Last 100 Days, Days 20-16

As I’ve mentioned, I’m sharing a photo and a look back on my favorite memories in moments in Moldova for each of my last 100 days here.  I’m counting down, so here are days 20-16.  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 20: I went home to the U.S. for Christmas, but before I left, my host mom accompanied me to the capital. We spent the morning walking around the center, and then she and her friend went to the airport with me to wave me off. (December 2017)
Day 19: One of my favorite Moldovan New Year traditions takes place on January 14. Children go from house to house, wishing each household a healthy and good new year, while throwing seeds at the entrance of the house. The seeds are meant to be good luck in the harvest in the new year. (January 2018)
Day 18: After a cold day cooped up in my house, some neighborhood kids begged me to come sledding with them. Imagine my surprise when I was instead ambushed by a brutal snow fight! It was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure I would do it again- these kids are intense! (January 2018)
Day 17: For my second “English Week” in Moldova, my partners and I went all out! For two weeks, we organized English activities, played special games in classes, had various competitions, and our students made so many posters it was hard to find space on the entrance hallway walls to hang them up! (February 2018)
Day 16: I was excited to attend my second Moldovan wedding this past winter. I joined my host family at the wedding of my host cousin. It was simpler wedding than my first, but just as fun, with plenty of dancing and laughter. My host mom’s family has been so welcoming to me and I’m glad I got to spend time with them. (February 2018)

Last 100 Days, Days 25-21

As I’ve mentioned, I’m sharing a photo and a look back on my favorite memories in moments in Moldova for each of my last 100 days here.  I’m counting down, so here are days 25-21.  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 25: In the fall, our village was honored to welcome two guests from Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. Our students greeted them with the traditional bread and salt, we showed them around our school, and talked about education and learning in Moldova. (October 2017)
Day 24: Each village celebrates “Hram”, village day, each year. My village’s hram is held on November 21st. I attended a nice concert at our Casa de Cultura as well as enjoyed a yummy meal at home with my host family. (November 2017)
Day 23: Spending the major U.S. holidays away from home can be a bit sad, but a group of volunteers from my region of Moldova got together in the capital to celebrate Thanksgiving. We ate a bunch of delicious, fully American foods and really enjoyed each other’s company. It was a fun celebration, even if we weren’t home with our families! (November 2017)
Day 22: As the beginning of winter approached, we talked about winter holidays at English Club. My site mate and I taught the students about how we celebrate Christmas, New Year, and Hanukkah. The students especially enjoyed learning how to play dreidel. (November 2017)
Day 21: We spent the month of December in English Club creating posters for a U.S. state project. Each group chose a state, researched it, then created and presented a poster about the state. The students were very involved and active, sometimes staying an hour after our club had officially ended to work on their posters. Several of the groups did a really great job, and they all learned something new. (December 2017)

Riding Rutieras

Image result for rutiera moldova sprinter
A typical, newer rutiera in Moldova (source)

Have you ever wondered what transportation is like in Moldova? As I approach the “finish line” of my Peace Corps service, I finally got some photos (albeit grainy cell phone photos) of the primary form of transportation in Moldova and especially for Peace Corps volunteers: the rutiera. I’ve probably mentioned rutieras once or twice before, since they are the transportation, besides walking, that I use the most.

Rutieras are “mini-buses” more commonly known in the United States as commercial sized vans. Most of them are Sprinter or Mercedes vans, which are then customized and outfitted per the drivers’ or owners’ preferences. While there are some fancy ones (one time I even got on one that had brand new leather seats, air conditioning!, and seat belts at every seat) most are well-used and not necessarily comfortable. Most rutieras have about 20 narrow seats packed pretty closely together, plus there’s extra standing room in the aisle. While they’re meant to hold around 20 individuals, I’ve been on ones with 30-40 people. In the middle of the summer. Without air conditioning. With the vents closed (Moldovans believe the “current”, or any moving air circulation, will make you sick). Let’s just say those situations are highly uncomfortable, sticky, and hot.

The interior of a rutiera, facing the front- you can note the signs, which are sometimes in Romanian and sometimes in Russian

While not necessarily comfortable, especially in the summer or when they’re very comfortable, they do have some positive attributes. Nearly every village in the entire country is connected to the capital with at the very least one trip there and back each day, though most villages and all larger towns have multiple trips per day. It’s also typical for there to be a rutiera trip to and from the raion (district) center each day. The rutieras usually are very regular and have specific departure times, plus you can wave them down along the route (you don’t have to board at the first stop in most cases). They’re also fairly reasonably priced, especially in comparison to American public transportation. Taking a rutiera in the capital to any other place within the city is only 3 lei or $0.18 USD. The rutiera from my village to the capital, 100 km away costs 47 lei or $2.79 for about a 2-hour one-way trip.

