Wednesday, October 21, 2015

1 Year (a little late) at Site

My one year at site date was August 13. It just so happened that that was the day that i brought Stesi to visit my site, so it was kinda perfect timing. :o]

The past year has been a roller coaster of emotions. Here's a little review:

13 august 2014:

I swore in as an official PCV and moved to my permanent site on the same day. It was an emotional day for me. I went from having a big bedroom, a mostly working shower, and a squatty potty living with my PST host family to a closet for a bedroom, no shower, but having an indoor toilet at my permanent 2-year site.

The media was there to broadcast the event. They were asking to do interviews. I really hate that kind of attention, as do others apparently, so we were tried being inconspicuous by huddling together off to the worked!

My official residency card! Similar to a green card in America.

Once i got to site I had 2 weeks before school started to get settled, LP with my partner teachers (which very quickly turned into me LPing alone), and prep for school.

When i arrived at my host house, new puppies were waiting to greet me! We still have Nicolae (the one standing on is hind legs), but Rachela was "given away"...i think.

The first day i went to meet one of my partners to LP, we ended up picking grass out of the ground by hand with the entire school staff, including the Director and both Adjunct Directors. I remember looking at the plot of land they were mowing by hand and looking at how much they had already done and thinking we would be there the whole day and not even make a dent. After an hour of bending down at the waist picking grass out of the ground by hand and sweating from the summer heat, my partner told me to just go home and we would meet on another day. So i did. I think we met once after that before school started for like an hour...and we haven't really ever met since to LP. :op

This well was my 1st office at site ;op. There was no wi-fi at my school or house...but surprisingly i was able to pick up a signal at this well. So for the first week, i brought my laptop and worked at the well. Soon after Mama-G got wi-fi! YAY! :oD

Gustar Festival - A weekend-long music festival that i missed because after you swear-in as a PCV, you're pretty much on lockdown from leaving your site for the 1st 3 months. It was such a bummer too cuz the Moldovan band Zdob și Zdub (Moldovan version of Red Hot Chili Peppers) played at it and i really want to see them before i leave.
Vasilcău hramul - Hram is the date of the founding of the villages in Moldova...and they are all celebrated. Since not all villages were founded at the same time, they all have different dates throughout the year, although most of them are celebrated in the Fall. My village's hram is 27 august. It was my 2nd time experiencing a Moldovan masă (feast). (The 1st time was with my PST host family) But it was the 1st time i experienced it in this way - multiple courses of food that seem never-ending (i was already full by the 3rd course, and there were at least 3 more to go); the piling of food plates on top of each other in pyramid fashion (you wouldn't believe how much food can actually go on a table at one time!); and the constant floooooooooooooow of alcohol - rakiu (Moldovan's version of Moonshine), cognac, and of course, vin de casa (homemade house wine). Needless to say, i ended up in bed early. ;op

These were the appetizers, MUCH MORE arrived soon after...sorry, no pics...i must've been overwhelmed or probably a bit tipsy ;op.

Other holidays - August also hosts Moldovan Independence Day and Limbă Română (Romanian Language) Day, but they aren't a big least not in my village.
septembrie 2014:

September 1st is "First Bell" at all schools in Moldova. It's a ceremony that celebrates the beginning of the school year. Even though it is technically the 1st day of school, no one actually works that day. Instead, the whole school comes dressed up - the students are basically dressed in black tie...for realz. The Mayor was there; the priest was there; the Director of the Kindergarten (aka Mama-G) were there. It's a serious event.

Left to right: my partner teacher, Natalia, me, another teacher, Maria.

The 9th graders introduce the oncoming 1st graders. It's pretty cute. There's also cheesy Moldovan music, a song sang by the new 1st graders, speeches from the above mentioned important people of the village (including me!), and lots and lots of flowers that any kid at any random moment (including in the middle of speeches) will present to any teacher or staff member. I received enough flowers last year to fill a vase! We also received Moldovan flag colors (blue, yellow, red) ribbons pinned to our chests.

After about an hour of all that, it's finished. Everyone goes inside to their respective classrooms, just to make it an actual official 1st day of school. Then everyone goes home.

