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September 2016

Road to Romania: My First Thoughts   (published in Romania)

September 20, 2016 by   Comments(1)

I have a natural state before I am about to experience something new: anxiety. The day before a new school year starts, the night before a big presentation is made, or even on the cusp of branching away from home, I always feel a churning in the pit of my stomach that will not ease. I felt it when I decided not to go to college right after graduation. I felt it when my friends started to leave me behind, and I was wondering if I had made a mistake. I felt it whenever any of my family members inquired about my plans for the next year, why I chose Romania, how I was going to live in a country where I knew no one and could not speak the language, etc. etc. And I especially felt it when I realized that I bargained for more independence than I have ever had in my life. And then I got here. 

I have been in Romania for a grand total of 38 hours now, and to my surprise, I am as relaxed as if I were at home in my own room. I'm not sure when the churning stopped, but I believe it must have been somewhere between brisk walk around the gargantuan Frankfurt airport and my victorious pass through customs in Bucharest. It is still surreal to me, how easy it was to feel at home in a place I had never been before. Then I started to notice things about the country. Driving from the airport to my home stay in Brasov (about 3 hours), I saw how abruptly areas of agriculture and modesty evolved into quaint, thriving towns. The only dynamic that is comparable in my experience is traveling from midtown Memphis to the run-down areas in the south of the city. My driver Alex and I hit it off right away, which was a relief because (a) he spoke English and (b) I hadn't had a conversation with anyone who wasn't an airport official. We talked about music (he had classic rock blaring, so I couldn't help but have my interest picqued-shoutout to dad!), America (I was the first American he's ever met) vs. Romania, the places we've been, his life as a driver, and countless other things. I was so amazed at the flow of our conversation, with the Transylvanian mountains looming in the distance and the countryside zooming by, that I had no idea how quickly the journey would end. We finally reached Brasov, and I said goodbye to the first Romanian I had ever met. 

Brasov is something of an enigma. It's as though an artist decided to craft a village in the side of a mountain, but halfway through he changed it to a bustling metropolis. My stop was in a beautiful, almost villa-like home in the center of the city. My host family was a gracious elderly couple, who didn't speak English, but who were welcoming in every way (lots of hand gestures). I wish I could remember their names, but in all honesty, I had been awake for over a day and the only thoughts on my mind were a hot shower and a warm bed. I was offered both, fortunately, but not until I had a meal of soup, chicken tenders, tomato and cucumber saiad, and fries. I mean a lot of fries. Way too many fries for one person. But, I was grateful all the same. I finally dropped off to sleep, after a long day of travel, and prepared to set off in the morning for my final destination: Cluj-Napoca.

I awoke to a chilly, early morning (I'm learning that it will be winter sooner rather than later here) and some toast. My taxi for the train station arrived, and my host "mother" kindly gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek farewell.  I met Damian, a member of the Projects Abroad team, who was a little flustered because we were running a little behind schedule, but still very warm and accepting to me. We raced to my station and arrived just in time, with a lot of speed and I suspect foul-mouthedness on Damian's part (I don't speak Romanian, but I know frustration when I see it) and I set off on an 8 hour train to get to Cluj.

