Bucharest: The Paris of the East

This blog is a little late in coming…almost 2 months late, whoops. I’ve honestly just not had the motivation (or concentration) to sit down and write it what with completing and presenting¬†a grant project with my school administration, finishing up classes, and continuing to battle lasting side effects of pneumonia. So, sorry. We’re here now and that’s all that matters, right?

Over our week long Easter break from school, most volunteers take the opportunity to travel outside of Moldova on vacation. People went to London, Paris, Georgia (the country), Ukraine, Poland, etc. Since I decided to travel back to the States for Christmas, I was one of the few volunteers that hadn’t traveled to Romania so I decided to take an Eat, Pray, Love excursion (i.e. a solo trip) to Bucharest, Romania’s capital. My mom wasn’t super keen on the idea of me traveling alone, but I gently reminded her that I am indeed 26 years old, living in a foreign country, and completely capable of taking care of myself. Plus, Bucharest is safer than many of the major cities where I have traveled with no problems.

So, after spending the Easter holiday with my host family, I jetted off to Bucharest on Tuesday, April 18th. Once I arrived, I found the bus into the center of the city and meandered my way to the nearest Starbucks (Oh! I guess I should mention that my entire goal of this trip was to be as American as possible by eating at as many American chain restaurants as I could get my hands on). I am a huge fan of finding Starbucks’ in foreign countries because the coffee tastes basically the same as it does back in the States AND there is free wifi, which is a commodity whose importance cannot be overstated. Anyway, after hanging out there for a while, I made my way to the park across the street where a free walking tour of Bucharest departs every morning. This walking tour was the best way to introduce myself to the city because we were shown the Old City area where many of the typical tourist attractions are located. Not only was it a tour of the center of the city, it was also heavily focused on the history of Bucharest. The history that was discussed included the origins of the geography of Romania, Vlad the Impaler, and Romania’s Communist past. I like learning the history of other countries since this is information that we rarely receive in the American education system unless that country had a specific impact on America…like, ya know, war.

During this walking tour, I met a couple of guys (one American and one British) and we decided to get lunch together afterwards. They wanted to experience traditional Romanian food and, though I eat this type of food regularly, I agreed to go with them to tell them about the different meals. Once I finally made my way to the restaurant after checking into my AirBnB, I was able to order in Romanian and impress my newfound friends, which is not something I experience often when speaking Romanian. I’ve just decided that I need to hang out with people who don’t know a lick of Romanian and then I’ll sound like I’m a real pro. After eating, we just decided to walk around a little bit…including walking the perimeter of the Palace of Parliament, which is the second largest administrative building in the world behind the Pentagon…so, yeah, it took a while. Once we parted ways, I started making my way back to my AirBnB, but not before stopping at a Subway (!!!) to grab a sandwich for dinner. I practiced an insane amount of self-control as I waited my 15 minute walk to my apartment before I devoured said sandwich in a most unladylike way ūüôā

Next day was full of aimless wandering and mental health time. Since I was traveling by myself, I had the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. This day included strolling through central Bucharest taking photos, holing up in an amazing bookstore and reading for a couple of hours, enjoying fresh squeezed orange juice in a cafe while I mooched their wifi, and just taking it easy. Wrapped up this day with dinner at Pizza Hut where I ordered a Hawaiian pizza that killed the Hawaiian pizza in the States. They don’t play with the size of the pineapple chunks they put on their slices and I ain’t mad about it.

On Thursday, I indulged in true Morgan fashion: I found a mall. The mall I went to is Romania’s equivalent to Mall of America complete with a multitude of stores, a huge food court, an ice skating rink, a rock climbing complex, bumper boats, a¬†huge¬†movie theater, and a supermarket (that’s a standard thing in Eastern Europe I’ve seen…grocery stores in malls). First place I went to was the supermarket because I love walking around different grocery stores just to see what I can find. It’s always a surprise! And I certainly wasn’t disappointed as I stumbled upon Cookie Crisp¬†and¬†Doritos. Couldn’t justify the purchase of Cookie Crisp, but definitely justified the Doritos and they were perfect! After that phenomenal find, I had lunch and just walked around to see what the mall had to offer. I also (finally!) got to see Beauty and the Beast as it was showing in English with Romanian subtitles and it was everything I had hoped it would be!! Later that night, after resting a bit, I ventured out onto Calea Victorei which is one of the main thoroughfares in Bucharest. A light festival was being kicked off on this night and I was able to walk down the middle of this historic street and see a variety of buildings awash in spectacular light installations designed by artists from all over the world. There was a building that had a laser show projected on it to look like PacMan, a light installation spelling out “Iubesc” (I love), and many other amazing sights. I was so glad that I was able to experience this as it might be one of the coolest things I have done to date over here! This night, which was supposed to be my last, was capped off with yet another visit to Subway because of course it was.

