Hope you are all doing well and making it through the winter, wherever you are. Here the weather is finally warming up to the 50s, but in recent weeks it was so cold that the Black Sea froze over, which apparently hasn't happened in 30 years People were driving from Bucharest just to take pictures and prove they were there "when it happened."
We've been back to school now for about 6 weeks and the kids finally seem to be getting back to work mode. The first semester finished up in January, and I was pleased to see that most of my kids made it through the exams, even though taking exams during the year is quite a new thing for them. The 9th graders, to whom I'm teaching American history, were tasked with writing a story about a fictional character in early America. They had never had a "creative" exam, but for the most part I was happy to see they got the idea. The Romanian teaching method in English is still putting most emphasis on grammar and not content, so it's my job to give them skills in this area. We also had an essay-writing contest sponsored by Peace Corps Romania, and one of my students was very happy to learn she'd won third prize at the national level.
Between the semesters we had a one week break, but it was so cold I didn't really venture out (although the situation inside my apartment wasn't much better). Instead I worked at warming up the kitchen by making new dishes with the vegetables available at the market place right now: carrots, turnips, potatoes, and onions. Of course Romanians are quite good at making things with these ingredients and my host mom has been helping me out. She gave me two whole pickled cabbages to take home and make soup with (they have a keg with about 100 in it), and that turned out reasonably well. My little gas stove seems to be working better but I still fear it could blow up when I light it.
Outside of work, I've been spending time with my host family, which usually just involves watching Romanian TV (lots of traditional singing), eating more than one should, and discussing various conspiracy theories involving the Americans and Russians. Romanians are well- known for their love of conspiracies, and to be a good guest you should have a knowledge of many different theories. I've also been spending time with my site-mate, Kelly, from Chicago, who will be leaving at the end of the school year. We have been cooking American food together, and next week we are planning a taco party for our fellow English teachers.
The next month will be bus-, and hopefully I'll be able to get out more as it warms up. At school we'll be doing a 7 week writing workshop, learning that we can write and don't need to plagiarize. We'll also be practicing for our school play, which will premiere in late April. I'll also be away from my site to Bucharest for my host granddaughter's baptism and to the mountain resort of Sinaia for a safety and security conference. I like my town but sometimes I'm glad to see other places as well.
I'm sure some of you have heard that the bird flu is now widespread (among poultry) in Romania, and you may have even read the BBC article saying Romania's sanitary conditions make it likely to soon have a human case. This may be true but there is no reason for worry right now. The bird flu is in my area (some neighboring villages are in quarantine), but Romanians don't live in close quarters with their birds and never play with them. Since most people here watch TV obsessively, they are well aware of the dangers and probably won't try to hide sick birds. So for the moment, don't worry too much about this.
That's it for now,