Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

It is officially Christmas in Moldova and to make up for all of the Christmas decorations, carols, and shopping I am missing out on Mother Nature gave me a present and this is what my yard looks like this morning!

Not exactly a blizzard but just enough snow to add to my Christmas cheer and also not enough to interfere with my travel plans tomorrow.

I also woke up a little bit later than I normally would have on Christmas mostly because I was up till one o'clock in the morning partying with my students at the school. The Christmas party or "Carnival" started at 6 o'clock and I showed up fashionably late with my host mother at about 7 o'clock. I wedged my self a seat on an overcrowded bench beside the director of the school and the mayor and watched a program put on by the older grade students of the school. The program was very well conducted and I marvelled at how well organized it was. I have not seen any indications that the students had been preparing and all of the skits and songs looked to be completely original from the students themselves. By the end of the two hour or so event I was convinced that every student in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade could follow out a career as a singer, actor, comedian, model, dancer or director and I wouldnt be the least surprised by their success. All of them were so unbelievably talented. After the students were finished the teachers gathered in another room ate a light dinner and went back to the cafeteria to join the students in some traditional and modern dancing. I tried as hard as possible to avoid dancing at all opportunities but I was inevitably brought out to the dance floor on more than one occasion, mostly for the traditional hora which is good because I feel pretty comfortable with that dance but there was also some slow dancing and modern dancing that didnt go so well. As I sat on the sidelines on a bench with a group of teachers students would approach and try to drag me to the dance floor and when I told them I dont like to dance they couldnt understand. No really. No comprehension of how you couldnt like dancing. It would have been humorous if it didnt mean I had no choice but to follow through with their wishes. So as I mentioned before I arrived at around 7, the program lasted for about 2 hours, and dinner was probably a half hour or so, I didnt make it home until 1 o'clock so that means I was in the cafeteria either dancing or hiding from everyone unsuccessfully for about 3 hours or so. I fell into bed as soon as I got home and didnt wake up till 11. It was a pretty good way to bring in Christmas.

Packed and ready! I leave for my vacation tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oh wait...I have a blog?

So I haven’t wrote a blog post in quite a while and when I explain what the past two weeks have been like for me you will understand. In a shortened version it goes something like: stress, language, stress, classes, stress. If that doesn’t explain everything then keep reading.

Let me begin by saying that my partner teacher has been having some medical issues that have been causing him some trouble and so I wasn’t terribly surprised when he said that he needed to take a few days off to recuperate and take some medicine. However, I was surprised when he told how many days he would need to take. Three weeks. Till our winter vacation. I had taught by myself before but the results were always mixed. Sometimes they went well sometimes they didn’t really go at all, it usually depended on the classes’ level of English and their ability to understand my version of Romanian. But three weeks of teaching on my own was something that I found would be more than a little difficult. But I had little choice and so I proceeded to handle the situation the best way I knew how, one day at a time. The first few days didn’t go so well because my classes saw the absence of my partner teacher as a sort of symbol that we wouldn’t “really” have class. By the end of the first week, however, I had re-exerted control by giving out grades, laying down the law on the rules I expect to be followed, and having each class create nametags so that I could finally start to really learn their names. Its not that their names are difficult but for the most part there is really only a small collection of names they use and it is even more difficult to learn names when half the class is either Dumitru, Ion, or Mihai and on the female side Alina, Elena, or Maria and most of the time I have to argue with myself until I choose a name to call out and three students will look in my direction but not the student I was hoping for. To make the nametags a little more interesting I passed out a piece of paper with common American names for boys and girls and had the students write their real name on one side and their American name on the other. The second week went so much better. During our class breaks the other teachers started conversations with me for the first time and were surprised when I actually was able to understand and respond, and once word got around that I spoke Romanian even more teachers started to seek me out to test out whether or not it was true. By the end of the week, after many conversations and leading classes I was amazing myself with my ability to explain complex English grammar topics in Romanian. But the pièce de résistance of the week was when I taught my partner teacher’s German class in Romanian…and my brain didn’t explode.

I’m actually trying to write the blog post during my breaks and right now I have a large group of 4th graders crowding around my computer trying to see what I am writing using my unnatural typing skills.
I only recognize half of them…the other half must be learning French…time to test that theory.

“Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?”

Blank stares.

“Comment t'appelle tu?”

Blank stares…wait a second “Je m’appelle Adrian”

“Enchante Adrian. Je m'appelle Monsieur Justin.”

Ok now where was I? Now that I feel more comfortable speaking Romanian I feel much more comfortable in my living situation and I have a lot less stress. I also have lost my inhibitions on speaking other languages as well so seeking out French and German speakers has been my new goal. But I would still rather give myself another year before I even begin contemplating learning any Russian. Every time I try to learn a new word in Russian it takes at least a full minute of parroting back a word 20 or more times until I get a seal of approval from whomever I am trying to learn from. At that rate it would take me the rest of my life just to pronounce the words much less learn the ridiculous grammar and form a sentence.

In other news there really isn’t any other news to report. My life has revolved around teaching so intensely that I haven’t really had time for anything else (including writing blog post). However, I am happy to report that my partner teacher is feeling better and will be at school for the last week. To make the situation even better the last week of school reminds me of exam week in high school. All the classes are having winter evaluation papers which other than the grading makes my life a piece of cake. I am still anxiously counting down the days to vacation even though school has gotten a little easier because on Monday I will begin my Winter Vacation Expedition. I plan on traveling with 5 other volunteers by overnight trains from Chisinau to Bucharest, Romania to Sofia, Bulgaria to Istanbul, Turkey. Spend three nights in Istanbul and then reverse the journey with overnight trains home. Altogether this trip allows for us to visit two other cities instead of just Istanbul and was cheaper than flying. Plus since we will be traveling on the train at night we don’t have to pay for hotels for four of the nights. The more I think about it the more excited I get…anyway three more school days still stand in the way. Actually with all the excitement I almost forgot that Christmas is on Sunday. But its alright because I get two Christmases this year. In Moldova they still use the old calendar for holidays so Christmas falls on January 7 and New Year’s is on January 14. So if I miss this one Ill just pour all my pent up Christmas cheer into the next one.

Time to go to English Club. We are watching a Christmas movie so maybe that will put me in the Christmas mood.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Winter Walk

In Moldova the official start of Winter is on the first of the month instead of on the equinoxes/solstices. So for me today was my fourth day of Winter. It was a glorious winter day and I spent it wisely by going on a rather fast paced walk through the village. Now that it has been cold for a while it has been harder to do anything outside other than my short jaunt to the school and back. I did have a classroom on the third floor so that helped give me at least a little bit more exercise but as of tomorrow I will be on the first floor with a slightly altered schedule so I need to start finding any excuse to raise my heart rate that I can find and today was the perfect day for just that. The weather forecast called for today to be sunny with a high of 60 but that didn't quite work out. Now that everyone has their coal furnaces burning all the time the air around the town has taken on a very thick gray property to it. And even though you could for the most part tell that it was supposed to be a sunny day in reality it looked more overcast and the temperature had trouble rising above 50-52. A few minutes into the walk I started to wonder if the positive health effects of the exercise I was getting was worth the negative health effects of breathing in increased quantities of unclean air. If the coal in itself wasn't enough to clog the air people here also have a habit of burning their trash in the furnace as well which is fine but a lot of that trash includes plastic which is a VERY bad thing to burn, especially if it isn't just a once a year occurrence but an everyday routine.

