Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thank You Saint Nick!

Hello. My name is Justin and I am addicted to the internet. It has been 5 days since my last relapse and I'm ashamed to admit I've once again begun indulging in my addiction…

Let me start from the beginning. Last week was a 6 day work week for me with school being open on saturday to make up for not working next Monday which would be Christmas eve. I woke up that morning on saturday with that terrible news of the tragedy that occurred at the elementary school in New England and then had to go to school myself. If that already didn't make for the worst day ever I came home to find that my internet had died. It has done so before and I've had the same reaction every time…"NO! You can't do this to me! No! Please no!" or something along those lines. I could go on and on and describe the nonsense that went into getting it working again but I will simply say that it took 5 days and literally 5 telephone repairmen in my bedroom to finally get it back and during that time I had a lot of free time to reflect and realize just how reliant I am on the internet and just how a disruption to my life it can cause. Maybe not so much a real disruption but a perceived disruption, of all the urgent emails I was missing, all the friends in urgent need of my help or worried of my absence, and who knows the unspeakable things that could have happened in my family. But of course its just a trick of the mind to always dwell on the worst when the reality is unknown.

I am thankful in any case to have it back after thinking day after day that it would be fixed I was beginning to lose hope but luckily when I woke up and came to breakfast my host mother told me that she had had a dream and also that today is the feast day of old Saint Nick so the internet would definitely be back by today. Thank goodness for both. Now I'm starting to wonder if good old Santa Claus was kind enough to visit me today would he be back to visit me on Christmas? I guess we will have to wait and see.

Speaking of Christmas, a white Christmas is all but assured for me. The weather has been true to its winter nature and it has been nothing but cold and snowing for the last 2 weeks and because it has stayed below freezing (right now it is about 15 degrees) none of the snow has melted which just reinforces the feeling that I am living in Siberia. However, I accept the snow lovingly in acknowledgement that any change in the weather would bring me either a world of mud or a world of ice. Neither is something I look forward to so I'll accept the snow for as long as it likes to stay.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What Holiday?

It was about this time last year when I stopped posting to my blog for almost a month and I’m determined to not let that happen again this year. The reason being that as the days get shorter and colder everything kind of becomes depressing and dark and there really isn’t anything to do except running to and from school, which can become monotonous and so there isn’t much to write about. Along with that, aside from the cold weather and the Thanksgiving dinner that was filled with Christmas carols I am really having trouble thinking of it as Christmas season. It’s amazing the effect it can have on your way of thinking when you don’t see Christmas lights and decorations everywhere you go. Christmas has a way of easing you into winter and cold weather in a way that makes you feel more comfortable and happy about it. Unfortunately for me it feels like Christmas already passed and I missed it. I tried to bring in a little Christmas cheer by watching some Christmas movies and playing Christmas music. I even played the Jackson 5 Christmas collection while my 11th grade students took a test but to no avail. It seems to have the same effect as listening to Christmas music in July. You can feel the Christmas cheer while the music plays but it feels artificial and wears off quickly after the songs are over.

The main reason I care about holding onto to Christmas so badly is that for one it adds a level of familiarity to my daily life and also because I’ve always had a much higher tolerance for cold weather during the holiday season when almost all the movies and music has cold weather as a theme. In my way of thinking cold weather works almost as a Christmas decoration in how it makes Christmas feel more like Christmas when there is snow on the ground and you can see your breath as you go shopping. But if you take away Christmas, winter soon becomes the biggest hassle of the year. If I had my way Spring would start working its magic right after New Years, and the whole short cold days and long colder nights would quickly give way to beaches, barbeques, and driving with the windows down. (Couldn’t think of another appropriate ‘b’ word to continue the alliteration L.)

