Saturday, February 21, 2015

Host Family Reunion

Last week I went to visit my host family from PST in Chinkhombwe Village with a couple of my PCV friends.

It was so great to see my host family again! I took lots of photos. Although we can never get all of us in one photo.  Rodric, my 10-year old host brother is missing from this one. He was tending to the goats.

My host siblings-- Vinny, Pephero and Rodric

I was especially happy to see Pephero. I brought her a lollipop and she loved it!

I also picked up this cap in Lilongwe for my abambo (host father). Here's a little nod to all my family in New York-- Go Yankees!

Amayi (my host mother) made tea and boiled cassava for a snack. She made me put extra sugar in my tea, Malawian-style. The cassava was really good. I might try making that at site.

Of course, no visit to the village is complete without eating nsima. Amayi made nsima with beans as the ndiwo (relish, or side dish). But now that I am no longer eating nsima twice a day everyday, nsima is just fine. I still can't eat a whole nsima patty though, much to my host family's disappointment ; )

It was great to see everyone again, and to get to see the village when it was so green. It was even worth the miserable bike taxi ride we had to take from the Boma to get there, which was muddy and bumpy and made worse by the fact that our drivers (riders?) were racing each other. Shiela, my PCV friend took this photo of me on the bike-taxi.

I would love to visit my host family again, but hopefully during the dry season.

Tiwonana, banja! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ziua de naștere (my birthday)

When i returned home from Chișinău, Mama-G told me there was a „surpriză” in my room...this is what i found: 

How sweet is that??? It was gifts from Mama-G, her boyfriend, Grigore, and her son & his family!!

I got all kinds of stuff: a nice zip-up hoodie sweater and candy from Sergio & Elona (Mama-G's son and daughter-in-law); a homemade card and balloons with drawings and writings all over them from Rada (Mama-G's 7 y/o granddaughter); a leopardish printed pj's(?) from Grigore (Mama-G's boyfriend) which is incredibly soft, but i think i'll wear them as under wear for a couple reasons: 1) it's quite form-fitting and i don't wanna be walkn around feeln all exposed, and 2) i'm not a huge fan of leopard print...but it's super soft and it was such a sweet gesture that they'll definitely get worn!!; and from Mama-G: a box of bomboane (candy) filled with nuts (which i apparently love these days) and covered in dark chocolate, instant coffee (cuz i basically live off the stuff), a spandexy workout tank top (which i love), really nice warm gloves, super girly slippers with a butterfly pattern and big pink bows ;op, and a framed "Happy Birthday" note! 

When i thanked her for everything, she said, "Of course! You're family! You're my daughter!", which made me feel really good and accepted...which was a very welcome thing to hear after i had a difficult week last week!

Balloon close-ups:

The card Rada made for me :o]

My perfectly fitting, super princess-girly-girl slippers! ;op

The delicious bomboane:

The framed birthday note:
It translates, „Health, happiness, good luck/fortune, love, success, and many many years. With love, Nina”

The next day during my 1st class (8th grade), they all surprised me with singing...

balloons and flowers...

a kid from my 6th grade class made me a card and gave me a Vărsător (Aquarius) mug...

a figurine înger (angel)


homemade trinkets...


notes (obviously made in class ;op)

and even perfume...are they trying to tell me i stink?? ;op

close-up of flowers and balloons :o]

It was a really great birthday week! Students were still giving me things through yesterday: i got another figurine angel, a candle, an apple, and one of my fave 9th grade girls made me a friendship bracelet! 

This week has been completely opposite from last week...Thank You Jesus!! :o]

La mulți ani! Fii sănătos! Noroc!

Ziua Îndrăgostiților (Valentine's Day)

I was in Chișinău on Valentine's Day with other PCVs celebrating my birthday weekend (my actual birthday was on Monday, so we celebrated the weekend before). I was impressed by Chișinău's spirit for the holiday!

In my classes i taught about boli de inimă (heart disease) the week before Valentine's Day, and in honor of Valentine's Day i had all of the students draw hearts and then draw or write inside the hearts reasons that were personal to them to want to keep their hearts healthy. For the 9th grade class i had them write poems about it in their hearts. 