But enough talking. How about some pictures?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving and Tourism

Thanksgiving passed by with very little recognition from anyone but me in Moldova. It was pretty hard because for me my biggest issue has been dealing with the difference in food and Thanksgiving is the pentacle of Americans overindulging in every quintessential American food, food that I don't have. So every time I had to explain to someone what Thanksgiving was and had to try and explain what a sweet potato was I was basically drooling all over my explanation. However, as luck would have it I didn't actually have to go without my Thanksgiving dinner after all. Instead I had to wait until Saturday and travel to Chisinau in order to join up with the other volunteers and eat the best tasting American food I have had in Moldova. Turkey, pumpkin pie, corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and even pumpkin soup, which isn't something I had ever had in America but it was a welcome addition to my Thanksgiving meal. The quality of the food was made all the more comforting with the overabundance of Americans and English conversations everywhere. By the end of the meal I was already marking my calendar for the next pseudo-Thanksgiving and rallying other volunteers to create a new holiday feast to signify the halfway point to Thanksgiving.

Because we ate sort of at an awkward time it was impossible for me to go home by train so I was forced to finally spend the night in Chisinau at the hostel. Because I am a Peace Corps volunteer I get a discount and the hostel only costs me about 9 dollars a night. I was pretty lucky because some other volunteers needed to spend the night as well so I didnt have to go alone. To make it even better the volunteers I went with are also some of the volunteers that I am planning to go to Istanbul with. Seeing as how we plan to stay at a hostel when we get there this was great practice for us. As for this particular hostel it was mostly quiet and there were a few other people all speaking different languages, German, Russian, English. It reawakened my since of being in a foreign country and started to make me feel like a tourist again to be around others who were tourist. I felt even more like a tourist the next day when we visited the mall, which just so happens to be right next to the Hostel. The mall is called Malldova, which is probably the best name for a mall anywhere in the world, and was very comparable to other malls I had been to in America. It had four floors, name brand stores like Adidas and Guess, as well as off brand knockoff stores, and most importantly it had a food court. I ended up eating a pizza at Sbarro, a waffle bowl of chocolate and hazelnut gelato and finally some McDonalds coffee in all its watered down glory. There were a couple other restaurants serving German, Mexican and Japanese cuisine but the most surprising was the Kentucky Fried Chicken. I wasnt really in the mood for chicken but not buying something from the KFC only means I will be certain to make a return trip to the Mall sometime in the near future.

Other interesting things from our things from our mall trip was finding a store selling electronics and being shocked by how expensive everything was. For instance in America right now a PS3 is about 250 dollars (unless you bought it on Black Friday for 200) in Moldova a PS3 is 8,000 lei, or about 650 dollars.

All good things most come to an end and because I was having such a good time in Chisinau I almost missed my train and ended up spending about half of the 4 hour train ride standing waiting for a seat to open up so that I could fight with the other people that were also standing for a chance to finally sit down.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bureaucracy is Everywhere

Because going to the capital requires such a large time investment, a four hour train ride to and from, and only provides me with a three hour window to accomplish things I tend to save up as many things as I need to get done and schedule my trip to the minute so as to make sure I accomplish everything. Well today started out on a bad foot with me having to throw my plan out the window and just tackle everything in any way possible. I was, amazingly enough, successful.

In addition to receiving my flu shot, the main reason for my visit to Chisinau and other errands, I was also able to finally send off my package of Christmas presents to the United States. I classify this success as a miracle and here is why...

Have you ever tried to fill out paperwork in the United States? Of course you have. Americans love to hand out paperwork for everything. And if you can fill out the whole sheet without making a mistake or having to ask for clarification than it doesn't count as paperwork. Now imagine the fun of filling out paperwork in another language. A language you had no comprehension of until you started learning it 5 months ago. In addition sprinkle in some mail room employees who in true bureaucratic fashion are ostensibly always in a bad mood and not very forgiving of mistakes. And again they do not speak English.

I had attempted to mail my package last weekend on my way to the train station after my week in Chisinau. I in my infinite wisdom had wrongfully assumed that I would simply waltz into the post office, wait in a small line, hand them my package and pay postage and be out in less than five minutes...oh how wrong...As I have mentioned the paperwork was the biggest contributor to my downfall, although cranky postal workers played a part as well. Also in case I have not mentioned it before lines don't really exist in Moldova. Where there would normally be a line in America in Moldova there is usually a crowd. Everyone just stands as close as they can to the window and exercises their right to go next by being the most forceful at shoving their way to the middle and speaking in rapid fire Russian.

However, that ordeal is now over and my package is supposedly on its way to America. But now that I know what goes into sending packages I don't think I will be sending very many more.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Welcome to the Circus

Conducting tests in Moldova have so far been so vastly removed from the way tests are taken in the United States that I struggle to even call them 'tests.' For the most part within the American school system tests are conducted with each student presented with a test and each student is expected to complete the test on their own with no help from their books, peers, cell phones, or teachers. Undoubtedly there will be someone in a class that will try and cheat but usually they will do it in the most discreet way in order to avoid being caught. If a student was caught the test would be taken away and the student would receive a zero. In most circumstances if a student was found to be supplying answers to another student both students would have their test taken and given a zero as well. This at least is how I remember tests being conducting in America while I was a student.

But in Moldova....

If you were to walk into a classroom during a test you would assuredly witness the following:  dictionaries, textbooks, copybooks, and cell phones on the desk and all being utilized, no restraint in talking, students sitting near each other passing their answer sheet back and forth, and white out pens being tossed across the room. The best way I can think of to summarize the difference is to say that, in America, tests are an individual assessment. But in Moldova tests are a communal, collective assessment.

If I were to try and implement an American system into my classroom I would spend probably the whole period policing every individual student and most likely collecting every single test book and grading them all a zero after about 5 minutes. However, I have I learned to accept that change can not happen over night and have limited myself to small successes. For instance when I conduct tests now I try my best to cut down on the amount of obvious cheating by telling students not to talk, which basically means not yelling answers across the room, and I have learned to accept the low roar of constant whispering that occurs between the two students that share a desk. I collect any answer keys that are thrown or passed across the room but for the most part turn a blind eye to the students that are staring a little too long at their neighbors paper. Whenever I do have students that cannot handle even this level of academic honesty and I move them to another part of the room they simply stare at the wall or draw on their paper. For some of them I wonder if they have ever taken a test on their own at all.

Ive had a lot of ideas of ways I can make the situation better but most of them just will not work in my situation. For example one thing we used to do in my American school was varying the test so that it was impossible to cheat off of your neighbor because they would have a different test. However, this is not feasible for the most part because most schools do not have a copy machine, or at least if they have one they limit the amount a teacher can print to just a few sheets,  and most of the time tests are written on the blackboard and students simply copy down their answers into their copybooks.

One last thing. In Moldova the grades students receive is seen as a reflection on the teacher. So most teachers tend to grade students a lot more leniently than most American teachers. Even a student who has done no work or shown any learning will still receive at least a 4 and sometimes higher (the grading system being out of 10 points, 10 being the best). Because of this propensity for grading students higher it is very difficult to punish students who do not follow testing protocol because they are well aware that the teacher will not give them a failing grade and cheating offers them the chance of getting an even higher grade with no real work, so if they cheat they might get a better grade and there will be no consequences. Also because this is the system that the students are all familiar with, and all the teachers for that matter, you can say that it is a part of the culture. Because academic dishonesty is so well ingrained into the school environment I do not think I will be able to have any real positive effect on changing anything but it is definitely going to be one of my main goals for my Peace Corps service.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Productive and Exhausting Vacation

Vacation really isn't the right word to describe what this week was for me. Sure I was out of school and so were the students…but instead of going to school I was in Chisinau all week attending lectures/sessions about better teaching practices and Romanian language. From 8 until 5 with only a one hour lunch break and short coffee breaks thrown in. However I am not bitter at all for not getting a real vacation because the training was very beneficial and was a real inspiration boost. It was also very awesome to be among other americans, a lot of americans, who all speak English and understand most of my humor and share my culture. But personally my favorite part was the food. Because we were living in a hotel this week we all had to find our own food which meant most of the time we were eating in restaurants or picking up our own food from the supermarket. Italian food for some unknown reason ruled my stomach as far as my selection of restaurants and at the supermarket I spent my money on yogurt, dark chocolate, bananas as well as banana and strawberry juice (real and not from concentrate) and finally peanut butter.

