Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend in the Big City

After three weeks at site, many of the volunteers headed into Chisinau for a few days of birthday parties and meetings last weekend.  Being amongst the September babies, I wasn’t about to be left out.  I’d negotiated a compact teaching schedule – all my classes Tuesday and Wednesday – just to facilitate occasions like this, and the rough bus schedule I’m confined to in my village.

So, Friday morning, well before the sun was even hinting at being up, I set out with my host father to negotiate our muddy road in the dark.  He packed two large bags of fresh homegrown fruit onto the bus for his daughter and niece in the city, and then said his goodbye to return home as the bus rumbled out of town into the first rays of the morning’s light.  A full-sized bus leaving crawling at snail’s pace along a dirt road out of a village of just 3,000 is one of those things that would have seemed odd a few months ago; now, just another day in the life.

Except this time, I was folded up against the window, watching from the inside of the bus. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Prima Sună: a Prima Moldovan Day

Today was September 1st, and in Moldova, that means Prima Sună – First Bell, the first day of school.  Every once in a while there is a moment here that seems larger then Moldova, touching on some emotion deeper than whatever singular experience triggers it; an emotion connected with grander ideals or distant memories.

If swearing in was the first of these moments, First Bell was most certainly the second.  The first day of school is an experience that transcends cultures – the excitement that hangs in the air, accentuated by the crisp smell of an early fall morning, as students dawn their best clothes along with their emotions.

Having always been a bit nerdy, I always loved the first day of school.  Even in college I was one of the rare ones who never missed Opening Convocation.  But today, for the first time in a long time, I was nervous again, as if transported back to Washington Elementary.  After all, this year, for the first time, I was going to school not as a student, but as a teacher, cultural ambassador, and in a new language to boot, rendering me some kind of odd teacher-foreign exchange student hybrid.

First Bell starts with a ceremony.