I was supposed to fly home to Moldova on Friday so, after checking out of my AirBnB, I traveled to the largest city park in Romania (and Europe) to visit a museum and just waste time until my flight. The museum I visited was the Village Museum which had examples of village houses from all over Romania, both past and present-ish. It was fascinating to see the role that the architecture of the house played in specific areas of the country. I also got to spend some quality time with the cats that roam this outdoor museum and, if y’all know me (besides the food), this was the highlight of my trip. We chilled on a bench for about 20 minutes enjoying each others company and my soul was put at ease ūüôā Lunch was enjoyed at Hard Rock Cafe (#27) and I utilized their wifi to find out that I¬†may¬†not be able to get home like I thought.

Because global warming is a real thing, south and central Moldova were hit with an insane snowstorm at the end of April, rendering the capital helpless due to the amount of snow and the fact that most utilities and public services weren’t working. I didn’t have a concrete answer about my flight so I traveled to the airport anyway just to find out that I’d have to be back at 6am the next morning as my flight had been rescheduled for 8am. Cool beans. I¬†really¬†didn’t want to spend the night in the airport so I called my mom and she came through in the clutch with her Hilton Honors points! Turns out a room at the Hilton in the center of Bucharest was on the low end of the point scale so she reserved me a room for the night. Once I was there and checked in, I was not leaving. I had a comfy king size bed, a bathtub, wifi, cable, room service, etc. Great way to top off a not so great day.

I successfully made it out of Romania the next day, just to be welcomed back to Moldova with apocalyptic-type scenes due to¬†the snowstorm damage and a wonderful gift of pneumonia. Maybe I should’ve just stayed in Romania? But, seriously, it was a great trip and I feel so lucky to be able to experience so many different places at such a (relatively) young age. Can’t wait to adventure somewhere else this summer!

365 Days and I’m Still Me

So, I’ve officially been in Moldova for a year and I feel this overwhelming pressure to write about how much I’ve changed since leaving the States.

But, that’s a hard thing to do because I feel that I’m basically the same person, just in a different location.

The changes that I’ve witnessed are fairly small in scope, but I’ll attempt to enumerate some for you here anyway.

Here goes nothin’…

  1. I’m about 15 pounds heavier and a hell of a lot happier: Those of you that know me best know that I lost a significant amount of weight in the year before coming here and the circumstances surrounding that weight loss weren’t exactly the most cheerful. Regardless, I’ve kind of stopped giving a shit about what other people think of me because I am who and what I am. And ain’t nobody got time for people in their lives¬†that make them think otherwise.
  2. I have a newfound love for fresh produce: In the States, most of our produce is bought at huge chain supermarkets and, due to our¬†wonderful¬†genetic modification process for fruits and vegetables, they usually aren’t the best tasting. However, here in Moldova, the fruits and vegetables are outstanding and it has inspired me to begin shopping locally at farmer’s markets once I return home because I’d rather pay more for good vegetables than settle for cheap, chemically ones. Fight the man and all that.
  3. English is hard, guys: The appreciation that I have for being a native English speaker really cannot be explained because, after having to teach it for a year, you begin to realize just how hard this language is to learn and just how much it must suck to have to learn it. With this also comes a more intense disgust toward Americans who are all¬†1q6gs7Guess what, morons? Most of my English learners here can speak better English than you so, until you know what it’s like to have to learn another language in order to survive in a country that isn’t your own, you don’t get to have an opinion.
  4. I walk 25 minutes each way to go to work, the market, or basically do anything else in my town: this is just a fact of life. I am literally one of the last houses before my city ends and it takes me a solid 20-25 minutes to get into the center of town where I go grocery shopping or where my school is located (and I’m one of the lucky ones). Lugging a reusable grocery bag full of food on my shoulder for this haul is just a typical Saturday afternoon and, when it’s hot or cold, I really come to hate the fact that I took having the convenience a car for granted.
  5. Cherish the little things: Life in Moldova is just simpler and slower than it is in the States. People live extremely modest lives here and big expressions of affection aren’t given through expensive gifts or things. Instead, students pick flowers from their gardens or apples from their trees to show their appreciation for you as their teacher, your host parents invite you to stand out front with them under the cherry tree to enjoy the first ripe cherries of the season…simple things that end up being some of the biggest things.