I was a little put off by the amount of traveling in such a small period of time (you can only take so much motion sickness), but Cluj is definitely worth the wait. It is the most gorgeous place I have seen so far, and is quite vibrant with shops, museums, and restaurants. I was told it is the center of student life, as the universities are most densely populated here. As soon as I got off the train, i was greeted by a friendly woman named Andreea, who immediately led me to a car where her sister and mother were parked waiting. Andreea and I got to know each other a bit, and I learned she had just finsihed her PhD in archaeology and had started with Projects Abroad a few months ago. She told me she had met students from all over the world-from Singapore to Yemen to Canada, but I am only the second American she's worked with. After some traffic (rush hour), we reached the apartment where I will be staying by myself for the duration of my 6 weeks here. Andreea showed me all of the necessities (outlets, bed, washing machine, kitchen, bathroom, etc.), and we headed straight back out to purchase international adapters (good thing I realized mine were wrong early) and exchange my U.S. dollars for lei, the Romanian currency. We grabbed dinner at a nearby open-area restaurant (pizza for me, ironically), and her friend Olympia joined us later on. The portions here are ridiculously large, so we sat there for quite some time, becoming acquainted with each other (Andreea and Olympia went to college together). At one point, I said thank you to the waitress in Romanian (multsemesc is the word) and Olympia said my pronunciation was so spot on she almost started speaking in her native language because she forgot I was American for a moment! So if that's not a confidence boost, I don't know what is! We said la revedere (reh-veh-deh-ray) to Olympia, and headed back to the apartment around 9:30 PM. Andreea and I established a work schedule starting the next day, and after she left, I emptied my suitcase and tried to tell my body that it was nighttime in another country. 

It has been a long past few days, but I am excited for what lies ahead! I can't wait to explore this city, and to finally get to become a mock archaeologist! 

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Road to Romania: My First Thoughtshttps://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/lanasinger18/read/425627/road-to-romania-my-first-thoughts
Road to Romania: My First Thoughts
 

The Real Face of Romania written by Camille Gallet, France   (published in Romania)

September 12, 2016 by   Comments(0)

When I announced to my friends I was going for two weeks in Romania, they all said me approximately the same things. “It’s a really poor country, you will be hangry all the time.” “We don’t really know the countries of the Eastern Europa; it’s not our society, you will be lost, maybe they won’t have good reactions when they’ll see that you’re from a richer country.” Although I did not believe a single word of their affirmations, I admit I was a little worried when my plane took off. During the flight from Paris to Bucharest, I imagined how this travel to a country I did not know will be.

I did not watch a lot of pictures about Romania, because I love to be surprised when I arrive in a new place. That is probably why I was so astonished when I discovered that the country looked absolutely not as we can imagine when we hear about the prejudices. If I taught about it before being come in, I thought about vampires, dark castles, tiny houses and big and steep mountains. I was wrong.

Barely arrived on the Romanian floor, a driver made me discover the beautiful landscapes and a lot of little towns during a journey of three hours. I was totally seduced by his smile and by his kindness; even if I did not understand him, because I do not speak Romanian, he made himself understandable. We cross several places where the houses where beautiful, and I saw a lot of churches. I was particularly interesting by the previous point, because I am absolutely passionate by the religions. Moreover, the mountains were not steep, but covered by the forest; consequently, I found them gorgeous.

As I arrived in Brasov, it was the night, so I was not able to see anything. However, I met my host family. The mother is really nice, she tried to speak me in Romanian and with her hands; as her language and the French have some similarities, I understand some words, so we can communicate. The son knows a little of English. The both are likeable, and two hours after my arriving I felt already at home.

The next day, as the others volunteers were not in Brasov, I could go in Bran to see the famous “Dracula’s Castle” – in the office I learnt it was not an appropriate name. I expected to a dark castle, with gargoyles, and gloomy corridors. But when I saw it, after crossing an animated town with a lot of markets, in the middle of a garden, I understood I was totally wrong: in fact, the castle is rather small compared to the big French buildings, and it looks very cosy. The walls are white, and the rooms are hospitable. It was a first step in the deconstruction of the clichés I had. When I went back in Brasov, I had time to admire the streets, with the colourful houses, the black church, and all the mountains around. It was really far from the “tiny houses” and the “poor country” I heard about!

The second day was too really interesting: I met the others volunteers, and the members of the staff. They are all really nice, and even if I was a little homesick at the beginning, I totally felt in love with Romania. We walked in Brasov, and I learnt more about the History of the town. We ate too some culinary specialities of Romania: even if I do not eat any meat, I discovered the polenta in the restaurant, and some soups at dinner in my host family. I have enough of food, contrary to my friends’ thoughts!

