Thursday, April 19, 2007


So I just received the finalized dates for my orientation and departure. My Orientation is in Philidelphia on May 15th. I scheduled a flight from Hartford, leaving at 9:30am that day. I'll arrive in Philly at 10:45, which will leave me plenty of time to get to the hotel and check in.

Registration for the orientation is from 1:30 to 3:00pm. So I'll have some free time to poke around, get a bite, and perhaps visit with some friends beforehand (Jimmy, are you reading this?). Then, the program starts at 3:00pm.

On the 17th, after a day and a half of exercises, activities and informational sessions, we'll leave as a group for NYC. This is the thing I don't understand. If our overseas flight departs from NYC, why not have the orientation in NYC? In any case, we'll be taking a bus from Philly to New York. Our flight leaves from JFK at 6:05pm. We'll be flying to Frankfurt, arriving at 8:00am, and continuing on to Bucharest by 5:25 pm. With 9 hours in Frankfurt, I really don't want to stay in the airport for the whole time. When I conjure images of hell, being stuck in an airport for 9 hours is one thing that comes to mind. Suffice to say I dislike airports.

So we'll arrive in Bucharest on the 18th, which will essentially be the beginning of "training." I don't know yet in what city our training will be, but rumor has it that we'll be in Ploiesti (pronounced ploy-yesht). The training program will last for three months, in which time we will learn the language, become aquainted to Romanian culture, and learn the basics of teaching English. During this three-month period, each trainee will live with a Romanian host family. That's something I'm really looking forward to. It should be quite an experience, and a great way to pick up the language. After training is finished, each volunteer will be assigned a post at a specific school in a specific city. There we will stay to live and work for the remainder of our service, which ends July, 2009.


On a side note: last weekend it poured like crazy here, so I took some time to do a practice packing session. I packed nearly everything on my packing list into two bags. I used one of my dad's old army duffel bags and my 5,000 cubic inch internal framepack. I stuffed the duffel bag with as many clothes as I could, and it came out to be 36 pounds. I put everything else into the backpack, which totalled 28 lbs, with a little bit of space to spare. I think with my second trial run I'll try using vacuum bags on some of the clothes I won't need right away. That should save some space, and hopefully the bags won't be too awkwardly shaped to stuff in the duffel. At this point I'm leaning toward using my laptop bag as my carry-on.

If any of you are interested to know how I've been spending my time before departure, I'll tell you. For the most part I've been working. I work for a builder here in Higganum, Doug. I've actually been working for him for a while. I started working for him during my summer breaks in college, and after graduation I decided to stay with him until I left for Romania. He's the coolest boss (in fact, I consider him a good friend more than anything. He actually lives down the street and has always been my hiking, skiing, sailing and scuba buddy). Doug's been really supportive of my decision to join the Peace Corps. I just told him I'll be working for two more weeks, and then I'm going to use my remaining time to get my marbles in a bag prior to departure. He's just starting to build a new house, so he'll probably be in the middle of framing when I leave. I've learned a lot working for him, stuff that will probably serve me well when I own a house of my own. I'll definitely miss that job, but it's time to move on. I don't want to swing a hammer all my life.

Just a few weeks ago my parents and I went to Arizona to visit my brother Gary, his wife Susan, and their two-month old daughter Aubrey. My Aunt Anita and her husband Pitt came in from San Diego to visit too. It was nice to get in some quality family time and say some goodbyes, and it was especially nice to see my new niece before going overseas.