In other spending news I was able to find most of the winter clothes I really needed to buy including a winter coat, a sweater, gloves, a hat, wool socks, and boots with a fur lining, as well as a whole host of school supplies. I also was successful in picking up some souvenirs from the souvenir piața that will serve as my Christmas presents. Amazingly since my training was from 8 to 5 everyday I didn't really have time to shop during the week so I had to do all my shopping on Monday when I first got to Chisinau and even though I was under a lot of pressure to find everything I was very successful and bought almost everything on my list within a 3-4 hour window. The exception being the winter boots which I bought on my way back to the train station, it was a real race against the clock though, This race with the clock also caused me to not have time to wait in line at the post office, though I almost attempted it because the post office is in a building beside the train station. However lines at postal offices in Moldova are like lines in postal offices in America and postal workers are just as irritable and have very little patience...especially when you don't speak the language they speak and have little to no idea of how to fill out the forms needed for overseas shipping...

Other fun things to happen last week include me realizing that European coats put the zipper on the opposite side of American coats, another fun thing for me to try and get used to, on top of all the other things that I have already just started to get used to. (It really has a way of making you feel like you are back in kindergarten when you struggle to zipper a coat)… I was also super sick again. Not overly sick just felt horrible for about 12 hours then it went away. This time I couldn't blame the sickness on something I ate (I felt confident that the food was well prepared and I avoided all sources of tainted water) which makes the situation worse because Im not sure what to avoid in order to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Back to the daily grind tomorrow, but I have English Club to look forward to on Tuesday and I only have 7 more weeks of school until Winter vacation…but really. who's counting?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Am Ințeles

I recently started to understand why a lot of the things my host mother tells me dont make any sense. For instance we might have a converstation such as...

"How was school?" -Her

"Very good." -Me

"How many lessons did you have?" -Her

"6." -Me

"asklekcoie flkjaslkeco alkdjo?"

"What was that?"

As my language skills develop I have gotten better at recalling vocabulary quicker. Usually when we discuss about school it is easy to keep talking about school because my brain is on topic and has all the necessary vocab ready for me to use. However, if the subject suddenly changed to food or family it would take me a while to get into the grove because I have to recall the proper vocab from my vault of Romanian words I have collected. As I have gotten better at the language it has gotten easier to switch from one subject to the next...and thats when I realized that my host mother doesnt play by the rules. She changes subjects after each question. So while I am trying to process how what she said has anything to do with school in reality she is trying to ask me about the price of cars in America...or something along those lines. However, I count my ever growing understanding of her as a success thus far. An example of my success came recently when I was talking to a friend on Skype and my host mother walked in my room and started asking me some questions. Because I was using Skype on my computer my friend could hear the whole conversation and after she left the room he said, "How do you understand her? She talks way too fast." I still have a lot to improve on, but it is good to know that I am improving.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Ridiculousness of the English Language

Ri-dic-u-lous - Adj. : Arousing or deserving ridicule : Extremely silly or unreasonable : Absurd

I wanted to write an introduction to English grammar…but I never liked English grammar and after waiting a very long time and never feeling the impulse to follow through with actually writing the blog post I have decided to modify the topic slightly to a subject I have much more interest, The Ridiculousness of English. (Ridiculousness is a word, I checked)

Countable and Uncountable Nouns
    I have many apples and much sugar. But I don't have much apples or many sugar. Why do we use much with some words and many with others? Because in English we believe some words to be countable, for instance I have five apples. And we believe other words to be uncountable, I would not say I have five sugar. When the word is countable we say many and few. When the word is uncountable we say much and little. Easy enough right? However, there are exceptions to this. For example money is uncountable. Even when you specifically mention how much money you have. "Is five dollars too much money for a tip?" Also there are words that are both countable and uncountable depending on the usage. "How many chickens do you have in your barn?" and "How much chicken did you eat last night?" The difference being that the first are countable objects, animals, while the latter is an uncountable substance, meat.

Collective Nouns and Singular Plural

    Normally when a noun is a singular object we use "is" and for plural we use "are." Such as, "The boy is happy" and "The boys are happy." However, some words are always considered plural even when they are a singular object, "My glasses are around here somewhere" or "Those jeans are very fashionable" and my personal favorite, "The police are at the door. He is tall and looks very mean."
    To go along with this there are also words that refer to a plural group that is considered to be a "collective noun" such as the word news. "The news is depressing."


    This is something that has never made sense in any language I have studied so I will cut English a little slack. Some examples of the ridiculousness in this part of English grammar is that you sleep in a bed but lay on a bed. You also ride in a car but you ride on a bus, train, airplane. My Romanian teacher was fairly upset with this aspect of English grammar and complained how she had never seen anyone ride on a bus, by that she meant on top of a bus.

Spelling and Pronunciation
    I could waste my time providing examples for how ridiculous English spelling is but instead I will let this clip from "I Love Lucy" do my work for me.

Ricky Read a Bedtime Story.

     This poem says it best...

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
But the plural of
ox should be oxen not oxes.
One fowl is a
goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of
moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone
mouse or a nest full of mice,
But the plural of
house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of
man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of
pan be called pen?

We speak of a
brother and also of brethren,
But though we say
mother, we never say methren.
So plurals in English, I think you'll agree,
Are indeed very tricky--singularly.

Hopefully this blog post enlightened you to how nonsensical English really is and also how much fun I will have trying to explain it to non-native speakers.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Moldovan Music Playlist

I've been meaning to write a post about music for a while, but I found it extremely difficult to find the songs I was hearing on the radio on the internet. Until I found a list of the top 100 songs in Romania and what do you know. Problem solved. What I will attempt to do in this blog post is provide a list of links to Youtube videos of the most popular songs that I have heard while I have been in Moldova. The list is by no means complete and I have left out all of the American artists (even though Selena Gomez and Black Eyed Peas are tremendously popular here at the moment). Also although the songs are sung in English (sometimes Spanish) they are usually performed by Romanian/Moldovan artists.

Mr. Saxobeat - Alexandra Stan (I have heard that this has also caught on in America)
Senorita - Allexinno & Starchild (Singing in Spanish and English confuses my English learners.)
Freedom - Dan Balan(Now a solo artist, however he used to sing with a group that had a very popular song sung in Romanian a few years ago). 
Telephone - AndraDream Girl - Smiley
In My Bedroom - Ralvero

Club Rocker - Inna
Sexy - Andrea Banica
Mi Corazon - Fabio da Lera & Alex Mica

All My People - Sasha Lopez
Guantanamera - Emil Lassaria & F.Charm
Ya BB - Play & Win

Did you happen to notice a trend in the musical genre? Very euro-pop dance-club type music. Anyway I hope you enjoy. Wait what was I thinking. What is a Moldovan music post without mentioning the Hora? Here is an example of a more modern version of the Hora song. I'm not really sure what the official song is to Hora to, and I had a little trouble finding a video on youtube where people were dancing the Hora at a normal pace (most of the vids were way too slow) but anyway this is the best I can do. Poftim.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ziua Profesorului (Teacher's Day)

Where do I begin? First I would like to point out that Moldovan schools are a lot different than American schools in the way that they do not have many school celebrations and holidays. In American schools there are days off every other week for some holiday or for a teacher resource day. But in contrast, for the past month I have been working we have had five days a week of school each week.

However, October 5th changed everything.

The day was ostensibly different from the beginning with the 12th form students standing outside the doors to the school clapping as teachers entered the building. Once you are inside the real fun begins as a representative from the classes you teach will approach you in your classroom and offer you a flower and a gift, along with words of encouragement. I pushed my luck by making my students say it in English and for the most part it sounded a bit like, "Congratulations for Teacher's Day. Here is a gift from the ___th grade to show our appreciation. Be happy, healthy and have many more years." But the real question is what did I get? Well an agenda, a coffee mug, a set of shot classes, and a bottle of sparkling wine with chocolates that have alcohol high on the list of ingredients. It is fairly awkward receiving alcohol as a gift from your students even if it is the 12th grade class, at least from my American perspective.

