26 May 2011


With just a few short days until I am back to KC I decided to start packing. First of all, I just want to say I have no idea how I managed to come here with these 2 medium-sized suitcases... and even worse, how I'm going to officially go back home with them. Good thing I'm headed back to KC so I can pick up a super-sized suitcase.

Anyways, after thinking about thinking about packing I walked outside to take care of some business. As I walked out the door on to my porch it hit me- holy shit, it is really going to be hard to actually leave Moldova in a year. It's been such a battle to get where I am now but I can actually say I am happy and really enjoying my service. As I thought about this I got a little emotional (and am now as I'm writing this!) and so I decided to go join my host mom and the neighbors on the shaded bench outside our gate. I'm really going to miss that. And them. And this is SO weird because I'm coming back, and I still have another year... so believe me when I say I am so thankful for that and I'm going to soak in every moment that I can because I know before I know it, it will all be done.

Enough of that. I'm happy I have one more year to enjoy this life I've chosen to partake in.

... maybe I have the Starbucks VIA I drank to blame for these emotions. It has been awhile since I've had coffee... regardless, I mean what I say!

... these guys make it difficult, too.


I have an odnoklassniki page. Unless you speak Russian, I'm sure you have no idea what that means. Basically, Peace Corps Volunteers like to call it "The Russian Facebook" because it is very similar to Facebook, or MySpace, only it's all written in Russian, without the possibility of putting it in English. The one thing that I think is really creepy about it is that there are footprints at the top and when you click on them you can see who has viewed your page. Let's just say the only thing I do with this page is use it to communicate with my students that haven't figured out just how awesome Facebook is yet.

Anyways, as I was doing one of the only things I know how to do (accepting friend requests and picture tags), I came across this photo of one of my 11th grade students and I when we went to the forest for a picnic a couple of weeks ago. The caption under the picture reads, "The best teachers teach from the heart, not the book." You know, it's the little things like this that make it all worth it (sicknesses and all!).

Changing grades

Ooooh I love the end of the school year. I mean, I really do love it. It's warm, we do all of our "lessons" outside, and it's actually a time to relax. Unless you're that student that didn't listen to me ALL semester when I said repetitively that you have a low grade and you should come to me to see what you can do to make it higher... and you still didn't do that or put in an additional effort in class. So when I tell you your final grade, you can't get mad at me.... especially when you refused to write anything for the essay part of the final exam. I did everything I could to make it easy for the students to get a high grade and they still refused to work. At this point I've already turned in my grades and it's a done deal. Sorry Charlie.


I don't know what I would do without this woman here in my village. She's my saving grace when I'm in need, and I love our Wednesday mornings together. It's been so hard these last couple of months watching her grieve, but I can say that yesterday was the first day I've seen her truly laugh and truly smile since her husband passed. Progress!!

25 May 2011

Dust bowl

I'm not so sure if I said it before (I meant to!), but if not I'll say it again: We need rain. It's really become apparent to me just how much we take sprinklers for granted in America, at least where I'm from. I remember thinking when I was little how the Dust Bowl actually happened because I'd always heard people complaining about it not raining, but I knew we always had a sprinkler so it was fine... the ground stayed wet. Well, out here in my village we don't have the luxury of a sprinkler system and so our ground is sooo dry. Before I came here (wow, almost one year ago!) everyone said we needed to bring rain boots because spring is incredibly wet and muddy- but due to that incredibly wet and muddy spring we had absolutely incredible fresh fruits and vegetables. This spring has been quite the opposite and I actually felt as if I was living through the dust bowl of the 1920's in America this afternoon as I was walking home. It is very windy right now and it looks like there is a storm coming in (and boy-oh-boy am I crossing my fingers for one!!) and there is dust blowing everywhere... it's pretty crazy. I hope that it does rain because if not we are really not going to have many fruits and vegetables this year... in fact, I'm afraid it might already be too late by the way my host mom has been talking... :-/

Update: no rain :(

22 May 2011

The concert

So, I found out there was going to be a famous Moldovan singer performing at our stadium tonight at 9pm. My host mom grabbed a blanket and at around 8:50 we headed in that direction. I just came home and it's 11pm- and the singer still hadn't arrived.


