Harvesting Locust Flowers

A pile of harvested locust flowers.

This past Wednesday, after lessons, my host mom asked me if I’d like to go to their larger garden with her.  While they have a pretty big garden behind our house, they also have another plot of land about a two minute walk away, where they grow the majority of their vegetables.  We checked on the strawberry plants, which unfortunately aren’t quite ripe yet (though hopefully in the next week or two!), as well as the other plants.

Then, my host mom explained that we were going to pick the flowers off of the trees surrounding the plot of land.  She told me they were salcâm trees.  They use the flowers to make tea and jam.  She explained that for the jam, you can just run your hands along the stems to quickly remove all of the flowers, but we were harvesting for tea.  For tea, you need to pick off each bunch of flowers, keeping them in intact bunches.  First, we would snap larger branches full of bunches of flowers off the trees.  The branches have huge thorns that you need to be careful of.  A lot of the flowers were on the higher branches, so my host mom used a garden tool to cut down the branches.

The flowers laid out to dry in our house- they are piled about 6 inches high!

After we had a lot of big and smaller branches, we sat together on the ground in the shade and picked the bunches off, putting them in a big sack.  It was a lot like picking blueberries, but a bit harder on the fingers.  While the stems of the bunches don’t have the large thorns, I had trouble completely avoiding the thorns on the branches.  With two of us working, it didn’t take a ton of time.  We probably worked for about 2 hours before we had harvested all of the flowers we could reach with either or arms or the gardening tool.

When we got home, we laid all the bunches out on an extra table in a room we don’t use much.  Once they are completely dried, we can store them in the beci (root cellar) to use for tea throughout the year.  I’ve never had locust flowers in tea before, so I’m excited to see how it tastes!  I really enjoyed working alongside my host mom and I was glad to learn something new!

A Busy Week

4th grade students making up their post-test.

May always seems to be one of the busiest months of the year in the United States, and it seems to be the same here as well.  School wraps up, summer-like weather beckons us outside, and there are various events to celebrate.

My “9-A” class on our last day together.
My “9-B” class on our last day together.

This past week was a busy week.  We had post-tests in 9th, 6th, and 7th grade classes.  We had our final lessons with our 9th grade students, who I will miss next year as they go on to high school, professional/vocational schools, or work.

One of the adorable kittens we visited.

On Thursday, I went with my host mom to Ermoclia, the next town over.  We enjoyed a masa (meal) with her nașii (wedding godparents).  They had two tiny kittens, which were very cute!

The monument in the center of Ermoclia.

Then, we walked to the center and met up with my fellow volunteer and friend, Erika, who lives there.  Together, we enjoyed some of the hram (village day) activities that were taking place in the center.  There was a wrestling competition- with the champions being awarded roosters or a sheep!  By the casa de cultura (culture house), there were different rides and such set up for kids, and we bought a stick of lemon-flavored cotton candy (yum!).  We also visited the monument in the center, which honors the men who lost their lives in the military.

The Praznic service at the church in our town.

Saturday night, I joined my host mom and sister at our village church.  They were there for a praznic, which is a church service that blesses the souls of loved ones who have passed. The service is very long (over 6 hours!), so I only stayed for the first part.

I have a few tests left to correct and grade this afternoon.  We have lessons tomorrow and Tuesday, and then Wednesday will be our last day of school!  From what I understand, we will not have lessons, but everyone will come to school for an end-of-year concert and assembly.  The celebrations supposedly vary from school to school, so I’m excited to see what it will be like at my school.

Tests and More Tests

Working on correcting, grading, and inputting results of my 9th grade students post-test in English class

Here in Moldova, we are wrapping up the school year (Can you believe I’m almost through my first full year of school as a teacher in Moldova?? I can’t!).  Students in grades 1-8 at my school have one week left of classes, but my 9th grade students will wrap up their classes this week and begin preparing for their evaluations.  School is only compulsory here until 9th grade, so they will graduate in June.

The end of school, like in the United States, is an exciting and busy time.  It’s can also be a bit challenging for students and teachers alike since everyone is just ready to be done.  Also, there is lots of test and assignment grading.

One of our jobs as volunteers is to make sure that we have data to support and show the work we do.  For education volunteers, this means we do pre- and post- tests with every student we work with for the course of the school year.  It is important that we can show our schools, communities, and Peace Corps what progress we have made and what we need to work on.  It’s also good to be able to show our partner teachers and students the improvements students have made throughout the year.  It’s also a lot of work (I worked with 206 students this year, which means there are that many tests to grade)!  The picture at top is my desk this afternoon as I work on correcting and grading and recording the post-tests for my 9th grade students!  I promise it’s not always this messy (see picture below for proof).

How my desk looks when I’m not busy grading!

