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.