31 March 2011


It's SPRING in MOLDOVA!! Which means I am spending a lot more time outside which means I have a bunch more pictures which means I also have fun stories. But you'll just have to wait. Because now I must book tickets to a conference in Milan before I eat breakfast, head to school, and then go on a field trip with 39 students (and one other PCV) to a monastery where they perform interesting things at midnight... and we'll return at 5am. I can't wait!

29 March 2011

Pavel's Funeral

There are many traditions and celebrations in Moldova that I am more than happy and willing to participate in, such as weddings, baptisms, New Years, Easter, etc. But there was one that, while I was curious about it, I never actually wanted to see it.... and that's a funeral. I knew funerals are done different here than they are done in America so my curiousity got the best of me so much so that when I would see one happening (there were over 20 in our village this winter) I would stop and watch... until they would move locations and then I would let them be. After all, I didn't know the person so I felt like it was an intrusion on their privacy to be observing (this may not be the case, but it is how I felt). I also knew that if I were to participate in the "activities" of a funeral here in Moldova it would be because I knew the person that died. Unfortunately Pavel passed but fortunately Maria asked me to document the ceremony which meant I got to take part in it as if I was a part of the family. It was such an honor and a blessing, although he really is dearly missed by all.

Maria says on Friday night they went to bed as usual.... they watched some TV, then she wasn't feeling well so she took some medicine and laid down. He gave her a kiss and then he went to his bed (I have found that most couples sleep apart here) with his glasses and his newspaper to read before he fell asleep. When she woke up in the morning around 5, he was breathing deeply but she didn't think much of it. She just let him sleep. Usually he wakes up around 6 to begin the morning chores, so she was surprised when he wasn't awake at 10 past 7. She went to him to wake him up but when she got there she had found that he was not breathing and that he had died. I'm not sure exactly what happened between then and the funeral but I can tell you what someone told me.

Apparently after a person dies, someone remains by the body 24 hours a day. They seem to have a similar embalming process like we do in America, but I am not totally sure. The family then calls people in the village and family that doesn't live in the village and slowly people arrive at the house (where the body remains... in his/her Sunday best). People arrive to give their sympathies, and they are served with small snacks and wine. Then the day comes for the funeral (which is usually one or two days after the death). Watch the below video to see pictures... and the captions will tell you a little more.

On a side note: While this may have been a very difficult event, something truly positive came out of it. I had spent the weekend in Chisinau and when I left Varatic on Friday, it was about 60 degrees and sunny. I'd looked up the weather and saw snow was predicted for Sunday, but I didn't think much of it because I knew I wouldn't be outside much and my house is only two stops from where the rutiera drops me off... so I didn't bring anything other than the dress, tights, cowboy boots, and light-ish jacket I was wearing (and a couple of "cute" tops to make it look like I wasn't still wearing the same thing. Oh boy has Moldova changed me). I definitely was not expecting a funeral, nor to be asked to take pictures for it. Luckily I had my camera with me but no layers for clothes. I toughed it out because I knew it was more important for me to be there for Maria than for me to be warm... and the time I was going to arrive in my village was cutting it close to the beginning of the ceremony. So needless to say I was freezing throughout the entire 5 hours of everything. When we got to the cemetery, my host mom came up behind me, wrapped her arms around my waist, and held me tight so I could stay warm. It was such a great feeling... I felt comfortable in her arms and definitely much warmer (go body heat!). While our relationship has definitely had many moments where it's taken a turn for the better, I think this was the moment that officially turned it all around. I like her. In fact, I like her a lot. It's taken awhile to break the shell but I'm pretty sure it's officially broken and we have each other figured out pretty well. I think I'm going to really enjoy the next 14-ish months of my experience here.

28 March 2011

If you're reading this...

If you're reading this on a continuous basis (thanks!), I just want to let you know that the posts I just put up have pictures and a video coming. Unfortunately my internet is moving VERY slowly today so I am going to let the video load over night, and I'll post it as soon as I wake up.

... so hold your horses. And your happy birthday cakes.

27 March 2011

Good Day

If you take out the initial shock value of hearing about the loss of Pavel, yesterday was a great day and definitely one to go in the record books.

I woke up at 6am after a very restless night of sleeping. But that didn't seem to stop me because I got dressed and headed to Peace Corps to get the day started (even though the rest of the city was still sleeping). I hung out at Peace Corps for a bit before I got restless and decided to go for a walk. Just as I was walking out the door I got the phone call. The need for the walk couldn't have come at a better time. I decided to leave my camera behind because I didn't want to be distracted with looking for things to photograph.... I just wanted to go.

I called my friends Nick and Kelsey and they said they would meet me in an hour for some tea/coffee/something. While I was waiting for them I headed to the art piata to relax and enjoy my favorite location in Chisinau. Plus, I knew that due to the beauty of the day there would be many more artists than usual and I was excited to see who had been hibernating in the winter. I found Nadeja who is a woman I had photographed back in the fall. She had told me not to forget her because she said many Americans ask to take her picture and they say they will return but they never do. So, even though I did not have a print for her, I wanted to let her know I hadn't forgotten. And neither had she. She remembered my village and some information about me. After talking for sone time I told her I was hungry and I was going to go to the store and get some food. She ended up leading me to a buffet style restaurant and hollering at me when I went in the wrong direction.... It wasn't the best food I have ever had, but, as she said, it has a bathroom.

