From Curchi Monastery, we continued on to Orhei Vechi, stopping briefly at a small monastery that was out of the way for a peek. Then we continued on until we reached a vantage point. Orhei Vechi is located in a large bowl-like valley, with cliffs on two sides and the river weaving along the edges. We could see the Orhei Vechi Monastery on the other side of the bowl.
From here, we took a short detour to view the remains of a fortress, as well as some Turkish baths left from one of the various points in history Moldova was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Caves in Orhei Vechi:
We also hiked up to some caves, which though natural and impressive, have been covered in graffiti and litter.
Orhei Vechi Monastery:
Then we finally arrived at our main destination: Orhei Vechi Monastery. We looked around the small museum, then walked with a guide up to the cave monastery, located under the bell tower. Inside, there is a small chapel and a room with a low ceiling carved into the cave. This is where the monks lived and spent most of their time, laying and sitting on the hard stone floor. The monastery dates back to the 1400s and also includes a church.
Our last stop on the tour of Orhei Vechi was a “peasant” house. This is a preserved old home that shows how Moldovans used to live. There was the main house, which consisted of a living room to the left (with space above the soba, or stove for about 8 children to sleep), a central hall, and a casa mare to the right. The casa mare would have only been used for guests or when there were special events and occasions. In another building, there was a separate room that would have been used in the cooler months for the entire family. Two small beds would have been for the parents, and a sleeping loft of sorts above the soba would have slept about 10 children. There was also a beci (pronounced “betch”, underground root and wine cellar) next to this.
This wrapped up our guided tour, and we headed back to Chisnau for the night.
On Sunday morning, we headed towards Orhei Vechi, which is probably the most popular tourist destination in Moldova. We had hired a guide, and both of us were really happy to ride in a comfortable, air-conditioned car instead of a rutiera! On our way, we stopped at Curchi Monastery. The monastery was built in the 1700s, though the current churches were built in the late 1800s. When we arrived in the parking lot, we got out and got our first glimpse of the church, which is situated above a pond.
We walked around the grounds, and even caught part of a church service. Pictures aren’t allowed inside the churches, but they had been beautifully restored. In comparison to other churches and monasteries I’ve visited here in Moldova, these were decorated in richer colors. The entire inside was covered with large murals. The monastery had been used during Soviet times to store grain, and renovations were completed in 2006.
This weekend is yet another long weekend, thanks to the Moldovan holiday, Victory Day, tomorrow (Tuesday). Another volunteer and I decided to take advantage of the long weekend to do some travel this weekend and then rest up on Monday and Tuesday back at site. It was a jam-packed and really fun little break from school and daily life.
We started off with a trip into Chisinau from our sites (me in the south-east and my friend in the north-west). The rutiera (mini-bus) I intended to take at 6:00 in the morning never showed up, so I ended up waiting until about 8:00 to make my two-hour trip. While frustrating, it allowed me to get a bit of school-related work done before I headed out. I hitched a ride to the nearest nearby “town” (here in Moldova, that means a town that has multiple transportation options and stores and such) with the help of my host dad, who flagged down my ride. From there, I took the nicest rutiera I’ve ever seen to the capital. There were leather cushy seats, a television, and even seat belts! I spent some time catching up with a group of other volunteers at Peace Corps and sat outside for a bit enjoying the gorgeous, warm weather.
Victory Memorial and Eternal Flame:
After my friend arrived, we checked into our apartment, which was in a perfect location near the center, then started our walk across town to the Victory Memorial and Eternal Flame. This small park, monument, and cemetery was built during soviet times to commemorate the victory over the Nazis in World War II. It is pretty Soviet in style and also very beautiful. The park wasn’t crowded, and it was peaceful to walk around. Because Victory Day is tomorrow, a crew of Moldovan soldiers were working to get the park and cemetery nice and neat. In the center of the large monument, there is the eternal flame. Flowers had been laid near the flame in memorial of soldiers who had died.
Himalayan Restaurant Opening:
After our jaunt in the park, we headed to celebrate the opening of a new Himalayan restaurant. One of my fellow volunteers and good friends is Nepali, and she and her husband had invited us to celebrate the opening. Many other Peace Corps volunteers came as well, and we enjoyed the company and delicious food!
Cathedral Park, Chisinau:
After our trip to Curchi Monastery and Orhei Vechi, we returned to Chisinau and ate a nice meal before walking briefly around Cathedral Park. It was threatening to rain, making the sky look moody. Despite this, evidence of spring and the coming summer were all around. I was happy to see a garden of irises in from of the cathedral.
