13 December 2011

Easly finish

Some things I will never get over when it comes to teaching in Moldova are the open lessons and also the "masas" at the end of the open lessons. You see, here's how it works. A few weeks before the assigned day, a teacher is notified that they will be holding an open lessons. What this means is teachers from all over the raion (basically the area... in my case, Riscani) will be coming to observe a lesson. This lesson is supposed to be done how it is done every day, however that's not the case. When photographing teachers (surprisingly) for a project for Teacher's Day, I noticed that when I walked in, most of them were sitting down giving their lessons (I know the feeling... I get tired, too). But when there are 20 teachers coming from around the district to observe, you can guarantee they aren't going to sit down and they are going to do everything according to the books, from writing the objectives and the title of the lesson on the board to using a projector that is borrowed from another school because we don't have one. The teacher plans way ahead for this lesson to make sure it's perfect, and even goes over it with the students so they know what to expect and they are fully prepared, thus making the observers think as though those kids really do their homework every day and participate. Ha. Anyways, it's quite a show because the teachers (and students) get all worked up over it (I don't blame them). At the end of the lesson, the teachers stay and critique it, offering their advice from what they observed which they may or may not have really seen or paid much attention to it because they may or may not have been answering their cell phones during the class or chatting away with their neighbor. Then, once the critique is finished (often taking up the entire next class period which thus disrupts other classes because the teachers that skipped their lesson for the open lesson stay for the critique, thus leaving the kids free once again... to wreck havoc. Well once this is completed everyone goes to have a "masa" (a form of party) to celebrate the end of the open lesson and to thank the guests for coming. The table is filled with all types of food and alcoholic beverages.

Now, this can be a lot of fun, as it was in the case of today. But, see, here's what happened. On Tuesday's I teach the 2nd, 4th, and 6th periods. Because all of the primary teachers were at a seminar, all classes with the primary students were canceled... which was my 4th lesson. Then, just as the students for the 6th lesson arrived, the gym teacher (who was observed today) came to us and said the kids were free to go home because we were invited to the party, and we had to come... he wouldn't take no for an answer. While the masa was nice and I enjoy socializing with the teachers (or, rather, listening to what they are saying), I would have liked to have been home after the 2nd lesson. After all, my host mom and brother killed the pig today and I could have been of much help.

10 December 2011

The war was terrible

This afternoon I walked into the local alimentara (market) just down the street to get some butter and eggs for the spritz cookies that I want to make this afternoon (and I'm still impatiently waiting for the butter to soften!!). There were two old women sitting on a bench and talking, which is a common site here, with their long skirts, "warm" vests, wool socks and rubbers shoes, and scarves over their heads. They looked to be about 70 years old, but that is something that is hard to tell because people age so much faster her. Anyways, we were chatting about their grandkids and how well they learn in school and whatnot, when all of a sudden one of the women said, "they have so many different types of food here now. You can get whatever you want." While I disagree because I could really use an avocado or some spinach right about now, I was curious as to what she meant by that. Lucky for me, she kept talking. Her eyes did that thing, you know, when you are telling a story to someone and slowly you look past them and it's like you're living it all over again. She said that she only studied through the 5th grade because after that the war started and her teachers all fled to Romania and by the time the war was over, she should have been in the 10th grade but was so far behind in her studies (as were all of the kids) that she didn't go back. Then she said it was something terrible. She remembers the hunger- everyone was hungry. The woman sitting next to her, who was 4 at the start of the war, says she remembers the hunger, too. There were people dying in the streets, she said... with no food. They were given some wheat to ground into flour at home which didn't last very long. (As a side note, my host mom told me once that one woman from the village had no choice but to kill her infant because they couldn't feed it and they also needed to eat...). Being as that it is winter now and overcast and slightly raining (yes, raining), I just felt transported to that time, although it is something I really cannot imagine because I have never been close to that in my life, nor is it something I hope to understand in the future. But it just sounded so horrible, and for a child to remember the pain, the sadness, the hunger, etc... it must have really been that bad. Oooouuufff.