There are probably more that I could add (like the fact that a bird pooped on me today while I was picking cherries from the tree and it literally didn’t phase me at all, whereas in the States, I would’ve lost my damn mind), but I think you all get the idea.

I’m still me…just a little more simple.

And that’s perfectly alright.

Life Moves Pretty Fast…

This is it.

This is what Peace Corps warns you about.

When you begin transitioning into your Peace Corps life in your country of service, you are told throughout training by staff and current volunteers that one of the hardest things that you will have to deal with is life moving on and changing back at home without you being there to experience it. I had no doubt that my family and friends’ lives would move on while I was gone and I thought I had prepared myself for that. Guess emotions run deeper than I knew…

One of my best friends from college got engaged yesterday and, while I am extremely excited for her, I have been struggling internally all day. Her wedding was something that we had talked about since we became friends just assuming that I’d be around when she got engaged. We knew we were going to plan it together and that, when the day came, I would be standing alongside her as she married the man of her dreams. But, life happened and here I sit 5,421 miles away. Even though a date has not been set, I know the likelihood of me being able to attend is very slim as I do not complete my service in Moldova until late July/early August 2018 and she will almost certainly get married before then. It’s a hard pill to swallow and I find myself falling into tears whenever I start thinking about it.

She and I have had a friendship that has withstood distance and adulthood. We became friends in college through our sorority…my Big Sister had adopted her into our family and the rest is history. We were twiddles, roommates, partners in crime…basically everything you would want out of a college friendship. After graduation, we parted ways, but did not let the distance diminish our friendship. We can go months without talking (an 8 hour time difference is a booger), but whenever we do, we just fall right back into it. Our friendship wasn’t an expected one as we were so different, but those differences are what made us click with one another. We learned from one another, leaned on each other when things got rocky, and laughed through the majority of our last two years in college.

Now, she’s living her dream. She’s a teacher and is getting married, which has been the ultimate since I met her 7.5 years ago.

But, I’m living my dream too and this is something I have to remind myself of.

I know that dreams are built on sacrifice and, eventually, this will be easier for me to handle. But, for now, I’m sad and wish desperately I could be back in the States, helping her prepare for her next big adventure.

Learning and Teaching in Eastern Europe

This was a post that I wrote for my sorority’s blog page where Sigma Kappa alumnae from different walks of life contribute posts about various topics. Since I live in an unique situation as a Peace Corps Volunteer, my posts are centered around travel and life abroad (post originally published at: http://sigmakappablog.com/learning-and-teaching-in-eastern-europe)

As I talked about in my¬†last post, every Peace Corps Volunteer deals with their own specific kind of cultural assimilation/integration process. It differs from volunteer to volunteer, and it definitely differs between Peace Corps countries. As an education volunteer in Moldova, I entered into an educational system that has an actual governing body and works toward the achievement of various¬†educational standards for their students. This has made my job both easy and hard in the eyes of the “traditional” Peace Corps service: it provides us with a definitive curriculum to follow, but it often stifles our creativity due to the necessity of following the curriculum/textbooks to the letter.

But, since everyone loves a good listacle, I thought I’d compile the top 10 biggest differences between Moldovan and American schools to give you a bit of insight as to what school life is like in my little corner of the world. You will see photos from the school that I am lucky enough to teach in for my 27 months of service.