Students here actually give teachers apples! This is the 1st one i ever received! I was so happy!

Birthdays - My host family has 2 birthdays in September: my host neice's, Rada (13 septembrie), and Mama-G's (17 septembrie). What does that mean? It means that from 27 august through 17 septembrie it is constant masă's.

Rada turned 7 (like my nephew Elliot in August). Her birthday party was in a park. Again, LOTS of food and booze (including a keg) for many hours.

the keg:

Mama-G turned 55. We celebrated her birthday at home. In Moldova, people prepare for their own birthdays. Mama-G made and served all the food. That's at least 1 tradition that i appreciate how 'Merica does it better! I have to say though, that her masă was my favorite from the other ones i had experienced so far. She roasted a whole iepure (rabbit)! That's when i discovered i like organ meats more than meat meat (except for fish of course - i LOVE the WHOLE fish!).

This is a photo of Mama-G from her 50th birthday...including a medal!

This more accurately shows a proper masa with plates of food stacked on top of each other...but again...there was even more that came. This time i was a little more prepared and took my time eating just a little at a time so i could at least try every course!

One thing i quickly realized about masă's is that they all have the same spread of food...hardly any variety (which is why i liked Mama-G's masă the best, because it was actually a little different...i guess that's at least 1 pro of making your own birthday meal!). That's another thing i like about American traditions (at least in my family). My family in The States has a different menu per holiday. I think that's part of what makes the holidays special. I'll be quite fine to never eat mamaligă, cured meats, or chicken soup EVER AGAIN.
Festivalului mărului (The Apple Festival) - The annual Apple Festival is located in Soroca, which is the raion (similar to county) that i live in. Unfortunately, when i got there by 2pm, it was finished! That is definitely NOT like American festivals...but lesson learned for this year.
octombrie 2014:

Wine Fest - The annual Wine Fest is located in the capital of Chișinău. It was yet another festival i didn't get to enjoy because i got sick when i got there and had to go to PC Medical. I didn't get to sample even a lick of wine! It was also the 2nd time i missed Zdob și Zdub play...d'oh!
24 octombrie: 1st snow! - Winter came early!...or so i thought because of the snow...but i was sadly mistaken. We had a very mild winter...only snowed (not heavily) like 3 times.

Țipova monastery with fellow PCVs to celebrate one of their birthdays - 4 of us went to a monastery that resides in the side of a cliff. It was the day after the 1st snow. The monastery was really cool, but even more exciting was, quite possibly, the most beautiful winter landscape i've ever been blessed to witness! The pictures i took didn't even come close to doing it justice. Every tree's leaves were encapsulated in ice. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful!

Left to right: Nate, Rosemary, Monica (who's birthday we were celebrating).

Heading down to the monastery.

One of the rooms in the monastery.

Silly Nate ;op.

We found ancient hieroglyphics! ;op

The outside of the monastery.

Halloween! - I went to a fellow PCV's house for a Halloween party. He was really roughin' it PCV style - squatty potty (no big deal), no kitchen (he had a hot plate), no running water (he had to trek to the well to get water)...seeing his living conditions made me more grateful to be living where i was!

But, we had fun! We drew a Halloween mural on the side of his house with sidewalk chalk. Chip (the PCV's who's house it was) is standing in front.

I dressed up as a bunica (grandma) - house dress (aka robe), knee high striped socks, Moldovan slippers, head scarf, and even a gold tooth! It was perfect! If there had been a Halloween contest, i would've won. ;op
noiembrie 2014:

One day i came home from school and Mama-G told me to get a vodka glass and meet her in the chicken i did...and this is what i found! My 1st ever for realz moonshine (known as "rakiu" in Moldova) operation! 

She had me try it unfiltered and filtered. The picture below is after it's been filtered through that funnel with gauze in it. Who else do you think was enjoying the unfiltered rakiu??...the chickens of course! They kept taking little sips and coming back for more! True Moldovan chickens.

Preparing for iarnă (winter). That's Mama-G standing in the doorway of the truck that hauled all that wood to our house. There were about 5 people who helped to get it out onto the driveway. That's Mama-G doing her part. :o]  She's awesome!