After i collected all the hearts, i put together a heart took waaaaaaay longer than i thought it would or should...4 hours! I ended up laminating (with packing tape, of course) as i went along, which added significantly to the time it took to put this together:

It's hanging a wall in our classroom and the students LOVE it! :o] ...That makes it worth the 4 hours of effort!

Here are some of my faves:

Being a Nurse, how could i not love this one?? ...although, it seems to have an arrhythmia ;op

Lovin' the realism, including labels!!

This student wants to keep their heart healthy for their country (Moldovan flag on the left) and XBox + 3D glasses (i think) ;o]

This kid apparently loves to box apples ;op

I love the floating faces hovering over what looks like tress of lettuce ;o]

As i've said before, Moldova is the gateway between the East and the West. Above you saw the Moldovan flag, which usually means pro-European Union. Here you see "OK.RU" which is obviously pro-Russia. The clash of cultures is even evident in middle school classrooms! Interesant!

This is another fave of mine. The students know that i love my dog (the mudg girlz) and i always use her as an example of things i love, so some of the students like to copy that is one it a rat dog? I dunno, but i love it!

Another anatomically correct heart with a symbolic heart overlaying it, and a poem...pretty cool!

Is that Homer Simpson??

Lovn the '80's doo's ;op

Love of nature...YAY!!

And finally, my contribution...the mudg girl, de sigur (of course!)!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Going to Camp

Every year the Malawi Education PCVs organize Camp Sky, a weeklong camp for the Form 4 (12th grade) students to give them an extra boost in English, Mathematics, Biology and Physical Science in preparation for the National exams. Unlike their normal classes, the students selected for this camp will be learning in classes of 20 students, and they will have materials to do lab practicals for the science classes. There are classes during the day, and then group activities like songs, skits and games in the evenings.

Two students from my school were chosen to attend the camp this year! They are both very excited to get to take part. Their selection was based on their JCE scores, their answers to the application questions and a letter of recommendation from their teacher.

The camp is taught by PCVs. I applied to be a teacher and... I was selected! I will be teaching Biology, specifically evolution and genetics. We will have a lab practical involving DNA and we will organize a Forensics activity as well.

The camp is primarily paid for through donations by friends and family of PCVs. We are still short on funds for the camp though. If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation, feel so free!

Here is the link to read about the camp and to make a donation


Friday, February 13, 2015

6 months at site...1.5 years to go...

6 months at site ?s

As of today, 13-2-15, i have been at site (Vasilcău) for 6 months! Below are Stesi and my ”6 months at site ?s”:

Compare and contrast how you thought your service would be by this point, and how it actually is.
I tried NOT to have a lot of expectations when i decided to join PC. Stesi and i read a lot of RPCVs' books, articles, etc., so i feel like i was pretty well prepared with expectations, or lack thereof. That said, I DID think i'd be better with the language by now...which is quite the bummer to me at the moment.

What do you do in your free time...if you have free time?
I don't have a lot of free time because i have to write A LOT of lesson plans every week, and they're NEVER-ENDING!!! But, when i can, i try to read (i'm waaaaaay behind in our book club), write letters, write in my journal, watch church on-line, watch NetFlix...

How has "integrating" into the community been going?
Hmmmmmm... integrating into my community is a tough one for a couple reasons: 1) the forever and ever language barrier and 2) even when i try to speak the language, the conversation doesn't go far, cuz i suck, so i end up spending most of my time in my closet writing LPs.

If you have any type of media, what do you watch, read, listen to, etc?
At night i usually try to read a little (trying to catch up on the book club) and then i veg out (for 1-2 hours) on NetFlix. I'm currently watching "House of Cards", but i mix it up with movies here and there. I also listen to music EVERYDAY from my computer or iPhone for sanity. 

Do you have any new hobby's?
It's a surprise...

What's at least one thing new that you've learned since being at site?
Mama-G taught me how to clean, prepare, and start a fire in my soba (heating thingy), and i actually like it! It's kinda cathartic for me!

