30 April 2012

I've moved!

I have a new website! 

You can find me via:




I'm still in the process of organizing it. For some reason all of the posts and images were not transferred, and some posts are there multiple times. But don't worry, as I work on getting that fixed I will still be making new posts!

I look forward to seeing you on the other side :)

23 April 2012


There really are not words to go with this photo, at least for me. My host mom colored her hair last week, and here she is relaxing against a tree as the Priest is doing the traditional Day of the Dead blessings. We waited about 4 hours for him to get to us- but he'd been going for 2 additional hours and had about one more to go.

My host mom is awesome. That's all.

01 April 2012

Baba's and computers

The Internet coming to Varatic has been the topic of discussion in the street (yes, the only street) lately. All of the Babas (aka old women) have been talking about who has already had their Internet installed, who is still waiting for the phone, who has Internet AND TV, how much everything costs, why did this baba get Internet if she doesn't have anyone to talk to and doesn't know how to use a computer...

Oh, wait. That last one. Let's go back.

She doesn't know how to use a computer.

Honestly I do not even remember learning how to use a computer. I know we had a really old one we played games on and made cards with and we had a printer with that paper that was folded like an accordion with perforated edges... and then I remember learning to type in school... and getting our first home computer in 3rd grade for Christmas and Mom had it hidden under the dining room table (not a very good hiding place for snooping kids) and my Aunt spent all Christmas morning programming it... then creating an email account and getting email addresses from my friends (aka their parents) and spending 45 minutes typing a paragraph to a children's author, then learning properly how to type and then becom
ing the master at it through AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)... and then the rest is history. I don't remember it. Not sure how I learned but I just did. Maybe it's because I was a kid and I just absorbed everything... who knows. But I just don't remember.

Most of the villagers in Varatic, though? No idea. I have not seen one person that knows how to properly place their hands on a keyboard and type. The Internet is for finding videos, chatting on Russian Facebook, Skyping with relatives abroad, looking up the weather, poorly translating homework assignments into English, and copy+pasting articles found online and calling it a properly written paper by the student. This is what the KI
DS know. But most of the parents... and grandparents? Nimic.

Apparently today the Internet was supposed to run out with it being the first of the Month and all. There has been quite a bit of confusion, however, because we had to go into the city to pay for the Internet but didn't get it for a few days and then it wasn't really clear just exactly what we were paying for in the end and if the month of April is
covered or not. Apparently it's not. The reason I know this is because our neighbor's Internet stopped working and she called the city and they told her this (although mine still works?). This is how her conversation apparently went:

Baba: Why isn't my internet isn't working?
Internet company: I don't know.
Baba: How can you find out?
IC: Do this, then this then...
Baba: Slow down.
IC: Do this... and type in 1... 34...
Baba: (quietly, away from the phone) Do this... and type in 1... 34...
IC: Who are you talking to?
Baba: My little granddaughter. I don't have any idea what you're saying!

Somehow kids are learning here, too, what to do.

The first day we had the Internet, these 3 girls (one has her head turned) called me to tell me goodnight. Made my day!

Computer lesson: showing off

Just as soon as my host dad had taken his last bite of dinner he was already out of his chair and walking to grab his laptop to go sit on the bed. This was the dialogue as he did so, and then showed off his computer knowledge:

Host Dad: Look! I'm going to tell you the weather for the next 10 days!
(sits on bed and turns the computer on)
Host Mom: It's going to be -2 tomorrow night.
HD: Leave me alone. You don't know that.
HM: Yes I do.
(HD opens up the weather page using the star I taught him)
Me: BRAVO! Look at you using what I taught you.
HD: Yes, and look. (presses on the down arrow). The page moves without the mouse.
Me: Very good.
HD: Ok... Tomorrow it will get to 10 degrees and tomorrow night it will be -2, Tuesday will be...
HM: (interrupting). See. I told you it will be -2. And I didn't even need the computer to tell you that.
HD: (continues with just a slight pause) 13 ... (and continues to say the predicted forecast for the next 9 days.

When I finished bathing, he had pulled up traditional Romanian music videos, had made them full screen, and they were also watching TV. My host parents are turning into the ultimate multitasks.

29 March 2012

Behind closed doors: pt 2

This video is from my favorite duo on YouTube. As soon as I started watching it I immediately thought of my post on "behind closed doors". This little girl wrote this song... so it is from a child's standpoint.

Please don't cry. I'm sorry for what I did. Please don't cry. I'm with you and it's alright.

27 March 2012

Computer lesson #4: Social Networking

When I entered my host parent's house for dinner tonight, my host dad was already searching for music videos online and they'd already successfully Skyped with their daughter and her kids in Cambodia... all without me! I was very impressed! But HD had forgotten all about going to the star (favorites) button.

Me: Why aren't you using the site I showed you for music?
HD: I forgot how.
Me: You go to the star, remember?
HD: But the star is just a star. It doesn't mean anything.
Me: except all of the websites you're going to use. All in one place. Doamne.