My host parents

Leave it to my host parents to make a rather unenjoyabe and out-of-character day turn in to happiness. No, there really isn't any sarcasm in the previous sentence. I know it was a rough beginning, but right now I can't imagine what my arrival back to my village would have been like if I didn't come home to them. I don't know what happened today that set me off, but something was just off balance. All I wanted to do when I got home was crawl into bed and go to sleep and hope that I would fall asleep quickly and sleep through the night so that tomorrow would come quickly so I could start fresh. However, on the way home from Chisinau I took a rutiera with a different route. It was as if I was seeing Moldova for the first time all over again... the sights, the smells... everything. So that made me feel a little better (and really makes me want to go buy a bike because I want to explore that area!!!!!!)and then I arrived home to my host mom waiting for me at the bus stop and dinner ready... and a host dad in an equally good mood. We joked and laughed throughout my dinner (because they'd already eaten) and then my host mom told me the cherries ripened while I was gone! So I'm so excited. I could stand there all day eating those. Now my host mom and I are off to a concert... so I gotta go!

21 May 2011

Rapture bbq

I must say that I had an absolutely wonderful Rapture day. I spent it with great friends in Chisinau. We went to a market where I found red onions and fresh ciilantro to make salsa and also an oriental salad. Wegrilled beer sausages and had a huge bonfire to teach Moldovans, Scotts, and Dutch people about hcw Americans do bbqs... And make s'mores. We ran out of crackers,though, and the guy from Denmark thought it would be a good idea to use chili flavored tortilla chips instead.... I think he's crazy, but then again I didn't try it so I can't judge.

I also got to play with a 3 1/2 year old who reminded me that it isn't always necessary to have a common language to have a connection... Which is something I seem to have forgotten lately.

As 6pm approached we started counting down for the supposed rapture, but thankfully we all stuck around to enjoy the rest of the evening...

I couldn't have asked for a better rapture day or to spend it with a more amazing group of people and a great start to the last full week of school :)

20 May 2011


Some of the most loving people i have ever met live in this country. I met a neighbor a couple of weeks ago who told me that you will live a long time if you have love in your life... The more love, the longer you live.

Then today as I was sitting out on a patio enjoying the nice weather and waiting for my rutiera I saw a guy that I had met back in the fall when I came to Riscani to get my Internet stick. He was very helpful and friendly and I think that had it not been for him I wouldn't have received it because he knew the lady selling them and talked her in to staying a few minutes after hours to help me out. Anyways, he sat down to chat for a few minutes and he asked me if I've learned any more words in Russian and if I remembered the word he taught me: love. I said no, so he taught it to me again and then said it is more important that I remember that word than his name (because I remembered that... He was the first and only Max I have met in this country). He then said, "without love you cannot live" and with that I completely agree. As the Beatles say... All you need is love.

19 May 2011

The American

Today I had to go to my raion, Riscani, because I somehow happened to misplace my bank card.... Imagine that. Me misplacing something? Ha. Anyways, it's unfortunate because I had to miss another day of classes after missing Monday-Wednesday from being sick. It took me all of 5 minutes to fill out the necessary paperwork to have a new card made, but due to the bus schedules I won't get back until 6th period, which is actually perfect timing for my direct taught class.

Anyways, I had lots of free time so I decided to take a walk through the piata which was bustling with people this morning due to the beautiful weather and the weekend coming up. As I walked by a bunch of women selling flowers and herbs, I briefly heard one woman say, "That's the American!" so I turned around. I had no idea who she was, but apparently we rode the bus together from Riscani to Chisinau on Monday when I went there. It's kind if fun to stand out sometimes but other times it isn't such a good thing, like when you're trying to bargain at the piata and they won't lower the prices because they know you're an American and so therefore you're super rich.... Right? Because we all know that is totally true. Ummm... Not so much.

TDY escape

Last night as evening was approaching the other volunteer who was staying in the TDY apartment with me suggested we go on a walk because we were getting kind of restless after sitting around for most of the rainy day. The sun had started to come out and it looked like it was going to be a nice evening. We grabbed a little bit of cash and walked out the door... No camera in hand (sometimes it is nice just to take a walk without anything to take it all in). Of course the light was beautiful and I found myself wanting to take tons of pictures, but you know, such is life. Anyways, we decided to go down a random cobbled street to see where it would take us. We saw a very modern and contemporary looking house that was totally out of place in Moldova because usually they all pretty much look the same, depending on the size. Then we walked though a block of apartments and there were so many people outside. We saw tons of children riding their bikes and playing n the playground, women sitting on the benches probably gossiping about the latest story, and men playing cards. Mold ova tends to have a pretty bad rap for being sad and depressed, but on the inside of this apartment block life was just happening and people seemed really happy.

