Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Teaching about American Christmas

Out of the 5 American holidays i decided to teach about this school year, Christmas was the 3rd/5 (I already taught about Halloween and Thanksgiving, and next will teach about Valentine's Day and American Easter).

In the beginning of the lesson i did a comparison with the kids about the similarities and differences between Moldovan and American Christmas traditions. I handed out a worksheet with 20 sentences and together we read through the list and wrote an "M" if it was Moldovan, "A" for American, and "MA" for both.

Here's the list:
1) Christmas is celebrated to honor the birth of Christ. "MA"

2) Christmas is celebrated on two dates: December 25 and January 7. "M"
(Due to strict Soviet restrictions of celebrating religious holidays, Soviet countries started secretly celebrating Christmas on January 7. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, January 7 (aka "Old" or "2nd" Christmas) is still recognized as Christmas, especially to the older generations who lived through the old Soviet times. December 25 is aka "New" or "1st" Christmas. Not all Moldovans celebrate both Christmases - it's usually one or the other.)

3) Santa leaves gifts under the Christmas tree. "MA"

4) Santa gets into the house to deliver presents by going down the chimney. "A"

5) People fast from animal products for 6 weeks before Christmas. "M"
(Not all Moldovans fast before Christmas, only the very religiously devout usually.)

6) Christmas is only celebrated on December 25, but Christmas Eve (December 24) is a special night of feasting and opening of a gift for some families. "A"

7) The Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts through December 31. "A"

8) Christmas carols are sung door to door, mostly by children who receive candy and money from the homeowners. "M"
("Colindă" or "Christmas Caroling" happens at least 4 separate days - 1st New Year's Eve (Dec 31), Old Christmas (Jan 7), Old New Year's Eve (Jan 13), and Old New Year's (Jan 14). It reminds me a lot of Trick-or-Treating in The States because kids dress up in masks and robes, go door-to-door, and instead of saying "Trick-or-Treat!" the sing traditional Moldovan Christmas carols and receive candy and money in their sacks.)

9) Children write letters to Santa Claus. "MA"

10) People go to church. "MA"

11) The Christmas season usually starts on December 31 with the decorating of the Christmas tree ("bradul Crăciun") and lasts until January 15 (the day after "Old" New Year's). "M"

12) Christmas carols are sung door-to-door, mostly by adults, who do not receive candy or money - they just do it to spread Christmas joy. "A"

13) Mulled wine and champagne are popular during the Christmas season. "MA"

14) Another name for Santa Claus is "Ded Moroz". "M"
(Apparently this is more of a Russian thing, it means "Father Winter".)

15) The Christmas tree is decorated usually in early December. "A"

16) Popular foods at Christmastime are eggnog, peppermint, chocolate, cookies, candy canes, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and gingerbread. "A"
(In Moldova, especially after fasting from animal products for 6 weeks, it is common for Moldovans to kill and eat a pig at Christmas, breaking the fast.)

17) If the children are naughty, they get coal in their stockings. "A"

18) On St. Nicholas' Day (Dec 6 or Dec 19, depending on the locality), children leave clean shoes or boots at the door or window to get small gifts from Santa Claus. "M"
(Moldovans are extremely strict about clean shoes.)

19) The Christmas tree is usually decorated on December 31, the night that Santa Claus leaves small gifts underneath it for children to find on the morning of January 1st. "M"
(It is common for children to sleep next to the bradul Crăciun to try to see Santa leaving their gifts.)

20) The children leave milk and cookies near the Christmas tree for Santa. "A"

After i taught them about the traditions of an American Christmas, i had them trace and cut out their hands on green paper that i made into a Christmas tree (my 9th grade class is missing because they didn't come to class that day, so the tree is smaller than i had hoped). Then i gave them pre-cut round ornaments to decorate, to decorate the tree with. 

