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.