Ultimul Sunet (Last Bell) 2018

The beginning of the ceremony, which was moderated by two 8th grade students
The raising of the flag and national anthem
The primary students wait for the ceremony to begin

As I mentioned in my previous post, last week was the last week of school in Moldova. I’ve written about the last day ceremony, called Last Bell, before. This year’s Last Bell was similar, but the graduating 9th graders were different.

The 9th “A” class entering with their homeroom teacher
The 9th “B” class entering with their homeroom teacher

The ceremony started with all of the students and teachers gathering in a horseshoe shape in the courtyard in front of our school. Once everyone was was in place, the 9th grade students entered the courtyard from the school, accompanied by their homeroom teachers. The same homeroom teacher stays with a group of students from 5th to 9th grade, and the relationship is supposed to be very close between the students and their homeroom teacher (the students also stay together usually from 1st grade until they graduate in 9th grade).

The 1st grade students reciting a poem
The entire 9th grade class

There were the typical speeches, by a police officer from our raion (district), a representative from our raion’s department of youth and sport, and our school director. Certificates were handed out to many students for participation in various activities and for academic achievement. The 1st grade students recited a long poem.

Me being presented with a diploma and a speech by the director
My partner teacher thanking me for my time here and giving me notes from the students
An 8th grade student reciting a poem she had written for and about me

Since this was my very last official day at school, I was also honored during the ceremony. I was given a certificate and my partner teacher Liuba gave me a packet of notes and drawings from my students. One of my 8th grade students, Maria, wrote and recited a touching poem in English thanking me for coming here. Unfortunately, nobody got a full video, but it was very sweet. I did my best not to cry, but my eyes did tear up a bit.

The 9th graders performing a dance
The 9th graders performing a dance
The 9th graders performing a dance

The 9th grade students generally prepare dance/song performances and recite poems as part of the ceremony. A small number of them did a nice dance, one of the girls sang a song that is often used to thank teachers, and they recited a poem. There were two 9th grade classes this year, and one of the classes prepared a very touching (all of the women and girls in the crowd definitely teared up, as did several of the boys in the class) tribute to their homeroom teacher, Valentina.

9th grade students doing a touching tribute for their homeroom teacher
9th grade students doing a touching tribute for their homeroom teacher

They asked Doamna Valentina to stand in the middle of the courtyard, and then each student approached her, gave her a flower, hugged her, and gave her one end of a ribbon. This was accompanied with a short “the first candle is for…” thanking her for various things. This continued until she held one end of a ribbon attaching her to each of the students in her class. They then asked her to cut the ribbons, leaving part with her and the other part with each of the students. This was followed by a group hug and lots of tears.

The last bell being rung by a 1st grade student on the shoulders of a 9th grade student

The ceremony ended, as always, with the ringing of the final bell of the year. This is done by a 1st grade girl on the shoulder of a 9th grade boy. Then students went inside for their last homeroom class then went home. I spent some time in both of the 8th grade classrooms, then I also headed home to change for the teacher’s barbecue in the forest on the edge of our village.

The teachers celebrating the end of the school year with a barbecue in the woods

The teachers gathered together to eat, drink, and celebrate the end of another year. We went to the forest this year, and everything was very delicious and everyone was very relaxed. We had a lot of fun and stayed for over 6 hours! It’s a day I doubt I’ll ever forget.

Last Days as a Teacher in Moldova

The second graders: I actually only taught half of these kids, but we did a combined lesson on the last day.
Half of the second graders I taught this year.

This past week I wrapped up my time as an English teacher in this wonderful country of Moldova. For the past two years, I have taught English to 262 students in 2nd through 9th grade alongside my two amazing partner teachers, Ina and Liuba. I have spent at least 1,600 hours at school teaching and planning with my partners. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement: I have loved my school, my community, and my village.

One of the 3rd grade classes that I taught this year.
The other 3rd grade class that I taught this year.

My students weren’t always well-behaved, didn’t always do their homework, and sometimes wouldn’t stop chatting when they were supposed to be quiet, but every second was worth it, and I loved working with them.

The fourth grade class. I only worked with half of them this year, but worked with all of them last year.
One of my 5th grade classes. I worked with them both this year and last year.

When things got tough (and when you’re a Peace Corps volunteer, there are plenty of tough moments), they reminded me of why I am here and encouraged me, made me laugh, or just happened to say something I really needed to hear.

My other 5th grade class. I also worked with them both this year and last year.
My 7th graders. I worked with them both years.

