Christmas Vacation Re-cap and Back to School!

A group of students perform a skit at the "carnival"
A group of students perform a skit at the “carnival”
A choral group performed a beautiful song at the "carnival"
A choral group performed a beautiful song at the “carnival”

We headed back to school today after a two-week vacation.  It’s always hard to go back after some time off, but I’m thankful that I had a very relaxing, quiet vacation.  Other than two short trips (one overnight and one day trip) to Chisinau, I just hung out at home and with my host family.  We celebrated my birthday, New Year’s, and Orthodox Christmas (this past weekend).  I enjoyed holiday celebrations at school and in the community, including the town’s “carnival” which was a lot like a variety show in the United States: skits, singing, dancing, and even some activities and competitions.  I went with my host niece Valerica and she performed “Jingle Bells”.  After the scheduled performances there was a singing and modern dance competition.  As they announced the judges they said, “Domnisoara Elena, Doamna Galina, si Domnisoara Elisabeth!”  I didn’t know I was going to get to be a judge, but one of the things you learn in the Peace Corps is to just go with the flow!  Thankfully, I had thought ahead enough to dress nicely, so when I went up on stage to help announce the winners I didn’t feel under-dressed.

Our first "real" snowfall
Our first “real” snowfall
My host nieces, Valerica and Eva
My host nieces, Valerica and Eva
A group of students came to carol
A group of students came to carol

This past weekend, my host brother and his family and host sister and her husband joined us to celebrate Orthodox Christmas.  The temperatures and weather were pretty brutal (cold, very strong winds, and heavy snow), so it was a pretty relaxed celebration.  They left Saturday afternoon, leaving the house very quiet.  I was very, very thankful that the inside bathroom was completed earlier this week and I didn’t have to brave the -10 and below (plus windchill) temperatures outside!  I actually didn’t even step outside the house for four days because it was so cold out!

Our road near our house
Our road near our house
This pretty dog was on our road
This pretty dog was on our road
All bundled up for our walk
All bundled up for our walk
My first visit to Ermoclia, the next town over.
My first visit to Ermoclia, the next town over.
My host mom's friends have four huge cats, but they didn't want their picture taken!
My host mom’s friends have four huge cats, but they didn’t want their picture taken!

Yesterday, on my last day off, my host mom asked if I’d like to go to the next town over with her to visit a friend.  I figured it would be good to get out of the house and I was very bored, so I agreed.  We actually walked there (about a 1-hour walk, I think).  It was a bit warmer (though definitely still cold) and the snow was deep- my favorite weather to be outside in (and I am NOT being sarcastic! I love winter!).  It was quiet and calm and beautiful, although a little hard.  The road was more-or-less cleared, but there were parts that hadn’t been cleared where the snow was at least a foot deep (my legs are sore today!).  We visited with my host mom’s friends and had a light meal with them, then headed out as it started to get darker out.  Thankfully, we only had to walk half the way back and were able to catch a ride into the rest of the way (I wouldn’t have minded walking, but it was pretty dark at that point).  It was probably one of the best parts of my vacation!

Today, classes were back in session, but our raion (kind of like a county, but within a country) determined it was too cold out, so only grades 5 and up had to come to school.  Most of our Monday classes are with the younger grades, so we just had two simple classes and then got to go home.  In my second class (one of my 7th grade classes), four of the girls sang a carol for us and we also had a discussion about learning languages (English for them vs. Romanian for me).  One of them mentioned that it is easier for the them to understand when my partner teacher (a Moldovan teacher) reads aloud than it is when I read aloud (both because I read slightly faster an because I have an accent they aren’t used to).  They asked me if when I read Romanian if it’s like when they read English.  After the bell rang, I agreed to read a paragraph in Romanian for them.  My language learning was focused on being able to speak and understand rather than read and write, while theirs is focused more on reading and writing and grammar.  They thought it was very interesting to hear me (attempt) to read Romanian!  I was happy today was a bit more relaxed at school and we could have discussions like this.  I think it’s good to talk about both the difficulties and importance of learning another language, and we rarely have time to have discussions like this.

A Weekend Trip: Chisinau and Criuleni

Cathedral Park, Chisinau
Cathedral Park, Chisinau
Cathedral Park, Chisinau
Cathedral Park, Chisinau

Two weeks ago on Friday, I headed to Chisinau and then on to Criuleni, where we had a yoga retreat.  When I arrived in Chisinau, it was snowing lightly, so I decided to walk around the city a bit to kill some time before I headed further north to Criuleni.