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The front of my school. We have 470 students, grades 1-12.

1. Education is only compulsory until the age of 16.

Students in Moldova have the option of choosing to leave school at the end of their 9th grade year to pursue a technical degree at a trade school or college in the country, and these programs typically last two years. If students choose to stay and complete their education, they will be able to attend a university to further their studies after graduation from 12th grade. From my understanding, colleges in Moldova educate pupils on how to work in a service/trade field and, if students so choose, they can continue their education to obtain a higher degree at university upon completion of college or trade school.

2. Students begin learning foreign languages in 1st and 2nd grades.

When Moldovan students begin their formal education at the age of six, they begin learning Russian (which is widely spoken here, but is still considered a foreign language, as the official language of Moldova is Romanian). In 2nd grade, they begin learning English and will continue studies in both of these languages until they leave school, whether that be at the end of 9th grade or 12th grade. People living in Moldova see the importance of learning a foreign language because they understand that Romanian is not a widely spoken language. With the knowledge of Russian or English, they will be more marketable outside of Moldova since, unfortunately, it is the fastest shrinking country in Europe, and almost half of the population works outside of its boundaries.

3. Class periods are only 45 minutes long.

Forty-five minutes is only 15 minutes less than a standard American class period, so it’s not that big of a deal, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but oh, what I would give to have those additional 15 minutes now. My partner teachers and I are expected to deliver an entire lesson within a 45-minute time span, which is actually more like 35 minutes since we spend about 10 minutes yelling at the students to be quiet (more on disciplinary methods later). Within that prorated time, we are expected to cover all the aspects of foreign language teaching: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and grammar. It is truly not feasible and, coming from a university setting where I had 90 minutes to wax lyrical about various topics, these time constraints are probably one of the biggest stressors I face while at work.

Here is the entryway of my school.

4. Disciplinary methods here are… well…¬†different than in the States.

Moldova is a post-Soviet state and some of the practices that were employed in schools during that time haven’t exactly fallen by the wayside just yet; among those are disciplinary methods that are utilized by most of the teachers that I have come into contact with. I have tried multiple “Americanized” behavioral management techniques to get my kiddos to quiet down (standing silently at the front of the classroom, standing beside the students making noise and placing my hand on their desk or their shoulder, etc.), but the only thing that seems to semi-work is for my partners to slam their textbook on the desk while screaming for the students to pay attention. It is also not rare for me to see teachers grab students¬†by the ears to move them across the room back into their seats. And, unlike in American schools, the students do not begin crying, they do not threaten to call their parents… they just take it and continue on with their lives. Definitely something I am still getting used to seeing.

5. The daily schedule for students here is also drastically different than we would see in America.

As in America, school schedules differ between schools here, so I will just speak from my point of view. Our day starts at 8 a.m. and lasts until 1:30 or 2:05, depending on how many lessons students have that day. There are typically six lessons a day, each lasting 45 minutes, with multiple 5- and 10- minute breaks, and one 15-minute break in between. Students in Moldova over 4th grade are not served lunch at school, so many of them eat once they arrive home after lessons. In my school, lunch is prepared for 1st-4th grades and students of vulnerable families to ensure that they have at least one meal that day. My school administration is fantastic in anticipating and making the effort to meet the needs of poor students, and this is just one of the ways they attempt to reach out and help.

Extracurricular activities aren’t really a thing in Moldova… there are a few sports teams, a girls choral group, and a traditional dance group, but outside of that, students are not involved with things after school. Most of them are expected to go home, work around the house, and complete the absurd amount of homework that is given to them daily.

One of our English/French classrooms.

6. The inability to think critically.

This is another one of my major stressors because, coming from America where we are taught to think critically from the time we are very young, it is frustrating to teach this skill that is rarely used here, but is so necessary for future success. Education in the Soviet era focused on rote memorization, much like it is in modern-day China. The Ministry of Education has started to place a bigger emphasis on developing critical thinking, but teachers who were educated under the Soviet system are expected to teach their students a skill that they have very little experience in working with. This often causes apathy in regards to this impactful analytical skill. My students struggle to answer “Why?” questions because they immediately turn to their textbooks to find an answer instead of synthesizing the material and making inferences.