Eventually we made our way out of the apartments and to a busy street. We saw a restaurant called "la Roma" that had a beautiful outdoor seating patio so we decided to grab a glass of wine because we were low on cash and we figured the food would be really expensive. Much to our surprise the food was actually reasonably priced (it was possible to get some pasta dishes for 25 lei, or about $2), but there were also some expensive meals (200 lei or about $15) and very expensive wine (a bottle from 1964 was 1800 lei, about $160). What was really funny about this restaurant was that they were playing Edith Piaf's music.... French music in an italian restaurant. But then the music stopped and a man with a saxophone took a seat in the center of the patio and began to play music. The other volunteer and I kept saying over and over that it just didn't feel like we were in Moldova- and it didn't. We will definitely be back there. Sometimes it's necessary to escape "real life" in the sense that you're back in the "reality" of life back in America.

17 May 2011

The Economist

If you know me at all you probably know that my knowledge of anything government/politics is, well, nothing.

But today as I was sitting in the medical office in Chisinau (yes, I'm sick. AGAIN! same thing.) I picked up a new magazine that was sitting on the table, and I was surprised to see that it was new considering they have magazines from 2006 in there... there's never anything new! And what was this magazine, you ask? The Economist. I was so happy to see something new that I decided to give it a try. And you know what? I found it very informative and entertaining, although I was a little overwhelmed with all of the text and few photos :)

15 May 2011


Just in case you were wondering, the word for preservative (as in the stuff that Americans put in food to make food last longer) is not preservative in Romanian: it's conservant. So it's probably not a good idea when talking about American food vs Moldovan food to say "American's tend to put a lot of preservatives in their food, because if you do that, you're actually saying is "American's tend to put a lot of condoms in their food".

I've almost been here a year and I'm still making silly false cognate mistakes. It's ok, though, because it made for an awesome laugh.


Every morning when I wake up I hear an oh-so-lovely chorus of turkeys and roosters... And by oh-so-lovely I mean really not lovely at all but I am now used to it so it's all good. But last night I stayed with a couple of friends in Balti (the second biggest city in Moldova) and I slept with the window open, nit thinking anything if it other than it was the first night I've done that this season and it was awesome. But at 5am I was woken up by the beautiful (and I do mean beautiful) sound of owls and other birds saying goodbye to the night and hello to the morning. It was a pleasant change and a great way to start the morning.

13 May 2011

Dry + Baby ducks

I was sitting outside yesterday on the porch enjoying the afternoon sunshine while looking at various blogs to get ideas for what to post on my new blog I've made for my sister to help her plan her wedding in KC: www.kissinacornfield.wordpress.com... when all of a sudden my host mom popped up out of nowhere with a duckling and an egg with a duckling inside. It was so awesome to watch it work its way out of the egg! She eventually helped it out quite a lot (I have a video but my internet is so slow that it takes forever to load!!) and then once it was out, it was fascinating to watch it try so hard to keep its head up!

After admiring the baby ducks for a little bit we then took a walk around the flowers. My host mom really loves flowers and so it's been fun watching all of the different varieties and colors pop up this season. However, we have hardly had any rain this season (and the little rain we did have was when it was really cold, which wasn't helping the plants either), so the ground is so incredibly dry that it is making it difficult for the plants to survive. My host mom is afraid we won't have any fruits or vegetables this year because of the lack of rain. It's so crazy to think that we have a sprinkler system at home that we can turn on in times like this, but that just doesn't exist here.

Eating outside

One of my favorite things about being in Moldova is eating outside. At home I feel like we only ate outside for birthdays when I was little, or for a BBQ... but here it happens almost every day when the weather is nice. Last night was the first night of the season that we ate outside and I was so excited! It's wonderful to be in the fresh air and to enjoy the weather. Tonight we ate outside, too, and it was so funny because all of a sudden the animals (chickens, geese, turkeys) on the other side of the fence started making a TON of ruckus!! In a total "outside voice" I was almost yelling at my host mom in order for her to hear me ask, "Why are they making all of that noise?" She kind of chucked and said she didn't know. I let it go. Then she brought it up again, which made me think that maybe she really did know what was going. She finally said, ei face dragoste which means, "they're making love". My host dad didn't think it was very amusing, but my host mom and I sure got a laugh out of it!

