We headed back to school today after a two-week vacation. It’s always hard to go back after some time off, but I’m thankful that I had a very relaxing, quiet vacation. Other than two short trips (one overnight and one day trip) to Chisinau, I just hung out at home and with my host family. We celebrated my birthday, New Year’s, and Orthodox Christmas (this past weekend). I enjoyed holiday celebrations at school and in the community, including the town’s “carnival” which was a lot like a variety show in the United States: skits, singing, dancing, and even some activities and competitions. I went with my host niece Valerica and she performed “Jingle Bells”. After the scheduled performances there was a singing and modern dance competition. As they announced the judges they said, “Domnisoara Elena, Doamna Galina, si Domnisoara Elisabeth!” I didn’t know I was going to get to be a judge, but one of the things you learn in the Peace Corps is to just go with the flow! Thankfully, I had thought ahead enough to dress nicely, so when I went up on stage to help announce the winners I didn’t feel under-dressed.
This past weekend, my host brother and his family and host sister and her husband joined us to celebrate Orthodox Christmas. The temperatures and weather were pretty brutal (cold, very strong winds, and heavy snow), so it was a pretty relaxed celebration. They left Saturday afternoon, leaving the house very quiet. I was very, very thankful that the inside bathroom was completed earlier this week and I didn’t have to brave the -10 and below (plus windchill) temperatures outside! I actually didn’t even step outside the house for four days because it was so cold out!
Yesterday, on my last day off, my host mom asked if I’d like to go to the next town over with her to visit a friend. I figured it would be good to get out of the house and I was very bored, so I agreed. We actually walked there (about a 1-hour walk, I think). It was a bit warmer (though definitely still cold) and the snow was deep- my favorite weather to be outside in (and I am NOT being sarcastic! I love winter!). It was quiet and calm and beautiful, although a little hard. The road was more-or-less cleared, but there were parts that hadn’t been cleared where the snow was at least a foot deep (my legs are sore today!). We visited with my host mom’s friends and had a light meal with them, then headed out as it started to get darker out. Thankfully, we only had to walk half the way back and were able to catch a ride into the rest of the way (I wouldn’t have minded walking, but it was pretty dark at that point). It was probably one of the best parts of my vacation!
Today, classes were back in session, but our raion (kind of like a county, but within a country) determined it was too cold out, so only grades 5 and up had to come to school. Most of our Monday classes are with the younger grades, so we just had two simple classes and then got to go home. In my second class (one of my 7th grade classes), four of the girls sang a carol for us and we also had a discussion about learning languages (English for them vs. Romanian for me). One of them mentioned that it is easier for the them to understand when my partner teacher (a Moldovan teacher) reads aloud than it is when I read aloud (both because I read slightly faster an because I have an accent they aren’t used to). They asked me if when I read Romanian if it’s like when they read English. After the bell rang, I agreed to read a paragraph in Romanian for them. My language learning was focused on being able to speak and understand rather than read and write, while theirs is focused more on reading and writing and grammar. They thought it was very interesting to hear me (attempt) to read Romanian! I was happy today was a bit more relaxed at school and we could have discussions like this. I think it’s good to talk about both the difficulties and importance of learning another language, and we rarely have time to have discussions like this.