7. The grading system.

Contrasting with the A-F grading system we have in America, Moldovan teachers grade their students on a 1-10 scale. A passing grade here only requires a 33% as opposed to the 60% needed in the majority of American schools. Grades are also given somewhat subjectively here… certain students receive certain grades because of their previous performance or based solely on the family they were raised in. This is an issue that I have raised with my partners, and we have created rubrics by which to grade our students so that they are given objective grades based on current performance instead of any past actions.

Grade books are also 100% handwritten… there is zero technology used in controlling or distributing grades, which is not surprising considering there is no privacy in regards to grades. After tests, my partners will announce all of the students’ grades aloud in front of the entire class, and this is common practice in every school in Moldova. As a Type A person who was extremely OCD about her grades, this is my own personal nightmare, and it still makes me so uncomfortable even though they aren’t¬†my grades being shared. Can you imagine a teacher in the U.S. reading aloud all of the test scores of everyone in the class? Phew, the backlash would be crazy!

Chemistry classroom where another one of my partners and I teach classes because she does not have her own classroom.

8. The prevalence and normalization of cheating in the classroom.

Another fight that I have taken on is to cut down on cheating in my classroom. Moldova is a community-based society that functions on the idea that when everyone succeeds, the country succeeds. As commendable as this is, this belief carries itself into the classroom in the form of cheating. My students will straight up walk across the room during a test to help one of their classmates with a question because these actions¬†have never been punished. As an American who comes from an educational culture that completely demonizes cheating, I was baffled the first time I saw this happen. Every time I have cracked down on my students for cheating, I get the response, “But this is Moldova, it’s normal.” Which spurs a conversation about how this behavior is not normal and not accepted in many other developed countries across the world. My students¬†hate¬†taking tests in my class, but I feel strongly about this and it is a fight that I will keep on fighting until I leave in July 2018.

9. The lack of standardized testing.

Again, coming from an American perspective, standardized testing was a normal part of school starting in 3rd grade. Our regular school grades kept us accountable while the standardized tests kept the teachers and school accountable. I hated testing at the time, but now, working in a system with limited testing, I see its benefits. In Moldova, students are tested at the end of 9th grade and 12th grade. The test at the end of 9th grade determines if they are prepared to continue their high school studies or if they should pursue a different track. The tests at the end of 12th grade, referred to as the Baccalaureate exams, determines whether they are accepted into university or not. They are tested over every major subject they take in 10th-12th grades, and it is extremely stressful for them. Since there are no tests to hold teachers and schools accountable, the regular semester grades for students do so instead. This practice, however, encourages grades to be inflated in the grade books so that teachers can keep their jobs and schools are not punished for having underachieving students.

10. The lack of classroom materials and resources.

This is an issue that plagues lower income schools in America as well, but it is something that definitely affects the school culture here. I am lucky enough to be placed in a school located in a “larger” town within my region (it’s really only 7,000 people…), but since we are in a municipal center, my school has more financial resources than others. I walked in one day last semester and was giddy when I saw that my classrooms had received new chalkboards that I could actually write on… yes, chalkboards. Most schools only supply their teachers with one box of chalk at the beginning of the year and anything after that must be supplied by the teacher.

Many schools do not have enough classrooms for teachers to have their own rooms, so the teachers move from room to room instead of the students. If teachers want to print and/or copy tests, they must provide their own paper for the copier/printer IF the school has one. As Peace Corps Volunteers, we work with our partners to teach them how to be more creative and innovative with the resources they do have… for some, that means making materials from paper and markers and, for others, it means leading technology workshops and teaching technology integration in the classroom.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

This past week has been a roller coaster of emotions for many different reasons.

I was able to spend the week in the capital of Moldova with some of my favorite people since our entire¬†cohort was in town for various trainings…so that equals good emotions.

I was also able to reflect and grieve the current situation happening in America with these people…which led to some not so great feelings.