Then they wanted to create a Russian Facebook account so they could see photos of their daughter and her kids and they didn't want to keep using my login... when we tried to do it it did not work because you need a cellphone so they can text an activation code and someone (aka one of my students, I assume) apparently used my number to create their own account. So we made a Facebook strictly for the sole purpose of them being able to look through photos of their kids... and me, of course, because they agreed to invite me to be their friend and, of course, I accepted. We took a quick photo using their computer and I absolutely LOVE it. (Students: PLEASE DO NOT FIND THEM ON FACEBOOK!!!!! THEY DON'T WANT TO SEE WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME... AND THEY DON'T CARE)

I'm really going to miss them.

26 March 2012

Computer lesson #3

"Tonight you'll sleep with Irina," said my host mom as I introduced my host dad to grooveshark, which is how we get Pandora to work over here in Moldova. I should have started this thread of blog posts on Saturday, when we began our first computer lesson. The first two lessons went pretty much like this:

Day 1-
Host dad (HD): How do you turn on the thing?
Me: With this button.
HD: How do you turn it off?
Me: You close it.
HD: But it's not off. How do you turn it off?
(side note: he was the technology teacher at school for awhile, in which he taught himself how to use a computer using a book as he was teaching the students at the same time)
Me: Oh, off. This button... click...
HD: (interrupting) OH! SHUT.DOWN. I remember!
Me: Great, yes, shutdown.
HD: Now, I want to call my Elena. How do I do that?
Me: Skype. I already downloaded it. Here is your login and your password. She hasn't accepted your request to talk to her yet, so you can't talk to her. You'll know she's on the computer when it's green.
HD: But can't I call her?
Me: No, not till it's green. But, look, I'm here. You can call me. Here's how you write a message. Click here, write.
HD: Where?

... and it went on.


Day 2:
(Host Mom -HM- comes to my room)
HM: Catusa, Nicolai needs your help.
Me: Ok, five minutes.
(go to their house)
Me: What happened?
HD: How do I call my Elena?
Me: You can't. It's not green. Plus, it's too late.
HM: I TOLD him! See, it needs to be GREEN. That's what I said. I should have taught the technology classes, not you.
HD: Leave me alone.
HD: Ok, I want to go to a site.
Me: What site?
HM: Odnoklassniki [Russian/Moldovan equivalent to Facebook]
HD: Yes, Odnoklassniki
Me: Oh, boy. Ok. It's in Russian so I don't know how to use it, but, sure. Let's go. Do you want to create an account?
HD: You need an account?
HM: I TOLD you that you need an account!
HD: Leave me alone. No, I don't want an account.
Me: Ok, fine. We'll log into mine. (log in). Now we're here. What do you want to do?
HD/HM: I don't know.
Me: Let's find Elena.
(we find her then look through pictures)

Me: Now what?
HD: let's look... oh! Solitare.
Me: You know how to play Solitare?
HD: Yes. Watch, Antonina. (struggles with moving the touchpad mouse)...
... there is a 6 that goes on the 7... a 2 that goes on the 3... now nothing. Why are there 3 cards here?
Me: Let me change the setting for you.
Me: Have fun. I'm going to bed.
HD: No, I'm done now. How do I close it?

Now we're at Day 3. My host dad came into my room this afternoon as he had some students that were waiting to begin their lessons and sat next to me asking me what I was doing (I was watching a video review on a new camera). Side note: my host mom does this all the time... but my host dad never does. He sat there for a minute then went to begin his lessons. Two minutes later he left, then came back. Just after that, I was packing up to leave and he seemed rather frantic when saying, "Please go look at my computer. I don't know what happened, but something happened and it won't close. Then please come back and tell me what happened." When I went to look at it, I saw that it was installing updates (it's a new computer and this is only the 3rd day it's been used). "So, I should just leave it there until it's done?" "Yes, HD," I said, "Leave it there until the screen is black. Then turn it back on." "But how do I do that?" oh boy...

HM: Cate, he is busy? (in English)
Me: What?
HM: He is busy?
Me: I don't understand.
HM: Are you busy? (In Romanian)
Me: Oh, no. Not really.
HM: Ok, good. HD needs your help.
HM: How do you say 'busy'?
Me: busy.
HM: He is not busy?
Me: Haha. No, She is not busy.
HM: Ok, I'll tell him. He is not busy.
... doamne.

I go in for dinner and my HD asked me if I wanted mamaliga (a traditional cornmeal dish). I said sure, whatever, I don't care. Then my HM informed me that she didn't want to make it but my HD informed her that I wanted it and so did he. I guess we're bff now. About halfway into dinner and a couple of shots of wine in, my host dad tells me he would like for me to show him how to listen to music on the computer. Of course this isn't a problem... except they don't have any music on their computer. So instead of choosing youtube, I decided on grooveshark, which, like I said in the beginning, is the European version of Pandora. I wanted to take a bath so I went to get the water started then took the computer to sit on the bed because there wasn't room on the table.