The Arc de Triomf, Cathedral Park, Chisinau
The Arc de Triomf, Cathedral Park, Chisinau
Stefan cel Mare monument in Stefan cel Mare Park, Chisinau
Stefan cel Mare monument in Stefan cel Mare Park, Chisinau

As I walked, it started snowing pretty hard, which made everything very beautiful and quiet.  I spent some time walking some streets in Chisinau, and then decided to walk through the two main parks in the center of Chisinau: Cathedral Park and Stefan cel Mare Park.  Both were covered in a light dusting of snow with more coming down.  I took my time and just really enjoyed the cool air, big snowflakes, and the quiet lull that always occurs when it snows.

The Arc de Triomf and the beginning of Christmas decorations, Chisinau
The Arc de Triomf and the beginning of Christmas decorations, Chisinau

By the Arc de Triomf in the center of Chisinau, a huge real Christmas tree had been set up and decorated and for a minute I watched as an older gentleman took selfies with his young grandson.  It was a beautiful and almost magical morning.

The Nistru
The Nistru

Later on Friday, I headed to Criuleni, which is in the north of Moldova.  A couple of volunteers have hosted a number of yoga retreats over the past year with other volunteers, but this was the first one I had attended.  Although I have done some yoga over the past few years, I am definitely in the beginner category, and I was a little nervous about going to a retreat, but also excited to get motivated to do some yoga and spend time with other volunteers.  It ended up being a really small group, and I learned a lot and had a great time.

The Nistru
The Nistru

Two volunteers hosted us in their home, since they live in their own apartment.  We had a nice space to do yoga in and shared some delicious meals, which they graciously made for us.  The menu included: chili and cornbread, banana chocolate-filled pancakes, a pizza bar (make-your-own), a delicious vegetarian casserole and mashed potatoes, and an oatmeal bar.

The Nistru
The Nistru

On Saturday, in a break from yoga, two of us accompanied our hosts on a walk through the town and along the Nistru River.  The river was gorgeous!  The other side of the river is Transnistria, the part of Moldova that self-proclaims it is an independent nation (but is not recognized by either Moldova or the UN to be so).  It was a chilly but not cold day, and we walked back to the apartment just as the sun was setting.  We even encountered a tiny bit of hail as we were within sight of the apartment building.

The Nistru
The Nistru

The weekend as a whole was really great, and I’m glad I went.  I met some new people, ate some great food, learned some new poses (including downward facing dog with a partner!), and enjoyed getting to explore another part of Moldova.

February Break at Home

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I was home this past week for our February break.  Usually my break lines up with my mom’s, who is a 2nd grade teacher, but this year, my break was a week later.  Oh well.  My brother came home the first weekend, and we all (well, minus my sister- she’s in South Africa for the semester!) went on a nice hike.  The rest of the week, I helped out in my mom’s classroom during math, watched lots of NCIS, relaxed, played my violin for the first time in about six months, and worked on a baby quilt (which I sadly didn’t get to finish).  I also ran into a man from my town that we just found out has been to Moldova a couple of times to advise a farmer there on better farming practices and such.  I ran track with and was friends with two of his sons during high school, so it was great to get to talk to him about the country I’ll be spending the next 2 1/2 years in!  He spoke very fondly of Moldova, and said he thought I would love it there, which is always great to hear.  I think it reassured my parents a bit too.

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I also sprained my ankle- thankfully, it was a very minor sprain.  I slipped on a bit of water in the hallway on my way to mom’s classroom and flew through the air while simultaneously twisting my ankle somehow- not really sure how that all happened, but it wasn’t too fun.  I even got to go to the nurse’s office- although I managed to convince her I did NOT need to go in the wheelchair.  I did that once in 3rd grade, and I didn’t care to repeat it as an adult (it was probably the same wheelchair!).  That time, I had hit my head pretty bad on the playground.  My mom was subbing at the school, and one of my classmates saw her and told her I was taken to the nurse in a wheelchair, causing my mom to panic and think I was badly injured.  I was actually fine, but the nurse was particularly cautious.  This time, my mom saw me fall and wasn’t too concerned about me.