The drawings i added around the tree (including the star at the top) were from the review game i made „Calea Curcubeului: Crăciun ediție” (The Way of the Rainbow: Christmas edition).

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Praying for Rain

"Upon us all, a little rain must fall..." --Led Zeppelin, The Rain Song

After a late start in December, the rains stopped just as suddenly as they began. Since the New Year there has only been one or two real solid rains in my village. The maize is starting to dry out, as you can see in this photo.

It's not just dry either. It has been hot and windy as well, further drying the maize. A common past time here is looking at the dark clouds in the distance, and hoping for a thunderstorm. But other than a few overcast and muggy days, the clouds haven't produced anything significant for us.

The kids and I prepared my garden bed for planting this week, and now I'm just waiting for a little rain before I get the seeds in the ground. I could just water them in by hand, but the linthumbu (red driver ants) are roaming around in large numbers, and with it being so dry, I'm worried about creating a little oasis that might attract them to my yard again. So I'm waiting for one good storm.

It's crazy to think that last year at this time, there were floods in southern Malawi. People died in high flood waters, rivers overflowed, bridges washed out, and many people lost their homes and crops. Now we are in danger of the other extreme. But it's not too late yet.

So here in Malawi, we're all praying for rain.

Of Mouserats, army ants and other small creatures

Earlier this week I prepared my second attempt at a Mouserat trap, using a design I found on the web in a rare moment of somewhat working internet. I baited it with peanut butter and oatmeal. The idea was that the mouse crawls into the tube to get the bait, and its weight makes the tube fall into the bucket. I filled the bucket about halfway with water, hoping it would drown. Otherwise it would just climb out. (Large bins are not easy to come by in the village.)

As I was doing that, the kids knocked on my gate. They had news for me-- the linthumbu (red driver ants) were back. Sure enough, we found them all over the grass in my yard, concentrated in the now abandoned termite mounds. (The termites left once the heat wave started up again). Great.

I put poison out where the ants were, getting bit on the toe by one of the large soldier ants in the process. Curse words did follow.

Then I saw this cool caterpillar by my house. Normally I might have tried to move it elsewhere to save my seedlings, but it's been so dry that I haven't planted anything yet. So it can chew on the weeds all it wants.

While I was inspecting the caterpillar, a little frog or toad hopped by in the dirt. It was the size of the tip of my thumb.

While I surveyed the ants in the fading light, a mosquito kept insistently buzzing near my ear. It's about that time of year again, I guess. First flies, then mosquitos.

Unfortunately, the Mouserat trap failed. The tube just fell into the bucket of water. I used a toilet paper tube for it, but I think maybe the tube was too small. As a Mouserat, it's bigger than most mice. So I will have to find a bigger substitute. The Mouserat seems angry at its near capture, as it is making a ton of noise tonight, and knocking over all kinds of stuff. Maybe it is hoping to keep me awake so that I will be too tired to try and trap it tomorrow night. Pretty good plan, actually.

All this, on top of normal stuff like cooking, doing dishes and lesson planning. I love nature, but I wouldn't mind a little less of it around my house right now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Making clătite (crepes)

Mama-G makes TONS of food for masa (feasts/celebrations)! She let me help make the crepes. This is my second go around. I haven't made the batter yet, but as far as the actual cooking of the batter goes, i got it down pretty quickly.

Yes, those are real feathers she uses to spread oil on the pan! I love it! :oD


Here is our first real snow of the season! This is looking out of my bedroom window at the neighbor's house.

Looking out the front door at the well.

Looking from the well down the driveway to the street.

From the street looking back up the driveway at the well. To the right is the casă mare (big house), which is basically just storage. Mama-G used to live in it with her husband (now deceased) and 2 kids, but since it is just her (& lil ol' me) now, we live in the casă mică (small house) together...which is cozy. :o]

Frozen eggs from the chicken coop! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Kukolope ndi Ana

(Chichewa translation: Mopping with the kids)

Yesterday afternoon the kids came over to hang out. We practiced our English colors (Petro knew "khaki"!), the words for feelings (they love acting out "scared" and they get wild when we practice "happy") and ate mangos and these small black fruits with pits that they called "nanyole". Then I brought out a game of Snakes & Ladders that I found at Shoprite in Blantyre. They got bored with it pretty quickly and we moved on to looking at books.

