Ep #034: Shawna Thomas, Romania 2002-2004

How much do you hate cold showers? Well, imagine having to start a fire to fuel your hot water heater each time you wanted to take a warm shower. Oh, and it’s also below freezing outside. Shawna Thomas may miss Romania, but she doesn’t miss those cold showers.

On this Episode:

  • Traveling by train in Romania
  • Learning to start fires to heat your house and keep warm
  • Peace Corps Prep, a certificate program for undergraduate students

Photos from Shawna’s Story

Shawna Thomas’s Peace Corps Story

Where and when did you serve? What did you do?

I served in Romania from 2002-2004 as an Education Volunteer. I taught English to students in grades 6-12.

What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?

I have so many memories that I count among my favorite. This will be a difficult question to answer. One memory that always brings a smile to my face is the day I met my gazda (host) family. I’d been in Romania about 3 days before our group was split up into smaller groups up and down the Prahova Valley. The bus pulled up to the front of the high school in Baicoi and 5 of us disembarked. Our host families were all gathered, standing in the rain, waiting for us. Soon, I was introduced to my family and immediately felt like I was a part of their family. My host mom, Marianna, hugged me and just kept smiling at me. She introduced me to my host dad and sister. I remember feeling nervous about going to a house with total strangers and nervous about my non-existent Romanian language skills, but I also had a feeling like those 3 people were going to become very important to me. And they did. I spent a lot of time with them over my 2 years, even after I went to my site, which was a 10 hour train ride away. I’m still in contact with my mom and sister.

What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?

After the “3 month stay at your site” rule was up, my friends, Brian and Laura and I decided to go to Brian’s for a weekend visit. The weekend went great, but then, I had to take the train home. The train to the closest city to my village left at midnight. I bought my ticket, waited, and then got on the train car that I’d been assigned. Problem was that that particular car wasn’t going any farther than the next big town. What was supposed to be a 4 hour train ride, turned into me not getting home until 15 hours after I first got on the train. It also included several new tickets being purchased and train rides that I was told the train was headed to Arad, but were, in fact, not headed to Arad. It included hanging out in a small cold train station for a few hours until it opened. It included another couple of hours waiting at another train station while we waited on another train to pass. I learned so much through this experience and ultimately, it turned out fine, but it was a long and frustrating 15 hours. Part of me also wants to say “teaching”, but also feel like I shouldn’t. 🙂

What do you miss about the Peace Corps?

There is a part of me that misses everything. My Romanian family, my fellow volunteer friends, the food, the culture, my students. I miss the challenge some days of staying in your town or even the country.

What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?

I can still build a fire like nobodies business. My first apartment didn’t have electric heat or hot water, so I had to build fires for both of these things. I learned so much about myself during my time in the Peace Corps. I feel like there is a “before Peace Corps Shawna” and an “after Peace Corps Shawna”. I feel like you don’t fully understand how much you learned until a random situation makes you think “How did I know how to do that?” and then you remember it was because your time as a volunteer stays with you forever.

Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?

“Ce se fac?” It’s usually said with a shrug. What can you do?



Enjoy this episode? Then be sure to leave a 5-star review on Apple Podcast and help others discover this show.