Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas #1

Not being home with family for Christmas, especially when you're on the other side of the world, can really make a person homesick during the holidays. Thankfully now there's Skype, email, Facebook, and cell phones to keep in touch with loved ones. However much I do love Skype, it's just not the same as being woken up at 7:00 am Christmas morning by my sisters and brother to see what Santa brought. 
Although I hate not being home for the holidays, I do enjoy being in Moldova with my friends and host family. 
Most people here in Moldova do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th; they celebrate on the Old Christmas which is on January 7th. My host grandparents live in a village close to the Romanian border, and in Romania people celebrate on the 25th, so they too celebrate on the 25th. So I did end up getting to have a Merry Christmas yesterday!
In the morning the host family went to buy a Christmas Tree. (I found this out when I woke up at 12:30 in the afternoon...) When I woke up we decorated the tree.
Host brother wearing a University of North Dakota sweatshirt that my mom sent for Christmas present last year.

Host brother, host sister, and host dad decorating the tree

Our finished Christmas Tree

 Shortly after the tree was decorated, I heard my host brother screaming at the top of his lungs. I ran out of my room to see what was wrong, and it turned out that Santa - Mos Craciun - had come to our house. He brought me a shirt (which I wore that day!), host sister a shirt, host dad some gloves, and host brother pajamas. Host mom didn't get anything because she forgot to write a letter :)
After we decorated the tree, we went to the village to celebrate Christmas with my host mom's side of the family. We were at her parents' house, which is where we always go for celebrations. We ate shortly after arriving. There was turkey, various salads, homemade sausage, pelemenii (which is a type of dumpling filled with meat) and rooster jelly. Rooster jelly is basically chicken broth in a jello form with meat stuck in the middle. The meat in this one was pork, and it is served cold. (I don't eat this particular dish!) At the end was a tasty cake the host mom made with cherries in the middle. 

Cheers to a Merry Christmas!
After eating, the kids sang carols for us. It is tradition that on Christmas and New Years children go around to houses and sing carols. In return, people give them money, baked goods, and candy. If a caroler is older, they will occasionally get a shot of homemade vodka!

Kids receiving candy, money, and baked goods after singing carols.
Even though I wasn't home with my real family, it turned out to be a Merry Christmas with my host family!

On Tuesday I'll be heading to Brasov, Romania for a vacation for a week. When I come home, it will be the Old Christmas on January 7th, so it'll be another Christmas for me!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jingle Bells!

This is my 4th grade class singing Jingle Bells.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas!

Winter finally came to Moldova!
Yesterday I decided to take a nap around 3:30, and it was cold out, but no snow. When I woke up at 5:30, the ground was covered with an inch of snow, and everything was white. It continued to snow all through the night and continued on into today. It stopped snowing during the day, but it was super windy so the snow was blown all around. I wore my long underwear, and I'm thankful I did! I'll be wearing them to bed tonight as well. 

Thanksgiving was last week, so I talked to my classes about it and explained what it is and why we celebrate it. In my 6th grade class, many of the kids were absent, so with the 6 students that were there I decided to make hand turkeys. They thought this was really cool. In the turkey feathers, I had them write things they're thankful for. They wrote things like "family, friends, teachers, etc."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pickled Tomatoes

Before I came to Moldova, I didn't eat tomatoes. I didn't like them at all.
As I quickly learned upon arriving here, tomatoes are eaten all the time in the summer. They are served at every meal cut up to be eaten fresh. They are put in salads. They are eaten fresh from the garden. They are eaten ALL the time. 
I was at a friend's house the second month of living in Moldova. We were drinking her grandfather's house wine, which was much stronger than any other house wines I had drank, and we were in need of food. There was nothing to eat except tomatoes and bread. My friend made me a tomato sandwich, and it was actually pretty tasty! 
From that point on, I have slowly begun to enjoy tomatoes. Now I can eat an entire tomato; just give me a little salt and I'm good to go.
Along with discovering that I do actually like tomatoes, I've discovered that I LOVE pickled tomatoes. Yes, when I first heard of pickled tomatoes, I was grossed out. But here they like to pickle things (watermelon, apples, tomatoes, and of course cucumbers.) Pickled tomatoes are my favorite food in Moldova. Absolutely LOVE them. 
This last August/September, I had my host mom show me how to make them so I can make them when I get back home. 

