Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Culture Differences

Howdy y'all and buna ziua. As you can tell from the title this post is pretty much all about the cultural diffs between America and Romania. It's probably an interesting topic, hopefully it isn't boring, but it's definitely a struggle that I've had being a foreign exchange student here in Romania. So, here it goes.

There are many, many differences in culture that I have found. However I think they mainly can be summed up into 3 groups. There's the language barrier, obviously. The food. And the behavior diff, which is a broader topic but, whatevs.

Ok, first off, the language barrier. I say barrier because that's exactly what it is. Not being able to be understood and even more so to understand is as hard as running through a brick wall, and I know exactly how hard that is (if your confused ask one of my friends or family). One cannot have a better example then the homestay example. Most of the students here have someone in their family who can speak some English, but not I. I live with Father Hammer and his wife Simona. They have 2 sons, Felix and Hoaria. The latter I met just once before he moved off to college and Felix followed a few weeks after. So, I was then left alone at home with no one that spoke English. By this time I could speak polite words (thank you, no thank you, etc) and I knew a few basic verbs but other than that I can't understand hardly anything. Without fail “conversation” will somehow end, rather quickly, in me saying “Nu intselect”, which means I don't understand. It's fascinating how every time I reach this point I literally cringe with a feeling of stupidity, embarrassment and above all guilt. To avoid these predicaments, sometimes it's easier just to flee to the comfort of a movie on the computer, or social networking, but then I start to feel guilty about not spending time with Father Hammer and I have to accept my fate and face the music once again. This cultural difference is obvious but I don't think one can actually appreciate how hard it is until they are in this position, don't believe the movies which portray foreign language as something that's easily picked up.

Alrighty then, second difference, food. I'm sure it's no shock that foods different in different places in the world, but the topic still qualifies for this post so I'm gonna talk about it anywho. There are 2 types of food in Romania, awesome food and nasty. I'm gonna attempt to make some kind of a list now so bear with me.

Ok, lets start with the good food.

1. Soup -Soup. Is. Amazing. There is no such thing as canned soup in Romania. Every last soup dish is made from scratch, and it's awesome. It's called ciorba here (pronounced chorba) and there are 2 kinds, sour soup and just plain ciorba. Sour soup usually has vinegar or something of the like in it, but it's still quite good. A Romanian classic soup is sour soup with pig intestine, yes I've had it and yes I like it. The other soup is just as good but doesn't really have any interesting feature to it.

2. Alcohol. I have no idea what the legal drinking age here is. What I do know is that I can legally drink. A good meal is not complete with out the usual shot o' tuika (pronounced suika), which is home made plumb brandy. There is also the occasional glass of wine but I've only had that once. However, drunkenness is looked down upon just as much as in the states. Father Hammer, my host father, has a saying which goes "One drink is from God, two drinks is from man and three drinks is from the devil". So drinking, at least with my family, happens in conservative moderation.

3. Natural food. This category pretty takes up the rest of the food list except for fast food. All the food here is natural, all the people here cook their own food and pretty much all of the ingredients they buy is natural, unprocessed food. It's considerably cheaper here than junk food is, in contrast to the States.

4. Fast food. There are fast food joints here but they too use, for the most part, natural ingredients. If you go to a Hamburger place, with the exception of McDonalds, you can bet that the food your eating came from local farmers.

Alright now for the food nasty

1. Brunza = Satan's cheese. Brunza is goat cheese. I've never had goat cheese before this semester and I never want to eat that awful stuff ever again. Even the smell of it set your insides against your own body.

2. Pate. Pate is a sort of liver mush that people use in place of mayo sometimes. ... ... Why on earth would you want to do that?

3. Sausage. Don't get me wrong, I love sausage and really the sausage here isn't all that nasty but I put it under this category for the sake of its fattyness. All the meat here is extremely fatty, which us Americans aren't used to, so for us it's more or less disgusting.

Ok, now for the last but not least category, behaviors. I'll also put this into a sort of list.

1. PDA = Ok. Got a girlfriend? Wanna make out in front of the whole world? Then come to Romania folks, people do it here all the time.

2. Modesty = less so than I'm used too. Personally I haven't had much contact with this, but apparently in the summer people go to the public pool and get naked. Also naked pictures are not uncommon in a newspaper or somethin.

