Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Paște Blajinilor

As a continuation to my last blog post, yesterday in Moldova we celebrated what is known as Paște Blajinilor, Memorial Easter, better understood to be the Easter of the dead and is celebrated in the cemetery. Yes, in the cemetery.

Now technically speaking this holiday can be celebrated on either the Sunday or the next Monday after Easter depending on your village. For example in my village the older cemetery celebrates on one day and the newer cemetery celebrates on the other. However, my host mother prefers to go to the cemetery in her home town, the neighboring village of Izvoare, instead of in my village. I really don't know what my expectations were for the day but I can say I wasn't disappointed. We arrived in Izvoare in the early morning and went straight to the cemetery where it was very odd to see what appeared to be nearly the whole village inside a medium-sized cemetery. Odd in a way for me I guess because it is fairly unusual to see people in a cemetery at all in America other than when they are attending a burial and even then it is usually only a small group and the cemetery still seems empty and peaceful. This cemetery was very much alive and by no means empty. All around you could see people walking from one grave to another tidying up the graves and laying down some traditional gifts called pomană which usually consists of bread, a candle and a small gift (socks, a scarf, tea plates, i.e. knick-knacks). The idea being that sometime during the day the family of the person whose grave they are standing around will pick someone to give this pomană. While everyone is making their rounds getting reacquainted with their neighbors and reminiscing about those they have lost, the priest is slowly making his way through the cemetery coming to each individual grave and giving a blessing. After the priest has given the blessing and the pomană has been handed out then the family leaves the cemetery and heads back home for a meal or masă. Altogether, I found this holiday to be the most interesting so far mostly because it is the one that is the most unique. In America we don't really have anything that compares though I have heard from other volunteers that it is very similar to the Day of the Dead as it is celebrated in Mexico.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Paște Fericit!

Happy Easter! and no this blog post is not a week late. In Moldova the overwhelming majority of the population is a member of the Orthodox church, which still follows the old calendar. So just like for Christmas, in case you might remember, the Orthodox church celebrates Easter on a different date then those who use the new calendar or Western system.

Easter is treated as a big deal here in Moldova. Even bigger than it is in America. In America we tend to have a break from school that usually falls right around Easter that we consider Spring Break. But in Moldova, while they do have a Spring Break in March, about the same time as college spring break in America, they also have another vacation which they call Easter Break. Both of which last for a week.

My host mother's daughter came home from Turkey to join us in our celebration of Easter and spent most of her time since she arrived cleaning and putting things in order. Like I said before Easter is taken seriously and a clean house is only the beginning of the preparations. It is also fun trying to communicate with her because by now must of the people I talk with here in Moldova have acclimated to my way of speaking Romanian and have adjusted their own way of speaking so as to be better understood by me. She, however, has not. So most of our conversations go sort of like "I went to the blah and bought some blah. Would you like to try some blah?" Obviously the "blah" is when she is using a Russian word and doesn't realize it.

In other news I am sad to report that one casualty did indeed result from all of this Easter preparations. The baby goat I blogged about a few months ago was slaughtered on Wednesday. In case you have never had baby goat before it taste to me like goose or rabbit....and actually now that I think about it I don't think either of those comparisons will help you either. How about I'll just say that it had more in common with poultry than it did with beef or with pork.

As for the actual Easter celebration at the church. My host mother left the house at about 1 o'clock...a.m. and made it back home at around 5 a.m. The main purpose for her pilgrimage to the church is to have some of the Easter food blessed by the priest. Mainly a loaf of bread and some red dyed eggs.

I had planned on accompanying her to the church in order to see just what all the fuss was about but unfortunately Moldova had other plans for me and instead made me sick yet again and I spent the better part of yesterday miserable in my bed. The good news is that it was just a normal cold/flu sickness and not a food poisoning/stomach flu illness that I've grown to expect.

Anyway, for the most part today has been spent sitting around a very large and very full table of food and when not at the table taking it easy and relaxing. We had an in between coffee at around 3 o'clock and I was treated to more Turkish desserts. Namely: Baklava. I never particularly liked the Greek inspired Baklava that I had while I was in America but I could eat my weight in the Turkish Baklava that I've had both today and while I was in Istanbul.

My mind is still feeling a little out of it from the reeling headache I've been having so that would probably explain why this blog post is jumping from one topic to the next with little to no connection. But I have no interest in making it more readable. So bear with me.

Easter celebrations are expected to continue into tomorrow which is considered the second day of Easter and from what I have been told will continue the rest of the week until next week. When I will encounter another Moldovan holiday. Dead people's Easter. Got your attention didn't I? But you will just have to wait until next week to hear about that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Human Trafficking Seminar Success

Today I went on my first Moldovan Field Trip. One of my friends, another Peace Corps Volunteer in a neighboring village organized a wonderful seminar about human trafficking with the help of a French organization called "Medecins du Monde," in her village. (In case you don't already know, Moldova is a major center for human trafficking and the information provided in the seminar was something that is very important for all Moldovans to be aware of and be able to watch out for.)

In order to ensure that there would be enough participants she asked me if any of my 10th-11th grade students would be interested in joining in on the seminar. I jumped at the opportunity and was able to get 7 students to agree to the trip, mostly the students who already come to my English Club. At first I thought we would have to leave school really early and walk to her village but when I explained the situation to my principal and asked for her opinion she told me she would take care of it. Well she is an amazing principal and was able to arrange for a minibus to pick us up at the school, take us there and return us home.

This seminar was a real hassle to plan because it is very awkward to organize anything with my limited Romanian and my even more limited knowledge of Moldova in general. So I am counting my many blessings today that everything worked out so well. Mostly I am thankful for having a Peace Corps friend who has better connections to international organizations, a director who knows how to pull some strings and has awesome connections to people in the village, and finally having smart, adventurous, and outgoing students. Maybe next time I will even be able to take a little credit for the next seminar because I know I can't take any credit for this one!

Pictures are on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Teaching the English

Being a teacher is pretty hard in and of itself. However, in my particular situation I tend to run into a fair amount more challenges than I feel the average teacher has to come to terms with, such as: teaching a subject that I was not trained to teach (English instead of Social Studies), in a foreign country with an entirely different culture, with students whose native language is different from my own, and with a textbook that leaves a lot to be desired. Now don't get me wrong I have no right to complain seeing as how I signed up for this job in the first place and worked so hard to get here. In fact, in spite of all the challenges I really do like my job. But of all the things that challenge me as a teacher the number one offender is the English textbooks. Consistently they are badly written, badly edited, mostly plagiarized and most of the activities and review material has little to do with the topics that were actually taught. 

I could go into further details as I have a long list of grievances with the textbooks but instead I will treat you to a game that I call, "How many mistakes can you find?" (Compliments of the 8th grade English textbook).