Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Day of Monday, August 15, 2011

Written two weeks ago, but forgotten in the shuffle of preparing for the school year.

Sometimes one experiences one of those day.  The kind of day that captures wonderfully the rhythm of life here in Moldova, all the while betraying little idiosyncrasies that if understood, can show something much larger about the culture.  Today was one of those days – extraordinary for the normalness of its rhythm, and revealing in comfortable responses to a syncopated tune that is so different from the American melody of daily life.

So remarkably normal, it seemed worth sharing.  I try to point out the cultural aspects that might be amusing or illuminating to an American audience, but I certainly can’t explain them all. So, in simple bullet point form, I present the day of Monday, August 15, 2011.

  • Woke up to an alarm.  Vague awareness that summer is ending.
  • First morning revisiting my school year morning routine: drinking coffee while reading priority email/news, realizing it’s too late for breakfast, leaving late.
  • Arrive at school, where we (the teaching collective) are all waiting for the district level officials to come so that we can choose a new director.
  • Stand outside talking to male teachers about our summers for 45 minutes.
  • Find out that the district officials won’t be coming today.  Modus operandi of the Education Ministry.
  • Go inside, and almost get sucked into the teachers lounge, which promised to have been a 3 hour talkathon.
  • Am saved by my amazing partner teacher, who suggests we go do some planning.
  • We realize we can’t plan b/c classes haven’t been divided amongst teachers yet, which can’t happen without a director, which can’t happen without the district officials.  All teachers, however, are required to be at school, so we decide instead to discuss our general goals and ideas for this year, including new ideas my partner teacher received while being a mentor for the new M26 Health Volunteers, and various ideas I have that reflect health education theory.
  • Brief aside in the Vice-Director’s office for plotting and gossip top-off.
  • Back to planning.
  • Convince my friend Victor (the art teacher) to come to our house to drink a ceai (tea), which is a pretext for a favor I have to ask of him (which he knows), which is itself a pretext for another favor I have to ask of him (of which he doesn’t know).  He accepts the concept of ceai, but refuses my offers of lunch.
  • Victor fixes a painting I bought in Lviv, Ukraine, which had become somewhat loose on the frame.
  • I meanwhile secretly communicate to my host-cousin who is more like a host-sister that indeed she should put out a full lunch.
  • My host mother calls to inform that Vasile Kirilovici has asked for my cell phone number. Kirilovice (his patronymic) is the richest man in the village, running the agricultural firm that farms 2100 hectares (5000 acres) and employs 250 people (my host father included).  In a town where I enjoy incredible access – greeted by the traditional kiss and embrace from the priest, and being able to walk into the mayor’s office without an appointment – Kirilovici is the only key leader I’m not on regular terms with.
  • As Victor finishes the picture, I insist he stay for ceai.  He accepts with the words, “well, as long as it’s just ceai.”
  • I put as much food out for ceai as possible, including fruit, cookies, cheese, honey, lemons, bread, jam, etc.
  • We sit down to eat, and I casually observe that a warm lunch has been set out us as well.  I proceed to insist he eat.  He is trapped b/c he knows I haven’t had lunch yet but can’t eat unless he does, and he knows I know he hasn’t had lunch yet.  I will later be congratulated on this maneuver.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Peace Corps Moldova M26 Health & EE Swearing In - Oath

On Wednesday, after 10 grueling weeks of training, 27 new Health and English Education Volunteers from the Moldova 26 group took their oath, and with that, officially began their two years of service.  As our Country Director, Jeffrey Goveia pointed out, it's the exact same oath of office every Federal official serving the United States takes.

One year ago Thursday I stood on a stage and repeated those exact same words; I'd already been in country for 10 weeks, had already begun working with Moldovan children and counterparts during practice school, was living with a host family, and struggling through my limited Romanian.  But still, I remember distinctly the chill that ran down my spine when taking the oath.  It was one of those rare moments of absolute clarity in life when one feels the full power of an ideal much larger than oneself behind one's actions, when that "something larger" you're a part of becomes so tangible it can be touched, if only briefly.

From here on out, it's now not just halfway, but less than a year to go.  To all the M26s who just took that oath: savor it, it goes quicker than you expect.  Also: congrats, you guys are gonna be great.

Friday, August 19, 2011

If Moldovans didn't think I was crazy before...

They certainly did if they spotted me today biking across 30 km of Moldovan countryside looking like this!

Laden down with Haiducii supplies, including the all-important and ubiquitous Haiducii Rubber Chicken.
Yes, I biked to Olanesti and back like this.

The occasion was for Ziua Sanatatii (Day of Health) which my rock-star raion-mate Shannon organized for her organization's summer long day camp.  The day included lots of outdoor activities, including some awesome relay races.  I was there to conduct some Haiducii activities in the afternoon.

Warm ups.  Very important.

The little kids got to cheer.

Water relay.

Sac race!

Which inevitably ends in this.

Balloon volleyball.

Explaining the rubber chicken game,
"Pirate's Revenge


Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer it has been – summer vacation it is not, PLUS: Haiducii vid!

Adam leads his students in a Zen Walk.
If I was expecting summer to be somewhat more relaxing than the school year – I was – then I was clearly mistaken.  While there have been two nice vacations, they have only managed to condense the amount of time remaining for a chaotic eclectic assortment of tasks.  There has been teaching PST, a project at the soup kitchen, ongoing work at the medical center, and enough political intrigue in the village to require numerous visits to shore up friendships amongst the two main factions.  There was also a great 50th Anniversary Concert in Chişinău that I MCed (credit to Ohad Sternberg for the post and photos linked to there).

While I like to stay busy, one downside of this is that there has been less time than expected for Haiducii, a secondary project I joined last spring (when still expecting a lot of free time in the summer).

Quoting from that last post:

Probably the coolest of my groups, Haiducii (pronounced Hi-do-chi) is a Robin Hood like character in Balkan folklore.  In Moldova, we are an injustice-fighting band of PCVs who go around teaching teamwork and leadership skills to youth through outdoor teambuilding activities (the type common in U.S. summer camps and low ropes courses).  We won’t really ramp up until the summer season, but as a throw back to my Boy Scout days, I’m looking forward to this group.  It involves lots of hitchhiking around Moldova, but then, isn’t that how Robin Hood travelled too?
Finally, with most of my partners now on vacation, I was able to lead my first Haiducii session up in Edineţ this past Monday for fellow volunteer Adam's Leadership Summer Camp.  Working with fellow Healthy and Haiduc Melissa – aka Yoga Mama – we made the 4 hour trek up there to meet a great group of future Moldovan leaders who were willing to brave the cold and rainy weather for our outdoor activities.

The Spider Web
It was a great group of kids to work with for my first session, and dare I say, after we made them repeat Spider Web three times, they even seemed to draw some lessons about teamwork.  My favorite moment was when we came to the conclusion as a group that without Alina – a very bright but shy girl – they never would have solved the mental puzzle to what is an otherwise rather physical activity.  They even got the take away – after a little prompting – that sometimes, good leadership means listening, because if you just shout and only the leaders get to say their ideas, the best solution might be drowned out, because sometimes the quietest person has the best ideas.  Now, if only our politicians back in the U.S. could come to that same conclusion…
Melissa debriefs. Alina, work done, yawns.

Then we played Jedi Knife Fight.  Theoretically, there’s a lesson in that game too, but mostly it just involves letting the teams whack each other with foam noodles after a hard day’s work while we try to enforce the games rules.  A casualty of that enforcement tends to be getting whacked yourself.  So, for all those readers who’ve been wanting to wallop me with a noodle but can’t because I’m here in Moldova, poftim (enjoy)!