Vasile came to visit us last night. My host mom gave him some placinta and told him to eat it. Once my host dad got up, Vasile decided to sit down and join us in place of my host dad. He said he wanted a plate, but he wanted a plate from home... which we obviously didn't have since he lives a couple of houses down. So I gave him my plate, and he seemed content. Then he wanted some of the soda to drink, so my host mom had us pour it in the super-sized mug we use for wine (the wine was already gone). He didn't want that- he wanted the shot-glass-mug that we use to drink the wine with. Eventually he gave in and drank the soda from the super-sized mug, and then took the placinta and went on his way.

One of those days

Today was one of those days that started off absolutely awful. I had to cover for my partner teacher today because her mom fell while painting some walls and is in the hospital, so she obviously needed to be with her mom. The day began with 2nd grade. I really like these kids outside of the classroom, but the one other time I had to cover for them I vowed to never do it again. Well, this was an extenuating circumstance so I couldn't say no. They were great for the first 20/30 of the 45 minutes of class. We went outside because it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and it gave us more room. I did a few activities with them standing up on the asphalt, and then they wanted to sit down in the shade. As soon as I said that was ok, 3 boys took of running. At first it was fine because I figured they'd be back. But then they jumped the fence. Obviously this is not ok, so I began to go after them. Then I remembered this is a small village and they'll eventually be back, so I went back with the rest of the students. Sure enough they eventually came back but then took off again, and then others got up and took off after them... and I'd totally lost control. It was so frustrating, but luckily their main teacher came up just as things got really bad. I explained to her the situation and she took care of things. However, something I don't agree with is that all of the students were telling me that he was a "bad boy" and that he "doesn't learn" and they were saying it about some of the other students, too. I wondered where they got this and then I realized they got it from their teacher because she told me in front of all of them that the main one that caused all of the trouble was bad boy and he has no one at home to call if he misbehaves, because no one at his home cares. It just broke my heart on many levels, especially because he did behave until we changed locations... and I know he is capable, it's just a matter of discipline. :(

So needless to say the day began with a rough start. Then I had to combine a class of 23 7th graders with my class of 15 8th graders- who were supposed to be doing presentations. Because that just wasn't going to work, I said we could all go outside again. They were fine and quiet, until I realized a couple of the boys had gone to the bar and didn't ask. Then when I asked them about it they didn't say sorry until I told them to.

Finally it was the 4th lesson and I had the bigger kids. This was great because they were well behaved, stuck around close, and they were just great. Thankfully I had them the rest of the day. What really made me feel better was when they wanted me to take pictures and I was cranky and not in the mood, so I just gave them the camera and I said, "have fun", but then they later asked me to be in some of the pictures with them. It really made me feel good. I may not be the best teacher, but I do think I'm making a difference in their lives outside of the classroom, which is also important, so it's better to have at least one of those things instead of none, right?

(I did give in an snap a few photos, though. SUPER THANKS to one of my students for taking this picture of me!)

11 May 2011

We and They

We and They
by Rudyard Kipling

Father and Mother, and Me,
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We,
And every one else is They.
And They live over the sea,
While We live over the way,
But-would you believe it? --They look upon We
As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef
With cow-horn-handled knives.
They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
Are horrified out of Their lives;
While they who live up a tree,
And feast on grubs and clay,
(Isn't it scandalous? ) look upon We
As a simply disgusting They!

We shoot birds with a gun.
They stick lions with spears.
Their full-dress is un-.
We dress up to Our ears.
They like Their friends for tea.
We like Our friends to stay;
And, after all that, They look upon We
As an utterly ignorant They!

We eat kitcheny food.
We have doors that latch.
They drink milk or blood,
Under an open thatch.
We have Doctors to fee.
They have Wizards to pay.
And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!

