A Look Back: The Third Six Months

A couple days ago I reached my one and a half year mark in Moldova.  As with the first half of my time here, the time has passed quickly and I can’t believe the next of these recaps will be my last.  It feels like my time here is started to wind down, which is certainly bittersweet.  As excited as I am to eat my favorite American foods and see my favorite people back home, it will be incredibly hard and sad to leave behind everything here.  In the meantime, I am enjoying every minute and soaking in this incredible experience.  Here’s a recap of my third quarter in Moldova (you can find a recap of the first six months here, and a recap of the second six months here).

Month 13: June.

The month kicked off with a celebration in the village park for Children’s Day with song, dance, and games.  With the school year finished, I joined my fellow teachers on an excursion to the northern part of the country to visit Saharna and Țîpova Monasteries.  Most of the month was spent at home spending time with my host mom and visiting host niece, Valerica.  We picked strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.  Our courtyard was filled with the sound of little ducklings.  After months of torture from our rooster, he met his end and we ate him.

Month 14: July.

Our village welcomed a group of fellow Peace Corps Volunteers as they did a walking tour of the southeast of Moldova, visiting libraries, schools, and mayor’s offices to spread peace and friendship.  I spent a wonderful night celebrating with my former 9th graders, their parents, and my fellow teachers in honor of the 9th grade graduation.  There was a graduation ceremony, followed by plenty of food and dancing.  My host nieces spent much of the month with us and we played plenty and had a lot of fun.  I attended the opening of a monument in my village honoring those that were deported from the village during Soviet times.  My parents came to Moldova and we spent an amazing two weeks exploring Moldova and Romania.  We explored my village, Soroca, Orhei Vechi, Tipova Monastery, Purcari Winery, Comrat, Cricova Winery, and Chisinau.  In Romania, we visited Sinaia, Bran Castle, Brasov, Rupea Fortress, Sighisoara, Maramures County with its wooden churches, and Breb.  Valerica (my host-niece) spent a fun afternoon dressing up in my clothes, earrings, and sunglasses and pretending to be a model.

Month 15: August.

I made my host nieces American-style pancakes (with real maple syrup!) and scrambled eggs.  The library grant project I worked with my school on was underway and I took several trips to our raion center and Chisinau to procure furniture, technology, and new books.  Heather, my sister, came to Moldova and we spent a weekend in the capital before heading to my village for a week.  Together, we went to my village’s celebration of Language Day and Moldova’s Independence Day, where we ate and enjoyed the performances by my students and various competitions (and tried not to be too nervous during the pole-climbing competition).  I visited Et Cetera Winery with my sister and a volunteer friend, and on our way, we walked through the fields at the margin of my village with my host mom, host sister, and host niece, enjoying the beauty of a summer evening in Moldova.  I got a site mate (another volunteer living in the same village) and I spent some time working on projects with him at school.

Month 16: September.

We celebrated the first day of school with the traditional First Bell ceremony.  I said goodbye to my sister and got back into the swing of the school year.  We celebrated International Day of Peace at school by making a huge peace sign in the school courtyard and students shared what peace means to them.  I enjoyed the beautiful autumn sunsets over the village.  The corn and grape harvest began, and I baked banana bread and chocolate chip cookies.  At school, we completed our pre-tests for the year and the schedule changed many times.

Month 17: October.

Autumn continued in my village, and along with came more pretty sunsets and making wine.  One day, my host mom called me and told me to come to the garden in the valley to pick strawberries.  Although a little confused, I joined her, and to my surprise there were autumn strawberries!  At school, we celebrated Teacher’s Day and I joined the other teachers at a faculty party, where we ate yummy food and danced for hours.  I finally mastered several different versions of Moldova’s traditional dance, the hora.  We completed installing our library project and had an opening ceremony and celebration.  Our English Club (with students from 7th through 9th grade) started up again.  At the end of the month, our village received visitors from Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and after touring our school, we joined them and a group of other volunteers in our raion center for lunch.

Month 18: November.

I spent our autumn vacation in Chisinau, attending a conference and catching up with friends.  Our English Club continued.  My village celebrated Hram (Village Day) and I attended the concert held at our Casa de Cultura (Cultural House).  I made cinnamon and dinner rolls for Thanksgiving and spent a weekend in Chisinau with other volunteers for Thanksgiving.  I attended the school’s celebrations for Youth Day, with skits, songs, and dance.

It’s been a pretty good and fairly busy past 6 months!  Here’s to the last part of this journey and my remaining time in Moldova!

Photo a Day: Days 78-84

Week 12!

