Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Casa Parinteasca", our submission for the 2011 Plural+ Moldova contest!

UPDATE: Subtitles are now live!

The last month has been a busy one: a trip to Korea, teaching a 5 day In Service Training for the M26 Health Volunteers on Behavior Change Communication, and putting together a civic education grant in collaboration with Humanity in Action.  (Hence the short updates of late)

By far, however, the biggest success has been working with my students to prepare a entry for the 2011 Plural+ Moldova Youth Film Contest.  Plural+ is a film competition that challenges students to express themselves creatively on migration issues.  We finally submitted the finished product yesterday, and I'm awfully proud of my youth.

(for subtitles, hover over the player and click the "cc" button in the lower right corner)


Moldova has one of the highest outward migration rates in the world, about 25% of the population is working abroad, and the economy is sustained by remittances.  This fact of life becomes one of the quiet themes of just about every volunteer's service in Moldova; I never give students homework to "go home and talk with your parents about ..." because about a quarter of them are living with aunts, uncles, grandparents, or other relatives.  Oleasa, who is like my host sister, is actually my host cousin, but she's been raised by my host mom, who's sister has been working in Italy for 10 years.  Rodica's wedding in September was the first time my host parents had seen their elder daughter in 5 years; she's been working in Canada and couldn't leave without losing her spot in the residency line.

I was deeply impressed with how my youth artistically confronted such a sensitive topic. The film above is entirely their work (with a lot of guidance from my partner and I, of course), from the story idea to writing the script to the filming and narration.  It's the story of a house, the home of your parents, that is abandoned when its new owner leaves to work abroad and earn money so she can buy a nicer bigger newer house.  Pretty good metaphor for a bunch of teenagers.  (Don't worry, it has a happy ending.)


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Goal 2.3: technology

The last goal of the health program refers to transferring ICT skills.  I sometimes think of this as the "goal of chance", b/c much like you can't force a cat to take a bath or get your parents to text, you just can't really force technology on somebody who doesn't want it.

I thought I had this goal all lined up when my medical center got a computer last spring, but 8 months later the regional health directorate has still given no instructions as to what, exactly, they expect anybody to be doing with that computer.  Also, their programmer still hasn't been around yet to install internet or any other standard office programs.  (It's okay, we've actually made very good use of the printer it came with for our health education activities, so it's all for the better.)

But early last summer, Olga - the most amazing and driven of my 4 partners - got a laptop.  (Or rather, her husband returned from working abroad with a laptop.)  And thus began my work on goal 2.3.

Fast forward five months and that's how we end up with me spending my Saturday night shouting back and forth over the phone for an hour as we try to work through the notion of an email attachment.  (Shouting is the culturally recommended volume for any phone conversation, there was nothing acrimonious about the call.)

Two 15 minute phone calls, 5 different explanatory strategies, one hour, and 10 synonyms for attachment in both Russian and Romanian later, and we figured it out.  On the other end of the line, I could hear her entire family trying to help, including her 20 year old son who is studying English and Geography at university. (The fact that he had no idea what an attachment is shows that this is more than your standard age gap here...)  Of course, it doesn't help that I don't interact with any of my partners technologically, thus I have absolutely no grasp of this vocabulary in Romanian.  Nor would it have mattered anyway, as my partner's email account is in Russian.  In the end, it took the paperclip symbol and some email attachments I had sent her a couple weeks ago, as well as an intimate familiarity with her file organization to succeed.  (On the upside, I know how to find everything on her computer b/c most things were put there by me.)

It's not as glorious as a multi-million dollar water project, but it's what we do day in an day out in the trenches of development.  Just another Saturday night.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Small Victories: my favorite moment of the week

My favorite moment of today happened when I was sitting next to my nurse partner, working on a plan for a health education program.  Laying open next to us was the book* where the Medical Center is required to record all of the health education activities it does, as health education is a required component of every nurse and doctors job.

The Chief Nurse poked her head in the door and started chastising my partner, "You haven't written in the book yet!"  To which my nurse partner Galena replied, "You all write, but we actually do."

SNAP.  Well said Galena.

*Most of what's written in that book is fiction.