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
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!