But the round of applause and being showered with gifts and flowers is only the beginning. To make the day as enjoyable as possible teachers are not expected to teach, however, the ministry of education requires that a very detailed plan be submitted that shows what lesson will be taught on which day. So the lesson still needs to be taught. To circumvent this predicament the teachers select their best pupil from the 12th grade class to be their replacement for the day. The students are given the lesson plans for all of the classes and left to fend for themselves. When I first heard about this I thought it was a great idea…then I begin to consider how the school would function on a day with 12th formers leading the classes. I pictured chaos and confusion everywhere, or at least being concealed behind closed classroom doors. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the whole school was actually quieter than it is usually and even though I cant speak for the other classes I do know that my 12th grader replacement really did teach the lesson as we had planned them… or at least she was when I popped my head in the class room every once in a while throughout the day.

So if the teachers are not teaching, what are they doing? Eating of course. Around 2nd period all of the teachers came together for a masa (feast, but literally means table). The table was set with grapes, bananas, tangerines, salami on bread, and cake with a plate and teacup for every teacher. Little did I know this was merely a snack…

After the masa the teachers sort of lounge around the school talking in any open classrooms or congregating in the main office. Talking after a while can start to be monotonous so it was with great relief that we all welcomed the end of fifth period which apparently was the last class of the day. Next on the schedule of events was an assembly in the cafeteria/auditorium as organized by the 12th grade class. It mainly consisted of prewritten speeches and singing. What I was not prepared for was when the 12th graders left the front of the room and each one grabbed a teacher and brought them to the front of the room. I was collected by the same 12th former who taught my classes but I wasn't sure if this was pure coincidence or how it was supposed to happen. To my extreme displeasure music began to play and everyone began to waltz around the room with their new partner. I started to have a panic attack as my 12th former tried to lead me in a two step dance. *This is my nightmare*

Thankfully it was a short song and no one happened to be recording the event.

After the assembly all of the students leave and all of the teachers have another masa. This time it was a real masa. Mashed potatoes, cabbage, sausage, salad, fruit, fish, and dessert. In addition there was also juice, carbonated water, wine (homemade), and vodka (store-bought and homemade). After the meal was starting to come to a close some of the men stood up and grabbed a bottle of whatever beverage was closest and went around making sure no ones glass was empty. My host mother started to give me signs that we would be leaving soon and I was quite ready to relax at home…however, getting ready to leave is quite different than actually leaving. I had forgotten one key part of every masa that needs to be attended to before the masa can end and before anyone can go home. That is of course the hora.

If you do not know the hora is a dance conducted by a large group of people holding hands and forming a circle. It is a pretty easy dance and even though I tried to get out of it I ended up participating and I might even say that I wasn't half bad. Though you would have to be completely two footed to not be able to hora. Basically everyone takes one step to the left, three steps to the right, one to the left and so on and so forth. Depending on the the skill level of the group the steps can be more like hops and can proceed at a lightning pace with the added bonus of an occasional twist in the routine by various people emitting a sharp yepping yell and all the people in the circle proceeding to move to the center of the circle and back out again. Another key point to remember is that the hora is never really over. It just sort of pauses for a while, the music will end (after a good 6 minutes of nonstop hora-ing) and everyone will stop dancing and at first glance it will appear that everyone is ready to go home…that is until the music starts up again and everyone rejoins hands as quickly as possible and the hora resumes as before. This is repeated another three or four times depending on when someone happens to unplug the speakers before the next song starts.

Eventually I did make it home but after a such a long day I had no intentions of writing a blog post so you are reading this a day late. Now that I am reviewing the size of this blog post I know I made the right decision by waiting until today to write it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Fine Art of Winemaking

Grapes upon grapes of every color size and taste.
The wine barrel with the grape press on top

Everything goes in the barrel.
I have recently learned the secret behind the creation of Moldovan house wine and you as the reader are lucky that I have decided to recount exactly how this sacred ritual appears to happen as seen by an outside observer.

First things first you must grow the grapes. Luckily, in Moldova this is the easy part as everything grows super easily and without the need for pesticides or fertilizers(but that doesn't mean they don't use them).  Once the grapes have reached peak ripeness they must be picked and the easiest way to do so is to enlist the help of anyone you know that is willing to throw in a few extra hands in exchange for a sampling of the fruit of their labor. In this case three extra hands plus my host mother.  Once the grapes are picked they are brought to a barrel placed near the house that has a press set upon the top. Grapes are then crushed using the press and the juice, skin, and vine all go into the barrel together. Once all the grapes have been collected and pressed (save for one row that will serve as table grapes) the barrel is covered with a black garbage bag and allowed to ferment.

After about a day the mushy mixture will begin to bubble in the barrel emitting both a wine-like odor and also a very light crackling sound. To ensure proper fermentation prod the mixture occasionally with any stick that happens to lie around near the barrel. If you were to sample the mushy, bubbling mixture at this point it would taste approximately like sparkling grape juice. Foarte delicious.

After about 5 days of fermentation and gentle prodding it will be time to move the fermenting juice from the barrel by the house into a barrel in the cellar. This process is accomplished using a garden house and simply allowing the laws of gravity to work in your favor and take the greater proportion of juice from the outside barrel into the barrel in the cellar. The outside barrel will now be filled with everything that is not fermenting grape juice or at least at first glance it appears that way. In reality there is still a great deal of fermenting grape juice left in the barrel. The question remains as to how to separate it from the seeds, skin, and branches.

Well this is where a special handmade contraption comes in handy. Simply fill the contraption full of the refuse and use the contraption to squeeze every last drop of future wine from the refuse and instead into a waiting bucket. Although it is difficult to measure exactly it appears as though as much future wine can be saved using the squeezing contraption as was originally transferred into the barrel in cellar. Twice as much wine is never a bad thing. At this point in the process the fermenting grape juice has an opaque deep reddish-purple (burgundy?) color, reminiscent of beet juice.

Now the wine-making adventure is complete…at least as far as preparation goes. Now begins the waiting portion of the wine-making recipe. Expect for the wine to be mature enough for drinking around New Year's. But if you do not care to wait, there is always last year's wine which is now approaching its peak. Pofta buna.

 (Also if anyone who works for Blogger happens to read this blog please take note that I HATE ADDING PICTURES NOW. If you could be so kind to undo whatever change it is you have done. Thank you.)

Cover the barrel and let it ferment for a few days.

All the fermenting juice is then moved to this container in the cellar.
This is what is left in the barrel after the fermenting juice is removed.

Internetul nu lucreaza…este foarte rau

So I came home on last Monday from school like any normal day. Updating my twitter, checked my Facebook and my email and then went to eat lunch. However, disaster struck when I came back to my computer after lunch. I attempted to get on the internet as I had just done less than an hour before but instead eu nu am nimic. For some unknown reason the internet just stopped working. I pretended it was merely a temporary failure and that it would return later in the day, or god forbid, the next day. But alas it was not to be. To make things even more interesting the telephone worked and the television which uses the same internet connection as my computer uses, also worked. Which means that my 5 year old MacBook has finally showed the first signs of its age by not recognizing that the ethernet cord has been plugged in (another sign of age that is highly annoying thought not as dire is the sticky 's' key that requires a little extra push every time an 's' is needed).

The remedy for this situation is a wireless modem which comes with a price of 15 dollars to exchange it with the modem I already have. Not a bad deal. I think I can survive with a computer that cannot have a corded internet connection the only problem is that after many twists and turns and letdowns along the way each day thinking today would be my reunion with the internet something else got in the way. But after a week long wait I finally have internet service again and lets hope it stays that way.