What time do you usually go to bed?
It varies. Since i'm already in my closet for most of the day anyway, and the sun goes down around 6p now, i try to go to sleep by 10p...but i've been having trouble sleeping lately, so there are many nights of little to no sleep.

What do you typically eat everyday? - what do you "still" like and what are you sick of?
Breakfast: 1) instant coffee 2) usually oatmeal cooked with milk, with raisins (sent from home) and brown 
     sugar (sent from home)
Snack: 2 soft-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit (apples right now) and more instant coffee
Lunner: usually with Mama-G and it varies, but commonplace are vodka (for "good health" and "many years", of 
     course), zeamă (chicken soup) and bread

I still LOVE my oatmeal and fresh milk!! 

I'm completely over frkn zeamă!

What does your typical "work" day look like?
1) wake up between 7-8a (7a for my 1 class a week that starts at 8:15a)
2) drink coffee & pee
3) get dressed for school (yup, i wear a skirt and blouse [that's a weird word...blouse] every day)
4) say "La revedere și o zi bună” ("Goodbye and have a good day!) to Mama-G
5) leave house and say hi to Nicolae, our dog
6) walk to school
7) teach health ed
8) return home, say hi to Nicolae, put on pj's, eat breakfast, drink more coffee, and write lesson plan for next day
9) eat snack
10) back to lesson planning...
11) eat lunner with Mama-g
12) go back to room and try to finish lesson plan
13) finally get frustrated, tell myself i'll finish it tomorrow, and read and/or write
14) watch NetFlix
15) try to sleep before it starts all over again...

What are you so over, but you still hafta do for the next 1.5 years?
- lesson planning in Romanian!
- only bathing occasionally (like every 2 weeks)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I've started my lessons teaching about noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes. The noncommunicable diseases we are required to teach about are diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer.

The students seemed to understand these diagrams well enough. My 6th graders were the most interested in the subject, which was pretty cool! They asked so many questions about it that we ran out of time to do our last activity...o well, at least they were paying attention and understanding the information! YAY!!

classroom mgmt: behavior ladder

So, i'm trying a new behavior management technique (positive reinforement, hopefully): o scară comportament (a behavior ladder). It has 10 steps and all 5 classes (each a different colored clothespin) started at the bottom step. 9th grade gets the best deal cuz i teach them twice a week, whereas the other classes i only teach once a week, so 9th grade can potentially go up 2 steps a week. 

Once they reach the top step, we're going on o excursie (an excursion) to the Nistru River, which is within walking distance. 

It's working OK...not great, but not completely worthless either. 5th grade is the only grade that is still on the bottom step (this picture is a little old, currently 5th is still on the bottom step, 6th & 7th are on the 3rd step, and 8th & 9th are on the 4th step...obviously 9th grade doesn't realize their fullest potential...).

I'll give it this semester to see if i keep it for next year or not! 

Classroom management can be so difficult here! There aren't any consequences for actions and no incentives for students to behave (unless they're naturally inclined to do so). So i'm trying my own positive reinforcement techniques. I also have un sac de bunătăți (a goody bag) for individual students who do well during class.

...if anyone wants to donate kid-friendly stuff (stickers, fake tattoos, American candy, little games [cards, puzzles, those airplane-friendly magnetized games of checkers, chess, etc], different colored pens/pencils/markers, yo-yo's, mini booklets of paper [possibly different colors], little toys [ball on string to catch in cup], cheap nail polish, glitter, slap-stick bracelets...whatever!) Anything and everything is appreciated and i thank you (but PLEASE don't feel obligated)! I've been surprised how quickly i'm going thru stuff! 

competiție poezie (poetry competition)

Poetry is a BIG deal in Moldova...and memorizing it means receiving a certificate! ...Only about half of my students show up to my health class (including all of the judges), but when it comes to poetry memorization and recitation, it's ON!

real life for realz maple syrup!!