For the moment, I enjoy my trip in Brasov; I learnt a lot in only three days. I met adorable people, and I think my memories will be in my mind for the rest of my life. I am happy to be come here, and to not have listened to the prejudices.

 

 

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The Real Face of Romania written by Camille Gallet, Francehttps://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/425425/the-real-face-of-romania-written-by-camille-gallet-france
The Real Face of Romania written by Camille Gallet, France
 

My First Impressions written by Martina Umeton, Italy   (published in Romania)

September 12, 2016 by   Comments(0)

This being my first ever trip to Romania I was very excited about it. I have always been attracted to the Eastern European countries as I have never had the chance to visit them myself and I feel there is a lot of prejudice and misinformation circulating about them. So, I am extremely pleased about my first taste of this beautiful country.

Even before leaving I was charmed by the language. It is wonderful to hear it and had me intrigued right away. I love getting to know new languages and listening to people talking to one another here is amazingly fascinating to me.

Another captivating thing I got intrigued by both by seeing it on the internet and in real life is the thick, emerald green forest that surrounds the Brasov area. Woods always amaze me as they hold that aura of mystery and wilderness we so sorely lack in our modern technological world. Passing by with the car going from the airport to the city I was also pleasantly reminded of my grandparent’s town, a place I hold very dear in my heart and is surrounded by an ocean of green just like Brasov.

One thing that positively struck me about Romanian people is how kind and caring they are, how open to other people and genuinely generous and hospitable. I first experienced this as my mother’s Romanian colleague gifted me some money and a dictionary after she heard I was going to spend some time in Brasov and refused to accept anything in return also providing me with the phone numbers of her friends and family nearby in case I should need help.

On the same note, I found my host mother to be one of the sweetest, most caring people I’ve ever met always making an effort to communicate with my roommates and me even though it gets a little tricky sometimes and recommending us to eat and sleep and asking if we need anything. She is also a great cook and we get to try out really tasty Romanian dishes thanks to her.
On the whole I must say I am absolutely thrilled by Romania so far and I know it will just get more and more interesting as I get to explore it and learn about it.

 

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My First Impressions written by Martina Umeton, Italyhttps://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/425417/my-first-impressions-written-by-martina-umeton-italy
My First Impressions written by Martina Umeton, Italy
 

First View on Romania written by Nicole Chim, Hong Kong   (published in Romania)

September 9, 2016 by   Comments(0)

Two plane rides that took half a day in total and a 3-hour car ride brought me to typical household in the city of Brasov. It was in the middle of a welcoming town up a little slope that reminded me of the streets of Spain, but something was different. Somehow I sensed a vibrant energy coming through the colour variation on buildings, which correlated with Athena (the name of the host)’s unmovable determination to help me settle down despite the language barrier. I realised that the universal language, a warm, kind-hearted smile does the job.

After a restful sleep, Damian (my Projects Abroad coordinator) picked me and other volunteers up from the house. We started with some basic self-introductions and it took us no time to start joking around each other, which made me feel at home and comfortable as myself for everyone was very down-to-earth. We travelled to The Village’s office where Mircea held a discussion on the basics of Journalism. It is common to think that a successful leader or organiser should be feared of in order to enforce the discipline of the group; yet Mircea does it equally well by using interactive games. He is inspiring as he encourages us to see things in different perspectives and illustrates that through a simple game of flipping a coin. Through our active participation and his encouragement, the lesson is quickly learnt and well remembered as well.

If you look closely, Romanians are very considerate. In the restaurant we had lunch at, the waiter served all six dishes together rather than one by one so we would not have to awkwardly wait for each other’s food to come. The anticipation also meant that we had plenty of time to discuss about contrasting cultures among the countries that we come from; for instance Serena and I translated everyone’s names into Japanese and Chinese. It is fascinating to see the explosion of curiosity when it comes to learning your name in another language.