After that Kelsey and Nick arrived. We were on a hunt for an outdoor patio to grab (another) bite to eat and some coffee or tea. Nick had an idea in mind but couldn't exactly remember where it was. I the midst of searching we came across some vendors set up on a street selling.... Vintage film cameras. I about fell over backwards because I was so excited. Unfortunately they only spoke Russian so it was hard to communicate, but I found a Kiev4 which was a brand if a camera I had been looking for. They were made in Russia way back when and are no longer produced but, if you get a good one, they take quality photos. There was another one I wanted more but they didn't have it, so I settled for this one for 250 lei to experiment. The other one I wanted was 200 UsD. I will keep looking :) Now I know they are there every Saturday and I can't wait to go back to see what I can find (and purchase film because I forgot that.. minor detail).

We finally found a restaurant with a patio and sat outside to enjoy our meal. Tasty tasty tasty. Then we went back to the art piata and ran in to our friends Nancy and Tony (just as we were talking about them and a painting they had purchased in the past). They then joined us for a walk through the park (where the guys enjoyed a couple of beers they bought from a street vendor and drank in the park because you can do that in Moldova). The cold front that had been predicted started coming in rather quickly so we headed to a photo exhibition I had heard about that was free and included wine, food, and concerts. My favorite things all in one!

When we arrived to the location it looked like nothing more than another abandoned building.... And that's exactly what it was. The photos were kind of impressive, but whatI liked most was the ambiance if it all. Everyone was talking to people whether they knew them or not, smart people brought their cameras and video cameras, and the music was great. There were rooms all over the place, including one that looked like at one time it was a stage and there was tiered seating. Another room has letters from an old printing press, and another had old doors that were hand carved. Paint was peeling off of the walls and the floor was dusty but it didn't matter... Because it was awesome. Then, as you followed the signs to the WC you would cross through a small courtyard where people were gathered, sitting on chairs, enjoying their cigarettes and the discussion. Then there was another short passageway that led to another set of rooms (where empty cages sat that looked like snakes were once in them!), before we finally got to the back.... Which we thought led to the WC. But there was still one more passageway to get there... And a park to cross. But in this park were many cages of beautiful birds: peacocks, different kinds of pigeons and doves, and pheasants. The colors were so beautiful against the gray, chilly, windy weather.

Then, although I wanted to enjoy more music, drinks, and snacks, it was unfortunately time to go. But I so hope to be able to get back to that space and maybe set up my own exhibition and include the photos my students take! Hmm... Ideas!!

Hello America!!

"Hello America!" was what Pavel would say every Wednesday morning when I entered his house for my weekly breakfast with Maria. For being married to a woman who speaks English flawlessly and who holds lessons after school at her house every day, it always surprised me that was all he could say in English. Regardless, it was always fun to walk in to the house and have that warm welcome.


However, that is no longer going to happen because Pavel passed away yesterday.

My heart aches for Maria, but I do not want to dwell on the pain of losing a loved one because as much as it hurts, a death should be a time for celebration (in most cases, and in this one in particular)... At least that is what my dad told me when my Mom died. As much as I wouldn't accept that at the time, he was right. Everyone has a life to celebrate no matter how short or long it may have been. And because Pavel's was so long (although not long enough), we have lots to celebrate.

So, when I received the phone call yesterday to tell me he had died, my heart skipped a beat. It skipped a beat because I instantly thought of Maria and what she had told me just last week: if it wasn't for my husband and the after school lessons I do with the children, I would die. But after some tears had been shed I began to think of him and the few stories of moments we shared together... And I found myself laughing and smiling.

She had such a love for her husband (and likewise him for her) that it is impossible to describe it in words. They had been married some 50 plus years, and she still smiled every time he walked in to the room. They would still joke with each other and give each other a kiss as he was leaving the house. He was so dedicated to Maria and was always doing whatever he could to help around the house unless it included cooking.... Because Maria said he didn't even know how to make eggs. I guess it was a good thing he didn't have the job of the housewife or he would have had some problems. :)

I remember one morning when I was visiting Maria was getting me some tea and I was sitting and having a conversation with Pavel. Actually, it wasn't a conversation because I couldn't understand what he was saying because he was speaking in Russian. I kept asking him to speak in Romanian and he would respond, "da" and then continue in Russian. Finally Maria came in to the room and he asked for her assistance to translate what he was saying to me into English. But this is the best part: when he said it to her, he said it in Romanian and I understood everything. All three of us laughed so hard I thought we would never stop. After that he usually remembered to speak in Romanian but every so often Maria would have to remind him that I didn't know Russian.

When we would have conversations (in Romanian) he would always talk about two things. First he would ask me how Ross was feeling (he only met him once but he was sick at the time), and then he would talk about history and politics (which are two things I really do not know much about). But that was his passion. In the Communist times he was actually the mayor of our village for a long time. He was one of those lucky Moldavans that actually got the opportunity to travel and see the world. I can't remember exactly where all he went, but I do know that he went to Cuba... He would talk about it often and how beautiful it was.

There was one morning when I got up super early to catch the 5:45am rutiera. I don't remember where I was going or for what reason, but I remember Pavel getting on the rutiera. He sat next to me and we talked most of the way to his destination which was the hospital in another village for a heart exam. I remember driving past a school and he told me that was where he used to attend school. He had actually lived in another village but there was not a school so he would stay with a host family during the week to attend school and go home on the weekends.

