13 July 2010

Site visit: Varatic

This is the update I've been promising. WARNING: It's long. BUT I have pictures!

On Friday all of the EE's went to Chisinau to meet the Directors (aka Principals) of the schools where we will be teaching beginning in September. It was interesting as we were all coming into the room because they were looking at us and we were looking at them, and we were all wondering who our partners were going to be. After a rather long introduction we played an icebreaker game with a map of Moldova and one of the USA. The village was called and then both the directors and the teachers went to their respective maps, showed where they live, and stated an interesting fact about where they're from. We went way over time on this because the Moldovans were very proud of their villages so therefore had a lot to say- which was great.
After the icebreaker we ate tons of placinta then returned to the room for a cross cultural activity. Here we had a list of traits and had to put them in order of importance to our countries. Interestingly enough, Moldovans had "tradition" as #1 and "individualism" as #10. Where do you think Americans placed "tradition" and "individualism"? In the opposite positions, of course.
I then woke up Saturday morning and headed into Chisinau again to meet up with my director to go to Varatic. It was raining and I do not know my way around Chisinau, so I was very lucky I had a ride. My Director and I then hopped on a rutiera at one of the 3 stations and began our 4 hour journey up north.
When I was in Italy last year and saw the sunflowers I thought there were a lot. But now that I'm in Moldova I've changed my mind! The further north we went, the larger the sunflower fields became. I'm sad I won't see them in their prime stage, but there's always next year!
Discussion with my Director was minimal on this trip due to the language barrier (and in my part because I was nervous)... However, I did understand when she pointed out the village where Ross will be living and that it was really exciting because he won't be too far from me at all. Maybe 30km... yay!
When we finally got to the village we crossed over a bridge that is over a body of water that is surrounded by gentle rolling hills. Everything in Varatic is very green and also rocky in some parts (which differs from Razeni). The rutiere dropped us off right in front of the school only after stopping by his house to drop off some of his personal items. When we walked up to the school we were greeted by the two english teachers. It was a nice relieve to be able to speak English again.
At the school I was given a tour and told the school is under renovation. Supposedly by the time classes begin in September we are going to have new floors, windows, and most importantly: central heating. I really hope this will be completed but I have been told that construction deadlines are not always met. So, I guess we'll see!
We then walked to my new house (it's blue!!!) which is only about 10 minutes from the school (on paved roads!!!) and very conveniently located right next door to my partner teacher. This will be great because we will be able to talk to and from school together especially when winter comes around and it gets dark very early. Plus, we will easily be able to get together to work on lesson plans for the next day. My TG is also a teacher at the school so I can only assume he'll walk with us, too.
My Director and I walked in to the house with my new MG. The blue house is surrounded by a lot of beautiful flowers of all colors and also chickens. My MG doesn't like domestic animals so we will not have any cats or dogs (looks Corpul Poochie Cali won't be coming with me to Varatic!). There I met her son (clothed only in boxers- it was hot) and his girlfriend who only speaks Russian. They will be in Varatic until 1 September and then they will return to Moscow- leaving me to fend for myself.
MG brought out food and wine, and my director informed me I did not want wine because it is bad for the head. She later caved and allowed me to have half of a glass (have I told you that in Moldova wine is taken as a shot- not slowly sipped?). It was white wine but orange in color- I couldn't quite figure it out. We then ate a ton of food- chicken soup, fresh homemade bread, egg salad, this jelly chicken dish, and cake. I was quite full and tired after the long journey so I said my goodbyes and went to take a 2 hour nap.
My partner teacher invited me to meet some of her students at the "bar" for some juice. Six or seven students joined me and drilled me with questions ranging from "do you have a boyfriend" to "do you want to learn how to cook traditional Moldovan dishes" to "What are you going to do after 2 years in Moldova?" It was great talking with them (for over 2 hours!) and I was so impressed with the level of their language abilities. I loved how they weren't afraid to ask me questions. However, I must say the highlight of the evening was the man who came up to me and said, "Hello. My name is (insert his name here because I forgot it!)". He then switched to Romanian and said he wants to be my TG so he can teach me to work in the fields and so I can milk his cow because his wife is in Moscow and he has a granddaughter at my school. It was quite entertaining and all of the girls were cracking up. While the man may or may not have been under the influence of alcohol, I really liked how he wasn't afraid to talk to me- this complete foreigner in a town where very knows each other. It really gave me a feeling that I will have a positive introduction in the town.
After the questions (and invite to live in a different house) we decided to head down to the bridge- in the rain. We had to stop a few times so we wouldn't get too wet but we finally made it just as the sun was setting, making it an even more beautiful scene.
I got home around 9 to my casa mare (the big house I have all to myself without a kitchen) unsure of where everyone was, so I just got ready for bed. My new MG came to get me and said come eat! So I went outside and into the casa mica (where the bathroom, kitchen, and parents bed is) and found everyone there and finishing up dinner. Eventually we all got to talking in many languages- Romanian, Moldovaneste, Russian, English, and French. It was hilarious because MG, TG, or FG (brother) would look at the girlfriend or me and say something in a language we didn't understand because they were just speaking to someone else in that language, and they would all abruptly burst out laughing because they realized they spoke the incorrect language. While I felt like I was having a rocky start when I first arrived at the house, I think dinner was a great ice breaker and bonding experience. At 11pm it was finally time for bed.
In the morning I took a scalding hot shower because I couldn't figure out how to make it colder, which will be nice in the winter and I'm especially glad to have an indoor shower with (hot) running water.
After breakfast (and some awkward silences with newMG) I went to the rutiera stop to make my way back to Chisinau. The Russian teacher was there and she invited me to sit in on her language classes so I can learn Russian, too. Here I also had a man approach me and begin to speak in English. I think I'm already pretty "famous" in Varatic. That's the benefit of being the only American in the town versus being one of 20.
Overall, it was a positive experience when I look back on it. I will admit, though, that the realization that the transition to this village is real- and quickly approaching. I have moments when I get sad because I'm going to be so far from my current family, and I feel like they've set such a high bar that no one will ever be as good as them. But when push comes to shove I have to remember it is what I put in to it- so the more positive I am, ideally the more positive the experience will be.

View from the bridge

Some of my future students and me on the bridge

lapte = milk. That's one big barrel of milk!

View in Varatic

One of my students

View in Varatic

View in Varatic

Geese on the soccer field

View in Varatic

Sports arena

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