Well anyway, enough of that. I have two weeks of school left, one of lessons and one of semester tests, and then I’ll be coasting my way through winter vacation. It’s hard to believe I’m already approaching the halfway point to the school year. Won’t be long now before the school year is over and I’m left trying to throw two years of my Moldovan life into a suitcase to take back to America. But who am I kidding. That’s still a lifetime a way. Better to focus on the now. I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blog Housekeeping

Today is the first day of winter and it feels like spring outside. My host mother has taken this opportunity to do an early version of spring cleaning. Inspired by her I have decided to do a little spring cleaning of my own starting with my blog. The thing with managing websites or blogs is that once they are running I get in the bad habit of just letting them run and not doing any maintenance work until I have a list of things that I can't really avoid any longer.

Anyway, I have removed the view counter from my blog first of all because I found that it wasn't giving very accurate numbers first of all and second because I did't see why I needed to have it in the first place, numbers aren't important. Secondly, I have found that my twitter update gadget has stopped working which means that when I post something on twitter it will no longer be shown on my blog. Unfortunately, this is not an issue I can fix as the gadget itself is broken and there doesn't seem to be an alternative gadget I can use to take its place. Lastly, I added a translator gadget where my twitter gadget used to be in an effort of full disclosure. Having reviewed my visitor statistics I have found that quite a few people view my blog from places other then America, with the largest proportion being people in Moldova. Since I am writing about my experiences in Moldova I think it makes sense to make my blog accessible in Romanian or Russian so that anyone who is interested in reading what I have to say can do so. I don't write my blog in English as an effort to keep people from reading it but more because writing in English is simply easier.

Now it's time to get back to enjoying the beautiful weather!

(Sidenote: Google translates Wishful Thinking into Romanian as "Confusing Wishes with Reality." That almost makes me sound like a real writer.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Assisted Lessons

One thing about Moldovan schools that is different from American schools is that if a parent/grandparent/guardian so choses they can show up at school one day and attend classes with their child. This isn't a right that many people exercise very often but it does happen. In general it is more common with the younger classes, it has so far only been females, and in general the adults observing the classes tend to sit quietly in the back of the room and only give a face when they aren't excited by the direction in which the lesson is going. Although they don't always sit quietly. Sometimes they might get a little vocal and ask why don't you call on their son cause he has his hand raised or why did you give him a 8 and the other boy a 9?

I like the idea of parents being more involved with their students education but from what I can tell the parents that are involved with their student's education are usually the ones who have students who already do well in school. It tends to be the ones who have parents that aren't interested and don't pay attention who would benefit more from having their parents visit the school and talking to the teacher. But in either case it's experiences such as these that I love. Things that I know I would have never experienced if I only taught in America all my life. The same as teaching a 2nd grade class followed by a 12th grade or being interrupted from teaching my lesson because all the students are too busy looking out the window at the horse and cart filled with coal that the groundskeeper is shoveling into the furnace. I actually kind of worry about how my first year teaching in an American school will go since I know it will take me a long time to acclimate myself to the American school system again, but I feel like one thing I have learned in Moldova is to always be ready for anything and never take anything for granted. Things can always change at a moments notice and you never quite know what you will face next. And I might regret saying it later but I really doubt I'll ever find myself in such extraordinary situations in America that I have found myself in while teaching in Moldova.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Belated Thanksgiving

