Random Reflections

Coming from upstate New York, I was a little surprised how early spring came here.  Now, spring is in full bloom, with grass starting to sprout up, blossoms on the trees and flowers, warm, sunny days, and gardens and fields being planted.

Last week was particularly warm and beautiful, but a bit windy.  From what I’ve observed and heard, fall is more the rainy season here than spring, but it is raining lightly today.  I’ve enjoyed lazy afternoons sitting on our front steps and absorbing the sunlight.  On Friday, I spent a couple of hours planting potatoes with my host mom.

Yesterday, I had a short training in Chisinau for the volunteers who have been selected to be the mentors for the incoming group of volunteers.  During this meeting, we revisited the “Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment”, which is a chart that all volunteers become familiar with over the course of their service.  Basically, as one of our staff members said, “You are very predictable”.  This chart shows the ups and downs of Peace Corps Service and has been found by most volunteers to be very accurate.  The first 0-2 months in country are the “honeymoon” period.  From 1-3 months, we experience mixed culture site and the roller-coaster goes up and down a lot.  Months 3-6 (our first 3 months at our permanent sites) are often times where we are more vulnerable and struggle to adjust.  From 6-12 months (which we are hitting the end of now), most volunteers have adjusted pretty well and experience more of a high.  However, 12-14 months is often a hard time for volunteers, as they often have a “mid-service crisis”.  This is followed by another high for 8 months or so, then the final couple of months are often hard, as volunteers prepare to say goodbye, figure out what’s next, and worry about the future.  An interesting take-away was that just as the new group of volunteers arrive and are in their “honeymoon period”, we will be hitting our “mid-service crisis”.

Peace Corps service is a lot like a roller-coaster, with high highs and low lows.  It can be hard, but it is also so rewarding.  The past couple of weeks have been a mix of both- stressful and hard but also beautiful and good.  I’ve dealt with some of the struggles of being a teacher (whether here in Moldova or back in the United States, those struggles are often the same) but also celebrated some major successes.

I’ve also discovered how much I like teaching middle/high-school aged students, which has continuously been a surprise for me.  Unlike many education volunteers, I studied education in college.  I’d always thought I preferred working with younger, elementary-aged students.  But I’m finding I really enjoy working with my 5-9th grade students here (age equivalent to 6th to 10th grade students in the US).  There are certainly unique challenges to working with pre-teens and teens, but I’m also really liking it.  I started an after-school English Club about a month ago with a number of my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students and so far it’s been going really well.  I have three different mixed-grade groups (I had so many students sign up it wasn’t possible to do in 1 or even 2 groups), and each group meets once a week for 45 minutes (occasionally up to an hour) after school.  I’ve loved the freedom to create my own curriculum and incorporate more conversational English and group and partner based activities, and I’ve also liked that I have an opportunity to get to know my students better.

I think that’s all for my random reflections today! For those of you in upstate New York, I’m hoping this warm weather will head your way soon!

Random Tidbits

Hello everyone!  I hope the weather is nice in your corner of the world and that you’ve had a good weekend!  Here are some random tidbits from my life:

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Hard at work (see #7 below)

1) I went to Rochester, NY for the weekend to visit one of my best friends from high school.  It was a fun weekend- we went to the St. Patty’s Day Parade, hung out, and I got to meet a bunch of her college friends.  She lives really close to downtown and I was impressed with the city.  It was actually a bit nicer than I expected.

2) I got my first sunburn of the year while watching the parade!  I was smart enough to put sunscreen on my face, but I didn’t think to put it on my neck/chest.  Luckily, I was wearing a long-sleeved crew-neck shirt and pants, so only a little bit of skin was showing!  I’m very pale-skinned and I burn very easily.  I try my best to make sure I cover up or wear sunscreen, but it still happens several times a year.  A summer never goes by without getting burnt at least a couple of times, despite my best efforts.

3) The weather has been really nice this past week!  Incredibly warm and sunny for upstate New York in March!  It’s been great to be able to open the windows and air out my college apartment, as well as soak up the sun while walking to and from my classes.  About halfway through last week, though, I realized I’m very short on short-sleeved more casual t-shirts.  I went shopping briefly on Wednesday, but didn’t end up getting any shirts- will need to go back soon!  I have a couple gift cards, so I guess those will be put to good use.

