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.
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.
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! 😉
“I can’t heaaarrr you!”
Board games for irregular past tense verbs.
*approximate pronunciation: “cherck day en-glay-zah”
Someone mentioned that every time I write about food, I say it’s delicious. And it is true that I love 95% of the food that I’ve discovered here in Moldova. But today, just to be different, I’m sharing something I don’t actually care for. Răcitura,* a very traditional Moldovan dish, is commonly referred to among volunteers as “that meat jelly stuff.” It’s a clear broth, the consistency of Jell-O. It contains bits of meat (usually pork) often colorful vegetables and occasionally hard-boiled eggs, and is usually quite beautiful to look at. It tastes like broth-flavored Jell-O, more or less. Many people love it, but unfortunately I am not among their number.
*approximate pronunciation: “Ruh-chee-tour-ah”
Also, yeah, I know it’s not Friday any more. Too bad! 🙂
Today the electricity went out at school. (No big deal, all the rooms have big windows or skylights). Still, they couldn’t ring the bells to change classes. But there always needs to be a plan B, right? They sent kids with handbells up and down to ring them loudly on all four floors! Wonderful ingenuity!
Last week we received a text from our Safety and Security Manager telling us that a “code orange” Winter Weather Alert was in place. Iarna* (winter) had finally arrived. Ever since, my walk to school has been covered in snow. And filled with wonders for an Alabama girl, who has never actually experienced snow that stayed around for more than a day! Here are a few of the glories of Iarna in Cahul, Moldova! Click for larger images. There are few captions as the images mostly speak for themselves!
“Graffiti” in the snow. It says ‘Class 8B’ in Russian. Evidently some proud 8th graders passed this way!
I woke up this morning to this lovely snowy vista out my window. On the way to school I enjoyed the snowfall, marveling in the tiny snow-caps on each fence post, the way the ornate gateways were transformed, and the stark contrast between the black tree branches and their coating of white. But the snow is late. Everyone is concerned about the warmest winter in Moldova’s history. People who depend on the land for food are worried that the fruit trees will bud too soon, then freeze, and fail to produce fruit later on. I’m told that arctic wind patterns have been disrupted by global warming, causing cold fronts to migrate to the southern USA, rather than here in Eastern Europe where they’re needed. A worrisome outlook indeed. Nevertheless…. the snow is beautiful today.
What does your family eat on Christmas Eve? My host mom’s family eats Кyтья (“KOO-tee-ah”*), which is a sweet, crunchy, lemony porridge made with toasted wheat, walnuts, lemon juice, water, and sugar among other things. She is quick to point out that it’s not a Moldovan food, but a tradition borrowed from Ukraine, where evidently it is served on Christmas Eve. I got to enjoy it on “old” Christmas, January 7, with my host mom and her family. But that’s a subject for another blog…
*Pronunciation approximate. And taa-daa! I can type (a little bit) in Cyrillic characters!
Slowly, I blink myself awake and stare in befuddlement at the ceiling, trying to work out what time it is (what day? what city?) … What a lovely dream I had! There were airplanes, and chocolate chip cookies, and my husband was there… Wait! That really happened! This isn’t my bedroom in Cahul, or some hostel bed in Chișinău, this is the bed in Alabama, where I woke up every morning for many years! Although my morning-fuddled brain hasn’t processed it yet, I’m here to spend Christmas week with my family.
In my same old robe, I wander around the kitchen making coffee… reaching up to tap the tricky light over the sink in just the right way to make it come on… working the coffee maker by instinct (although it’s been almost 7 months since I’ve had drip-filtered coffee)… drifting over to the cereal cupboard… reaching for a bowl without looking. Just as if I’d never been gone. Just as if nothing had changed. I marvel at the ease with which I take up the mantle of this everyday life. (Mantle (n). A long decorative cloak which conceals everything beneath it. Probably an apt metaphor.) It seems incredible that these little things do NOT seem strange after so long away.
Most of my thoughts are with people half a world away. I find myself obsessively checking FaceBook and repeatedly regaling my ever-patient family with other volunteers’ adventures in Salzburg, Budapest, Rome and Madrid. I wonder if Barzig the kitten has climbed my host mom’s Christmas tree again. What are my partner teachers are doing at the school today? Little things surprise and delight me: Diet Dr. Pepper, light switches inside the rooms, dried pineapple, unlimited drink refills, ice! I take a selfie with Krispy Kreme donuts (I confess that I posted this to Facebook as a sort of passive-aggressive counterpoint to my friends’ glorious cathedrals, fountains and monuments). When people ask me about Moldova, I talk and talk and talk and talk… I am surprised to find how much I have to say!
While I slip easily back in to some familiar routines, the person behind my eyes is different. I like the changes I find in myself. I am grateful to the people who have made me more confident in my worth as a person; and to the experiences that have shown me my ability to cope with… whatever!
Have you seen the series Outlander? Or maybe read the books? They feature an English nurse at the end of World War 2 who is unexpectedly transported to 1740s Scotland. On the bus coming home from Chişinău I watched an episode in which our nurse is traveling with a group of Scots. She is surrounded by people from the place where she currently lives, but is not from. They understand the way things work in that world in a way that she, the outlander, does not. Most of the time they are friendly towards her, but sometimes they are suspicious, since the two countries (England and Scotland) have not always been friends. They are bilingual, and she understands only one of the languages they speak. They frequently joke among themselves in the other language. And I feel a great kindred for this character, as I realize, there on my bus, that all of these statements apply to me and my fellow travelers, as well!