I came to Moldova under the assumption that internet would not be widely available and that I would spend a lot of time without it. I was prepared for this. But after 4 months in Moldova I have realized that internet is very very widely used and when mine stops working I am one of a few people without access. During these four months I lost all of my mental preparation for not having internet and now that I have lost it I also was not prepared as far as digital files. I had not recently downloaded any new movies, books, or teaching resources under the assumption there would be no need because I have a constant internet connection…anyway to make a long store short, life in Moldova is very different when internet is removed from the picture.

Internet…please never leave me again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Test for Claustrophobia

Today I rode the autobus to the Raion and was surprised by just how many people you can fit inside a autobus. It reminded me of the rutieras I was used to in Chisinau except this was with a bus. Our bus is not the full sized 'greyhound' bus and is supposed to seat 30 people and have a max occupancy of 50. Today, however, I am pretty sure we had at or near 100 people packed into the bus. It was extraordinary. I didn't think I would be able to get on the bus because it looked so full but little did I know that they were only half filled. Everytime I thought to myself that we were finished and there was no way we could fit on another person, someone else would walk up and jam their way in. Even after the bus started moving we still weren't finished because the bus still pulled over to let people on. I guess it is true what they say, "always room for one more."

The rest of the day was also exciting because I meet up with the other Americans in my raion, had some coffee together and then we went to a seminar on human trafficking. The seminar was put together by a french nonprofit though I was thrown off because during the presentation there would be an abrupt stop and then a minute of some random form of entertainment, such as a Moldovan folk singer, a play, a group of children dancing, and at the very end a rock band. Im not sure but Im guessing this means that Moldovans have short attention spans and need to be entertained in between being given short burst of information. Works for me.

To see pictures from my day today click here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

School and Grapevines

Today has been one of the first days in my new site that I had the quintessential Peace Corps experience. It started off with my being bombarded by a large group of second graders who spoke in rapid fire Romanian that I understood none of. Later it transitioned to me teaching my best English lessons so far. About the middle of the day I was informed I was teaching another optional class of twelfth grade. That class might turn out to be a lot of fun because even though they don't know any English they all want to learn and I can teach them absolutely anything that comes to mind. Which is very liberating after having to stick to a textbook very strictly. When I left school I walked home with a 10th form student who asked if I would have more conversations with them in English as practice. Which for me means someone to talk to in my native language other than my partner teacher, who speaks great english but so far is the only one in my town that I have really talked to….which brings me to another great adventure. When I finally came home I was quickly given lunch and ushered out to the field to pick grapes. Because I had come home late from school because of my extra class most of the grapes were already picked. I helped for about 30 minutes by which time the vineyard was picked cleaned and all of the grapes were pressed and collected in a big wooden barrel. Juice, skin, and vine. In the field were three other people other than my host mother who were all very excited to test my Romanian skills and I was given an invitation to their house…although I didn't catch when exactly this visit would take place. To me this was very exciting because for the most part the past month I have kept mostly to myself. Mostly talking to only my host mother in Romanian and only my Partner teacher in English. But after today I have prospects in my future for meeting new people and speaking in Romanian and in English. To make my future even brighter I have a full weekend ahead of me with a baseball game on Saturday in another volunteers village and a meeting about human trafficking on Sunday. (Although I have no coordination to speak off I was reassured that none of the other players of the baseball game have ever played baseball before. Which means I might have a slight advantage only in the way that I will most likely know what is going on and have a slightly better understanding of the rules…At least I hope.)

Note to self: Next time more paragraphs.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moldovan Food

In some ways I have wanted to write this blog post for a while now...but I have also been avoiding it. Partly because I wanted to make sure that I had given myself time to fully appreciate Moldovan cuisine before I write a post about it and also because I wanted my blog post to have pictures. Well I have never really had the opportunity to take pictures of my food before I eat it so instead I stole a bunch of pictures from the internet that will work just as well. I apologize in advance to any owners of pictures I have chosen to use.

For the most part my diet consists of a lot of potatoes, cabbage, sausage, chicken, grains, and whatever fruit is in season.  However, just like in any country Moldova has it's own traditional dishes and particular way it prepares it's food.

Mămăliga - Very similar to cornbread except it is a lot more moist and not as sweet. Unlike what is being shown in the picture I have mostly just observed people pulling small chunks off instead of cutting it.
Placinta - Equally as traditional as mămăliga, placinta (pronounced pla-chin-ta) is a thin layer of baked dough with variety of possible fillings. Such as apple, mashed potato, cabbage, and the most popular, brînza cheese with dill.
Usually I have seen placinta made as a sort of flat bread. Though it is also made to look more like a cannoli.

Zeama - Chicken noodle soup...not much I need to say here. Though mine never has the lemon slice as shown in the picture...

Borsht - Traditional Ukranian dish of cabbage and beat soup.
Parjoale - Minced meat patty. Like nothing I have eaten in America. Although its appearance is benign enough. I think its distinctive taste can probably be attributed to whatever meat it is made with. But good luck figuring it out.
Gruel (Not sure on the spelling) - This is my breakfast every morning...and coincidentally was also my dinner. The picture that I found that looked the closest to what I have been eating says it is Buckwheat porridge. Whodathunkit. (BTW the package that it comes out of says that it was grown it China)

Brînza - White cheese. This is one of Moldovas most popular condiment. I say condiment because they do not use it as much as a cheese but more as a topping or addition to a dish. Usually just shredded right on top. Personally I dont like it at all, it has a very 'fresh' taste that for me taste too much like grass, other people enjoy the earthiness of the flavor.
Smântâna - Basically sour cream. It taste a little different and is not as tangy but it has the same consistency as sour cream.

Квас or Cvas - A drink made from yeast that wins against Dr. Pepper for having more than 23 flavors. At first taste it was a mix of cream soda and root beer, but also has a fruity, grainy, and even a slight beer presence. The beer taste makes a little bit of sense because it does indeed contain 1% alcohol but is sold on basically every street corner in the capital to young and old alike. My favorite way to describe it comes from a 2 1/2 year old who called it, "bere pentru copii" or "beer for children."

Okay, well that gives you a slightly better understanding of at least the main food items of Moldovan Cuisine. Of course they also have a lot of dishes that are very similar to American dishes which I did not mention for obvious reasons. Thinking about food for so long has made me hungry.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trains, Doctors, Americans O MY!

Remind me to never blog when I am sick. It is very depressing…

Anyway. After I wrote my last blog post I went straight to sleep and amazingly slept all the way through the night and when I woke up the next morning I felt better…not perfect…but better. I was able to go to two classes on friday so that way I only missed one and a half days of work instead of two full days and immediately after my second class I made a run to the bus and went to Chișinău. The medical office at Peace Corps wanted to make sure I was really better so they asked for me to come into Chișinău so that one of the doctors could examine me. This began my sojourn back to the familiarity of the capitol…

Buses in Moldova, as I have mentioned before, are very cheap, crowded, but usually very convenient. On this occasion the buses were frustrating. I made it to my raion center in 30 minutes and theoretically I should be able to hop on another bus once I get there and head to Chișinău. However, the next bus to leave from the raion was not until 1 hour and 40 minutes later. In addition the bus ride took 3 hours instead of the 2 and half hours I was expecting. All of this is important because by the time I arrived in the capital it was about 4:20, the medical office closes at 5, so I was cutting it very close. I sprinted from the bus station to the Peace Corps office and made it in only 10 minutes and the medical interview only took 10 minutes, which left me with only 20 minutes to spare.

