Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ziua mea naștere!

This was the 1st year of my life that i celebrated my birthday on Valentine's Day! Mama-G and fam surprised me with a masa and gifts! :oD I definitely don't plan on making it a habit to celebrate them both together, but it was unique circumstances, and i'm very grateful for such a loving host family!

Here's the loot:

My host brother and sister-in-law had this puzzle made for me! That was the last photo taken of me before i shaved my head last July. The top left pic is of Mama-G and her granddaughters. The top right is my host niece, Rada. The bottom left is Rada and her newborn baby brother, Radu. And the bottom right is Ilona (host sister-in-law), Sergiu (host brother), Grigore (host dad), and Nina (Mama-G). This was my fave gift!

My other fave gift is this  note from Mama-G and Grigore.
It reads:
Dear Colii!
With much love we wish you
"To Many Years!" (aka Happy Birthday!)
Health always be with you, happiness to accompany you at every step, love to be with you permanently, and fortune awaiting you everywhere. We love you and thank you for coming into our life that brought us much joy. We will always expect your return to Moldova.
With much love,
Host-Mom Nina, Grigore

Here's what the box of candy looks opened...foarte frumos! (very beautiful!)

And this is a close second to my very 1st (and probly only ever) pair of hose... ;op Ilona's mom gave a pair to all the women for Valentine's Day. :o] When i wear them, i'll be sure to take a photo posing like the woman in the's only appropriate...i gotta find that outfit though 1st...

The left cake is the Valentine's cake that Ilona's mom brought over and the right cake is my birthday cake from Mama-G. They were both super yummy!

Then, on my actual birfday, Natalia (one of my partner teachers) and 4 of my students brought all of this to my house!

This is my fave...i LOVE potted plants! :oD  Hopefully i can keep it alive...

And my other fave: a photo album, including about 10 photos in it!

This is the 1st photo. It's the village marker for my village. It was a cloudy day apparently, cuz you can't really see the actual village down below.

And then, the next day when i went to school, i brought the staff my award-winning No-Bake Cookies (Moldovan tradition is that when it's your birthday, you bring sweets and coffee/tea to share), and they gave me this framed cross-stitch and woven bell. :o]

When i went to school this week, my other partner teacher (Elena) said that everyone loved my cookies so much and they wanted the recipe! That's a real win in Moldova! From my experience, Moldovan's aren't too keen on trying new/foreign foods (except for Mama-G, who is an adventurous eater :o]), so for them to not only try my cookies, but then to like them so much that they want the recipe! that's HUGE! It really made my day. And, of course, i emailed her the recipe...which tooks some time cuz i had to guesstimate and convert the measurements (i just eyeball the amounts i use, but of course, i think in terms of cups, teaspoons, etc, not grams and milliliters (except in Nursing)).

Celebrate Peace Corps' 55th birthday with a social media thunderclap!

Sign-up to post a thunderclap for PC's 55th birthday on March 1st! :oD

Peace Corps Turns 55

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Next Camp Sky-- 2016!

Last year I participated in Peace Corps Malawi's Camp Sky 2015 as a Teacher-Counselor. I taught Biology lessons, facilitated science labs, and helped out with fun evening activities like an egg drop and a talent show. It was a wonderful week, and I left feeling really optimistic and enthusiastic about Peace Corps and the future of Malawi.

Here is pic of me with my Co-Counselor Devyn and our team, the Bald Eagles

It was so much fun that I decided to apply as a Camp Coordinator for the next Camp Sky, and I got it! So since last summer I have been acting as the Teacher-Camper Coordinator for Camp Sky 2016. It's been a lot of work, and it's going to be even busier next month, but it is worth it!

The goal of this year's Camp Sky is to empower Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSSs), which are the poorest secondary schools in Malawi. They receive the least funding, have very few learning materials like lab supplies or books, and the teachers are often overworked and under-qualified. While these schools lack money and materials, they do have one important resource-- motivated, hardworking teachers and students. So this year at Camp Sky we are inviting 50 Form 3 students (equivalent to 11th grade) and 8 PCVs plus 8 Malawian teachers to spend a week at Kamuzu Academy in central Malawi so we can teach them the skills they need to improve their schools.

We will have sessions on student-friendly teaching and professional development for the teachers, and classes on leadership, critical and creative thinking, study skills and English proficiency for the students.

After camp, the attendees will become the trainers when they return to their schools. The teachers will lead workshops for the other teachers at their school when they return, according to a manual that we will provide them.  And the students will start study clubs to share what they have learned with the other students at their school.

It's going to be a great week, and we are really excited! I just sent out invitations for all the Teacher-Counselors, Junior Counselors and student campers this weekend. We are finalizing sessions and working on travel logistics at the moment.

