Posted in Peace Corps, school

Back to back

I just learned a new technique! If your students are seated in pairs, how do you discourage copying on tests? In this fourth grade class, the teacher called out “back to back!” and students took their test sitting like this:

Posted in Peace Corps, People, school

School Days

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.)

Posted in celebrations, Culture, Food, Peace Corps

La Mulți Ani (Happy Birthday!)

This is what the table looked like before we sat down to eat. Believe it or not, this is only PART of the meal.

How do you celebrate your birthday?  With a cake?  Maybe some presents?  If you are in Moldova, chances are you invite folks to visit you, and probably a lot of food is involved.  If you are Anastasia, my host mom’s beloved granddaughter, and you are visiting your grandmother who loves to cook, everyone is in for a treat!  On Sunday, February 4th, about 15 people gathered and spent at least 4 hours enjoying massive amounts of delicious food at a traditional Moldovan masa. Preparations for this wondrous repast began on Friday night, when a friend came to help Sasha prepare kurnice (kind of like chicken pies) and sarmale (little cabbage rolls), and continued all day Saturday when Sasha’s daughter joined the work force.  Here are a few events I managed to photograph: (Click for larger pictures or mouse-over for captions. Post continues below)

There are many other things I wish I could have captured:

  • The first several people to arrive were more comfortable conversing amongst themselves in  Russian, but made room for me in their circle, and kindly attempted to include me in the small-talk.  Sasha made a point of asking everyone to please speak Romanian so that Valerie can understand.
  • Jokes.  They must have been jokes, although they were in Russian, and I couldn’t understand a bit, because everyone laughed so hard!  Three jovial men were the main protagonists, and I wish I had a photo of their mischievous, gray-haired faces suffused with mirth as they  rocked with laughter!
  • A young man, also named Sasha* was in charge of pouring wine at our end of the table.  I wish I had a picture of his face when I asked him to add a little champagne to a glass already mostly full of peach juice.  Evidently combining these elements just isn’t done.
  • Maria, my host mom’s oldest sister, who is a retired English teacher and who repeatedly translated her husband’s (Russia) anecdotes into Romanian for me.  I also noticed her translating in the other direction occasionally.
  • The REST of the food!  After we grazed on the great variety of food set out on the table (see picture above), we were served quail and potatoes with pickled watermelon and tomatoes, then sarmale, then layered jello with fruit, then chocolate cake with coffee.
  • The cat, who couldn’t decide whether to play with people’s toes, beg for food, or run and hide from all the commotion!

*Note for fellow language nerds: “Sasha” can be a nickname for “Alexandra” or for “Alexander,” which is why I was sharing a meal with both a feminine and a masculine Sasha.

Food Friday: Răcitura

racituraSomeone 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!  🙂


Posted in Language, Peace Corps, Photo

Word Wednesday: Lalele

Sasha’s granddaughter got a lot of flowers for her birthday.  Some of them are tulips, and now I have a new favorite Romanian word, just because it’s so much fun to say!  One tulip is a lale and the plural is lalele*.  So that is the word of the week!  Enjoy.

Beautiful bouquet of lalale that Anastasia got for her birthday. Gorgeous AND fun to pronounce!

*Pronounced just like you think it is: “lah-leh-leh”   🙂

Posted in Uncategorized

Paradigm Shift

I walked out of my home this morning and thought, “Goodness, it’s warm today! Maybe I have on too many clothes. Should I take off my hat?” I definitely wouldn’t have had such thoughts in Alabama on when the temperature was 47F. 🙂

Posted in Food, Peace Corps, People

Food Friday: Sușii

Anastasia, my host mom’s lovely granddaughter, displays some of the suși she made.

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!


*You already know how to pronounce this! “Sushi”

Posted in celebrations, Culture, Language

Word Wednesday: Pomeni

This week’s word is a little sad.  Wednesday was the 4th anniversary of my mother’s death.  Here in Moldova, there is a custom of celebrating that day with a toast commemorating the dear departed.  To give such a toast is to pomeni.  So I bought a bottle of wine, and my host mom and I shared a toast and a few words about what a special person my mom was, and how much I miss her.   In this picture you can see how beautiful she was in her youth:

Vada May
Rest in Peace, Vada May, we love you!

Comical side note: we didn’t have a proper corkscrew to open the wine, just the one in my Swiss army knife, and neither of us could pull hard enough to get the cork out!  So we ended up toasting with Sasha’s delicious homemade wine instead!

*approximate pronunciation “poh-men-ee”

Posted in Food, Peace Corps

Food Friday: Sarmale

sarmale.jpgI can’t believe I’ve never written about sarmale!*  They are one of my favorite Moldovan dishes.  Before I came here, reading blogs written by other PCVs I couldn’t quite understand why they said that cabbage rolls were so delicious.  But now that I’ve tasted these delectable little bites, I totally get it.  Sarmalele take a LOT of work: Sasha selects a steamed cabbage leaf, smooths it out, scoops a spoonful of previously prepared stuffing (rice, meat and… secret seasoning?) onto it, then carefully rolls it up, tucking both ends in as she goes.  Then repeats the process maybe 50 or 75 times to make a full casserole dish of sarmalele.  They are somewhat similar to the dolmades I’ve tried in Mediterranean restaurants, but the bitter taste of the grape leaves is replaced by smooth steamed cabbage, resulting in a mouth-watering combination!

*Approximate Pronunciation: “sahr-mah-lay” . Plural (sarmalele) “sahr-mah-lay-lay”