Monday, July 30, 2007

Romania beckons to Milan teacher Remote village still relies on horses

Monday, July 30, 2007
BY MARJORIE KAUTH-KARJALA
Ann Arbor News Staff Reporter

On the final leg of her journey to a village in Romania, Sue Kohfeldt saw three cars and 17 horse-drawn wagons.

That's how the Milan High School teacher describes the remote location of the tiny village where she will soon be teaching. Through a Fulbright Teacher Exchange grant, Kohfeldt will teach English as a foreign language this fall at a high school in Gura Humorului, Suceava, Romania.

"Only I would land in a place with humor in the name,'' Kohfeldt said of the village.

Kohfeldt visited the village during a side-trip from her annual trip to Lithuania, where she helps teachers learn the use of technology in their classrooms. A teacher in Milan for 18 years, Kohfeldt became an expert in the use of technology in the classroom - after once having to ask a student where the "on'' button was on a machine, she said.

The journey to Romania was both harrowing and humorous - due to a miscommunication with the person scheduled to pick her up. Kohfeldt - with a lot of luggage - found herself stranded at the airport in the early morning hours, knowing little Romanian.

She said she attempted to rest - while still protecting her luggage - by sprawling herself over the various pieces.

Through the little Romanian she knew and with a little English help from other travelers, Kohfeldt managed to get a train and taxi to the tiny village.

It's not the first time Kohfeldt has faced a language barrier. She's traveled the globe three times and spends summers in Lithuania, but her grasp of various languages is limited, she said.

"I try really hard to learn the language wherever I go, to not be an 'ugly American,''' Kohfeldt said.

But sometimes, her attempts to communicate can fall short. Once, in a Lithuanian restaurant, she asked for butter for her dinner roll and was served a large stein of beer.

After her arrival in Gura Humorului, Kohfeldt stayed for two days with a Romanian teacher and her family, who will be coming to Milan for the exchange program.

Cristina Tudor will teach English at Milan. Her husband and her son, who will enroll as a sophomore at Milan High School, will join her.

"From the kitchen, I can see the Carpathian Mountains, from the front room, I see the beautiful garden of my neighbor, and from the bedroom, I see the town,'' Kohfeldt said.

She won't have a car - so that will mean a lot of walking in a climate similar to that of Michigan.

"It'll be uphill both ways,'' she joked.

Jennifer Terry, a recent Milan High School graduate who took Kohfeldt's mythology class, has high praise for Kohfeldt's teaching skills.

"You don't think you're learning ... but when you walk away from it, you say, 'Boy, I learned a lot,''' Terry said.

Terry also was impressed with Kohfeldt's willingness to go to Romania.

"She's willing to go to another country and help somebody else - that's a selfless act. And it's a little journey for herself - just like mythology,'' Terry said.

To read Kohfeldt's blog, log on to travelintoromania.blogspot.com/. To learn more about the exchange program, go to exchanges.state.gov.

Marjorie Kauth-Karjala can be reached at mkarjala@annarbornews.com or at 734-482-2961.

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