Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Charleston iReporter's Romanian adventure

  • Natalie Montanaro volunteers for the U.S. Peace Corp in the rural community of Brusturoasa
  • She lives with a host family in the village and the Peace Corps pays her rent
  • With no close supermarket Montanaro relies heavily on the produce from her garden

(CNN) -- Natalie Montanaro, 52, a research assistant from the College of Charleston, South Carolina, volunteered for the U.S. Peace Corps and moved to Romania in May 2009.

Now, more than a year later, Montanaro lives in the small rural community of Brusturoasa, a collection of five villages in the north-east of the country with a population of around 3,000.

Steeped in tradition and religion, life in rural Romania is a far cry from Charleston, as Montanaro explained to CNN:

"It's very old world. There are many animals -- chickens, horses and cows. You have to watch out what you're crossing in front of on the street, especially the cows!"

Read about Montanaro's travels on iReport

The beauty that I've seen here during my days as a Peace Corps volunteer makes everything worthwhile.
--Natalie Montanaro, U.S. Peace Corps volunteer

Montanaro works at the village's three schools, teaching English to students from kindergarten to grade eight. On top of lessons she gives afternoon conversation classes and teaches the students computer skills after school.

But the project closest to Montanaro's heart is the international cooking day she hosts once a month for the 12 to 15-year-old students.

"They learn about different ways of preparing meals, healthy choices, food safety, kitchen methods, terms, tools, and other things like cooperation, timing, dinner conversation and how to set an entertaining table," she said.

With no supermarket in the village Montanaro has transformed her garden into a thriving vegetable patch.

She explained to CNN: "I've planted a garden with spinach, artichokes, red lettuce, rosemary, leeks, peppers and basil, to name just a few.

"We will use these along with other garden staples like potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers to make more dishes this summer that they haven't had a chance to taste yet," she said.

For Montanaro, becoming a Peace Corps volunteer has been a life long ambition and one she has not regretted.

"For me, my service has been a blessing. I have been able to fulfil a promise, realize many dreams, live among kind people, learn from others about new traditions, share culture and time with people who are now my friends," she told CNN.

"The children are wonderfully expressive, thoughtful, intelligent, and spirited and the beauty that I've seen here during my days as a Peace Corps volunteer makes everything worthwhile."