A fairly typical interior, facing towards the back, in an older rutiera- on the right side there are usually two seats side-by-side, and on the left there is usually one seat. The aisle is narrow but can fit a surprising number of people crowded together, and the last row consists of four tightly-packed seats.

My village has two rutieras that go directly to the capital each day. One leaves my village at 5:40 in the morning and leaves Chisinau (the capital) to return to the village at 1:40 in the afternoon. The other leaves my village at 5:50 in the morning and departs Chisinau at 2:50 in the afternoon. While not ideal as every trip to the capital means getting up by 5:00 in the morning and then a 4-hour round trip, I’m lucky that there are almost always seats available. Because my village’s rutiera routes are limited, I’ve gotten to know most of the drivers. When I returned home from the USA at Christmas, my host family was able to call the driver and tell him to be sure to pick me up at the airport (since it’s along our route) to bring me back to the village.

While I’m not sure I can honestly say I will miss travelling via rutiera, I will miss having the option of public transportation. It’s something the United States, outside of large cities, is lacking. And I do enjoy the naps that are really the only way to survive long rutiera rides!

Last 100 Days, Days 30-26

As I’ve mentioned, I’m sharing a photo and a look back on my favorite memories in moments in Moldova for each of my last 100 days here.  I’m counting down, so here are days 30-26.  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 30: We celebrated International Day of Peace at our school by having a short assembly about the holiday, forming a peace sign in our school courtyard, and asking students to reflect what peace means to them. The students had wonderful responses, such as “Unity, nonviolence, and collaboration between people”. (September 2017)
Day 29: Almost every Moldovan family, especially those living outside the larger cities, have rows upon rows of grape vines, which they use to make large barrels of house wine. I spent one early evening helping my host family collect the grapes that were then turned into wine. (October 2017)
Day 28: One October day, my host mom called me on the phone and told me to come to the garden in the valley to eat strawberries. Despite being thoroughly confused (strawberries in the autumn??), I went and to my surprise, there were a bunch of ripe strawberries growing in the garden, which I picked and immediately devoured. (October 2017)
Day 27: Teacher’s Day was celebrated at our school with a number of assemblies and concerts at our school. Each teacher received an armful of flowers from the students, and I even got some chocolate! (October 2017)
Day 26: My school and I spent about half a year writing and implementing a grant project to renovate and modernize our school library. It was an exciting day in October when all of our hard work was finished and we celebrated the opening of the new library with a big celebration and guests from parliament as well as from Peace Corps staff. The new space is beautiful, but more importantly, it has modern technology and about 300 new books for students to loan and use. (October 2017)

International Festival of Ancestral Traditions, Straseni

The opening act of the festival- all other photos are of the dance ensemble from my village

On the last day of school, the founders and teachers at the music and dance school in our village casually mentioned they had a couple of spots left on the bus for that weekend if anyone was interested in going with the group to an international festival. Knowing that it was likely the last time I’d be able to watch many of my students, who are part of the dance ensemble, perform, I jumped at the chance!

I’ve written about my village’s dance and music ensemble, Ansamblul Vatra Satului, before. There are actually three levels of students at the school: the “little” group, the “middle” group, and the “big” group. For this festival, the “little” and “big” group performed. The students are in 2nd grade through 10th grade, and one of my favorite things in Moldova has been getting to see them perform!

The festival was held in a small park under the shade of trees. There were many groups that performed, mostly from Moldova but a few groups came from other countries as well. There was dancing, singing, instrument performances, and even some skits. We didn’t stay until the end, but I got to watch several groups before my students went on stage. They performed for about 15 to 20 minutes and did a really great job!

After our group performed, the kids had about an hour to play, walk around the park, and get some food and ice cream to eat at the various vendors. I joined the founders of the school (colleagues of mine at school- she is a primary school teacher, he teaches music), a married couple in their 40s and two of their music accompanists for some barbecued meat and beverages. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to relax outside!

I will miss Moldovan dance when I return to the USA. I’m not sure if I’ll get to dance the “hora” (Moldova’s traditional dance) again before I leave, but maybe I’ll have to attempt to teach some Americans back home how to do my village’s version! The video below is the only video I got- this is the dance the group ends every performance with. The conductor of the ensemble yells out “like us in Festelita!” and then they do this quick dance.