13 December 2011
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
09 December 2011
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.
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:
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
Their wonderful nanny (who is a GRANDMA?!?!?) joined in on a couple of the photos.
04 December 2011
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
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!!!!!)
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
21 November 2011
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.
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
17 November 2011
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
15 November 2011
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
11 November 2011
10 November 2011
26 October 2011
22 October 2011
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
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!
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).
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
… 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
05 October 2011
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??)
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
01 October 2011
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!!