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).

Constelatia Talentelor (Constellation of Talents)

Last Friday I was at school and heading to a class when Doamna Angela, a 3rd grade teacher, approached me and asked if I was busy that afternoon and evening.  Doamna Angela and her husband, Alexandru, run the traditional music and dance school in our village.  I told her I didn’t have plans and she asked me if I had my camera with me (I did).  “Perfect!” she said, “Will you come with the dance ensemble to a competition in Chisinau and film it?”  I absolutely love the rare opportunities to watch the dance ensemble, made up of about 20 8th through 9th grade students I teach at school, so I immediately said yes.

I’ll be honest- I really didn’t know any details when I said yes except that we would be leaving right after my class and that it was in Chisinau.  On the bus on the way to Chisinau, Angela and Alexandru said that we were going to a festival and competition called Constellation of Talents and that it was an international talent competition.  My students didn’t end up performing until almost 10 in the evening (the video above), but I got to hang out with the group until then and watch the rest of the concert and competition.  There were at least 13 countries represented, mostly from Eastern Europe but also from Vietnam and a group from an African country.

There were various categories including modern dance, traditional dance, singing, verbal art (poetry), and modelling.  Our group was competing in the traditional dance category.  Groups that the judges felt did a good job on the first and second days of the competition were called back to compete in the final round on Sunday.  My students did a fantastic job on Friday, and though I didn’t accompany them, were called back on Sunday, and won grand prize!!  They also received invitations to two other international competitions, one in Romania, and one in Bulgaria.  My students were so excited to tell me that they had won when I saw them in class on Monday!  They work incredibly hard and are so incredibly talented!  I am so proud of them!

Youth Day

The celebration started off with some poetry.

Last week, our school celebrated Youth Day.  The Student Council made a video and put together an hour-long performance for the 8th and 9th grade students.  I was really impressed by how quickly they put everything together and learned the dances and songs!

This song was titled “Ana” and in it, a girl is in love and wants to go out dancing. Her mother/grandmother doesn’t want her to go, but in the end joins in and dances with them. It was absolutely hilarious!
The main performance- here some boys dressed up as mothers argue with their “kids” and tell them they must go to school.
The main performance- the gym teacher has left the students alone, so they dance.
The main performance- the boy in front is in love and is writing a love note.
The main performance- the gym teacher returns and they dance in a train.

There was a mix of some songs, dances, and one big musical skit.  Most of the performances were humorous and they did a great job!  After, there was a short dance for the 8th and 9th graders.

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!