This is the poem that was in the 10th grade textbook for our lesson today (the super small text was left out... it was the "abridged" version in the text). Anyways, in my class of usually VERY quiet students, this started quite the discussion and I was so happy that it did. You see, as I was walking to school today I was talking to my partner teacher about black people in Moldova and the racism that exists here (we must have subconsciously pre-planned this lesson and knew that's what we were going to be discussion). Moldova is mostly made up of people with very white skin, and then there are the Roma people (formerly known as "gypsies" but that is no longer politically correct). So if a person of skin darker than, say, a super awesome tan, is seen on the street they are stared at and possibly laughed at because it is something new, different, and unexpected (whereas in America it's the norm). So when this poem was presented to the class we were discussing how American English evolved from British English... and how we're one in the same-ish. Well, this poem brought that up but then they decided to throw racism in to it and I was glad that they did because I feel like it is a very modern and important topic. So I put on a character where I asked a lot of questions to make them think and get the conversation going and hopefully I made it clear that I was just in character and I didn't believe what I said... but boy-oh-boy was I proud of my students!!! When I would say something like, "But black skin is so weird! Those people must always be dirty!" They responded with, "No! That's not true! They are people too." SO then I said, "How do you know that?" And they said, "We all have a heart and a mind. And two eyes and two legs and two hands, etc."

GO 10th FORM! They responded with all of the correct answers!!! Yahoo!

10 May 2011

A day in the life

I have a lot to update about this weekend, but I can't go to bed until I share these photos from today.

The morning started off nice- it was warmer than all of last week, but a slight breeze made it a little cool, so I needed a fleece. One of the students I walked to school with told me it was supposed to rain, but I didn't believe her by the sight of the sky when I looked up... but she was right. Before I knew it, gray clouds rolled in, it rained for 5 minutes, and then it was sunny again... but I sure wasn't complaining.

When I got home after school it was colder in my room than outside so I decided to put a chair out on the porch and enjoy the sun while I got some work done. My back was to the gate and all of a sudden I heard a little voice asking me what I was doing. It was one of my 4th grade students that, thanks to the extra lessons from Maria, has just excelled at English this year. A couple minutes later her little sister joined, and then their grandma. Then my host mom came around the corner and our neighbor started talking to all of us. It was a party springtime party, and I loved every minute of it. After talking for a little bit I followed the kids out to the street so we could take more pictures and play around with the neighbor kids. It was a perfect ending to a beautiful day... but one of my neighbors asked if I was going to print the pictures and my host mom said, "she just leaves them on the computer" which is true... so now I'm trying to figure out how to print these photos for the people in my village. It's interesting because it is actually cheaper to print in America than it is here ($0.25 a photo vs $1!) so I'm trying to work that out... any ideas would be appreciated!

When I took the photos today, though, I tried to pay attention to a very good point that was referenced on this blog: When taking a picture, think of the main subject as the noun, and then look around that subject to try to find the adjective that can modify the noun, thus adding more to the story. For example, the people in the background and the things themselves in the background. I think it went pretty well :)

My host mom is so funny. She used the packing peanuts from a package my dad sent me as decoration for the flowers.

The girls tried to help me win the love of the cat by giving it cat treats, given to my by Bette!

This little 3 year old cried and cried because she wanted the bicycle that one of the boys stole.
... the funny thing about it, though, is she doesn't know how to ride it. She just walked around in circles.

This is my favorite photo of the day, but let me just say that it was hard to choose!

09 May 2011

Baby turkeys

My host mom informed me tonight that that for the last 2 nights the mama turkey and her baby turkeys have slept with her in order to stay warm because it's been cold.

I love that.


I'm currently on a rutiera heading back to my village after a wonderful 3 day weekend away from site (details to come later). We are on a main road (similar to that of a highway... only... not....) and a man was just standing in the middle of the road, about 1o feet from his scooter, smoking a cigarette. Huh??? Ok.

07 May 2011

Proper credit

Due to being sick a lot this year (and it being my first year teaching) I am running a little bit behind with my direct taught class. So I decided that I was going to assign the kids to a lesson for one of the units and have them work in groups to give a presentation to the class at the end of the week. So one of the girls gave a presentation on Varatic, since the theme was the heritage in Moldova. Although the project basically failed because the kids just presented about Moldova instead of the specifics given in the text, it was nice to switch things up. Well, the slideshow was pretty cool. It began with some video, and then there were pictures. I saw one and thought to myself, "Hey self. That looks like a picture you took. Well, maybe it was just one of those shots that everyone takes." Then the slideshow continued... and I had that thought a couple of more times. It was only then that I realized they were my photos. I was flattered she used the photos for a presentation, but at the same time it was upsetting that I had to point out that they were my photos and she didn't give me any credit. From this moment on I'll always credit the music I used for slideshows (I'm sorry, musicians. Thank you MAE for giving the music to Pavel's slideshow: http://wherescate.blogspot.com/2011/03/pavels-funeral.html).