As I mentioned in my last post, we got the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History in Chisinau yesterday. The museum was quite large, and had some great exhibitions, but it also has little funding. It is housed in a beautiful, old building. The architecture was quite stunning but building is also in need of repair and such.
The museum had a pretty impressive collection related to natural history, which eventually led to the ethnography exhibits. Essentially, as you wove your way through the museum, you first went through the natural history exhibits, and those led naturally to the ethnography exhibits. There was a room of animals that once lived in Moldova but are now extinct, as well as an exhibit on the various types of soil that are found in Moldova.
There were also exhibits showing how people have lived in Moldova from the Middle Ages forward, with traditional textiles, early ceramics, building techniques, furniture that was found in homes at different points in history, an exhibit on early musicians, and much more! There was a large exhibit showing a traditional Moldovan wedding, as well as how Soviet rule affected many of the traditional aspects of Moldovan life.
Something that I found particularly interesting were the amazing murals that accompanied almost every exhibit. Although some were realistic, many were quite symbolic.
There was even one room that was just a huge mural on all four walls! The mural showed the progression of the earth’s history from the big bang to humans destroying the nature. It reminded me a lot of some of the landscape paintings I learned about in my American Art class this past winter.
I really enjoyed my first museum visit in Moldova. It was really interesting to see the natural history of the country as well as the human history of the country!
This week has been a very busy, full week. I’ve had language and technical classes almost every day, I’ve helped my host family prepare for my host cousin’s wedding, I went to Chisinau for a hub site day, I attended my first Moldovan wedding, and I visited a few Moldovan monasteries!
It was overall a very good week, but it was also a very exhausting week! This week in language classes we learned a bunch of new verbs and how to conjugate them, as well as the words for a large number of fruits, vegetables, and other foods and drinks. My language instructor, Galina, used a total body response method to teach us the fruits and veggies. For this, we used motions and didn’t speak at all for at least the first 30 minutes of class. First, Galina put up pictures of each of the fruits and vegetables on the board, repeating each word several times as she did so. We then each had to go up to the board to select certain ones. Then she would say different words and we had to show her and the other students the pictures. We continue to practice in similar ways before we were shown the written words and worked on pronunciation. This technique was very effective. We learned over 20 fruits and vegetables, and I can still remember them with little additional practice. We used a shorter version of the technique to learn an additional 25 food words the following day. We also learned how to ask how much something costs and request a certain amount of [whatever] at the market as well as how to say “I like…” and “I don’t like…”.
We also had technical trainings on:
The English curriculum in Moldova
English textbooks and Long Term Plans (essentially the scope and sequence of what we will be teaching, which each teacher has to submit at the beginning of each school year- which lessons from the textbook will be taught each day of the school year)
4MAT Lesson Plans: this is the format we will use for lesson plans. It is very similar to the lesson plan format Elmira College used, which will be helpful, although each section has a name that is different from what I am used to.
How to teach vocabulary
How to incorporate reading into lesson plans
Critical Thinking: as Peace Corps volunteers, we are expected to really push our students (and partner teachers) to think critically. Critical thinking isn’t really a thing here, because during Soviet times the population wasn’t supposed to question anything.
Beginning Writing: even if we are teaching upper-level classes, most students are beginning writers of English. This session was excellent and was led by two current volunteers, one of whom was a high school English teacher for 15 years prior to the Peace Corps, and the other is a writer.
Dialogues: How to use dialogues in your classroom and teaching.
Outside of class, I spent much of my week helping my host family with wedding prep. I will post separately about the wedding, as I have a lot to share! The wedding was on Friday, so I spent Thursday helping clean and blowing up balloons with my host brother for decorations.
I left the house at 10 AM on Friday morning for the wedding, and didn’t return back to the house until 5 AM on Saturday morning after the wedding had ended! I had language class on Saturday morning at 8:30, so I caught less than 2 hours of sleep before heading to class.
The Peace Corps staff then took us to visit several Moldovan monasteries (which will also be a separate post!). Although I was exhausted, I’m really glad I went- the monasteries were beautiful and so peaceful. After visiting the monasteries, they had arranged for us to go into the forest where we had a Moldovan BBQ. The food was FANTASTIC and it was nice to be outside in nature. When I got back, I ate dinner, then took a 4 hour nap. I woke up and did some homework and skyped with my grandparents briefly before eventually going back to bed. A busy, full, and culture-filled week!