Ziua Profesorului (Teacher’s Day) 2017

An 8th grade student presents her class’s wishes for the teachers.
A 6th grade students shares wishes for the teachers.
Some 8th graders present a poem for the teachers.

October 5 is International Teacher’s Day, and here in Moldova it’s a very big holiday (read about last year’s celebration here).  At our school, we started the day off with a short assembly outside in the school’s courtyard.  One student from each class presented their wishes for the teachers and thanked them for the work they do.

Some teachers at the school.
Some teachers at the school (I’m in the front in the center).

On Thursdays, my partner Liuba and I teach our younger students in 2nd through 3rd grade.  One of the Moldovan traditions for Teacher’s Day is for older students to teach some of the lessons throughout the day instead of the teachers.

A 9th grade student teachers one of our 3rd grade classes.
An 8th grade student teaches the other 3rd grade class.

For our two 3rd grade classes, two girls, one in 8th grade and one in 9th grade, taught our lessons.  We sat in the back and helped a little as needed.  The 3rd graders were very excited to have older students teach the class and the two “teachers” did a good job.

8th grade students perform in a concert for the teachers.
Students perform a humorous skit.

During our classes, some of the students gave us flowers and other prepared small speeches to thank us.  According to one of my 4th grade boys, I am very pretty and they like to have lessons with me very much because I never yell at them.

8th grade girls sing for the teacgers.
All of the teachers, with the 8th grade students.

After lessons, some of the teachers went to our raion center for a big concert and ceremony, but I didn’t join them.  On Friday, the 8th graders prepared a concert for us, with poems, songs, and even a skit.  Then, that evening, all of the teachers went to a larger nearby town to have a really nice party at a restaurant.  We ate, drank, and danced for several hours.  It was a really nice celebration and everyone seemed to have a very nice time.

Language Day

Some of my students make cotton candy

Each year, Moldova celebrates two major holidays during the last week of August.  Independence Day is celebrated on August 27th, and Language Day, a celebration of the Romanian language, is celebrated on August 31st.  Last year, I attended Independence Day celebrations in Chisinau, but this year I celebrated the two holidays in my village, along with my sister who was visiting from the USA.

This year, my village did a large, combined celebration for both holidays held on the 28th.  There was a ceremony to dedicate a new plaque on the side of our casa de cultura (literally, cultural house, but more like a community center), a large masă (celebration with food and wine), various singing and dancing performances, and competitions.  The students from the music and dance school in our village performed a routine I hadn’t seen before.

One of the baking competition winners receiving her diploma

For the first time, our village had a competition of the best cow in the village as well as the best homemade brînză (sheep, goat, or cow cheese made at home), smântână (sour cream), unt (butter), frişcă (cream), various cakes and other pastries, and pâine (bread).

Pole Climbing Competition Winner

After the singing and dancing had concluded, the boys and men in the village participated in sports competitions.  Younger boys competed to climb to the top of a tall metal pole (that we estimated to be about 50 feet tall, at least) the fastest, men and older boys competed in a volleyball game, and boys of all ages competed in a wrestling match.  The winner of the pole climbing competition, Vadim, won a live rooster, while the winner of the wrestling match won a live sheep.

Amir (my new site mate), me, my students, and my school director. (Photo Credit: Heather Ogden)

It was a lot of fun and a cool celebration of Moldovan traditions and customs.  I was really glad my sister was able to go with me and get a taste of a Moldovan holiday and celebration.

Thanks to my sister, Heather, for a few of the photos featured here!

Ziua Copiilor (Children’s Day)

2nd grade students get ready to start off the day.

Here in Moldova, June 1st is both the first day of summer vacation from school and Children’s Day, which is celebrated as a main holiday.  Some towns have begun to celebrate Children’s Day on the last day of school once school has been released, but my village still celebrates it on June 1st.

2nd grade students hand out butterfly pins to the teachers
Some of the teachers and students from my school
Doamna Maria and Doamna Galina receive butterfly pins
Doamna Maria and Doamna Feodora (my school director) show off their butterfly pins.
2nd grade students perform a song and dance

It’s a day of games, singing, dancing, and free ice cream for kids!  In my village, we celebrated at our park, which is fairly new (when I visited for my site visit last July, the “park” was just a wide open space, but now we have a large playground, swings, and even a small pavilion).

4th grade students singing
Younger students from our village’s music and dance school perform
Traditional Moldovan dancing
Older students from the music and dance school perform

The day started by a performance by 2nd grade students and continued with various singing and dance performances, including some by our traditional music and dance school.

9th grade graduates perform a beautiful dance
9th grade graduates with Doamna Maria and Doamna Valentina, one of their homeroom teachers.