HD: You don't need the cable?
Me: No.
HD: But it won't work without it.
HM: It's a battery.
Me: Yup, she's right. It's a battery. It will work for a few hours without the cable.
HD: Oh. Ok.
(I tested to find the easiest way to use the site, then added it to the favorites bar so it's easy to find)
HD: That was too complicated. How does it work?
Me: I haven't shown you yet. Go to the star... then click where it says "search" and type in the name of an artist you like... etc
HD: I don't know where the letters are
Me: Find them
HD: I...r....i...n...a...space...L...o...g...h...i...n
HD: Oh! Look! Irina Loghin
Me: Yes, click there. Here you can watch a video and here you can just listen to the music
(he seems to get of the hang of it so I stand up to go get in the tub)
HD: Where are you going? It doesn't matter when you go to bed. It's all the same.
Me: To take a bath
HD: (looks at HM) she's taking a bath? Is the water ready? Is it stopped? Is it hot?
HM: You've had too much wine and now you're going to sleep with Irina tonight.
Me: I'm taking my bath now. Have fun.

(I take my bath then come out to see my HD has figured out how to change the videos on grooveshark)

Me: Ok, do you have any more questions?
HD: Yes, I have thousands of questions.
Me: Ok, what are they?
HD: How do you do this again?

... good thing I still have 2 1/2 months. We have lots of computer lessons ahead of us!

Behind closed doors

Being 24 years-old puts a whole new perspective on life. I'm old enough now where my friend's parents are now my friends, I have friends who are the parents of teenagers, and I have friends my age with their own kids (and, well, everything in-between). I hear stories of what I did as a kid and of what my friends did and instead of blushing with embarrassment, I laugh at the ridiculousness of it. My friends who are parents of teenagers talk to me about what their teenagers are doing (or not doing), and I see the first-hand struggles (and joys) of being a new parents. I love being 24 because I do get to see all of this, and it isn't weird. It's awesome. And while I wouldn't consider myself wise by any means, sometimes I would like to get into the heads of some of the teenagers I know and tell them what they're doing is stupid and they're going to lose their friends and they're going to hurt their parents and what they're doing is taking them down the road but I am not their parent so it is not my place (and I think in this instance I might be too old to be their friend, too). But really, I'm not writing this post for that reason. I'm writing it from the perspective of a person who is in-between making those silly mistakes (I hope) and seeing what happens to the parent when the kid makes them.

Today I saw the frustration/hurt/sadness in two of my adult friends with teenagers. One has a daughter with a boyfriend who is crazy in love with him but is forgetting about her family and friends in the meantime and the other has a son who just started smoking cigarettes and is skipping class in order to do it. One mom just misses her daughter, and the other started crying for her son and the pain it causes her. She said when she was pregnant she was so happy because she was having boys- so she wouldn't have to worry about them. But now she worries and she doesn't know what to do.

This makes me hurt. I wish, as a teenager, I could have seen the pain I caused my dad. I wish I could have seen him cry the tears I am sure he cried when I stopped being the straight-A student I'd always been because I had other "priorities" and when I gave up a sport I had loved for those same "priorities"... and when I started mistreating my body because I didn't know what else to do. I wish I would have treated my dad as an adult that I respected instead of someone that I greatly despised because he was telling me what to do. I wish I knew at times that I was going down the wrong path and my dad was right when he suggested I do something different. I wish I was that kid that never caused pain and hurt to my dad/family/friends... but unfortunately that wasn't me. If I knew what I know then about what happens behind closed doors when we do something to hurt our parents, I hope that I would have done something different and changed the way I was behaving. Because now I see... it really does hurt. And parents really do cry even if they do not want to admit it.

Maybe I'm wrong, but the way I see it is parents want their children to have a better life than they had. They want their children to be perfect and not to make mistakes (even though it is a way of learning). They want their children to grow up to be strong, patient, hard-working, intelligent, and beautiful people who have nothing but manners, respect, and a successful future. And when their children begin to smoke (which they know has a good chance of killing them in the future), or focus ALL of their attention on a significant other (which they know will cause them to separate themselves from their family, friends, and probably schoolwork)... they hurt because they don't want to see their child hurt.

I'm not sure how to end this on a positive note. I was that kid that caused a lot of pain for my dad and step-mom and I like to hope that I turned out pretty well. While I'm not a parent, I'm seeing just how hard it is to be one... from many angles at once... and often behind closed doors. While I can't wait to one day have my own kids... there are moments like these that I know I CAN wait for. It's not easy to be a parent, and it's not easy to be a kid.

24 March 2012

It's amazing what a year does

One year ago Pavel, the love of Maria's life, died.
One year ago, his funeral was difficult to attend because his death was unexpected and it was so apparent in Maria's face just how much pain she was going through.
One year later, Maria is smiling:

One year ago, the Priest was greeted with tears as guests waited outside in the unexpected cold weather (and snow flurries):

One year later, the Priest entered the home and was greeted with smiles and laughter and warm weather, with guests waiting outside because it was warmer to be outside than inside, where we would be commemorating his death/life/soul:

One year ago, this room was empty except for a casket where Pavel was resting inside, a small table for food and wine, and a grieving friend.
One year later, it was filled with food, friends, and a loving ceremony blessing in which everyone present said prayers and blessed his soul.

...Once the ceremony was finished, it was time to eat (and drink, because what is a Moldovan masa without wine!?)

One year ago, the road was cold, dark, and it seemed so lonely:

One year later, sometimes it may seem like there is no one on the road with you, but even if you are the only one on the road, you're still on the road... so keep on moving. At least the sun is shining!

Even though I no longer am greeted by HELLO AMERICA! as I enter Maria's house, I am now greeted with a smile and a, OH, HELLO CATE! from Maria. I still love this couple, even if the couple is technically a single now.

