Life Lately in Moldova

I’ve been in Moldova for almost five months now and at site for about two and a half months.  I’m starting to feel like things are finally settling in and I’ve gotten more or less used to life here in Moldova.  So what have I been up to?

Teaching English

The teacher's room at our school features a painting of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.
The teacher’s room at our school features a painting of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.

At first, it was quite an adjustment getting used to the ways in which schools are scheduled and run in Moldova, but things are starting to make more sense to me now.  Peace Corps requires us to work 18 hours a week, which for me, means I teach 9 different classes, 2 times per week.  At my school, there are one or two classes per grade and if the grade has more than one class, the class is denoted with a letter (9A, 9B).  At first I was teaching 3rd, 4B, 5th, 6th, 7A, 7B, 8B, 9A, and 9B, but then the entire schedule changed again and the classes I taught changed again.  For the past month I’ve been teaching 4A, 4B, 5th, 6th, 7A, 7B, 8A, 8B, 9A, and 9B.  One of my partner teachers is pregnant and is starting her maternity leave this coming Monday, so my schedule will be changing once again because I’ll need to teach my 18 hours all with the other English teacher at my school.  It looks like I’ll be teaching 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th grades.  I’m sad I’ll be unable to work with the 7th graders, but I’m hoping to start a club with them.  5th grade will also be particularly challenging, as before it was split into two groups for English and now we’ll be teaching all 29 of them together.  The partner teacher that will be on maternity leave is planning on returning in March, so it will hopefully be a temporary situation.  I’ve found that I really enjoy teaching the “middle school” grades, especially 6th and 7th.  It’s a challenge to teach students who barely know the language you speak (and are teaching), but it’s slowly getting better.

Daily Life

A lunch of bean soup, freshly baked bread (still warm and super yummy!), and compot (homemade juice, in this case, plum juice).
A lunch of bean soup, freshly baked bread (still warm and super yummy!), and compot (homemade juice, in this case, plum juice).

I continue to enjoy living with my host family.  They treat me as if I am their own daughter and have been absolutely wonderful!  I spend a couple of hours each night talking to my host mom over dinner, which I really love.  It’s also been great for improving my Romanian.  I do miss my real mom’s cooking quite a bit, as well as a lot of the foods I loved in the United States.  My host family currently doesn’t have a kitchen in the house or a bathroom (due to renovations), so I haven’t really been able to cook or bake anything yet.  The bathroom is pretty close to being completed (yay! I can’t wait to take showers again!!) and then they can work on the kitchen.  The walls and such are finished in the kitchen, but cabinets and appliances (besides the fridge) haven’t been installed yet.

The evil (or as my host mom says, cheeky and bad) rooster at our house that keeps trying to attack me!  Here he is tied up as punishment.
The evil (or as my host mom says, cheeky and bad) rooster at our house that keeps trying to attack me! Here he is tied up as punishment.

I’ve been having a problem with the rooster.  I didn’t see him the first month I was here, then a couple of weeks ago, he appeared and has been trying to attack me every time he sees me since.  I have to pass by him to get to the outhouse (my only toilet option).  Usually, I don’t see him on my way there, but when I opened the door after, he is standing right in front of the door blocking the path, with his chest all puffed out.  When I move, he starts charging at me!  He’s a pretty big rooster, and definitely pretty mean, so I’m pretty sure he could hurt me if he got close enough.  At first I just yelled at him and backed slowly back to the house, but then I told my host mom.  So then I had a broom to hit him with if he tried to attack (which he did!).  Yesterday, my host mom saw him attack the outhouse door rather viciously while I was in the outhouse, so she decided he needed punishment.  So today he is tied to a fence with a 3-foot rope.  He doesn’t seem to like it very much and tries to run in the opposite direction of me, so I’m hoping this will change his behavior!

Rochie sneaks some bites of the corn while my host dad isn't looking.
Rochie sneaks some bites of the corn while my host dad isn’t looking.

My host family is preparing the corn they harvested for feed for the animals for the winter.  Our friendly dog, Rochie, seems to really like it!

Trying to Stay Warm

On the left is the wall in the hallway where the wood or corn cobs are loaded into the stove; on the right is the wall that the heat is channeled into to provide heat to my bedroom.
On the left is the wall in the hallway where the wood or corn cobs are loaded into the stove; on the right is the wall that the heat is channeled into to provide heat to my bedroom.

The weather has begun to get cold, and we had a couple mornings with frost this week.  Up until yesterday there was no heat at school, and the classrooms were freezing!  I could even see my breath in some of the rooms!  Thankfully, the heat was on and working yesterday!  At my house, it’s pretty warm, thanks to our soba (a wood stove that is built directly into the wall).  I’ve been layering up a lot to keep warm at school, but no matter how many layers I wear, I’m never quite warm in some of the classrooms.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately (besides watching Netflix!).

