Friday, September 19, 2014

Moldovan Women

I've noticed many things about the women here, and while this list by no means is about every single women in Moldova, and won't reflect how everyone is, I think there are some trends.

Moldovan women work really hard. I sleep as late as possible. Let's say it takes 20 minutes to walk to work and I have to be there at 8. I might wake up at 7. Or 7:10. But a Moldovan woman has been awake for hours. The animals are fed, the house and fields tended to, a load of laundry is put in, breakfast is on the table.. All before I've finished dreaming. Then they'll go to work all day, come home, and do more housework, make dinner, take care of all the animals, bring dinner to the neighbors or to relatives who live nearby (which they often do).. It never ends, and they never stop. 

Moldovan women know everything. The number of times I've tried to say, "Hello, I'm.." and I've been cut off with an "I know who you are" is pretty much uncountable. My host sister knew about another PCV going home before I told her. If I've cried on Tuesday, on Wednesday the women in the office are asking if I'm sad. My host mom has told me what a volunteer in another village was wearing that day. Maybe this point really has more to do with Moldova just being a little tiny village, but let's just say I will find it difficult to keep a secret if I ever want to. 

Moldovan women are always right. You're sick? Oh, it's because you went for a run and then took a shower. Oh, it's because you drank cold water. Oh, it's because you didn't wear socks today. They have an answer for everything, and they are 100% convinced with each answer they give. Everything is very matter-of-fact. Yes, I rearranged all your stuff when you weren't here. It looks better this way. Uhhhh... okay, thanks. 

Moldovan women are excellent hostesses. If I brought a friend home during PST, you better believe if they stayed long enough, they'd be eating at least first dinner with us. And probably a snack. Once we were asked if we wanted coffee, so we said sure, and we got coffee.. And croissants.. And fruit.. And shots of cognac. If there is a guest in the house, they are provided for. I truly believe that this is because they want you to feel comfortable, at home, happy, and full! It's important to eat, you know. 

Moldovan women can catch a fly in their fingers. Or a wasp, no big deal! This is SO strange to me, and I've watched it happen multiple times. If there is a fly in the room, it simply cannot stay. So they'll just.. catch it. And get rid of it. So casual. 

Moldovan women always have clean shoes. This seems impossible to me and I will undoubtedly never ever understand how they do it. It can be muddy as ever outside and I will roll up in my disgusting rain boots that I'll switch for dusty heels.. And a women will walk past me in impeccable shoes. No dirt on them at all. We're walking the same roads! I don't get it! If my shoes are clean when I leave the house (cleanish.. I think the dust may never fully come out) they are definitely dusty when I get to work. But no one else's are. Do I walk funny? I don't know. I can't figure this out. 

Moldovan women train their girls to be Moldovan women. If mom's not home, oldest daughter is making sure dinner gets made and the carpets get vacuumed and the kids are fed and taken care of. If oldest daughter isn't there, next oldest daughter does it, etc.. I don't know if this happens organically or if it is made clear within the family, but it's cool to see. As I was walking home from work today, after I'd already written this, I met my 8 year old friend on the way. She asked how my day was and then proceeded to tell me, okay, go home now, have something to eat and take a rest. You can't make this stuff up. 

Moldovan women want the best for you. Even though I get frustrated with some of the things my host mother or coworkers do, I know that they are doing things because they are concerned about me, and they want me to be happy and healthy (and fed - eat, eat!). All their opinions that I might find strange or, dare I say, overbearing.. (You need to find a husband! How about one from here?!) They have them, and they're going to have them, and it's because they are taking the responsibility of having me in their village very seriously. They want to make sure I'm doing okay. Which is pretty cool. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Currently #2


Reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've read it before but thought I might like to again.
Writing emails. Just turned in some surveys due tomorrow and responded to some messages. Makes me feel much more accomplished on a lazy Sunday. 
Listening to Maroon 5's V, obsessively. I'm talking all the time. It's really good!
Thinking about the episode of Super Soul Sunday I just watched. Oprah interviewed Paulo Coelho and though I haven't read The Alchemist, he was pretty interesting. They talked about people's calling and he said, ""I'm not ready' is just an excuse." Yeah, and good thing no one let that be my excuse for not coming to Moldova. 
Smelling cough drops.. My throat hurts today - not fun!
Wishing I didn't feel sick and wishing that my host mother would not keep asking me WHY. I'm not a doctor; I don't know! Luckily she has tons of suggestions and things for me to do about it. Thanks, but no thanks. She also asks every 10 minutes or so if it still hurts. Well. Yes.
Hoping that I feel excellent by the end of the week, as that is when we return to our training site villages for PST III, aka more training! I can't wait.
Wearing Packer pajamas in the hopes it will help the boys with a win today! 
Loving the breezes and the nice walks through the valley.
Wanting hugs.
Needing to practice my dance so I can teach it to Miki during PST III. Her organization is having an event in October and the two of us are going to teach a short dance to the kids who come. It should be really fun! 
Feeling bad about not wanting to hang out with my host mom when I don't feel well, but today she did come in with two big photo albums to show me. One was sort of a wedding album and the other was a really cool one from when her husband was in the military. A really creative friend of theirs did all these fun drawings in that one and it was awesome to look at. 
Clicking this article about everyday experiences. I put my favorite quote from Ting Zhang on a picture I took yesterday on my walk.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Grădiniță Visit

I work at the primărie, which I guess would be technically translated to city hall - we usually just call it primăria even when we're speaking English - but really, I work for the entire village. This means that I don't really have to be at the primăria all the time, and I can go to other places in town to see if I can do anything there. 

My first trip elsewhere was this week to the grădiniță. I spent Thursday and Friday morning there. The grădiniță is usually translated to "kindergarten" but it's really more of a preschool/nursery school thing. Kids start there at ages 2-3 and go until age 6 - at 7 they start at the școală. 

My host mom works there, but every two days she has the day off, so Thursday was her day off. They asked if she was going to take me in the morning, but being with 2 year olds all day is not appealing on your day off, so she told them, "Nici o problema, Cat este mare!" Yes, if it means she doesn't have to go to work, I am a big girl. When it comes to other stuff, I think she might sing another tune, but anyway..

Last year she had the class of kids who just went to the școală this fall, so now she's starting back with the younguns - I guess she will have these same kids for 5 years or however long until they graduate from the grădiniță. So I spent 3 hours with her class (with the other teacher) and oh dear, now I know why she is constantly complaining. She's there with them from 8-6 and if I had to do that, I would lose my mind. Just completely lose it. I was exhausted from 3 hours and I didn't even do anything because I didn't have anything to say to them. 

I did play with them on the playground when they had time outside, which started out fine; they were amused by this grown-up that was actually playing instead of watching - well, I say watching loosely because most of the time the teachers didn't pay too much attention to the playground activities.. Like the time the little troublemakers were throwing rocks at each other and when I tried to stop them they threw them at me instead.. Not fun. 

The next day my host mom came with me, as it was her day to teach. The crying starts promptly at 8:00 a.m. and I don't think it ever stops. Friday we were also blessed with throwing up, screaming, crying, fighting.. I thought the day would never end. More of the kids (the better behaved ones) wanted to hang out with me, so a few of them would come over and just sit next to me or on my lap, which was precious (Not precious enough to erase the crazy from my memory - if you're at all worried, these two days could literally be my birth control for the next two years).

I also got to visit the oldest class, which was right down the hall but like a completely different world! The kids were quiet and they listened to their teacher and they all answered questions, and then they all worked nicely in small groups on different projects! The group I sat with had a color-by-letter in their workbooks (Similar to color-by-number, only wherever the "v" is, you color verde).

The kids learn songs and poems and things. They play outside. There are little dormitories with tiny beds for naptime. They have breakfast and lunch for the kids, and maybe a snack or dinner later, but I didn't stay past lunch, so I'm not sure. I have no clue how my host mom does it. I mean, she does tell me about how difficult it is literally every day, but now I believe her. I think it might be awhile before I visit the grădiniță again. 

