Between my study abroad in Italy and my study abroad in Italy (but for Latin this time), I had to leave the EU for a week so that I could return on a tourist visa since the visa office laughed at me and my multi-colored acceptance letter and stalking the monk didn’t work. I chose Romania for this sojourn under the basic premise of: I’ve been self-studying Romanian. I wonder if it worked.
It took some convincing of my parents as Romania seemed to them to be particularly foreign (as opposed to the foreign country I was living in) but they felt better upon finding out that Romanian is a romance language. I eventually found out that they wanted to feel like they COULD come rescue me if they needed to.
As a project for myself while I was not really composing Latin for my course (I would make it up after getting back to the states) and since I was preparing for Latin immersion with the Pope’s Latinist, I decided that I would also read while traveling Harrius Potter et Philosophiae Lapis.
This was also my first novel in another language.
Reading novels in other languages is in a word, hard. I had attempted to translate this book previously about six times since I’d been gifted it in high school, but my best attempt failed around page five. Part of the reason for this (and why foreign language classes in the states fail so often) is volume. In class, you are used to things like: translate 30 lines of Latin between now and Wednesday.
In novel land, 30 lines isn’t even the first page, so if you are reading a 249 page novel at the pace of between now and Wednesday, you will take well over 498 days to read it.
Fortunately, I realized on the 48 hour train ride (with two 45 minute tours of capital cities) that translating was not going to work if I wanted to finish this year. I thus invented my patented (pending) read for the gist, look things up later, and know it will get better by the end of the book.
How patented, you ask? Enough that I force my students to learn an entire language by doing just that their senior year.
By the end of my train voyage (not actually my longest), I had made it to Hagrid (where my mom once betrayed me). After being robed twice upon arrival in Romania, I had a few days of mostly cowering in the hostel (which was INCREDIBLE), reading a lot, and forcing myself to go out for a little to renew my faith in humanity.
Eventually, I started branching out to the day trip on a train with a 45 minute tour of whatever my destination city was. I only got hopelessly lost at midnight one time, but met a helpful person that did a lot to restore my faith in humanity and give me directions too.
By my third trip (between having my belt inspected in Constantsa and getting stuck in the reeds near Dracula’s tomb), I had reached the introduction to Hogwarts. I was going to Brashov (Note names here reflect pronunciation rather than spelling) and found I had almost TWO hours for this city tour. Whatever would I do with myself? Not got to Dracula’s castle obviously, I wanted to get out of the city. Thus I tried my also patented get to a city and find whatever is green on the map to pretend I am not in a city.
This lead me to the first of the Carpathian Alpes, which rise dramatically out of the city as it washes up the valleys around it. Finding it was easy, as directions are essentially “go up”, so off I went in my cloak. Paved streets turned to a dirt two track, turned to a path, turned to forging cross country in the mist. It was about this point that I realized I had just read about Quirrel meeting a vampire in the mountains of Romania.
That is exactly where I am!
Did I find a vampire? Well, I am cowering from the sun for the next month.
I DID find a radio tower, a neat bench with a Latin inscription commemorating a Roman emperor (byzantine). I also had a girl turn to look at me as I was hurrying back to the train station to have a guy stand uncomfortably close in line. She did a double take and then poked her friend vigorously to turn and see the guy in the cloak.
Unlike Quirrel, I met maybe the nicest people I have ever met on the train back to Bucareshti.
The vampiric sojourn continued the next day on the bus (to fail the first time at finding Dracula’s tomb but succeed in finding an elementary school computer lab) where I saw one of my favorite bad English shirts.
“I want drink you blood”