Pavel my no longer be with us in this world but he will never be forgotten by many people. Just like his wife, he touched many lives and made such a positive impact on the people that he met. He was serious yet comical. I will always remember him for how hard working he was and the indescribable love he had for his wife. His heart was so big and his presence on Earth will be missed by many. There is a song (I'm sure you know it) called "Only the Good Die Young". If the good die young then the bad must die old... And if this is the case, then Pavel died young because he was so good.

So, with that being said, I am going to end this post with one last thought. Maria called me this morning and asked me to take some pictures for her. As I asked her how she was, knowing her response would be "sad", I instantly regretted it. I responded with, "that makes two of us... No, about a bazillion". After that I could hear a faint smile in her pain but at least it was something, but it is true. So today I am going to join the entire village in celebrating the life of Pavel... Not just because it is tradition, but because he deserves it. Even on this snowy spring day.


24 March 2011

Crazy hair

When I was in 5th grade and hitting that oh-so-fun time in my life of puberty, my hair started getting curly. I had little curls behind my ears and I remember once going to the hairdresser and literally holding on to that section of my hair the whole time because I didn't want her to cut the curls off (little did I know that wasn't going to happen. Oh the innocence of a child).
(this is me and my twin in 5th grade. Don't we look happy? ha.)
Anyways, by 7th grade I had pretty unruly hair... I never knew exactly what it was going to do. Sometimes it was totally straight, sometimes it was really wavy, and something there were kind of tight curls underneath but it was straight on top. It was about chin length at that time so it really got pretty crazy. One day I experimented with a hairdryer and I held my head upside down while I blew my hair dry... and much to my surprise, my hair was actually wavy. But only one one side. So I took a clip and clipped half of my hair back and left the other half wavy because I thought it was so pretty. When I got to school one of my classmates said, "what happened to your hair" and my response was "It's wavy". Now looking back I realize it wasn't a compliment.
This is my hair in 6th grade. Whew look at those curls)
Eventually my hair got longer, prettier, and more manageable.

I usually don't brush it but I usually don't need to because either I'm straightening it or pulling it back into a ponytail... so it doesn't matter. But the other day after I showered I put my hair up in a messy bun on the top of my head and I accidentally fell asleep with it like that. When I woke up in the morning and took it out, my hair was curlier than it had been in a long time so I left it down and went to school. When I returned back home my host mom said, "What happened to your hair? That is not frumos (meaning: beautiful)." She said I needed to brush it and never wear it like that again.

There is a reason I am in the Peace Corps and I don't work in the fashion industry... I don't know the first thing about it... and apparently I can't even keep my hair tame. Yikes.

apples and garlic

As I was enjoying my herbal tea after a dinner of a rather tasty cabbage soup, my host mom asked me if I wanted an apple. I declined and she proceeded to peel it before eating it. About halfway through she asked my host dad if he used that knife to cut his garlic, because her apple tasted like garlic. He said it's possible, but apples and garlic go good together, especially when you add salt (or maybe he said sugar. I can't remember anymore). I made a face and said no thanks, and he kept trying to insist that it really is good. Then he said they'll make some of this "delicacy" (which is what he calls everything I don't like to eat... aka livers, hearts, and sometimes freshly boiled pumpkin but it just depends on my mood) tomorrow. Then I said, "It's a good thing I won't be here" and my host mom started cracking up, and he was still going on about something or another... so she interrupted him and asked him if he heard what I said. He said no, so she told him. Then they both started laughing... and then he said they'll save some on a plate for me and put it in the refrigerator for when I return. I said thank you, and that was that.

They then continued to watch a TV show in Russian that is basically about people that want to get married, so the apply to this show and the show sets them up with 3 dates... they have an interview (not a date, but an interview) and then at the end of the show they choose the person they want to marry. It's quite interesting especially considering I don't understand a word of it.. or a word of the news occasionally watch at dinnertime because it is also in Russian. Yahoo!

Oh, and my host mom also told me that I am their guest and so I should have told them I was hungry when I got back from school (which I wasn't, so I just snacked a little bit) and that a fire needed to be made because it was cold in my room (which it really wasn't, I just know it will be in the morning, so I like a little fire at night to keep it warm). That was very considerate of her to say that! At least I know I can ask (even though I never thought I couldn't).

woah wind

The last two days have brought sunny skies and warm-ish temperatures but STRONG winds! It was so strong today that when I came home from school the gate to where the chickens/ducks/turkeys are was open and they were walking around the yard. It was kind of fun to play cowgirl and get them all back to where they belong. But from now on, I'll leave that up to my host mom. She seems to know what she's doing better than I do.

23 March 2011

the little things

Lately I've been thinking a lot about life... and how more often than not it seems like it's the little things that make an experience, whether it's something from my service in the Peace Corps or a memory of always going to the same chinese restaurant with my dad after piano lessons when I was little.

Well, I found out today that a student attempted suicide. Rumors are already flying around the village as to the reason she did it, but when it comes down to it, the reason doesn't even matter because whatever it was at that moment in time was so big that she thought the only way out of the scenario was to end her own life. Hopefully later she can look back and say, "What was I thinking?"