Monday I go to the școală, so that will be another adventure, I'm sure! Every day seems to be. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Minutes

Let's revisit this story for the Blogging Abroad "Crazy Moments" prompt, as I remember it as being one of my earliest, craziest, and definitely most discussed moments. 

Story was called on my Facebook status about breaking up with the Moldovan boyfriend you didn't know you had, so we all know what that means. But don't worry, I was going to tell this story anyway. 

We have to go back in time for the background to this story - about two weeks ago is when I got the note. {Edit: This is a note from a guy in my village who wanted to meet and speak with me.} I met the writer of that note that day and talked with him for no more than 5 minutes, probably. I was not aware that 5 minutes was enough time to fall in love with me, but apparently I underestimated my charm.

We live on the same street, which is logical in this village, as everything of note is on my street. So I walk past his house twice a day, but I didn't see him again after that first time until the first day of school. You might recall that he was there and gave a speech as well. He also brought me flowers that day, but I didn't think too much of that because a bunch of random children gave me flowers, too. 

But then.. He came to the mayor's office on my birthday. As my host mom and I were returning from the magazin with our food, he was wandering the hallways looking lost. She abruptly told him, She is very busy! and we went into my office where everyone else was and locked the door. I assume he left after that.

At my birthday celebration, people kept toasting (obviously, because people kept drinking) and usually when they would toast to me, they'd say "La mulți ani!" which is "Happy birthday" but literally means, "to many years." Occasionally, however (and often enough for me to remember it), they would say, "La mulți ani, la mulți bani, și un bărbat moldovan!" So: Many years, much money, and a Moldovan man. Just what I want. 

Apparently the toasts worked (at least partly.. not rich yet!), because the next morning at work, my partner answered the phone and then looked at me. "Catea, remember the man who came and gave you flowers at the first day of school?" Ummmm, yes. "He wants to talk to you." I reluctantly take the phone from her and he tells me that he was hoping to talk to me yesterday and would like me to stop at his house after work. I say that I don't know when I'll be leaving work, but he doesn't care and just says, okay I will wait for you from 3-4. Very specific. The women made fun of me after that, naturally. And we of course left work at noon so I had to return to his house at 3 to talk to him.

He was indeed waiting for me in his yard, and at first he asks for my help with something (but I don't know what, because I didn't understand and he didn't repeat it when I asked), so I think, oh good, he's not going to tell me he's secretly in love with me. By the way, this conversation is in English - he's not fluent but it's admittedly better than my Romanian, so. 

Then he says, "I knew when I saw you I liked you. Do you have boyfriend?"

I think, this is the perfect time to lie, but then I think, well no it's not because everyone else in the village knows I don't have one, so I say, "Um, no.. But I don't need one!" 

"But aren't you lonely?" 

Ummmm. Obviously, yes. I have zero friends in town so far and no children in my host family to hang out with. But to that I say, "No, I have friends, and I.. talk to them.."

This doesn't convince him, I don't think, but I again say that I don't want/need a boyfriend, so he accepts this (maybe) and says, "But you will still help me?" 

Still not sure what he wants help with so I just said I wasn't sure and then that was it, I go back to my house. 

This conversation was so awkward that I had to just laugh my way back. So many random things happen in Moldova, but this is certainly in the running for the top strangest. That 5 minute conversation literally doubles the amount of time we have spoken.. I'm assuming most couples know each other a little longer before they begin a relationship, but maybe Americans are just doing it wrong, for all I know. 

Currently making a list of criteria for my perfect man.. Only have one thing on it so far, and it's We must speak the same language. I'm open to suggestions for the rest of the list, but for now I'm keeping that at #1. {I'll amend this slightly - we have to be able to understand each other somehow!}

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015

Friday, September 5, 2014


Yesterday was my first birthday in Moldova! (My 24th overall, not including the actual day I was born.. Wait, are we sure I'm not 25? This is confusing.)