There is one more thing we need though-- donations! Camp Sky is completely funded by donations. We are seeking contributions from local businesses here in Malawi, but last year the bulk of our funding came from the generous donations of friends and family members of PCVs. We are trying to raise $10,000. That money will go towards paying for the venue, food, transportation, and supplies like flip chart paper, chalk, markers, certificates and printing the manuals.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to help support Camp Sky, please visit this link:

And feel so free to share this link and this blog post with anyone else you think might want to contribute. All donations are welcome, big or small. Zikomo kwambiri!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Simple pleasures

I've been in Malawi for almost 20 months. This second year has been tough because it is hard not to think about the finish line-- going Home. Especially now that my group received our official Close of Service (COS) date-- July 29th. So the countdown is on!

Still, the best way to be content as a PCV is to stay focused on the present moment. I feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to live and work in Malawi as a PCV. I still have about five months left, and I want to enjoy every moment during the rest of my time here.

Sometimes the work, living conditions, language and cultural barriers can be frustrating. When that happens, it is important for me to take a step back and appreciate the simple pleasures here in Malawi. Things like the neighbor children coming over for English lessons and proudly sharing a new English word they learned in school with me. Or one of my student's asking a really thoughtful question in class. Or being able to buy fresh pineapple in my trading center, and then plant the top in my yard to hopefully grow my own plant. There are so many wonderful things about life in Malawi that I am going to miss when I leave. These simple pleasures make life really special here.

The countdown is on, but I still want to stop and enjoy the sunrises and sunsets while I can. Because they never cease to amaze me.

Friday, February 12, 2016


When it rains in Mulanje... pours

We had some intense rains here a couple weeks ago, with rain most of the day and night for about a week. It's been a long time since I walked through puddles to use the chim or get to school. Luckily most of the heaviest rain fell in the afternoons or evenings, so my classes were not disrupted. If it is raining hard, the pounding of rain on the metal roof pretty much stops class.

We had an intense lightning storm on the second day of the rains, which caused the electricity to go out. The rain was so intense after that that it took them over a week to fix it. Luckily my charcoal cooking skills are improving, so I was still able to cook during that time. But keeping my phone charged was another matter. Solar chargers do not work well during Rainy Season.

Still, I love the rain. Rain means it is so nice when everything is green and lush. Rain means cooler nights so I sleep better. Rain means bathing with cool, refreshing rainwater everyday. And rain means spending my afternoons having a cup of tea while sitting on my porch and watching the rain clouds over the mountain while reading a good book. It's definitely a nice time of year.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cricova wine run

I got to run (more like, really slowly jog) a 10k in the 2nd biggest winery in the world! And underground! A run like this would probably never take place in America due to safety liabilities. I had to use my phone's flashlight for about half the run cuz it was so dark. Plus the floor is uneven - rocky in some parts, dusty in others, and slick. It was kinda confusing too, which, coming from Moldova, would've been disappointing if it wasn't. 

This is the map:

One section of the course double-backed on itself twice. In 2 places on the course (meaning we passed by them a total of 4 times) there was a boombox playing blood curdling screams - like what you'd hear in a haunted house. In 1 section there was a park bench and 2 guys there reading a newspaper, acting(?) drunk, and offering wine to runners-by. At another place there was like a Mexican style singer/guitarist and dancer. At one point we ran outside of the winery for the smallest little circle was like the winery farted and we had to run in that little circle. One of my friends decided to skip the mini circle, but the workers caught up with her and made her turn around and run the tiny circle, so apparently the little fart circle was very important. The person in last place was followed by the Grim Reaper. At the end we were wrapped in gold emergency blankets (the same as we used to have as kids in our earthquake emergency kits at school), which got all kinds of odd looks from Moldovans on the way home. And, instead of water at the end, there was mulled wine to welcome us to the finish line. O Moldova, i will miss you!

Ya, so this is the face mask we all got that we could wear if we wanted to during the run...again, this would never happen in America...i LOVE it! (I didn't use mine)

My number:

There were 6 of us PCVs that went, one of which (the one who had to turn around to run the miniscule circle outside) was last, so the Grim Reaper followed her in. For last place, she won so much cool stuff - bread baking pans, a key chain of a runner, which is also a bottle opener, a HUGE wine glass, and compression socks...for realz!

Here's what every runner got:
a little backpack

a really nice quality sports shirt

VIN! WINE! De sigur! (Of course) :o]

COS lottery!!

Here in Moldova, it's tradition to have a COS (Close of Service) lottery for the group who will be leaving next, which were the M29's (my group) this year. It's a lottery to pick the date that you end your service with PC. As an education volunteer, we were able to choose from July 13 - August 12 (it's based from our swear-in date, which was August 13, 2014). My friends and i want to go to Odessa, Ukraine together after COSing, so we decided to try to get July 19th together. I was the 2nd person picked to choose a date, so i obviously had dibs on July 19th. And, since there are less than 50 out of over 70 of us left, we all got the dates we wanted - give or take a day. 5 people are allowed to COS on the same day (PC can't process us out all at once, it would be too overwhelming), and all 5 of us who are planning on going to Odessa got our July 19th date! YAY! :oD It works out perfectly because Stacy's COS date is July 29th, so i'll just head down there after Odessa.

