Posted in Peace Corps

Spring Clean-Up

At the faculty meeting the Monday before spring break, the principal announced that that Thursday would be a short day so that the students could clean the campus. Evidently this is a springtime tradition. So on the Thursday before spring break, each class was 15 minutes shorter, and breaks were cut in half, so that everyone could get to work. Here are a few of the sights I saw that afternoon:

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Posted in Life & Such, Peace Corps, Reflections

21 Things I’ve Learned from a Winter in Moldova:

  1. Fur-lined pockets are the bomb*.
  2. You wear that cap pulled down over your ears and your forehead for warmth, not back in your hair where it looks nice.
  3. Also, it’s not overkill to wear the hood of your coat OVER that cap.
  4. Respect the ice.
  5. I WILL survive face-planting in the snow in front of a bunch of laughing children, if I don’t follow rule #4 above.
  6. Yak Trax are awesome. (Google it if you don’t know!) 🙂
  7. Cell phones stop working in sub-freezing temperatures. This can make snow photography really difficult!
  8. Respect the mud.
  9. Stuff your hat and scarf into the arms of your coat so you don’t lose them in restaurants, stores, offices, etc.
  10. Walk on the edge of the trampled path in the snow: in the middle it’s slippery, but off to the side the snow is too deep.
  11. Fur-lined boots are also the bomb*!
  12. It’s possible for the bottom of your feet to get cold, right through your boots, when walking on snow. (Who knew?)
  13. Other people are not as impressed by snow as I am.
  14. Triple ditto for icicles.
  15. People pull kids on sleds.  (I used to think they were only for sliding down hills).
  16. If I want to get anywhere on time, build in 10 extra minutes for putting on all the outdoor clothes.
  17. When exiting restaurants, start putting on all the outdoor clothes about the same time you ask for the check.
  18. Laundry dries on a line in sub-freezing temperatures.
  19. If you drop a wet sock in the snow, it freezes stiff before you can hang it on the line.
  20. Sometimes snow comes down fat and lazy, and sometimes it comes down in stinging pinpricks, and sometimes it’s in-between.
  21. I’m not the only one who enjoys gazing out the school window watching the snow fall.

*Don’t worry, it’s fake fur.

Posted in celebrations, Language, Peace Corps, school

In Their Own Words

In 100 words, write about a tradition in Moldova you would like a foreigner to learn about.

These were the words of a homework assignment in the 8th Grade English textbook recently.  The class had studied celebrations in English-speaking countries and now it was time to share what they knew about their own celebrations (while practicing English, of course!) “Hmmm….”  I said to my partner teacher, “What if we give them the opportunity to really share their thoughts with foreigners?”  So here we have, especially for my “foreign” readers, some fascinating Moldovan traditions, as described by three outstanding 8th grade students, in their own words:

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“Marțișor” by Valeria C.
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“Easter”by Lucian C.
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“Marțișor” by Anastasia D.
Posted in Life & Such, Peace Corps

Baby, it’s Cold Outside!

Although Spring paid us a brief visit on Friday and Saturday (with temperatures in the 60s we were enjoying short sleeves!), I guess that Winter kicked her out again on Sunday.  It started snowing Sunday afternoon, and sub-freezing temperatures are predicted all this week.  Today it has snowed steadily all day. (The video above is our courtyard and garden right now.)  In the capital they are mobilizing special weather-fighting squads to keep the roads clear and in the north the accumulations are even greater than here in the south.  I guess we have to wait a little bit longer for Spring, after all.

Posted in celebrations, Culture, Peace Corps

Marțișoare

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Butterfly marțisor I gave my partner.

Yesterday was the first of March.  Here in Moldova, this is the day when folks say goodbye to winter and greet the spring.  One way to do this is by exchanging little red-and-white pins called  Marțișoare* (singular marțișor) with friends.

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My host mom gave me this one!

As you can see, they take many forms, but the common theme is red and white intertwined cords, and usually a red and a white tassel.  Small broaches are exchanged by friends, and larger versions are used as decorations.  The most commonly heard legend behind the tradition goes something like this:

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My Romanian teacher and my site-mate wearing marțișoare they received today.

Once in a fight with the winter witch, who didn’t want to give up her place, the beautiful lady Spring cut her finger and few drops of her blood the first spring snowdrop poking its head up through the snow. The snowdrop charmed the winter witch and in this way Spring conquered Winter. Source: http://www.Moldova.org 

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A display of many marțișoare made by the elementary school students at my school.

So the red dangles represent the red and white snowdrop flowers that grew in the story.  A short version of the red-and-white theme might be: “Goodbye white Winter, hello vibrant, living Spring!”

I felt very loved yesterday, as I received FIVE marțișoare from my partner, my host mom, the school director, the ladies in my Adult English class, and another volunteer!

Giant Marțișor in the shopping center.

Meanwhile, outside it continues to snow.  I guess the marțișoare will help us keep Spring in our hearts, whatever the weather!

*approximate pronunciation: “mar-tsee-shore”  plural “mar-tsee-shwa-ray”

Posted in Life & Such, Peace Corps, school

English Circle

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“Me, me, I know the answer!”

What if we could get kids excited about English?  This was my thought when one of the 5th grade homeroom teachers approached my partner and I about homework help in English for her class.  My partner, being very awesome, but also extremely busy, asked if I could help them out.  To tell the truth, I’ve missed working with kids, since my background is in primary education and I only have a few classes with them now, so I gladly said yes, but asked if we could expand it to include all of the interested 5th graders.  And our Cerc de Engleza* (English Circle) was born.

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This says “bring,” so…. “brought!”

Each Wednesday we meet for 45 minutes after school have fun practicing grammar.  Yeah, you read that right.  The idea is to take whatever grammar point (or sometimes vocabulary) they have been working with in class and find engaging games and activities to practice that point. For example, the photos on this page show a team game of Online Hangman to review the names of animals, and a board game to practice irregular past tense verbs. As you can see in the photos, it’s working!  The kids love it!  And I look forward every week to “playing” with them!  😉

*approximate pronunciation: “cherck day en-glay-zah”

Food Friday: Muraturi

IMG_5349Murături* can be roughly translated as “pickled things!” Here we have harbuz marinat (pickled watermelon) cerii marinate (pickled cherry tomatoes) and roșii verzi murate (pickled green tomatoes).  Everything has been prepared with home-grown seasonings, including bay leaves, and in the case of the green tomatoes, garlic, dill, grape leaves and horseradish leaves.   The pickled watermelon in particular was a pleasant surprise. A nice blend of sweet and sour.  Some people eat the rind and all!

*Approximate pronunciations: Murături “moo-ruh-too-ree”;  Harbuz marinat “har-booz mah-ree-naht”; cerii marinate “chair-ee mah-ree-nah-tay”;  roșii verzi murate “row-shee-vairz moo-rah-tay”