Sunday, March 18, 2007
This weekend, a bunch of us decided that we needed to get out of the city and see some real sites in Romania that we have wanted to see for weeks but have not gotten a chance to. So, we headed up the valley to Sinaia, a little resort town with an old Romanian castle and plenty of hiking and fresh air in the mountains. Sinaia was amazing, and for the first time I felt like I was really in Romania. Nothing against Ploiesti or Bucharest, but they are really just cities, and all cities are alike in a lot of ways. Luckily, all resort towns in the mountains are alike in a lot of ways too, so that boded well for Sinaia. We first walked around the town a little bit and checked out the local street vendors. We went to an old Orthodox church and visited a monostary in the town, which was amazing. The churches here are all very intricately painted and beautiful, and there is just something that is so much more holy about an old dark church than any clean protestant church in the suburbs. Anyway, after that we headed out to Peles Castle, considered one of the best in Europe. It was the vacation home of the Romanian royal family until World War 2, and it is set with an amazing backdrop of mountains in the forest. After the castle we hiked up to 1400 meters a the base of the ski slopes. It was a fun and beautiful climb up through the forest, and the view from up there was awesome. We could have paid 5 lei (a little more than two dollars) for a ride up in a maxitaxi, or we could have taken the gondola for a lot more, but who would want to do that when you can hike? Anyway, we hiked back down, stopped in at an Irish Pub for a quick salute to St. Patrick's day, and took the night train back to Ploiesti.
Monday, March 12, 2007
So yesterday we took our first trip out of Ploiesti to Bucharest and to watch our first European soccer match, the Bucharest Rapid vs. UTA. Rapid won 4-0 and it was awesome. We also walked around the city a little bit and saw the Palace of Parliament, the second biggest building in the world (after the Pentagon). Bucharest is a very nice city, the Paris of the East as they call it, and the cherry trees there are starting to blossom. In a few weeks it will be beautiful with the fountains flowing and everything. Guess we will have to go back! Anyway, here are some more recent pictures of what is going on with me here in Romania. The first picture is by the train station here in Ploiesti. Then there is us on a train back from Bucharest, a few volunteers in central Bucharest, the soccer match, and finally me in front of the Palace of Parliament with a Dacia (the national car company of Romania) behind me. Interesting stuff, huh?
Saturday, March 10, 2007
So, it has been a while since my last post and I thought I would throw another one up here. Sorry I don't have new pictures to share at this time, but I will try to get some up soon. I have been here at our pre-service training learning all about the Romanian language and the "Peace Corps approach to Development". It has all been going very well. The language is challenging, but also very rewarding, so even though I spend hours studying it, I don't find it as much of a chore as I thought I would. Immersion is definitely a helper when it comes to learning languages. We have been working on a practicum project here in Ploiesti to prepare us for projects once we get to our site and give us some experience in how to carry out a project in Romania. We were broken out into groups and went out to sites around town to develop and work on various projects. Myself and another volunteer have been working with the environmental office in the mayor's office here in town. We are working on a project in conjunction with the UNESCO (United Nations Economic and Social Council) "world water day" on March 22nd. We are going to distribute a survey to residents of the city to see how they feel about water scarcity and conservation, and then report back to the mayor's office. Then we will help develop a pamphlet and an event to educate the people around here about water issues that the town as a whole faces, which most people seem to not be aware of. It is a very interesting project, and I think we will learn a lot by doing it about how Romanians feel and what direction the country is moving. It is exciting work to be doing. Anyway, we are two weeks into training (20% done) and we will find out our site placements for the next two years in three weeks, so that will be very exciting. It is all good, but there is so much to take in it just leaves you exhausted every day. I am still in that initial stage of adjusting and excitement, for sure, but I think it is starting to wear off and I am starting to settle in here in my new home of Romania. Pa pa for now!