The last performance was by a group of graduating 9th grade students, who performed the same dance they did on the last day of school.

Me with two of my 9th grade students
Me with two of my 8th grade students

After the scheduled performances, there was an open mic competition for poetry and singing, as well as a chalk drawing competition.  These were judged by teachers from our school and there were several winners in each category, all of whom received some small prizes (balls, notebooks, drawing pads, and pens).

It was a beautiful day and most of the activities were set up in the shade.  I really enjoyed the day and it was nice to see everyone enjoying the celebrations.

Hristos a inviat!

Pasca, traditional Moldovan Easter bread

Yesterday was Easter, both according to the Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christian calendars.  This is actually a pretty rare occasion, as usually the two Easters do not fall on the same Sunday.  Here in Moldova, Easter is by far the number one most important and biggest holiday of the year.

Most Moldovans (though certainly not all) participate in post, or a fast, for the entirety of the 40 days of lent.  This means that for the 40 days leading up to Easter, they do not eat meat, fish, butter, milk, and other dairy products.  They also do not drink wine or other alcohol.  They also do not consume oil for a number of days throughout this time (though not the entire 40 days).  The most devout Orthodox Christians do a full fast (no food) for the final 3 days before Easter.  They are allowed to eat wafers and drink Holy water during these 3 days, but nothing else.

Pasca: a sweet yummy bread

The week before Easter is also full of a number of various services, including several that last six to twelve hours long (during which you stand or kneel on a hard surface for the entire time- there are no pews or chairs in churches in Moldova, except for the elderly or sick).  I went with my host parents to a service on Friday night.  We arrived around 5PM and my host dad and I stayed until nearly 11PM (my host mom stayed for the entirety of the service, which didn’t end until about 4:30AM).  Towards the end of when I was there, everyone gathered with candles and followed a procession made of a number of men holding a cross, some banners, and the lid of a coffin around the outside of the church.  I believe this service was both to honor the saints and to mark Good Friday, the death of Jesus.

My host sister, bathed in candle light

Saturday was full of preparations for the following day: my host mom made and decorated pasca, special Easter bread, as well as all of the food for Easter morning.  We also made sure the house and outdoor spaces were perfectly in order.  On Saturday night, my host mom and sister left to go to the church for the all-night service around 8PM.  My host dad and I went to bed, hoping to get some sleep before we got up at 3AM to head to the church as well.  We arrived at the church around 4 in the morning.  The church was packed full of people, and there were several hundred gathered outside and on the nearby roads.  My host dad and I waited outside for a bit before my host sister and host mom found us, and then I was ushered inside the church because my host mom was worried it was cold outside.

Awaiting the priest to bless our food and selves

Inside the church, everything was lit only by candles.  There were songs and scripture readings, and then everyone went in a line so that the priest could put a cross of scented oil on each person’s forehead.  After this part was finished, everyone headed outside and lined the roads near the church.  Each family stood together and had brought a basket full of food and treats to be blessed by the priest.  I couldn’t see everyone, but my host mom told me there were probably about 2,000 plus people there.  As we stood outside, it was still dark and it was also drizzling slightly, so the candles didn’t stay lit very well.  The priest passed by each person twice, first with incense, and then with water.  He dipped a bunch of basil in holy water and then sprayed in over the food gathered in baskets and the people.  It was actually a lot of water- my whole face and front was soaked.

The priest’s procession with Holy water as dawn arrives

After, everyone walked home and broke their fast with a large and heavy meal, complete with wine.  All before 7 in the morning!  Once everyone’s bellies are full, everyone heads to bed and sleeps for the next several hours, then they have another large meal and more wine.  This was repeated once again, after another nap, at night.

Happy Women’s Day!

If I were asked to name of all of the people here in Moldova who have so helped my experience here a positive one, the list would be long.  One person in particular stands out, though: my host mom.  In August, she (and her husband) welcomed me into their home with open arms.  It take long for her to become my best friend here.  I live in a small village with very few people (especially single ones) my age.  I have been so incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful host mom; she is truly my second mom.

Almost every single night, we sit together and eat dinner and talk, often for hours.  She does my laundry by hand, helps me clean my room, and makes most of my meals.  She buys and makes foods just for me because she knows I like them.  She comes home from each trip to the store with a bag of Albinite, my favorite candy here.  This morning, she gave me a bouquet of flowers to celebrate women’s day and I was touched that she had remembered I had said I love yellow flowers.  When I’m upset or frustrated, she listens to me complain.  She helps me improve my Romanian each and every day.  We’ve talked about everything under the sun, even topics that are often taboo here.  We’ve laughed until we’ve cried.  

Thank you, Tanta Eugenia, for making my time here in Moldova such a beautiful experience.