09 December 2011

Family photos

When I was 11, my mom died of stomach cancer. It was a short battle, at least from my understanding. We had just moved to a new house and I remember her complaining of back pains and going to the chiropractor and me joking that she might be pregnant (which she didn't seem to like too much, but at that time I didn't really understand where babies came from. Oh my naivety). Anyways, 6 weeks before she died they diagnosed her with stomach cancer and said she didn't have long. When my dad told my sister and me about this, it was the end of September. He said she'll be lucky to make it to Thanksgiving and even luckier to make it to Christmas. However, before this, I remember my mom (or possibly one of my aunts) had bought us dresses and a photographer was supposed to come take pictures of us because we hadn't had pictures taken since we were really little (funny, now I'm a photographer... anyways...). When the time came for the photos, though, Mom had become really weak and so we didn't go through with the photos, which sucks. But it's life.
Well, this summer when I went home I held a "special" for portrait sessions because I wanted to stay busy and make some extra money. A family I babysat for told their friends about my special, one of which was her best friend, who was dying of cancer. At that point she had already long exceeded the time the doctors originally expected her to fight until (go Heidi!!). Being the child of a mother that died young, I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to do the shoot for Heidi and her family because all I kept thinking about were her kids, and how they had no idea what was going on with their mom or what was going to happen (because, after all, I still don't even know that about my mom, and I was 11. They're 2 and 4). Well, Heidi lost her battle to cancer just over a week ago. My heart aches for her best friend, her friends, and her family... and most of all, her kids. I hope I was able to provide them with some images to remember their mom by for many years to come.


Stop and say hello

In college I took two photography classes. One was a film class at my local community college while I was still in high school, and the other was an intro to digital course at my university. The latter was a 3 hour course two days a week and we only discussed each others work twice: once mid semester, and once for the final project. I do not feel like I learned a lot except for how to edit RAW images. In fact, I spent most of the time not in the class because we were always "editing" which I did at home. Anyways, three things stand out to me from that class. The first thing is shooting RAW, but I already said that. The second was the only assignment I remember: Portrait of a Stranger. The third was a visit from Steve McCurry, who I believe has one of the most (if not the most) recognized National Geographic photo of all time, Afghan Girl (you know what I'm talking about, right?). I'll get back to his visit in a minute.

The "portrait of a stranger" assignment was not walking around and snapping pictures of strangers on the street, and my teacher made that very clear. The assignment was to photograph a stranger, but get to know them. Being as I love to photograph people, I really took this assignment seriously. I went to downtown Lawrence, Kansas with my camera in hand on a beautiful spring afternoon and walked around for awhile. The great thing about Lawrence is that it is not difficult to find "interesting" looking people around. It's a rather "hippie" town filled with preppy frat/sorority college students and also homeless people that everyone treats with respect because the respect is given in return. There are usually people sitting and playing instruments and singing every couple of blocks and people sitting outside enjoying an international meal or coffee. You'll see businessmen and hipsters, goths and jocks. It's quite a site. Wow, as happy as I was to leave Lawrence, writing this makes me miss it! Well, finally I saw a man that caught my eye. He was crossing the street pushing his bike and we made eye contact. It was at that moment I took the opportunity to stop him. I don't exactly remember how the conversation started but I think it went along the lines of, "Hi my name is Cate, what's your name?" "Hi Cate, I'm Robb". "Hi Robb. So, I have a photography assignment where I have to take a picture of a stranger but we have to get to know them. Can I talk to you?" Lucky for me, he obliged. We went to a coffee shop where he drank his own coffee from a mason jar and then invited me to go to his house because his passion is wood carving and he said he made most of the things there. I didn't say no although I was nervous but that kept me on guard once I got there, just in case anything were to go in a way I didn't want it to go. Thankfully it didn't, and I got this shot:


Later that spring, while traveling in NYC, I got this one. Obviously the man saw me because he's looking right at me in the photograph, but he looks serious, right? Well, after I took the photo he smiled big and made some joke which I don't remember now... but it was a great conversation starter.



I am thankful we had that project because it taught me that I can still be myself when taking images of people and I can still smile, which is something I love to do.

Then today I came across this video from Steve McCurry, basically saying the same thing:

05 December 2011

Back in the swing of things

It was so nice this weekend when the wife of our country director here in Moldova asked for me to take their family pictures. I was so happy to do so, and it was nice being back in the swing of things! We were lucky to have wonderful weather and it ended up being great that we had to postpone the shoot because otherwise we would have been dealing with rain... (yes... rain. It was almost 60 degrees today and I'd say around 50 the day of the shoot!). Their kids are absolutely adorable and like night and day in personalities. The oldest is talkative, social, and so passionate about animal poaching and animals in general. The littlest one (who was born just before our arrival in Moldova!) is cranky and apparently doesn't warm up well to others, but I was told we were taking the photos during her nap time. Regardless, it was great being back in the swing of things and I got some wonderful "tastes of home" including natural peanut butter, brown sugar, and brownie mix in return!