3. Farming here is done in a sort of old fashioned way. There are not many tractors here and there are no combines. What your more likely to see is a horse drawn cart with hay or wood on it trotting down the streets of Lupeni (the town where we live). Seed is planted by hand (I think), and the harvest is done with either a small tractor or machine or a good old fashioned scythe.

4. Sportball (<- West Hall reference) The only sport here is Soccer, hardly any others.

5. Piracy. Romanians don't buy entertainment, they hack it from the internet. Games, movies, songs, apps all get snatched off the net and nobody cares. Kind of nice, I for one don't like paying money for songs especially.

6. Orthodoxy. They main religion is Christian Orthodoxy. Similar to the Catholic church but I'm not even used to that.

7. Utilities. Heating, water, etc are all very different here. There are hardly any gas furnaces here, pretty much everyone has a wood burning stove. There are hardly any microwaves. In order for your house to have hot water you must have a heating thingy which is usually located near the sink or bath tub or whatever it is.

8. Sickness. Romanians, from what I've experienced, are paranoid about getting sick. If you don't wear the correct clothing, you can be sure that you will be scolded and told that you're gonna get sick. If someone has a minor cold or an upset stomach they can be bedridden for days or become convinced that they need a doctor. And then there's the draft. Romanians think that a draft of air can cause one to become ill, so don't be surprised if your walkin down the street and you see a man with cotton in his ear.

Ok, so that's a basic summary about the differences between here and home. Hope this post wasn't too long.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Wanted a Clever Title but I Couldn't Come Up with One

There are things that you can make your day and there are things that can break a day. Then there are things that you hope will make your day, whether that be because they happen, don't happen, or because they are good news. But the point of all this is to say that things fail us, people fail us, we fail ourselves, but you want to know a secret, there is a thing/being that doesn't fail us. He brings our hearts back to the joy that they once had, He doesn't fail us. Let me give you a bit of an anecdote.

Today I was feeling like crap. We took a test on Wednesday over the Romanian language and to be quite frank it kicked my butt. I didn't feel overly good after taking it, and now I guess I'm not worried about the results but I am grateful that we are done learning language in a formal setting. Don't get me wrong I love the language but I have to learn on my own time (I think) so this formal learning of the language is pretty rough. But the toughest part is when it follows me home. My brain was fried upon arriving home but I still had to learn more of it upon arriving home (one of the joys of living with a Romanian family) so I found a lot of solace in going to sleep. But the morning came and guess what, I was still with my Romanian family, so guess what again, there was still more Romanian to learn. Needless to say I wanted none of it, my brain was still recuperating. So after breakfast I retreated to my room to gain my wits. I entered my room thinking that if I could speak my problems aloud that would help, so I did, I essentially spoke to myself and it helped but my frustration remained. “So,” I thought, “if speaking to myself helped a little maybe telling someone else will resolve my problem.” So it was off to the IMPACT building to express my feelings to my American friends who were in similar situations. Plus there is internet there so I could check if my Twins won which would definitely brighten my day if they had. When I got to the IMPACT building I told my story to first Zach and Marit, then later to Kelly, but no matter how many times I complained about my situation I didn't feel any better. And to add to things the Twins had lost.

So, so far my day had been pretty down in the dumps. Then there came the debrief (after a wonderful meal, which usually makes my entire day but really didn't, no offense guys). We had decided to talk about “The Prayer of Saint Francis” and, for those of you who don't know this prayer, it is practically impossible to pray this without being at peace. And that is exactly what happened to me. As I spoke the words of love that this saint had written down so many years ago my worries and frustrations seemed to fall away. Who would have thought that speaking to the creator of the universe, the creator of you and me, the all-knowing entity beyond any one of us, would bring me peace and harmony? That speaking to him/her would restore my joy?

I had failed myself in finding peace. Zach, Marit, and Kelly failed to give me complete relief from my frustration. The Twins lost. All these things failed me, but God stayed there the whole time waiting patiently for me to lay it before him, and when I did I finally felt the freedom I had been looking for. So if ever you feel trapped, let down, frustrated, or anything of the like speak to God about it. Here's a good start:

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

Oh divine master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love with all my heart.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.