Weekend in Chisinau with My Host Family

A week ago on Friday afternoon, as soon as I had finished my classes and eaten lunch, my host mom and I headed out for a weekend in Chisinau. Our trip to Chisinau took twice the usual amount of time. Our town only has rutieras (buses) to Causeni and Chisinau in the morning, so we had to catch a ride to Causeni. In America, this would be called hitchhiking, but here it is so common-place I’m not sure it should really be called that.  Generally, it’s not too hard to get a ride, but there just weren’t many cars leaving our town at 1:15 in the afternoon.  Finally, a young man who is apparently our neighbor and also a police officer stopped and offered us a ride to Ermoclia, which would at least take us to the main road to Causeni.  We waited for a rutiera to pass, but unfortunately it was packed so full they wouldn’t allow anyone else to get on.  So we hitched another ride, and once again, my host mom actually knew the driver.  He is a godfather of one or more of her children.  He took us to Causeni, where we got a rutiera to Chisinau.  Whew!

We had planned to attend Chisinau’s hram, which is a celebration of the town that occurs in every town and city in Moldova each year. It’s basically the celebration of the town’s “birthday” though the date is based on the main church’s saint day (each church is named after an Orthodox saint and each saint has a day on which it is celebrated). However, because of our late arrival in Chisinau, we missed the celebrations.  Instead, we went to my host aunt’s apartment near the gates of Chisinau.  We had a masa and my host mom’s other sister also joined us, along with her daughter.  It was really nice to meet more if my extended host family and we laughed plenty.  Being around 3 sisters who clearly enjoy each other’s company reminded me of my dad’s 3 sisters every time they are all together.  We spent the night there.

In the morning, we headed to my host sister’s, on the opposite end of Chisinau. I counted presidential campaign signs, and counted 39 during the 20-minute bus ride. And that was only the signs I could see on my side of the road.  Just as in the US, Moldova is in full-campaign mode. Unlike in the US, here there are many more political parties and candidates. I counted signs for at least seven different candidates and there are many more.

I spent some time at my host sister’s before heading to a totally different part of Chisinau once again to meet up with other Peace Corps volunteers at the Peace Corps office.  All of the volunteers had been invited to the US Ambassador’s residence for a luncheon.  We got a number of taxis to the residence. Close to 100 volunteers came, and it was great to see everyone.  This is probably the only time all of the programs and groups will be together during my time here.  I think all but 3 English volunteers in my group were able to come.  There was American food- amazing hamburgers, real salad WITH dressing, pizza, and ice cream with toppings.

After, I managed to find my way back my host sister’s apartment and spent several hours playing with my host nieces, Sofica and Elizaveta.  I spent the night there, and Sunday morning, I spent some more time with my host nieces.  I also went to a large piaza (or market) in Chisinau with one of my host sisters and my host mom.  We also drove by the botanical park, though it wasn’t a very nice day out (raining hard and chilly), so we just saw it from the road.  After lunch, I headed back to my town with my host mom.

Ziua Profesorului (Teacher’s Day)

The stage all ready for celebrations to begin at my school!
The stage all ready for celebrations to begin at my school!

One of the things I’ve noticed since coming to Moldova is that just because we don’t celebrate many international holidays (International Day of Peace, International Women’s Day, International Teacher’s Day) very much in the United States, they are actually a pretty big deal elsewhere.  Two Wednesdays ago (October 5th) was International Teacher’s Day, which is widely celebrated in Moldova.  Here, it is called Ziua Profesorului.  Usually, this day is celebrated at the school with shorter lessons followed by a concert given by students and then a masa (special meal) and party for just the teachers.

My AWESOME students performing at the raion center's teacher celebration
My AWESOME students performing at the raion center’s teacher celebration

My raion (district) had a special day in the raion center, so my school waited to celebrate until Friday, while about 10 of the teachers, including me, headed to the raion center for the “celebrations” there.  The first 2 hours of the celebration consisted of the giving of various certificates to teachers from throughout the raion.  As each teacher made their way to the stage, they played music and there was an over-all joyous sound to the music.  My favorite was an Abba song.  I also found the synchronized clapping from everyone in the audience a bit amusing.  Once all the certificates had been handed out, the event turned into a concert.  Various groups of students and teachers sang, danced, and played instruments.

My town has a really good traditional music and dance school, and my students were the last act of the event.  About 30 of my students danced, and another 2 accompanied the dancers with instruments.  They did an amazing job and I was so proud of them.  I may be biased, but I think they were the best act of the concert.  They’re talented!  It was also a reminder that many of my students have a lot things taking up their time after school hours.  Many of the students that are in the dance group are also the students that almost always have their homework completed.  I realized that sometimes, when they haven’t completed their homework, they may have just not had the time to do so, even if they wanted to.

The beautiful masa for the teachers at my school.
The beautiful masa for the teachers at my school.