Their wonderful nanny (who is a GRANDMA?!?!?) joined in on a couple of the photos.

04 December 2011

Bets

My dad is a wonderful poker player. It has become a passion of his and so he's put a lot of work into learning it and becoming good at it. But me, well, I'm not so good with numbers. So when it comes to bets I just don't make them because I probably won't win.

Well, today my host dad bet me 1000 USD (in a joking manner, of course) that it was not going to be dark at 4pm like my host mom and I claimed. Well, it's 4:15 and it's not dark yet. The sun is setting, but it's not dark. He wins, and this is why I don't bet.

On a side note, my host brother is home from Russia. Last year he came home for the summer, left, and didn't come back until the next summer, but this time he's home again and I'm kind of excited about it. It's nice to have someone else in the house even if we don't see each other much.

29 November 2011

Thanks

This message pretty much speaks for itself... and warms my heart.

Hi Cate!
My name is Lucia. I'm from Moldova. I moved to US 7 years ago.
I came across your pictures on the Peace Corp website, after having a discussion with my boyfriend about you guys, volunteers, that go to countries like Moldova and teach english, and how much respect you get, especially from locals--i also had the pleasure and honor to meet two teachers during my high school years, but i do not want to elaborate my story here. I just want to express my thanks for what you do: you change the lives of the children you teach, and everyone else's you come across during your assignment. I absolutely loved your pictures and the descriptions. You have a true talent, because you captured all the moments that i could relate to, or any moldovan… It made me cry(the funeral) and laugh(the misspelling on the ruin's wall) because you can find that in every village in Moldova… You made me realize how much i miss and cherish that. Thank you, Cate.


Btw, my birthday is on Sept. 9th also :)

Thank you, Lucia, for your note. It made my day. (And yay for virgos!!!!!)

Mac n' Cheese

I found this amazing recipe for Mac n' Cheese and decided to try it... I mean, how hard can it be? I'm only joking because I seem to mess up everything I try to cook but that is because I always try to add my own ingredients. Oops. Even though I'm lactose intolerant it, I seem to not have problems while in Moldova unless I'm eating something imported from the States... so I can only assume it's due to the preservatives (ha read this if you haven't already about my mix up with this word!).

Well, guess what? This recipe is amazing!! I love it! And I even added some chili pepper and used mustard instead of mustard powder (couldn't find any). YUMMM YUMMM YUMMY!

As of right now I don't have any stomach problems... but I've only had a couple of bites. Back to eating!!!

26 November 2011

Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving at the Peace Corps Headquarters today and I am so excited about it... especially because I felt so lonely on Thursday being away from friends and family. This will be fun... we just finished 2-hand touch football and the North won! Sometimes it is nice to be around everyone.

21 November 2011

Best friends

Today I am thankful for being able to Skype with my best friend, Linda (even if this skyping happened on Sunday).

This photo really marks the time difference. She was having a glass of wine while I was drinking my morning coffee!

Bad-ass host dad



My host dad is pretty bad-ass. We really struggled in the beginning of me living here, but now we get along... most of the time (even if we butt heads sometimes). Something I really admire about him is that he is, in my opinion, the most respected teacher of the entire school (even more respected than the principal). He has absolutely no problems with classroom management and students don't talk back to him. Ever. Students may not always do their homework themselves, but they sure do copy it so they do not arrive at the lesson without their homework because he is not afraid to give them a low grade. They are really afraid of him (in a respectful sort of way) and I highly respect that about him. But I often wonder what my opinion would be of him if I wasn't living here, although I don't even need to think about it because I am happy the way it is. So today I decided to take advantage of the fact that he his not only the most respected (and feared) teaching in the school, but he is also my host dad and teaches next to me. I am covering the classes of my partner teacher because she is really sick and the last lesson of the day was with 11th grade- following 3rd grade- each of which I said I never want to teach again... just my luck. The 3rd grade behaved for the most part, except for a couple of students (girls??!!) who I had stay after so I could speak with them about doing their classwork when I ask them to and listening to me and not getting up out of their seats. As I was doing this two 11th grade boys walked in and when I asked them to leave, they talked back to me and they wouldn't leave. Then they started playing music. They were absolutely terrible and it was not helping matters when I was trying to teach the girls about respect. Finally I sent the girls out and then went to my host dad, who told me to send the boys to him. When I told them that, they wouldn't go. At all. He heard my frustration with them and came out into the hall to scold them. Then as he was walking away he said, "if they act up in class, know that I'll be right here." Needless to say, the lesson (although it was only the 2 boys and 3 girls who speak English very well) went much smoother than usual and the boys behaved... for the most part. Maybe I should start threatening them with the wrath of my host dad more often. It seems to work like magic.