As for the actual interview, the doctor just wanted to ask me a couple questions in person and to reiterate some tips and suggestions for proper food preparation and nutrition. Afterward I had my vital signs taken and was given a boatload of medication. A bag of pills for acid reflux (20mg of Prilosec), a bag of pills for nausea (200mg trimethobenzamide), and lastly an anti-parasitic (500mg Tinidazole). The best part was since I got the pills straight from the doctor I was left to either remember the doctor's instructions perfectly OR read the doctor scribble written on the bag of pills, (Yes doctor scribble is universal), no middle man pharmacist would save me this time. To further fill my brown paper bag of pills I was given two packages of Gatorade mix. I have never been so happy to see Gatorade.

In order to make up for me having to come into Chișinău on short notice and so late in the day the medical office gave me permission to spend the night in the TDY…(Which apparently means Temporary Duty and is a military acronym…The things you can learn with the internet.) The TDY is basically an apartment that Peace Corps keeps open for medical use. I was amazed by how nice it was. It had three bed rooms with two beds in each room, two bathrooms, one with a shower and one with a bathtub, and a well stocked kitchen, not stocked so much with food but with cooking utensils.

It was sort of bittersweet spending the night in the TDY because it was so nice it reminded me a lot of an apartment in America and was my first real experience where something really reminded me of home. In addition my doctor also prescribed that I take a long relaxing bath while I have the opportunity and use this night to relax. I always follow doctors orders and even though I packed in such a hurry that morning that I didn't even bring any soap or shampoo I still thoroughly enjoyed simply soaking in hot water for once. However, the TDY wasn't completely sunshine and butterflies as the bed and pillows were horribly uncomfortable which pleased me because it gave me an excuse to not feel as bad about leaving and going back to site. My bed and pillows at site are HEAVEN.

I felt bad as I talked to other volunteers however and mentioned I was staying at the TDY. "But you don't even look sick…" and "Ive never gotten to stay there yet, I thought you had to be near death to get to stay there." were the most common responses.

Speaking of volunteers another highlight of my trip was the opportunity to reconnect with all of my friends that I have not seen for the past three weeks. While living in a town with only one other English speaker has really helped my Romanian it has also been a little isolating. So it was great to be in the presence of 20 or more other volunteers in the last 24 hours  and speak a little "American" for the first time in a while.

But all good things must end, and in this case the end came in the form of a train.

I was given very specific instructions from my host mother that I had to take the train home even though I was allowed to take the bus to go to Chișinău. I didn't question why I simply nodded my head. (Mostly because questioning anything requires higher level Romanian skill than I am capable of)

I was lucky enough to get instructions from another volunteer about how to get to the train station and was even more lucky that the person at the ticket counter didn't ask me any questions when I simply said 'Scumpia' and handed her a 20 lei. She simply took my 20, returned me three lei and a ticket (Bus=47 lei, I like the idea of saving 60 lei every trip to Chișinău if I go by train). One issue arose however when I reviewed the ticket…it was in Russian. I had no idea what the train number was, when the train would leave, did I have a specific seat? I was clueless. Though I have recently become a master at the art of people watching and imitation and so I did what I have learned to do and merely followed whatever else was doing and made my way to the nearest train….The nearest train being three train tracks over…No matter everyone simply walks from the platform right onto the tracks to the middle platform and back across another set of railroad tracks to the right platform. Its the little things like that which still catch me off guard.

The train looked to be a 1940's model, though possibly built within the last 30 years as I have noticed a lot of things look a lot older than they really are. It was freshly painted, though this did not help the comfortability factor of the wooden seats. I was lucky that even though I had failed miserably with the bag I had packed I did somehow remember to toss in my iPod AND my headphones. Miraculous. The train ride took a little less than 4 hours but felt a lot longer. In the end I have to say that I might prefer taking the train as it offers the opportunity to stand up and stretch your legs and it is guaranteed to get you to your destination on time, unlike the buses. Every stop we made today was right to the minute, better than clockwork.

hmm...gotta love really long blog posts. Last thing I wanted to mention was that Fall has appeared with a vengeance and out of nowhere. When I packed my bag I was under the assumption that it was simply cool because it was morning, and because it had been a pretty constant 85 degrees everyday this week, so I tossed in a pair of shorts and a shirt. Little did I know that it would stay a pretty constant high 60's with a slight breeze, even colder in the shade. Now I may start to have a clothing crisis as I dont really have a jacket...though I do have a sweater and a sweatshirt. Is now a bad time to mention that I'm scared for what winter will bring?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sick...Again. Say it ain't so!

Read at your own risk. Candid description of my physical illness.

Moldova has once again defied the natural order of the world by causing me to be sick yet again. Once again I will place the blame on some sort of food poisoning related to what I ate. I take all the blame this time however because I came home from school yesterday earlier than my host mother and reheated some food to eat. Being an American it didnt even cross my mind to fully cook the food and bring it to a boil on the stove before eating...instead I simply heated it in the microwave...Not positive that this is what did it but Id be willing to put money on it. The wierd thing is that I could almost feel myself gettting sick as I eat it. Like my stomach recognized that it wasnt any good. I choose to disregard and didnt feel the full effects until about 12 o'clock that night. The last time I was sick was completely horrible with me in the bathroom once every hour for about twelve hours. However, this time has not been that dramatic it has persisted for a longer time. I have been in a constant state of lousiness, mostly nausea, cramping, and upset stomach since last night but only throw up twice. So far it feels about the same as it did last night. The last time the sickness just let up all over a sudden and I just felt perfect like it had never happened. Now I spent my whole day waiting for it to do that again, however, I have not been so lucky.

The worst part is not being able to do anything to help my situation. I can handle sickness better if I can find some comfort if only for a while. However, the only advice I was given by the medical office was to drink plenty of fluids, water or green tea, eat only rice, and take Pepto-bismal tablets every hour. None of which seems to have any effect.

I also feel terrible because I have kind of left my Partner-Teacher to fend for himself for today and probably tomorrow as the Medical Office has asked me to make a trip to Chișinău to be checked out by one of the doctors just in case. I was planning on going to Chișinău on Saturday but now I get to go one day earlier and stay in the Medical Office apartment. The problem will be if I can make it there without having any sleep. I have really only had a few one hour cat naps since yesterday and tonight isn't shaping up to be any different.

On a slightly more positive note. My Director has called me twice today to check on how I am and even though I am in a terrible state with a monster headache I was still able to relay my condition to her and hold a pretty extensive conversation in Romanian on the phone. (Talking to people on the phone in Romanian is way harder than in person. No body language or facial expressions to work with.)

I hope to write a more uplifting blog post in the next few days. Until then, WISH ME WELL!

Friday, September 2, 2011

First Real Day of School

Early to bed. Early to rise. I am by no means a morning person and when I am reminded of the early bird getting the worm the only thing I can think of is why was the worm out so early to begin with? Two days in a row of getting up at 7 o'clock has made me slightly irritable but that will pass once I get back in the groove of school hours instead of my ridiculous amounts of sleeping in I have been doing…Trying to make up for lost time during PST, when I only woke up past 9 o'clock on a handful of occasions the entire two months.

Up by 7:00 and at school by 8:30. However, my first class was 2nd grade which I will not be teaching so I merely sat in the back of the class and spoke my American English when called upon by my partner teacher. The second graders were sort of frightening with their eery ability to sit simply in their chairs, not moving, not talking, just listening. Im going to assume this was a freak occurrence having to do with the fact that this was the first day of classes and that in a few weeks they will soon start to resemble an American class of 2nd graders. Otherwise my other classes acted in a way that was very typical for their age level. The next two classes after the 2nd were tenth grade and other than looking older than 15 they were not much different from what I expected. I had a break during the fourth period and planned my lesson for the 8th grade and 11th grade then. Probably the closest I have ever planned a lesson to the time I planned to teach it. Remarkably, even though the lessons were planned on the spot they worked out well and the school day was over before I knew it. My favorite part from these lessons is that almost all of the 8th grade students labeled themselves as 'Early Birds' since our lesson was about being an early bird or a night owl. Tn the tenth grade we talked about goals and when my tenth grade class 'grows up' half of them will become doctors, while the other half will be teachers, two or three want to be athletes but were open to the possibility of being a doctor or teacher if being an athlete doesnt work out.

