Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes

My third guest blogger is Cristiana Crivatz from Romania. Her post is a rather eerie story about an ordinary every-day event…

Cristiana Crivatz

My name is Cristiana Crivatz and I became a teacher in the late 90s. I graduated Foreign Languages – French and English language and literature and I also have a degree in Translations and an MA in British Cultural Studies. I am a teacher of English and I am currently teaching in “Class”, a Language Centre founded by the British Council and the Teachers of English Association in Constanta, Romania. I am also the Head of Training at a drilling engineering training centre situated in the port.

My main focus is to create motivation and teach my students the way I know best. A special interest is cultural anthropology and for this reason I write from time to time about the shifts in society, about how life unfolds to me in a civilization that is constantly changing like fractals. Therefore, my goal is to instil good in people by motivating them to expand what they know and use their knowledge and creativity to better our lives.

My experience with teaching children and adults has reached the 12th year and I intend to continue and learn every day, as I love this job.

A visit to the Post Office

The other evening I went to the Post Office to buy a stamp for a card I had written and carried with me for too long. Of course the Post Office in my neighbourhood is open until 7 pm like it always was since I knew it. The building is an old one, flat and long, just the ground floor, no lights above the entrance, no Xmas thingies hanging…just a plain, unlit building with tall windows. Sunken in the dark as it has always been. Some things never change.

At first I thought it was closed for some strike reason as practically inside there were three dimmed neon lights in a room the size of a ballroom. It turned me back in time in split seconds, the same tiles on the floor, the same phone booths that nobody uses anymore, the same tall-to-my-chin tinted marble counter. It smells like iron scrap and humid walls.

The woman behind the counter with puffed-up hair like it’s candy floss looks at me over the shoulder under her glasses and asks: ‘What can I do for you?’

‘Do you have stamps for US?’

‘US?? Oh, no. I don’t think so. If you’re lucky, maybe I’ll find one…’

She pouts, looking through a pile of messy grey papers, but not really looking.

‘If I don’t find one, you’ll have to pay more. I can give you one for Europe and another stamp which covers the sum.’

‘Fine, how much more?’

She doesn’t reply.

Suddenly I remember the Post Office in Marseille, where I asked for some credit to charge my French card. The woman there had the attitude of a dead platypus too and when I asked if there are instructions of the credit I bought, she just said: “Je ne sais pas, presse 09 and parle avec le robot’.

This lady here is much scarier and I am almost riveted in this suspense and feel as if I am going to lose the big pot unless she finds that stamp.  ‘Ah.’ She manages to find one. ‘There you go’.

She then goes back to loudly stamping her piles of papers and starts printing on a machine that is as old as the Post Office or older, one of those printers that go nee-ah; nee- ah; nee-ah – I can’t even remember their names. I can’t seem to be able to communicate with such people, not even at the level of “Have a good day!”

I go out of the Post Office and I notice two teenagers with checked bandanas, large jeans lowered to their butts, school-bags thrown on the ground, laughing and drawing graffiti on the wall: it reads – “Vampires will eat you”.

Couldn’t agree more with them.

Further on, there’s this greengrocer woman selling fruits and veggies at the bus stop outside on a very small and dodgy stall – she asks me who am I voting for in the elections.

I answer I want more oranges please and return the question: she proudly announces with a grin she votes for a man that wants to kill all Hungarians and shun them away from Romania, a man who would call for the armed forces if needed be, and there is a need because teenagers nowadays have no respect and spit on the streets and push old women on buses, and she feels this country should be taught a lesson and be run by force, by a strong hand.

‘Pretty lady, let me tell you how things are: we Romanians learn out of fear,’ she adds my pears in a very un-eco plastic bag.

Erm, fear? I leave her stall wishing her a good day and ponder: What did I learn out of fear? Hmmm, I must remember fear, it’s a pretty strong feeling… All I remember is a feeling – a grey, cold as steel bars, ash-tasting and pretty slithery down the spine feeling of fear when all the lights in the city used to be turned off for economy reasons and mom used to light up a candle so that I could learn multiplications by 6, 7, 8…etc. by heart.

Maybe that’s why I failed Arithmetic in high-school. Guess I was lucky I had a choice later to choose foreign languages, out of a hatred stirred by fear, fear of learning in the dark.

Cristiana blogs at bloggishinglyours.wordpress.com

Editor’s note: You can find another Romanian Post Office story at the Bucharest Life blog http://tinyurl.com/ycwy32f. The blog is written by a very funny British guy called Craig Turp. The Post Office picture on this page was taken from Craig’s blog  bucharestlife.net.

