I woke up around 7:30 on Sunday morning. I slowly got ready, wrote in my journal, and then joined my host family for breakfast- which was similar to pancakes, but they were fried. We then joined my school director, and drove to a nearby monastery.
On our way to the monastery, we stopped to visit a piata- my first time actually going to a Moldovan piata. There were lots of fruits and veggies, as well as eggs, meat (it was hot sunny day- ew), homemade brinza (cheese), and even some animals for sale. It was pretty cool to see what a piata is like, but I was not too keen to see all of the meat laying out, completely un-refrigerated, and with flies flying around. My host family got some peaches and some apricots.
We then drove a bit further to the monastery. It was a Sunday and a service was taking place, so it was very crowded and busy. We checked out the gift shop, then observed part of the service from a doorway, as it was too crowded to go inside. The grounds were quite large, so we then walked around for awhile, admiring the nice gardens. Below the main church, there was a church that looked a bit like a log cabin. It was pretty cool! We were unable to go in, but even from the outside, it was cool to see. I think my host dad said that it was modeled after some Austrian churches.
On our way back from the monastery, we stopped on the road to take in the huge fields of sunflowers stretching out below us. The sunflowers are gorgeous, and were in full bloom. They are so beautiful! And the color is my favorite!
In the afternoon, I mostly just relaxed. We had a late lunch/early dinner, and my school director and her husband joined us. The food was quite good- chicken and fried potatoes, as well as cooked vegetables and some sarmale and stuffed peppers. We also had whiskey, house wine (which was vin negru, or “black wine”), and beer. When I first came to Moldova, I kept hearing about vin negru, and kind of just assumed it was red wine, until someone once said they made vin rosu (red wine), vin alb (white wine), and vin negru (black wine). This was my first time actually sampling it. It is pretty close to black in color, although it is actually a very, very dark red/purple. I’m not a big fan of red wine, and assumed this would probably be even worse, but it wasn’t too bad. It was fairly sweet and not too vinegar-tasting! Our guests stayed until fairly late. I went to bed pretty early, after my host mom came in my room to inform me that the bus would leave at 5 the following morning, back to Chisinau!
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, we visited our future sites this weekend. I met my school director in Chisinau a little before 8:00 on Saturday morning (which meant getting the 6:30 rutiera from Costesti). I was pretty proud of myself for making it to the Stefan cel Mare monument, our designated meeting place, all on my own. From there, we hopped on a trolley to the Gara de Centru, the bus station in the center of the city. We then boarded a rather crowded, hot bus, and started our trip to Festelita, about a 2-hour ride. We had to stop a couple of times to let a little girl who was carsick off the bus, but otherwise didn’t stop many times. We passed a lot of wide-open fields of wheat, corn, and sunflowers.
We arrived in outskirts of Ermoclia, a small town near Festelita, and got off the bus, where my future host dad, Nicolae, met us. He drove us the rest of the way to Festelita. We immediately went to the school, where the two English teachers were awaiting our arrival. I talked to both of them, and got to see a bit of the school. By American standards, the building is in rough shape, but it’s not too bad. There were new-ish computers in the office, as well as internet, but I’m not sure if there are any computers for students to use. The school has a small museum, a library (no English books), and a large “cantina”, or cafeteria, with a stage. The cantina was pretty big and the stage is BRIGHT yellow, which I thought was awesome! I only got to see one classroom, which is the classroom for special education students. Students with special needs often don’t even attend school, so this was a pleasant surprise! The classroom was neat and clean, had relatively new furniture, and had plenty of bright picture books and even a large rainbow painted on one of the walls. It was bright and cheerful!
After my brief tour of the school, I got to check out my future house. The house is located on a really quiet street (although that isn’t saying much, as every street in Festelita is very quiet) and is bright coral! There’s a nice grapevine-covered driveway/patio, as well as a smaller courtyard-like space with a table and sofa out back. There is a huge garden, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. Inside, the house is fairly simple, but pretty large. T
here is indoor plumbing, including a full bathroom, complete with toilet! There’s a pretty decent-sized kitchen, a large entrance hall (that could probably function as a room), 3 bedrooms, and a casa mare (special room reserved for special occasions). My room is quite large, and has two sofas that fold down into beds, a large wardrobe, and a large table with chairs.
I talked for a bit with my host parents, ate a late breakfast, then went to my room to put my bag away and fell promptly asleep for two hours- whoops! I was very tired from our busy week! After I woke back up, I was introduce to my host brother, Denis, who is 16 but lives in Chisinau. He was just home for the weekend. We had lunch, and then I read for awhile. Around 5, Denis asked if I’d like to walk through the town or perhaps check out the forest or fields. It was a very hot, humid day, but I was excited for the chance to see what there is!
The town is very small, very quiet, very peaceful, and very quaint. There are two schools- one is a gradinita (kindergarten, which is actually ages 2 or 3 to 6 here), and the other is a gimnasium (in this case, a primary school combined with a middle school- it houses grades 1-9). My town does not have a high school. The entire Stefan Voda Raion (kind of like a county within a state) only has 3 lyceums (high schools). There is one nicer, larger magazin (grocery store), and 2 or 3 alimentaras (smaller corner stores). In addition, the town has a primaria (town hall) and a casa de cultura (literally, house of culture). The Casa de Cultura also houses a traditional music and dance school, the only of its kind in Stefan Voda Raion.
We walked through town, then veered off the road onto a path to head towards the forest/fields. I chose to check out the fields, and we walked for at least half an hour. There were fields of wheat, corn, sunflowers, and grapes. No one owns the land, so you’re free to walk where you choose. There were cows grazing. There are no fences, and instead the cows are kept in one area by a herder. It was a beautiful walk- truly breathtaking. We cut across the fields to return to town. We walked right past some cows.
Saturday evening, I went to the Casa de Cultura along with my host mom, school director, and both English teachers (and their young kids). Here, we surprised the students of the music/dance school, who are in grades 6 and 7. These will be my students in the fall, and it was the first time they found out that a volunteer would be in their school. They were very excited! A few of the students asked me some questions in English. Their English is pretty good. Then we went into the auditorium part of the Casa de Cultura, which is very new and very nice. There were lots of new, plumb, auditorium-style seats as well as a large stage.
The students did a really good job! I was very impressed! Many of the songs included very fast footwork. Three of the boys also played the music for the dances. It was really cool! After, the music instructor, who also works at the school, showed us around the school- there is a nice barre dance studio, as well as several music rooms.
I returned home for dinner at 10:30, then promptly headed to bed!