But despite the amount of work, I’m very happy to know that a large majority of my 9th graders have shown improvements this year!  A few improved their scores by large point margins, and I am very proud of them.  It’s nice to see that I actually did teach the students something!  Now on to the 4th and 6th grade tests (7th and 5th grade tests will be taken later this week or next week)!

Ziua Sportiva (Sport Day)

Due to an added vacation day on May 8th, all schools in Moldova had to have a Saturday day of classes.  Since it’s so close to the end of the year and because many of the students at my school were away this weekend as part of a music and dance group that went to a competition in Romania, our school had a day of sports and health instead of regular lessons.

The younger students stayed at the school or went to a nearby park to have different relay races and participate in other activities and the older students went to the town’s “stadium” or soccer field to play sports and compete in competitions.  I went with the older students to the stadium.

At the stadium, some students played soccer or volleyball, while others played with jump-ropes and hula hoops.  Our adjunct director organized some running competitions (a 600 meter run, relay races, 100 meter sprint, etc.) with a couple of other teachers.  These seemed to be the most popular with the 5th through 7th grade students, though some 8th and 9th grade students also participated.  It was gorgeous weather and a lot of fun!

Eating in Moldova: One Week of Meals

A pretty typical breakfast for me here: oatmeal (or some other type of porridge) and tea.

One of my biggest fears about joining the Peace Corps and moving to another country, particularly one that I didn’t know much about, was the food.  I’m a picky eater, and while I’m open to trying new foods, I don’t like a lot of foods.  I also have a problem with foods with certain textures.  Thankfully, both of my host families have been accommodating and haven’t been bothered by my dietary preferences.  There are plenty of things I eat that I don’t necessarily like, but there are also foods that I do not eat, for example: brinza (sheep cheese), mayonnaise, and fish.  Luckily, I have always loved potatoes, in pretty much every form, which is a huge staple in Moldova.  And I’ve learned to like some new foods as well!

So what do I eat on a weekly basis?  For the past week, I’ve kept track of all of the things I’ve eaten (both prepared for me by my host mom and some that I’ve prepared for myself).  This week, I prepared more of my meals than normal as my host mom has been very busy.  Here’s one week of meals from my life in Moldova (*=I prepared; **=prepared for me):

Sunday

BREAKFAST*:  Scrambled eggs, wheat bread with butter, an orange, and a cup of black tea with sugar. // LUNCH*:  Ham on bread with butter, pretzels, homemade donuts (a first!), and a cup of chamomile tea with sugar.  // DINNER:  Colţunaşi (meat-filled dumplings, a lot like ravioli) with butter and chamomile tea.

Monday

BREAKFAST**: Oatmeal and chamomile tea.  // LUNCH**:  Macaroni with hot milk, an apple, a banana, and grape compot (a homemade juice made by boiling fruit in water and then preserving it in large jars- it is absolutely delicious!).  // DINNER**:  Boiled potatoes with butter, pretzels, and chamomile tea.  Also a glass of wine later when my host mom and I were stopped on our evening walk by a group of older women who insisted we have some wine with them.

Zeama with cabbage

Tuesday

BREAKFAST**:  Pâine prajita (like a savory and more egg-y version of French toast) and chamomile tea.  // LUNCH**:  Zeama (vegetable-based soup with noodles or potatoes) with cabbage, a piece of lamb, bread and butter, some pretzels, and chamomile tea.  // DINNER**:  “Paprika potatoes and chicken” (potatoes and chicken legs seasoned with paprika and cooked in a bag in the oven- one of my very favorite meals!), ice cream, and chamomile tea.

Wednesday

BREAKFAST**:  3 hard boiled eggs, a banana, and black tea.  // LUNCH*:  Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, pretzels, and chamomile tea.  // DINNER**:   Colţunaşi (meat-filled dumplings, a lot like ravioli) with butter and chamomile tea.

Paine prajita

Thursday

BREAKFAST**:  Pâine prajita (like a savory and more egg-y version of French toast) and black tea.  // LUNCH**: Fresh homemade bread and grape compot.  // DINNER**:  Bread, wine, and turkey tail (while visiting my host mom’s friend), and goose meat, grape compot, and chamomile tea later at home.

Friday

BREAKFAST**:  Oatmeal and black tea.  // LUNCH*:  Tea and cookies at a break during school.  Later at home, grilled cheese (with homemade bread) and grape compot.  // DINNER**:   Colţunaşi with butter, wine, and grape compot.

Saturday

BREAKFAST*:  Omelet with cheese.  // LUNCH**:  Macaroni with boiled milk, bread, wine, grape compot, and chamomile tea (I was very thirsty!).  // DINNER**:  Boiled potatoes cooked in a tomato-y sauce, an apple, and chamomile tea.

And that’s it! As you can probably tell, there isn’t a whole lot of variety, and it is pretty carb-heavy.  I’m looking forward to the summer months, as then there are a lot more vegetables and fruits!