Comments on: "Guest post 3 – a Romanian story…" (33)

  1. lclandfield said:

    Cristiana, what a wonderful story. I love the Vampires will eat you comment, it adds a gothic twist to it. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live through those blackouts and that time. Let’s hope those dark days do not return.

    • Cristiana said:

      Yea, well you know, those days will not return but since the present days count more, they certainly look in a spectrum to me, which is fine, whichever angle you look at it:) and that is thanks to our kids who are so creative and full of surprises!
      thanks for commenting here!

  2. Amandalanguage said:

    You are an amazing writer. I hope you don’t mind but I would love to show your post to my Romanian stds who are studying with me in the UK. One of them, in particular, has alluded to the very difficult times experienced by her mother and I feel that by reading it, she will feel like expressing her feelings more, if only in tutorial with me. I certainly don’t think either her or her mother learned much though fear.
    Thanks so much
    Amanda

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Amanda,

      there will be another, more historically-focused Romanian guest blogger called Melania in a couple of days time. You may want to use that one, too!

      Ken

      • Amandalanguage said:

        Thanks Ken,

        Am looking forward to it and further thought-provoking discussions with my students,

        Amanda

    • Cristiana said:

      Hi Amanda! Sure do! Thank you for your kind comments! Lets’ keep in touch and do go on my blog site!

    • Cristiana said:

      Use this and abuse it:)

  3. Cristiana said:

    Yeah, believe me it is accurate, Lindsay and it should stand out for the generations to follow to open up to brighter horizons and also a sensible innuendo for those who still say ‘those years were better because of this and that’. Thanks for stopping by and for encouraging me:) Wish you well!

  4. Hi Cristiana!
    Nice to meet you on Ken’s blog!
    You truly love teaching, it shows very much.
    Thank you for sharing your story of living in Romania and details that a lot of people (including myself) did not know. I am happy that the worst days are over.
    I wish you all the best personally and professionally!
    Kindest regards,
    Vicky

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Vicky, I’m not sure that Cristiana would agree that ‘the worst days are over’. Right now, as you can see, there is a politician who wants to chase all the ethnic Hungarians resident in Romania out of the country. In some ways, things are still a little dark.

      Having said that, Romania is an endlessly fascinating country, with some stunning scenery as well.

    • Cristiana said:

      Hi Viki! Nice to meet you too. i loved your blog too…i will read more of you in the future. Ken is right though, mentality changes in decades..and i am not sure we know how to keep what is good from the past and adapt it wisely coz not everything was bad:)
      Keep in touch!
      good luck to u too! Look fwd to meeting you!

      • Hi Cristiana and thanks for your reply!
        It was very interesting to read your post. Thank you very much for that!
        I hope everything goes better for all Romanians.
        I look forward to meeting you too and thank you for your kind words!
        Vicky

  5. Yes, you are right about that Ken. I hope everything goes well for Romanian people.
    I hope to visit Romania one day, I have never been there.
    Congratulations to Cristiana for such an interesting blogpost and to Ken for introducing Cristiana to us!
    Vicky

  6. Congratulations on the lovely post, Cristiana! Very accurate, indeed! And… I love your writing style…
    Vicky, the candidate Cristiana mentions did not get many votes in the elections. He’s been trying to become president for the last twenty years and never realised he doesn’t stand a chance!
    Unfortunately, a week after the poll, we still don’t know who won, there are two political parties which came out very close and they are counting and re-counting the votes, accusing each other of fraud. In the meantime, teachers have been forced to go on unpaid vacation a week before the winter holidays, with 15.5% of their salaries off… Just before Christmas…

    • I agree with Melania, great style! Lovely descriptions. I have no idea why, but I felt like it was the 80’s… And those blackouts – we used to have them in my country as well, looooong time ago.

    • Cristiana said:

      Kudos to you Melanie!:) I love your posts and i consider we are lucky to be let to roam freely here, like Mboro horses:))

  7. Hi Melania!
    Good thing that politician was not elected (I hope politicians like him never do), but very bad thing for the teachers. And during the most critical period, Christmastime.
    I hope things like these never happen again, for teachers in Romania or anywhere else in the world.
    I wish you all the best Melania! And thank you for the interesting information.
    Kindest regards,
    Vicky

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Vicky, Melania’s guest blog will appear this week – you will find lots more interesting information about Romania.

      Melania, I echo Vicky’s sympathy for the situation of teachers at this time. I imagine other vital civil servants – nurses, firefighters – are in a similar situation?

  8. Hi Ken!
    Can’t wait to read Melania’s post! Thank you again!

    • Thank you, Vicky and Ken! You’re so kind to think of us here!