05 May 2011

Peace and quiet

When I was a senior in high school, one of the AP English teachers had what I thought was an awesome plan. Whenever we took a test if we didn't get a 70% or higher we had to come in before school to take the test again and again (which could have been the same test or another version... we randomly pulled it from a drawer) until we got a 70% or higher. If I remember correctly he was at school around 5 am, which gave us ample time to come in and take the test (but of course I never knew this because I never had to retake a test... uh-huh...). Even as a morning person I always wondered why he liked to get to school SO early and after today I get it.

The school is finally warm-ish and so I am not bundling up and booking it home to get warm again as soon as the final bell rings. So I stuck around today for an hour to get some studying done for the GRE and if it wasn't for the fact that I was hungry and afraid I'd get locked in (it's happened before!) I would have stayed longer. You see, as soon as the bell rings everyone hurries out of the school- most teachers included-so it was very peaceful and quiet... much similar to how I would assume it's like before school at my high school. At my high school there are always sports teams practicing after school and running through the halls and it gets pretty crazy... not a very good working environment. So now I get it. There is just something about a quiet school that leads to a lot of production.

04 May 2011

Credit cards

A couple of weeks ago I had a credit card scare. It was another night of having trouble falling asleep which ended up being a good thing because I received a text from my dad around midnight saying I needed to call my bank asap because there was a possible fraud on my account. So I called, took care of things, activated a card I'd failed to activate before I left, and then had set a time to call back the following day to reset the pin on the newly activated card... and the fraud papers were in the mail. When I called back they said that the card I'd called about with fraud showed that they decided it wasn't fraud, and the charges we originally determined were fraud were no longer on there... and the card I thought I'd activated wasn't in the system (in fact, it wasn't even that bank... it was another bank). So, I'm not sure what went wrong, but I'm glad everything worked out because I had some online shopping to do (it's almost summer which means swimsuit season!!! Plus, gotta get rid of this TERRIBLE tan line I now have from the really bad- oops- burn from last week).

Anyways, just as I was placing an order for a swimsuit in America, one of my students walked in my room (she'd just finished her math lessons with my host dad). She saw my credit card and asked what it was, so I explained it to her. It was the first time she'd ever seen one, and it was a hard concept for her to grasp. For me, however, it is a hard concept not to grasp NOT having a credit/debit card since I've had once since I opened my first bank account... I think when I was 15? 16? (I can't remember). But it makes sense why credit cards aren't as widely used here... first of all, it's the village. I don't think the mini-stores/bars that are here even accept cards. But also, my host mom told me a story... when her kids were growing up, they created accounts at the post office (because here the post office somehow acts like a bank) and they saved money for their kids so that they could have money to get life started once they finished school and got married. She said they had a nice sum saved up- but then Moldova became independent, and as soon as that happened all of their money that was supposed to be safe in the bank disappeared. Since then she doesn't trust putting what money she has in the hands of anyone else but herself and her husband, and it makes sense. I think this was such the case for many people here, which is also why credit cards aren't very widespread (and also why people are "poor", but not in debt).

However, like someone told me over the weekend... "It doesn't matter if you're rich or if you're poor if you have your family near... because they mean more than money can ever buy". (This was probably said by my host mom, but I can't remember now).

03 May 2011

Places for all emotions

My host mom and I were talking today over lunch about lots of things, ranging from my terrible day to families to cemeteries.

She was curious as to how we celebrated the lives of those we have lost if we don't make a huge deal out of it like they do here in Moldova. I told her that we have Memorial day (which I believe is the same day as their Day of the Dead- May 1st?) but that it's not near the celebration... in fact, in my opinion it's viewed more as a day off than a day to remember. I then told her that I usually only go to my mom's grave on her birthday (June 16th) and on the day of her death (September 29th), and then sometimes in between on one of those days where I have a lot on my mind and I just need to go somewhere to think. She said that makes sense because a cemetery is a wonderful place: it's very peaceful, quiet, and when you go there you can relax, think, cry, laugh... do whatever you need to do. And... she's right. In fact, I did just that last April before I came here.