So much can change in just ONE YEAR. Let it change. Let it happen. Because it will, no matter what.

23 March 2012

"she can't read"

There is a 9th grader at my school who cannot read in English, Romanian, or Russian. She sits quietly through all of her lessons and never causes any trouble so it seems like her inability to read has been overlooked every year. Today there were only a few students in her class so I made sure EVERYONE read out loud... her included (actually, I looked over the fact that she couldn't read in any language... my goal was participation). I read two words as she followed the text with her finger and then she repeated them. Then there was a teacher's meeting and at the very end it was briefly brought up that she can't read, in which a few of the teachers did not know this. While I want to help her and I feel like I could, I don't know what good it will do because the phonetics in English are very different from the sounds in Romanian and Russian. It breaks my heart that no one felt like they could take the initiative to help her learn to read. Yes, she's 15. But that doesn't mean she can't start now, you know?

22 March 2012

Lunch with the gym teacher

I didn't even think he knew my name until today. The 62 year-old gym teacher at my school is a hoot and has invited me to his apartment (across from the school) for lunch or dinner countless times since I first arrived in Varatic, but I never really took him seriously. In all honesty I was a bit nervous to go there since he lives in an apartment by himself (his wife left him to make money for their children's education, and his grown children both now live in Romania). Since the semester began I've been telling him I would visit on Easter vacation and I planned to take a friend with me as to not start rumors in the village or not give the wrong idea (trust me... it happens). But yesterday I was invited, once again, to join him for lunch because the daily holiday is celebrating 40 saints and the tradition says one must drink 40 Moldovan glasses - American shots- of wine. Apparently this was a true invite and I couldn't refuse, as he went so far as to ask my partner teacher what I like to eat and what I don't eat. By the second lesson I was hungry and looking forward to what he had prepared since I was told he can cook even better than some Moldovan women... and I can attest that this rumor is, in fact, true. The traditional meal he cooked was mamaliga, sheep cheese, and rabbit. Delicious.

The food was great and all but what I really enjoyed was the conversation. In two hours over lunch I learned more about this teacher and what life was like during the Soviet Union than I've learned since being here. Or maybe not learned since being here, but understood. He told me life during the Soviet Union worked because no one knew a different life. They were sheltered from the rest of the world and they were only taught to work. He then told me the story of a wolf and a dog. They story goes that a hungry wolf and a not-hungry dog met and the wolf asked the dog what it was that he had around his neck. He responded it was a collar that kept him home (so where they met, I'm not so sure... but moving on...). Then the dog told the wolf he can come live with him at the house because then he would never be hungry and the wolf responded, "I would rather be hungry and be free than have enough food and be trapped."

The reason for this story was to explain the life during the Soviet times for them. Everyone had work. Everyone had enough to eat. Life seemed to be good... but they were not free. They were terrified to make a mistake because if they made a mistake they were taken to Siberia without a word and weren't allowed to resist. He said this system of fear worked in the schools because the kids were afraid of discipline (oh, wait. What? Discipline? Ha). Kids actually had to- and DID- learn the information being taught to them. As soon as the bell rang signaling the end of the lesson the kids did not run out of the classrooms screaming. Kids didn't skip lessons because they would be severely punished for doing so. Bad language wasn't spoken in the schools or at home. But, again, they weren't free and when the revolution started is when everything began to fall apart. People wanted to be free, but they'd been taught what to do and only how to do that since 1918-ish. That is why Moldova struggles today- they still need someone to come in and change how they think, not just what they do.

It really saddens me just how hard life is here- because really, it is. Unless a Moldovan lives- and is successful- in Chisinau, it is difficult for them. Children don't see the importance of an education because most likely their future consists of working abroad (in Russia, Ukraine, or Italy primarily unless they're lucky to sneak in the US). There really are no jobs in the villages for them to do unless, like I suggested earlier, someone comes in and changes how they think to then change what they do. Chisinau is becoming a more "modern" and "cosmopolitan" city but it's only in a small part of the city and it still has a really long ways to go. The story of many old people here is pretty much, "I'm alone because my children and my spouse went to work abroad and then my spouse found someone else so now I'm here alone and I take care of the animals every day so I have something to eat and I drink so I have something to do. There is no happiness in life because there is no work and there is no money." It's unfortunate and heartbreaking.

Sorry for such a sad and depressing post. I'll end it on a positive note saying he really made me feel good about my 2 years here. He told me that I am leaving an impression on the kids that they will never forget. As we walked through the halls to leave the school, every student we walked by (even the little 1st graders who don't have English yet) told me, "hello" and some asked, "how are you?". He told me the kids that don't want to learn are never going to want to learn... as much as I wanted to change that when I came here, I can't. But I taught them to say "hello" and I smile back at them and that is enough of an impression to last a lifetime.

21 March 2012

If life were easy...

If life were easy everybody could do it.

