English Club

Students from 8th and 9th grade help create a video showcasing how we say “hello!” in Moldova
Our English Club welcomed our Peace Corps Country Director, Tracey, and my fellow volunteer, Alicia, to our village

One of the best parts of my final year here so far has been the continuation of the English Club I do with students in grades 7 through 9 at my school.  I started the club last winter in February and had about 70 students sign up and about 50 students regularly show up.  We took a break over the summer other than a couple weeks when we had a summer English Club/Camp, but started up again in October.  Last year’s ninth grade students have moved on to other school, so the new seventh grade students got to join us.  I had about 55 students sign up, and about 35-40 attend every week.

There are three mixed-grade-level groups and each group meets once a week for an hour.  My site mate, who teaches health at the school, sometimes helps out, and one of my partners also attends sometimes.  This semester, we covered a variety of topics including: introductions and greetings, talking about ourselves, numbers (from simple numbers to more complicated numbers like 5,406,827,359), Halloween, how to research, Thanksgiving, winter holidays (Christmas, New Year, and Hanukkah), and a United States of America states project.  We’ve played games, used whiteboards for practice, had conversations, talked about American culture, and worked in teams to create posters.

There are a number of reasons I love doing the English Club so much.  I like that there is no set curriculum and what we do each week can be tailored to what the students need more practice on (like saying numbers) or are interested in (like American holidays and traditions).  It’s also nice to be able to teach in a more relaxed setting, as we don’t need to worry about grades or do things in a way that we are expected to do when teaching normal lessons.

Most of all, I love the opportunity to get to know my students better.  During class, we have a lot to cover in a very small amount of time, so things need to be rigidly scheduled.  During English Club, we can take time to have conversations and I have more time to work one-on-one with a struggling student or in smaller groups.  I feel like the club has allowed me to get to know my students on a more personal basis, and I also have more opportunities to share about myself, my family, why I am here in Moldova, and about American culture.

The students are very curious about my life in the United States and my American family!  Last week, I talked to my dad briefly while one of the groups were working on a poster project.  When the students realized I was speaking English on the phone, they were silent!  They looked at me in awe as I rapidly (well, to them) spoke English.  After, they told me, “Wow! You speak so quickly in English when you speak to other Americans!”.

I can’t wait to start the club up again after our winter vacation, and know that I will dearly miss these students when I leave Moldova in a few short months.

Photo a Day: Days 92-98

When I started this photo a day project, my goal was to take a photo a day for 100 days.  I’ve really enjoyed it (though I’ll admit there have been a few days I’ve forgotten), so I’m going to continue it.  My new goal is to take a photo a day until I finish my Peace Corps journey sometime this coming summer.

Here’s week 14!

Day 92: This time of year has the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Here is a gorgeous sunset.
Day 93: Our first real snowfall. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick for very long but it was beautiful while it lasted.
Day 94: A pastel sky at sunrise.
Day 95: A bright sunrise.
Day 9: We finished our U.S. state project this week in English Club. Here, one group poses with their poster.
Day 97: A group 8th grade students completed this poster on the state of Florida.
Day 98: I spent the evening going through journals and deciding what to take home with me when I visit the U.S. next week.

Sfantul Andrei Traditions

Our very securely bolted gate

Tomorrow (December 13) is a holiday in Moldova that is celebrated on the saint day of Sfantul Andrei.  I think it’s one of the most interesting of Moldovan holidays and there are many varied traditions associated with it, most of which occur tonight.

Of the traditions, the most prominent (and most unusual to us Americans) is the stealing of gates.  The tradition is very old.  Tonight, boys and young men in the village will steal the front gates from the houses of the girl or young woman they like.  They hide the gate and the following morning the girl is supposed to go find the gate and return it to its place.  I’ve been assured (thankfully) that our gate is impossible to remove but I’ve heard numerous stories told by my host family of years past.  One year, before my host dad bolted it so securely there’s no way to remove it, a neighbor boy stole it and hid it in a river bed.  Another gate, this one wooden and therefore lighter and easier to take, was once stolen from a neighbor’s house and was found in a tree at the mayor’s office the next morning.

There are other traditions as well, though many of them are rarely celebrated today.  My host mom remembers several from when she was a girl, though she thinks there were more of them.  Girls would take a rooster from the pen and take it inside.  They’d place it in front of a mirror and put a dish of water and a dish of food in front of it.  If the rooster drank the water first, it meant they would marry a man who liked to drink, but if the rooster ate the food first, it meant their future husband would really like to eat.

Another traditions was to go to the neighborhood well with a group of friends.  At the well, they would fill their mouths with water and then return back to the house with the water still in their mouth.  They would then mix the water with various flours and grains to make little biscuits.  These were placed in a line in front of a dog.  If the dog chose your biscuit to eat first, it meant you’d be the first to marry.

Yet another tradition was to take thin wooden poles/branches and decorate them and place them outside overnight.  If the pole had warped or twisted, it meant your future husband wouldn’t be very handsome, but if it remained straight, it meant your husband would be very good looking.

While these traditions seem a bit strange to an American, my host mom remembers them fondly and my students are looking forward to the holiday.  My host mom said I’m the only “domnișoara” (unmarried young woman) in the neighborhood, so we’ll see if anyone tries to steal our gate tonight!

Photo a Day: Days 85-91

Week 13!

Day 85: Keeping warm while wearing mostly dresses requires lots of layers- like fleece lined leggings, fuzzy socks, and another pair of socks.
Day 86: One of my favorite Moldovan foods- pelemeni. These ones are stuffed with ground pork and chicken.
Day 87: I observed a Russian lesson with 8th grade students. Although I didn’t understand a word, it was interesting!
Day 88: Making posters for a U.S. state project during English Club. These 9th graders (and one 8th grader) chose California.
Day 89: If you look closely enough you can see little specks of snow- our first obvious snowfall this winter!
Day 90: 8th grade students work on their state poster during English Club- this group chose New York in hopes of winning the competition.
Day 91: The sun shines over a muddy road on a crisp but sunny day (a rarity this time of year in Moldova).

Dressember Recap Week 1

As I mentioned in this blog post, I’m participating in Dressember again this year.  I’ve worn a dress for the past 8 days and I’ve also been posting information in both English and Romanian on my social media accounts.  Here are the facts and photos I’ve shared this week.

Did you know?

What is Dressember? A lot of women are passionate about ending human trafficking, but feel powerless to do anything.  Dressember creates a path for the busy woman to have a significant impact on ending a dark injustice. By wearing the Dressember uniform- a dress every day in December- she uses her voice to advocate for the freedom of all people.

How can a dress change the world?

Human trafficking is the #1 growing industry in the world, and the 2nd largest international criminal industry.

What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is modern day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.

How widespread is human trafficking? 40.3 million people are living in modern slavery today.

Moldova is currently #37 on the Global Slavery Index.