My partner teacher made sure put me in the front of the class and tell the students to ask me any questions they wanted as long as it was in English…However none of the students from any of the classes felt comfortable enough with their English to hazard a oral response. I simply informed them I was from America. Pointed where in America on a map. Said I was 22 years old and that I had studied History and Geography for 4 years at university. (Even though technically I was a Social Studies Education major I felt like history and geography were words they were better able to understand.)

Now I am free for the weekend until Sunday when my partner teacher and I will meet to plan for Monday's lesson. Again I have 2 classes of 10th grade which I already have plans for, so we should only have to make plans for the 6th and 7th grade classes we will be teaching.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First Bell

Today is Ziuă Conștințelor, or the Day of Knowledge, and I will presume that today was given this honor because every year school begins on the same day, the first of September. Which is quite different from the randomness of the beginning of school in America. Today, however, was much more of a celebration rather than an actual school day.

All of the students came to school best in their best clothes…for the boys that was a shirt and tie, and maybe even a jacket, and for the girls this was a skirt and a fancy blouse. In addition to dressing their best the students also brought amazing amounts of flowers for their teachers. For the most part it was roses but I also noticed carnations, and daisies as well. The main event of the day was an assembly in which everyone congregated in a semi-circle around the front of the school, including all the teachers, the director, the priest, and the mayor. Mostly it was a lot of welcoming in a new school year and the same speeches you hear every school year. But it changed slightly when the 12th form students lead the 1st form students to the front of the school, a representative of the 12th form then bestowed upon a representative of the 1st form a (fake) key to the school as a token of welcome. After which the 12th form sang a song that I had trouble understanding except for numerous uses of the word "children." The first form children were given a folder with paper and pencils and then were lead to each individually give a speech…yes 1st form students were each asked to say something in a microphone…mostly this amounted to a very simple rhyme about leaving the preschool, saying goodbye to August and hello to September, but still impressive to me. And of course it wouldn't be complete if the 1st form didn't sing a song as well.

After all of this I was even more nervous about what my director would expect for me to say in front of the crowd in Romanian. Especially if they even had 1st form students speaking…luckily after the director introduced me to the school she simply handed me the microphone and made me say "Buna Ziuă." Crisis Averted. After the director, mayor and priest had each said a speech the assembly was over and the students were lead inside to take attendance. This amounted to about 30 minutes of a getting to know you/ taking attendance class with their dirigente (home room teacher), thankfully I am not a dirigente…so I just sat in the office with the other non-dirigente teachers and waited for them to finish. Once that class was finished we had a quick meeting with the director so that she could write down how many students came to school and who was absent. I was given permission to leave by the director at around 11:30 (after past misunderstandings I always make sure I have permission to leave before I go home). Basically a 3 hour workday and I didn't even have to teach classes. Fun!

Tomorrow, however, the real fun begins. I will be teaching four classes, two of the 10th form, one of the 8th and of the 11th. The best part is that I already have lesson plans for the 10th form from practice school. So all we needed to plan was for the 11th and 8th forms. Even though I will only teach four classes tomorrow, my partner teacher has 5 classes, because he will teach the 2nd form on his own…(I am very thankful for this). He was also able to convince the vice-director in charge of the schedule to create an optional German class for him to teach in addition to his English classes. Apparently with my help he feels like he can take on more classes then he usually does. Hopefully this doesn't come back to bite us…

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of today's events but if you wait until next year I'll remember to take pictures then….hopefully.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting Readjusted

Sorry for not posting a blog post in a few days but I didnt really have anything to say.

For the most part I have passing the time watching American movies or trying to be productive by typing up my long term plans that are needed to be turned in to the Moldovan Ministry of Education. Other than that the only other events to happen was the Moldovan Independence Day...the 20th anniversary no less, and also I visited my partner teachers house for lunch.

The Moldovan Independence day wasn't exactly what I planned because I went with my partner teacher to the center of town and I was expecting a little bit of a party or celebrations but instead the Casa de Cultura (house of culture) was open and people were inside playing chess, checkers, ping pong, and preparing for a wrestling match later in the afternoon. In the very least it was nice to hang out for a little while with people I haven't met yet and also to look around in the Casa de Cultura. Inside there is also an auditorium that I estimated could seat 300 and it has a fairly large stage, this was surprising to me because it seemed out of place in my village especially since there is probably less than 2000 people in the whole village. The auditorium looked like it could use a lot of work though because some of the wooden floors looked rotten or warped and a good proportion of the seats looked like they needed a little work as well.

I also had the pleasure of visiting my partner teachers house yesterday and enjoyed my first meal of rabbit meat, with potatoes and white wine. The best I can do to describe rabbit meat is to say it is like chicken except a lot harder to get off the bone and the meat was not as tender, but it tasted just fine. After lunch I was treated to a video of my partner teachers wedding and it was quite a long video...I think I can safely say I understand Moldovan weddings a little better, its a very intense affair and REALLY does last ALL day. Possibly three days if you follow other traditions.

Anyway. I now have the house to myself and I am going to spend the rest of the day finally unpacking all of my stuff and whatnot. Otherwise the only other thing I have to do is wait for Thursday for the first day of school when I will finally know my schedule and be able to start lesson planning.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Pictures

I added another album to my Google Web Album. If you want to see them just click the Photo tab at the top of the page.

In other news I have sort of been working 2-3 hour days at the school. I would like to do more but that seems to be the working day for days before school really starts. 2-3 hours is just enough time to get a headache off of the paint fumes though...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Host Grandmother

(First everyone should click my pictures tab ^above^ I finally organized my pics into albums. And I have an album of my Moldovan picnic which I will not blog about instead Ill let the pictures do the talking.)

So while I was eating breakfast this morning my host grandmother was talking with me, I assumed she was trying to test my level of Romanian because she would say a sentence one way that I would not understand and then say another sentence right after that I would. After a little while I was almost completely understanding everything she telling me. Some of the high points of our conversation included her discussing that seven years ago she weighed 200 pounds (weight, money, politics, and religion are very common conversation topics in Moldova) and was very unhealthy but that now she weighs 145 and goes for a run every morning, jumps rope, and take a cold shower afterward, oh and did I mention that she is 64 years old? She also said she no longer eats salt or sugar with her food and when she fixed my eggs this morning she didn't drown them in oil as most Moldovan cooks I have observed. I was fairly impressed. Also she has spent almost all of her time since I have been here repairing the school with other local women of about her age. From what I have gathered they all work on a volunteer basis and the school looks great with new windows and fresh colorfully painted walls-

-A mouse just scampered across the floor….I need to invest in a cat.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let the Confusion Begin...

Let me tell you a story. It begins at 9:30 on a day much like today. But before I get to that maybe I should preface my story by saying that last night I asked my host brother who speaks great English to ask my host grandmother what time I needed to go to school on Friday. She replied though my translator that she didn't know and called the director. The director told her and she told my host brother and he told me that I didn't need to go to school tomorrow…at this point I should have realized that this word of mouth would soon cause me some problems, I dislike installing the game of telephone into a place of power in my life. But anywho, I went to sleep last night carefree and oblivious to the fact that at around 9:30 I would be quite rudely awakened by my host brother who simply told me "the director called, you need to get up and go to school" and then he sauntered back to his room and was already back asleep by the time I had gotten up to ask him for some more information. My host grandmother had already gone to work and therefore would not be around to cook me some breakfast, my host brother refused to acknowledge anything but his pillow so I was left to get dressed and head in the general direction of school on my own. I had a mini debate with myself on what exactly I should wear, but decided that since it would be my first day at the school I should dress at least a little professional but I left my dress shoes at home and went in my sneakers. Luckily the school is easy to find and I still remembered where Doamna Directors office is…however I nearly started to panic when I found the secretaries office full of people and loud talking emanating from the directors office. My Romanian was failing me in this situation but I managed to get the words "Doamna Director" to come out of my mouth in a sort of question like way and luckily the secretary understood and told me just to go right in. The director was busy with a group of girls and after she acknowledged my presence and told everyone both in her office and in the secretaries office that I was the American volunteer she instructed me to wait outside until she called me. I went back to the secretary's office and proceeded to wait for about ten minutes with people that I assume are also teachers at the school and who were in a very cheery mood. Soon the director came out of her office called me back in and informed me that today I had the day off, Saturday and Sunday were the weekend and that on Monday I would be going to the Raion, Falesti, for a conference for English teachers. All of which I already knew. I thanked the director for I'm not sure what, came home and only just caught my host brother as he was leaving…If I had been a minute later I would have came home the doors would have been locked and no one would have been home.