This is a saying that I remember hearing as a kid and it recently hit me just how harsh of a saying it is. As much as I want to say it doesn't, I must admit that there is some truth to it. Sometimes it feels like things are happening in life that are too good to be true and often that's because they are. Nothing but good happens, the weather doesn't affect the happy mood, and all is well. Then something bad hits. My host mother's mother slipped on ice and broke her hip in three places and cannot get out of bed- just a few days before the snow and ice melted. Something happened to my partner teacher's grand baby when she was born and now she is in the Moldovan equivalent to the NICU without a diagnosis and a low predicted chance of survival. My dad had a successful surgery but now isn't sleeping. A teacher at my school who has been teaching chemistry for 50 years had an open lesson where many teachers from all over the area came to observe him and something went wrong with his experiment demonstration and many people started coughing and now people are saying he shouldn't be allowed to teach. I was loving life int he village until someone took advantage of the fact that I don't know much Romanian slang and apparently asked me a very inappropriate question and I gave a legitimate response thinking he said something else and someone overheard our conversation (or he overheard incorrectly but passed on the story anyways) and now people in the village are speaking about me in a negative fashion about something that is not true.

Life is hard. This is true. Accidents happen and people get hurt (physically and emotionally) but it is part of life. It is important to take it as it comes and focus on the good things not only as they happen but also afterwards. The good things happen to keep us going through the hard times... but often that is easier said than done.

"Photographing the world, longing for home"

Photographing the World, Longing for Home is the title of an interview I just read about Ed Kashi, who is a very well-known and talented photojournalist. If the title of the article wasn't enough to catch my attention, the first image was, because it reminded me of Pavel's funeral which we will be commemorating this Saturday (a year has passed already. Wow).

This interview and what Mr Kashi has gone through is one of the very reasons (among many others) I have decided against my schools project and why I wish to actually have my own place to call home and a consistent job. Contrary to his work versus mine is he was already an established and well-known photographer before he had his children. He was already fully immersed in his line of work and it was not something that would have been easy for him to just "give up" or "step back" from in order to raise his family. It seem to me it is all he knew so he couldn't just stop. And he didn't. While I am not "well-known" (or even known at all), I do not want to be put in a position where I have to give up my work in order to raise my family. My own family is something I anxiously await to have one day and I am the mother so I would not be able to leave pass on the growing baby in my stomach to my husband to hold on to while I cover a story (although wouldn't that be nice?). I don't want to miss my kids' first baseball game (or any for that matter) or their first steps. I want to be there and I want a job that I know how to do well that can keep me at there. Some people may disagree with me and that's totally fine. Obviously for others it works, but this is not what I want. Not for me.

Here are some quotes pulled from the interview that struck me:

  • My home life weighs on me more than ever. After doing it for so many years, you might think I would become inured. But in fact, I am even more sensitive and troubled by it. My kids are 14 and 17, and they are at the age when I am just realizing I have missed half their lives. It’s not yet goodbye. But they are in their own lives, and they don’t need me as much.
  • [Only being home part of the time] is all [my children] have known. I have literally missed half of their lives. In the last two years, I have been gone eight months each year. You can’t get these things back.
  • I spent more than half my life in hotel rooms alone. There is a loneliness with that, but when I come home, I sometimes feel even more lonely. Even though I am in their physical midst, it becomes so clear how I feel neglected. They are not asking any questions, it’s just like: “Oh, Dad’s home. Bye, I gotta go. I got a date,” or “I am gonna hang with friends,” or “I have a soccer game or a baseball game.”
  • It is very much a fear of ending up alone. And mortality.
  • [My] regret won’t be that [I] didn’t take one extra trip. The regret is that [I] took one too many trips. Or that I missed something.
Photography is something I love and it is something I am sure I will always love. But I need to think about what is important to me and what is important for my future. I can always travel and take my camera with me but, like Mr Kashi said, I can't get back the time I would miss from being away from my family. In the terms of my current life, my family means my dad, sister, aunts, and uncles. Family is the most important thing I have on this planet and and I want to be able to spend more time with them.

20 March 2012

Day 2 of awesomeness

Days like today are perfect and I would love it if they happened more frequently!

It's a quarter to 8 at night and I just walked into my house and logged online (after making my bed, that is). I arrived at school earlier than I needed to because I woke up early, had my coffee (thanks Aunt Cathy!!), and was ready to go. Since I was early I was able to sit in the Director's office and help some of the other teachers do some work in Excel and Word and taught them shortcuts to get their work done faster because these programs are rather new to them and most people chicken peck at the keys instead of aligning their fingers correctly so it takes forever to type... so shortcuts help! Then I taught 2nd grade the "Days of the Week" song before I headed out to catch the public transportation to our raion (county, kind of) where I signed the contract and took the modem because the internet should be here in the next 7 days! I then met my partner teacher there, had a coffee, and came home. However, I didn't, in fact, come straight home. Instead I went to one of my student's house's and we celebrated her 16th birthday with cake, homemade food, and a small glass of champagne. The best part was our discussion. She is such a sweet and honest girl who just wants to do good things and she wants a future for herself. On the walk home the sun was setting but many people were outside beginning the spring chores and kids were playing. This is my favorite season because the village just comes alive and I can see it happening. Students ran up and gave me hugs, others introduced me to some of their family members, and some people told me hello (buna ziua, in Romanian) from their porches. When I got home, it was time for dinner and I once again had a rather silly conversation with my host dad. This time it was about Americans vs. the English and how American's are English because we speak English and they established us first. No matter how much I tried to disagree or how many points I could give as to why I don't agree, he wouldn't budge on his opinion until I agreed with him. So, agree I did. That still wasn't good enough because it wasn't sincere! Oh boy. My host dad is too much... and then to top it off my host mom worked all day in the field and then made dinner so she was exhausted and the last thing she wanted to do was put up with his stubborn (but all-in-all good hearted) point of view. Now it's almost 8 and I'm writing this while sitting in bed. My email, Facebook, and LinkedIn will soon be checked and hopefully I'll be asleep before 10.