Later she asked me if my dad lived in the same state as my sister (which he doesn't). While to me this isn't a foreign concept (I have family all over the US... and it's rather common to go to school out of state or to move out of state and away from your family for work), having both of her children working abroad, it's hard for her to grasp this concept. But you know what? She's right. It is much better to be closer to family even if that means the job isn't the best... because they're all you've got. When you have a bad day or a good day you can go share your emotions with them, and then go back home if they live close. But if they live far it's not that easy- and nothing beats a big hug from those you love in times of struggle or times of joy. Just sayin'.

(With that being said, 29 days and 1 hour until my plan lands in Kansas City!!!)

Worst days

Something I've decided I dread worse than the few days (sometimes weeks) before a school vacation is the first day back after it. Today was absolutely terrible. Most of the students were even less prepared than usual, and the kids were pretty out of control. My 4th grade was absolutely terrible. I couldn't get them to listen to me at all, and my partner teacher apparently understood that I wanted to teach the class all by myself because the kids asked me to and because she had "work" to do (ie "helping" her university level relative by doing his/her English assignment that they didn't do over vacation... because that's what you do for relatives here... you "help" them.).

I called one of my friends during a "freak out" and she calmed me down. She was right when she said, "there is nothing you can do. You can't change it. It's part of the culture and that's just how it is. Brush it off and relax." While I know she's totally right, I must say that one of the most difficult things about being a teacher is putting all emotions aside, and putting a smile on your face and returning to teach a different class after losing control (because, after all, it wasn't their fault the other situation happened).

On a different note, GO AMERICA!

02 May 2011

Easter hype in Moldova

Before coming to Moldova I came across peacecorpsjournals.com and I was looking through all of the blogs I could find written by current Peace Corps Volunteers in Moldova. After all, I wanted to see what my life was going to be like over here. Unfortunately most of them hadn't updated their blogs since they had arrived- until Easter. I really didn't understand why so many people thought it was important to write about Easter, but not the rest of the holidays or the rest of their experience. But now I get it.

You see, I have a small family. Actually, it's not really that small, but everyone is spread out. Before my mom died I really only remember all of the family getting together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but besides that it was usually just my mom, dad, sister, and me for the rest. Because my mom wanted nothing more in this world than to have children, my sister and I were basically the center of attention for holidays (now things make more sense). Easter was always fun because the weather was usually nice, so first thing we'd do in the morning was get up and go hunt for eggs that the Easter bunny had hidden- inside and outside. I remember when we were really little we'd be all dressed up and we'd go to our neighbors house and the Easter bunny would show up (my mom had made a costume, if I remember correctly) which scared the s*** out of us, and then we would go visit PopPop (our great grandfather) and his wife, Selma (and continue the egg hunting... and she'd always give us dumdum lollipops). Mom would usually make Monkey bread, which we'd eat for all of the meals that day. When we got older and started going to church, and after mom died, we'd attend Easter service with dad (who wears the same green striped shirt every year!) and then we'd go to brunch with my step mom and step sisters... sometimes inviting a couple of extra family members along or family friends. But that was it- by early afternoon on Easter Sunday the festivities had died down, we were in a sugar coma (except for that one year that mom... err... the Easter bunny... gave us underwear in our multi-colored plastic eggs. We were less than pleased, but I'm sure she thought it was hilarious), and we'd probably even forgotten that that day was actually a holiday.

But this is far from how Easter is celebrated in this Eastern Orthodox village in Moldova.

Feel free to read the rest of the posts that lead up to the celebrations of yesterday and today- because it has been a wonderful week. Up until yesterday I thought Easter was pretty cool. It was the best holiday by far, but it still wasn't too exciting: the fires were a cool tradition, the Mass was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and, heck, I even thought eating with (almost) the whole family was memorable... but I hadn't been to the cemetery yet. That's where the magic happens and where Easter becomes amazing.

In my village we have 2 cemeteries because the old one is full, so they built a new one (which is also almost full due to the approximately 30 deaths this winter!), so the "Day of the Dead" is celebrated on Sunday in the new cemetery and Monday in the old. I was thinking of going on vacation over this holiday because I was expecting it to be like most of the other holidays... it used to be a big deal but now a lot of the traditions are lost. So I'd asked my students when the biggest day of the celebration was so I could plan around it.... and now I'm very glad I am out of vacation days and decided to stick around. They told me that the Saturday night before Easter and Easter Sunday is a big deal because of the fires, Mass, and then eating with friends. Then they said you go visit friends and family all throughout the week, and then the Sunday and Monday after Easter is a big deal, too, because you go to the cemetery. Well, my memories of the cemetery aren't exactly happy ones. I go, I cry, I write a letter, read it, and burn it... sometimes I lay down by my mom's grave and look up at the clouds and get lost in thought... but that's about it... so needless to say I wasn't too excited about a full two days hanging out in the cemetery. However, I did my hair, put on makeup, a skirt, and headed there to meet with Maria.