The walk-around tour around Brasov followed and more European architecture came before my eyes. I liked the Romanian spirit of enjoying life and living in the present that I felt by walking as slowly as I want to on the wide streets where I would have no chance to do so back at home. Also, back at home, the gaudiness of expensive clothing brands, the spark of the jewelry and air-conditioning that slips through doors of towering shopping malls would be all you see and feel at home. Whereas in Romania, every shop I come across such as the supermarket, money exchanges, telephone shops and local clothing boutiques by the street sold extremely mundane goods, making it a very personal experience with every Romanian I come into contact with. Under this stark contrast, the warmth, friendliness and amiability of Romanians were extremely moving.

Lastly, the sounds of Romania make it a very close community. The voices of people’s conversation and their chanting from their gardens awes me with how one house and another can be in such close proximity. Looking down from my bedroom window, red and pink flowers generate the freshness in the air and the lively energy of the town that hits me like vibrating sound waves. The noise of the rooster “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO” is surprisingly not irritating, but it wakes me up to the pleasant breeze in the morning; which I know I will be immersed into the joyous Romanian spirit of life again.

 

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First View on Romania written by Nicole Chim, Hong Konghttps://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/425343/first-view-on-romania-written-by-nicole-chim-hong-kong
First View on Romania written by Nicole Chim, Hong Kong
 

The Real Experience Always Exceeded My Imaginations (written by Eline Vegelin van Claerbergen, The Netherlands)   (published in Romania)

September 9, 2016 by   Comments(0)

Arriving at night, I wasn’t able to see much of the surroundings at first. Because I was so tired I managed to sleep througout most of the 3 hour car journey from Bucharest to brasov, only waking up at odd times whilst driving down the mountain, covered in tall, intimidating pine trees together with a small layer of fog on the ground. When I finally arrived at 2 AM at the home where I would be staying, I was welcomed by a small, smiling romanian lady who was glad to see me. Surprised but at the same time delighted by her smile, I walked into the house, where once inside, she showed me my room. There I saw two beds: one of them already being occupied. Glad by the thought that I wasn’t all by myself in the house I quickly unpacked some of my stuff and tried to get some rest, which was harder than I thought due to all of the unanswered questions roaming through my head about Romania as well as the journalism course that I would be following.

The first two days in Romania allowed my first proper impression to be formed. Although I had tried to imagine what it was like before arriving, the real experience always exceeded my imaginations. My first thought as I walked through Brasov was how untouched by the sharpness and brightness of the skyscrappers this city was. Of course the usual McDonald’s and KFC were to be found there. However, Brasov was different from other big cities. Almost everywhere you looked, you could find these old buildings that were painted in many different colours, giving the city a cozy and unique touch.

On the second day we visited some of the key sights of the city such as the black church, as well as just a general walk in order to make sure were were able to find our way around in the near future. This has really given me a great understanding and allowed me to create my own view of what Brasov is like and how different it is from what not only I was expecting, however also many people back home were expecting. I am excided about what lies ahead of me and ready to experience the real Romanian culture.

 

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The Real Experience Always Exceeded My Imaginations (written by Eline Vegelin van Claerbergen, The Netherlands)https://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/425340/the-real-experience-always-exceeded-my-imaginations-written-by-eline-vegelin-van-claerbergen-the-netherlands
The Real Experience Always Exceeded My Imaginations (written by Eline Vegelin van Claerbergen, The Netherlands)
 

First Impressions of Romania, written by Serena Nanji, Hong Kong   (published in Romania)

September 6, 2016 by   Comments(0)

I looked outside the window as my plane made its descent into Bucharest. Vast expanses of green surrounded us on all sides. Narrow streets winded and curved in all different angles and occasionally I would see the flashes of cars moving by. From above, it’s hard to tell what it is really like on the ground. How is life like down there? What journey lies ahead of me? What will I learn? Will I like Romania?

I was born in Bucharest in 1999 but have no recollection of that time. “Romania” has always been just a word I write on my immigration cards and application forms. I had no idea what lied behind the word “Romania”. Who are Romanians? What makes Romania Romania?