Pickled Tomatoes
In a 3 liter jar, put:
-3/4 pieces of garlic
-bay leaves
-1 big spoon salt
-1 big spoon sugar
-3 big spoons vinegar
-3 tablets of aspirin 

Add boiling water to the jar/s and seal shut. Cover the jars for 3 days to make sure the lids are sealed shut.
You can add other seasonings and spices, but these are just the basics. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sports Competition- Go Team Profi!

A week ago on Monday, I was approached by one of the Russian adjunct directors at my school and was told I was going to be participating in a sports competition that would be held on Friday. Later that day, I was approached by the gym teacher who told me that our first practice would be the next day on Tuesday and to bring my sweatsuit and gym shoes. 

I had no idea of what was going on, so I went to my partner teacher who was also going to be in the sports competition, and I asked her what was up. Apparently there would be a big competition in which teachers would go against 11th graders and 9th graders. Huh... ok....

Tuesday after school comes along and I'm there ready with my gym shoes and sweatpants. Natalia, my partner teacher, was also there. Nobody else came for 15 minutes, so the gym teacher decided it would be a good idea to run laps around the gym while we waited. After a few teachers showed up, we started to practice for the competition. It turns out that it was going to be a bunch of relay races, which I figured I could do. After practice, I was told that we would be practicing again the next day after school. I got home later that day and wanted to die. It was more physical activity than I have done in a while. 

Wednesday I skipped practice and slept.... Oops!

But don't worry, because we had practice AGAIN on Thursday after school! We ran through the relays again and figured out who would be in pairs together for the 3 legged race and such. Then the Russian adjunct comes in and tells us to line up. So we line up, and then we start marching through the gym shouting things in Russian. (My school is Russian/Romanian, but all the teachers speak Russian over Romanian, so everything is done in Russian.) 

The day of the sports competition:
Oof. I didn't realize how intense this thing was going to be. The whole school showed up wearing face paint and holding posters and pom-poms for their teams. And the local news showed up... I started to get a bit nervous at this point. 
The three teams all gathered outside the main gym door waiting to go in. The Russian marching music signaled the beginning. We marched in around the gym and ended up in the middle with the three teams making a partial square facing each other. The director spoke and the judges were announced. Then the team captains called out for the team names. 
Teachers: Profi
11th Grade: Favorit
9th Grade: V.I.P.
We all also had to shout out our team slogan, in Russian... I had to get lots of practice on how to say ours, and now I can't get it out of our head. It translated roughly to "We are stars, we never fade, we will forever shine!" After this, we all lined up to get ready for the first relay.

We did a couple relays, and then the dance team came out so the judges could discuss. 

Some of the Relays:
-Dribbling a ball
-Picking up 3 volleyballs at one time and handing them to teammates
-3 legged race
-Running with a partner linked arm in arm and back to back
-Moving a basketball with a hoop
-Popping balloons with some sort of plastic stick thing
-Throwing bean bags in a sack
-Walking with a ball between your legs

And since this was a Moldovan get together/party, the Hora (the national Moldovan dance) was involved. The dance team came out in traditional costume and we all danced the Hora around them. It was pretty awesome. 
 The last competition was a tug of war. First it was teachers vs. 9th form. It was close, but teachers won. Next was teachers vs. 11th form. Also close, but teachers won again. I guess the teachers just rock!

At the end, there were several mini competitions between audience members. One of them was how many times a person could dribble a ball on their knee. Another competition was a free throw basketball competition. The last one was how many times a person could lift a 25 kilogram weight above their head. The gym teacher's son was the winner with 100 times. It was ridiculous.

The winner was announced: Friendship. Yes, friendship. Huh... I guess that works since we all became closer friends and we didn't want anyone to get their feelings hurt. We all got chocolate medallions. After the competition, the teachers all went and had a mini-masa (a celebration). We had pickled watermelon, bread with meat and cheese, chicken, and apples. And please don't forget the wine, champagne, and cognac!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Still Fall! No Snow!