How to start a soba (heater/fireplace-like thingy):

1) Shovel out ashes from previous fire.
2) Gather wood and/or other materials (including, but not limited to corn cobs, coal, any and all paper, any and all trash) for fire.
3) Put fire materials in soba.

4) Put 1-3 squares of petrol blocks in to get soba started faster.

5) Enjoy (sometimes too much since there's no way to control the heat...i've had to open my window on many occasions because i've gotten so hot!)!

Thanksgiving - After my classes on Thursday, i went to Soroca to another PCV's apartment for Thanksgiving with a handful of other PCVs. It was delicious! But i can't wait to go home and have sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, neither of which are available in Moldova!

Left to right: Gabriel, Nate, Heidi, me, Jeff, Sarah (who's apartment it was).
Yes, i'm wearing a skirt. Like is said, i literally went there directly from time to change clothes. ;op
decembrie 2014:
Vacanță de iarnă (Winter break) - The last day of school before winter break is Christmas Eve. I've mentioned before that Moldova celebrates almost everything in 2s, and Christmas is not an exception. December 25 is "First Christmas" or "New Christmas" and is not celebrated as much as "Second Christmas" or "Old Christmas" on January 7. (I explained the differences in a previous post, so i won't repeat it here) So Christmas Eve on December 24 isn't really a thing here. Vacanță de iarnă was from 25 decembrie til 12 ianuarie.

You may remember from a previous post about how i was told to "check out the lighting up of the Mayor's office" last year...i was even told to bring a i did, and this is the "amazing light show"...and i was the only one there...pretty funny. ;op

At least Chișinău does it right!
Mama-G bought this for me to cross-stitch with her. It's the 1st cross-stitch i've ever done. Mama-G is a real pro though. She makes several large ones every winter. This one is only about the size of a piece of paper (81/2"x11"). I gave it to one of my language instructors during PST who was also tutoring me at the time. She also cross-stitches and has won competitions! Cross-stitching is apparently a major Moldovan activity during the looooooooong winter nights.
Turkey! - My 1st time leaving the country. It was perfect! We went to Cappadocia and Istanbul over 9 days. Cappadocia was our favorite. We originally went there because it's rated as the 3rd best place in the world to go hot air ballooning, but because of windy conditions, we weren't able to go hot air ballooning. But, even though we weren't even able to do what we went there to do, it was still our favorite place between it and Istanbul. (Istanbul was great too!)

Rosemary posing with all the delicious Turkish Delight!

Making friends with the locals.

Turkey is where i 1st introduced Squampous...this little guy who i won by answering a question correctly during language in PST. He liked Turkey too!

This is the 1st time i've ever eaten chestnuts! They were delicious! They tasted like baked potatoes. Here's Nate posing with them.

Christine and Rosza being "elite" while drinking their Turkish coffees. ;op

My turn.

Now, this is how hot chocolate is supposed to be people! Look at how dark and rich that is! And yes, it was as tasty as it looks! 

Had to get my Starbuck's fix. I went to 3 different Starbuck's in Turkey...all equally wonderful! Obviously Rosza and Rosemary are happy about it too!

Being silly at a castle. (Left to right: Rosemary, me, Rosza, Christine)

You can't go to Turkey without going to a hookah bar...duh...even Squampous knows that!
ianuarie 2015:

Time for 2nd/old Christmas. The kids go around the neighborhood playing instruments and singing to receive candy and/or money from homeowners. They're all my students, of course.
2nd semester - It was definitely hard getting back into the swing of school after a break, traveling, and it being so cold and grey. The students were no help either. They were over it too, which made it even worse for me. I struggled, but made it through.

My 2nd & 3rd cross-stitches :o]. I made the lamb for Rosemary for Christmas and the hedgehog for Nate for Christmas.

februarie 2015:

This was as eventful as my Valnetine's Day was. 
My birthday! - I hung out in Chișinău with other PCVs. Nothing really exciting, but it was cool. When i got home, Mama-G had the following gifts waiting for me in my closet from the whole fam!