But what hurts my heart the most is the story of what happened before, what could have happened after, and what will probably happen in the future. You see, her father died a few years ago and her mother moved to Moscow in order to make money for her family. She left her daughter (who is now a senior) to stay at home alone with her younger brother (I'm not sure how old he is). So, that is what happened before. What could have happened after she gets home from the hospital is a beating from her parents for her "selfish" act or for whatever reason caused her to attempt suicide in the first place (whether it be guilt, embarrassment, shame, or something else). This does not happen in every family, but it is a very common occurrence here and more times than not there is nothing that can be done to stop it for many reasons. Now this is how the scenario will probably work out given the circumstances of her family situation and the medical system here. She will probably remain in the hospital for a few days where she will hopefully talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist, who most likely will not be very well trained (but, fingers crossed, she gets to talk to someone who is well trained, very educated, very knowledgable, and she is willing to work with them... and we'll have a win/win situation). Then she'll be released to come back to our village where she will probably be frowned upon by some teachers, locals, and students at the school. With just 2 months left, she doesn't have to return to school because she has completed 9th form, and here they can stop attending school whenever they want after that. So, she may not return. She will probably not continue to have psychological counseling and who knows what will happen after that.

Now, I am not a psychic. I have no idea if this is how the scenario will play out, but after talking to some people about it, they said this is usually what happens in this type of a situation. I sure hope the exact opposite happens and that she does get proper counseling, she does get help, she does see a reason for living, her friends don't leave her hanging, and she finishes school. But my heart just aches to see a student going through something like this and I just feel that sometimes I can't do anything due to the language barrier, the fact that I don't know the culture or the system, and I don't know this girl very well at all. But maybe all of that will be more of a reason I can help. I have no idea right now, but my heart is aching for her.

22 March 2011

Positive thinking

I woke up this morning with a lot going through my head again but after taking two long walks yesterday, I was exhausted to I figured I'd set my alarm for a little later this morning and skip out on yoga (lame, I know). So, when my alarm went off I my mind was still racing but at least the sun was up and I can see that the sky is clear. I relaxed.

Then I got on facebook to do my usually early morning check up on what is going on with my friend and family on the (kind of) other side of the world. I came across this quote from a friend who has been super awesome at updating his status with nothing but positive things and optimism:

Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience. -Paulo Coelho

I joined the Peace Corps on a 27 month contract to live in a country I hadn't even heard of before I was told where I was going. I am not making money and I'm not going to school. But I am having an experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life and I am taking two years to figure out how this whole teacher thing works. Pretty sure I took the risk... and now I'm having the experience. Now that experience means breakfast... because I'm hungry.

21 March 2011

Rough start

Boy oh boy oh boy was today a rough start. I think it actually began yesterday. It was the first time in a week that I was absolutely dreading going to school the next day (aka today). I tried taking a walk hoping that by getting outside and getting some fresh air and some thinking time without the distraction of music or technology would be of some assistance. But unfortunately it didn't quite give me the affect that I was expecting. So many thoughts were going through my head and I had trouble falling asleep. When I woke up I was hoping to be back to myself again... but that wasn't the case. As they say in Moldova, I was fără dispoziție which literally means "without disposition" and in American English means "emotionless". Yoga didn't help, and neither did the personal pep talks (which I felt kind of awkward doing, but I figured I might as well try everything I could). Finally I looked through a book of positive quotations that was given to me by another PCV when I was struggling and I found one just as I was about to walk out the door:

There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow. - Dorothea Brande

I figured it was pretty relevant considering it is officially (in Moldova and the rest of the world) spring (yay!). So the entire way to school I repeated that to myself because, after all, I am the only one who can control my thoughts and my actions... so I was trying to not let that unknown seed of self-destruction bring me down. By the time I got to school I was feeling a little better especially because I knew it was starting with the 10th grade and ending with the 9th... my two favorites.

But then I got to school and realized it was test day for the 10th grade. All morning all I'd wanted to do was cry (the reason is still unknown) and then I arrive and I have to give a test to the class that I was hoping was going to start the unwanted day off right. Now, a little bit of background on why this isn't such a great thing. I. hate. test day. The ironic thing about it is that I'm not the one taking the test, but I still hate it. The students don't study nor do they actually know the information (no matter how hard we try to teach it), and I don't think it is ethical to give them the answers. On any regular day I can help the kids out... give them encouragement, try to get the usually silent ones to talk, and help as much as possible. But not on test day. They're on their own. And I must admit... I am kind of a stickler when it comes to copying. I just won't have it. I know I'm only here two years but it is important they learn to do the work on their own, you know? So if I see people copying out of their notebooks or using the book or a dictionary, I take it. If I see them copying from a neighbor, I will take their test for 5 minutes. This would be fine in my own class, but my partner teachers don't exactly agree with this and they get irritated with me, but it is something I feel strongly about. So I dread having to be a you-know-what to the kids, and I dread the disagreement with my partners. I just hate test day. Did I say that yet?

Because I dislike test day so much and I don't want to deal with the grades, I let my partner handle all of the test writing. Because she doesn't know how to use a computer, she writes everything on the board. I noticed a spelling mistake, so I corrected it. Then during the test the students asked a question about one of the questions saying it didn't make sense. We were both looking at it and I thought I'd finally figured out the problem. I added a verb that I thought was missing in the sentence and she got so mad at me, showed me from where in the book she got the question, and told me they were supposed to know where to put the verb. Because I wasn't exactly standing on both of my feet I decided it was best if I just left the room and let her handle the rest.