In two days I'll be setting out to do a section of the Appalachian trail with my buddies Kevin and Jeff. It seems every time I go backpacking, its on the AT. I've always wanted to do the Long Trail in VT, but I guess that'll have to wait unitl I return. In any case we'll start out near Bear Mtn. in CT and head up to Mt. Everett in Massachusetts. It's only about 16 miles. Hopefully my left knee won't complain too much. I sprained it about a month ago skiing down an insanely steep run, speeding along just recklessly enough to plant a foot in the snow and twist my whole lower leg sideways as the rest of my body continued forward. There was a loud pop and I promptly fell over (this only a few months after recovering from a sprained ankle on the same leg. Apparently my left leg is not the lucky one). I thought it was really bad. But fortunately, I was able to ski the rest of the day. At the end of the day, however, walking was more of a chore than usual. The pain really caught up with me over the next couple days, but I went to work anyway...which probably wasn't too smart (considering we were cutting down trees and hauling logs). I was able to deal with it; surprisingly, and very lucky for me, it didn't swell at all. At any rate, such injuries really make you realize how much you take for granted even the simplest things, like walking. My knee is much better at this point, and I think I'm ready to give it a go again. Ironically enough, the destination of our hike is very near where I sprained my knee in the first place. Eerie, eh? (cue creepy theremin sound effects: "oooooo-weeee-ooooo")

For the weekend following my hike in the Berkshires, I'll be heading Pennsylvania to visit my Aunts and cousins on my dad's side. And the weekend following that I'll be in Maine to visit my cousin David and his wife and kids. Dave taps maple trees and makes his own syrup. I don't know how the screwy weather this spring has affected sap production, but I'm sure I'll find out when I go up there. I'd also like to go to Fall River, MA to see members of my mother's side of the family. I'll probably do that after I finish work. It may very well be the last time I see Uncle Jake...

Uh oh, I just looked at the clock. It's late. I've probably rambled long enough...

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Country of Extremes

Romania is certainly a country in transition. After many years of authoritarian rule, it's still trying to get out from under its Communist shadow. The country's acession into the EU is a sign that major changes have already occured in Romania since 1989, and is a tribute to Romania's great promise. But, there are still considerable strides to be made. The EU is putting pressure on Romania to strengthen the country's economy, improve health standards and streamline the government (among other things). All of this may seem a good thing, but the stresses caused by EU policies are certainly causing mixed results. Like I said, Romania is in a period of transition, and it's certainly too soon to make any assessments of its progress. In any case, policies are starting to trickle down from Brussels; it will be interesting to see how they affect the Romanian way of life over the coming years.

There is quite a large discrepancy in American society between the so-called "middle class" and everyone else. And, although I don't have any first-hand experience of it yet, I've heard that Romanian society suffers from even greater inequality. While areas like Bucharest may be pushing forward and developing quickly, smaller villages (where the way of life hasn't changed in perhaps centuries) seem to get lost in the tumult. In the cities you may see the newsest cars and most fashionable clothing, while surrounding areas may lack electricity or even motorized vehicles. This is why I say Romania is a country of extremes. Of course it's impossible for change to occur everywhere uniformly. But the transition must be especially hard for areas that have done things the same way for countless generations. I mean, there is something to the old addage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But then again, sometimes if you don't "fix" it, it becomes hopelessly obsolete. I suppose this is the same conundrum any developing country faces--go with the trend (at the risk of losing your heritage), or be left beind. Given the pros and cons of each, I sometimes wonder which option is the best.

Here are some recent articles you may find interesting:

** Romania's Shepherds Wrestle With EU Norms

** Romania's on the Rise

** Romania's stormy welcome to the European Club

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

New Yahoo Group

The Romania country desk informed me that they will not be circulating a contact list for members of Group 23. They usually do, but decided not to this time (perhaps because they're still accepting invitations and haven't compiled a complete list yet). So, since members of group 23 will not be able to contact each other via email, I started a Yahoo Group as an alternative for keeping in touch. Unfortunately, I have no way of notifying everyone in Group 23 of the Yahoo page, but hoepfully those searching for a way to connect will stumble upon it.

For those of you in Group 23 reading here, you can find the group at

Those of you reading who are currently serving (or have served) in Romania are also welcome to join (your wisdom is always appreciated).

I'm quite surprised how this blog, even only after three weeks on the net, has been a place for people to come together. I've already been contacted by two PCVs in Romania and three people in Group 23. Pretty cool. I hope the Yahoo Group will serve as a way for us to network even further.