Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tiny Dancer

It is amazing what a little sun shine can do. It has been raining here in the village for the last 3-4 weeks off and on (mostly on) and has been etremley cold for this time of year. However, today is a perfect fall afternoon in Poienile Izei. The sun is high and full pouring down plenty of warm rays. The sky is a crisp blue with a few puffy white cotton ball clouds. Most of the leaves have turned there fall colors giving the still green grass a wonderful contrast. The children at school are full of energy, playing soccer and tag outside during the 10 min pauses in between classes. The teachers stand around in the sunshine talking about the students, the weather, other people in the village and what ever else you could imagine. Even I have a little more spunk and easyness as I go from class to class teaching different verbs, nouns and adjectives. School is pretty much in full swing now that we are entering the middle of October. Things have gone much smoother than last year for me. Obviously, having one year of experience teaching, speaking the language and adapting to the culuture have helped a lot. I am more comfortable in the classroom and I think the students are more comfortablt to my teaching style as well. This year in addition to teaching 5th-8th grades I have also taking on the task of teaching 3rd & 4th grades. There are only 4 students in the 4th grade and 9 in the 3rd so we combine the two classes for two hours a week. I have to say I really enjoy teaching the 3rd & 4th graders. They deffinatly take a lot more energy and patience but they are so enthusiastic about what ever they do. My 8th graders (15students) are at that awkard "too cool" stage and just want to get to high school in the big city or forget school all together and start making money. 7th grade is not quite to that "too cool" stage but they deffinatly have some attitude....it does not help that there are 9 boys and only 3 girls in this class. My 6th graders are starting to feel there roots in the school but still seem enthusiatic about what they do in the class room. Finally 5th grade consists of 5 girls and 3 boys and is by far the most chill class of them all. It is hard to believe that I am already well into my 2nd year as the english teacher and rapidly approaching the end of my service with the Peace Corps in July 2009.
My host family and I have finished digging all of our potatoes, picking all of our plumbs for jam and horlinka and have finished the last of the hay stacks for 2008. Everyday walking around the village you see horse drawn carriages full of sacks of potatoes, sacks of plumbs, piles of hay and logs of wood. My family is still waiting for the village distiller to be available to make our horlinka nor have we gone out in to the forests to retrreive our wood for this winter...although we have plenty already chopped that would probably last us the winter. As sad as I am to see the summer warmth and long days fade away into short, cold winter afternoons there is nothing better than the smells of fall in the village. First of all, all the wood coming from the forest must be chopped and stacked as soon as possible to let it dry before it gets too cold. I love to chop wood! It is my favorite type of work to do in the village. Not only is it one hell of a workout but at the same time it is so relaxing. Not to mention, the smell of fresh chopped wood is something that should be prescibed to people with high stress levels! Walking around the village just before the dark of night pulls the covers over the afteroon sun is wonderful. Every home has a wood burning stove fired up sending into the crips cool air the smell of sweet burning wood and a gloss of smoke giving the surrounding mountains a very gothic feel. These types of experiences, smells and sights are the things I will miss the most (besides the people of course) when my time here is down. There is so much about my life here that cannot be described in words or justified in pictures. To truly appreciate the people and culture of Poienile Izei you really have to role up your sleeves and jump head first. Last weekend I attended a wedding of a neighbors daughter who now lives and works in the large city of Timisoara, on the western border of Romania. There were 30 or 40 friends and family from the village who made the 9 hour train or bus ride over for the wedding. The grooms family is all from the surounding Timisoara area as well as were a lot of the bride and grooms friends. The reception took place in a very elegant hotel's ball room. There was champange, beer, wine, Jack Daniels, sparking water, flat water, coca-cola, red bull, expresso, hot chocolate...but dont worry the father of the bride brought with him about 90 liters of 2 day old plumb horlika! Each of the five courses that were served were mouth watering. All of the villagers brought with them their tradional cosutmes (see picture) as well as the more modern wedding attire. The first half of the wedding the villagers were dressed in the tradional threads and then all changed to their shirts and ties, dresses and high heals. It was pretty interesting to see the two cultures from Poienile Izei and Timisoara combine. The table I was sitting at was a mix of some younger adults from the village as well as the city. Naturally I offered each person at the table a little horlinka to start the night off, just expecting everyone to say "bottoms up" as they would in the village. Not a single person at the table accepted, even the ones from the village, prefering instead some white wine mixed with sparkling water, Jack Daniels with coca-cola, gin & tonic and there was even one with a some kind of fruit caribean looking drink with a drink umbrella and all! I stayed strong to my village roots and poured my self a shot of horlinka and a glass fo sparkling water to chase it down with. The waiter of my table came up to me and told me that I should go over to the table with all the people dressed in traditional costumes to have a shot because he has already had to refill their craft of horlinka 3 or 4 times in the first 2 hours...apparently the husband of my host family asked if the waiter could just put some horlinka in an empty 2 liter bottle to save all parties involved time and energy! There was a nice mix of music from tradional folk music for the villagers and modern day pop/dance music for the city slickers. It was great to see some of the "suits & ties" getting out there learning some of the traditional folk dances as well as seeing some of the villagers learning some of the more modern day pop dances. At about 3 a.m. the cake came out as well as the gift/envelope box, unioffically ending the weddings festivities. At this point in the morning I was more than fine with the idea of heading back to where we were all staying to get a couple hours of shut eye before climbing in a mini-van for the 8/9 journey home. However, as most of the visitors were saying goodbye and thanking the bride & groom the husband of my host family made a request for a very popular traditional folk song to the band that was playing. Once the first chord was played all that were left, mostly villagers, jumped to there feet and stayed there for another two more hours...we probably would have stayed there all night if it were not for the driver of our bus wanting to leave to get some sleep before driving us back to the village, probably a good idea. I have really made strides of steping out of my "wall flower" no dancing comfort zone since living in the village, I was out there most of the night, stumbling along tring ot keep up with everyone else, but you can not say I did not try...maybe the horlinka has some thing to so with that as well!