I called a friend, and I cried.

I still don't know what exactly came over me today. There wasn't one day last week I was seriously dreading going to school lately I've been really good about talking myself out of those silly situations I put in my head. My friend helped me calm down a bit, but I still wasn't ready to go back in the room. So I went to find the school nurse, who for some reason I feel like I can confide in. All I wanted was a hug. (It's the little things in life). Thankfully she was there just as I walked down the stairs and she took me straight to her office so we could talk. I was still clueless as to where all of this was coming from but thankfully she was there to talk to me regardless. I didn't have the next lesson so that gave us another hour to talk.

She eventually calmed me down and I feel so much better. It was nice just to talk... and she got my mind distracted which was what I was needing. So, I was able to go back to my next class where I taught the whole lesson by myself. Then we had a break and I went on a walk to get some tea and just to get out of the school for a bit. I spoke with the woman who works at the small shop who I believe is right around my age. She came to our village from a big rayon because she has family here and there was work, which I find kind of ironic because the nurse told me that of the approximately 2000 people that live here, 600 are children, and the majority of the remaining are old... and those that aren't old and are not receiving their pensions are without jobs because there are only 200 jobs in our village. Eek!! But she gave me a lot of insight on how the school system works because she was a teacher for a year before she decided she couldn't do it anymore. She said in the big cities the students are even more misbehaved than the students here (although they really aren't bad here for the most part). She also gave me some insight as to how the tutoring system works: when students go for tutoring, they usually just do their homework assignment. They usually don't get extra problems to do. Thus, they are paying to have their homework done and for their grades (which I already knew, but not quite to that extent). It was nice to talk to someone my age that doesn't have kids and because the store is right across the street I know I can go there on breaks and relax and talk.

Before I knew it, it was time to go back to teach another lesson, this time with the 9th form. My partner got really mad at me again when I corrected an answer that was given and wanted it to be expanded upon. Apparently we both woke up on the wrong side of the bed and today just wasn't our day. I told the students I was going on a walk and if they wanted to join me I would love the company. While I usually like to go on walks by myself, after a rather stressful day I was feeling the need for some company. Three girls came along.

I learned the reason for the old part of the village being destroyed by the river rising (can you see the outlines with the stones in these photos? These used to be houses). Varatic is very close to the Romanian border, and the border is a river which feeds in to the river in our village. Some 30 or so years ago a bridge was built over the river to connect Romania and Moldova, and when this bridge was built, the course of the river changed and the level of the water rose. I'm not sure how quickly this happened, but all of that part of the village was eventually covered in water, which explains why most of the houses in our village are not as old as in other villages.

We also laid in the grass and enjoyed watching the clouds as they passed by. Many Moldovan students do not have a very imaginative mind and they weren't afraid to tell me that... so unfortunately our imaginary pictures in the clouds game didn't last very long. But it was fun while it lasted and I hope to do it again soon (just next time I hope not to lose my glasses).

So now the sun is setting. It's almost 7pm and I am hoping the clouds will stay sparse enough so I can see that huge moon that everyone keeps talking about. If I do, I will take pictures... but did you really expect any less?

20 March 2011

Sunday afternoon walk

I can't believe Sunday is already basically over (and by basically over I mean I should have been asleep 15 minutes ago!). This last week flew by so fast! And thank goodness for that because it sure was cloudy most of it and supposedly we have sun in the forecast for tomorrow. I'll believe it when I see it!

Anyways... when talking to a friend of mine today, he asked me if I had a bike so that I could go explore just a little bit further than what I'd been doing thus far in my village. I said no, but he had a good point. While I don't have a bike to take me further I do have two feet to take me on a different route. So, after spending most of the day working on some visual aids for the classroom, practicing Romanian, and researching songs to teach the kids, around 4 I decided it was time to get out of the house and go for a walk. The sky was one of those dark overcasts that really doesn't do well for pictures, but I was up to the challenge. I needed some thinking time, some fresh air, and some new photos. Unfortunately I will not be posting a lot of photos right now because I wasn't joking when I said I needed to be asleep 15 minutes ago... but here is a taste of my 2 hour journey. Stories and thoughts will come tomorrow!

19 March 2011


My host dad came in my room this afternoon and asked if I thought the soba needed one more piece of wood, or if it was warm enough. I said one more piece, since it's a cooler night.

Now it's so uncomfortably warm I won't be able to fall asleep. But then again it is only a quarter to 8. Next time I should listen to the expert ;)

17 March 2011

Behind closed doors

Here in Moldova the teacher's meetings don't happen after school like the did in the schools I attended in Kansas... they happen during the 10 or 15 minute passing periods. These meetings cover everything from people coming to try to sell things, Politicians (or representatives) giving speeches, and of course information related to the school. Today I'm not exactly sure what went down... but we got called to the office for a meeting after the 3rd lesson. Before I knew it a debate had began and when everyone talks at once I get so lost I just tune out. Then chocolate and candy was put on the center of the table, then two bottles of champagne, and a 2 liters of beer. It was now time to celebrate the fact that one of the teachers is now a grandmother (or a grandmother again... I'm not too sure). So we all toasted and drank a glass of champagne, ate chocolate, and then I got talked in to being on the school volleyball team this weekend: teachers against teachers at the raion competition.

