Home for Christmas

When I left the United States one and a half years ago to start my Peace Corps journey in Moldova, I didn’t really plan to come home again until my two-plus year commitment was up.  This past summer I was talking to my grandparents and they encouraged me to come home for Christmas, and since it’s always good to listen to your grandparents, I took their advice and booked a flight home.

Being home for Christmas and just hanging out with my family and friends has been absolutely wonderful!  I love Moldova and my life there, but there really is no place like home.  The first couple days home were packed with things to do and people to see, so we spent a quiet Christmas at home, just hanging out and relaxing.  We ate comfort foods, watched a Hallmark movie, and played some cards.  In the evening, my mom’s parents came over and we celebrated my birthday with some yummy cake.

Yesterday morning, I went plowing with my dad.  We were super lucky to get a nice snowfall and have a white Christmas and we got a bit more snow the night after Christmas.  After he finished plowing, we went up to my family’s Christmas tree farm and took a nice walk through the farm.  It was a cold but calm day and everything was covered with a fresh coat of snow.  It was gorgeous!

Later in the afternoon, we celebrated “Thanksgiving” since none of us kids were home this year.  My dad’s family came over and we had a full turkey dinner.  It was delicious!  After, we opened some presents and had dessert.  My aunt gave me a beautiful ring that had been my grandma’s as well as a pair of earrings that had belonged to my great-grandmother, both of which were very special and meaningful gifts.

Photo a Day: Days 92-98

When I started this photo a day project, my goal was to take a photo a day for 100 days.  I’ve really enjoyed it (though I’ll admit there have been a few days I’ve forgotten), so I’m going to continue it.  My new goal is to take a photo a day until I finish my Peace Corps journey sometime this coming summer.

Here’s week 14!

Day 92: This time of year has the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Here is a gorgeous sunset.
Day 93: Our first real snowfall. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick for very long but it was beautiful while it lasted.
Day 94: A pastel sky at sunrise.
Day 95: A bright sunrise.
Day 9: We finished our U.S. state project this week in English Club. Here, one group poses with their poster.
Day 97: A group 8th grade students completed this poster on the state of Florida.
Day 98: I spent the evening going through journals and deciding what to take home with me when I visit the U.S. next week.

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!

Life Lately in Moldova

Somehow it’s already nearly halfway through November and the end of the first semester of school is quickly approaching!  Although some days feel like they drag on forever, time in general seems to be flying by.  In just 20 days, I will have been in Moldova for a full year and a half, which means I’m nearly three quarters through my service and time here.  Although there have been moments when I’ve questioned being here (I think that’s a part of most volunteers’ service), I really can’t believe I’ve already been here so long and that my time here will be winding down in a fairly short amount of time.

The last two and a half months have been busy at school, as fall always tends to be for students and teachers.  Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to since summer ended.

1. Celebrated a handful of Moldovan holidays and celebrations in my community.  We celebrated First Bell (the first day of school) on September 1st, International Day of Peace on September 21st, Teacher’s Day on October 5th, and the opening of our new School Library on October 11th.

2. Spent time helping my host family pick grapes and observed the wine making process.  I didn’t help as much as I would have liked, but it was fun to help out and learn the basics of how to make wine.

3. Got my English Club up and running again at school.  We’ve met three times now, and I’ve loved working with my students in a more relaxed environment.  So far, we’ve done a review day (greetings, important verbs, and speaking and asking about one’s self), talked about Halloween (complete with a powerpoint presentation with Halloween photos from our childhood- my site mate, Amir, has been helping me run the meetings this year), and learned about numbers (students struggle with larger, more complicated numbers).  The “whiteboards” and markers my parents brought me this summer have been a huge hit!

4. Started cooking and baking a bit more.  While my host mom still makes most of my meals, I’ve started cooking more, especially on the weekends.  I’ve also made banana bread and brownies.

5. Attended a conference in Chisinau.  The conference was for the Access micro-scholarship program for English teachers.  A few Peace Corps volunteers were invited as guests and there were some really great presentations on inquiry-based learning and using technology and games in teaching and learning.

6. Welcomed two guests from Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington D.C. to my village.  My site mate, Amir, and I welcomed two guests from D.C. as well as our country director to our village when they came to Moldova for a week or so.  We were their first volunteer visit, and we welcomed them to our school along with our partner teachers, school administration, and some students.  We then accompanied them to our raion center to meet with a larger group of volunteers.  It was a fun day getting to see everyone, and the restaurant we met up at surprised us with a beautiful Peace Corps cake!

7. Started a bullet journal.  I heard about bullet journals from some fellow volunteers and I finally started one.  It’s definitely become one of my new hobbies and has helped me fill my free time in a productive way.

I’m looking forward to the next several months in Moldova and can’t believe how fast my time here is going!


Summer is Coming to an End

Outside the town library one day after English Club

We’re approaching the end of summer here in Moldova.  Next week, along with all of my fellow M31 volunteers, I have my mid-service conference (we’re past the mid-way point of our service!).  Next Friday, my sister is arriving for a week-long visit in Moldova, and the following Friday is our first day of school!

The weather has continued to be sweltering hot, but today is significantly cooler!  It looks like the rest of the week will be close to or below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is welcome after several weeks of 95 degree plus weather (including one day that reached 104 degrees!).  Today is a rainy, cool day and it feels a bit like fall.  I even wore a jacket on my way to my school this morning!

Yesterday was a beautiful clear day and I enjoyed a nice breakfast outside.

As school approaches, our grant project at the school is in full swing.  The walls and ceiling are in the process of being refinished and painted (they are plaster) and the floors are getting painted this week as well.  Then the furniture will go in, hopefully this week or next, and we can get our new technology installed and new and old books on the shelves!  I’m very excited to see it all come together!  I was a little worried it wouldn’t be completed before September 1st, but it looks like it might make it!

Behind those piles of dirt are 4-foot deep trenches for piping!

At the same time as the school library renovations are happening, there is also a bunch of other construction going on at my school.  My school was awarded a large grant (I wasn’t involved in this one) to get indoor toilets.  This is quite the project, as huge trenches have to be dug outside to put in pipes for water and waste, and a sewage system has to be installed, plus the actual bathrooms have to be built and outfitted.  Currently, it’s a maze to get into the school building due to all the trenches out front and to the sides.  The school has been working towards this project for a long time though, so I’m excited it’s happening!

I have two more weeks left of summer vacation, but I know they will fly by.  Between grant purchases and installation, summer English clubs, our mid-service conference, and my sister’s visit, I’ll be plenty busy!