After all the complaining about missing Thanksgiving I felt kind of bad on Saturday shoveling my face full of food ... but only a little. Because Thanksgiving is on Thursday and all of the volunteers are usually working on Thursday we never get to celebrate on the actual Thanksgiving day but we do get to celebrate. And unlike last year where all the Peace Corps volunteers from all across Moldova came together at Peace Corps headquarters and shared a belated Thanksgiving, this year we had to split up the celebrations into regional ones with only 30 people instead of the over 100 people we had last year. For me the closest Thanksgiving was being held in Bălți by two volunteers that share an apartment in Moldova's second biggest city. Although we didn't have pumpkin pie or sweet potato cassarole we did have turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, green bean cassarole, corn cassarole...and the list goes on. Most of the guest were volunteers but we also had some Moldovan guests and even a german man who remarked that it amazed him how a kitchen of chaos with 30 people acting independently without any organization or leadership somehow find a way of putting food of the table. I had a hard time thinking of any Thanksgiving that was ever organized in any meaningful way...and in fact I think the overall organized chaos as it were added to the overall feeling of it really being Thanksgiving. But the meal was merely the beginning. After almost an hour of passing food and plates around the room and no one able to move without literally crawling over people or crawling under people, the real fun began while we all lounged in our post feast stupor and someone began singing a Christmas carol. What started out as one song soon blossomed into a Christmas carol marathon running the gamut from old favorites such as 'The Little Drummer Boy' and 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' to more contemporary-ish fair such as 'All I Want for Christmas is You' and 'Santa Baby' I struggled to think of a Christmas song we didn't sing. We even tried out luck with German and Romanian Christmas carols as well. Though 'O Tannenbaum' was slightly more successful then our attempt at 'O Brad Frumos.' In the end I don't think I have ever sung Christmas carols at Thanksgiving before but I really can't think of a better way to bring in the Holiday season. Except for maybe a marathon of Christmas movies...which is what my mission will be for the rest of today. Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Beginning of the Holiday Season is Here!

Happy Thanksgiving Americans! Today is a holiday I have always considered to be one of my favorites. Mostly because because of the emphasis it places on everyone eating lots of food. And with me in Moldova this is yet another year when I will not be indulging myself in ridiculous amounts of turkey or sweet potato casserole. I did, however, get to stuff my face full of Moldovan food yesterday on what is basically the Moldovan equivalent of Thanksgiving sans turkey, Village day. While the over consumption of food and distant family members coming to visit holds true for the Moldovan version as it does for the American version, for me it just isn't quite the same without the pumpkin pie. To make matters worse as I was working today I had a mass horde of turkeys taking up space outside my classroom window. At one point I counted 25 of them and all of them looked as delicious as the next one. Needless to say I found it hard to teach my lessons with all of them mocking me from the window but I made it through.

The majority of them had already turn the corner and went around the building. These were the stragglers. 

So while you are making your Thanksgiving dinners if you wish to add a little Moldovan flair to your meal why don't you try one of these recipes I found on the internet that are pretty similar to dishes that I ate yesterday. The first is a corn, rice, egg, rice, and mayonnaise salad. The second is a pyramid of crepes filled with cherries and covered with chocolate or your choice of topping.

Pofta Mare!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter is Coming

Winter is coming and although the official start is not until December if you were to ask me winter arrived officially this weekend. And of course with winter comes an increase of sicknesses so now is as good a time as any to describe how sickness in Moldova is treated slightly different then it is in America. (To tell the truth I wrote this last year and the real reason I'm posting it now is because I only just now found my handwritten version of this hidden away in one of my notebooks...)

Now the first most important difference is what is known as the current in Moldova. It is a very bad idea to have a door and a window open or even two windows open at the same time, as this would create what we think of as a draft, or as they say, a current through the room. This current is seen as bad for you and can lead to catching a cold. Even in the middle of the summer when the heat is above 90 and there are 30 people packed in a van it is very common that they will not open more then one window or in especially unlucky cases not even one window for fear of the current. 

Another difference is the importance of keeping your feet warm. When you arrive home or at someone else’s home you are expected to always take off your shoes before you go inside. There is usually a rug beside the door that has been placed there to be a convenient place to stand on with your bare (or sock-covered) feet before you enter the house. Leaving the rug and walking on the cold ground without shoes is avoided as much as possible. This has been an adjustment for me because, for one, I’m not used to taking my shoes off so much and number two my lack of balance is made apparent to everyone everywhere I go.

