The Transylvania Joem: A Young Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania


Sprint to the Finish

Run, Joem. Run.

I am mid-sprint through the very end of my Peace Corps service. Here’s the brief break-down:

I went camping and took an epic 8 hour hike with Harlem, Morrison, and Miner. We drank cherry liqueur, broke teeth, waded freezing rivers, navigated dense fog, caught 14 trout and collected 3 bags of mushrooms, jaw-dropped beautiful scenery, chased sheep, smiled.

The next morning (at 4AM) I trained down south to spend two days with Pisto and Directoara, at their country home. I guzzled all of the home-made wine and garden-ripened tomatoes that one person possibly could. Bulging and buzzed were the best things to be.

I went back home for four hours, and then immediately took another train to Brasov, to play all day with a few of the beautiful, young souls I met at my Retezat camp about 6 weeks ago. All of those train trips constituted about 1300 kilometers in 4 days (and a bunch of cramped, terrible train-naps).

I was home one full day before I participated in my last Romanian wedding. In attendance were some sparse Americans from Alaska, a score of Bulgarians from the American University, in Sofia, and a slew of Romanians– and they brought the party. And the party was rocked. And I was way-whisky drunk and sweat-soaked and it was all so wonderful.

Yesterday was St. Maria’s day, so I munched all afternoon in Morrison and Petra’s garden. Come nightfall, Miner and I partook in one of our favorite activites– watching illegally acquired blockbuster films, fresh released. Ever seen THE EXPENDABLES in only Russian? We have.

Tonight I’m going to a birthday dinner at Leddy’s.
And the following few days are filled with coffee/juice dates, packing and, of course, home-cooked meals.

I recently relayed my schedule to my former Country Director, kg. And he said:

“(It’s) very tough to watch the days slip away, but it is indeed great to see you are sprinting to the finish. There’s no other way to go.”

So, sprinting I go.

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La Reducere

I have a weakness for good denim.
I admit it. Before I came to Romania, I spent over $600 dollars on three pairs of jeans. Despite this, I don’t really consider myself a big ‘brand-name,’ guy. I’ll take anything from a second hand-shop (except underwear): jackets, boots, t-shirts, shorts, sheets, even towels. Thankfully, Romanian second-hand stores usually carry great gear, for cheap. However, resist as I might, I always find myself browsing the racks of expensive, well-sown, tight-cut jeans at expensive stores in bigger cities. Every time, however, I have escaped without buying a single pair.

My unblemished record was ruined today.
I was on a weekend ‘excursion,’ with a handful of my 6th and 7th graders. I did the same trip in early April with students from the nearby Industrial High School, and went for a repeat with the same professor of history, Einstein. I had a more clearly defined ‘chaperone’ role this time around, but I still really enjoyed myself and found plenty of full moments to write some more smile lines.

And I even found alone time to shop.
I wandered into New Yorker— a sort of European styled Urban Outfitters meets Pac Sun. I found a couple of great pairs of jeans on sale for 90 RON each– like 30 bucks. I wasn’t planning on buying any more clothes before I was back state-side, but I figured it’s better to buy a few good pairs here, for cheap, than to spend the ostentatious amounts that I most certainly would back in America 45 days from now.

My name is Joem, and I am an addict.
I walked into my apartment after 72 hours away. Along with my jeans, I was carrying a fresh-baked loaf of wheat bread, and various veggies. I had feta and farm-fresh eggs in my fridge. I was stoked to make a scramble. I went to light my stove and was devastated by the sudden memory of luke-warm coffee early on Friday morning.

My gas bottle was empty.
I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and moped around the apartment a little. I resolved to call Morrison, my rad landlord, although I assumed I would have to go without warm food for at least the next day. I beeped Morrison and he called me back a few minutes later. Happily, he told me he would be over later in the evening and we would go fill up my gas bottle together. See, I’d do it myself but I don’t have the proper tools, nor do I have a car to lug the empty (and then much heavier when full) bottle the multiple blocks to the place we ‘load’ the bottle. Morrison told me that we had to wait until it was late. I asked why.

“Because it’s not exactly legal,” he said.
Morrison and I go to a place that’s supposed to be for commercial vehicles only. I’m not sure what sort of deal Morrison has made with the guys who work there late night, but he always gets his gas bottles filled there, and it’s dirt cheap. Before I met Morrison, I had to pay about 45-50 RON to get my gas bottle filled. Now, I pay a little over half of that.

It was a good day to get things “la reducere.”