placed first on the wagon, well Ion and Vasile discussed but I was attentivly listening. Again not rocket science, the largest trees go on the bottom and the lighest/smaller ones on top. Vasile went after a couple of the larger branches that we cut off before lunch. Two of the branches were angled off at their ends and laid at an angle on the side of the wagon near the front and another at the back, creating a kind of ramp. I stuck my branch under the trunk first and pushed up as well as I could, next Vasile stuck his branch under the tree and pushed as best he could, then Ion doing the same, then the process returned to me and we continued this progression until the trunk was rolled right up on the two branches making the ramp. After this, we practiced the same methods until the trunk rolled up on the ramp and then just kept lifting and pushing, lifting and pushing until that son of a bitch was on the wagon! Words do not do this practice justice and trust me there were a lot worse words that came out of all our mouthes than son of a bitch! We did this four more times, each time the trunks getting a little lighter and smaller but my legs and back getting a little more tired. These horses were unbelieveable, they were pulling this load of lumber down these narrow, steep trails with snow, ice and mud with out much of a concern. I will admit I was completly exhuasted on our journey back to the village and the sun was begining to set with the cold airbeginging to fill the air. We were just about to the main path of the village when I could smell the burning of all wood on the stove when suddenly I heard a loud "POP." After, Vasile asked me what "OH SHIT" meant in Romanian, we realized one of the tires on the wagon had blown. I was a little more than curious about what we were to do and a bit frustrated, I was looking forward to a hot feast of bean soup, fried pork and horlinka. I looked to Ion and Vasile with a look of "what now?" and immeadiatly we began to laugh out loud like crazy men. I am pretty sure they both said somethings that would translate to some very inappropriate words in english and then Vasile reached into his jacket, pulled out a quarter liter bottle of horlinka and said with a huge smirk and his shoulders raised "Ce se facem?"...."what are we going to do?" and their we sat watching the sunset over the far mountains passing the bottle until there was no more. We pushed off the top three trunks and very carefully took the horses and wagon with the remaining two trunks to the barn. The whole path back to the barn other villagers were asking us what happened and if we knew we had a flat tire, as if they had the nerve, ha ha. I really believe that nights sleep was the best I have ever had in my life! The next morning we fixed the flat and went back after our lumber without any kind of problem. I really admired Ion and Vasile on the way the handled this adversity. I know I was frustrated and saying some pretty nasty things under my breath and they obviously have way more invested in this wood than I do and it would have been easy for them to get mad and upset, or atleast understandable. However, as is the general attitude of the people of the village, what good would that do, it isn't going it fix the flat tire and I think it helped we had the horlika! I have since been back to the forest one other time with Ion and Vasile and I will continue to go as often as I can, I love it out there. Also, I hleped kill the family pig and even assisted in the butchering and making of sausages and have been helping a friend of mine with the construction of his new house. Oh and you will all be happy to know that while I was gone for christmas the driver of the van that takes villegers to the city put in wooden benches in the van, so no more potato sacks for me! LIFE IS GOOD !!