Thursday, November 8, 2007

Today was my birthday!

So, the Orthodox calendar has various Saint's days. Today was the day of St. Michael and St. Gabriel (Ziua Sfantului Mihail, Gavriel). Such days are cause for celebration for people who share thier name with the saint. It's rather a big deal.

So, since my name is Michael, it was my day to "be a saint," along with all the other Mihai's, Mihaela's, Gabriel's and Gabriela's at the school. But, unlike in the States, when the celebration is in your honor, it's customary for you to be the one to give gifts or buy drinks. So, I brought in a box of pastries to share with my collegues in the English department. One of my fellow teachers, Mihaela, gave me a jar of home-made quince-jelly.

Later on, during one of the breaks between classes, pizza was served in the teachers' room. Nearly all the teachers were present. There were many cheers of "noroc!" which means good luck, and "la multi ani!" which means to many years. Anyone named Mihai, Gabriela, etc. was smothered with hugs and kisses. There wasn't any mirror nearby to check, but I'm sure my cheeks were smeared with lipstick by the time it was all over.

While we were eating pizza, the bell rang. Technically we were supposed to go off to class, but no one heeded the call. One teacher said to me, "don't mind the bell. It's your day; take a moment to enjoy it." However, people did slowly start trickling off to their respective classes. I'm sure the kids didn't mind the absences of their teachers too much...

In the next break, I was again delayed in getting to class. I was about to rush off when one of the teachers asked me to wait in the Language teachers' office. I knew something was up, when the rest of the language teachers suddenly swarmed into the room. Mr. Barboni, the head of the English department (they call him Shakespeare because of his countenance) gave me a present from all the teachers. It was a mug that said, "even in Hell a gentlemen remains a gentleman." On the other side of it was a picture of a man sitting in a boiling cauldron wearing a monacle and a bow-tie, smoking a cigar and sipping a martini.

The joke is that Romania is a hell-hole, but somehow we all manage to keep our heads. Romania is not in fact a hell-hole, but Romanians tend to have a somewhat pessimistic, self-depricating, but light-hearted sense of humor. For example, if a train is late, someone might say, "What did you expect? This is Romania after all..."

I'm learning to appreciate the sublties of Romanian sarcasm. And, what is more, I now have a proper mug for my tea!

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