Day 78: A slightly belated but absolutely delicious Thanksgiving meal with new and old volunteer friends.
Day 79: Our cat likes to sleep in the warmth of my room.
Day 80: Preparing vocabulary cards for English Club. The topic was winter holidays.
Day 81: The view from the teacher’s room on a rainy day. There is a huge hole behind the school filled with the remains of a failed construction project to add more wings to the school.
Day 82: Some 7th grade students play dreidel at English Club after we discussed some different winter holidays.
Day 83: 8th grade students perform a hilarious dance/skit at the school’s celebration for Youth Day.
Day 84: The opening act of “Festival-Concurs Constelatia Talentelor” (Festival-Competition Constellation of Talents), which I attended with a bunch of my students and their dance ensemble (they performed later in the evening).

Dressember 2017

December 1st is just 2 days away, which means I’m getting ready for Dressember. What is Dressember? Every day during the month of December I’ll be wearing a dress, along with women across the globe, to raise awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery.  The movement began a few years ago when a group of women realized they could use fashion (and dresses) to give a voice to a cause they are passionate about.  It is now a worldwide movement that occurs each December.  While wearing the “uniform” of a dress each day, women can re-appropriate dresses as a symbol of freedom and power.  It’s bigger than a dress.  The dress is simply the symbol and uniform of the campaign, but the real power comes from raising awareness (and funds) about human trafficking and modern slavery.

Why am I participating? This is my second year participating (see some of my social media posts from last year’s challenge in this blog post).  Over 40.3 million people worldwide are living in modern slavery, including an estimated 10,400 Moldovan men, women, and children.  Since arriving in Moldova a year and a half ago, I’ve learned that Moldova is currently ranked #37 on the Global Slavery Index.  I work in a school and teach students that are at risk of being trafficked.

Want to join me?  Human trafficking exists in practically every community and in every country.  It’s a global problem that needs our attention.  If you’re interested in joining me, here are ways you can participate:

  1. Join the challenge.  Commit to wearing a dress (or tie/bowtie!) every day during the month of December and additionally raise awareness and share information about human trafficking.  Read more here.
  2. Participate in solidarity days.  If 31 days seems like a bit too much, show solidarity by wearing a dress or dressing up (such as wearing a tie) each Friday.
  3. Donate money to the cause.  You can donate to my team (with other volunteers) here.

I hope you’ll join me!  I’ll be posting on social media each day, and posting a recap of each week here on my blog.

Photo a Day: Days 71-77

Week 11!

Day 71: Our dog, Rochie, sometimes likes to walk to school with me.
Day 72: Our cat discovered he can watch us in the kitchen (his favorite room) from the window.
Day 73: My host mom often leaves me boiled eggs on the days she leaves the house before I wake up. This morning, she also left me a note!
Day 74: We celebrated Hram (our Village Day) with a beautiful masa (holiday meal).
Day 75: Fresh rolls, right out of the oven in preparation of Thanksgiving celebrations.
Day 76: In English Club, we made hand turkeys with things we are thankful- I think this student was trying to get on my good side :).
Day 77: Our dog was sad he had to stay home while I went to the capital to celebrate Thanksgiving with other volunteers.

Hram (Village Day) 2017

Each year, every village, town, and city in Moldova celebrates a holiday called hram.  On this day, friends and family come to visit, large meals are prepared, and there is usually a concert in the evening.  The date of hram varies from village to village, town to town.  It is based on the saint’s day of the oldest church in the village or town.  Each church is named after a saint, and when it’s that saint’s holiday, the village or town celebrates.  Although the date comes from the church’s name and there are religious celebrations related to it, the holiday also celebrates the founding of the village or town.

My village’s hram occurs every year on November 21st.  The school is closed and everyone celebrates.  This year, my village celebrated 314 years since the first documentation of a village here.  I spent the morning with my host family, and my host mom prepared a gorgeous spread.  We weren’t sure if we’d have any visitors as my host siblings and their families weren’t coming, but my host parents’ nașii, or wedding godparents, joined us as well as some friends of my host dad.

In the evening, I headed to our casa de cultura (cultural house/community center) for the concert.  A number of traditional dance and music groups performed as well as the well-known singer Zinaida Julea (listen to some of her music here).  Of course, my favorite performance was that of the students from the traditional music and dance school in my village.  They are all my students at school and I love to see them perform- they are incredibly talented and they were even called onstage for an encore performance last night!

I spent the remainder of the evening talking to my host mom until way too late!  It was a beautiful day and celebration.