On Friday, our classes ended a bit earlier than usual, and all of the teachers gathered in the cantina (cafeteria/auditorium).  One of the 8th grade classes had prepared a number of poems and songs, which they performed, and then they gave each of us a rose.  They headed out, and then our masa began.  There are about 20 teachers at my school, and I think almost everyone was there.  The teachers had all pitched in money and had helped prepare the food.  It was a nice, fancy masa, despite being held at school.  And, of course, there was plenty of champagne and wine to go around!  Towards the end of the meal, several of the older teachers decided everyone needed to sing a song together (it was either a song about school in general, or a school song).  About halfway through the song I realized I didn’t recognize any of the words being sung.  After, my partner teacher explained it was in Russian.  Overall, it was a yummy, fun masa.

Weekend Visit to Chisinau

Cathedral Park, Chisinau

I spent this past weekend in Chisinau. There were a number of Peace Corps related events happening, as well as the National Day of Wine, which I didn’t necessarily intend on attending, but ended up going to.

A sampling of wine
A sampling of wine

My rutiera (mini bus) gets into Chisinau at 8 in the morning, so I first went to the Peace Corps headquarters.  There is a lounge just for volunteers, complete with very nice showers. I generally try to take a shower whenever I go into Chisinau, as it’s the only chance I get to do so. I really enjoyed taking a nice, hot shower, shampooing and conditioning my hair, using a toilet, and washing my hands for the first time in about a month. After my shower, I hung out a bit in the lounge, then attended an information meeting for Tech4Dev, a  Peace Corps Moldova work group that primarily develops and maintains an online site for volunteers here that contains a lot of lesson plans, club ideas, and so much more information. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be involved, but after the meeting, I’m glad I went!  After a bit more relaxing, more of my fellow M31 English Education volunteers arrived. I hadn’t seen them in about 2 months, so it was great to see them and catch up. We headed to Smokehouse, which is an American BBQ restaurant run by former volunteers. There was a meeting going on there for Peace Out, another Peace Corps work group, so we joined that and ordered food. The main Peace Corps event of the day was an auction fundraiser for aTIP, the anti-trafficking work group.  A lot of volunteers (over 50) came, and it was a lot of fun, even if I didn’t win anything.

We enjoyed our wine next to the arch, given by the French and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe
We enjoyed our wine next to the arch, given by the French and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe

After, I had some time before I needed to go to my host sister’s, where I was spending the night, so I joined some other volunteers and headed to the center of Chisinau to the National Day of Wine, which was a big event with many Moldovan wine vendors. It seemed less of a wine tasting event but more of a wine festival where you purchase wine and hang out drinking it either on the grass in the parks or at one of the many tables set up.  It was a really nice event, I got to try several different wines, and I was really glad I went.  It had been cancelled last year due to protests in the capital, so I am glad I got to experience it!  

Life Lately in Moldova

Peace Corps Moldova

I was awoken at 2:30 in the morning last night to an earthquake.  This morning, I found out the epicenter was in Romania, and it was a 5.5 earthquake.  The room shook pretty good, but nothing in my room fell at all.  And it was pitch black, so I wasn’t able to see anything.  I just stayed in bed under several layers of blankets (it’s cold here at night!), and when it finished, promptly fell back asleep.  I think under normal circumstances, it might have alarmed me more, but I was so tired, I wasn’t really processing what was happening.

In other news, I’ve read 5 books in the past week.  Despite working and teaching and planning, I have wayyyy too much free time on my hands.  I’m hoping to fill that time soon with an English club or other club with students, but I’m still figuring out what they want and need, so it’ll be a bit until I start that.  Although I’m bored, I do love that I’ve rekindled my love of reading and that I have the time to read for fun.  I’ve read almost 15 books since arriving here, and I think that’s more than I had read in the 2 years prior to that.  I had gotten some books from the Peace Corps lounge, but now that I’ve made my way through them, I’ve been very happy to have a tablet that I can use with e-books.  I still prefer a real book, but it sure is convenient to have an e-reader!

The weather is finally feeling like fall!  This past week was actually rather cool, and I even wore lined stockings one day!  I think after the hottest summer I’ve ever experienced, my body is having more trouble adjusting to the cool weather.  At night, it’s been quite cold.  My host mom has mentioned that she’s never started heating the house with the soba this early, but that she thinks she might have to, as it has been freezing in the house at night.  I’ve been pretty comfortable with a big pile of blankets and a couple of layers of clothes.  I’m really glad I was able to squeeze my favorite blanket from home into my suitcase.  It’s warm and has been keeping me warm for the past 10+ years, and it seems to be doing the job just as well now.  The only problem is staying warm if I need to make a late-night trip to the outhouse (and I know it’s only going to get colder) or when I have to climb out of my warm nest in the morning- brr!

I am seriously craving “American” foods, namely my mom’s cooking (especially mac and cheese!).  I also really want to bake.  I’m trying to figure out how to make chocolate chip cookies without brown sugar.  I’ve heard it might be possible to get brown sugar in Chisinau, but haven’t had time while there to see.

I think that’s all for my rambling thoughts.