29 October 2010


On a debbie downer note... I'm having another one of those "I miss home" days...

On the plus side, I found a book on ENGLISH SUMMER CAMPS in the Peace Corps Lounge! I now know what my homework will be while in Chisinau this week when I'm not having language classes, teaching classes, or taking pictures...

28 October 2010


Halloween was always a big deal for me growing up. My mom was a seamstress and she made costumes for my sister and me every year... beginning our first Halloween when we were (STILL) in the hospital (a year later we were featured on the October issue of the Neonatal magazine wearing our costumes she made us!). Once I got to college I somehow lost the spirit of halloween when girls started dressing in as little as possible and the holiday became just another excuse to get ridiculously drunk. Halloween was no longer fun for me and, well, my mom wasn't around to through the best parties like she used todo when I was little. So the past few years I've never been in the mood to find a costume because, let's face it: it was never as good as the one my mom made for me.

This year, unfortunately, was the same story. Moldovans don't celebrate halloween, nor do many students really know what it is. Past volunteers have said that they've thrown halloween parties for their students and they went CRAZY over them. Well, that just wasn't on my agenda...

...until I got to my 10th form class and did some activities with them relating to halloween (make your neighbor a mummy out of TP, coloring pages, a spooky story involving the audience, and It's a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown). They absolutely loved it and wanted to throw a halloween party after break. Now I feel like I let them down by not putting one together, but at least I know it will be well received next year and we'll be able to have a great time... and hopefully their enthusiasm will make me more that much more excited!

27 October 2010

Bun in the oven

No.... it's not what you think!! But I did think it was a funny title... and made you look, didn't it?

Back in America I always wanted to be able to bake but I rarely took the initiative to do so. Looking back it makes me wonder what I was eating all the time because I can't remember doing much cooking, and when I did actually cook something it was a big deal for me. Maybe I was eating out in restaurants more than I thought... or eating more prepackaged foods than is healthy (which both are actually likely the case).

Thanks to Deb from the blog SmittenKitchen, I have been inspired to start cooking more here. It's actually kind of becoming a game to see what I actually have to cook with (ingredient wise) and how I can improvise for things I don't have. Sometimes the recipe is just plain impossible, but sometimes it works out, like, for example, today.

It's apple and pumpkin season here in Moldova. Two weeks ago I cooked SmittenKitchen's apple and plum pie- using the VERY last plums that were still hanging on the trees. Last weekend I baked the same pie but only used apples (and now I have plenty of cinnamon for more sweets!). Last weekend I also decided I wanted to make a pumpkin pie- until I realized just how much dairy is in a pumpkin pie... so I opted for pumpkin bread instead.

But pumpkin bread needs PUMPKIN (duh) and most recipes call for canned pumpkin. Well, that's just not going to happen here, especially in the villages. So what did I do next? I googled how to make your own pumpkin purée and I found it to be much more simple than I imagined. All I needed was a pumpkin (check), and oven (check), a blender (un-check but easily accessible thanks to Luminita... so check), and gata (aka finished). With all of these checks I was ready to get started. I took the pumpkin, scraped out the insides (which I would have baked until a chicken pooped on them), put it in the oven, then pureed it. By the time I was finished (I didn't realize just how much puree this one pumpkin would make!!), it was time for bed. And I didn't have enough eggs (the chickens don't like to lay eggs in the cold) or sugar. Raincheck!
Today turned out the be the return of the raincheck, especially because I wanted to make something special for my kiddos for tomorrow/Friday as we celebrate Halloween... kinda. I mixed everything up and then realized I had no idea where a bread pan was. With NMG nowhere in site I had to ask NTG- and he hadn't a clue, either. So he gave me a super big, shallow, round pan that he said they use for bread. I had no choice- it was that or nothing. It actually worked out perfectly because I fit all of the batter (enough for 3 loaves) into that one pan, and it will be much easier to cut it into smaller portions for the kids.

With just a couple minutes left till it's done... I hope it tastes as good as it looks and smells right now! Maybe I should become a chef. Yea, maybe not.
Here is the recipe (actually not from smitten kitchen, but from here)

3 cups 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (*I didn't use)

2 cups solid pack pumpkin puree

1 cup vegetable oil (*I used 1 cup butter)

1/2 cup and chopped walnuts (optional) (*although readily available here, I used raisins instead)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (*I used 3 to add more flavor and b/c I didn't use nutmeg)

3 cups white sugar

2/3 cup water

4 eggs

Grease and flour three 7 x 3 inch pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Measure flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl. Stir to blend. Add pumpkin, water, salad oil, eggs, and nuts. Beat until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.Bake for approximately 1 hour.

26 October 2010


I've often heard people say that a scent is the fastest way to trigger a memory. Whether it's true or not, I do not know- but today my memory was triggered when walking to and from school. Everyone is burning their leaves which makes me think about when my dad would drive my sister and me to my grandparents' (6 hours North of us in Kearney, Nebr.). During this time of year we would always smell the burning leaves and we would always comment on it, saying how much we enjoyed the smell. Well, now is leave burning time here in Moldova. It has become much colder and overcast and as much as I would like to think it's due to the smoke, I'm afraid it is really because winter is quickly approaching.
Speaking of winter... I was SO COLD today in the school! As per tradition, it had been about 3 weeks since I had last done my laundry so this Sunday, even though it's slightly frowned upon in this culture, I did my laundry. Due to the cold temperatures it takes clothes quite a long time to dry- so my base layers were still drying this morning when I got ready for school. I've learned just how much it helps to be dressed properly...! I had to come home and get my down jacket (and eat some lunch) before heading back to the school for the rest of the afternoon.

