Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fan Fest/ Rosia Montana Part Doi

A couple of weeks ago, I returned to Rosia Montana, in the Apuseni Mountains, for an event called FanFest (Actually pronounced "fuun fest", but I don't have that Romanian letter on my keyboard. My mother actually alerted me to a PBS program which aired about two weeks before the festival about Rosia Montana. It seems to be a pretty fairhanded take on the situation up there, and if you want to check it out, I believe you can view it at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/shows/romania/index.html. Oddly enough, living right here near the site, I cannot view the show with my European IP address, but I think in the US that it should be possible. I went there with my organization up there to promote our system of greenways in the Apuseni to the thousands of people there to listen to music and such. It was a great time, with lots of good music, Ursus beer, and mici. Following our visit to Fanfest, we went to our cabana at a place called Cheia in the mountains, to do some repairs and spend the week out of the city. It was quite relaxing, and good to get some hiking in. We went mushroom hunting in the forest (supposedly the best mushrooms in Europe come from Romania) and saw some of the countryside. It was overall a good week. To get to the bus to take us back into the city, we had to experience - not hike 6 km, part of which was actually in the river, which was interesting. Then, we actually missed the bus that would have taken us to the train station. So, we had to hitchike or walk another 18 km into the city. Well, we were lucky and a man in a truck stopped and picked us all up. A genuine Peace Corpsexactly a rarity in Romania, but not an everyday event either! Anyway, it was a fun experience, and I got to see some more of the beautiful mountains around here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


A few weeks ago, I went with my lovely Romanian tutor Alexandra to her family's house in the country near Bistrita (pronounced Bis-trits-a). Anyone who has ever read Bram Stoker's Dracula will know it by it's German name, Bistritz. It was a nice place to go and see the Romanian countryside. We had a nice weekend of climbing cherry trees, making hay stacks, drinking traditional Romanian alcohol (palenka and visine), and generally just relaxing for the weekend. We also had fresh milk, homemade cheese, and delicious homemade sour cream (smantana). We drove out into the mountains and saw some of the local sites, such as a lake and the Hotel Castle Dracula. Anyway, here are some pictures.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some Traditional Romanian Things

We were working on our tourist info center in the Apuseni Mountains a few weeks ago, and it is attached to a museum of traditional Romanian things. I thought I would put up a few pictures to show what Romanians used to wear and use and such. And also, a picture of the info center itself. We then ate dinner with a family out there, frying up the meat over a fire, which was very interesting.

Rosia Montana

In mid-June, we went for the weekend to Rosia Montana, a very old and famous mining town in the Apuseni Mountains. Currently it is a very controversial place, and much discussed in Romania. It has been a mining town since Roman times, and is one of the oldest occupied places in all of Romania. You can even visit Roman mine there that is 1000 years old. Throughout the communist period it was mined by the Romanian government, but that mine closed down a couple of years ago. Now, a Canadian corporation is planning to build the largest cyanide mine in Europe there, which will displace most of the population of the town. I suppose I am a bit one-sided about this, because my organization is working on environmental issues in the area, but many people are concerned about cyanide in the water, especially because from here it could potentially flow into Hungary and down the Danube. Anyway, there is a lot of information out there about this, if you go to Rosiamontana.org there is a bunch of information. Anyway, visiting the site was a very nice experience, and also a sad one. Lots of poverty exists there and the people don't know who to turn to or who to trust, it seems. The company offers them jobs and some economic support, but also wants them to leave their town and move centuries-old churches and cemataries. Some organizations are working on eco-tourism, but that clearly is not as lucrative as gold mining. A very difficult spot for the people of Rosia Montana. Luckily, they get to live in a beautiful place, for now.

Time for an Update!

Hey, I apologize for not updating this thing for so long. I wish I could say that I have been super busy, but the real truth is that once I got my own internet connection, I lost all discipline about updating it. Suddenly there was no hurry to do new posts or anything because there was no rush or anything to do them. Anyway, I have been doing some stuff for the past two months or so since I have lived in Cluj-Napoca, and the following few posts will hopefully catch up. Anyway, sorry for taking so long, to anyone who is still checking here for any updates about what I have been up to. Here are some pictures of a natural reserve that my organization has custody over, and that we visited a few weeks ago.

Monday, May 14, 2007

First Week in Cluj-Napoca

Well, here I am in Cluj-Napoca, my new home town. I have been here for one very eventful week in the historic capital of Transylvania. (I just discovered, by the way, that this city is mentioned on the first page of Dracula by Bram Stoker, only then it was a German city called Claussenberg - cool huh?) I have been meeting new people pretty much every day and getting to know the city. It is a big city, the third biggest in the country, and a very important city on Romania. It is also the best and most fun city in the country, in my humble opinion - but don't trust me - ask around and people will say the same thing. I think it has something to do with the huge college scene here and all the fun things to do. Robert Kaplan says in Balkan Ghosts that "There is no city in all of the Balkans quite so entrancing as Cluj". Anyway, enough hyping of the city. I moved here last Sunday from Ploiesti with all of my stuff along with five other Peace Corps volunteers (in the same compartment, no less). I moved in with my second host family, and I then spent the week getting to know some of the other volunteers here, several members of my organization, and just generally getting to know the city. So far, I love it. It may just be the most fun city I have ever lived in, which is saying something because Fort Collins was pretty awesome. However, there is three times as many college students here and an old-world European atmosphere that just can't be compared to anything in the states. Anyway, here are some pictures from the train ride and from around Cluj.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

It's Official!

I am now an official Peace Corps volunteer. We ended our ten week training period yesterday and rasied our right hand to take the oath as volunteers. It was very impressive with a ceremony at a theatre here in Ploiesti. Our country director was there along with the mayor of Ploiesti and the American ambassador to Romania. The ambassador did the swearing in, and then we had a reception afterwards. So, now the training is done, time to get to work! We had a big celebratory party last night, our last time all together for the next six months. It was all a lot of fun. So tomorrow, I will hop on a train with all of my stuff and move to Cluj. There, I will live with another host family for one month, and then move into my own place. I will just be happy when I can stop having to pack all of my stuff up and move it every few weeks! It is odd, there is not much exciting about Ploiesti, but now it feels like home. We know where everything is, and we can get around well. I didn't think I would be sad to leave it, but I kind of am. Of course, I will miss my current host parents a lot as well, so I will have to come back and visit before to long. It is such an odd experience though, that we all go through in the Peace Corps. We met a new group of friends ten weeks ago, spent every day with them since, bonded, got really close, and now we are going to be spread all across this relatively large country. So, we are left to start all over getting to know a new city, develop a new group of friends, and try to figure out what is happening around us. It is just kind of hard to describe stuff like this to anyone unless they have been through a similar experience of rapid change in their life. Anyway, asta este. I need to pack all of my stuff up (again) and get ready to go. Cluj-Napoca awaits!