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?