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?