Last year I decided to visit Romania for the first time since my birth. I first explored Bucharest by seeing the house I spent my first few years in, meeting my nanny who took care of me and visiting the People’s Palace. I later stayed with family friends who lived in Bran and then after that I spent a week at a disabled home in Fagaras. This makes my visit with Projects Abroad my second time in Romania. And of course, with every visit comes a unique experience.

After landing in Otopeni Airport I was taken on a three hour car ride to Brasov. After a long flight, I kept falling in and out of slumber. When I woke up I saw that I was in a beautiful street where flowers grew from peoples windows, colorful shops lined up one after the next and families sat together outside of cafes and restaurants chatting and laughing. It seemed like I was looking into a tourist pamphlet; a contradiction from the preconceptions a lot of people have of Romania.

I arrived in Brasov around 7:30 and was greeted by a bubbly lady who wore lime-green, a huge smile and had kind, brown eyes. When I entered the home she refused to let me carry my suitcase into my room. I was so surprised to see such hospitality from a lady who never met me before and couldn't communicate properly with me because of the language barrier. In many large cities around the world there are fancy hotels with ornamented rooms, michelin star restaurants and relaxation spas. Yet in Romania, it seems hospitality doesn’t need to be expressed through materialistic services but simply through the kindness and consideration of the people. I found this to be extremely heartwarming.

On the first day of the program we spent some time walking around the city. It was a great relief to be away from the bustlings street of Hong Kong where someone would bump into you every five seconds. The vibrant colored houses lines up next to each other side by side instead of being stacked into skyscrapers. We had a wonderful lunch consisting of polenta and cabbage rolls while we shared our backgrounds and interests to the other volunteers in the program. Then we walked around the Council Square and the Black Church.

Brasov seems to be a place that incorporates the vibrancy of a modern city, old history and remarkable scenery. Throughout the day I felt moments of astonishment where I thought about how many unique places there are nestled in different parts of the world. In this case, nestled in-between the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania.

I know that I might not be able to answer all the questions I have about Romania in the short time I will spend here. However, I am still excite to learn and have an experience that would give me a much better understanding.

 

 

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First Impressions of Romania, written by Serena Nanji, Hong Konghttps://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/425235/first-impressions-of-romania-written-by-serena-nanji-hong-kong
First Impressions of Romania, written by Serena Nanji, Hong Kong
 

I Don't Want it to be Over...   (published in Romania)

September 3, 2016 by   Comments(1)

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This is my last day in Romania. I don't want to accept that. I shouldn't have to accept that… but, alas, it's the truth. We have successfully tied my experience with Morocco, and the differences are only very slight. This was such an amazing experience and I feel like I have done some amazing things and met some terrific people.

I started out my week by getting a tattoo. I just walked in real quickly after placement and had them do a little cross on my heart. It came out way better than I ever could have imagined. It is healing normally (knock on wood), although, I do have to put some lotion on it like four times a day. Yes, it did hurt very much, but in the end, it was totally worth it.

The high school workshop ended last week, and their video is now live on Beagle Rampant Productions YouTube channel. If you haven't subscribed yet, then you are totally missing out! I also did a video for Casa Mea, which is also on the Beagle Rampant channel. Both are must sees, and the channel is a must subscribe! It's so interesting that, in a non-official broadcast placement, that I am able to produce two videos that I can be really proud of.

There really wasn't a whole lot of news last week in my placement, except for the fact that one of the girls there started to really open up to me and talk to me about things that she likes, things that upset her, etc. I was really happy to be there and listen: these kids need someone near-ish their age to talk to, and someone who can understand them (somewhat).

I may have run out of things to say… so I should wrap up and do some packing. I don't want this to end. It shouldn't have to. Obviously, everything that I said last year concerning Projects Abroad and Mongolia is totally redacted. Brasov, Romania, and Serbia are like fairy tales, and now, with God's grace, I can have my happily ever after.



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I Don't Want it to be Over...https://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/jrolfes/read/425194/i-dont-want-it-to-be-over
I Don't Want it to be Over...