Good news, bad news.

Let's start with the bad news. I think I have carpal tunnel (keep in mind I always think I have lots of problems so we'll find out for sure later) and yesterday I got bit by a little dog when I was trying to give him a treat. It isn't a bad bite... my pinkie finger is just scratched up a bit (on the same arm/hand as the one that is giving me trouble). Wednesday or Thursday I think I'll be going to the doctor to get it all checked out...

But the good news. It's Monday and I don't have the first 2 lessons or the last one. I love having my lessons back-to-back because it makes the day go faster and it keeps moving.

And... and... and...!

It's SUNNY!! I think I'm going to put up Christmas decorations today as I listen to Christmas music.

18 November 2011

Winks

Today I did a one-eye wink at a little girl (probably 3 or 4 years old) as she was walking past me on the street. Then she turned around and attempted her own one-eye wink, which was a double-eye wink. Adorable.

17 November 2011

Protectors!

Let me just start things off right by saying today was a FABULOUS day.

I woke up to clear skies and sunshine (well, almost. The sun was still coming out when I woke up). When I left for school I noticed that Jack Frost had made an appearance, covering everything... which sparkled in the sun.

Then I arrived at school early to help begin the celebration of our Director's birthday. The kids brought her flowers, sang her songs, and made her cry. It was beautiful. And the highlight- classes were cut short so we could have a masa (party) after classes with the teachers, which included all kinds of food (and of course alcohol... what's a Moldovan party without that?).

After the masa I went home and relaxed for a couple of hours before I headed back to school for the "Ball Bobocilor" which was awesome and so well done. The 10th grade put together dances and skits to short clips from songs. It was hilarious, and I loved the inclusion of "Pretty Woman" and "Sandman". They even pulled me up on stage to dance with them... which I failed miserably at because 1. I have no rhythm and 2. I can't dance and 3. I need a lot of practice to get the steps right, no matter how easy they may seem. This monkey sees and can't do.


When I left the performance it was dark outside and the sky was full of stars, and the air was nice and crisp. It warmed up a bit today so it really wasn't that cold (although it was still cold... trust me). I joked (in seriousness) with the boys saying "no smoking" while the joked (in non seriousness) that they weren't smoking. Minor detail. Then they tried to convince me to stay for the disco, which, if you paid attention to what I said earlier, that's not really my thing. So I started to head home and they said I need to wait to have a couple of the boys walk me home since it's dark. I insisted I was fine but they wouldn't have it. They found me a ride with one of the 2 cars that were there, which was with someone I didn't know but one of the friends of the kids or brothers or something. As he started to drive off the boys told him to drive slowly and carefully.

While the kids may drive me nuts during lessons, I love them outside of school. They're really great kids and very protective of me and appreciative... as long as I'm not teaching them.

16 November 2011

Home early

Today I'm thankful because I got to come home 2 hours early.

15 November 2011

Cat fight

Today I heard about a cat fight turned brutal. It reminds me of the videos that were shown on the news of girls beating each other up and then posting it online, although this time no one filmed it. You know why? It involves 3rd graders. Word on the street is that one of the girls pushed another one down in the street and started throwing rocks at her and kicking her and hitting her with sticks. The girl that was attacked came to school today all scratched up, and the attacker didn't show up. Apparently when the victim went to the mother of the attacker the mother didn't care. UGH it's just so sad. In all honesty, while I don't think what the attacker did was right by any means, I do hope she is ok because I can only assume she learned this from home (having a father who I have never seen sober, and a mother who drinks, too) and I'm sure the mother was embarrassed and didn't know what to say to the little girl that was hurt... and I'm afraid the attacker was then beat by her parents. Again, all of this is word on the street and my assumptions, but I also don't doubt that it happened. :(

Testing

My students really know how to test my patience... sometimes I just really can't handle it. As of right now I'm counting down the days until Christmas break: 37 days, 8 hours, and 44 minutes. Ugh.

Where, outside?

I woke up this morning feeling like I've been hit with a train. I don't feel sick, just extremely exhausted. My host mom came in just shortly after my alarm went off to make sure I was awake (I wasn't really) in case I had the first lesson (I don't). I took that as a sign to get up anyways since I do have the second lesson. So, I got up, got dressed, and then went for breakfast. She came in and this is how the conversation went:

Host mom: Good morning, Sleeping Beauty.

