I recently wrote a farewell letter to the town of Lugoj and sent it in to Redesteptarea, the local newspaper. Here's what I said:
School is over and my time here in Romania is quickly coming to a close. Unfortunately, I won’t be teaching English at Brediceanu next year. It is amazing how fast the past two years have gone! I can remember my arrival in Lugoj like it was yesterday. However, now it’s time for me to go home, to see family and friends, and return to the life that I left behind in the States.
Living here for the past two years, I’ve had opportunities to see and experience things that I would have never had anywhere else. I’ve met people that have become a big part of my life, and will remain my friends long after I leave. Above all, I’ve made numerous lasting memories, and even if I have to leave, I can always fondly remember my time here with friends, colleagues and students.
As one might expect, after living in Lugoj for 28 months, the town has become like a second home for me, which makes it all the harder to leave. Even while living abroad for such an extended period hasn’t always been easy, I’ve really enjoyed the experience.
I’ve learnt so much about Romania, its people, landscape, food, and culture. Two years ago, if someone had asked me what sarmale were, I wouldn’t have had a clue. I wouldn’t have had any conception of the beauty of the Carpathian Mountains, or the grandeur of the Danube. I wouldn’t have known about Banat’s long, rich history. I’ve come to discover all these things and so much more.
I’ve also learned quite a lot about everyday life in Romania, the good things and the bad. For example, I’ve had to deal with Romanian bureaucracy on more than one occasion, I’ve seen signs of corruption, witnessed how people trash nature, and I’ve become quite acquainted with just how bad roads can be. Romania, like anywhere, has its problems, and even while my experience here has been difficult at times, there have been countless happy moments. Moments like my first Christmas in Romania, when many of my friends and colleagues invited me into their homes and made me feel so welcome. I’ll also never forget last summer when a good friend took me to the village to teach me the ancient traditions of making hay and distilling tuica. Above all, I’ll always cherish the moments I had with my wonderful students. I’ll miss them, and I wish them all the best in the future!
I came here as a volunteer not only because I wanted to experience another part of the world and learn about a different culture, but also because I wanted to do something good for others. People often ask me, ‘Why would you be a volunteer? You don’t make any money!’ or, ‘Isn’t it hard to leave home for such a long time?’ And while, yes, it has been difficult to be away from my family for 2 years, and I haven’t made much money, the most important thing for me has always been the experience itself.
Volunteerism is perhaps more common in American culture than it is in Romania. It’s something that I’ve been doing ever since high school, and will probably continue for the rest of my life. For me, it’s important to be involved in society at large, to do something for the community in which I live. Volunteering is a great way to achieve these things. After all, a volunteer does his work not for himself, but to help others. This concept is an essential part of the ‘American spirit.’ But, I don’t think volunteering is something specific only to Americans; my students here have demonstrated to me a great desire to do good. I hope they foster that, and continue to act on it as they grow to become productive members of society.
I leave Lugoj on 28 August. It honestly pains me to go, but I won’t be gone forever. I promise to come back for a visit. I thank the town of Lugoj for everything it has shown me, taught me and given me. It’s been a great run. Farewell to all those who made it so!