My first days is Brasov
Volunteering in Romania with Projects Abroad
Photo : By:Valendru chibrit
I am Sonja, from the Netherlands, a volunteer for Projects Abroad. I am here for the dance project, but due to circumstances I am doing a bit of the journalism on the side. I am 18 years old and have been living in my hometown my whole life. Going to Romania was a big step out of my comfort zone and maybe life-changing.
As someone who has never really experienced a really different culture, Brasov was definitely a first time for me, on multiple different perspectives. Coming into the airport in Bucharest is where the experience started, nobody really spoke English neither the staff or the people around me, so it definitely felt like I was closed off from the rest.
In the car to Brasov, it was mostly a quiet ride, looking around me and noticing the change in scenery from the Netherlands. All the houses looked run down and were all a little randomly placed next to the road. Though, when moving into the business centrum of Brasov, it all started looking a lot brighter and a little more rich, which did make me feel safer.
When I got to the appartement provided for me, I was immediately kind of left on my own to settle in. So that is exactly what I did. I put away all my stuff and just threw myself down on the bed, taking a few deep breaths and trying to recollect my thoughts. The appartement that I was in, was not very big, but did have three bedrooms, I was told that other volunteers would soon join me in this appartement, even though the appartement was not finished yet. So it did feel a little weird to already be in that place, though everything I needed was there and in working order.
On the second day, I met with my Projects abroad expert, Ali. The woman I had been texting and emailing regularly, finally got a face and it was a welcome one to say the least. We discussed some things, before she left me and my host to go and explore the city a little. It was my first time using the public transportation is Romania and it was not easy, I can tell you that. It did not help that I was zoned out for most of it, looking at all the buildings passing by. So when we finally stopped I was a little confused until he told me we were at the council square. We walked around there for a little while, while we were talking about a lot of different things, mostly about history and communism.
For lunch we went to a restaurant, where I had my first experience with Romanian food. It was a hit and a miss, I really liked the sausage and polenta, the hot wine I will not be having again. After lunch we went to the dance centre where I would be spending some of my time for the dance project. Me and Ali spent some time filling out papers and discussing some last things.
In the first few hours out in the city, I already started to notice the differences from my home country. I noticed that the Romanians are not as open and outgoing as I am used to and the scenery of the streets can differ very much from street to street, so nothing looks the same. That does help while navigating, but it does look a little foreign to me, as I am used to uniformity in houses and full blocks. It was something to try and get used to in the next couple of days but it was not as overwhelming as I thought it was going to be.
My first time in front of a class was in Maierus. I was thrown for the wolves and they took form in a 7 year old body. They were very attentive and excited to be in class. I was a little stiff but that is normal. The second class went just as well, though they were a little older. When we got to the third class they were only a little harder to manage but I think they still learned something and had fun. I was later told it was the hardest to manage class because of their background, while I did not even really realise that. I did realise that you have to be open-minded with these kids, because you do not know what they have going on at home.
The day after we went to Prejmer, to a daycare centre. The town looked a little different from what I was used to by now in Romania, it was a lot more open and it has a big square with a fortified church in the middle, which I was planning to visit sometime soon. When we passed the church we soon came to the school and then the centre. As soon as the kids saw me, they acted like they had known me for years and immediately started shouting their own names. So in a matter of a couple seconds you are suddenly surrounded by 20 kids, with way too much energy, but it was good and happy energy. That day I had three groups of kids, very much varying in size and energy. The first day was mostly figuring out what they could and could not do, but they picked up everything very fast and were happy to get out of the daily slur. I had a group of only two a bit older kids, they were not as happy at the start, but I did a choreography with them and soon enough they got energetic and started laughing, smiling and were joking around with me.
In the weekend I got time to explore the city on my own, so I went back to the council square in Brasov, where I walked around for a good few hours. Visiting the church and a lot of different souvenir shops. After a while I found a small side street where I found a cafe. It was very warm and welcoming, the workers were trying to make small talk and doing their best to use their English. In there I was even offered a glass of their own wine on the house, though I declined. After that I was even offered a free caricature, I could not say no to that.
Overall were my first impressions of Romania and Brasov pretty good, it was something to get used to, but by now it does feel safe and comfortable to be around this area and the people that live here.