Me: Good morning.

HM: Did you see it snowed a little bit last night?

Me: Where... outside?

HM: No, in the house.

Me: DOH. Good morning.

I think I need to go back to bed.

14 November 2011

Internet!

I now have Internet again! It's not DSL (still installing...??!!) and it's not much... but it's better than nothing. So hopefully I'll get some blog posts going again tomorrow. I was asked to photograph the Marine's Ball on Saturday night and of course I was happy to oblige... and I'd love to share the photographs but I need to ask permission first. It was a lot of fun and I loved seeing everyone all dressed up! It's always hard photographing an event where I know a lot of the people, though, because I miss out on the fun- the socializing, the eating in groups (instead of at a table by myself), and the dancing. But it was still a lot of fun and I met some new people!

11 November 2011

Happy day

It's 11:11 on 11/11/11. Happy day! Lucky day!

... but it did start snowing. Not cool

10 November 2011

Baking Cookies



My neighbor, Marin, helped me bake chocolate chip peanut butter M&M cookies tonight.

We burnt the last batch :( But the others are good!

26 October 2011

Trees

AHH the trees are so beautiful right now behind our school! Not bad for iPod photos, eh?

BOO!!!!!

My dad sent me a mask for Halloween and it scared the living daylights out of my host mom when she was cleaning up my room a bit and turned around and there it was... laying on my bed. So she thought it would be absolutely hilarious to dress up in it and go scare my host dad. This is how it played out:

22 October 2011

Beatings

Tonight at dinner I learned that just as every child remembers those one or two times they were spanked/slapped/severely punished by their parents, the parents remember it, too (unless, of course, it was a repeated occurrence. Then that’s a different story).

20 October 2011

Another photo contest- PLACED!


I got 3rd place and an honorable mention in the River to Well photography contest! Check out their website to see the amazing things they are doing to wells in Africa!

Also, if you happen to be in Lawrence, KS, Denver, CO, or Houston, TX... check out my photos and the photos by other talented photographers!

Laughing about death

A couple of nights ago my host parents were in the best mood ever. They were joking and laughing with each other about I’m not exactly sure what. At one point they started discussing what was going to happen with each other when they die. My host dad assumes he will be the first one to die since he is older and my host mom has ridiculous genes in her family and no one ever seems to die before 100. So my host dad said he absolutely does not want my host mom to do anything other than bury him because it is against his religion and it would be disrespectful. But she said how can she not have a praznic… that is what this culture does and it just has to happen. So then he asked her how can she have a praznic and have the priest come to her service if she has never been to a church service before. It was interesting to hear them battle about this because most people in Moldova are Orthodox Christians and everyone does everything the same way. But my host parents are one of the two exceptions: my host dad being a Jehovah’s Witness and my host mom being rather agnostic and not really caring. This seemed to be one of the first times they had really ever discussed this, which is fascinating to me because (at least where I’m from) people write a will sometime around my age and adjust it as events occur in life, such as marriage(s) and kid(s).

How do you say "teacher"?

This is the first year that the second grade is learning English. Every day they surprise me in just how much they remember and they are quickly becoming one of my favorite classes. They are almost all really hard workers and they are anxious to learn and it’s so cute to hear them in the hallways asking each other, “What is your name?” “How old are you?” “Where are you from?” etc. We’ve taught them a song with different responses to how are you besides the mechanical iamfinethankyouandyou?. They are so stinking cute and I love working with them. Most of the time.

You see, today I worked with them alone because my partner was helping a worker install lights and chandeliers in our classroom (yes, that is correct, we didn’t have light until now… oh the things we take for granted back home!). While I swore to never again teach the 2nd grade alone last year, I was referring to the 2nd grade that is now the 3rd grade… and, like I said, this group of kids is great. But when I entered their room (ours was busy because of the installing of the lights), all hell broke loose! They kids were terrible, they wouldn’t listen to me, they were hitting each other, they were talking out of turn, absolutely chaos. I finally got their attention by beginning to sing the “hello, how are you song” and then having them stand up and do some arm exercises before sitting down. As soon as their little behinds hit their chairs, though, they started hitting each other with rulers, pulling on their desk mate’s ears… it was seriously just like a scene out of a movie. Finally I was able to grab their attention again so I asked them just what it is exactly that makes them behave when my partner and I are teaching, but as soon as she disappears, they misbehave. I expected them to look down at their desks in shame and say they didn’t know… which is a common reaction when you know you’ve done something wrong, right? Well, that is not what happened. Instead a few hands shot straight up into the air. And you know what they said (I love the honesty of little kids)? They said: Mrs. Luminita is older than you. She is our teacher, not you. Oh boy. I have no idea how this is going to be fixed! But I think I have officially decided teaching is not in my future. I thought I had decent classroom management but I have now realized it is not me that is in control of the classrooms… it’s my partner teachers. Today I realized just how thankful I am for them and that they really are good teachers and the students of Varatic are lucky to have them.

