“The Future is Ours” Summer Day Camp

My site mate Amir and I decided to go all out for our summer work this year and planned two one-week day camps for June. The first camp wrapped up this past Friday, and we had so much fun! The camp was a half-day camp about leadership with students in 6th through 8th grade. We had 24 students sign up but only about 8-10 showed up daily. Although a little disappointing, I think the students that did come really enjoyed it, and it was a success!

Day 1: What are our values?
Day 1: What are some of our skills?
Day 1: What are some of our skills? Individually? As a team?

Because our students are younger and have little leadership experience, we stuck to the basics and also made sure to include lots of team-building and fun activities as well. The first day we talked about our values and our skills. The students made posters about the values they had in common, such as family, health, friends, and peace. They also wrote poems about the camp. We chose the one we liked best and said it throughout the week (translated to English):

“We have a beautiful camp, Here we feel at home, We discover many things, And learn about everything. It’s summer camp, It’s hot outside, We are joyful, That we are here. We meet our friends, And talk with them day by day, We’ll do our best, We won’t return home!”

Day 2: What are some leadership qualities?
Day 2: Some examples of famous leaders
Day 2: Playing Simon Says

The second day we talked about what a leader is and some examples of internationally recognized leaders. We discussed the qualities of leaders and also named some people in our community who demonstrated those qualities and who are leaders in the community. We played some games outside as well. I was surprised to find out that these middle-school-aged kids were perfectly happy playing classic American kid games such as relay races, Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and even dancing the Hokey Pokey! I guess for them these were just fun games and they were mostly new games for them! The students’ favorite activity of the day, however, was “The Number Game” where they had to try to count to 20 as a group without any communication or gestures (every time two people say the next number at the same time, it starts over at 1- it sounds easy but is actually quite challenging!). and the “Chair Activity” in which the students sit in a circle with their chairs close together then lay their head on their neighbor’s legs. The chairs are then removed from beneath them, and they have to see how long they can support one another without anyone falling.

Day 3: The “Chair Activity”- learning to support one another
Day 3: Playing a Moldovan volleyball game
Day 3: Building marshmallow and spaghetti towers

On Wednesday we discussed team leadership and solving problems. We did some fun activities this day as well, like the Human Knot (where everyone links hands with two different people and then have to “unravel” the knot so that they all form a circle again) and building marshmallow and spaghetti towers in teams. Another volunteer, Alicia, from a nearby village joined us this day, and the students taught us three Americans how to play a volleyball-based game, which was a lot of fun! The students really loved the “Chair Activity” in which students sit in a circle with their chairs close together then lay their head on their neighbor’s legs. The chairs are then removed from beneath them, and they have to see how long they can support one another without anyone falling.

Day 4: “Poisonous” Spider Web game
Day 4: Visualizing our dreams for the future (Mrs. Maia, our school accountant, is on the left and was our primary partner for the camp. She helped us a lot on this day helping explain why goals are important!)
Day 4: Confidence building activity by writing anonymous compliments on each other’s backs

Thursday was another fun day and we talked about setting and working toward our goals. The idea of having a plan for our lives and then taking active steps to achieve it is not very common in Moldova, so the students struggled with this part of the day quite a bit. Our main goal was for the students to understand that although our goals may change throughout our life depending on circumstances and our wishes, it’s important to think about where we want to end up and then take some small steps now in order to reach that dream. By the end of the day, the students demonstrated that they now understood the importance of having a plan and knowing what some steps might be to achieve their goals. Since it was a difficult lesson for them, we planned some less serious activities for the afternoon. They made summer bucket lists and did a photo scavenger hunt, which they LOVED. We also talked a bit about Self Confidence and wrote compliments on one another’s backs.

Day 5: Receiving diplomas
Day 5: Water balloon toss
Day 5: Water balloon toss- good thing it was really hot outside!

Our last day, Friday, was a more laid-back day. We reviewed what we had learned throughout the week and handed out diplomas, then headed outside for some games. After our snack break, we recited our poem once more and did the chair activity again. This time, they were able to hold the circle up for over 3 minutes! We then finished the day with a water balloon toss followed by a water balloon fight and a couple of team “photo challenges”.

Day 5: Photo challenge with the prompt “people dancing”
Day 5: Water balloon fight

It was such a great week! The students are begging my site mate to have another day camp later in the summer (I’m wrapping up my service and leaving in two weeks). It was a great way to finish up my time with my older students, and I’m so glad they enjoyed it so much! I definitely enjoyed it as well!

Here’s a video with even more photos from the camp:

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)