Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Media Barrage

OK, so I finally got the interwebs at my place. Combine that with the fact that the last two weeks has been a chaotic chain of event after event, and your result is about 500 pictures and a few videos finally being posted online. In an attempt to retain some sort of order, I'll link to everything from here.

First, I added a few from our last days in Târgoviște (with a couple from swear-in mixed in).

Then, we have a new catch-all album with everything from my site, including a photo tour of my apartment (to go along with the video one from before). I also tagged along on my first two-day field trip with the kids, which was exhausting but a blast.

The circus also came to town, which was everything I could have dreamed, and more. Here's a video of the DOG SHOW!, set to sweet techno music and with added crowd effects, because I was bored one night.

I also got to go to my first Romanian wedding (nuntă), which was a blast. Here are those, along with a short video of them singing "La Mulți Ani" at the ceremony. I had never heard the full version, the second half of which is featured here; we've always sung the abbreviated version. Casa de Piatră to my lovely gazda sister and her new husband, Luchian!

Finally, there's a buttload of photos from when our school hosted a group of Belgian kids for 10 days. It was a whirlwind tour of the area, which couldn't have worked out better for me, since I got to see a lot of the places I'd want to see anyway in my first two weeks at site. We also hiked to Piatra Roșie (Red Rock), a 1,200-meter peak overlooking our town. Although I got a bunch of photos that are in the album, I also got a short video pan from the top.

As you can probably tell by my media onslaught, I'm spending today chillaxing and getting caught up. This interweb thing sure is neat.

Happy browsing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Church Talk with Matt

So I just got back from church. The vast majority of Romania is Orthodox, but because my town is 40-percent Hungarian, and the vast majority of the Romanian-Hungarian population is Catholic, I also have a Catholic church.

My reasons for going were both pragmatic and pious. The Peace Corps drills into us the importance of integration, and if there's ever a place to meet people and show the community you want to be a part of it, it's a church.

But it was more than just a tactical move, something I might not have fully realized until I walked in. I realized, for the first time in my three months here while trying something different, I knew what to do and when to do it. The mass might have been in Hungarian, but everything else was remarkably similar. (I guess that's an advantage of having a worldwide structure for your service.) The Catholic church, at least today, served as a beacon of familiarity and comfort in a world that's anything but.

Now, that's not to say everyone in my town isn't doing everything they can to make sure I'm comfortable; they are. They're wonderful people, and I look forward to spending the next two years here. However, the fact remains that I'm in a rural village in Romania, a place I knew nothing about four months ago. At the risk of sounding dumb -- although I'm not sure this disclaimer will help -- I didn't even know Romanian was a language. Now I speak it (at least enough to get around). 

It's also been an interesting experience in that, here, I've been branded as a Catholic, and I don't really have the language to express how I feel about that. Actually, I'm not really sure how I feel about that at all.

I grew up Catholic. When I go to church, it's typically a Catholic one, often for no other reason than 1) it's with my family, and 2) it's what's familiar. I have my issues with the Catholic Church, but I guess, to paraphrase one of television's all-time greats -- Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor -- church is like school. If you go, you get credit. If you understand what's happening, you get extra credit. I guess I'm not so sure I agree that it matters where.

Anywho, enough of this "feelings" talk. This one goes out to all the Catholics out there: The mass was really similar to ours. (Another disclaimer: Everything was in Hungarian, so I didn't understand, but I'm making assumptions based on my many years altar serving at and attending St. Paul's… Big ups to Father Tim.)

I walked in, made the sign of the cross in holy water and took a seat. I got there a little bit early -- uncharted waters for the Paulson family -- and they were saying the rosary. They started mass, and the order was the same as ours. There was the priest, and there were about six altar servers (both boys and girls). 

Since the masses were so similar, I guess it'll be easier to point out the differences. First off, I said the prayers in English, and I found that the Hungarian ones were about twice as long. That might be because the language itself might be bit longer due to the fact that their words are exact descriptions of what things are (something that was endlessly amusing for me in class). For instance, mayor is "polgármester," which literally means, "people master." Then there's a personal favorite: "számítógép," which means computer but translates directly to "calculating machine." I guess it also might be the fact that it's possible that I was saying the wrong prayer at the wrong time.

The pews were different too. It was something between a kneeler and a regular pew, so I was sort of perched with my back straight and my hands on the rest in front of me. Picture one of those new ergonomic office chairs that makes you uncomfortable for 40 years so your back will hurt a little bit less when you're 70.

There were also no songbooks, which might have been good, because if there were, I might have been tempted to try and sing in Hungarian. Come to think of it, it didn't seem like there was much praise and worship; it was pretty much the mass, the sung responses, and that was it. We were in and out in 45 minutes.

At the end, everyone left. There's no "family gathering center," or whatever the phrase du jour is at St. Paul's right now for where we get juice, coffee and donuts. There was a tiny entranceway, and the church. 

The church was beautiful. Imagine any cathedral you've seen, just on a much smaller scale -- I would say it could sit about 200. It's hard to describe, so I'll try and get pictures some time. I make no promises, though, so go with your imagination for now. 

In all, it was a nice morning, and they definitely got a repeat customer out of me. The singing, brought to us by my assistant principal, was beautiful, especially in Hungarian. I'd like to learn the prayers in Hungarian, although I'm not sure I'll understand the homily anytime soon. I guess I could ask the priest to provide me a copy in English. He'll do that, right?

Anyway, this has been "Church Talk with Matt." Tune in the next two weeks when I make excuses as to why I didn't go.

**This blog will surely not go up today, because I don't have Internet yet. So, FYI, I'm writing this on July 24. Also, thank you for getting this far.**

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sweet Home Romania!

I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer! On July 7, I and the rest of Group 28 were sworn in at the ambassador's residence, by the ambassador -- NBD.

Although it was pretty cool, we're now playing for keeps. And the stakes recently got higher (OK, no more poker puns): It went public that we are officially the final Peace Corps group in Romania -- Group 28 will be the Legacy Group. It's an honor, and although I accept that it's an added responsibility, I feel that it would be an insult to the other 27 groups to say our work here will be the most lasting. The idea of Peace Corps service is sustainability, whether you're the first group or the last.

I also passed my Language Proficiency Exam, which, according to Peace Corps Washington, means I can speak Romanian. However, after a few days at site, I know there's SO MUCH more I need to learn. It should go without saying, since we only studied for 10 weeks, but I left Targo-vegas much more confident in my skills than I am now after a few days at site.

While we're on the topic of language, the 60/40 Romanian/Hungarian split is much more evident now that I've spent some time there. I went on a two-day field trip with some teachers and kids from my school this week, and they'll honestly switch back and forth mid-sentence -- it's a pretty cool thing and provides much more motivation to learn both.

And the rest is in the video... Enjoy! Numai bine!