15 or 20 minutes into class already beginning, we all returned to our classes. Luckily the kids didn't get too wild and crazy this time as all of the teachers were in the Principal's office for the meeting, leaving all of the kids without supervision for 30+ minutes.

... only behind closed doors.

Rookie mistake

After 5 days of yoga I was going great at getting up in the morning and practicing... until yesterday. It was colder in my room than usual and so I didn't want to get up. Rookie mistake. I was sad and cranky most of the day, and it didn't help that the weather was colder than it has been, raining on and off (but at the snow is gone! For now!), and it was overcast. Oops.

SO this morning I got up and did it. Before I knew it, I was done and an hour had passed. I feel so much better, relaxed, and high-spirited.... and it's cold, windy, and cloudy outside! Nothing can stop me now!

(My host mom even opened my yoga book this morning and said she wanted to do it with me. I know she was joking especially because she laughed at all of the pictures as she was looking through it. But I think I can convince her one of these days... especially because now that it is spring she is back to work in the fields and at the oil factory. If I were her, I'd greatly dislike spring and fall and I would for sure need yoga to keep my spirits up! hehe)

Here is a photo from one of the silent walks from the yoga retreat.

14 March 2011

Summer sky in December

Ok, so I know it just got to be spring (in Moldova, yes, but by the technical calendar we still have a week or so to go)... but look at these pictures from the blog of a KC photog got me super excited about the upcoming nice weather and... SUMMER!!!

... I think I am getting too far ahead of myself.

new beginning

With my once-again found happiness comes the beginning of spring...(which in Moldova begins the 1st of March) and I couldn't be happier. Except that with spring comes the occasional snow shower squeezed between upper 50 to mid 60 degree weather and mud up to our knees after the snow melts or the rain comes. But it's ok because the days are becoming longer, the sun is shining more, and I am sitting outside on the porch enjoying a cup of tea while writing this and then planning my lesson for tomorrow.

This morning when I walked to school I stopped to say hello to my two favorite doorbells and I think they missed me as much as I missed them.

Then the highlight of my day was the second I walked into school I had two 2nd grade girls come running up to me and gave me a huge hug. What a warm welcome that was! And, ironically, these are two of the girls that I struggled with at the beginning of the school year. I think it's actually kind of interesting because I think after that incident they quickly gained respect for me... just like a student who, in my 10th form, I put at the very front of the class on the first day because he was being rude and talking the whole lesson and just driving me crazy... but now he is one of my favorites (not that I have favorites, but I kind of do).

So the rest of the school day went great. It was warmer outside than inside but we still held lessons inside, and I couldn't wait to get outside and sit in the sun (which, like I said, is what i'm doing now). As soon as I walked out, a bunch of 2nd graders were playing around on the asphalt (which needs to be repaired... they will be there tomorrow so I'll take pictures). We did a round of the hokey pokey and then I went on my way because I was anxiously awaiting what I'm doing now.

After that I stopped and pet the doorbells again and I saw the men sitting on their typical bench and enjoying the sunshine. I walked by and told them how happy I am to see them sitting there because it means the weather is nice.... and when the weather is nice it is crazy how much more the village comes to life. I don't even need to be playing music right now because it is nice to take in the sounds of the village: the children in the background playing, the neighbors doing work outside, and the animals doing what they do best (making lots of noise).

Now the hard part with this beautiful weather is the want to be productive. However, I guess that can be an excuse for every season (in winter I don't want to be productive because it's too cold... in spring and autumn the weather is too beautiful I just want to be outside... on rainy days I just want to read... in summer I want to be laying out...). Guess you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Well, I suppose I should attempt to be productive now since I obviously have my computer and internet with me while I'm sitting outside. Maybe I should get another tea first... :P

10 March 2011


I am back in Chisinau and I was happy to wake up and see the sun. Well, actually I woke up then an hour or so later saw the sun. I'm so used to waking up at 5:30 that I can't sleep in. But that's nothing new.

It was hard to sleep now that I am back in the city. A dog barked all night long and this isn't one of the best hotels in Chisinau... So I tossed and turned all night. Hopefully it gets better soon. Good sleep is necessary to good mental health!

09 March 2011

Yoga in Austria

Yoga in Austria:

Warning: This is super long.

The vacation in Austria was just what I needed. And you know what? I finally feel back to my normal self and boy oh boy does that feel wonderful. I find myself smiling all the time just to myself and to strangers. That may get me into trouble when I get back to school but you know what? It's ok. I think the students respect me and I am pretty sure they will be happy to see me smiling again and bringing energy back to the classroom because it sure has been missing lately.

Oh, I suppose I should get back to talking about the Sivananda Seminarhaus in Austria.

When I first arrived in Munich I had to go from one end of Terminal 1 to the complete opposite end of Terminal 2 in order to meet up with my friend Isabelle (who I met when I studied abroad in France, and who I also visited in Portugal during that summer of traveling!) the weather was beautiful and the sky was clear during the whole flight. I had a beautiful view of the mountains from my window seat (the best seat, unless you're in First Class, that is... But of course I don't know what that is like). Anyways... It was beautiful until we began to land and then there was cloud cover... I mean, seriously?! But it was ok because as soon as we started going up in the mountains of Austria it cleared up and it stayed that way the WHOLE 4 days we stayed there.

