Romanian winter is finally here! What a week I have had! It is so good to be able to sit down at the end of each week and describe for you the highs and lows of living as an ex-pat in Romania.
As you may recall in my last posting, the Romanians were out on the streets and protesting during the winter. To make the numbers sound a lot bigger than they really were, they would state that there were 3000 people protesting out in the winter, and then casually mention this was across an entire nation of 20 million people, and no, they were not all in Bucharest, there were a few hundred here, a couple of hundred there and as soon as the weather changed and it started to get really cold and snowy, they all packed up and as far as I can make out from the TV reports, most have gone back home to some piping home Plum Brandy to sit out the Romanian winter and perhaps return again in Spring.
The snow really hit town this week! On Tuesday it snowed a little. On Wednesday it was still snowing. By Thursday, the snow was really laying it on, and all major roads in and out of Bucharest was blocked. 300 lorries were stuck in the snow on the motorway. I was amazed to see not more amazing crashes as normally regardless of the Romanian winter Romanians seem able to drive around at break neck speeds, one hand on the mobile phone, the other nudging the wheel and operating the headlights as Romanians log ago discovered that it was far more efficient to flash their lights than use the brakes. The only lights they don't use are the indicators, as this wastes precious electricity as far as I can see!
On Thursday, the snow was so heavy during this Romanian winter, that the school called it a day and let us remain at home. This was fab as I had a day of my sweet son racing around and playing with me all day! I really enjoyed it and failed to get any of the work done I had set myself, but this is life. It was still a blizzard outside, and the temperatures were falling fast - we have returned to our super cold temperatures at last!
On Friday, it was deemed safe to return to work, and so dressed up like a polar bear, with my fur hat (I was originally told it was real, then I said obviously I didn't like a seal without its coat on and I would leave it, then it became synthetic, and have no idea any more what it is! It is certainly warm though!), and some really cool things for my feet called YakTrax. These are amazing and completely unavailable in Romania, but keep your feet from slipping. Only half the children arrived, but those that did had a lot of fun, and all in all it was worth it.
On Thursday morning, just as the snow, during this Romanian winter, was really pouring down, the roads to anywhere were cut off and all in all the police and everyone else was saying it is time to stay indoors. A time when even ambulances were getting stuck in the snow, my wife's very old grandfather, unfortunately died from old age near his kitchen stove during the middle of the Romanian winter. Just to make sure that things couldn't get any more tricky, the entire power for the countryside village, also failed - a common feature in a Romanian winter. Which of course is a major problem as the phone also died, so only be a constant relay of messages from neighbours with mobiles could we be kept informed on what was happening.
So again we have started the year long shopping session for the meals of the dead and working out how many to feed. It is a very complicated process, something the Brits don't need to do - where you need to fill 30 bags of food with different items and give these away in the name of the dead. It is a very time consuming process, buying, cooking, filling and distributing the bags. Then there is the huge number of towels you need to hand out. Every grave digger, the priest and who knows who else (it was a very big, big pile of towels!) gets fresh towel for each service they complete. Rumour has it most of these towels are then sold wholesale on market stalls, as obviously even a priest has only a certain amount of space for towels!
Finally the bags were loaded, and my wife drove with great care over to the countryside during the Romanian winter. Where just to add to her sorrow, her beautiful diamond from her engagement ring decided now was the perfect time to go missing. So my poor wife's sorrow is deeper than ever. In Romania, this like everything else, is a 'sign' of bad things to come... fortunately to me, it is only a sign that we need to visit a jewellers and find a replacement stone.
At school, I am experimenting with using Amazon Kindle as a classroom tool for Primary kids. I am now teaching grade 1 to grade 6 reading and research skills with them. The project is going amazingly well and I am now saving a huge amount of photocopying by pre-uploading all their worksheets onto the Kindles. The downside was the children viewed this as the perfect time to also download all sorts of books and blogs onto them! I fixed that problem by linking the Kindles to an account with an expired credit card, so they can only download free stuff to the Kindles, and even then need to know where to look! I am now starting to pester other computer companies as I would like to also trial a set of Nook e-readers at school - I have asked and I now await to find out.
My biggest project of the moment - http://www.free-guided-reading.com is going well as I keep finding small websites full of really interesting .pdf files which I am using to teach my class! I did get sent some from a publisher - I put them online only to get a "Errrrr... wait a minute..." email so I had to take them all off again! Still at least my school now has a class set of really nice books. The company is now going to make these books into Kindle books, which is excellent as then the world can share them!
Finally on Monday is a very special day for me! Little Victor is 2 years old - so we are having a pizza party. He will get some toys. My favourite is naturally from me - a set of wooden balls to hammer through hoops. There is no time like now to teach him how to work and be practical... the idea being he learns it all from his grandfather, so that the houses don't fall down sometime in the future!
Come again next week for the next exciting episode in An Englishman's Romanian Ramblings!
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