So basically this is a story about the importance of communication, let this be a lesson to everyone.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scumpia, Moldova

Eu sunt gata cu traningul de vara.

Yesterday I was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer and was immediately whisked away to my new permanent site of Scumpia, Moldova. A village about 2 hours away from the capital that is home to about 2 thousand people not including the sizable proportion that is living overseas.

After we swore in all of the volunteers were pressured by their partners to leave as soon as possible and it really caught me off guard by how difficult it was to say goodbye to all of the Volunteers, especially the ones I had been living in Truseni with. It really made me nervous when I got in the car with my partner teacher and the mayor and started to realize that from now on I would be on my own and would probably not see the other volunteers until the first week of November when we come back to the capital for another week of training together.

Now I have been given the day off by the school director, who does not speak any English, in order to rest and relax but I am expected to show up at the school on Friday to start planning for the next school year. I am expecting to teach about 6 classes each of them will be a different grade and will require that I plan a different lesson for each class I teach. The good news is that I will probably only teach 3 classes each day, as classes are mostly every other day, similar to a college class schedule (M, W, F or Tu,TH).

As for my living situation in my new town I am very satisfied and very lucky because for the next two weeks my host brother is home and speaks great English (as well as Turkish, Romanian, and Russian). So if I have two weeks to encounter and solve any problems I might have while I have a live in translator, after the two weeks he will be going back to college in Turkey and I will be on my own because as far as I know my partner teacher is the only one to speak English in my town.

Once he leaves I will be living in my own casa mica, small house, which has about five small rooms. I have an indoor bathroom and an indoor shower, although I will have to walk outside to the other casa mica that my house grandmother lives in to get to it…which may cause issues in the winter time. Also my walk to school is less than five minutes.

Luckily everything is going well at my new site because I know that if I did not have a good situation or a good host family it would make my transition a lot more difficult and I would have a harder time getting over being alone in a new village, without English speakers, or even not knowing any one who speaks Romanian.

Also since I have internet access I am hoping to keep my blog post frequent and up to date and to post a load of pictures as soon as I have time to take some of my new town.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Officially a Volunteer and at my new site!

I made it safely to my new site and I have internet access. Thats about all I have time to write. I will hopefully have time tomorrow to write a real blog post.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Language Proficiency Interview

The last hurdle to overcome before my swearing in tomorrow was my language proficiency interview. Although most of the volunteers agree that it isn't necessarily that important, as Peace Corps has never sent someone home for doing poorly on it. However, almost all of us were at least a little stressed about it because we wanted to do well and receive an accurate assessment of our language skills after all the hard work we put in so far. For my interview I was lucky to have an interviewer that worked at the Peace Corps office and who I was pretty familiar with. The interview mostly consisted of questions about who I was and what I would be doing in Moldova...later the interview shifted to questions about where I was moving to and how I planned to help my new community. The last part of the interview was a situation that I was asked to read in English and we role played the situation in Romanian (I was meeting the mayor for the first time). Mostly the interviewer was trying to test my ability to conjugate verbs correctly in the present, future, and past, the extent of my vocabulary, my ability to make comparisons and use descriptive words.

After the interview I felt pretty satisfied with my performance, although I had made a few errors and misunderstood a question I still felt that I did the best I could have done and didn't get as flustered as I had been getting when I discussed with other people. After I was finished my interviewer asked me if I had studied Romanian before I came to Moldova which made me feel even better about the interview.

The interview was recorded and will now be assessed by someone at Peace Corps and they will label me as either Novice, Intermediate, Advanced or Superior. I am shooting for a Intermediate-Middle which would be awesome seeing as how I had zero knowledge of Romanian 2 months and a week ago. Though Intermediate-Low would be just as satisfactory.

Tomorrow is my swearing in and I am completely packed and ready to go with 5 bags. I will be picked up in a van tomorrow morning at about 8 to head to the capital and swear in. Afterward I will leave right after for Scumpia at around 1:00. So at about this time tomorrow I will be at my new site and I will only know three partner teacher, my host brother, and my host grandmother. And as far as I've been told my partner is one of only a handful of people to speak English. Luckily there is another volunteer about 10 miles away in the larger town that I can meet up with and talk with in English if I start to feel like I am isolated.

Lastly, I do not know what my internet situation will be when I get to Scumpia so it might be a while until my next post.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Host Family Conference

Everything is moving a lot faster now that everyday has something new for me to do instead of the same routine for the whole week. Yesterday was my last language class and I am now on my own with whatever Romanian I was able to soak up in two months, hopefully it is enough...Peace Corps pays me a little extra lei for a tutor so I hope to find someone who would be willing to teach me more Romanian, my partner teacher mentioned that the history teacher at the school is younger and speaks a little English so she is my first choice for a Romanian tutor but who knows....

After my language class I went to Chisinau and ate at one of the nicest restaurants I have ever been in. It was Uzbek and even though Ive never even heard of Uzbek food I will have to say that it is now one of my favorites. At the restaurant I shared a dinner of rice, veal, carrots, and pomegranate seeds, warm bread and a pot of tea that came with honey and dates. Altogether it only cost about 7 dollars.

Today was great because I was able to meet with my new host family which consist of just one woman and she rode the train five hours to come to Chisinau so that Peace Corps could inform her of lots of important information and so that we could hammer out some ground rules and payment amounts. Afterward she took the five hour train back to Scumpia, an intense day of travel for her. My Romanian was failing me pretty badly because working out a contract is not something we had studied in my language classes and having completed one before with my host family now did not make the process any easier. But for the most part she was able to understand me when I formed the most grammatically incorrect sentence in my thick American accent so I think I will be able to survive pretty well at my new site. Especially since she has a grandson that will be living with us for two weeks until he goes back to school and he speaks English. So any major issues I have at my new site I hope to settle before he leaves in two weeks and I am really own my own....

After the conference I went with a few others to the supermarket and was amazed to find almost everything that I had been unable to find in any other store so far in Moldova. Some notoriously hard to find objects include, peanut butter, vanilla extract, spices of any kind, and brown sugar. I am still unsuccessful finding brown sugar but everything else was obtainable at this supermarket. I indulged myself by buying vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and chili powder for about three dollars. We celebrated our success with lunch in the park and then split up and I wondered Chisinau on my own buying miscellaneous items that I had been meaning to buy but had never really had the time. You can only buy some things in certain places and I always forget. The piata (market) in Chisinau is awesome and for me resembles a flee market. There is about three city blocks full of tables and people selling things but good luck finding someone selling what you are looking for even though I have been able to find everything I want for the most part the hard part is just searching through the entire market until you find the right table. Usually I reserve a full hour for the process and just walk through the entire market and talk with people as I go until I find what I am looking for. Today was also great for my self esteem because after the conference and failing to be able to discuss as fluently as I would like with my new host it was nice to be able to talk successfully to the venders at the piata and haggle for a few important item I needed before I leave for Scumpia on Wednesday.