People had already begun to show up and they were laying hand towels on the graves of their loved ones (that they had fixed up very nicely... some even planted flowers on top), and then placing the traditional bread on top of the towel, and then put different candies and cookies in the center of the bread. After everything was organized and frumos (beautiful) on Pavel's grave, we went to her parents graves, which were in the old cemetery. There we did the same thing, and she also lit incense and walked around the graves (I believe 3 times).

Then it was time to wait for the Priest to come over. The weather was gorgeous and it was hot (hot sun beating down on a sunburn is not fun) but it was nice to socialize. Then once the Priest came to us (he went to every grave where people were), Maria gave him a booklet that had the names of all of the family members that had died written on it. He then sang a hymn (with his family in tow singing along) and then, in Prayer, read off all of the names to bless them and their families and to allow them to continue to rest in peace. It was really quite beautiful. He then sprayed us, the food, and the graves with holy water, said thank you, and moved on.

After he finished, we cleaned up the food we had put on their graves and went back to the new cemetery to again wait for him to come over there so he could bless Pavel's grave. In the meantime, however, the wine was brought out and we began to eat some of the food. Friends came over, and as they did so they said, "Istos a inviat", and in response we said, "Cu adeverat a inviat" (Jesus is Risen/He is Risen indeed). Wine was then passed around (usually in the same glass for everyone, but because the wine is blessed then we won't get each other sick, right??), and then people would give gifts of bread, bowls, plates, sweets, ect to their friends in the name of the soul of their family member has died. (I came to the cemetery with a small tupperware container of peanut butter cookies and a coffee cup, and I left with two grocery sacks full of food and dishes and towels).

We arrived at 11am, and I left the cemetery at 2pm: totally exhausted, full, and in need of a nap.

I then went to Riscani Idol (post coming soon), and then woke up this morning and started it all over again- except this time with my host mom and her family, and without the Riscani Idol afterwards.

The difference with what we did today was the weather (it was really cold and sprinkling rain on and off), there were many more graves to visit (we went to 3 different locations- packing up our goods and gifts each time), and there were many more people. The rest of it, though, was the same. However, there were some monumental highlights:

- My host mom had me write the name of my mom in the book of the dead, and the Priest read it aloud. I got rather emotional during this... I really felt like a part of this village at that moment.
- The Priest had his daughter (one of my students) go to the church and pick out a "goody" with a Saint on it (he's really awesome)
- It was so fun walking around the cemetery and having people stop me, knowing who I am but I have no idea who they are, but that's ok. It happens. (Of course I did know some of them, though!)

- A woman came to Antonina and asked if I was her daughter. I said no, her daughter is in Cambodia: I'm American. She then said "It's clear you're American. You have it written across your forehead". Antonina then said, "yes, she is".

If I can come back to Moldova every Easter I totally will. My host mom said she doesn't really like holidays in Moldova, but she loves Easter because so many people come home for the celebrations. You reconnect with people you haven't seen in years, and you meet new people. If the weather was a combination of today and yesterday, I could have stayed there all day meeting the parents and relatives of my students, but alas it was cold, rainy, and I already had 2 more bags full of goodies... and we had to walk home. But, seriously. Easter is amazing... and my new favorite holiday (my birthday- September 9, don't forget!- is now #2).
(Side note: people like to pose with the tombstones)

Thank you, Moldova, for opening up my eyes to a whole new meaning to the words holiday, family, friends, and tradition. Maybe I will marry a Moldovan, and then people can stop looking at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I'm 23 and... get this... single. Just kidding (to the marrying a Moldovan part).

... my favorite composition of photos. And it shows that rain or shine, hot or cold, people still celebrate!

...And on a closing note, I learned a valuable photography lesson from this little girl. As soon as she saw my camera she came up to me and I would have assumed she was a pro by the way she was handling my camera. Through her photos I was reminded again of the value of perspective and details (the bottom 3 photos are hers!)