Then they started telling me to mop my porch because it was dirty. I said I didn't want to, and that it didn't bother me. They kept insisting it needed to be mopped, so that it could be "kuwala" (to shine).

The kids are not OCD-- it's just that a clean home is very important in the culture here. And with the cooking and washing and the chim being outdoors, that means the yard is also considered the home as well. Which is why sweeping the yard and keeping the grass short is so important to people here. The women sweep and mop their homes everyday. At school the kids sweep and mop everyday too, even in Primary School. Which means the kids are well-versed in basic cleaning skills.

So when they told me to mop, and I said I didn't want to, they begged me to let them do it. Well, what could I do? I gave them a mop and a bucket and they set about mopping my porch.

Gender equality-- boys can mop too! Petro started the mopping.

They shared the work, I mean fun. Here is Fanny taking a turn:

They were really proud of their work. I thanked them in English and Chichewa, then I brought out a little oatmeal for them as a thank-you. They loved it!

Monday, January 4, 2016

M29 healthE's

Here are the remaining (-1, who wasn't there) M29 healthEs (3 have gone home since the beginning). 

Top-to-bottom, left-to-right: Cynthia (the oldest PCV in Moldova - she's 75!), Rochelle, Christine, Stephani, Monica, Terry (boy), Aana, Kirsten, Chelsea, Nate, Terry (girl), Amanda, Rosie, me! 

Iarnă (Winter)!

It seems winter is finally here! It's been sooooooooo cold! That's 7'F, or -14'C! We've only had a little snow so far though...i'm hoping for a LOT more! As you can see, it's in the forecast...hopefully it will come to fruition!

This is the Nistru River in Soroca with frozen chunks of ice floating down and an icy shore.

Anul Nou (New Year) / Crăciun (Christmas)

I finally made it to Bălți (the 2nd biggest city behind Chișinău)! Here is the center.

The Mayor's office.

Then I went to Soroca for New Year's.

The Mayor's office.

At midnight we danced the hora (with everyone else), but didn't stay out too long cuz it was coooooooooooold!!

Christmas in Moldova!

On Christmas Eve, some fellow PCVs and i rented an apt. and made a "traditional" Christmas meal with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (Rosie's mom sent from 'Merica), dressing (also sent from the Homeland), and rotisserie chicken. It was delicious! 

Me, Nate, & Rosie.

Nate, Rosie, and Scott.

The next day, on actual Christmas, we had more people over and made Mexican food. 4 people got stuck in the elevator for an hour with half the food! We had to call the apt. lady who called the repair guy who came and fixed it.

While we were waiting for the rest of the food, we ate guac & chips (avocados are expensive here, so it was a nice treat)!

Nate took the above photo, but i didn't want to leave him out! He's trying to make my hair into a fro (as can be seen in the 1st photo), but i had washed it that day, so no fro, yo. I was pushing him away cuz my hair only stays clean for like 12 hrs and i didn't want him messing it up!...Get back to your hookah and leave me alone! ;op

Maratonul de Crăciun (Christmas Marathon...really, only a 3k)

There was a 3k "fun run" in Chișinău to kick off the Christmas season. You were supposed to come in costume, so, as the good PCVs we are, we did! We dressed up as Santa and his reindeer. We ended up with exactly the perfect amount of people we needed for Santa and all 9 reindeer (including Rudolph). It was sooooooooo fun! We actually tethered ourselves together and sang carols the whole way! :oD

Top-to-bottom, left-to-right: Cat, Sandra, Jessica, me, SHam, Chelsea, Miki, Olivia, Kirsten, Sarah, and Rochelle...a mixture of M29s and M30s...YAY!

