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.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Beginning of the End...of PST

Today was the last day of practice school which I myself have no words to describe though another volunteer summed it up nicely as feeling that they "had been hazed by the federal government."

The second week of practice school I taught the tenth grade and had a consistent class of five girls. Planning a lesson that includes all of the important aspects that we have been trained to include became a lot more difficult as I had to modify every activity to work for only five people. For instance, pair work or group work was especially tricky.

As for teaching with my partner teacher I was very satisfied. We work very well together and the classes went very well as team taught classes but we still have a lot of work to do. Since my success as a volunteer is mostly based on how well my partners teaching improves this means I will really be able to feel a sense of accomplishment after my two years.

As for today since it was the last day we only spent about ten minutes reviewing the test I gave them yesterday and the rest of the two hours was spent playing games with the other volunteers and students from both the lyceum (high school) and gymnasium (middle school). Although our event was not as well organized as it could have been it went perfectly with three pretty equal groups of students, one playing basketball, one playing American football (although from my perspective the students seemed to be more familiar with rugby based on the way they played) and the last group played musical chairs, freeze dance, Macarena, and the Cha Cha Slide and many other American games… the students were also delighted to teach us the Hora (Moldova's national dance) and a dance similar to a Congo line but way better and I cant wait to do it again this time with video footage. Since my skills do not lean toward dancing or playing sports I spent most of my time as the designated DJ and photographer. Altogether the day was a pretty amazing end to one of the most stressful weeks I have had in my life.

Lastly, I stuffed my face with half a box of Oreo's for lunch, couldn't ask for better.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Haircut Success!

Yesterday I finally gave in and decided to try the ultimate test of my Romanian skills...getting a haircut. To make it a little easier I decided to go with another volunteer from Truseni because two heads are always better than one, especially when it comes to speaking a foreign language. Luckily for us everything went perfectly.

We decided on a hair place near an area we were familiar with and when we went inside I was surprised that it was not in any way different from any run of the mill hair saloon in America. The best part was that when I explained what I wanted the woman looked at me and said "American?" I can converse but I will never be able to hide my accent. Also in case you were wondering even in Moldova you still receive the hairdresser conversation while your hair is getting cut. Of course my conversation was mostly her talking and me answering the most basic questions but it was still a confidence booster. And how much did this conversation and hair cut set me back? About 4 dollars, not including the tip.

Afterward, I went wandering through the capital and ran into 6-7 other volunteers. Its a small world after least in Moldova. The best part of the whole excursion was that I found a vendor selling gelato. GELATO! It was the highlight of my day and cost less than a dollar for one scoop. This discovery was made all the more exciting because I had asked my Romanian teacher that morning if I can buy gelato in Chisinau and she told me no. So when I saw it in Chisinau only mere hours from when I had asked about it I was overjoyed.

Lastly, just when I am starting to feel comfortable in my ability to get along on my own with my limited Romanian and my ability to find things in the capital I realized that I only have about 10 days left before I leave for my permanent site and have to start all over again in a new town. And from what I have been told my partner teacher is one of the only people who speak English in my town...

Ok...I got to get back to work. One more week of practice school and my training will be complete.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gata cu clasa a VI


I have survived the first part of practice school with 6th grade. Part 2 starts on Thursday this time with 10th grade…Which means I have the rest of today and all day tomorrow to in a way relax…although I still have meetings and sessions but no actual teaching.

Practice school was awesome altogether but it gradually became better as I started to feel more comfortable teaching English and more comfortable with the students. Even lesson planning was getting easier the last few days…however the sad part is that I will have to start back at square one Thursday because I think planning a lesson for 6th is going to be as different from planning a lesson for 10th as planning a lesson for English was instead of for History. Mostly because the I have to stretch 5 lessons to fit around 14 classes and because the texts are a lot more difficult in the tenth grade book, covering such topics as analyzing why students do poorly in school, the educational system of the UK in comparison to the US, and with vocab words such as obsolete, impoverish, ruse, and stint to name just a few. But enough about next week…Lets talk about today.

Today was basically our party day with our gymnasium students and it was awesome. There was only a slight bit of seriousness as I had to turn back to them their test they took on Monday. (More on that in the next paragraph.) After reviewing the test I taught the students how to play hangman, say English tongue twisters, play musical chairs and how to dance the Macarena, the Hokey Pokey, and the Cha Cha Slide…(Yes, before you ask. In order to teach them how, I also had to engage in the dancing, however, I consider this a one time occurrence and I plan on restricting any and all of my future dancing to this and other foreign countries.) I was pretty surprised because at the end I asked them what they enjoyed the most and they each liked something different. Nothing in particular was their favorite. This was surprising because it meant that I had done a good job picking activities that would appeal to each of my students. I might also add that I saw numerous students either playing hangman or dancing the Macarena after class. I think I can say that this week and especially today I have been extremely successful with goal 2 of the Peace Corps. And hopefully as long as people keep reading my blog I will also continue to be successful with goal 3 as well.

Going back to test taking, students in Moldova are a lot of fun to watch when they are taking a test because they feel no shame in leaning over and checking out their neighbors paper or asking, in a voice that is edging slightly louder than a whisper, about the answer to question number 5, "helping" is a noble aspect of Moldovan culture but for every positive there is a negative. I spent most of the time during the test reminding students not to talk and to keep their eyes on their own paper…sometimes in Romanian just to be sure they understood. However, even with the rampant academic dishonesty I feel the grades from the test still accurately reflected the grades I thought the students should have received. Especially when it came to the last part which was an essay that required students to describe their favorite season. Some students did not write anything, most said summer because there is no school, but my favorite was a girl who wrote an essay that took up the whole back page and described how spring was her favorite because the trees were in blossom, people are happy, and that she is proud that she is able to be this happy and experience this season if only once a year. Her English is probably better than mine and at one point her essay even uses the phrase "kidnaps my soul." If I hadn't been watching her the entire time I never would have believed that a 6th grade student could write such a beautiful description of a season. Especially a student who speaks another language. (At this point I really wish I could rewrite the whole essay for everyone to read, however, I gave her back her test already. But I invited her to join my 10th grade class on Thursday because she is above and beyond capable and I will ask her if I can see her test again. That is if she decides to give up more of her vacation to come to my English class with older teenagers…)

The weirdest part of teaching the 6th grade this week has been the fact that all of my students remind me of the 6th grade class I student taught in the US only two months before I left for Moldova. I was in a constant state of deja vous because I could swear that each of them had an American twin. One student in particular because he not only looked identical to a student from the US but also had all of the student's mannerisms. When he didn't know the answer he smiled the same way the other student did, when something was funny he laughed the same way, and when he was bored he was just as easily distracted and entertained himself in the exact same way. It was so bizarre. But also very entertaining.

Lastly, as if being finished with the first part of practice school wasn't enough of a reward I also received three roses, an apple, a paper with pictures of two of the girls with their signatures and a book with each students name, a picture, and a written message. It was amazing…(and that was the first time I wrote amazing in this blog post. and I didn't use it at all in the last blog post. Unusual.)

My gifts.

My class with my amazing resource teacher.

My class with me.