      Yes, Ken, it’s true that almost all budgetary sectors are affected by the same unfair measures the government have applied in order to cover some international debt and/or reduce some percentage imposed by the European Union…

      Melania

  9. Hi Cristiana,

    great story – and timely to stop people looking back at the past through rose-tinted glasses. I have heard too many other ‘Maths-by-candlelight’ type Romanian stories for that (loved Melania’s communist jokes on her site too).

    Dot matrix printer! That’s the kind you were thinking of???

    Jeremy

    • Cristiana said:

      AHA! YES! That’s the word for the printer:)) Thank you Mr Harmer, I am much obliged so to say for you to stop by, you brightened my first days of teaching…i still open your books once every 3 months…
      Once again, thanks!

  10. Hello Cristiana,

    I really enjoyed your post. I think fear does drive people. Now, I am reflecting about the many things I have learned out of fear and if all of these were necessarily good.

    • Cristiana said:

      🙂 Thanks well… the truth is like i said here. we dont really learn out of fear, our emotions that are strong relate to a thing or another and definitely mould us into what we choose….Keep up the good blogging thing:)

  11. Andy Hockley said:

    Thanks Cristiana, great post. The post office is a regular battle for me too (especially when I get one of those slips of paper telling me I have to go and pick something up – last week I got some Xmas presents from the UK, and they were given to me at the registered letters desk. I have no idea why – though I am quite glad because the parcels desk is much more hassle than the registered letters desk).

    I was having a conversation just this weekend about how when he talks to people in his office about living under Ceausescu they look at him like I would look at someone who was telling their experiences in the second world war. Like it’s fascinating history but not really part of reality as I know it.

    Anyway, say hi to the greengrocer from me in Miercurea Ciuc, CVT’s future ghost town!

    • Cristiana said:

      They, the parcels i mean, usually come at the door right? I hope so…just read Forget about the Balkans, here’s Romania if you can. It’s not a writer who writes this..
      About the greengrocer…erm, i dont even know she would understand the job you have:)) they really think in black or grey. I wish you could listen to what they talk when they queue, those ppl with tall lamb skin hats and stew-makers with the flowery headscarves….it’s a river of stories….i must queue more i guess…
      Thank you Andy and hope to see you again too!

  12. Andy Hockley said:

    Parcels to the door? Maybe in the exotic climes of Constanta, but not here in the Carpathians. Never heard of that book before, but just looked it up and it sounds interesting. Is it good?

    Say hi to Adrian for me!

  13. Cristiana said:

    Ok, you live in the Carpathians now? Errr…it’s not popular and again, you won’t spot any style but it’s good fun especially if you lived in Bucharest for a while…

    PS : “Adrian Hill, hi, from Andy Hockley:)”

    • Ken Wilson said:

      What does ‘you won’t spot any style in the Carpathians’ mean? Fashionable clothes? Or are you talking about something else?

      • Andy Hockley said:

        Adrian Hill? I meant Adrian your colleague (boss??) at CLASS.

        I never lived in Bucharest, my entire life in Romania has been in deeply unfashionable Miercurea Ciuc. Well, apart from traveling round everywhere else, it has.

        I’m not sure what the lack of style is about, but compared to Bucharest we are a dowdy bunch. Mind you it is famously the coldest place in Romania, so we have to wear a lot of clothes🙂

  14. Cristiana said:

    Oh sure:) ok…Adrian Ionescu would loooove to hear from you! He’s still my boss but he’s always been a colleague…
    I never thought you’d remember – I have been Miercurea Ciuc with Adrian. MC is certainly famous for coldness…
    Hope you come to Constanta one day to see us in Class🙂

  15. Buna Cristiana! I am a student in the Uk and my teacher, Amanda, showed me your guest blog and I was very pleased to read it, as a fellow Romanian.
    It really made me feel like home when I read your views about our country and it also reminded me about the feel of Romania.
    Your story made me laugh, especially the part in which you saw those teenagers drawing graffiti on the wall, with a very ‘deep’ message: ”vampires will eat you”… I don’t know if the Twilight euforia is felt that strongly there too, or maybe it is only Dracula’s fault.
    Anyways, thank you. Thank you for refreshing my memories about my home country and writing about it.
    Tina

    • Dear Tina,
      Ce faci? I am glad you connected with me in this way…thanks for stopping by. Haven’t seen Twilight but I am more into the real stuff than that yet another american movie on vampires:)) I know teenagers appreciate this kind of films. So I always think it’s good to keep memories fresh especially to people who were born after those dim years…
      All the best
      Cristiana

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