Lastly, as with your feet you also have to avoid sitting on the ground but this has quite a different reasoning as it isn’t so much to avoid getting sick but in fact to avoid freezing your eggs, both male and female equivalents. Doing so can lower your chances of having children in the future. There are two ways to avoid freezing anything of importance, the first is to simply place something on the ground under you. Similar to the rug used to keep your feet from getting cold. Anything will do: a towel, another item of clothing you aren’t wearing, even a manila folder. When you are especially tired and have no other resources to work with or simply too tired to even bother you can indulge in what is called by PCV’s the Moldovan squat. The Moldovan squat is named as such because it is quite different from the American squat. The main difference being that the knees tend to stay closer to the chest and the feet stay flat on the ground. This position is used most frequently by Moldovan men or younger children, however, it also happens to be the same position for utilizing toiletless bathrooms.

If you are unlucky enough to fall prey to a disease or sickness the easiest cure is vodka, similar in the way you might see whiskey used in America. This is something I have not witnessed as much in my village or with my host mother but other volunteers have told me that no matter what you might complain about the solution to your problem is most likely vodka. And in addition to the benefits of simply drinking vodka it is also be used to relieve sore muscles through the use of a vodka massage. 

As the weather continues to turn toward the lower end of the thermometer I continue to find myself more and more daydreaming of summer. I can already tell this is going to be a very long winter, no matter if it is mild or extreme one. And can you believe that I only have about a month more of school until winter break? Talk about how time flies.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Being a Healthy

Whenever my life as an English teacher in Moldova seems like it is too difficult, I am always able to make myself feel better by reminding myself that at least I'm not a Health teacher. There are four programs in Moldova but only the Health and English programs work in a school environment. And while trying to teach students in a language that is not their own might be difficult I have consistently found that I much prefer being able to teach in English over the alternative…teaching in Romanian. Unlike English volunteers, the Healthies, as they are lovingly called, teach in Romanian with partner teachers who usually don't know English and so all of the planning involved in lessons are also conducted in Romanian. I also like teaching English for the simple fact that I already know the subject matter backward and forward. I have been living it for 23 years and so I always consider that a person knows their native language better then they can know any other subject matter because they learn it without actively working for it. And while teaching contradictory English grammar rules can be exhausting it is still better to me then Health because our knowledge of Health changes so rapidly and things that used to be taught as fact are regularly being revised or thrown out all together. Which in a way is a lot more contradictory then English grammar rules because at least they are stable in their contrariness.

The reason I bring all of this up is because recently I was contacted by the Health program who wanted to use my school as a test group. In an effort toward transparency and evaluating their program the Health program created a questionnaire that would test students knowledge of Health and to chart the difference in learning the questionnaire would be given both at the beginning and the end of the year. Of course with every experiment you need a control group, a school that doesn't have a Health volunteer to calculate the difference of learning between schools which have and don't have Health classes.

While I knew I would have a role in the questionnaire I didn't think I would be the one conducting the questionnaire in my own classes. The questionnaire, of course, is written in Romanian so while conducting the questionnaire I didn't feel it would be appropriate to speak in English. So I spent the classes speaking Romanian. I have to say that it is indeed a different feeling then teaching in English and while I'm not teaching per se I think I have an idea what it would be like.  The main difference being I don't feel like there is a wall between me and the students. Normally when I say something or make a point in English I can look around the room and see the a handful of faces light up slowly as they understand. It's a much more satisfying feeling though when they don't have to translate what I am saying and all of the students light up together at the same time in comprehension. Though no matter how satisfying it was also uncomfortable as I am not confident in either my ability to speak Romanian in a classroom environment or my knowledge of Health education, especially after seeing the test that they had created. As I mentioned I was only meant to conduct the test so I wasn't expected to know the answers nor to provide the answers to students even if I did know them because that would skew the results. But having reviewed the test I found a lot of the questions on the evaluation were similar or only semantically different and if you hadn't studied the subject recently you wouldn't be likely to choose the correct answer. For instance I struggled with trying to decide what whether saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsatuated fats can lower cholesterol. The evaluation, however, did not only question about general health but a broader health understanding encompassing emotional and mental health as well as relationships and general life skills. I was surprised by the general lack of understanding from my students about what the words stereotypes, abstinence, or assertive means; all the way to my 12th grade students. But in general I wouldn't say their understanding of health was much different from Americans their age.