This morning, as I sat with three American friends around the kitchen table eating a variety of leftovers for lunch, we began expressing our frustration at our current situation. We love living and working in Moldova, but we hate that we aren’t able to march and rally and stand in solidarity with our fellow Americans that are also wishing and striving for a more inclusive American society. We hate that we are limited in showing our support by posting on social media and signing online petitions. We want to be there with you fighting the good fight…fighting the fight for the America that the majority¬†know¬†we are instead of the America the few have decided we should become.

The fact that we are supposed to be representing an America that is friendly and peaceful is becoming harder and harder every time a new executive order is signed. But we’ll keep going. We’ll keep promoting the goodness of America: our diversity in population, our diversity in history, our diversity in religion…see the key word there:¬†diversity. Our differences ARE our strength and any tyrant that is trying to tell us otherwise is only interested in the demise of our great nation, not the strengthening of it.

I was raised in a state where our motto is: United We Stand, Divided We Fall. This is true now more than ever before in our lifetimes. The time to stand united as a people is NOW. The time to stand up against those who don’t believe that what makes us different makes us special is NOW. The time to fight for the integrity of the country that was built on the backs of immigrants is NOW.

To all the Americans that are fighting and rallying and protesting: keep going. We’ve got your back.

Give ’em hell.

My Past Month in Moldova (sorry, no catchy title this time…the gnarly cold overtaking my body has rendered my brain useless)

It’s been almost a month since I’ve done an update about life in Moldova so this is gonna be a little lengthy…my bad.

I have been crazy busy actually and I am so thankful. These past few weeks have been crammed full of activities and I am finally falling into a groove it seems. Major holidays took place (aka my birthday and Thanksgiving) and good times were had with a bunch of different volunteers.

My birthday was decently low-key. One of my partners hosted an open lesson where other language teachers in the school come and observe a lesson she presents with one of her classes. This particular open lesson was with 4th form who I do not teach, but who really really love me anyway. The theme was ‚ÄúMaking Invitations‚ÄĚ and, at the end of the lesson, I received a cake with candles and rousing renditions of ‚ÄúIf You‚Äôre Happy and You Know It‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúHappy Birthday‚ÄĚ from extremely exuberant 4th graders. The next day, I was surprised with flowers and a gift from my 10th and 11th graders as well as flowers from my school administration.

Next on the agenda was Hram, or village day. Every town and village in Moldova has at least one church, each church has a patron saint affiliated with it, and each patron saint has their own special day. These special days are celebrated in the towns and villages throughout the year and are referred to as Hram. Each place celebrates a little differently depending oimg_3984n the time of year primarily and our Hram is on November 21st…when it is freezing outside. Family and friends from other parts of Moldova traveled to our house and celebrated with a large masa. I lasted for about 2 hours before the house wine made me sleepy and trying to understand the rapid fire Romanian made my brain hurt. At this point, I escaped to my room for some introvert time, which ended up turning into a 2 hour nap. Sorry not sorry.

This is the masa (meal) that my host mom prepared complete with traditional Moldovan cuisine…meaning there were only about 3 things on the entire table I would eat.

The Thursday after Hram was Thanksgiving. Since I am not in America, I had to work on Thanksgiving, but luckily, I got to lead some Thanksgiving themed activities with my kiddos in 7th grade and have conversations about what Thanksgiving is with my older students. I presented my students with a PowerPoint presentation about Thanksgiving that had been prepared completely in Romanian (thanks Health Ed Volunteers) and showed them parts of the Macy‚Äôs Thanksgiving Day Parade. My 7th graders and I made HAND TURKEYS!!!! which they loved because it allowed them to be creative and my partner and I enjoyed it because they had to practice both writing and presenting their turkeys in English. img_4018¬†My older students and I just sat around a table together and talked about what Thanksgiving was, how it is celebrated, and different traditions surrounding it. I showed them clips of the Thanksgiving episodes from ‚ÄėFriends‚Äô where Joey gets a turkey stuck on his head and they thought that was too hilarious. Part of my job is to introduce them to true American culture and what is more American than ‚ÄėFriends‚Äô? Answer: not much.