On the way back to school I happened upon some neighbors making wine. For some reason I was feeling quite social (maybe I was super slap happy because of my lack of sleep due to Starbucks VIA too late in the afternoon yesterday). I stopped and asked them what they were doing although it was quite clear, but hey, I gotta stick with the cultural norm (ie at 2pm once school is released and I'm walking home people like to ask me if I'm finished with lessons for the day... which, due to the fact that every teacher is finished with lessons for the day, yes, I am lol). My host family totally overlooked me in the wine making process so I was curious to stand for a minute or two to see what they were doing. Unfortunately they had just finished but they still offered me some of the wine- which right now is basically just grape juice but they said it will be much better in a month. I think I'll have to go back.

More things I saw/did today:

Walked to school with the cows...
Talked to a man, Victor, for a few minutes about why he was sitting outside in the cold- and it wasn't because he had been drinking (he doesn't like racieu... but he does like wine). He just insists it's not cold- yet. And the outside is cleaner than inside.
Met his son (or son-in-law)... which I think is the real reason he was sitting outside.
Conducted interviews/made videos with some of my students regarding the problem of migration in Moldova (finished video will come in a couple of weeks!)

Saw a giant turkey... seriously. This photo doesn't do it justice. It's HUGE.

and followed a cart with crooked wheels full of dried cornstalks

Took a picture of one of my students after she fed her dog... just because the moment was there.

What did you do/see today?

25 October 2010

Uh-huh whaaaa?

This story goes out to Bette and Paul:

The first time my sister and I visited Bette and Paul in Pennsylvania we were 12 years old. Our language consisted of a lot of "uh huh"'s and "unh-unh"'s. Paul pointed that out to us and ever since then it kind of became a joke when we were talking to him. Now I have realized this has gone further than BearDance because at dinner tonight my host dad corrected me and said that we do not say "uh-huh", we say, "da" (yes), and we do not say "unh-unh," we say, "nu" (no).


I quickly became aware of how often I was not responding appropriately (although that is slightly different when asked a question when food is in your mouth!!)... and I couldn't believe just how often that was really happening.

Uh-huh, it's time to start speaking with words. No more of this miming and "I speak like a 3 year-old" business. :)

Back to school

After being gone almost one week from school, I must admit it was great to be back, even if I was a bit out of the loop. Being away during the schedule planning time with my partner teachers makes it difficult because we have to play the lessons by ear... and that just doesn't work so well with me... regardless, it is what it is and after fall break (next week!!!!) things will be back on track.

I brought my camera to school today because I had arranged with my students that we were going to begin filming for a video competition this weekend. I guess because I was gone all last week that they either forgot about it or became uninterested... I'm not so sure. Only 3 students showed up- but they were not prepared for filming. So we'll see where it goes...

But while I was waiting for those 3 students, I pulled some other kids aside for some pictures in the leaves. Then I walked over to where the men were working on the repairs for the school and talked to them for awhile, while taking their pictures. They asked me some questions about where I'm from in America, what I'm doing here, and how repairs are done in America. In Moldova everything is done by hand so it takes a lot more time to finish. The repairs they began in September probably won't be finished until the first of the year, but that all depends on the weather. They said if it snows, they won't work (which is frustrating for us in the school because it's cooooooold because the new windows aren't sealed yet and the central heating isn't installed). Unlike Ross (who is excited for snow because he's only seen it 4 times in his life!) I'm crossing my fingers that it doesn't snow soon... December would be nice!!

In the meantime, I'm curled up in bed under my blanket while the soba is slowly (but surely) warming up. NMG went to Riscani (our Rayon center) to the hospital today... hopefully she gets better soon!

Sisters... makes me realize just how much I really do miss my sister. (On a sidenote- this girl on the right? She is an incredible student. This is her first year learning English and she's learning so quickly. She writes down every vocabulary word- even if it's not really a vocabulary word- how she hears it, so then she reproduces it perfectly. Wow.)
This will be the classroom I share with Luminita when it's finished.

This is the playground at the school. I'm thinking about a side project of repairing the blacktop and adding an actual playground...?
This is where the girls were hiding.. not safe!!
The following pictures are of some of the men working on our school:

These are the girls I took to play in the leaves

24 October 2010

Fall walk

Every time I go to-and from- Varatic I see this beautiful tree lined road going to a small village not far from Varatic. I've always wanted to tell the driver to stop so I could take a picture but, well, that's not exactly appropriate and I'm sure many Moldovans would be irritated with me. So instead of doing that, this last time coming home from Chisinau I paid attention to just how far away it was from my village... and it didn't seem all that far... definitely walkable.

So, as soon as Ross arrived on Friday he mentioned the same road so I figured as long as the weather cooperated with us that Saturday would be a perfect day to go for a walk. We bundled up and headed out around 1.

... Just over 4 hours later we were back at home. That "definitely walkable" distance seemed a lot closer with a car!! We were both exhausted by the time we got home but we did see some pretty things. Once arriving in this village (Horodiste), we found out about 1200 people live there. The huge hill that we wanted to walk up- until we arrived in the village and decided that will have to be for another day- supposedly has gold in it (NMG said). NMG also will not stop laughing at our trip, and making fun of us, saying tomorrow we are going to talk to the next "closest" village, and then the next, and then the next... lol. It's quite funny, but I don't really see what was wrong with our little hike...???

Regardless, here are some pictures!