The Health program are the ones who are actually going to evaluate the results so I can't speak as to just how well my students did. As I mentioned I wasn't too positive myself on which was the right answer on quite a few questions. But it was definitely an experience I'm glad I got to participate in so that I have at least a little better idea what life is like for the other half of the volunteers who work in schools in Moldova.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Keeping Busy

Technically this blog post was written and in general takes place before my last blog post...But I forgot to upload it until just now...

It all started on Saturday morning when me and my host mother were invited to the next door neighbors house for a praznic, or feast. Apparently it is customary on the 7th anniversary of your husbands death to invite others to you house as a sort of remembrance of their passing. As with all feasts or masas in Moldova there was a lot of food covering the whole table. Way more then the guest could ever hope to eat. And just to make sure the host makes sure to fill the table up with more and more dishes, literally piling them on top of other dishes to make room, in order to ensure that the table is always full and that the guests eat as much food as they can handle. To go along with the feasts the host also gave each of the guests a gift called a pomana. A pomana is a very common tradition in Moldovan culture and is the quintessential gift. It generally consists of bread, a candle, and some sort of token (a dish towel or handkerchief). Sometimes the pomana might also include some candy or cookies as well as a way to light the candle such as a box of matches. Once you receive the pomana it is always expected that you light the candle and thank the host for the gift.

We left the praznic quite suddenly as a majority of the guests stood up at once and headed for the door. Generally the host's job is to keep the guests as long as possible feeding them as much food and wine as they can, while the job of the guests job is to try and eat as much food as they want while also being sure to politefully decline when necessary to avoid being a unsatisfiable guest. Whenever some one tries to leave the appropriate response from the host is to ask the guest why they want to leave and convince them to stay a little longer. Of course when you act as an individual it is easy for the host to lavish you with attention and guilt you into staying a little while longer. Which is why it is important to act as a group. If a majority of the group all make a concerted effort to leave at once generally the host changes their tune and acknowledges that their job is done and they can allow the group to leave.

After we left we made a run back home grabbed our stuff and headed out again to head to Chisinau. My host mother had recently had a guest who was one of her friends that lives in Chisinau and of course after having invited her to visit us, she returned the favor and invited us to visit her. We ended up arriving later in the evening had another meal and spent the rest of the night watching television. In particular we watched a concert that was happening on the other side of town celebrating the 576th anniversary of the founding of Chisinau. I struggled with thinking about Chisinau being that old and especially when I considered that it was founded before Columbus ever dreamed of traveling to the New World. As it was raining all this weekend I was surprised to see the amount of people who actually turned out to the outdoor concert in the public square in front of the statue of Ștefan cel Mare. I later had a better understanding of why while watching the concert because all of the performers were very talented and the concert came complete with flashing lights and fireworks.

My real reason for going to Chisinau though was to have my mid-service medical evaluation and luckily I was given a clean bill of health. I have to go back in on Wednesday to have my dental appointment and to have my TB test read by the doctor…which at this point I am happy to report looks to be negative for TB.

All in all it was a very productive weekend as I also was able to buy a new pair of shoes, read a book, have a chicken quesadilla at taco time, and jump through another hoop toward getting my new debit card, although it appears that jumping through a few more hoops will still be required. Hopefully all of the nonsense will make me cautious enough to never lose another one.

Some videoclips from the concert….

Not really highlights so much just videos that have pretty good quality to them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Never leave home without it...

The debit card saga continues as I once again have been thwarted by the bank from collecting a new card. In case you aren't aware I lost my debit card two or three weeks ago and after many phone calls and a visit to both the bank in my raion and the bank in the capital I still do not have a card. In my last visit I was lucky enough to finally fill out the paperwork and the card was so close I could almost feel the new plastic...however I was told it would take a few days until they would have it ready.