Once Friday rolled around, I headed to Olișcani (a village nearby) to celebrate with the other PC Volunteers living in my area. The Health Education volunteer that lives in this village has a pretty sweet setup: her host family has two houses…one in the village and one up on the ridge where the pool and sauna that they own is. Her host family lives up at the pool while Katie lives in the 2 story house in the village by herself so we had an entire house to ourselves in which to celebrate Thanksgiving. On Friday, we acted like Posh Corps members do and decided to partake in the sauna that Katie’s host family owns. It is pretty new and it is very nice. Great, great start to the weekend. Saturday morning started with us walking around Olișcani for an hour or so because it was the first time we had seen sunshine in a couple of weeks. I returned to the house with Katie while the others continued to walk for a bit and we began preparing the meal. We had to be creative since we did not have access to a stove, but I think it turned out well regardless of that fact. Our meal consisted of: marinated chicken breasts, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, broccoli and cheese, fried apples, fruit salad, green beans, and, of course, house wine and cognac.

 I was very thankful to get to spend one of my favorite holidays with other Americans even if it was a little non-traditional. Also, we found a kitten, loved it, and convinced Katie to keep it as a pet. Successful weekend, if you ask me.

The week after Thanksgiving was probably one of the more stressful weeks I have experienced since teaching here in Moldova. On Tuesday, November 29th, my partner, Alina, and I hosted an open lesson for the other teachers in our department as well as the school directors. We presented a lesson with our 6th graders about The United Kingdom and it went much better than I expected. I had heard horror stories about open lessons from other volunteers, but the feedback both my partner and I received from our colleagues was nothing but positive. It is customary here that, after open lessons, the teacher wimg_4049ho was observed coordinates a masa, which usually includes candy, cookies, plńÉcintńÉ (pastries filled with different stuff‚Ķcheese, potatoes, fruit, cabbage, etc.), salami, anchovies, cheese, tea, and (of course) wine. The teachers that observed the lesson offer their feedback and, after that, it‚Äôs basically a gossip session about what‚Äôs happening in the city, with the students, etc. The observing teachers commented about how beneficial it is to have a native speaker in the classroom when it comes to teaching correct pronunciation and vocabulary and how the students will benefit so much from that opportunity. I was very thankful to hear these nice words and it helped with further integration now that some of my colleagues understand how I teach and the benefit that I bring to a classroom.¬†

On Thursday, December 1st, my program manager from Peace Corps came to my school for a site visit. This was the first time she came to see how we were integrating into our school and to have a conversation about my role within the classroom/school. She observed a lesson with some of my 7th graders and I was pretty nervous about it because they are not always the best behaved students. I warned her about this ahead of time (not to mention it was the last lesson of the day) and she assured me there was nothing to worry about. My partner, Ana, and I facilitated the lesson and it could not have gone better. My students were QUIET (that never happens) and they participated…I was flabbergasted to say the least. After the lesson, all 3 of my partners, 2 of the school directors, my program manager and myself all sat down together to talk about what Nina (my manager) thought about the lesson, how my partners and I worked together, and to present more information to my director about other ways I can be utilized within the school (clubs, grant writing, etc.). It was a looonnnngggg meeting facilitated completely in Romanian. I understood what was going on, but after it ended, I was exhausted because my brain was working overtime to try to understand all the Romanian that was happening around me.

Another interesting thing that I did with my students was on Friday, December 9th. December 10th is the International Day for Human Rights so, since that was a Saturday, I decided to talk with my students about this topic on Friday. We talked about what human rights and cultural rights are and the connection between the two of them. After this, I presented my 11th and 12th graders with the prompt “I promise to support the rights of others by…” and asked them to finish the statement in either English or Romanian. I took pictures of all of them and compiled an album on Facebook showcasing all of their ideas. Here is my promise:¬†img_4199

My older students are currently in the process of taking their tezas (midterms) for various subjects and my younger students are fervently preparing for the Christmas program that is held for students and parents every year right before school is released for Christmas break. It is a¬†magical time of year and I’m excited to see what the next few weeks bring!

PS: I’ve been in Moldova for 6 months now. Woah.

Dressember Day 5


Today was made complete by slipping on a patch of ice outside the school on my way home this afternoon. Thankfully, no one but my partner was around to witness it and it was 1000x more graceful than any fall I have heretofore experienced in my life. So that’s a win, I guess.