Peace Corps Writers
For two years, Andy Trincia will be writing about his days as a Peace Corps Volunteer for
Peace Corps Writers.

 
Andy Trincia

Read other short pieces about PCV experiences

Andy's previous articles:
Training

Teaching high schoolers free-market economics

Looking for Ben Franklin in Timisoara

Partying with Peasants and A Letter to America

Customer Service?

Romania Themepark Mania

The Neighbor's Goat

Corrupting Future Prosecutors

Some of Andy's photos are at Yahoo
Click on the small icon of the file folder and photo.

by Andy Trincia (Romania 2002–  )

Unforgettable Faces

THERE ARE ALWAYS faces you never forget, especially when traveling or living abroad.Printer friendly version Sometimes it’s a stranger you’ve befriended or simply someone with whom you had a chance meeting, perhaps a person who performed a brief act of kindness. Maybe you learn their name — or not. In my travels over the years, there are certain people I’ll never forget. Faces.
     For example, Mele, a young man I met some years ago at a tasty taqueria in Oaxaca, Mexico — a proud Mexican with Indian heritage who volunteered to take me around his hometown, even talking his way past armed guards at the state capitol to show me incredible murals of Benito Juarez’s heroics. Or the poor Vietnamese couple living on a tiny fishing boat in Halong Bay, who gave me, a friend and our guide a much-needed lift when our rented boat began to leak. As a thank-you, I presented to them a few bucks, cigarettes and airplane-sized bottles of Jack Daniels, all of which were recommended to me as useful gifts in Vietnam. I’ll never forget their broad smiles, which stretched their tough skin, weathered by sea and sun.
     The gregarious owner — almost cartoon-like — of a fabulous tapas restaurant in Mallorca, Spain; the high-ranking Cameroon politician I met in Morocco, where he was trying to drum up tourism for his country; one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, a shy clerk in a remote roadside convenience store in Iceland; and an ever-so-hip Bulgarian couple who stopped me and another Volunteer on the street in Sofia last summer, offering unsolicited directions amid the Cyrillic signs and head-shaking yes’s and nodding no’s that so confused us. There are many faces from many memorable moments.
     Here in Romania, which has been my home for going on two years, too often the faces are, well, just plain sad, or suparat in Romanian. Poverty, slow progress, a string of economic and political disappointments for its citizens since the 1989 fall of communism, as well as a fatalistic, glass-is-half-empty culture, are the main reasons. At times we Volunteers get caught up in this, especially in the gloomy days of winter, and I’m sure we, too, look sad. I’ve gone through entire days here without seeing a single smile.
     So all the more reason to be relieved, even thankful, when you do see a smile, or meet an upbeat, motivated person — what a huge difference that makes for those faces now etched in my mind. Sure, there are faces I wouldn’t mind forgetting from my time in Romania. Countless moments of rudeness and certain callous remarks linger in my mind, along with more pleasant memories. As I begin the homestretch of my service in Romania, I want to remember those people who, despite the tough surroundings here, try hard at work and life, remain positive and unselfish — and inspire, perhaps unwittingly.
     Take a mid-20s lawyer named Ioana from Brasov, Romania. We recently shared a train compartment for a 9-hour journey, but only talked near the end. She was on her way to Hungary to see a medical specialist, for a second opinion on her hearing, after getting bad news from three different Romanian doctors. She is slowly going deaf. The determination in her dark eyes and on her face, not only to overcome the hearing problem, but to flourish in her career despite a corrupt system and other hurdles — not to mention learning English from TV shows and movies — is admirable. She is a true optimist in a land with too few of them.

  
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