Not only is my village coming alive, but so am I. This feeling of being back in control of my life is something that words really cannot even describe. I feel liberated and at peace. My future is bright and I'm headed in the right direction!

*Edit* No wonder today is so great... it's officially the first day of Spring. I'm pretty sure all of my stars are aligned... If you believe in that!

19 March 2012


Trains are a great way to travel from one city to another. Sometimes they may take longer than driving a car, but often they are much cheaper, there is plenty of leg room, the seats are comfortable, it's possible to sleep or do other work, or there's the option of looking out the window and enjoying the passing scenery. I've taken long train rides many times in Europe but I haven't taken a train in the States since I was a kid. My mom, sister, and I went from Kansas City to St. Louis to visit one of her friends. The trip seemed to take forever (I think it's around 6 hours) but I remember looking out the window most of the trip, watching the changing scenery.

While visiting my dad in Albuquerque to help him with his knee surgery, one of the things I wanted to do was visit Santa Fe. I absolutely love turquoise and the style of Southwest jewelry so it was definitely a must. My dad's girlfriend and I had planned to drive there (around 45 minutes to an hour) but at the last minute we decided to take the train- and I'm so glad we did. I hadn't been in the SW since I was 11 and since arriving in Albuquerque two weeks before, I hadn't gone much further than a 15-mile block all within the city, so this was a wonderful way to see some of the landscape (most of which is on an Indian reservation).
It was an overcast day that eventually led to snow, but it kind of added to the awe of the landscape.

(Note: when taking a train, it is important to be on time and to know the schedule after your intended time of departure because it is possible you may want to extend your stay... and in that case, pay attention to how the free transport gets from the bus station to the center because you may be running in the other direction trying not to miss your train. It's not like we did any of the above or anything)

Here are some images from the trip:

What a day!

If most days were like today, I could teacher forever (or at least for a very long time).

Not only did most of the students listen, but they actively participated and they enjoyed the lessons. They were primarily quiet when they needed to be quiet, and spoke when they needed to speak. The best part is I was by myself and all of this happened. It was wonderful!

It probably helps that it is gorgeous outside. I have a cardigan on over my t-shirt and I wore jean shorts with tights and boots. No coat was necessary and I was even warm walking home. There are dry paths all the way from my house to school so tomorrow I may even be able to wear my new TOMS shoes! And when I got home I noticed the tulips are poking their heads through the wet soil.

OH what a gorgeous day!

18 March 2012

My host parents

When I am the age of my host parents, I hope my husband and I are similar to them. Our dinner discussions can be SO funny, especially when my host dad is in a good mood. He can say the funniest things, and my strong-willed host mom has the best responses.

17 March 2012


Moldova has turned my favorite season from summer to spring... and days like today are reasons why. My fingers are crossed we had our last snow of the year yesterday, as it was hovering above and below freezing which caused big, heavy snowflakes. My partner teacher told me there is a legend that goes like this: (taken from Wikipedia)

In Romanian mythology, Baba Dochia, or The Old Dokia, is a figure identified with the return of spring. She is sometimes imagined as “an old woman who insults the month of March when she goes out with a herd of sheep or goats.” Her name probably originates from the Byzantine calendar, which celebrates the 2nd century martyr-saint Eudokia of Heliopolis(Evdokia) on March 1. The Romanian Dokia personifies mankind's impatience in waiting for the return of spring.

Baba Dochia has a son, called Dragomir or Dragobete, who is married. Dochia ill-treats her daughter-in-law by sending her to pick up berries in the forest at the end of February. God appears to the girl as an old man and helps her in her task. When Dochia sees the berries, she thinks that spring has come back and leaves for the mountains with her son and her goats. She is dressed with twelve lambskins, but it rains on the mountain and the skins get soaked and heavy. Dochia has to get rid of the skins and when frost comes she perishes from the cold with her goats. Her son freezes to death with a piece of ice in his mouth as he was playing the flute.

Another version of this story is that the son of Baba Dochia marries with a girl against her will. Angry with her son's decision, she sends her daughter in law to wash some black wool in the river and tells her not to come back until the wool has turned white. The girls tries to wash it, but the wool would not change color. In despair and with her hands frozen from the cold water of the river, the girl starts crying, thinking that she would never be able to see her loved husband again. Then Jesus sees her from the sky and feels sorry for her, so he gives her a red flower telling her to wash the wool with that. As soon as she washes the wool as told by Jesus, it turns white so the girl happily returns home. When Baba Dochia hears about her story, she gets angry and thinks spring has come, since the man (who the girls had not recognized as being Jesus) was able to offer her a flower. She leaves for the mountains dressed in twelve coats. As the weather changes fast on the mountain, she starts throwing away her coats, one by one, until she is left with no coats. But as soon as she drops her last coat, the weather changes again and Baba Dochia is frozen on the mountain.

