Hope you are all sitting comfortably: this may take a while...This is it, due to my departure next Saturday afternoon this will be the last report from Romania, as this incredible adventure draws to a close... I have some farewell nights to organise this week and to ensure the new guys are ready to take over from next week, which I have no doubts they will be.
Before I give a summary of my time here I want to share yet another new experience I had here this week. On Thursday our friend and Interpreter (Lia) invited us to an underground bar for 'rock' night, where we were told they had rock music and it was the only night of it's sort in town... oh how true this was! After going for a sneaky bite to eat and beer with my Neighbour Deli, I went on to meet one of the new volunteers (Christian) in the bar.... here was the scene as I saw it... eleven guys, (+ Christian) sat around a small table, no one else in the place, the eleven guys all wearing black t-shirts, most with long hair... between the ages of 16-45, watching a DVD of various heavy metal / rock groups.. no live music, just civilised conversation about the rock groups they liked.. and a few guys occasionally playing 'air' guitar to their favourite songs.... not quite the rockin' scene I was expecting! They weren't even drunk.... rock on!
So I really don't know where to begin recapping the last 7 months, it has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and has included, meeting the best neighbours I have ever had, being a photographer at a Hungarian wedding, going to freaky discos, navigating an ever changing, enterprising and bizarre transport system which lets you go anywhere, but doesn't allow you come back, seeing old Romanian rockers in concert, ritual pig killing (and eating pigs ears, & pickled water-melon), working in a Victorian style psychiatric unit with very real madness, a Christmas nativity play on the wards, having pigs & chickens as my alarm clock every morning, teaching English to local kids, living through a snow filled winter & spending Christmas and new year with my wonderful friends and neighbours, doing very Romanian/ Hungarian things.. and much much more....
I have found Romania (mainly Transylvania) to be a land of outstanding natural beauty, untouched and unspoilt by the corruption of western influences, a place where people believe 'the western way of life' is better than their own, and yet my own feeling is that Romania is far more free now, then the UK and places like it, ever could be, the pressures from the mass media and society is not yet all about material wealth and happiness, but it's creeping in slowly, so the gap in culture and morality is growing ever wider between the older generations here and the young people. Traces of the communist way of life remain very evident here, with stacks of big apartment blocks around the cities and towns, a corrupt government mainly comprised of former communist party members, and a country side who ownership rights may never be fully understood after the land was seized by the former regime, all for the good of the country, and these reminders may well remain for some time, yet the importance of family values, and the survival skills (to build your own house, grow your own food, fix your own car), at least will remain for the time being... Romania is already being exploited by businesses like Nokia, who have moved here because they can pay the people less wages here, so to all of you that have thought about coming to see this amazing country, I would say now is the time to come here.. it's a real taste of eastern European culture...
My top three features of life here have to be:1) Public transport: riding on trains with the doors open, arriving in places to find there is no return bus until the next day, sitting on a beer crate for three hours in a maxi-taxi (mini-bus), fighting old women to get on the bus, and, when all else fails... hitch hiking....2) The ongoing search for decent toilet facilities: finding a toilet period, finding a toilet with a light that works, finding a toilet with a working flushing mechanism, finding a toilet with paper, and my personal favourite, going to the toilet and seeing just a hole in the floor, perhaps with elaborate surrounding tiles!3) Food: the meat in truly out of this world! beware though, as any part of a pig is edible, including the pigs ear (raw), pickled food including watermelon, pickled salad in winter due to seasonal food supply, samarles (meat & rice wrapped in cabbage leaves) and all cakes contain rum!
My top three places to visit are:1) Brasov... an amazing place any time of year by the mountains, with stunning views, a cosmopolitan feel to it, and excellent pancakes! with Germanic influenced buildings.2) Sigishoura... birth place of 'Vlad the Impailer' (rumoured to be where Dracula legend stemmed from), far more Romanian influenced town, with centre piece of town being the citadel and city on the hill, also beautiful anytime of year!3) Bran Castle...(past Brasov) often used at the 'face' of Dracula's dwellings, it's wonderful mountain surroundings, and well preserved interior give you a pretty good insight to some of the Romanian royal historyOf course other places such as Sibiu, Tirges Mures,& Cluj offer other great insights and perspectives into the history of Transylvania, but these are just my particular favourites.
I can't possibly end this email with out talking just a little about my home for the past seven months 'TARNAVENI'. This small town based in a valley, surrounded by hills, has offered me a brilliant insight into real life in Transylvania, with one road villages, a mix of the Hungarian, Romanian, and Roma (gypsy) cultures, and two very entertaining discos! It is here I have learned about local cultures, and the bizarre things that happen here including: getting sweets or matches, instead of the correct change in shops, needing your passport to buy a hoover, driving around horse & carts, sleeping with the sounds of howling dogs all around, and learning that the concept of 'non-stop' services usually means they finish about 11pm! God bless Romania and Tarnaveni!
So that's it folks... six days and counting and I'll be home, but I will be back here one day, so thank you Romania, and thanks to you all if you have been reading these messages.
Regards from Romania