"Come back on Thursday."
"But I won't be in Chisinau on Thursday."
"It might be ready by Wednesday afternoon."

Bingo...lucky for me I actually needed to come back to Chisinau for the second part of my mid-service medical exams. Unluckily for me I foolishly forgot to bring my passport with me. Of course I keep about 5 forms of identification on me at all times, including a xerox copy of my passport. That should be more then sufficient for anything I might run into...except the bank.

"I want to collect my new card."
"Can I see your passport?"
"Sure I have a copy of it here."
"I need the real passport. Nothing without your passport."
"But I already wrote my report and signed the paperwork. I just need to pick it up."
"Nothing without your passport."
"Can you tell me if it even came in yet."
"Nothing without your passport."
"Could you possibly send it to my bank in Falesti and I can collect it there when I have my passport."
"Nothing without your passport."

So that was a lot of fun. But on the fun side I now have a reason that I need to come back to Chisinau. Even though I really hate the actual travelling to the capital I always enjoy it enough to make it worth it. Only problem of course being that I would need to come in on a weekday and of course I work Monday through Friday...Which is where the good news comes in because I have a vacation coming in a week from now and now I have a legitimite reason to make the trip.

Monday, October 8, 2012

No Ziua Profesorului for me :(

Getting sick always sucks…Getting sick on a day when you don't have to work sucks more…Getting sick on a day when you actually want to go to work sucks the worst. It all started Thursday night when I spent the entire night tossing and turning and not getting any sleep. I felt sick without really being able to place how I felt sick. By the time I woke I knew I was sick with something but I couldn't quite figure out what it was. I knew it wasn't a cold and thank god it wasn't another food related illness. No lucky me I got the flu. I say that in complete seriousness because while being sick is no fun, having the flu is a lot better of a situation then the other possibilities I've dealt with. A very dull headache that never went away regardless of the medicine I took, a stomach that rejected food but in general didn't bother me as long as I didn't bother it first, and finally the constant inability to find the right temperature. Under three layer of blankets and still feeling a chill I knew I was definitely running a temperature and as quick as it came it went away again and I felt like I was in an oven. But again, I'll rather be pulling on and off covers over and over again in contrast to a stomach virus any day. 

But enough about being sick. The real tragedy was being sick on the one day in Moldova that all the teachers look forward too all year. Teacher's day. As I mentioned last year Teacher's day is a holiday that is celebrated in Moldova by students bringing in gifts for their teachers and instead of teaching classes, teachers choose a 12th grade student coordinate their lessons and after school is over all of the teachers and 12th graders enjoy some food and refreshments and of course dancing. 

By the way, I'm not sure I mentioned it last year but October 5th is actually International Teacher's day. Celebrated throughout the world with the exception of America. And in fact almost every holiday celebrated in Moldova is an international holiday that is celebrated throughout the world instead of America or if America does celebrate the holiday it usually does so on different day, eg. International Women's day, International Men's day, International Labor day. America loves to be unique it seems.

In any case it seems I lost track of what I was originally trying to say and that is that being sick is never any fun but as I mentioned being sick on Teacher's day is the worst. And in case you are keeping track that brings my total sickness count to 6. Although I'm about a month late compared to when I got my second sickness last year. Maybe I'll get lucky and my immune system will win from now on.

I don't feel very lucky.

As a side note I remembered an article I read last year that might explain why I tend to get sick a lot more often in Moldova then I ever did in America. Apparently according to the newest scientific research there are three different types of microbial ecosystems in our digestive system in the same way there are 4 blood types. And while further research is needed it was discovered that geography and genetics (I.E. family) played very little part in deciding which of the three types a person is likely to develop. Possibly my ecosystem is better able to hold its own against foreign invaders that are common in America but is less strong against fighting ones that are more common in Moldova? In which case maybe a few of my more prone to sickness in America might find Moldova to be a more forgiving environment for them as far as sickness goes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I've done the unthinkable...