Today we don't have any snowflakes (besides the remaining snow on the ground). The sun is shining and my host mom is even washing dishes outside. The only downfall of this year compared to last is we have mud up to our knees from all of that snow we had last month melting. I'll happily take mud up to my knees and sunshine over cold weather though! Spring is just such a happy transition from the cold, long, and dark winter. In fact, I can't even believe winter is over. It seemed to pass quickly this year but that's probably because the end is near...

16 March 2012

Why don't you eat more?

Something my host dad loves to ask me is "Cate, why don't you eat more?" Then he follows it with, "You don't like the food. You don't want to get fat." This is something I will never be able to escape no matter how hard I try. Yesterday, in fact, I told him I didn't like this game because I can never win. Then this morning after eating more than I should have or wanted to, he asked me the same thing. My response? No host dad, I do not like the food. And I do not want to get fat. His response? Oh. Ok. Good.

And that was that. Silly torment has ended! ... for today, at least!

15 March 2012


If timing really were right, I'd be getting this dog (photography courtesy of Erin Drallos, who is a pet foster parent and also a photographer I have been following for years!)

Her caption under the photo on Facebook: Oh my hearts a melting.... I was about to take the puppy's pic and my sweetest cat in the world Max walked up and rubbed on her. She is so good. She just stood there. She loves the attention all her foster brothers give her.

Timing of transitions

With one of my best friend's recent engagements and my recent set of transitions (I'll get to that), she told me, "Timing really is everything, Cate. If I had met my fiancé three months before or three months after I did, it probably wouldn't have worked out". And she's right because timing really is everything. Sometimes people come into your life a certain time because they were meant to in order to lead you in a different direction, and sometimes they come at what you think is a bad time but it's always for a reason.

While I was in New Mexico helping me dad, I literally felt a transition happen to me. Awhile ago I'd asked one of my friends who is a year younger than me if she actually feels like an adult now that she is working in a city where she didn't know anyone before arriving there and is working at a "real job". Her response was, "well, yea, I do" and it was just beyond me how she felt that way because I knew that I didn't fell like an adult at all. In fact, I felt like I was one of the kids when I was supposed to be teaching them. I didn't care much about what I was wearing or, quite honestly, how I acted in public situations (to a degree). But then something came over me and all of a sudden I felt different. I felt grown up. I felt like an adult. And I went shopping to reward myself in a store that has good quality clothes that will last a long time and are both business appropriate but can be casual at the same time. And you know what? I feel GREAT when wearing them. Then those "grown up" thoughts started taking over and I realized maybe this grand photo project idea isn't the best idea after all. It is a HUGE project to take on, not to mention expensive, and I really don't have experience in the field. What if I were to complete India and then start in Guatemala and for whatever reason it doesn't work, or I never make it to Guatemala... then I'd be leaving the kids in India behind and I'd be breaking a promise I'd made to them. Sure, I can ask for funding but I would have to do that six times in order to get back to the countries I promised I'd visit, and that doesn't pay for the new equipment I'd have to buy or the maintenance on it, or my insurance or anything. So, I realized it's time for me to get a job. A real job. And you know what? I'm actually really looking forward to it and to learning something new. And having a place to call home. MY home. And a car. Oh, yes, I'm really looking forward to having a car again. Also while I was in the ABQ I entered into an antique store, where I came up with a GREAT idea for a side photo project that would keep photography a passion and a hobby instead of something that adds stress at times, and it keeps me meeting and talking to people, and it could even end up on your coffee table one day! Multiple win, if I do say so myself.

Now back to people coming into your life at the right (or wrong) time. On the flight from Albuquerque to Atlanta I was past tired. I'd kept myself up for most of the night except for a couple of hours so I could sleep on the overnight plane to Germany. I kind of forgot about the 3 hour flight and 4 hour layover I'd have before that... and couldn't even stay awake through take-off. When we landed the man next to me asked me where I was headed and I told him back to Moldova for the Peace Corps, to which he responded he works with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Fellows program at the University of Missouri. Hm. Close to home! Before I knew it, we'd been talking for two minutes and then I looked down the aisle and he'd disappeared in the sea of people I had to wait to pass because my bag was placed in a bin in the opposite direction. No sooner than I'd made it to my next gate and settled in and accessed the internet, I'd received an email from him apologizing for disappearing and also taking the time to tell me more about the program. Needless to say, I became intrigued at that point. Graduate school is only something I'd considered for a few days in the last 24 1/2 years of my life, so it was only expected that I'd turn my nose to the question when he'd originally asked my opinion on it. In the email, however, I started thinking more about it. Then looking into the program. Something that has concerned me lately in my job search is that I am not qualified for much... I have experience in teaching, photography, and babysitting. Well, truth be told, I don't want to do that anymore (for a full-time career). Maybe graduate school is a great alternative... and it is something I am looking into.

So, with that begin said, it looks like I will be back in the States for good as of mid-August or the beginning of September. I'm looking for a job that will provide training (sit, stay, good girl!) and ideally in sales/PR/marketing/advertising. I'm open to locations, and open to many different opportunities! Graduate school still may be in my future, but at this point I'm going to wait until next fall so I have more time to research and take my tests and what-not.