Now, even though the 2nd grade was terrible during the actual lesson, one particular student was awesome outside of the lesson. She is my neighbor and comes over every day to sit and talk to me at home (my host mom now calls her and her friend who is not in school yet my “army”). Anyways, we finally got to walk to school together. I was quizzing her on the questions we have learned so far in class, the letters, and the school vocabulary. When I asked her to translate, “invatator sau profesor” she responded not with, “teacher” but instead, “Cate”. They are learning great things! J

On another rough note, though, I had someone in the 6th form drawing swastikas and people hanging and knives and he was writing “canibol” (it’s a cognate… you figure it out). Every time I walked by him I saw he was drawing but didn’t observe what it was until my partner got sick of him drawing and took it away but even she didn’t see it at that time. When I saw what it was, my jaw hit the floor and I’m pretty sure my eyes about popped out of their sockets. I then told her, she scolded the boy and I sure hope made him feel terrible, and then she gave them a history lesson on what happened during WWII to innocent people that were taken as prisoners and forced to work whether they were in the Nazi concentration camps or taken from their homes and placed in Siberia. What happened in Siberia I really don’t know because as far as I know, I was not taught that part of the war in history class (although I, regrettably, did not pay much attention so I may have doodled my way through it). From what she said, though, I have a feeling it was much like it was in the Nazi concentration camps. A lot of the kids didn’t realize that is what happened and that they have relatives or even great grandparents that were there… and once they realized that and it became more real, they quickly stopped talking. I have a feeling that picture will never be drawn again.

And, finally, the 8th grade. They were wonderful today. Yes, you read that correctly. They were wonderful! I don’t think I actually wrote about this on my blog, but two weeks ago I left the room crying because they were SO disrespectful to me and I was supposed to be teaching them alone. Ever since then my partner has been sitting in on the classes just in case they get out of control but they have been pretty good since then. Today, however, they were absolutely fabulous. The previous couple of lessons have been really dry and boring and straight out of the book and involving lots of writing because I was tired of their BS and I wanted to show them what boring classes can-and will- look like if they keep up their nonsense. Well, I guess it worked because today I had very active (but controlled) activities to prepare them for the test they will have for the next lesson. Now, it may have helped that there were only about half of the students, but regardless, they were attentive, active, and participating. I have a feeling (knock on wood) that things are finally going to turn around with them.

19 October 2011

No Internet

I still probably won't have Internet at home for another month. Eff.

Scarves to Skirts

Check out this AWESOME project one of the PCV's in Moldova has started with women in her village!! They take the scarves that all of the women wear on their heads and turn them into skirts, bags, and soon-to-be-released ties! I'm not sure how exporting works to the States yet, but I'm sure it will be posted on the Facebook group soon!

taken away

Today I didn’t have the second lesson so I went downstairs to sit with the student on duty (there is a “student on duty” every day who gets excused from all of their classes to take the daily attendance, run errands for the teachers/Director, and ring the bell every hour announcing the beginning and end of each lesson). One little girl who is in my 4th grade class came up to me and said she was going to Drochia, so I asked her what she was going to do there and she responded, “school”. This confused me a bit since she attends our school, so I asked what she meant. She then said her mother was going back to Moscow and so her, her brother in the 2nd grade, and her sister in the 8th grade are moving to Drochia and they will never return to Varatic. This immediately made my heart melt because she is such a capable little girl and she is always smiling and has such a big heart. However, one of my students pointed out that this will be much better for the kids. You see, they are basically being raised by their sister in the 8th grade, and there is another toddler at home. The word on the street is that the father ran off to Moscow when the mother was pregnant with the youngest and he now has another child there, and the mother also goes there to work most of the time, leaving the children alone in Moldova, only to be checked on every so often by their relatives that live in the village. Now (supposedly) the mother is an alcoholic and is also 7 months pregnant again and has been home for a short while but is off to Moscow today, which is why the children were taken by someone from the Mayor’s office (local or state, I’m not sure) to Drochia to be put in an orphanage. Every teacher was sad about this and blaming the mother, but the student is right- the kids will be better off there. They will have food to eat (instead of having to steal from the neighbors because they don’t have any) and they will be clean and have clean clothes. And I spoke with a volunteer that lives there and he said the facility is nice and the children will really be well taken care of, and there is a very good school there. My heart still goes out for those kids (even if the 2nd grade boy was very rei – bad – and even whipped his you-know-what out during lessons… but he really doesn’t know any different because he doesn’t have anyone to teach him), and I just want to take them home with me. Unfortunately I can’t do that (although Moldova did just open up adoptions to the USA), so the best thing I could do was tell the 4th grader to never forget these words (thank you, The Help): You are beautiful. You are kind. You are talented. And study English!!