After having debit cards both here and in America for more then 5 years and more then a few close calls I have finally lost one. I am still having trouble understanding what I might have done to lose this one. I went to the ATM machine at my bank but it wasn't working so I went to the ATM right across the street instead since I needed to withdraw money to pay my host mother for the month. I withdrew my money and my friend even used the ATM right after me with no problems. Afterward I went straight to my bus and then straight home. I only noticed I had lost my card when I was showing a friend what Moldovan money looks like on Skype when I went in my wallet to pull out a few lei when I realized my debit card wasn't where it should be. After having a panic attack I had a fun time calling my bank and canceling my card. Having to spell my name in Romanian three times was entertaining, even more so once I learned that all the telephone operators at the bank speak would think they would have suggested switching to English once it was clear I was American...but no such luck. After I canceled it the man told me to go to "my bank" to get a new card. So I said cool, whatever. I was lucky enough that my host mother was going into town and actually got to ride in style in a car. It was actually my first car ride in a few months. But anyway, getting distracted. I went to the bank and told them my situation and the bank teller says, "I'm sorry we can't help you. You need to go to 'your bank.' "At this point I'm getting fairly upset hearing people tell me that but apparently since my account was created by Peace Corps at the main head quarters in Chisinau I need to go there in order to get a new card since it is technically 'my bank.' Or at least that's what I have understood from the situation so far. Luckily, I'm not in need of money and I do need to go to Chisinau soon to have my mid-service medical exam done anyway. Just seems like a lot of hassle for not paying more attention to where I put my debit card. #firstworldproblems?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's the final countdown

The count down has begun until I will return to America. Although not particularly because I am anxious to be back in America nor because I am excited to leave Moldova. It is merely because I feel like I have no choice but to acknowledge my future departure because most of the other volunteers have started their job search and/or are sending in applications to graduate schools. So every Facebook update seems to remind me of the reality that my days in Moldova are numbered.  In addition I have heard from many teachers and students questions and comments related to this being my last year and what I plan on doing after. Which only works to reiterate the fact that I have approximately 10 months left until I will leave Moldova and began a new adventure somewhere else. This has had a big effect on my life recently as I feel the need to plan and prepare for returning to America. And one thing I have learned amazingly well in Moldova is that the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” could not be more true. The more I spend time researching job opportunities and graduate school options the more my mind is forced to think about my life and the things I am missing and the things I will be leaving behind, so much so that it has been difficult to think about something else or to focus on the now rather then the future.

My newest addiction has been cyber window-shopping on Amazon or Best Buys websites. Which is even more disheartening than normal window shopping because in addition to not having money, I couldn’t buy any of it even if I did. Luckily for my newfound addiction I have tons of time to indulge my habit now that I only have 16 teaching hours at school though I still spend an average of 30 hours at school. And since I created most of the PowerPoint’s, tests, lesson plans, etc. last year I have less to work on once I get home. Which only leaves me with more time to torture myself with things I can’t have. I fear that if I ever get to the point of downloading restaurant menus from off the web I might be forced to early terminate my Peace Corps service. Hopefully in the future I can look forward to more teaching hours and restarting my English Club soon so that should help but I fear the damage has been done.

The most concrete way that this has affected my life on a day-to-day basis is my language skills. It is no secret that I never studied as seriously as I should have, and my language skills have had ups and downs as I have mentioned before. But after my Ukraine trip and my language skills declined I expected them to make recovery as I returned to hearing and speaking Romanian everyday. However, it seems my brain has recently decided that since I am now counting down the days to when I won’t need Romanian anymore it is ok to start the process of forgetting everything I’ve learned and has made it harder for me to retain anything new I might pick up.