There is NO maple syrup (or even fake maple syrup) in Moldova! NONE! AT ALL! ANYWHERE!...til i found this grocery store! The one on the right is 100% Maple Syrup from Canada (so it says) and the other also seems like it's pure maple syrup, but i can't read Russian, so who knows? But regardless...there is at least 1 maple syrup in Moldova, and i found it!!! YAY! ...I didn't buy it tho, cuz 1) it's too expensive and 2) i'm waiting til i get home to revel in all the things (foods) i don't get here (or at least not supposed to!). 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Lovely Sunday

Today was a hot, sunny day. I decided to take advantage of the dry weather and go for a walk.

When I visited my site last July, Ryan (the PCV I was replacing) and I walked to this really pretty scenic viewpoint. I've tried to find it, without success. However, today I think I found it. I'm not sure it is the exact spot because everything looks so much different now due to the rains. Either way, it was a splendid view.

It actually stayed sunny and dry all day today, which is unusual. I made pancakes, read, worked on a couple things for school and did some weeding in my garden. It was a lovely Sunday.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

care packages!!

When i went to training in Chișinău last week, i was welcomed with 3 care packages!!! I wasn't able to get pictures of all of them since space was limited and i needed to pack it all into my backpack and pungă (Moldovan carry-all bag), but below is one from Dr.J!! It's PERFECT! It was full of super terrific toiletries (like Hempz and Philosophy), hair ties, chapsticks, body/face wipes (which i use waaaaay more than i ever thought i would when i first arrived in Moldova...they basically replace bucket bathing...ya), lotions, and even a mini brush, which i have been needing so i can stop taking my big brush with me whenever leave site! And look at that cute polar bears's hanging on my closet door with my other cards, making a pretty cool collage to look at everyday! Thanks Dr.J!!! 

I also received a package from John and Kathy Copeland! It was full of all kinds of neat stuff (& candy) from Japan (which i shared with the other ravenous PCVs), chapsticks, beanie, gloves, scarf, and other odds and ends...all of which i appreciate with all my heart!! THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!! (Sorry no picture :o[)

...and then there was even this package...sigh...where do i even begin...? Well, here in Moldova, instead of Secret Santa for only the month of December, we do Winter Wizards from December 1 - February 28. I signed up to be one, which means i also received one. Similar to Secret Santa, we don't know who our own Winter Wizards are. The 1st time i heard from my Winter Wizard was 3 weeks after Winter Wizard announcements, right before i left for Turkey, s/he left a 3-pack of hair ties(?)/elastic bracelets(?) in my PC mailbox. The 2nd time i heard from her/him was when i got back from Turkey, and s/he left a chocolate bar and mints in my mailbox (which i appreciated :o])...then when i arrived back in Chișinău for training, there was this...the above's wrapped so nice! I was so excited to open it! So i did...and behold, 2 shirts from Loot-Me! (Background: Loot-Me is a closet-like space where PCVs bring their unwanted stuff and other PCVs take it...hence the term "Loot-Me".) I just started laughing. That's the most obvious re-gifting i have ever seen! ...So, if nothing else, at least my Winter Wizard caused me to laugh in confusion. ;op

Apparently it's still Christmas in Chișinău

I came across this cute Christmas tree with a Mr. & Mrs. Snowman during training in Chișinău last was the last week of ianuarie (January). If you look closely, you can see me standing between Mr. & Mrs. Snowman ;o]

biscuit (cookie/wafer thingy)

If there is one thing Moldovans love, it's sweets! So far i haven't liked any of the ones i've tried enough to go out and buy them. One of the most popular sweets people eat are wafer-like cookies. They're OK...until i discovered the one below in Mama-G's bomboane (candy)/biscuiți (cookies) jar! It was a wafer-like cookie covered in dark chocolate (dark chocolate is more common here than milk it should be everywhere!) and was pretty delicious! I only took a picture of the wrapper cuz it's so darn cute! 

...Supposedly there are wild foxes in Moldova...the only wildlife i have seen (besides birds) have been 3 red squirrels...maybe they were all the same squirrel i saw 3 times, who knows...