The Transylvania Joem: A Young Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania


My Best Memory

Our Close of Service (COS) conference  was two weeks ago. COS explicitly marks the ‘beginning of the end’ of the Peace Corps experience. At this moment, I have less than three months of teaching to complete, and fewer than six months in Romania, overall. Now, more so than ever, I am astonished by how quickly my service has passed. It has felt like a quick moving river of time, distinguishable only by the ‘before’ and ‘afters’ of big events, and the cyclical changes in the seasonal weather from hot to cold and hot again.

Despite suddenly finding myself on the home-stretch, I have noticed that my Peace Corps service can (and continually does) surprise me. Case in point, during COS I was fortunate enough to experience my loveliest memory of, not only my Romanian adventure, but of my life, in its entirety.

COS was in one of Romania’s most beautiful cities– Sibiu. Sibiu was a European capital of culture in 2007, and certainly smacks of some of the ‘big names,’ farther to the west– Prague most immediately comes to mind.

The major high-light of Sibiu is Piata Mare— or the “Large Square.” This square has existed since the beginning of the 15th century, and has always been the historical heart of the town. Late on Tuesday evening, March 14th, I found myself wandering through this square with four of my closest souls. We had just finished a slow dinner in a brick-lined basement, long and narrow with tables squeezed against one side. The waiters wore traditional Romanian outfits, and a flute and accordion player occasionally erupted into cheery song. My four friends and I drank a few tall carafes of warm wine and ate great food, but, most special of all, was the ease in which we interacted with one another. All of our little social barriers were down, and we were enjoying playing and embarrassing ourselves before one another. These are the sort of friends my life is blessed to be lined with.

Now, our appetites extinguished but our thirsts piqued, we climbed out of that basement into the deepening night and found ourselves washed over by the true last snow of the Romanian winter. Heavy, wet flakes blew about and stuck to every single surface, and feathered the tar of our dark jackets.

We came into Piata Mare, and, in a moment of pure genius and inspiration, I bent down and scraped together a snowball from the shivering bricks. I threw it– hard– into the shuffling mob of my four fellows, and PAF!– it erupted onto a shoulder, and suddenly ‘it’ was on.

We giggled and screamed and hucked snow at one another in zig-zags across the square. We all threw hard, and we all threw well. No one escaped untagged. I know that I clearly stopped at one point and thought to myself “how blessed I be,” to have experienced such a thing– and then my reflection was broken by a snowball to the gut and I was back into the fray.

When finally our little hands were too red and wet to go on, we found another basement to sit in– this one a bar called “Old Friends,” where we played turn after turn of “fuck, chuck, or marry,” over a round of coffee which led into a few rounds of beers.

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Memory Loss
March 8, 2010, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Peace Corps Romania | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I woke up last week and couldn’t remember anything I did last Spring.

I closed my eyes and let my violet aura spiral around against the dim, and tried to think of distinct events that had occurred. Slowly, I recalled the big things– my week long “best vacation ever,” into Ukraine, and an extended weekend trip to Iasi with Directoara and Pisto. That was all– it was hardly enough to frame three months of activity. I didn’t feel like I was so busy/overwhelmed that time had ripped by (my most stress-filled time of my service was before Spring, in February).

I came here, to my blog, and glanced over my entries for March, April, and May of 2009. Nothing out of the ordinary happened– really, the entries are fairly banal. A funny misunderstanding in the teacher’s lounge, a beautiful afternoon hike to what eventually became my favorite place on the half-mountain behind my site, and lazy weekend afternoons focused on food and friends. There was nothing extraordinary, or life-rattling.

That sort of ‘ordinary stuff,’ seemed to be consistent throughout my first Romanian Spring. In addition, the only other pattern I perceive is that I spent a ton of time outside. I love the outdoors, and was eager to shed my winter layers of wool and explode out into the bloom of Romanian sunshine. Maybe it was that state of pastoral intoxication that helped blur the time.

More likely, however, life passed easily because of that mundaneness earlier mentioned. Come Spring, I had been in Romania for about a year. I had developed a stable comfort level, and my life had developed distinct patterns and frequencies. To that effect, not every moment felt completely novel and uncertain– rather, I was able to coast a little bit and focus on the simpler, smaller things– wind in leaves, exploding wild flowers, and embedding sun into my skin.

Last year I felt comfortable– this year I feel adored. Hence, I could presume that this second Spring will pass with even less tug than the first. The week that the weather warms into a stable state conducive to my being outdoors, then I’m sure away I (and these last 6 months) will go.