26 October 2011


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


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

22 October 2011


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

20 October 2011

Another photo contest- PLACED!

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

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

Laughing about death

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

How do you say "teacher"?

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

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

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

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

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

19 October 2011

No Internet

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

Scarves to Skirts

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

taken away

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

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

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

17 October 2011

The Bible says...

Yesterday I learned 2 things about the Bible.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Here is the funny story of the day, though.

I was attacked THREE times.

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

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

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

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

05 October 2011

Awesomest priest

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

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

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

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

Seriously. My priest is more awesomer than yours.

(should "priest" be capitalized??)

Knowing everyone and slab clothes

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

I’m really going to miss this feeling.

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

03 October 2011


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

01 October 2011

Kneading bread

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

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

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