As I may have mentioned, I am fortunate to live in a town where there are other American volunteers. Occasionally I get to spend time with the lovely ladies in this picture, two of whom are fellow Peace Corps volunteers, one in Health Education and the other in Community and Organizational Development. The third is a Fullbright English Teaching Assistant, serving for 9 months at the local University. About a week ago, we finally had a chance to carry out our “secret snowflake” gift exchange (which was supposed to happen before Christmas) and a lovely time was had by all! I’m not sure whether the best cadouri* (gifts) are the items we exchanged, or the people I spent the afternoon with!
So, what am I here to do? Well, according to the official documents, two of the goals of the Peace Corps English Education Program here in Moldova (paraphrased) are to improve students’ English, and to help teachers incorporate some new techniques into their teaching (with a focus on student involvement and critical thinking). Every once in a while, I notice something like that happening AND remember to take a picture. So for those of you who were wondering what I’m actually doing here…. here are a few glimpses. (Click for larger pictures or mouse-over to see the captions. On second thought, just click. It works better that way.)
Fourth Grade students interviewing each other in English.
More fourth grade surveys. I love how involved they are!
12th grade boys working together to apply the grammar (he has a grammar chart on the phone).
Collaborating with my main partner, Katya. (Photo Credit PCV Hillary)
Katya was invited to give an observed lesson at another school as part of a teacher-of-the year competition
Students at the other school, totally absorbed in the group work.
They are conversing in pairs in English! (11th grade)
Small group work (10th grade…
… and 8th grade.) Engaged in the task!
Fourth grade “getting into” a role-play dialog
Using “Jeopardy” for chapter review. 11th grade.
Jeopardy teams collaborating to find answers
We’re using the technology room more and more often!
After 5 months, I felt it was safe to put up a sign. I share this little office with the school psychologist.
My host mom’s beautiful granddaughter is staying with us this week, on vacation from the university she attends in Moscow. The other night I came home to find her preparing something unusual in the kitchen: Sushi! So this week’s word is homemade Suși*, with imported Russian salmon. She even had chopsticks for me to eat it with, and soy sauce. It was delicious!
Can you name a famous person whose birthday was celebrated last Monday on January 15th? If you’re in Moldova, probably the first person who comes to mind is Mihai Eminescu (“Mee-high Yem-een-es-kyoo”).* Eminescu one of the most famous and influential poets ever to write in the Romanian language. He’s extremely well known in Romania and Moldova; his portrait is seen everywhere from schoolroom walls, to the church lawn, and even on Romania’s money! Since the school where I work is one of many Moldovan schools named after him, there were a variety of special activities during the school day on Monday. Each grade level had special activities planned, including this Eminescu Trivia Challenge for the 9th grade:
And the day ended with a performance in the school auditorium featuring song, dance, poetry, and skits, all performed by the students! Here is about a minute of it for you to enjoy. See if you can catch the poet’s name near the end!
Sisters, Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…
The words from this classic song played in my head as I watched my host mom and her sister together. As the family celebration of “Old Christmas” started to wind down, the two of them curled up together on the dinette bench for a chat. Passing one pair of reading glasses back and forth, they looked at photos in each other’s cell phones, reminisced about “the good old days” and caught up on what everyone and their kids were up to lately. As some family members slowly drifted toward the door and began looking for their coats, the sisters shared an orange, stretching the party out as long as possible.
(I should note that they have one other sister, Maria, equally close, who just didn’t happen to be on hand for this particular celebration).
“Urători! Come see!” My Romanian tutor Lucia, her young son and her sister-in-law rushed me to the door. It was “Old” New Years Eve, and her family had graciously invited me to their village to enjoy the festivities. Sure enough, at the door were several young people. One was strenuously ringing a bell, while each in turn recited a long poem, wishing us well for the new year. When all of them had finished, the gospodina (housewife) of the house presented each of them with cookies or a colac bread, sweets, and….. MONEY!
Although the calendar read January 13th, this night was New Year’s Eve by the old (Julian) calendar still followed by the Orthodox church. Here in Moldova, some villages welcome the new year on December 31st, and others on the more traditional January 13th. Last Saturday night, I was fortunate to have been invited to enjoy the latter.
Throughout the evening, many other groups of urători came to the door, as well as colindători, who came singing carols. In between, we enjoyed a bountiful feast, complete with homemade wine, and I had a lot of fun playing with a precious little boy and girl who spoke to me in (respectively) Romanian and Russian.
A highlight of the evening was one group of urători that included a dancing goat. Apparently the tradition includes trying to grab a piece of tinsel from the goat costume, to ensure good luck in the coming year.
As midnight approached, the little ones fell asleep one by one, until only the oldest (5 whole years old!) was left awake. Finally the magic hour arrived, and we went outside to enjoy a fireworks display provided by Lucia’s brother, then saluted the “new” year with champagne and cake.
This weekend my two site-mates were both gone to Chișinau! That’s because the Health Education (HE) and Community and Organizational Development (COD) programs were both participating in the Fall In-Service Training (IST), which I was fortunate to take part in about two weeks ago with my fellow English Education (EE) volunteers. In all, we spent 5 days together in Chișinau, during which time I:
Practiced a lot of Romanian, learned some new constructions, and had all my questions answered by a fantastic language teacher
Got a wealth of information about working with extra-curricular programs
Got to know my partner teacher even better, outside of the school context
Learned some interesting new tools for working together as a team
Enjoyed the company of some truly awesome people I spent the summer with, who are certainly now some of my closest friends
Shared our experiences in the field, learned from and supported one another