In the morning while I was getting ready for work, my host mom knocked on my door. I assumed she was going to tell me breakfast was ready, but she came in looking serious, holding a flower in one hand and an open umbrella in the other. She didn't say anything; she just started singing the birthday song. I thought.. That's weird, is the umbrella some sort of tradition I hadn't heard about? Why is it open? Is it not bad luck here? It wasn't a tradition - it was my gift! As it will rain in autumn and autumn will be here soon. Quite practical. 

So we walked to work together, and she told me she would come at lunch to help me go to the magazin to buy food for everyone - the birthday girl is in charge of the party here.

The mayor came into our office and told me to come to his office. I thought there might be a meeting or something; I'm often unaware of what's going on. Everyone sat in their normal meeting chairs; about half the building was in there, so I scooted into my spot, and they told me to scoot right back out. The mayor kind of presented the fact that it was my birthday and gave me a bouquet of flowers, and my partner gave me a pair of house slippers (because winter is soon too; we're apparently very practical here). And then, back to work!

Before host mom got here, a couple came in and I'm not sure what they were doing, but I assumed it had something to do with marriage.. perhaps they got their marriage license or something? I don't think they could have literally gotten married just then because it seemed a little too casual for that and they didn't have witnesses or anything (unless you count oblivious me), but it was apparently something to celebrate. Suddenly they were pulling out bottles of champagne, fruit, candy - which I got to have too. I felt kind of bad because they were told it was my birthday and I didn't want them to have to share whatever day this was with a random American! But they seemed fine with it and really I have no idea what day it was for them. I may never know. 

Host mom eventually arrived and we went to two magazine to get supplies, all of which she chose and I bought. I mean, sure. It was strange because she got all these things that she knows neither of us like. Sausage, bread, and candy made sense. But then she got a thing of mayonnaise (neither of us eat that) and we went to the second magazin just to get fish (which she knows I can't eat). She also chose a large bottle of beer, which she doesn't like, knowing I had brought champagne already.. So this was a big thing, apparently.

We got back and this shindig lasted in total (with both celebrations accounted for) about 3 hours. We all shared all the food and all had what I thought was too much to drink (AKA I went to the house after that to take a nap). I assumed my host mom would have to go back to work at some point, but she stayed like 2 hours. Her boss, the director of the kindergarten, came and brought me flowers and a huge box of grapes "from Moldova!" Which was difficult to carry back later but very sweet.

But it was a lot of fun! Everyone enjoyed themselves and I didn't understand a whole lot, but it was nice anyway. My favorite part of not understanding things is that when someone tells a funny story or a joke that I don't get, I get to watch everyone else laugh and enjoy it.. And the person who's telling it is happy because people thought it was hilarious, and the people laughing are happy because they agree, and it's fun to watch! I have no clue what's going on so I can just observe everyone else's enjoyment, which is enjoyable for me! Perhaps I didn't explain that the greatest, but maybe it made sense.

Moral of the story is, I had a great day! Friends and family sent me all sorts of sweet messages, and it made me feel like I wasn't just spending my birthday alone in a random village in a random country. Tomorrow I'm meeting friends to celebrate my birthday and another girl's - hers is on Sunday - and I'm super excited for that! I'll get mail, and donuts, and get to speak English to people.. So stoked. I've survived my first birthday in Moldova. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Bell

The first day of school is here! In Moldova it's way more exciting than it is in America; I think we need to implement some of their celebration here. Guess we're too busy having fun on Labor Day or something so we're tired out. 

First Bell is on September 1, and it's the start of the new school year for everyone. Thanks to Facebook I got to see pictures of a bunch of different celebrations all around Moldova. I am not teaching here, but half of us are! We have English teachers and Health teachers who will teach classes in Romanian along with a Moldovan partner teacher. 

Thursday night last week, my host mom came in and said, "Oh by the way, you're speaking at the First Bell ceremony thing, so.. Prepare something." Okay, I may have paraphrased. I'm actually very pleased that she told me so far in advance! She said I only had to have a few sentences, so Sunday afternoon I wrote something short in English and then Sunday evening I worked on translating it into Romanian. She asked all weekend if I had written something yet, and I had to keep saying, no, but I will! Maybe I should learn the word for "procrastination." Then when I had written it, she wanted to see it, but I told her it was a surprise. Just in case she hated it, she could tell me later instead of making me change it.