Yes, those are leopard print leggings (my host dad bought them for me for my birthday last year, and i finally found the perfect occasion to wear them!) i'm wearing with a furry top (that i got from China) and black rubber boots (my hooves...duh)...i was reindeer committed! 

Don't know who the dude on the far right is...?

We were given these FedEx boxes at the beginning of the race to pick up free gifts along the way. At the end, we were given covrigi (pretzels) on strings as "medals"...pretty dang cute. ;o]

Before the race started we were given Santa hats (which we obviously couldn't wear with our antlers) and hot tea! YUM!

We named ourselves each of the reindeer...i was Vixen. ;op

We even got a diploma for finishing the race! Moldovans love their diplomas!

Here's all the goodies we picked up along the way in our FedEx boxes! - ice cream cone bubbles (for the kids), tea, free McDonald's coffee, notepad, pen, pencil, apple, gingerbread cookies, a toy horse, sparklers, and discounts for various places, including FedEx, of course.

Moldovan Sunsets

We've been having some amazing sunsets recently! Here are just a few:

International Day of Peace (Ziua Internațională a Păcii)

Sooooooooo, this is REALLLLLLY late, but wutevz...

I taught about the International Day of Peace way back in September (the official day is Sept.21 -- happy b-day mom!), but am just now getting around to posting it!

I started with a definition of peace ("Peace is a time of security and tranquility that exists when there is no fighting or war, all coexisting in perfect harmony and freedom."). Then I explained what The International Day of Peace celebrates and it's history (InternationalDayOfPeace.org).

From there i showed and explained different symbols of peace from around the world, starting, of course with The Peace Corps' logo and my role as a PCV.

Upon researching different peace symbols, i learned a few things myself, like where the shape of the most recognized peace symbol comes from. It was a logo designed for the UK campaign for nuclear disarmament, in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, and adopted by anti-war and counterculture in the United States and elsewhere.

The symbol is a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for "nuclear disarmament". In semaphore the letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an inverted "V," and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. Superimposing these two signs forms the shape of the center of the peace symbol.

"V" is for "Victory". That's how this famous hand gesture got started. It was used to represent victory during WWII. In the '60s, anti-war protesters adopted it to represent peace from the Vietnam War. Both uses represent the desire for the end of war.

The olive branch represents the restoration of peace. The dove from Noah's Ark brought back an olive branch, which showed that The Flood was receding, and therefore, God's wrath subsiding, bringing peace back to earth.

The dove is what brought the olive branch back to The Ark. Commonly the dove and olive branch are symbolized together, with the dove carrying the olive branch in it's beak.

The Roerich Emblem - I had never seen this symbol before, but thought it appropriate for Moldovans because it was designed by a Russian cultural activist, Nicholas Roerich, who used it as the emblem for his movement to protect cultural artifacts.

In 1935 a pact initiated by Roerich was signed by the United States and Latin American nations, agreeing that "historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions" should be protected both in times of peace and war.

Roerich described the circle as representing the totality of culture, with the three dots being Art, Science, and Religion, three of the most embracing of human cultural activities. He also described the circle as representing the eternity of time, encompassing the past, present, and future.

The Peace Flag - The international peace flag in the colors of the rainbow was first used in Italy on a 1961 peace march from Perugia to Assisi organised by the pacifist and social philosopher Aldo Capitini.

The flag commonly has seven rainbow-colored stripes with the word "Peace" in the center. It has been explained as follows:

In the account of the Great Flood, God set the rainbow to a seal the alliance with man and nature, promising that there will never be another Flood over the whole earth. The rainbow thus became a symbol of Peace across the earth and the sky, and, by extension, among all men.

Then for homework, the kids drew their own peace symbols.

Our classroom Wall of Peace! :o]