Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 298: Romania!

I have arrived in Romania. I may be a little bit tired and hungry and more than a little bit in need of a shower, but I have safely arrived in the formerly communist country that will be my home for the next month. 

It's been a pretty long road getting here. I left before 8am yesterday, catching a bus from St. Andrews to Dundee, then the megabus down to London. Because of delays, we didn't reach London until 9:30 pm, meaning I didn't get settled into my hostel until past 10:30. That wouldn't have been an issue, except that I had to wake up at 4:30am in order to catch the bus to London Luton airport in time to make my 8:30 flight. Things were a tad hectic and rushed at the airport, but I made it in time and they didn't make me check my carry-on bag (despite how I'm nearly positive it was too big) and I slept through most of the three hour flight. 

The Romanian airport immediately made me miss Britain-- they don't seem to understand the concept of a queue here! Everyone just sort of jostled together to get through passport control, which was pretty lax. 

Once through, the uncertainty began. I had been told that someone would likely be there to pick me up, but I had no idea where they'd be or what they looked like. I didn't immediately see anyone holding a sign with my name on it, so I wandered around the airport, got some money from an ATM (yes, I did go to a new country without a scrap of its currency on me. No, this didn't stress me out at all... maybe it should have?) attempted to locate a bus that would take me into town, and eventually decided to ask at the information desk, where I finally found the woman who was supposed to pick me up. Apparently she had been at the airport all along, with a sign, but we must have just missed each other. 

She drove me into the centre of Cluj and dropped me off at the hostel where all of us TEFL volunteers will stay until Saturday night. Cluj is Romania's second largest city with a population of 450,000. It's a lovely place-- not too busy, with some picturesque buildings and slightly mountainous countryside visible just beyond. The overwhelming colours are adobe beige, yellow, and pink, with a bit of stone and stucco. 

This afternoon I got the chance to explore a little bit. I set out without looking at the map and wandered along some old walls, climbed up to a university building, and visited a market square complete with cathedral and craft fair (I bought a lovely pair of earrings featuring little bronze ballet dancers). The hostel also had a party to celebrate their 12th anniversary, so I enjoyed the free cake and wine. 

On Saturday, the other TEFL volunteers and I will all be sent out to our placements. I'm going to Suceava, a city of around 90,000 people, in northeast Romania (about half an hour from the borders of Ukraine and Moldova). I'm looking forward to seeing the city, meeting my host family, and starting work teaching English! 

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