Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmastime is Here!

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat!"

Some of my Money Sense students had me pose in this Santa hat they brought.
I have never felt so multicultural.  OK, not myself, per se, but my life in general.  I am making more friends every day!  On Saturday night, Josi, Angelina, Atila (Angelina's boyfriend), and I spent the evening with Josi's neighbor, Achilleas, and his friend Giorgos.  Now in the course of the night, it was revealed that Giorgos has never eaten pasta!  He had only even tasted it once (twice after I had him try the rice noodles I ordered)!  Now Josi--who buys two or three kilos of pasta every time she goes to the store--and I decided hat this is a great travesty.  We then decided to remedy Giorgos's affliction and we have planned a pasta party so that he can sample different varieties of pasta and sauces.  If everything goes as planned, representatives of the following countries will be in attendance: the United States, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, France, and Romania--that's eight nationalities among nine guests (Achilleas and Giorgos are both Greek)!  It should be a fun night and a nice send off before Christmas, when we will part for two or three weeks.

Having dinner, desserts, and drinks at the Irish Pub

Have I mentioned how tall Romanians are?

I can't believe I forgot to mention it in my last blog post, but on December 2nd, I got my residency permit to continue to stay in Romania for more than 90 days.  I'd love to show it you, but I am sure it would be an awful idea to post a photo of my ID card online...  Having my residency permit could be extremely helpful when I return from the US to Romania after Christmas, since the airlines sometimes won't let you on to the plane if your return ticket is scheduled for a date in more than 90 days, unless you have a residency card.  I just squeaked by with 87 days from my entry to exit of Romania for this leg of my stay, so I didn't have any troubles, but other ETAs had some problems and were nearly turned away from their flights.
The city hall wishes you a Happy New Year!

Now from the title of the post, I am sure you have been expecting to hear about Christmas here and are starting to despair, thinking I have strayed away from the most heartwarming holiday season.  Fear not!  Constanta is all aglow with lights, and I paid a visit to the Christmas piata.  What is so Christmas-y about this piata?  Well...not all that much, but there were gingerbread cookies!  Now, it may not have been very strong in its Christmas theme, but it had a nice variety that is missing from the other ordinary piatas.  In fact, there were no fruit or vegetable sellers.  Vendors sold meats, cheeses, candies, cookies, apple cider, tuica, palinca, carved wooden wares, ceramics, hats, scarves, preserves, and homeopathic remedies.  I bought an amazing hat for myself.  It is super fun and warm, and I love it!  After seeing it, Achilleas and Giorgos decided they needed hats just like mine for themselves, so yesterday they each bought one, in gray.
My new hat!

The Chrismas piata, at Casa de Cultura
Now, continuing on the subject of Christmas, I was hard at the earnings of my work...buying Christmas presents for folks back home.  I got a gift for my parents that I am really excited about, but can't mention because it will ruin the surprise, but I'd just like to say it is great, and now I want to buy more for other people.  I did a lot of this Christmas shopping near and at one of the biggest piatas in the city, Tomis III.  While I was there, I stopped in a dairy and bought, among other things, some raw milk.  Today I turned some of it into hot chocolate, and it sure was delicious!

Raw milk
Also on the topic of Christmas, Josi and I were hunting for Christmas presents at one of the malls when we kept running into green-shirted middle schoolers with plates of cookies.  We were very confused about it all, and then we got to the mall's top floor.  It was covered with costumed children, masquerading as Santas, Christmas trees, snowmen, and other Christmas-y or wintery disguises.  We had stumbled upon a costume contest and craft fair.  There were also many tables where ladies were selling their handicrafts.  If I hadn't spent so much money already earlier that day, I might have gone hog-wild, but I thought of all the nice things I had bought and restrained myself.  As it turned out, those middle schoolers were part of some sort of eco group that promoted sustainability and something to do with raising money for housing for the elderly (although I am basing this on the broken English of a 12 year-old, and the connection between the two must have been lost in translation).

I'm not sure if she's supposed to be a sugarplum fairy or a snowflake, but this little girl sure is cute in her costume!

On a completely unrelated note: Can you tell college students live here?  (A view of a dorm window)