Way back when we travelled to Sibiu we watched the town put up its Christmas tree and Amanda brought back a small branch from that tree. It has been on our wall ever since, decorated with small wooden ornaments we purchased in Sibiu helping us to feel festive:
On Dec. 6, the Romanian Fulbright Commission treated us - current and alumni Fulbrighters to a dinner at a lovely old building. Once again it was good to reconnect with some of my colleagues. One Fulbright alum was introduced as one of Romania's premier violinists. He presented a program of about 5-6 short pieces that demonstrated a range of musical styles and techniques. Quite enjoyable! On Friday, Dec. 7, the Fulbright commission also trated us to several touristy activities as an all day affair. The day started with a tour of the People's House, the second largest building in the world (behind the Pentagon). Unfortunately I missed this one as I had a doctor's visit (see another entry on Romanian healthcare). I caught up with the group for the tour of Cotraceni Palace, my second visit there, but still quite enjoyable and recommended to my visitors who like such architectural examples. We then went to Mogosoaia Palace for lunch and a tour. Again this was my second visit here, but fun to see the place decked out for the holidays:
The building above is where we ate lunch - an elaborate meal of several courses. It was at this time that I engaged in some very pleasant conversation with my teaching colleagues comparing notes on the educational culture. Their experiences - students seeming lackadaisical about attendance and preparation for class - are very similar to mine. One of my colleagues, who grew up and attended school in Bucharest prior to emigrating to the US, talked about being aware now - but not at the time - how entitled she and her classmates felt to being "given" grades and a diploma, without having to work for it. I suspect this is largely a holdover from the totalitarian regime that emphasized equality among people by having outputs be consistent rather than recognizing differing inputs...
Back to holiday conversation...
Of course we are celebrating much with the Anglican Church we have been attending. On Dec. 8 there was a fundraiser at the Intercontinental Hotel, a lovely sit-down dinner for both congregants and people associated with Casa Ioana, a charity for homeless people. It was a lovely festive affair, complete with a visit from St. Nicholas, who told stories and provided small gifts to young children. I especially enjoyed chatting with the Englishman, Ian, who founded Casa Ioana. He is a retired policeman who came to Bucharest in the early 90s in response to the stories about the horrendous conditions in Romanian orphanages and after some back and forth between Romania and England wound up settling here. The program at Casa Ioana apparently has an excellent track record of getting their clients into the workforce and into stable living conditions within a year of their being enrolled in the program.
Also at church on Sunday, the 9th was the children's nativity program and a small group from Casa Ioana who sang Romanian carols. What's not to like about little kids entertaining us?
On Wednesday, Dec. 12, I met with my class and dismissed them a little early so I could meet Amanda, David, and Ruxandru at church for the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols. Little did I know that the Anglican church uses slightly different tunes for many of the familiar carols, compared to the U.S. churches I have attended. Singing along was a little more difficult as a result - still an enjoyable service. And from there to the Bucharest Christmas market ... However it was bitter cold that night and the snow and ice were slippery underfoot. So back home to finish getting Amanda ready to leave the next day for North Carolina.
Today, Christmas Eve, I am celebrating by Skyping with some members of my family and by going out with 2 of my students. Tomorrow, David (Fulbright colleague) and I are making sarmale, a traditional Romanian dish, and celebrating together. On Wednesday I have an invitation for lunch with my director, Diana. So I thin I am celebrating the season well!