Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Year Comes to a Close

I won't be in Romania for Christmas or for New Year's Eve, so this will be last post written from Romania for 2011.  I'd have really liked to experience a Romanian Christmas, but I would miss my family and my boyfriend, Nate, way too much to stay away from the United States.  Since most of my friends in Constanta are returning to their respective home countries for Christmas, I might have found myself mildly bored anyways.  So, I'll be returning to the US on Thursday evening.  I'll take two flights: Bucuresti to London and then London to Boston.  It looks like a short little trip when you look at the departure and arrival times, but then you throw in the seven hour time difference and car travel on both ends and suddenly I'm travelling for about 22 hours!  Lucky for me, my friend Atilla is flying out of Bucuresti for Istanbul the same day, so I get to carpool to the airport in Bucuresti, rather than taking a series of buses or trains.  Woohoo!

Giorgos, who has, in fact, eaten pasta before.
Now, last time I posted I made mention of an upcoming pasta party.  I also mentioned that it was inspired by my friend Giorgos's inexperience with that delicious food.  Well it turns out that Giorgos has, in fact, eaten pasta before.  He has had little experience with noodles and apparently does not think that anything eaten by Italians counts, so a different use of terminology made our original goal of the pasta party a moot point.  Oh well!  Fortunately, just about everyone in the whole world who ever lived and did not have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten or wheat or normal food in general (*cough* LJ, *cough*) loves pasta.  So, everyone was still happy to come to our pasta party.
The ingredients for our pasta party
Some of the prepared food (but not all!)

We may have gone overboard.  I say may because the surplus of pasta we had actually helped to contribute to the overall vibe of the party, which was a success, so perhaps if we had merely made an appropriate amount of pasta the pasta party would not have been quite so fun...  Or I could just be making excuses...

Plenty of pasta
Based on this photo, I estimate that we purchased 4.3 kilograms (9.5 pounds) of pasta...for 7 guests.  Perhaps more than a pound of pasta per guest was more than we needed, but we really wanted to have a wide variety of pasta available.  We ended up only cooking about 3 kg of it... well, maybe it was more like 4 kg after you add in the homemade ravioli, which was pretty dense.  At any rate, everyone ate to his heart's content and then I continued to eat nothing but pasta ever since, and I was joined by people for leftovers, who consumed four meals of pasta.  Somehow I couldn't persuade the strapping young men in attendance to bring home bucket loads of the stuff.

I did not cook on my own, though.  I was assisted throughout the entire process by the magnificent, irreplaceable, Josephin.  And after a few hours, we were joined by my perfect counter-part, Hates-to-cook-but-loves-to-clean Angelina.

Josi gets creatively crafty

Josi was also the brain behind our decorations for the evening.  Besides making pasta and pasta sauce, we also tried to have a flag for each nationality present.  So, we bought flag toothpicks, but this set didn't have Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, or Russia, so there was a problem.  We decided to hack apart the flags of other countries to create flags for our guests.  This is where I should mention that I have no office or craft materials at my apartment.  I had: a blue pen, a black pen, paper that was printed on one side, candles, and sewing scissors.  With these materials, Josi created a Bulgarian flag and a Greek flag.  We considered making a Turkish flag, but the whole crescent moon and star thing was complicated, and we just ran out of time and got lazy for the Russian flag...  At any rate, considering the materials available, particularly that we were using melted candles as an adhesive, we did spectacularly.

The Greek flag, before we sealed it shut with wax and before we trimmed off the extra stripes on the bottom.

I won't go into painstaking details about the food present.  Suffice to say there was pasta in lots of shapes, and there were several varieties of sauces.

Daka and Josi just couldn't wait to try the tortellini.

I fear I've gotten off track.  I should have told you the attendees of this pasta party several paragraphs ago.  The responsible writer in me knows I should just insert may cursor in the text somewhere and remedy this problem, but an unidentified, lazy part of me would rather explain all this to you and then tell you now.  Clearly that lazy bit of me won out.  At any rate, in alphabetical order by ethnic nationality: Daka of Bulgaria, Josi of Germany, Achilleas of Greece, Giorgos the Macedonian from Greece, Angelina the Russian-Tatar Romanian who was born in Uzbekistan, Atilla the Turk, and Katelyn from the United States.  No two ethnicities were duplicated at our party.  Yay!
Our lovely guests

After dinner we played Apples to Apples.  Somehow Giorgos won.  (If I just leave that without explanation it sounds a bit mean.  Giorgos, God bless him, has the worst English skills of the bunch of us.  Apples to Apples is basically a vocabulary game.  He won rounds several times without even knowing the meaning of the word or phrase he was playing.  And he won the entire game.)

Other things of note at our pasta party: Daka brought homemade ketchup from his grandmother in Bulgaria.  It was my first time trying homemade ketchup.  It was yummy and has some sort of unidentified (by me) ingredient that tastes like Christmas.  I'm hooked.

Ketchup from Daka's grandmother.  I didn't snap a photo until I'd  already finished half the bottle.
On Saturday I went ice skating with a group of kids and trainers from Money Sense.  It has been four years since I last went ice skating, and I expected to be dreadful.  Far from it, after four laps or so, I no longer had to touch the wall at all!  This was truly a miracle to me, but I went on babbling about how grateful I was to my grandmother, since I was 1/4 French Canadian, and surely this was the reason I could stay upright on ice skates.  I am proud to say that I only fell once, and it was all Emil's fault!  One of my Money Sense students fell on the ice and I had no choice but to stumble to a hands-and-knees stop or to tragically skate over his fingers.  Sure, a good skater could have avoided the fingers without falling, but I was willing to sacrifice myself to save Emil's fingers....I'm just that heroic.

The Money Sense gang who came to ice skating.  To find me, look for my hat.
Such a pretty hair pin!
That evening Angelina gave Josi and I our Christmas presents.  She did such a great job picking them out.  My favorite gift is the amazingly beautiful hair pin she gave me.  It is from Russia and is carved from birch.  It is just gorgeous!  She also did her own translations of a Russian zodiac for me and Josi.  Now I'm not a believer in astrology and I'm not going to make any of my decisions based on anything I hear from astrology, but it's a little uncanny how accurate it was about my personality and about Josi's personality.  It more or less described our personalities to a T.

On Sunday I had dinner with Mihaela, my landlord, and her niece, Flori, and Flori's boyfriend, Cornel.  (I've mentioned them before in my earlier posts.)  We helped Mihaela to put up her tree and to decorate it.  Flori and Cornel also gave me a snowman mug and a big bar of chocolate for Christmas, and I took some special requests for souvenirs from the US.

Flori and the Christmas tree, pom de cracuin
On Monday I had a Christmas party with some of my students from the university.  Five students came.  The attendance was disappointing, but the turnout by food was exceptional.  There were several bags of chips, several platters of amazing pastries, four bottles of soda, and I brought crepes.  We listened to a bit of Christmas music and we watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  It was fun, but it would have been nicer if more students had come.
At the Christmas party.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Constanta before I leave for two weeks, so I have a lot to do.  I have to teach class, buy some last minutes gifts, and go to the closing event for Money Sense.  Then I hope to see Angelina one last time before I go.  To make things a little less stressful tomorrow, I have to pack and to clean my mortifingly dirty apartment tonight.  But I don't want to, so I am blogging instead...

Well I've procrastinated enough, so it's time to get to work.  Perhaps I will post something from the states, otherwise, see you all next year!

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