The yoga retreat wasn't what I thought it was going to be, but is anything these days? I thought it would literally be in the middle of nowhere and they would make us give them our cell phones and there wouldn't be Internet (you can't believe wavering you see on a tav and in the movies). Well, it wasn't like that at all. The hotel and the yoga house are two totally different businesses although they kind of work together (even though they didn't really seem to know what was going on with the other one except for the rules of what we could and could not eat and what time the meals were).
Speaking of what we could and could not eat.... This gets interesting (so interesting, in fact, that I bought a cookbook). The people that practice this kind of yoga follow a very strict vegetarian diet. The reason for the vegetarian diet is due to the slaughtering of animals, and of course there is nothing humane about slaughtering (they kept using this term and would say it with absolute disgust) animals... So, they said that even if we raised our own animals and slaughter them we would probably not eat meat ever again (I think Moldovans would easily disagree with this). Regardless, it was interesting to hear their opinion (in which everyone is entitled to their own opinion). So we didn't eat meat, garlic, onions, or mushrooms (mushrooms grow in the dark so that's why they don't eat them). We did eat a lot of food that was cooked with Indian spices and, when we took the cooking class, it was quite interesting to see what spices they put in the food (curry and cinnamon together in the same rice dish? Who knew!?). The cooking in itself is really an art and a science. They know how all of the spices are good for the body and what spices should go with which food in order to aid with digestion. I even ate a TON of a banana yogurt and didn't have any digestive problems. Maybe if I only cook these foods then I will be cured of my lactose intolerance that usually gives me so many problems... Wouldn't that be amazing?! I think that will have to wait until I get back to America, though, because it is difficult to find everything I would need in Moldova, and especially in the village. Good think my host mom cooks yummy food (even if it doesn't agree with my stomach all the time or with the yogic diet).

So enough about the food. Now let's talk about what I learned on this vacation in a semi-bullet format to keep it short (since I have already written a novel and if you're like me, you haven't even made it this far because you probably got bored.)

What I learned:

There is something about flying in an airplane that makes me so happy. Maybe its the freedom. Maybe its the view. Maybe its the destination. I don't know.... But it gets my heart racing and this time it is a good thing.

I really do travel by the seat of my pants... But I like that. It makes for a great adventure especially when I don't speak the language because there can be some things that are lost in translation (such as when I told the shuttle driver today that he did not have my flight information but he kept insisting that he did... But he didn't because Isabelle only gave them company her flight information)

I'm not an organized person. I never put the documents I need in an accessible place, nor do I always know where they are. Oops.

A yogic diet (mentioned above) is actually really really good. And I was surprised that we only ate at 10 and 6 and I really wasn't hungry between then. Maybe that's because of all of the food I ate at those times. ha!

My next getaway-and-recollect myself vacation will be alone. While it was so great to be with a good friend who I hadn't seen in a long time, I wasn't able to relax quite as much as I would have liked. We did have great conversations, though, and I am very thankful for that. I also prefer to do silent walks alone so I can take my time and take in all that is around me. It does help having a guide who knows the area, though.

Put your hands on your abdomen. Now take a deep breath. Did you abdomen move or only your chest? Most likely it was only your chest. Now take a deep breath beginning with your abdomen and then fill your lungs with air. How did that feel? Did you get more air? I sure hope so. That is how you should always breathe.... And do it through your nose! There is a reason we have one of those.

I. Love. Yoga. And apparently I'm a natural (although I would disagree). Bikram (hot yoga) is still my favorite but I did enjoy this kind because it was really relaxing and it focused a lot on breathing, which was great for me.

There is so much more to yoga than just practicing flexibility and strength, which is something I didn't realize until going to this retreat. It is actually very spiritual, which I found out by attending the meditation and chanting sessions. It is also based a lot on mythology which to me seems like it is based on Christianity. It is interesting t study different forms of spirituality and I was definitely able to appreciate it and the lifestyle the yogis have decided to live. They really seem at peace.

The first day of yoga class the instructor had us do one of two poses: the dolphin or the head stand. The dolphin is more about strength in the arms and the abs, and the headstand is about balance (a wall cannot be used). They told us not to do the headstand unless we had previously been taught how to do it. Well, this made me want to do it so I made my goal to do it before I left. So the first days I took it easy and stuck to the dolphin but every time I saw people doing the headstand I got antsy and wanted to it so bad (patience young grasshopper). Then one morning I think the instructor could tell I wanted to try, so she came up to me and helped me get to. The basic position. Then in my last class she came up to me again and helped me get to the full position. It felt so great to achieve that goal and it showed me that patience, persistence, and determination are a big part of who I am and sometimes I lose sight of that, but it sure doe feel great when I find it again.

A man who we usually sat and had dinner/brunch with gave me some good advice. I am usually an open book (um, obviously. I have a blog.) but that can tend to get me into trouble. Sometimes I trust people too easily and tell them information that would have been better if I had kept it to myself. But he made a good point. He said, "A best friend is a best friend." What that means is your best friend is usually also a best friend to someone else. So you know when you tell our best friend, "don't tell anyone this, ok?" Well, most likely they will tell their other best friend the same thing and before you now it, your secret is out. He is so right. And I have done that before. With Peace Corps being such a small community, you really do have to watch what you tell others. It is a HUGE rumor mill and full of gossip (sometimes true, sometimes not). So, just remember: a best friend is a best friend.

When the opportunity for technology is put in front of me, I cant help but use it. My next getaway vacation really will be technology free.

