Monday, May 5, 2008

4 a.m.

There have been few things that I can recall waking up for at 4 a.m. A flight to Las Vegas, a hike in the mountains, maybe a sunrise but never in my life did I ever think I would be waking up at 4 a.m. to attend a church service! Here in the village, it is 110% Romanian Orthodox and that is what they do and have been doing for generations on Easter Sunday, waking up before dawn and heading to the church for the Resurrection of Christ... something I felt I should experience. Generally speaking I do not go to church on Sundays or on any of the Saint's days that occur through out the year...ok so I have been once since I arrived back in August of 2007. Because of my lack of attendance I receive a lot of questions about my religion, everyone thinks because I am American I am catholic. Just as they are getting all wound up to tell me why Romanian Orthodox is the truth and Catholicism is not, I inform them that I am not catholic...which I think kind of disappoints most of them. Next on the "stereotypical religion of an American" list is Baptist, which was a bit of a shocker for me...but again it is another disappointing no. I have always been told it is not polite to discuss politics, money and religion with people you don't really know or in general for that matter. This is a glaring cultural difference between Romanians and Americans and one that I am still having a hard time getting used to. With out a doubt, one of the first questions I was asked when I arrived in the village was "how much is your salary as a English teacher?" When I confuse them and tell them that I am a volunteer thus without a salary, I receive a "why in the world would you ever work for free" kind of look then am asked how much does a teacher make in the States? Every time I am asked about my family, I am interrupted in the middle of my description by "how much does your father make a month? Your Mother? Your Sister? Her husband? Your brother? Their neighbor's distant 3rd cousin? After I fumble around with a some what Politically Correct response...usually pleading that I don't know, it is not discussed and I have lost touch with our neighbors distant 3rd cousin, naturally leaving them unsatisfied, it jumps directly to Religion. So as I was saying, since I am neither catholic nor baptist next on the list is a Muslim, which I find incredibly interesting as well. To their credit they are not tyring to convert me, although I was told it could happen with the snap of a finger, they are just really curious. Generally I am able to beat around the bush long enough and explain that in the States there are representations of all kinds of religions and that I respect their beliefs and customs. Inevitably, they get bored with this non imformative answer and the subject is changed to Politics or why I am not married yet! Like I was saying before, these peoples religion and beliefs play a major role in their lives and I felt like I should try a bit harder to understand more about them. Thus, I made my appearance Easter Sunday morning at 4 a.m. looking sharp in a fresh pair of slacks, dress shirt and traditional style hat that the men wear in the summer months in this region, and was a gift from my host family! Before we left the house, a hand crafted bag was stuffed to the brim with homemade breads, meats, cheeses, colored hard boiled eggs and a bottle of red wine. A small wicker basket was also filled with the same tasty delights but was also decorated with a large white candle jetting out of the top. On the way to the Church in the center of the village, all the people were dressed in their traditional clothing and own bags and baskets in hand. The typical "good morning" was not used once it was replaced by a biblical "Christ has risen" followed then by "It is true, he has risen." This greeting will be used for the next 7 weeks after Easter sunday...dont worry I practiced the night before so I didn't blow it! The church service was jammed packed with a lot of new faces...because of the Village's traditional customs many Romanians from the big cities come into town to experience a Traditional Easter with warm welcoming people, fresh air and of course horlinka. It was a very impressive service that last about 4 hours...I was offered a seat on one of the highly sought after benches from one of my neighbors, SCORE! All of the baskets and bags spilling over with food and drink were placed along side the perimeter of the Church and the last part of the service involves the priest going outside and blessing them with nag-champa like incense and holy water. Immediately following the service everyone fills the streets slowly finding their way home to break the 7 week fast of not eating meat products or drinking alcohol. My traditional hat was a huge hit as was my appearance at the service. Once at home, we ate a tremendous amount of meat, cheese, eggs, cakes, pies and cracked open bottles of wine, beer and horlinka. By the time 10:30 a.m rolled around I was back in bed full to the brim and fast asleep until later that afternoon. Easter officially lasts for 3 days here...sunday, monday and tuesday. So for three days I went to church and for three days we all ate way too much food and probably drank way too much drink. My attendance at church was noticed by everyone which lead to a lot of people wondering why I was absent yesterday (Sunday May 4th, the first sunday after easter). Regardless if I dug myself in a hole or not, I was very happy to experience the one part of village life I have not really been apart of and has helped me become more apart of the community than I was already.

PS - in theme with my last entry "breathe" I wanted to add these thoughts...Ciao

"Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care
Leave but don't leave me
Look around and chose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be"
- Pink Floyd