This is a framed note from Mama-G that says, "Health, happiness, luck, love, success, and many, many years, with love, Nina." :o]__ _

My host-neice, Rada, made this card for me. 
It says, "Coli I love you! Rada". She drew rain and animals inside cuz she knows i like them. :o]

I even got these beautifully pink butterfly and bow's the thought that counts...i wore them all through winter (cuz Mama-G threatens to "beat" me if she's catches me not wearing them ;op).
martie 2015:

March 1st is "Mărțișor" (mur-tsee-shor), which marks the beginning of Spring. People (especially girls and women) are given these little pins that they wear for the whole month. Then on March 31 they tie them to a fruit-bearing tree in hopes of having a fruitful Spring/Summer. I wrote a more detailed description of Mărțișor in my blog post about it from March.

Mama-G gave me this one...i ended up with about 5 throughout the month.
China with my parents! - I got to see my parents for the 1st time since i left last June! My dad's boss and his wife allowed me to come (it was technically a business trip for my dad) :o]. It was AMAZING! I pigged out! I slept in a REAL bed - California king-sized, which hardly got used because i slept so soundly that i literally didn't move from my little corner of the bed. I got to take real showers everyday with warm water that didn't run out. O ya, and we traveled all over and had a really great time together! :oD

My mom and me.


Linda and Dwight (Dwight is my dad's boss/friend and Linda and my mom are really great friends).

Uncle Chen (Dwight's business associate) and Micheal (translator/business associate).

Squampous and me :o].

Me and my dad on The Great Wall!

Starbuck's of course...duh.

We were walking down the street and i saw a grey ice cream cone in the window of McDonald's, so i had to check it out. It's sesame ice cream! Even the cone is sesame! It was pretty good!

Micheal treated the end of our trip with the most expensive coffee (kopi luwak/civet coffee) in the world! Why is it so expensive? Because of it's uncommon method of producing it. The coffee beans are 1st digested by an Indonesian cat-like animal (the civet), then pooped out and collected, cleaned, and sold to people like us! ;op

Here's my dad enjoying his cup. It was good coffee, but i couldn't tell a difference between it and other good coffee. I guess it takes a more refined palette. 
aprilie 2015:

Vacanță de păsti - Romania with PCVs and one of their sisters visiting from The States.

This dog really says it all. That's how fun our trip was!
Păști (Eastern Orthodox Easter) - 1st Păști (remember, everything is celebrated in 2s here) was interesting. Everyone goes to church allllllll night and gets their baskets full of cured meats and breads blessed by the Priest. Then they come home when the sun starts coming up and have a masă with the blessed foods, and then go to bed.

When i returned home from Romania, this cute little Easter gift was waiting for me in my closet! They dye their Easter eggs red here, to symbolize the blood of Christ.
2nd Păști was my favorite celebration out of all the Moldovan celebrations that i'd taken part in! It's when the cemeteries come alive! All graves in cemeteries here have picnic tables next to them - for masă's, of course. Everyone goes to the cemeteries of their loved ones and basically party together in their memories. But, they have to wait til the Priest comes by and blesses the food before the partying begins. We waited for 1-2 hours in the freezing cold rain for the Priest (that's how many people are in the literally takes that long for the Priest to come by). Other than the super chilly conditions, it was just one of the coolest things i've ever seen! I wish we did that in America. It's totally surreal and i absolutely LOVED it! :oD

Here's the priest blessing the food...finally.

Mama-G standing in front of her parents' graves.
Me and about 10 other PCVs participated in the Chișinău Marathon. It was divided into a 10k, 1/2 marathon, and full marathon. Most of us did the 10k. I did pretty well considering i hadn't jogged since being in Moldova and i jogged almost the whole thing!

The picture below shows my confusion at the finish line that wasn't the finish line. We had to run through the finish line and keep running til it looped back around through the finish line again. I was so confused. But, i finished after some clarification from Rosza. ;op

Here's some of us, left to right: Christine, Rosza, Mike, Ann, me, Rosemary, Aana, Monica.
mai 2015:

Tulips! My real mom's favorite! Moldovans also love tulips. They're planted everywhere. This is Mama-G's driveway.