2016-02-20 15.52.23

The weather was absolutely beautiful on Sunday, the day I had to drive back to college.  I think it reached the 60s and it was perfectly sunny!  Thankfully, I was able to spend a bit of time outside taking pictures on my film camera before heading back to campus.  Overall, it was a pretty decent break.  I didn’t really do a whole lot, and none of my friends were home, but I got to spend some quality time with my parents and brother, which is always nice.  Now back to the college grind!

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Snow and Ice and Rain, Oh My!

I don’t know what the weather’s like in your neck of the woods, but it is especially icky here.  The temperature is hovering right around freezing, it has been raining all day, and the ground is solid ice.  My college didn’t cancel classes, so I’ve had to already brave the horrid sidewalks and have to again in a bit for my afternoon class.  I stepped in a puddle that was 3-4 inches deep (there was no other option-things are flooding!) on my way to my morning class.  The water was so, so cold!  It felt like my toes got to hang out in an ice bath for way too long.  Not fun.  Then after my class, I went to the campus post office to send some letters and check my mail, and the little incline up to the post office was entirely ice!  Very scary.  I’ve survived thus far, though, and my feet finally have feeling back in them after an hour in my warmest, dry-est pair of socks.  I don’t have rain boots, so hiking boots it is for the walk to my second class!  Hopefully, they’ll keep me nice and dry!

I have to admit, though, I didn’t feel so bad about the weather once I called my mom.  My hometown got into the -20s/-30s over the weekend and lost power for over 12 hours.  Most people have electric furnaces, so this has wrecked havoc across town.  Even a couple of days after heat has been restored, people are discovering burst pipes in places that seemed fine yesterday.  My grandparent’s house (they’re in Florida for the winter) has leaks, our church has leaks, the middle/high school has burst pipes, our other properties are still thawing out but most likely have leaks.  Add to that a number of fires, and you’ve got a very miserable February break.  My mom told me the firefighters haven’t sleep in over 2 days, and are running out of food and drink supplies.

I saw someone post on Facebook that at least it’s not snow.  I disagree.  I’d much prefer snow to this icky weather.  At least snow is easier to remove from the sidewalk than inches of water!  And it’s definitely more beautiful.  It has certainly been a weird winter.  It’s been way warmer than usual and we’ve only gotten a dusting of snow here and there.  And now this yucky ice/rain mixture.  It’s only February, but I’m thinking spring can come now (and I generally like winter!).

Update: I didn’t get this posted earlier, so I’m going to add the update that it’s now snowing big fat snowflakes and it seems a lot better out there.

How’s the weather where you live?  Any fun weather-related stories?

Brrr!! It’s Cold Out There!

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Brr!!! It’s been cold here!  I don’t think I remember ever having a winter that consistently stayed this cold.  There were winters when I was little that brought a lot of snow, but never these temperatures.  I was reading a news article about upstate New York (where I live) a couple of days ago and was a bit surprised by the statistics: the average temperature this February has been 10.4 degrees; this is the first month EVER on record in which the temperature never rose above freezing (assuming the forecasts for the next two days are correct); we’ve gotten double the February average for snow this month; snow has fallen every single day this month (not always a lot, but at least a few snowflakes every single day); because it has been so cold and we’ve gotten so much snow, there is more snow on the ground than we’ve had any time in the past 8 years; towns are being forced to cut back on using salt (making the roads more dangerous) because they’re already running out and here in New York, we often get snow into April.

As I read this, all I could think of was “Yikes!”  It made it up to 32 degrees last Sunday (unfortunately, I was heading back to college and didn’t get to enjoy it very much) and as my dad and I drove across town to visit my grandparents, we rolled the windows down.  We kept remarking on how warm it was and how nice it felt, while in reality it wasn’t even above freezing.  I generally don’t mind winter, but for the first time in my life, Florida is sounding rather nice (okay, let’s be honest, anything above like 20 sounds really great right about now).

With this brutal winter, I’m looking forward to spring even more than usual.  I have a feeling we’re going to be there really soon because this month flew by.  I can’t wait to go outside in my flip-flops (as a rule, I only wear them outside if it’s over 40 degrees), wear a t-shirt (or even just ditch the coat), and be able to go on a walk without worrying about frostbite (last week I was home for break and it got down to -30 with the windchill).

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?  Spring might look like it’s going to take it’s sweet time getting here, but it’ll be here soon.  I hope.

*Facts from here.