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!