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 “Making Invitations” and, at the end of the lesson, I received a cake with candles and rousing renditions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Happy Birthday” 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’s 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 ‘Friends’ 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 ‘Friends’? 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, plăcintă (pastries filled with different stuff…cheese, 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’s basically a gossip session about what’s 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.

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