I haven't written in quite a while because nothing super exciting has been happening.
I've been busy with school as usual. This year I'm teaching 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, and 11th grades. Last year I taught up to 9th grade, so it's strange having 11th grade this year. The kids are so much older, and I'm definitely struggling to teach them. My early childhood education degree never prepared me for kids this old! 

Other than school, I'm tutoring several people in English. One of the people I'm tutoring is a woman who owns a Greek restaurant in our town. She pays me with food in exchange for lessons. It's quite a good deal as I love this restaurant! Her husband is from Greece, so they really know who to make Greek food. 

I've also been helping my old tutor teach at her school on Fridays since I don't have lessons on that day. She is an English teacher and pretty much my mom here in Moldova. 
My partner Natalia and I will be starting an English Theater Club. I'm really excited for this, and the kids seem to be, too. We will do a show around Christmas with the 5th form doing a play and the 3rd form singing Christmas carols. I'm hoping we can get the parents involved with making costumes and such. We will also do another show in the spring.

I spent Halloween in my friend Amanda's village. It was nice being in the village, but I don't think I could live there forever. It is definitely more difficult than living in a city. We carved pumpkins with her host cousins and cooked the seeds from the pumpkins. 

It is November 12th, and there is still no snow on the ground! It's crazy! I've never been anywhere where there isn't snow on the ground at this point. But I guess it's the same way back home; mom said she took the afternoon off last week to hang Christmas lights since it was 60 degrees out! It's not quite 60 degrees here, but it's still really nice.

Current Favorites
*Author: James Rollins
*TV Shows: Grey's Anatomy, Glee, Dexter, Little Britain USA (super funny show!!)
*Music: Florence and the Machine

*Craving Dill Pickle Chips!!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Last First Day of School in Moldova

Today was the first day of school, which is known as "Primul Sunet" - the First Bell. 
School starts the same day every year, September 1st. My host mom asked me when school starts in America, and I told her it starts on a different day every year and it is different according to states. She was confused by this and didn't think it made much sense! I have to agree with her there. 
 At my school, there are no classes on the first day of school, but I think this varies according to school. 
However, there is a BIG celebration. 
Students, teachers, and parents all gathered outside in the school yard leaving a big empty rectangle in the center. The students were arranged by their classes. 

First the 11th graders who will be graduating this year escorted in the new 1st graders. First grade is the first year children here go to school; there is no kindergarten. I would like to point out that the girls are wearing traditional outfits that girls wear on special occasions at school.

Next, some of the 11th graders marched through the center to raise the Moldovan Flag. 

There were several speeches given during this. Last year I had to give a speech in Romanian. Luckily, I didn't have to give one this year! I got to sit on the side and watch. 

The Director of the school gave the 1st graders the "Key of Knowledge."

It was my host brother Costel's first day of school, and he was looking mighty handsome in his suit. He was chosen along with a little girl to ring the first bell of the year. They carried their bells and rang them as they walked along the border of the people. He is the first boy ever to do this at my school, as in previous years a 1st grade girl sat on the shoulders of an 11th grade boy and rang the bell this way. However this year they changed things up.

After this there were several more quick speeches, and the ceremony was done. The students set off to their classrooms to meet their "diriginta" - homeroom teacher. The homeroom teachers remain with one group of students from 1st grade to 4th grade, and a new homeroom teacher has them from 5th to 11th grade.

Two of my teaching partners and I. Cornelia on the left and Natalia on the right. I worked with Natalia all last year, and we've become best friends. This is my first time working with Cornelia, and I'm sure it will be great.

Flowers from some of my students. 16 roses in this bouquet!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wild and Crazy Summer

I haven't updated in over a month. Sorry. I've been pretty busy. 
The new group of volunteers came June 10th, so I was in Chisinau all of June being a mentor and helping out with them. Yes, I was a mentor. Scary thought, huh? I was basically there to take my three mentees around Chisinau, show them important things, and answer questions if need be. 
This is me and a couple of the other English Education Mentors at the airport waiting for the new group to come.

The 4th of July Party sponsored by the Embassy was quite fun. This year my group of volunteers didn't have a curfew, as opposed to last year when we had to leave at 9:00 pm, so we got to stay and party like grown-ups! There were several contests, as well as free food and drinks. 