Get ready, America! I'm putting on my grown-up clothes and attitude on life, and I'm ready to see what the world has to offer from the eyes of an adult!

04 March 2012

Easy transitions

It's been so nice to be back in the States even though I don't know anyone here (in Albuquerque) other than my dad and his girlfriend... it really doesn't matter. Lately I've been worried about the transition from Moldova to "home" and how it would be and I thought it would be hard but in all honesty, it's really easy. In fact, it's probably too easy. I have to keep reminding myself that I have a school year to finish... and then I'm officially "home".

This photo is from an area near downtown, not too far from the University here. While it doesn't show the beauty of Albuquerque that is just a couple streets away, I just love it. The sparse clouds in the blue sky. The man walking with the briefcase. The person standing under the sign. I love my job (err... passion?)!

28 February 2012

Friendly people

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop in Albuquerque enjoying the unlimited refills of house coffee, a deliciously healthy blueberry muffin, and free magazines. My body is quickly becoming sore from me taking advantage of my jet lag. Coming from a temperature below freezing in Moldova, trust me when I say 50 degrees feels amazing.. Especially after an intense hot yoga session. As I went to get a refill if my coffee, an old man smiled at me and asked, "aren't you cold?" in reference to me in my cotton shorts and tank top. With a smile I replied that no, I'm not cold.

In my morning yoga class, a kid stopped me after class to ask if I was an alum of a private school here because of my water bottle.

I love how people can be so friendly here.

27 February 2012

Jet lag

Jet lag sucks. I forget about it every time I travel long distances... thinking it's not going to be that bad but as soon as I get to the destination I remember just how much it sucks.

Let's think about the positive thoughts regarding jet lag.
  • I can go to bed early. No, no. That's not good because "early" means 6pm. That won't work
  • I'm a zombie in the afternoon. No, no. That's not good, either, because zombies aren't any fun
  • I can do sunrise yoga. Oh, wait. YES! Sunrise yoga!

This morning I woke up at 4:30 (30 minutes later than yesterday... I'm on a roll here) and decided to get my butt moving and head to a hot yoga class that began at 5:30am. After yesterday's attempt at a spinning class, this is definitely worth it! I feel so stretched out and much better. However, I think it's about time for a nap.

In regards to my dad's recovery... yesterday was a MUCH better day! He was feeling so good, in fact, that he went down the stairs and played some poker while watching the red carpet intro to the Emmy Awards with Connie (I was sleeping). He didn't make it too much past dinner (or even to the start of the show) but it's still great progress! If he keeps up like this, maybe he'll be joining me in my sunrise yoga classes before I leave. Ok, just kidding. But still, this is great news!

25 February 2012

27 hour day

I made it safe and sound to Albuquerque. It was a 27-hour day if I count the time I left the hotel in Chisinau until the time I arrived at the house in New Mexico. The flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta was 10 1/2 hours and I was so thankful to have my own TV set so I could choose which movies to watch- and movie watching I did! The food was probably the best food I can remember having on an airplane and I feel like we were fed more than enough (or at least I was).

It is so weird to be back. When I arrived, it was around 9pm so it was dark outside. I haven't been to Albuquerque since I was 12, and quite frankly, I don't remember it and it has probably changed a lot since then. But I must say, damn, it feels great to be back in the United States. I just couldn't stop looking out the window on the way to the house and I kept thinking how great it is that I know most of these stores and I know where to get things that I need, and there's a coffeeshop I should check out and there's another one, and OH! Starbucks! Target! Mini dealership! Oh man... it just feels good to be back.

In terms of my dad, he is recovering well from his knee-replacement surgery. It's going to be a long and grueling recovery but so far, so good. In just the hour or so I was with him before going to bed last night I could see why it is so important to be here to help him recover. He really cannot do anything for himself, including go up and down the stairs to get ice packs or food. I'm very thankful I can be here to help.

Valentine's Love

Valentine's Day, Schmalentine's Day. When an adult and single, this particular day is awfully overrated (and this post is belated.. ha, I'm a poet and I didn't even know it).

This year, Valentine's Day was just another Tuesday. I received a couple of Valentine's from my students but other than that it was pretty ordinary. However, I told my dad's girlfriend how much I used to love it when my dad gave us heart-shaped boxes of chocolates every year. He also used to buy them for his co-workers which I think is a gesture that shows just how big his heart is... he never wanted anyone to feel left out on this much overrated Hallmark holiday. Well, before going to sleep last night, he told me I needed to look in a box and there I would find my Valentine's day present. Guess what I found:

Yup, that's right. A box of Russell Stover chocolates (excuse the expression... it's not even 6:30am and I'm still un-showered after travelling all day yesterday). When I was little I used to use my teeth (or a knife) to create a small crack in the chocolates that told me what they were filled with but this time, since I'm a grown-up, I decide I should just go for it and take a bite because that is part of the excitement of chocolates, right? Not knowing what's on the inside? Well, my first one was caramel. Heeeeaven!

21 February 2012

Snow baba

Yesterday I made a snowman, so today my host mom made a snowbaba (baba = old woman)

She's so funny!