4) Speaking of clothes shopping, I’ve been working on figuring out what to bring to Moldova with me and what I still need to purchase clothes-wise.  It’s a little tricky, because we only get 2 suitcases and have to pack for four distinct seasons.  I got a really nice winter coat for Christmas, and I’ve ordered LLBean Bean boots (they should work as both winter boots and rain boots), but I’m still looking for a pair of black dressier (ish) boots that have good rubber soles and a good tread.  I found a pair I loved, but they didn’t come in wide-calf and the regular-calf ones didn’t fit.  Depending on where my permanent placement is, it might only be acceptable to wear dresses and skirts (and no pants), so I’ve also been trying to build up my dress and skirt wardrobe.  I don’t really mind wearing dresses and skirts (although it is a bit harder to keep warm, so I’m still working on figuring out that piece), but don’t have many.  I bought two dresses and a skirt at Old Navy last week, and also ordered a skirt and a couple of dresses from ThredUp (but ended up returning the dresses- they didn’t fit.  I love the skirt though!).  We’re getting there!

5) We were out of eggs all week last week, but we finally got some, so I made some banana bread this afternoon- we had a few very over-ripe bananas that worked perfectly for bread!  I already had two slice- yum!

6) The end of my undergraduate college experience is getting closer and closer each day!  This semester has been flying by very quickly, and the end is fast approaching.  It’s definitely bittersweet.  I’m really excited to start my new adventure and a new chapter of my life, but there are many things I will definitely miss about college.  It’s been a (mostly) good four years, and I’ll be sad to leave.

7) I’ve been putting off the dreaded edTPA (a portfolio-based assessment to become certified for teaching in New York State) since the fall.  I made a little progress over Christmas break and my February break, but really need to tackle it and get it done in the next couple of weeks.  I spent about 5 hours this afternoon/evening getting some of the lesson plans done, which apparently requires spreading papers across half of the living room floor (see photo above)- oops!  Guess I should clean that up before I head to bed!

A New Haircut and Other Random Things

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I got my hair cut today.  I’ve gone to the same person to get my hair cut for my entire life (since I was three!).  Last year, I was at college and really needed a trim.  It had probably been at least 5 months since my last trim, and my ends were getting really bad.  My college friends tried to convince me to go to somewhere near campus, but I refused.  I just don’t trust anyone else to cut my hair the way I like it.  If she ever retires or I ever move away, I’m not sure what I’ll do.  I mean, I’ve gone to a multitude of different doctors and even different dentists, but I have trust issues when it comes to my hair.  It might be due to the fact that the one time I went somewhere else, I came away with my hair two different lengths in the back. Or maybe I’m just crazy.

Summer is coming to a close for me.  On Sunday, I’ll be returning to college.  I’m not really sure how I feel about heading back.  I’m not sure I’m ready for my last summer to be over, but I’m also excited to see my college friends and start a new year.  I think some of my resistance to returning is because it is my senior year, which is kind of bittersweet.  Just when you finally feel fully established at college, it’s time to move on.  I suppose life is like that in general.  Change is good, but also a little scary.  There is so much unknown about the future at this point.  Who knows where I’ll be this time next year.  For all I know, I might be in a different country.  It’s just a weird feeling.

This summer was also a little weird.  It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t absolutely fantastic either.  I think I had high expectations and the summer didn’t quite measure up to them, but at the same time, I don’t feel as if it was a bad summer either.  I ended my summer job yesterday.  I was excited to be done and have a few days off before heading back to college, but I have to admit I might have shed a little tear as I pulled out and drove away.  I really liked the people I worked with and know that there’s a chance I might not see many of them again.  They were really sweet and gave me a little going-away present: some pretty (and great smelling!) soaps, a yummy cookie, a store t-shirt, and a Gingersnap-scented candle.  It was a good experience overall, and I think I learned a lot from it.

I worked a lot this summer.  I really needed the money and the experience is great to have had, but I also feel that I didn’t really get a “summer”.  I didn’t get to go on vacation with my family.  I didn’t get to visit new places or just spend time relaxing in the sun.  I just worked.  A lot.  This summer, more than ever, I missed the carefree summer days we had when we were kids.  When we could play outside for hours, or read an entire book in a day, or spend the entire day at our grandparents’ house.  When I think of summer, those are the summers that I remember.  The summers when our bathwater was really dirty as it drained, washing away the evidence of the hours spent running around barefoot or wading in the river.  The summers when I would forget to eat meals because I was so entranced by a book.  The summers when we would play nightgames around our neighborhood for hours, staying up way past our bedtimes.  Those were the best of days.