Thursday, October 6, 2011

Back in Bucuresti

On Tuesday I did nothing.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I finished the tentative syllabus for my classes, and I watched half of the first season of the Big Bang Theory.  I also successfully reheated leftovers without a microwave.

Yesterday was much more busy.  In fact, it was jam-packed with things to do and places to be!  My first classes met yesterday.

In total, I have four sections that I teach.  Officially, there are two different courses I teach.  Each is a practical course: two sections for second-year students and two sections for third-year students.  However, since there is a lot of leeway in the curriculum (I was more or less told I can teach them anything I want that pertains to American culture or the English language), I can teach the same material to all four sections of students.  I have class on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  On each day I have second-year students from 10:00-12:00 and third-year students from 12:00-2:00.

Yesterday began two hours later than I intended.  I'm not entirely sure if my alarm just didn't go off or I shut it off in one of my characteristic half-asleep stupors.  At any rate, I awoke at 8:50 when Mihaela called to ask me about my departure for Bucuresti.  I took a speed shower in freezing water that took its sweet time warming up and bolted out the door with my little bag of trash in hand.  Thinking the dumpster I'd heard rumor of was hiding on a side street, I detoured on my way the the bus but only found large recycling receptacles.  I was in a big hurry and wasn't just going to leave the bag on the ground somewhere and I most certainly was not going to tote it on the bus with me!  Luckily, one of the trash cans by the bus stop had been vandalized and its cover ripped off.  This meant I could stuff my trash into the receptacle without littering or being the freak on the bus.  This is probably the only time I've truly benefited from the defacement of public property.

With 30 minutes until my first class started and an uncopied article in hand, I waited at the bus stop, begging God to have mercy on my poor soul.  He heard my plea and took pity on me, sending a maxi-taxi after only a minute.  Now, maxi-taxis are some sort of hybrid transporter--a cross between a taxi and a bus.  Maxi-taxis follow a set route and have routine stops, but they will stop any place along the way if you flag them down.  The fare is 1 leu, so it's cheaper than the bus (1.6 lei) and you just hand cash to the driver as you climb in.  Since they are cheap and easy to use, they are also ridiculously crowded.  People are filling all the seats, and somewhere between 15 and several hundred people are sardined into the aisle of this van-sized vehicle.  But it gets me to the university in half the time the bus would even if it had come along at the same time.  I have just over 20 minutes before class and can inhale for the first time that day.

I bring my little article to the copy center and even have time to stop by the English department's office before class.

My first class begins.  Of the approximately 20 students estimated to be in the class (for some reason, the department can only guess for the time being), 4 show up.  It turns out that one isn't even a student at the university anymore.  Down to a whopping total of 3 students.  Then a girl came in halfway through class.  Woo! Back up to 4!

Class #2 began on time at noon and 6 students were in attendance! An amazing turnout for the first week of school, I'm told.  The lessons went well, even if my first class found it torturous to speak.  I was also able to get input from students about what they want to learn about this semester, so I can now finalize my syllabus.

After classes ended, I maxi-taxied my way back to the apartment to finish packing so I could leave 45 minutes later for the train station.  It turns out the bus routes in front of my apartment end at the train station, so I had no trouble finding my way.  I bought my ticket and then realized the train was scheduled to depart 30 minutes later than I'd thought.  So I plopped myself on a bench and pulled out my book.

A blurry photo of the sunset from the train
When the train arrived in Bucuresti, a driver sent by the Fulbright Commission was waiting for me.  Not only was he friendly and polite, but Dan the driver was also the first man to ever introduce himself to me and kiss my hand.  He chatted jovially on the trip to the hotel and left me with his business card (he used to be a taxi driver) in case I ever need any assistance while in Bucuresti.  I ended up in the same hotel room as on my arrival; its almost like my home in Bucuresti, now!

I went to the hotel restaurant and ordered a pizza and some nutella-filled crepes.  It was yummy and much cheaper than in the US.  Including a bottle of water and the tip, it all cost me approximately $8.

Some buildings in Bucuresti

Four out of five ETAs to Romania
Me and the director of the Romanian-US Commission
Today was the Fulbright Orientation.  At 9:00 we were taken to the Romanian-US Fulbright Commission and had many info sessions and briefings by officials and professors from both countries and from former Fulbright grantees.  The whole shebang wrapped up at 7:30 pm following a dinner reception.  All the sessions were very interesting and informative, but the best part of the whole day was getting to meet my fellow grantees.  Tomorrow we're all going to Peles Castle.  It'll be my first time to a castle, and I must admit I'm a bit excited!

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