… and then I gave them an Automobiles magazine and a Cowboys and Indians magazine to put in their small backpacks which was all they were taking with them to the orphanage.

I am so thankful for my family and that I volunteered to be part of a team that will put on camps at the orphanages in Moldova.

17 October 2011

The Bible says...

Yesterday I learned 2 things about the Bible.

1. The Bible says that the United States was never supposed to exist and that when the world comes to an end, the safest place to be is in Russia.

I asked if this was a Bible written in the Soviet time that this person read or not, to which the other passengers in the car responded, "Yes, it's true! I've heard that, too". Ok, that still didn't answer the question...

2. The Bible says that when presented with doors of opportunity, it is best to take the tightest one because that will give you the most happiness.

Now I have to start planning ahead for what to do in July and figure out which doors are the tightest... and that will be my fate.

Sometimes

Sometimes I can't wait to move on to something new...

and other times I get really sad when I think about leaving the kids here and my host family. This is now my home, and I've realized just how much of a bond I've established with everyone here.

... and I better stop or I'm going to cry!!!

Attacked!!

Before I get to my funny story of the day, I want to apologize. My dad pointed out that it has been 2 weeks since I have posted anything. I am going to blame it on the lack of Internet, but it has also been really busy!! I hope to have new stories soon.

Here is the funny story of the day, though.

I was attacked THREE times.

Attack number 1: A kitten. All summer this little kitten seemed to hate anything but food. It ran from anyone and every thing that came near it and it's eyes were like it was a deer caught in the headlights. In fact, this little kitten even scratched my hand so bad that I have a nice scar (which I think will go away, but for now it's there.... but it was my fault. I tried to pick it up by surprise). Now it has decided I'm it's favorite person, and I'm not exactly sure when this transition happened but it runs to me whenever it sees me. Today it literally climbed up my pants until it was in my arms, and then it crawled around my shoulders to be sitting on my neck. I guess it wanted some attention. KITTY ATTACK!

Attack number 2: A flock of geese. Geese here are raised in groups and they stay in groups. They are let out on their own to graze all day and they just stay in groups, then when it's time for some "real" food, they know, and they come home. Together. Well, there are some geese that graze in the school yard. I was walking by them to go to Maria's for our (not-so-weekly) discussions. They started to move out of my way even though I was going around them... but apparently they didn't like it that I then started walking where they were because they put their heads down, spread their wings, opened their beaks, and started storming towards me. I'm not sure if anyone saw me, but I'm sure if they did it was a rather hilarious site as I was trying to mock them to scare them but it wasn't doing any good and they kept coming closer... and eventually I ran away. Scary moment.

Attack number 3: coffee. My dad sent me an awesome Starbucks travel mug which I am ever so thankful for. I didn't put coffee in it ahead of time so I went to the store behind to the school to do it after I spoke with Maria. I wasn't quite sure how many teaspoons of the instant coffee I wanted so I had her put 2 in and then I shook up the mug to mix it. That clearly wasn't a very brilliant idea because the next thing I new, hot coffee was spewing out of the lid of my mug as if a volcano had just erupted. Luckily I wasn't en-route to Paris and I didn't have to cancel my trip. I just want to say that no one was harmed in the making of my coffee this morning.

Now it's a quarter to 3 and let's hope I'm not attacked by any bears on the way home. Kittens, and geese, and coffee, OH MY!

05 October 2011

Awesomest priest

I will fight anyone who tries to tell me that they have a more awesomer priest in their village in Moldova than me…and I will win every time because ours is the best. No, seriously. He is.