Roy's host brother got married in July. It was quite a fun party! I arrived at the party at 9:00 pm, and didn't get home until 5:00 am. There was lots of dancing, eating, and drinking. Moldovan weddings are a bit different than American weddings. They had the reception the day before they signed the papers and were officially married. There are also many traditions in a Moldovan wedding that are not in American weddings. 
The members of the wedding party carried around this colac, which is bread used in every Moldovan celebration. They danced with it around the room, and then gave them along with the blankets under them to guests of the wedding. They also carried around scarves for guests. Lastly they carried around gifts for the bride and groom, including clothes for their future children, around the room for all to see. 

After that, at about 1:00 in the morning, the bride and groom along with the wedding party went around the room accepting gifts. They would stop at each table, take a shot of vodka or cognac, and then each person would give a short speech and drop an envelope of money in a little box for the newlyweds. The man in the picture just gave his speech and was putting money in the box. 

At the end of July I worked on a project with several other volunteers. Unfortunately I wasn't able to help out on the first two days, but I was there for the last. What we did was transformed a huge concrete sign from an ugly mess into a bright and beautiful welcome sign. It was for a pig farm outside of Chisinau. The main boss, Louis, was an amazing guy from Paraguay. He came to Moldova a couple years ago, after attending a school for pig farming in Denmark. He is working with the Moldovans to make the farm sustainable and workable. Basically he is one of the coolest people I've met thus far in Moldova. 
This is only part of the sign, but I don't have other pictures. I will put up more when I get them. 

The first week in August I helped out with one of the volunteer's camps in a village outside of Chisinau. It was a week long camp for students in 6th grade. There were other ages there, too, but mostly 6th grade. I was there on Wednesday, which was water day. We played Duck Duck Goose using wet sponges and other water relays. I was also there on Thursday, and we made paper mache masks. I think the kids enjoyed it because they hadn't done anything like it before. 

School starts on September 1st, so I have about 2 weeks left of vacation. I'll be going to the Black Sea in Ukraine this weekend with several other volunteers, so that will be fun. Expect a blog on that! Then when I get back on the 25th, I will have to start working with my partners from school to prepare for the school year. 
It's been a long summer, and I'm ready to get back to school!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Balul de Absolvire

A couple nights ago was my host sister's Balul de Absolvire. This is a type of graduation/prom for graduating students. Everyone dresses up in prom dresses and suits and prepares for this thing for quite a while.

These are some of the girls in my host sister's class. My host sister is the second one from the right in the yellowish dress.

We arrived at 6:30 at a restaurant in the park. We stood around for a while not doing much of anything. At 7:30 the festivities began. At big Moldovan ceremonies such as weddings and birthdays, there are always cameras and video cameras recording everything.

The parents all came in through a flowered arch, then the teachers, and finally the graduates. As the students entered the room, they ate a piece of colac (a traditional Moldovan bread used in special ceremonies) and dipped it in honey.

The graduates were each presented with a small globe, then the teachers were presented with a certificate and a bouquet of flowers, and the parents were also presented with a certificate and a rose from their graduate.

After all the presentations and such, we finally sat down to eat at 9:00! And of course with a traditional Moldovan masa, you know there's going to be wine, cognac, and vodka!

While we were eating, there were more speakers and activities the graduates had to do. They danced with a partner with a balloon in between them but couldn't touch the balloon with their hands. They had to describe their homeroom teacher by using drawings. There were many contests. 
And of course, there was much dancing of the Hora. As you remember from previous posts, the Hora is a traditional Moldovan dance that everybody dances at every event.

At 2:00 in the morning, I was tired and ready to go home. My host brother, however, was not. 

My host dad gave me a ride home, while everybody else stayed until 5:00 in the morning.

Overall, the night was really fun, I ate a lot, danced even more, and had to give a speech in front of everyone. Oh yes, did I forget to mention that part? The MC was talking (in Romanian of course, which I sometimes tune out...) and all of a sudden she called my name. A gasp went throughout the crowd as I made my way up to the front of the room. She asked me if I like dancing to Moldovan music, to which I replied yes, and then she told me I had to give them a speech in English. One of my friends who speaks English that is a graduate happened to be sitting directly in front laughing at me the whole time. It was great fun... At least it was in English and only probably 5 people understood it!