Sunday, April 28, 2013

COS Conference

No matter how much you enjoy your Peace Corps service every volunteer is always looking forward to their COS conference. COS stands for Close-of-Service and essentially is a three day retreat at a Moldovan hotel near the Nistru River to be informed of all the information related to preparing to leave Moldova, including the readjustment allowance, health insurance, deciding on whether to have Peace Corps plan my trip home or to take Cash-in-Lieu, getting a job and resume writing help, and most importantly how to handle the onslaught of paperwork that will need to be completed along with signatures in order to actually get out of the country. We also had our LPI, or Language Proficiency Interview (Peace Corps, and in general all government agencies, love their acronyms) and according to my results I now speak Romanian at an Advanced-Low level, which is only two steps away from the highest designation of Superior!

As much as I have grown accustomed to Moldova and acclimated to the culture it still feels like such a relief to know that I made it to the finish line, a sense of accomplishment to be finishing the full two years of my service. And of course along with that accomplishment came the added benefit of getting out of work for a few days and spending time with a group of Americans I have spent a turbulent 2 years with.

Peace Corps Moldova 26
Which reminds me. The director of Peace Corps Moldova reminded us of some interesting figures. Of the initial 64 people to be invited only 55 arrived in Moldova, 52 made it through training to swear in as an official volunteer and 34 volunteers made it the COS conference 2 years later. There are also 4 volunteers who are extending for a third year.

English Education Volunteers and our Program Managers
Even though we lost more than a third of the volunteers we started out with no one from my training village has left early.

Actually getting to the capital to catch the bus to the hotel was a odyssey in and of itself. Recently the train that runs from Chisinau to my village has stopped running and has been replaced with a new express train that only stops at bigger towns and not smaller villages. As I needed to be in the capital by 11 to get on the bus the only thing that could get me there in time was the new express train. But in order to get to the next town over in order to catch it I needed to ride one of the older trains that still stop at my village but only run between Balti and Ungheni in order to get to my Raion center Falesti. I had to get up at 5 in order to get on the train by 5:50 traveled in the opposite direction of Chisinau to my raion, got there at 6:10 and had to wait till 7 for the new train to finally pick me up and take me right past my village again at 7:20. But the train was well worth the hassle. It was built in Germany and must have cost quite a pretty penny since it had LED lights and signs, along with LCD TVs and automatic push-to-open doors. And even though the train didn't stop at the smaller villages it still announced them as we went past and it felt so weird to be watching TV while the disembodied voice tells me we are now passing the village of Scumpia.

I needed to be in Chisinau to catch the bus because the hotel we were staying at was not actually in the capital it was a little bit on the outside in a small town called Vadul Lui Voda which is situated along the Nistru River. On the other side of the Nistru River is actually the breakaway region of Moldova called Transnistria that is not recognised by Moldova or most other countries in the world but operates its own government. Because America does not have diplomatic ties to Transnistria, volunteers are prohibited from traveling there and disobeying that rule can land you a quick ticket back to the USA. So it was quite a forbidden pleasure to suck up the sun along the Nistru a few meters away from a place  where Soviet era tanks still stand at the border ready for action. I even dipped my feet in the water though I regretted that choice not long after as I walked back up the river bank my feet literally caked in mud.

Map of Moldova with the places mentioned highlighted. Transnistria is also shown as the gray area on the right side of the map. 
Now that my COS conference is out of the way I am starting to run out of things to look forward to other then my COS date which is only 80 days away. I still have a solid month of teaching, a week of Easter vacation, English Week, and the arrival of the next group of volunteers in June.

I also have an album of all the pictures from the conference on Facebook.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is This a Weather Blog?

I keep meaning to write a new post but whenever I sit down to do it the only thing I can think to write about is the weather which is really the only thing that changes even if it isn't the most exciting topic to discuss. 

As I've mentioned spring hasn't really been too much like spring this year with cold weather lasting well past the equinox and at the start of April we had a week of beautiful almost 60 degree weather and it appeared as if we had finally shaken off the the chains of winter weather so when I wrote my last blog post with the praises of April I was very unsettled to wake up on Monday this week to 30 degree temperatures in the morning that only raised to 40 degrees by midday. However disappointing this was the weather in and of itself is not a big deal. It was when I got to school and found out that schools are not allowed to waste money on heating after April 1st...which was fine last week...but not so good this week.  And it's not just the schools, a few other people who work in office buildings or have apartments in the bigger cities also found that they would not be getting any more heat. So while America has been having a heat wave, or at least the part of America I am from, all of Moldova has been wearing their winter coats inside to keep warm. Luckily enough for me, however, I have a wood stove so at least when I go home I have a warm bed to sleep in. Just another one of those moments I'm sure I'll look back on and I'll have a great story to tell when I run into a teacher complaining about their classroom being 65 instead of 72.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Go With the Flow

In direct contrast to the snow we got last week the weather this week has been perfect. Sunshine and warmer weather is finally here to stay even if it took its sweet time getting here. The changing in the weather also means a return to the fields to begin the preparations for planting this years crops. After the monotony of winter sitting indoors to avoid the cold with nothing to do, the long list of things to complete starts to seem a bit daunting until you walk outside and feel the sun on your skin again. It all seems worth it after all.

The end is near for the school year as students in the 9th and 12th grades begin to take pretests to practice for their final exit exams. Even though only the 9th and 12th grades are taking them the pretests have wrecked havoc on the day-to-day school function. Two teachers are present during for each grade and the tests last for half of the day which means at least four teachers on any given day will not be able to have class and of course the 9th and 12th forms will also be busy with tests. For me this hasn't caused to much of a change but in order to conduct the test each student is given their own desk to combat their ability to cheat from their neighbor. In Moldovan classrooms, however, the desks are designed to be shared by two students. So in order to have enough desks to fill the room for the students taking the pretest all but four of the tables from my classroom were taken to another room. Luckily we were able to find two other cast off tables that weren't being used and found a way to sit 20 students around 6 tables. Everything was going pretty well until about 10 minutes into my first class when a group of students came looking to scavenge another of our desks leaving us with only five. Sometimes you take for granted how used you are to a routine until something comes spices up your life a little. And as the school year winds down I think not having a routine is going to start becoming the norm for me which is going to make it a lot easy to count down those last few days.

Taken with my laptop camera so its not the best quality.