When I think of leaving in just over a month, I tear up thinking of saying goodbye to this village, but especially to these kids. So many of them are motivated, talented, and hard-working, and I’m sad that I won’t get to see them grow up or how their lives unfold. I hope that each of their futures are full of happiness, success, and that they know how much I enjoyed working with them.

One of my 8th grade classes (about half the students escaped before I could get a picture- though it appears the whole class is girls, there are 3 boys as well). I worked with these students both years, and many of them came to English Club.
My other 8th grade class. I worked with them both years and several of them came to English Club as well.

On the last couple of days of lessons, we played some games, sang, and had fun. I took a picture with each of my classes, though apparently a lot of students just don’t show up the last week of school, so a lot of students are missing. I’ll miss them so much!

*Not pictured: the current 6th grade students that I taught last year as 5th graders (I didn’t teach them this year), the current 9th graders (I only taught them for 2 or 3 months last year when they were in 8th grade and didn’t teach them this year, but several of them came to my English Club), and both of the 9th grade classes I taught last year (they’ve since graduated from our school and moved on to high school, vocational school, or work). 

A Look Back: The Fourth Six Months

Today marks two years in Moldova! I almost can’t believe it! In some ways, it seems like just yesterday that I was getting off the plane in Chisinau and taking my first steps on Moldovan soil, while in other ways it seems like a long time ago. This last quarter of my time here has been filled with its share of both ups and downs. According to the “cycle of vulnerability” as a Peace Corps volunteer, this is apparently quite normal. I still a little over one month left here, but I’m sure that time is going to pass quickly. The past 6 months have been a whirlwind of emotions, both excitement that I’ll soon be returning home, eating American food, and spending time with my friends and family, and sadness that I’ll be leaving this beautiful country and its wonderful people behind. In particular, I’ll miss the abundance of fresh fruit and veggies in the summer months, the sunflower fields that stretch on forever, my host family, my teaching partners, and my students. I know it’s almost time to move on to the next chapter of my life, but it is definitely bittersweet. Anyway, here is the recap of my fourth six months in Moldova (you can find the recap of the first six months here, the second six months here, and the third six months here).

Month 19: December.

At the beginning of the month, I accompanied the dance ensemble from my village to an international talent competition in the capital, spending the day with my students and their dance instructors. I observed a Russian lesson with 8th grade students and didn’t understand a word. In English Club, we did a US state poster project, which the students got really into. We had some gorgeous sunsets, as well as our first light snowfall. We celebrated Sfantul Andrei, and I attended a Christmas/New Year concert, also with the dance ensemble, in our raion center, and spent a morning in the capital with my host mom and her friend, Natasha. I spent Christmas at home in upstate New York with my family, with two weeks packed with holidays, celebrations, and spending time with family and friends.

Month 20: January.

The month started off at home in the US, skiing and hanging out with my grandparents, family, and friends. The trip back to Moldova was a bit of a terrible adventure, when I got stuck in the JFK airport for over 24 hours. Celebrated Moldovan Christmas at home with my host family, and welcomed carolers and seed-throwing kids to welcome in the New Year. One of my 8th grade classes sang Happy Birthday to me on the first day back to school.  Celebrated Mihai Eminescu Day outside in freezing temperatures. Went with one of my partner teachers to meet a man who is bed-ridden and who really wanted to meet the “American” in the village, had a really great conversation with him. Had our first heavy snowfall, and even a snow day! Was ambushed by some neighborhood kids by snowfalls and fistfuls of snow. Lost power and spent a night in candlelight. Had our COS (close of service) lottery and found out when I’d be going home.

Month 21: February.

The snow started to melt a little. Celebrated English Week at school and taught an open lesson with my partner teacher. Wore my hair down to school for the first time and got lots of compliments. Attended a 100 Days celebration with 1st grade students and stayed for a masa afterwards. Attended my host cousin’s wedding, and danced with my host nieces. Accompanied two students and my site mate to a GLOW mini-camp in the capital. Every student in one of my 8th grade classes did their homework (a first!). Kicked off Peace Corps Week with a mini “International Film Festival” with our students, showing short videos made by volunteers from all over the world. Spent much of the month relaxing and hanging out at home.

Month 22: March.

We continued Peace Corps Week with a video-chat with a class in the United States and inviting several other Peace Corps volunteers to come speak to our students about where and what home is to them. Both events were a big success! We celebrated Martisor, as well as International Women’s Day both at school and in the community with a big concert. Had “control” or an audit at school and helped my partner teachers prepare food for the guests one day. The first flowers started showing up in the garden, and we celebrated my host mom’s birthday.

