Posted in Life & Such, Peace Corps, People

Training and Reconnecting

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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

All in all, a wonderful experience!

Posted in celebrations, Culture, Peace Corps, People, school

Toamna de Aur at the Grădiniță

A “pharmacist” ready to help some sick forest animals

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I love little kids.  After years as a kindergarten teacher, I miss interacting with them every day.  So when I was offered the chance to visit a kindergarten (grădiniță) and watch their Autumn celebration (Toamna de Aur), I jumped at the chance!  But I wasn’t prepared for the how talented and well-rehearsed these five-year-olds were!

This dance was called “Flower of Autumn”

The show lasted a full hour, and included poetry recitals, dances, a skit, games, and a sort of a cross between theater and make-believe, all woven into a story that kept the little ones engaged and interested while charming everyone in the audience.  The kindergarten teacher participated in the show, while an extremely talented music & dance teacher gave cues from the sidelines.  Without any adult interference, these little ones fell into formation for at least 6 different dances (some requiring carefully-prepared props).  They also performed a skit with memorized lines, and several recited poetry.  In between, the teacher, took them on a “search” through an imaginary forest for Zina Toamnei, the spirit of Autumn, with a little help from Baba Cloantsa (a scary, forest-dwelling witch) and a friendly forest gnome.   Here are just a few carefully selected highlights (Click for larger images and captions!): 


Posted in Peace Corps, People, school

Playing Teacher

The text in one of the 4th grade lessons has a student pretending to be the teacher. So to start the class, we got this volunteer to be the “teacher” and review the previous lesson’s vocabulary with the class. As you can see, it was a big hit!

Posted in celebrations, Culture, Life & Such, Peace Corps, People

Ziua Profesorilor Part 2

How could we make teachers feel even more appreciated than the awesomeness of Thursday? (See this post) What if we put them on a bus, take them to a camp in the woods, give them an excellent meal and lots of music, singing, and dancing, with some poetry and toasts thrown in for variety?
Well, probably those weren’t the words used by the Teachers’ Syndicate when they planned our Friday afternoon event, but that’s pretty much the way it turned out! Click the pictures and read the captions to find out all the details!

What a wonderful celebration!  I love that when Moldovans celebrate, they do it with tremendous joy and enthusiasm.  I am so fortunate to have shared in the festivities!

Posted in Language, Life & Such, Peace Corps, People

Word Wednesday: Zimbet

Zimbet (zim-bet) means smile. It makes me smile when students greet me in the halls or stairwells, trying out their English. I hear “Hello” from giggling nervous 4th grade girls, and in deep bass voices from 12th grade boys who are taller than me. As I take a shortcut behind some apartment buildings, a girl in a bicycle sings out “Hello, Miss Teacher!”  I can’t stop smiling.

Posted in Culture, Peace Corps, People

Primul Sunet (First Bell)

Incoming first graders parade under the arch to symbolize their entry into the school

September 1st marks the first day of school throughout the tiny Republic of Moldova, so my school, along with every other school in the country, celebrated on Friday with a ceremony called Primul Sunet (“Preem-ool  soon-et”*), or First Bell.  Early in the morning students and teachers gathered around the school courtyard.  Students were dressed in their best for the occasion, and many carried flowers which they would later present to their teachers. Excitement was in the air.  Teachers watched over their flocks; parents readied their cameras; sixth-grade boys poked each other and wrestled a little when their teacher wasn’t looking; teens surreptitiously checked their cell phones. Incoming first graders were gathered in a special section with their new teachers.  The ceremony began with some words of welcome and the national anthem. Then the new 1st graders paraded in pairs under an arch made of rainbow-colored balloons and, were officially welcomed to the school!

Lovely dance culminates with offerings of traditional braided bread.

The celebration that followed included songs performed by students of various ages (including three of the new first graders!), poetry recitals, and speeches by the principal, the vice-mayor and other dignitaries.  We saw a skit where a clown was convinced that he should go to school, since the 1st graders in the audience knew more math than he did!  A talented team of dancers performed a beautiful dance (slow and flowing, different from the other traditional dances I’ve seen lately which tend to be livelier and more bouncy), which culminated in an offering of copaci (traditional braided rings of bread) to the principal and vice-mayor.  An orthodox priest offered a blessing for the school year.

A 12th grade boy with a 1st grade girl ringing the First Bell and officially opening the school year!

Finally, the “first bell” was rung.  A 12th-grade boy led a 1st-grade girl around the circle, as she loudly rang a  handbell. Meanwhile, a 12th-grade girl led a 1st-grade boy (with a bell) in the opposite direction.  The ringing of the bells signified the official start of the school year at this Liceu!  The balloon arch was released into the sky as everyone broke into applause. Students filed inside to attend a short session with their homeroom teacher, and find out their schedules for Monday. The year was off to a great start!

Mouse over the pictures below to see captions, or click for larger images

*pronunciation approximate

Posted in Life & Such, Peace Corps, People, Photo

“I am a Peace Corps Volunteer”

So, I’ve been here in Cahul (in the South of Moldova) for just about 2 weeks.  It’s already starting to seem familiar.  Strange to realize that just a short time ago I lived in a different town with different people, had different everyday activities, was surrounded by many more people who were on the same Peace Corps journey as I was, and was still focused forward toward the time when my service would actually start.  Then came Swearing In Day, August 16th, which marked the moment when I stopped being a trainee and became a volunteer.  That evening I shared the photos below on Facebook, with the commentary you see below it.  (I’m re-posting them here for those of you who don’t do FB. Mouse over the images to see captions, or click on them for a larger version.)

Wow, what a day! I began my morning bright and early (van comes at 7:00, be at the gate with your luggage!) as a Peace Corps Trainee in the village of Costești, and am about to end my day as a Peace Corps Volunteer (wow!) three hours further south, in the town of Cahul. In between, I danced, ate, swore the same oath that the president swears on taking office, got interviewed by Radio Free Europe, said goodbye-for-now to some incredible people (miss you already), hugged a lot of necks, spent a long time in a minibus, and was warmly welcomed to my new home with a ton of food. I am stunned by the number of experiences packed into the last 17 hours. And I am thrilled to pieces that I can finally say (after many years of considering, and more than a year of working towards it) “I am a Peace Corps Volunteer!”

Bonus! Video of the first dance we performed at Swearing In!