I’ve spent most of the last few days at my permanent site hanging out with my 6-year-old host niece, Valerica. She won’t usually be here, but she’s visiting her grandparents (my host parents) for several days. She is full of energy and wants to spend every waking second with me, including walking me to the outhouse every time I need to go to the bathroom. We’ve spent a lot of time coloring, drawing, and playing cards. Markers, especially good markers, don’t really exist in Moldova, so she has loved getting to use the Crayola markers I brought with me. She also loves to look at the stack of pictures of my friends and family that I brought with me from the US. Her favorites are my prom pictures from high school with friends. She’ll go to the stack and shuffle through until she finds her favorite picture. She originally said that my dress was her favorite, which isn’t surprising because her favorite color is pink and my dress was pink, but she’s since changed her mind, and now she likes my friend Beth’s dress the best.
She’s currently in gradinita (which literally translates to kindergarden, but is more like a pre-school which children can attend from ages 2 or 3 to 7, when they start school). She can count, knows most of her letters, and can spell and write mama and tata (mom and dad). She likes to use my Banagrams to spell those two words over and over.
On Saturday, we were at the house while my host parents worked in the fields in the “valley”. She decided we should go visit them, so we took a short walk to the valley. It seems that they mostly have potatoes, corn, grapes, and tomatoes, but I think they’ve already harvested some other things. They also have lots of pumpkins. We’ve also made a couple of trips to the store, which is very close by, maybe a 3 or 4 minute walk, to get ice cream.
One of the benefits of spending time with her is that we talk a lot, and she doesn’t know English, so that means I’m using a lot more Romanian than I was with my previous host family. Sometimes she gets frustrated when I don’t know what she’s saying, but we’ve been able to communicate pretty well! It’s a little harder to understand her than adults because she mumbles a bit and also speaks less clearly. In fact, I’ve only spoken Romanian for 3 entire days now- not a single word of English! That’s a really good thing, because once school starts, I’ll be speaking a lot more English, so it’s good to speak just Romanian for now.
On Friday morning and again this morning, I went to the school to do some work. I hung out in the library with the librarian, Elena, who is also 22 years old. She’s very nice and I think we’ll be able to collaborate with some things in the future. She also uses Google Translate when we can’t seem to understand each other, so that’s cool! She let me check out all of the English textbooks, and I’ve been going through the first units to make notes of possible things to do for lessons, and also through the entire books to get a better idea of what’s in them. Each of the textbooks is quite different. Although the curriculum flows well from one to the next, they are not at all consistent in terms of set-up, organization, and kid-friendliness.
Today, I spoke briefly with the adjunct director in charge of academics, and I chose which classes I will team-teach with my two partners. Peace Corps requires us to teach at least 18 hours a week and to teach with all of the English teachers at our schools (unless there are more than 3 English teachers, which doesn’t apply to me). My school is a gimnasiu, which means it’s only grades 1-9. English is taught starting in 2nd grade. Unless things change (which is always possible), I’ll be teaching 3rd form, 4th form (2 classes), 5th form, 6th form, 7th form (2 classes), and 8th form (2 classes). Because my school is so small, I have fewer options, and have to teach more levels than some volunteers, but that’s okay. Also, it sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t- each of the classes only meet 2 hours per week. I won’t know my schedule until possibly the first week of school, but if things are spread out well, I could only be teaching about three and a half hours per day (although I’ll have to be at school for all of the regular school hours). I also have met many of the other teachers at school, including the teacher (possibly French teacher? although I don’t think they offer French anymore) that hosted the only other volunteer that lived in my village, a few years ago. I attended my first “conference” with my fellow teachers yesterday, but I think I’ll save that for next time!