Though in the end I have little to actually complain about and only good things to look forward to, so my new goal for this year is going to be to try and live in the moment rather then focusing on the future and to pay attention to all the little things that I’ve become accustomed to that I won’t be able to experience for much longer. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend on the Town

After two weeks of school and getting back into the mix of having a routine it's always a good idea to throw the routine out the window as much as possible and add a little spice to life. This weekend I was lucky enough to head into the capital to meet up with some friends and actually spend the night so that I didn't have to worry about being able to get back to my village and just took the train home the next morning. While getting home was easy, getting to the capital was a real hassle. Instead of just walking the 15 minutes to the train station and taking the four hour train ride, because I left after school and it was later in the day I had to take the bus...which means I had to catch a bus to the nearby town, Fălești, which is about 30 minutes away and then wait around at the bus station until I happened to find a bus that was heading to Chisinau and actually had an available seat. I ended up waiting about an hour for a bus and then another 15 minutes before the bus actually left the bus station. However, while there is a lot of hassle and uncertainty involved in bus travel it makes up for it in swiftness. The bus ride itself only took two hours and even after factoring in all of the waiting and the bus ride to Fălești it was still quicker than a train ride. Albeit more expensive. 4.5 dollars instead of the normal 1.50 train ticket.

One thing about going into Chisinau is that it is like playing a game of chance. You never know who or even how many other volunteers will decide to head into the capital that day. Since we all live at different sites and all live varying differences from the capital we all come in a different time for different reasons. So there are many volunteers that I have not seen in months while there might be some volunteers that I see every time I go to the capital.  Or even just meeting some of the new volunteers for the first time. Because even though they have been here three months I don't feel like I've even met half of them yet. I never really would have reason to since there is never anytime when all of the volunteers in Moldova come together at one time...except maybe Peace Corps Thanksgiving.

The highlight of the weekend, in addition to the social aspect, was food. Food as I have mentioned has taken on a new meaning to me in Moldova. I feel like I love and cherish food a lot more then I ever did in America and every trip I take to a restaurant or any dish I eat that resembles anything familiar or American is a cause for celebration. Which is why this weekend stands out from a food aspect because I went to a couple restaurants and each one was better then the next. The first was an Italian restaurant at which I shared a pizza with another volunteer and while pizza is readily accessible at more then a few restaurants they are usually very different from the pizzas we eat in America. And I had forgotten just how different until this weekend. Though the crust was still a little on the thin side which tends to be the norm for European pizzas. There was another restaurant we went to that was notable because of it's use of an English menu with hilarious and creatively named dishes and drinks in addition to an eclectic decore that also happened to play 80's music along with the original music video on flat screens. Nice restaurants definitely exist in the capital in fact I can say that I am always amazed by how nice the restaurants always are and how I never seem to run out of places to go. Though this one had the originality and quirkiness that I enjoy the most about places. And lastly, and most importantly I finally got around to visiting what has been the new talk of the town recently, or at least the talk among volunteers. A new fast food restaurant that specializes in mexican food. The menu was completely in English and essentially was composed of only 6 options. I ordered a steak quesadilla and after I did the cashier asked if I wanted steak, chicken, or cheese. Given the option I changed my mind and said chicken. What was funny was that though I had ordered in Romanian she had stated out my meat options in English, and after I told her I wanted chicken she clarified for me that "chicken" is "carne de pui." Having a Moldovan translating the menu from English to Romanian for me really made my day and eating the chicken quesadilla with a smile only made it taste that much better.

Oh. I nearly forgot to mention. I made the single most important discovery ever in the history of coming to Moldova. I found Dr. Pepper for sale in a store close to the Peace Corps Office. Now granted it was imported from Belgium and was priced as such, however, I am most decidedly willing to think of Dr. Pepper as a luxury item. And in fact I bought 6 cans of it and look forward to buying more the next time I am in Chisinau.

The key I think to making this last year go by a little quicker then last year is to keep busy and get out of my village more often. Which looks like I am on track to make happen as I already plan on meeting friends next weekend in Bălți and I need to go to Chisinau at least two more times within the next few weeks to do my mid-service medical review.