Thursday, March 11, 2010

Doings of late and a bit of venting

I've not been able to write in my journal of late, and in a way I feel like I've been looking in anyways with the ever changing schedule I keep.

I had a good week and want to share. Being in Peace Corps, I have lots of leeway to define my schedule. At times, I pressure myself to be busy, busy, busy. I think to myself: I could be doing more ECO Clubs, I could be taking on more English courses, I could be visiting the village outside town and the hospital. It's something of a habit of mine: putting too much on my plate. But, motivation runs everything and I'm not a TEFL volunteer (Teaching English as a Second Language) so, why overburden myself with classes? I get to define my schedule, so why not use this to my benefit!

Many of my in the works projects are bearing fruit. This presentation at the American Corner Library fulfilled a long term goal. While in Cluj, I had lots of time with Sean, my former site mate. We ate Indian food he'd prepared, went to interesting coffee shops, and met up with other volunteers and friends. One night we met up at a mansion with many Americans. An interesting mix! Gays and Christians! At the clubs were groups of foreign volunteers. Being overseas you come into contact with all kinds of interesting groups - and our foreignness brings us together. I've never met so many Christians - American included - since coming out here. I've met Mormons, Pentecostals, visiting groups of Baptists and more. Not having known many Pentecostals and 'Non-demoninationals' before, I had only media stereotypes to work off of - and the stereotypes (as they often tend to be) were more negative then positive. I'm a bit embarrassed I've had so little contact before now.

So, while in Cluj I was able to visit the Gay Club. Nearly empty! But this allowed me time to finish a play I'd written and am now directing for a high school drama competition! I met today for the third time with my high school troupe and it's been lots of fun. It's really a great opportunity.

I had some great classes this week - out at the church and with the kindergartens. I envisioned a project to fund for the church. I work mostly with a woman named Carmen there. I've been training her to teach English. The kids are all very poor but very cute. Their community is very lucky for their Church. Their ministry is really alive - feeding the kids, giving after school programs, bible study, opportunity to learn instruments, sing, etc. These kids home lives are often very difficult. I'm lucky that I can help them with English. Kids without means to have a private tutor at home quickly fall behind here. So, starting them early and giving the teenagers extra help is important.

The Church driveway is mud and the backyard is also sticky mud. There are some pitiful looking play equipment there. I'm hoping we can get that backyard paved. Asking how much it would cost, Carmen estimated about 500 lei. It's not a large yard - about 10 x 8 yards. 500 lei is about 300 dollars. The driveway would be about double that. So, for about 700/800 dollars we could get the back and the driveway paved. This would save on cleaning when kids come and provide a place to play. Right now the community has no paved place to play. The bathroom is an outhouse with no lights. Carmen said they'd need tiles. I've really taken to the kids and to Carmen who is a real saint for the work she does there. I too, tutor Sergio the church's pastor in English and he too is a great guy. I hope I can help them. I'd love to leave the church with a finished play space and a properly outfitted bathroom.

It's an interesting contrast here. I work with these hyper fluent (in English) middle class teenagers in town, and then there's kids and adults who go through the dumpsters down my street. Teenagers who don't know how to spell their name. And they live in the same neighborhood as teenagers who can put computers together, dress fashionably, and will be successful college graduates: engineers, computer technicians, etc.

I'm happy for being part of the church to have some positive constructive contact with poor people and Gypsies (Roma) in particular. I have all but given up trying to educate my friend about stereotypes and simply settled to saying: 'Don't say it around me.'

Last night, her 5 year old teased us calling us: 'Gypsies!' I can't stand to hear this kid being taught this is okay. She explained to me: when he doesn't want to go to school I tell him: 'do you want to be one of those kids who goes through the garbage can? Those uneducated kids?' She (and almost everyone) constantly say things: 'Don't talk with your mouthful like a Gypsy.' 'I was all dirty, like a Gypsy.' 'I stole this thing from you, like a Gypsy.'

Such things are said with Gypsy friends around. My friend who makes such comments has a Gypsy colleague and Roma students. She doesn't go out of her way to be mean to anyone and there's one student of hers who she'll give food and odd jobs to. But then, she'll turn around and say: 'I think if I was a Gypsy and I married a Romanian, I would be proud.' (And if the marriage were to another Gypsy, this would not also be worthy of pride?)

This friend of mine is great in countless ways, is my best friend here in town, feeds me and my friends, is a good mother, is a great person. But hers and Romania's racism drives me absolutely crazy. Being in a different country, another culture really forces you to be open-minded and to fight judging others. Racism everywhere is ugly. Racists can be good people. Roma People have to be the ones to change and direct their destiny first. Their movement is very young. to simply leave it to God.

So, after Cluj I had a great time with my meditation circle with friends Sorin and Adriana. Also in attendance - good friend Juba (Hungarian) and Carolyn (American.) I took a ride with Juba from Cluj. When I arrived at his place, I got the Romanian treatment. First was some bread and cheese and jelly which I filled up on not having breakfast. Then came soup. (uh-oh!) Already full and I'm at the beginning of a 3 course meal! This isn't the first time this has happened to me. But really! Would you ever drop in on someone unexpectedly and find yourself being treated to a three course meal of homemade food? This is the kind of thing I'll so miss of course with my friends who are for me, the face of Romania.

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