I didn't really have any basis for what this ceremony would be, so when I walked over to the school from the mayor's office with my partner, it was as much a surprise as my speech was going to be. There were tons of people! Mostly children, but also parents and other community members, all in a neat-ish group in the courtyard of the school. I saw later that there were chalk lines to sort of tell people where to stand - it formed sort of a 3-sided rectangle with space in the middle for things to happen.

Two kids stood at the flag at all times - they switched off every so often and it seemed quite official. 

There was a table at the front of the school and a sound system with a microphone and speakers. The table had flowers, new school books for the youngest class, a bell with Moldovan flag-colored ribbons on it, and a big old key (key to the school, I suppose, although no one ever explained that part to me - I've read on other PC statuses that the youngest class coming in from kindergarten gets the key to the school.. Figuratively, I assume). There were balloons and everyone was dressed up and most of the kids had flowers - from big and little bouquets to single flowers. 

Oh, and then we walked up to the front. Where I would stand along with all the other speakers. Looking at everyone. Everyone looking at me. NO BIG DEAL. 

I obviously didn't understand everything that went on, but there were many speakers - the mayor, some parents, some official people from the raion council, the school director, the Peace Corps representative (AKA yours truly).. There was singing and there was poetry. Four older kids stood at the front with binders and were sort of the narrators, but there was also a woman who was kind of like an MC. 

The littlest class was introduced and stood in the center of the courtyard - from age 2-7 they are with the same teacher in the gradinița, which we translate to "kindergarten," and then at age 7 they begin at the school as first class (I think) which I assume is like first grade. In Căplani the school goes up to ninth grade, and after that if they choose to continue with school (usually if they plan to go to university) they have to go into the raion to attend. Căplani used to go all the way up to the last class, but for some reason they don't anymore; not sure of the details. 

Some of the little ones were the singers and poetry reciters, and they are so impressive! Some will stand there and sing their song and it's adorable, but others dance along with the music and show off and kind of strut their stuff a little bit! Which is mind-blowing to me, as when I was the little one in school with a bunch of people older than me, I couldn't even walk to where the older kids had classes without one of them to "chaperone" me. These kids are not shy AT ALL. Well, I'm sure some of them are. 

Kids came up before the program started and handed all the speakers flowers, which was so adorable, so I got a flower and was so pleased. Then it was time to give my speech so I handed my stuff to my host mom and walked up 3 steps to the microphone, thinking, this is no problem, I can do this. Got out my first 3 sentences and realized that actually, I was really nervous. Shockingly I don't attribute this to the fact that I was doing it in Romanian, but just to the fact that I was doing it at all. I'm pretty sure I'd be nervous speaking English in front of hundreds of Americans, too. But I made it through without vomiting, and I think without mistakes! I went back to my spot, pretty pleased with how it had gone (and with the fact that it was over) and then a boy came up and brought me another bouquet of flowers - so precious! 

Then an older boy carried a little girl around the courtyard on his shoulders while she rang the First Bell! 

As the ceremony came to a close, one of the older classes made a tunnel of flowers so the newest class and the oldest class could walk through together - which they did, the older ones holding hands with one or two younger ones to lead them into their first day of school. So very adorable. 

Then it was time to go back to work! My partner and I did stop to visit her daughter in her class for a moment, though, so I got to go into the school and see a little bit of it. 

Oh, and remember the guy from the note? Well, he was there, all dressed up. He gave a speech, for some reason, though my host mom said he had nothing to do with the school, so she was confused about it. Don't think she likes him very much, but he sure had a bouquet of flowers for me, "for to be beautiful" or something. Maybe that bunch of grapes did mean something. Let's hope not! Host mom said to me later, "You don't even know Romanian and your speech was better than his. He was awful! You spoke clearly and correctly, no mistakes!" So I'm taking that as a compliment, for sure. She told me a bunch of people told her how well I did, so yay! I'll pat myself on the back, since you all can't reach. 

My first Moldovan speaking role was a success. Now if only I could speak so well at work!