Month 23: April.

The village prepared for Easter, and students got out of lessons early one day to do a village clean-up. We celebrated Easter by going to church early in the morning and then eating and sleeping the rest of the day. My host niece, Valerica, visited and we spent a lot of time playing together. Ate cake for Valerica’s 8th birthday. We celebrated Memorial Easter (in memory of loved ones who have passed) at the cemetery and at our house with a meal after. The flowers began to bloom in full force, and the fruit trees blossomed. Met with the Parent’s Association to make plans for a summer day camp, and got their approval! Went to my partner teacher Liuba’s birthday party, and had a lot of fun.

Month 24: May.

Started off the month at our COS (close of service) conference with my fellow volunteers. Victory Day was celebrated in my village with a short ceremony at the World War II monument and students and community members placed flowers around the monument. Ate the first strawberries of the year, and picked cherries. Had an “American masa” with my English Club to thank them for coming so regularly throughout the past two years- we ate a lot of yummy American foods. Attended Peace Corps Moldova’s 25th anniversary celebration along with my partners and school director. Had my last lessons with my students and celebrated Last Bell, the celebration that marks the end of the school year, and further celebrated with a barbecue in the woods with my fellow teachers.

An American “Masa”

In Romanian, masă means a number of things. It can be used to say “table”, “meal” or even sometimes what we would consider a “party” (of the dinner party sense). It’s a word we hear every day as volunteers and it is a time of not just eating, but also of gathering with friends and family.

One of the highlights of my service in Moldova has been working with a group of my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students at English Club for the past two years. Today was our last English Club meeting. To thank them for 2 wonderful years, my site mate Amir and I decided to surprise them with an “American masă”.

We made some of our favorite foods and also served iced tea and fruit punch. It was a lot of work (several days of baking and cooking), but in the end it was a huge success! Our menu consisted of deviled eggs, cornbread, banana bread, cinnamon rolls, mac and cheese, tacos, and chocolate chip cookie bars. After everyone had eaten and tried all of the foods, we asked them which of the foods were their favorites.  The overwhelming majority voted the tacos as their number one favorite, closely followed by the chocolate chip cookie bars!

Since this was also our last meeting, I said a short speech thanking them for coming to English Club, for being interested in learning English, and for helping make my two years here in Moldova so wonderful. They, in turn, thanked me for coming here and teaching and working with them both during lessons and at English Club. I somehow managed to keep back the tears- but was also very touched by their words. I will miss these kids so much when I leave, but I’m very glad for the time we’ve spent learning, working, and spending time together!

Photo credit: Amir Feinberg

Eu Iubesc Moldova! | I Love Moldova!

Earlier today I watched a short video an American who has traveled to every country in the world. The video included a picture and a short anecdote about each of the countries. It was an interesting peek into the various parts of the world. And then Moldova came up on the list…and I was so disappointed. There was a picture of a man ice fishing and the traveler simply said, “Very cold.” That’s it.

Why did this make me feel disappointed? I truly believe Moldova is a beautiful country, and although my time here has not been without its challenges, I’ve really loved the opportunity to live here for two years. If I could edit the video I watched this morning, I would say something like this: “It’s a beautiful country with sunflower fields stretching as far as the eye can see, and incredibly welcoming, wonderful people”. I would also recommend that this traveler return during the warmer months.

Winter is long and cold here, and while there are some snowy days with everything coated in a fresh layer of white snow that are really beautiful, Moldova presents its best self during the warmer months. In the past few weeks, Moldova has emerged fully from spring and begun to bloom. The grass is a vibrant green and daffodils and tulips are sprouting up in gardens throughout my village. The plentiful fruit trees are full of delicate white and pink blooms. Baby goats and lambs frolic in the fields. Garden plots have been plowed and planting has begun, showing the deep, nutrient soil. The birds are singing and the children can be heard outside laughing as they play.

Soon, summer will come, and those fields will be turned into various shades of green, tan, and yellow as the corn, wheat, and sunflowers grow. The days will be consistently hot, and the days will become a bit more lazy as people must take breaks at the hottest period of each day. Fresh juicy fruits and vegetables will fill the outdoor markets in every village, town, and city. The smell of barbecues will fill the air. Flowers of every kind will grow along fences and in front gardens.

I, for one, am very happy the warmer months have returned and with them, Moldova’s true beauty. So, if you’ve ever considered visiting Moldova, you might just be (pleasantly) surprised! Just maybe plan your trip for the spring or summer!

*See my posts about places to visit in Moldova here.