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
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!
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!):
Everyone found their place without help and began to dance!
The forest gnome helping the children and their 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!
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!
A chartered bus took us to this campsite. Music played as we entered.
Faculty members were already there, grilling (these look like sausage but taste like hamburger).
Stirring the stewed lamb meat.
Tasting the stew.
They insisted I taste it too!
This fellow was full of life and joy! Here he’s parading around with the giant spoon, accompanied on the tin bowl by another faculty member.
All this is the food to eat BEFORE the main food is finished cooking!
Administration sat at the head table. The principal is about to offer a toast
I’m told this is “new wine” pressed this season.
New wine, made at home, and considered to be better and fresher than “that factory-made stuff”.
There were many toasts to the teachers!
Teachers dancing the hora. This was spontaneous, but everyone knew the steps. Wish I did!! Lots and lots of dancing went on, all afternoon and evening.
This dance involves choosing a partner by putting the handkerchief around their neck.
After a brief dance together, they must kneel on the handkerchief and give you a hug (or kiss) then it’s their turn to choose a partner.
The afternoon also included singing, both by individuals and (as here) the whole group singing along.
One of our directors recites poetry praising the teachers
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
New First Graders waiting under signs denoting their classes.
Lots of students, teachers, and parents waiting for the ceremony to start.
Some younger students dressed up for the special occasion.
Principal, vice-mayor, someone from the national parliament, a priest…
The little girl in the second row saw my camera and waved at me! (Look behind the lady in the white blouse)
The princess is convincing the clown to come to school. She’s asking the children whether he needs to bring that iron, or something else instead?
Song performed by new 1st graders. So cute!
Beautiful dance by talented dancers
Orthodox priest blesses the school for the new year.
Balloon arch is released!
One of my partners with her 5th grade homeroom.
Another partner with her 9th grade homeroom class.
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.)
Dancing with some amazing people!
Traditional Moldovan dances! (Photo Credit: Shanah)
The American Ambassador to Moldova as we are swearing to serve. No chance you can see me, I’m in the back row, but I was there, honest!
All of the dancers. We practiced for several weeks and the result was not half bad!
Doesn’t Ellen look great! She also gave an amazing speech, in Romanian (!)… but I don’t have a picture of that.
On the way to Cahul.
Getting my hair fixed by an expert. 😉
Angela looking sassy
Can you believe all that luggage is for just 5 people?
Mostly unpacked in my new bedroom. 🙂
Ricky & Jon looking good!
Jameson & Alex
Brendan & Michael
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!