The first time he showed me his awesomeness was one year minus 40 days ago today at a praznic, or anniversary, of the death of the husband of one of our neighbors. I was still pretty new in town and didn’t know this family, but I asked my host mom if I could go along to see what a praznic was since I hadn’t been to one before. She chuckled, but let me come along. At this time they were “celebrating” the 40 days since the death, which includes a huge meal with close friends and family and a blessing from the priest. As soon as he saw me (not knowing I was going to be there) he sent one of his kids to the store to buy me some candy and some fruit. And that’s when the awesomeness began.

There have been more times of awesomeness, but the next that that really stands out in my head was on the Day of the Dead at the cemetery. The priest went around blessing everyone who had died, and when he got to me, he paused. My host mom had let me write my mom’s name in the “book of the dead” for him to read, and he asked me how to pronounce my mom’s name correctly before he began. Then he sent me with his daughter to the church to give me an icon. … and the awesomeness continues.

So now we’re back to another praznic,, celebrating a year since the aforementioned man died. The routine was the same, and of course they prepared enough food for an entire army (it’s tradition, and food equals wealth). So even though the table had more food on it when we finished than when we began, it was a successful evening of honoring the dead. But I must point out that we didn’t only have tons of food… there was also alcohol. Tons of it. Beer, wine, vodka… they had it all (also tradition). I was sitting next to a neighbor who always tries to get me to learn Russian and who also tries to get me to drink 100 grams of vodka with him at the local bar. I’ve refused both every time he’s asked, and so that tradition continued tonight as he kept trying to get me to drink some vodka. I wasn’t having it, but finally he took my glass (shot glass) when I wasn’t looking and had someone fill it with wine. Normally I would have taken it, but in all honesty I haven’t been feeling so great all day and I’d already eaten more than I should and I couldn’t fathom taking even one more shot of anything… especially not anything alcoholic. So I left it, against the will of my neighbor. Finally it was time to go which meant it was time for the priest to give one last blessing. But before we stood up my neighbor said, “Wait. Miss Cate still has a glass to drink.” I was a little out of it (remember: not feeling well and super tired) and didn’t realize it was about time to go and everyone was quiet and heard that and I replied, “I don’t wait it. I told you not to pour it.” At that point I realized everyone was listening to our conversation because a couple of people chuckled but then the priest further emphasized his awesomeness when he smiled and said, “Cate, don’t worry. I left some, too”.

Seriously. My priest is more awesomer than yours.


(should "priest" be capitalized??)

Knowing everyone and slab clothes

While walking home today from school (after teaching some kids how to play kickball!), I walked passed some of the villagers as they were working on husking the corn (which they had been doing since I left for school in the morning). One of the women sitting there didn’t know who I was which is always amusing to me because she stopped at stared for a minute and then she asked me who I am, to which the other ladies responded I am “the American” who lives here. In the few minutes that I sat there chatting with them, a few students had passed by and everyone smiled and said, “hello” and every time this happened she said, “you just know everyone!” to which the other women replied, “she knows everyone and she loves all of the kids and all of the kids love her, too. She’s so nice to everyone. She even loves Ion’s dog” (the one that I still think died).

I’m really going to miss this feeling.

But something I’m not going to miss is everyone telling me I don’t dress warm enough. Layers, my friends… layers!! When I left school this morning it was cool (maybe 40 degrees?) so I put on wool socks, jeans, a light merino wool t-shirt, and a wool ¾ sleeve sweater and I was perfect. However, because it is autumn, the afternoons still get really warm! When I was speaking with these people it was probably in the upper 60’s if not low 70’s and I was sweating my butt off in all of the wool walking home, but the “stranger” still asked me why I was dressed in such thin clothes.

03 October 2011

Baptism

I attended a baptism and cumatrie (I'll explain it later) all day yesterday. This was one of my favorite shots! But now I have to give the Internet back that I'm borrowing!

01 October 2011

Kneading bread

This morning I walked into the casa mica (small house) where my host parents live and where I take a shower and my host mom cooks so I could refill my cup with fresh tea. My host mom was making break dough, so I sat down for a few minutes to talk to her. She was almost done, and told me she knows that because her hand was almost clean of all of the dough she’d been kneading. Then she said she had a type of story, well, not a story, but kind of. Here’s how it goes:

There were two neighbors (two women). One was making bread dough and she got to a point where she couldn’t knead the dough anymore because her hands hurt so she called over her neighbor to come over. The neighbor stopped whatever she was doing at home and quickly came over and started kneading the dough. When she said she was finished the woman came over to say thank you and she looked at the dough and saw that it was very dirty, to which the neighbor replied, “by my hands are now clean!”

I can’t wait to have fresh bread this afternoon!!