The lead up to the end of the semester was a very stressful time. Alexandra and I were rehearsing daily with the 6th-8th grade English choir for the Christmas pageant, my club kids and I were hard at work making crafts to sell at the pageant, and all of us teachers were giving last minute tests and grades so we could “close the catalog,” the lengthy process of averaging every student’s grade for the semester. Oh, and I was finishing up graduate school applications…
In the end, everything worked out well. The English choir sang “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “Joy to the World” beautifully, the American Culture and English Club raised over 140 lei for a club outing in Sibiu while gaining entrepreneurial and craft skills, and the grades were averaged and closed in time. And on the last day of school, I was able to submit my final application.
Nick came to Răşinari the next day so we could spend Christmas together. While he was there, we went to the ski resort near my village, Păltiniş, with Alexandra, Doru, and their friends who live in Germany, Ionuţ and Raluca. Because of the bus schedule, Nick and I didn’t have time to ski, but we did enjoy the company and some vin fiert. We got to skype with both our families on Christmas, which helped us feel more connected even though we were so far away. Then Christmas evening we stayed at Alexandra and Doru’s apartment in Sibiu, celebrating with them and their friends. This year, we didn’t have the same Christmas lunch with my gazda family because they had just hosted a seventy person event the day before and were too tired. However, they did leave us a pan full of sarmale that was much appreciated.
After Christmas, I had a lot of laundry and packing to do. I was leaving for almost three weeks and would be in Hunedoara, Cluj, Budapest, and Aruba, meaning I needed a variety of clothing that could all fit in my backpack. I managed to load it all in and we were off to Hunedoara. My new room at the pensiune is much warmer but is also a lot smaller so it was nice to spend a few days in the relative luxury of Nick’s apartment before we set out on our travels.
On the morning of the 31st, we were on the road again, this time to Cluj. We were meeting up with our friends Matt and Sara to spend a couple nights at an apartment we rented in the city through airbnb. Sara finished her service last summer and has since become a real person with a real job in Arlington but we still Skype every week and I missed her dreadfully. She came back to Romania to spend a couple weeks with Matt, her boyfriend and our friend who will finish his service with us in July; to visit her site and awesome counterpart, Vali; and to see me, of course.
The apartment was nice and we had a great time for the two nights we were there. We met up with several other volunteers, both from Romania and other PC countries, and boogied in the new year dancing to oldies. Romania is notorious for completely shutting down around holidays, which was part of the allure of an apartment where we could cook for ourselves. Because of that, most of our time in Cluj was spent in the apartment catching up and having a good time.
When it was time to leave, it was hard to say goodbye to Sara but even harder to actually leave Cluj as the bus we made a reservation for had been canceled without notice and our reservation was not valid for the next bus, which was fully booked. After some stress and waiting in the cold, we caught a stroke of luck when two people didn’t show up on time and the driver let us take their seats while the other poor souls had to stand packed like sardines in the aisle.
We made it back to Hunedoara though and had a night to get organized and ready for the next big adventure: Aruba!