Europe is SO expensive!!! It will be nice to have a paid job after the Peace Corps.

The Austrian winter/spring sun is more powerful than one would think. My face is now a nice shade of pink and my nose is like Ruldolph's after sitting outside for a couple of hours yesterday. It felt so great though!

I'm really really happy. And I love it! This vacation reminded me how powerful thoughts are and that it is important to remain as positive as possible in all situations. After a yoga class you can really feel happy... And it seems like the happiness is magnified. That also means that you are more susceptible to ALL emotions so anger can also be triggered easily... So it is important to recognize those emotions and keep taking deep breaths and remain calm. The little things in life that can upset and anger you really aren't as bad as you think (usually) and will eventually diminish after time (for example, one morning I was told to take my yoga mat out of e room because it was meditation time and not yoga time, but being as it was 6am, I wasnt really oaying attention. So I took it out. Then the instructor that told me to take the mat out stopped me again when I entered the room and said my blanket smelled too strong and I couldn't bring it in to the class (it smelled like laundry detergent or softener), and when I said it was theirs, she replaced it. Then when it came time for yoga class, she approached me again saying I couldn't use my mat because others were complaining that it smelled too strong... It smelled like rubber perhaps because it was brand new and also maybe because it was cheap, but i don't know the price because someone was very nice and gave it to me as a gift. So it was just me being ridiculous and I felt myself getting angry at this woman... But why? She didn't do anything wrong, and neither did I. After the class I calmed down... Because that was stupid I got upset).

I am just like my sister and my dad. I now have a (hopefully healthy-ish) addiction to peanut M&Ms. Thankfully I can get them un Moldova.... Although peanut butter M&Ms are still my favorite.

Country music.
I love it.

The end.

(pictures coming on Sunday)

07 March 2011

Yoga in Austria

I am going to keep this short because i really need to get off of the internet and go relax in the sun for awhile before the next yoga class begins. But being here has really beea wonderful experience so far. The days begin at 6am with meditation (actually it's "concentration" because it takes time to develop the art of meditation and if they put "concentration" on the schedule no one would come, even though it is required). So, that is 25 minutes of sitting in silence and not moving. Isabelle asked me today what the point of that was and when I told her I actually enjoy it because it is a challenge for me to sit still, she was confused. But i really can't sit still and in these concentration sessions we have to because we don't want to disturb the other people in the class. Then at 6:30 we start the chanting.... Which I don't agree with because I feel like I am worshipping the big time yoga instructors who have died (considering their pictures are huge in front of us with candles and other things under them) and I don't know what I am saying... But if I look past that and think about the fact that I dot know what I am saying and it is supposed to help with the "energies" and the breathing then it's not so bad. Then we have a short 10-15 minute tea break and then the yoga class begins. It is so different from hot yoga in that well, it's not hot, but also because there is a lot of relaxing between each of the poses and it seems to really focus on relaxation. Then we finish just before 10 and then go to eat a homemade bio vegetarian breakfast. It's so good that I am finally back to my normal weight. Not tht Moldovan food isn't good... It is just so full of oil that it isn't good for you and i cannot eat a lot of it! Then after brunch we usually have a break until 2, and then it varies as to what we can do. Smetimes there is a lecture, a walk, a cooking class, or the sauna. It's all optional. Or we can schedule a massage. We did the cooking class yesterday and the sauna today. So then, at 4, we have another 2 hour yoga class, then dinner at 6, then meditation and chanting at 7:30, then bed at 9or 9:30. Last night, though, we went on a silent walk in the mountains which was great. Of course I left my yaktrax in my bag in the room but it wasn't too icy, thank goodness. I realized i definitely like silent walks by myself but when it is dark outside and I don't know the area, it is better to be in a group. But it was an interesting concept of focusing on each step taken... So that we are not focusing on the past or the future but instead n the present. Of course I was thinking about the future and when I was going to be able to sleep,... But it was still good and the air was fresh and. Eve with the light fog, the mountains were beautiful.

Now I am off to enjoy the warm winter/early spring sun and maybe take a nap. Believe it or not, i might go back to Moldova (which, by the way, has a much prettier view of the sky and the stars at night) with a little color on my face. Yahoo!

01 March 2011


I don't know my way around Chisinau. Why? I don't know. But I don't.... and I especially don't know the routes of the public transportation so it's usually easier for me just to call a cab. Because I've done this quite frequently I've began collecting a few numbers for drivers that had clean cars, were friendly, didn't smoke, and didn't overcharge me because they know I'm an American (which automatically means I'm rich... according to the stereotype). As of now I have two drivers that I call and if they are busy I will call the company to get me a cab.

Well, last night some of my friends cooked dinner and invited me over to enjoy it (they're so thoughtful... and awesome cooks!!!). It was time to come home so I called Victor Cab. He wasn't working. So I called Victor Cab 2 (yes, they are both named Victor). He was free and working so he showed up in about 10 minutes with curbside service! And he remembered where he picked me up the one and only time he'd driven me before... I didn't even have to say anything, and I didn't realize that until we were about halfway there. So I gave him 50 lei when the charge was 30. When I got out of the car he said, "Call me anytime and I will come get you!" Being as this isn't a country where tipping drivers, servers, etc is the norm... I think he liked that. And I also think I'll have a taxi whenever I need it in Chisinau.