Peace Corps Writers
Partying with peasants and
a letter to America
(page 2)
A Volunteer's life in Romania
page 1
page 2


Gheorghe's home

The next morning, I found the wooden gate, on the left just beyond the creek, as I was instructed. Peering in, I saw Gheorghe and his father working in the dirt courtyard filled with chickens and junk. The surprised yet happy look on his face was priceless. I could tell he thought I wasn’t really going to show up. He quickly invited me inside the house.
     I have never been in a simpler, poorer home. It was just a couple of small but well-heated rooms, the wood burning smell almost overpowering. His wife, traditionally dressed with a scarf on her head, fixed a coffee for me, using well water from a bucket, and heated it on an ancient stove. The grandmother, or bunica in Romanian, was ill and covered-up on a sofa in this kitchen-living-dining room. We again spoke only Romanian though Gheorghe’s wife understood little. She looked down at my leather hiking boots — though they were scuffed and dirty, having survived Outward Bound in Arizona and New Mexico and propelled me on hikes from the Smokies to New England, they were probably nicer than any shoes they’d ever owned.
     Gheorghe pulled out a dusty envelope, though it was missing the letter — the last correspondence from his nephew and niece in Arizona. The handwriting was a kid’s and I noticed the address, an apartment in Tempe, but my heart sank when I saw the postmark was 1995. I thought to myself, they’ll probably never get this. Gheorghe didn’t have the kids’ phone number, or I would have somebody back home make the call.
     The family wasn’t even sure what to say, but I jump-started them with questions on how things were, that they wanted to hear from the kids, please write, maybe they could visit someday. I began to scribble it in English, using a pencil and yellowing paper they gave me. “Hello, I am an American, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania, and I met your Uncle Gheorghe . . .”
     I asked Gheorghe for his phone number for the letter, not sure they even had one. They did, but when I wanted the area code, Gheorghe reached for a small phone book and searched throughout. I’m not even sure he could read, but I found the code on the cover. I also thought if the kids are Americans, they probably use computers and have email. I figured it was a long shot, but began to explain about computers and that I could . . . just blank stares.


Gheorghe and family
     I then took out my digital camera and took a few shots. I felt sheepish about displaying such an expensive item, but they marveled at seeing their photos instantly. I promised to send the photos to America, with the letter. When I said goodbye, the bunica extended her cold hand, tightly gripped mine, and pulled me down for a hug. Her eyes were welling with tears. She thanked me and wished me a healthy life. I promised to send the letter.
     As I walked through the village, I was in my own zone, let alone the time warp that surrounded me. What I had just seen, just experienced, was unforgettable. A few villagers stared at me, probably thinking, “What is this guy doing here?” I sloshed through the muddy streets, dodging mangy stray dogs and horse-drawn carts trotting through the village, contemplating the letter to America. This, I thought, was a Peace Corps moment.
     When I arrived back in Timisoara, I searched the Internet for the lost family, but had no success. Then I had the photos printed and air mailed them with the letter, all the way to Tempe, Arizona. I put Gheorghe’s return address on the envelope, in case the kids had moved, maybe the U.S. Postal Service would be kind enough to send it back — at least he would know I tried. I put my address and email in the letter. I also sent a note and the same photos back to the family in Miclosoara. Then I waited. And hoped.
     I’ve since called Gheorghe. He received my letter, but he’s still waiting for a reply from the kids. I hope one of us hears something, someday.
Before joining the Peace Corps, Andy Trincia was a corporate communications executive in the financial services industry. Sworn in on August 16, 2002, he is working as a business consultant for the Chamber of Commerce in Timisoara, Romania. We have asked Andy to file reports for the next two years of what his life is like working and living in Romania.
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