Harriet Morley - Drama in Romania
A 22 year old, Australian female with a Bachelor of Contemporary Art lands in Bucharest...
Dragging my backpack through the gate, relieved to be on solid ground it hadn't hit me that I was standing in a country different to the one I'd left 17 hours ago. I tried to get into the driver’s side of the car. Still nothing. I sat with my face squished to the window, gawking at stunning churches and old village houses, horses long stretches of farm land, reality felt like a dream.
"Why Romanian?" She was asked.
"Don't be sold into slavery will you love?" she was warned.
Three weeks here and I've left it too long to write a "first impressions" blog. With the exception of the above activities mentioned so much has already happened.
When I arrived, after the drive from the Capitol, to Brasov, "Ocktoberfestivties", were in full swing. The streets were lined with "seemingly" illegally-parked-cars and swaying pedestrians. We manoeuvred our way through the traffic and pulled in up on the door step of an old village house. The street looked like an ice cream cake. I was welcomed into the bosom of my magical host Mumma Rodika.
There is not a single word I can possibly say against this woman. She goes above and beyond to make me feel at home in her beautiful old house. She feeds me, clothes me, entertains me; we do not share a spoken language but Rodika's strong gestures and my skills in interpretive dance meet in the middle to form an entertaining display of communication.
Myself and a maximum of three other volunteers are free to roam the top floor of Rodika's house. Living in a shared room is fantastic. It allows one the chance to meet such an eclectic bunch of people. The other volunteers are all here for there own reasons; drawn to the country by the Dance, Care, Community, Journalism or by Romania itself. Germany, Denmark, France, Hawaii, Australia all under one Romanian roof.
The students here are the best thing since sliced bread. Brought up in a strict schooling environment in which you have to study up to eighteen different subjects girls and boys still manage to drag their intelligent brains away from their books and come to spend an hour or two a week with me. Some I meet in their English class others come to Drama Clubs outside of school hours.
The extra curricular isn't as embraced here in Romania as it is in my Australian home. When I explain to the high school students that I graduated from my high school and entered university on four subjects, that I chose, because I enjoyed them? They want to hit me. The school system in Romania works their kids and young adults hard, some of them studying up to eighteen subjects at a time. Madness!
On a Friday morning I take a group of twelve-year olds for an hour during their English class. I came to the school. They were talking in a heated Romanian fashion. Many gestures.
"Hey what's going on?", and they go, "Oh! we're stressed!", and I go , "Why?". They told me that they had just been informed, in their previous class, probably Anatomy or Calculus or Early Greek Engineering, that next in Physics, Physics, they have a test. Now this, future, present and past volunteers, is one of the many reasons for having a Drama project. Teenagers study about fourteen subjects, most of which are highly challenging. Some of which they will never need and twelve year olds are stressed about Physics, one more time, Physics.
A plus to all this hard work they are put through, obviously, they all have brilliant and active minds. All the more reason for them to channel their thoughts into something creative. With all the girls and boys at the Drama Groups there is heated opinionated and passionate discussion about politics, books, films, plays, the improv exercise we happen to be doing! They want a challenge. They want to speak out. These students want to learn and they want to be performing. I work with the Drama Groups and decide with them what it is they expect from me. It has taken me about three weeks to settle into Brasov, get to know my kids and really tap into why I am here. Now I only have two weeks left!
The Drama Project allows for lots of creative freedom and flexibility. Projects Abroad has managed to place me in orphanage visits three times a week and, every Friday afternoon, I bus it out to a Day Centre. These kids are from families, villages and centres that have such little money. These kids need volunteers to jump the language barrier and provide positive energy, play, love and entertainment. They are wonderful kids and the energy and time that I put into being with them does not for one second feel even close to wasted.
All 'Projects' in Brasov allow volunteers to have the weekends completely free. There are bars and restaurants you can pick from. All within walking distance and there always seems to be something happening in the town square. One day I walked into the centre and there was a rock concert fundraising for breast cancer, the next day, a market packed with different artisans selling homemade fudge and jewellery.
The centre of town is one of my favourite places to sit. Workplace of, "Catalin: the bow tied waiter," (This man! Forever telling me 'you speak perfect'), is my favourite place for coffee. It's called 'The German Bakery' and it looks out over the town square. My room mate, she loves going to the park to watch the older men play chess and sometimes we take a short walk around the back of Brasov and sit up on the steps of the old fortress where you can see the whole city. There, of course, is also the opportunity to visit castles, festivals, zoos and landmarks out of Brasov on day trips over the weekends. The girls and guys in the office will help you out with anything you need. Anything.
The staff in the Brasov office are better than the best thing since sliced bread. They run such a tight ship and will be at the end of the phone should you ever need them. They make the office feel like a family home and the level of communication is so high that they know how to fix the problem you're having before you have even told them (no exaggeration, it's happened multiple times, to multiple people). Many volunteers have come back to Brasov and this is because these guys here show us such a good time, such a good time. The brilliance of them is beyond words. They will make your stay in Brasov as good as you want it to be. Just know when you get here, to let the Aussie out, "you'll be 'right,".
To conclude, I recommend to all volunteers thinking of coming here to join the Facebook group, read about what's going on here, research your projects, email your project co-ordinator. To anyone thinking of doing the Drama Project I highly recommend you allow your self time. Stay for two or three months (on reflection I would have liked to stay long enough to really develop some work for performance), I know the prices add up, but for this Project it is worth it. I am one for those people who came to Brasov with no idea what to expect. I read blogs like this and I went "yeah, yeah, cool,". Now, I will leave in two weeks and it has just hit me that I am actually in Brasov, Transylvania, Romania. I have made new friends and, found new family. I am not the first person to do this. I am not the last either.
To quote Alexandra Ichim, "Come with an open heart and an open mind". I say be a yes person.
You will fall in love.