Mama-G also grows irises. She cut the 1st bloom for me and put it in a vase in my room! :o] It smelled really good too!
May 9 is Victory Day in Moldova. Every village, town, and city has at least one memorial statue celebrating the end of WWII. This is ours. The man in the picture is the last living vet in our village from that war!
Last month of school! - FINALLY. The 2nd semester totally draaaaaagggged.

Here is our last day of playing Jeopardy for the school year.
Last bell - Like 1st bell, there is also a last bell on May 31 (or before if May 31 is on a weekend). I missed my school's last bell because i had to get my yellow fever vaccine that day in the capital for my upcoming travels to Malawi. I hope to make it to this year's.
The Current (M29s) vs The Cotton Balls (M28s) dodgeball/kickball/softball game!

We (The Current) won...duh! Me and Rosemary posing with our very beautiful trophy ;op.

The Current...we're coming for the M30s next year to uphold our title!
junie 2015:
The Black Sea - The 1st week in June, me and a couple other PCVs went to The Black Sea in Romania. It was still coldish, but we swam in the sea anyway!

The beach was all shells! It was painful to walk on.

Meet Mihai the Fly. He liked our beer so much, we decided to pour him his own in a shell. Here he is enjoying it. ;o]
Prague - My friend, Marynell (a doctor i worked with at the VA) came to visit and we met her kids in Prague. Prague is AWESOME! So are Marynell and her kids!! :oD

Marynell and me being toursits ;op

Left to right: 2 of Marynell's 3 kids - Amanda and Danny, and Marynell...with naked baby statue.

At the John Lennon Wall!

Fishy's are eating my feet! Sooooooo fun! Amanda and i did it together. It really was great and felt soooooo good!
English camp - The day after Marynell left, me and some other PCVs volunteered to be counselors at an English day camp for a week. The camp provided housing, transportation, and food. It was great! It was fun getting to speak English, on purpose, with Moldovan kids!

Left to right: Terry, Stephen, Nate. The owner's of the camp had them dress up on the first day. The theme of the camp was Past and Future. Terry and Nate are representing the past and Stephen is just dressed as a cop.

My class.

We got red and blue bandanas. I'm wearing a red one, so i had to represent. ;op

My favorite student, Sophie, and me. :o]

The last day, the camp owner's treated us to SUSHI!!! 

Here we are with the owner's and workers of the camp. I don't remember all of their names. But the PCVs are Stephen, Tanvi, Nate, Miki, Terry, and me.
PST facilitator - The next week after camp i facilitated 8 hours of teaching about noncommunicable diseases to the PC Trainees. The 1st day was not great, but the 2nd day was better.
iulie 2015:

4th of July - Me and some other PCVs went to a pool, which was nice for about an hour, when the thunderstorm rolled in. O well, it was fun while it lasted!

Left to right:Rosemary, Monica, Nate, me.

Shaved my head - Midnight, July 16, some other PCVs and i had a head shaving ceremony. I've had long hair to my butt for 20+ years, but it was time for a the scalp! The ceremony included a poem about my hair written & read aloud by Nate (wearing a white robe), music, friends, cookies, and the head shaving tools - a kitchen knife (no one had scissors), an electric razor, a straight razor, and shaving cream. I've never regretted it!




The next day in the airplane bathroom on my way to Stesi's.
Visited MY PC sister in Malawi! - Later that day on July 16, i flew to Malawi to visit fellow PCV/sister, Stesi! We had an amazing time together (you can see all the pics in previous posts)! It was the highlight of my summer!

august 2015:

Stesi visited me in Moldova! - After 2 weeks in Malawi, Stesi came back to Moldova with me for 2 weeks!

Here we are at the Mileștii Mici Winery.

This is the 5th cross-stitch i made. I made it for Stesi's birthday :o].
Camp GLOW/TOBE - On our way back to Moldova, i started having vertigo. It got worse over the day and a half i was at GLOW/TOBE, so i ended up staying at PC Medical for the remainder of the week. :o[ Stesi stayed as a counselor though and had a really great time! :o]

The day Stesi went home, we had MST (Mid-Service Training). There were about 2/3 of us M@( PCVs there and this is our pic!
BACK TO SITE - August 25 is when i officially came back to site - to stay indefinitely...

No comments:

Post a Comment