Here are the remaining healthE's together (top-to-bottom/left-to-right): SHam, Christine, me, Rosemary, Amanda, Kirsten, Moniqua, Terry-boy, Aana, Nate, Chelsea, Terry-girl, and Rochelle. We're missing Is here, she was one of the few who couldn't be at the lottery.

Here's the July 19th crew. Nate wrote a fake date because he's surprising his family by being home for his and his sister's birthdays in July...hopefully none of them read this blog... ;op

Monday, February 8, 2016

Casual Day

Today was Casual Day at my school. That means students are allowed to wear  their regular clothes to school instead of their usual uniforms. This was a fundraiser to raise money for our sports team.

Each student was required to contribute K50 - K200 depending on their outfit. If they just wore jeans and a t-shirt, they would pay K50. Or if they wore denim cutoffs, a black t-shirt, a red bandanna and black sunglasses, like one of my students, they had to pay more (that ensemble cost him K150).

A good number of students took advantage of the opportunity to wear regular clothes. I saw lots of sideways ball caps, girls with National Wear (dresses and skirts and blouses made out of chitenjes), and sunglasses. One girl even shaved a design into her hair, which is not allowed normally. So they really had fun with it.

There were still quite a few students that wore their uniforms today. Those students were still required to pay K50 though. Failure to pay resulted in those students being sent home. I guess compulsory donations are one way to show commitment to school sports. Not sure how that would go over in America though.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Căteluși nouă! (New puppies!)

So, the other day i went in the kitchen for my normal coffee routine and heard a rustling. I saw a cardboard box on the floor and thought maybe one of the cats snuck inside. I looked in the box and saw this:

My immediate thought was that it was too big to be one of the cats. My next thought was that it was a nutria. Then i looked closer and realized they were 2 ADORABLE tiny puppies! :oD

This is the sister. She smaller, darker, and truly is the baby of the two. She doesn't like being away from her brother.

And here's the brother. He's a little bigger, more energetic, and more independent; although, he takes care of his little sister's needs of needing to be with him constantly.

They love to nuzzle up to my neck. Whatever side the brother is on, the sister migrates to that side too. Then they just lick my face (they still have scrumptious puppy breath) and chill. I LOVE THEM!
(top/left is the brother; bottom/right is the sister)

Now the goal is to keep them alive. It seems like we're having an early Spring, so it's not as cold as it was, which is good, cuz of course they were outside the very 1st night.

They don't have names yet. Rada, my host neice, is going to name them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

R.I.P. Mouserat

After a few failed attempts at building Mouserat traps, I finally bought some poison in the city. These poisoned bait pellets were all they had in stock.

I put one in my kitchen and one near my bedroom. After the first night they were untouched, so I kicked it up a notch and added a dollop of peanut butter to each one. The next morning the one in the kitchen was moved about two feet and half eaten. I left it out and by the following morning it had disappeared. So I put a new one out with some fresh peanut butter, and that one disappeared by the next day.

I was starting to doubt the effectiveness of the poison. I also wondered if there was more than one rodent scurrying around my house at night. Maybe a whole nest? Eek!

But finally after maybe 4 nights the poop stopped showing up in the kitchen, and the bait remained untouched. So it was time for a test. 1) I left my glass cereal bowl upright, which is it's favorite pee spot. 2) I left my dish sponge out, which was it's favorite chew toy. The next morning everything was untouched-- success!

A day or two later I was walking by my storage room and smelled a hint of decay. Yep, it died in there. Luckily it was pretty fresh and there were only a couple flies buzzing around it. I used some plastic bags to carry it outside and dispose of it.

But not before snapping a photo.

I guess it was a mouse after all. Who knew one small rodent could cause so much trouble?

Hunger Season

This is a really difficult time of year in Malawi. It is known as Hunger Season because people are really hurting for food this time of year. The July maize harvest is long gone and any extra cash from selling crops is gone as well. Plus planting just started with the rains in December, so nothing is ready to harvest yet.

I don't know if it is worse this year, or if it is just that my Chichewa is better and I know more people now, but I clearly see the effects of Hunger Season around me.

At home, where I have a giant mango tree nearby and a papaya tree in the yard, I have people coming by almost daily to ask if they can collect green unripe mangos to eat. Mostly children, but my adult neighbors and even some strangers have come by too.  At first I tried to get people to leave a few green ones so that they can ripen (fresh ripe mangos in my yards are one of my favorite things about living here), but I gave up on that. For one thing, in the village there is no tomorrow, so a green mango in the hand is worth two in the tree. People need food today. The other reason is that it did no good anyhow. People just waited till I went to school and hopped my fence and took them. So I'd rather they go to the honest neighbors that ask me.

(This single ripe mango was so high up in the tree. It was torturing

In the market I notice more people asking for money. In fact my neighbor has asked for money to buy food a couple times this month. Just small stuff, like money to buy tomatoes and an egg. At school a teacher told me the students are not staying afterschool to study because they haven't eaten anything all day. Also I have noticed students sleeping in class recently, but who knows, maybe they are just bored.

I know I can't solve the problem, but I try to do little things, like sharing food with the kids that come over to read books and practice English. I always have extra and it feels good to share.