Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Alright, it has snowed a bunch...

Hey so it is winter in the wonderful Moldova. There has been plenty of snow in my village, nearly 2 feet. It has not snowed for a couple of days, and is melting some now, so it is just really slippery on the ice. The PC has provided us all with a pair of YAKTRAX, which I sort of scoffed at initially, but now think are the coolest thing in the world. Well, maybe not the coolest thing in the world, but they are pretty impressive. I'm like a god on the ice. I can't slip. Or that is the way I think of it now. I plan on going for a walk to take some wonderful pictures. Yesterday I wish I had my camera. Their was a perfect moment when I left work and the sun was going down and the sky was clear so the light was bouncing off of the snow. Of course it happened to be one of the only days that I left my camera at home. For now you all will have to take my word for it. I promise some pictures sooner or later.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So I finished the art exchange, for now!

Alright, so I finished the One World Classrooms International Art Exchange, or half of it. I got all the kids together and took pictures of them all holding their art. You can find their photos here or by clicking on "MY PHOTOS" in the right hand column.

I happened to do it in all three schools so it got pretty complicated at times. The way it works is each school here paints or draws 25 pictures and sends them off with their photos. These pictures are supposed to be focused on their culture and life. In return they will each participating school here will receive 25 pictures that kids made in different countries. If I have understood correctly it won't just be one country of 25 pictures, but a mixture. The point of the exchange is to learn from one an other's culture through art, which I think is awesome!

I think it will be great when we get them all 75 back and we can host some kind of exhibition of sorts. I hope to take all of the photos that I have of our children and put it on a projector. This way parents, kids, and people in the community can check out what their own children have made, as well as others from around the world. Pretty cool.

Three Funny Stories

Three short funny stories/occurrences/things that have happened to me lately. I feel like every day here I have an amusing story, but I tend to forget them quickly. On the walk home I remembered these three. These have all happened within a week:

1. Salute me and you'll go to America!
I had to go into the middle school about four times for four classes today. There I had to take pictures of the kids who completed their art. The art teacher is very traditional so makes the kids get out of their seats each time I enter and leave in a sort of salutation. This equals eight different times this happened to me in about a three hour period. It is kind of embarrassing and each time I had to hold back some laughter while mumbling "No, it doesn't matter, you don't have to" while the goofier boys would yell "Chris!, Chris!" This art teacher is the same one who told these kids if they drew or painted something well an organization would take them to America. When I heard he was doing this from a woman I grabbed my head in both hands and said "oh god," great now all these kids parents must be thinking that's what I do here.

2. Tae-Kwon-Oh Crap...
Since I have actually been quite busy lately I've been on the move. Walking around the village more allows me to talk and meet with both people I know and don't know. In the past two days I have ran into the Tae-Kwon-Do instructor and twice where he has asked if i still want to get involved in "training." I told him yes yesterday, but as I walked away reality sank in: I'm pretty out of shape right now, and this guy is going whip up on me.

3. Collapse?
Last Saturday morning i was eating breakfast at the table while my host sister was sitting on a bed watching TV. I was dressed and bucket-bathed and ready to rumble at our Thanksgiving party with other PC volunteers in Chisinau. While i took my last bite of cabbage salad I turned to my sister to say something. The turn wasn't fast or sudden. I didn't get up or plop down on the chair. A simple turn. Apparently the Moldovan Gods aren't to fond of this: a sudden collapse occurred mid-sentence. My face was shocked and my sister instantly was laughing to tears because of it. My instant conclusion: chair broke, period. Nope! Waaaay off. I look down at our nice wood floor to see I've punctured a foot long hole in the floor with a chair leg. Shock sets in further. I got up, removed the chair and approached the host mom to explain with horror on my face, (sister laughing harder now). Host mom sees, now she is laughing at me because I'm shocked and don't know what to say. To make things worse I have to catch the final bus from my village that leaves in 10 minutes and have to walk up the hill for that. I feel terrible and say, "Now I have a story to tell." I say thanks for lunch like a jerk, put on my back pack and leave in a shame. Guess it is time to start working out more.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Making a few contacts, and maybe a little progress too.

Even though some days I feel like things are not going very well I am starting to realize that even on slow days I am making progress. I felt like in my training village in Vasieni it was easier to talk to people, and get to know them. I've talked to others and we have came to the conclusion that this was largely because there were 13 of us running around speaking our broken Romanian – we must have been the talk of the town. Because there were so many of us it made people much more open to talk to us because we were all throughout the village, and word spreads fast. As they call it “radio baba,” or older women gossiping.

I find that just through doing small things in my village it gets my face out there. I feel like it is tougher to make contacts on my own because there really is no central place where people hang out. I try to go to our piaţa market and our little shops called magazin which just carry general stuff. Just by stopping in and buying something that I really don't need provides me an opportunity to practice my language outside of my workplace and home. The fact that I am the first volunteer in my village means that people don't know what to expect from me, and to tell the truth being in a program as vague as Community and Organizational Development is not the easiest thing to describe in Romanian, so I try. It can get pretty embarrassing in certain situations being from America, I've never felt like such a novelty before. In certain situations in my village people act as if I have accomplished something by being American. Really, it blows their minds, they normally don't believe me until I talk for awhile and they hear my accent.

In the past two weeks I have actually been busy, and I have made more solid contacts within the schools in the community. These being teachers in the kindergarten and the high school. I also in general am noticing that I am much more comfortable talking to people on the street who I see on a regular basis. An art exchange program through One World Classrooms has given me the excuse to go into each of the schools and talk with teachers and discuss with them my ideas. A small but big success story is that of a younger kindergarten teacher named Aliona. I heard that Aliona studied art so figured she would be great. The first time I approached her about the art exchange she accepted but I left thinking the woman was angry. I found out later that this is mainly because Moldovans do not show as their emotions as much as Americans, especially in formal situations. I then went and visited with her again and we talked more in general, and I explained the details of this art exchange program. The third time I sat down and we were talking about art and laughing for 30 minutes while the little ones were having nap time. I tried to explain to her that I liked printmaking in college, but she had not really heard of it so she made me write it down in English so she could search for it online. When I went back to collect the art the little guys had made she took me around the whole school while I took a pictures of each kid with the art they had created. She introduced me to other teachers and I got to joke around with the kindergarteners. One kid even read me a story. While leaving each teacher told me to come back in the future, and I'm sure I will. I also told Aliona of a small grant for art supplies which would be awesome for her class. This week I plan on translating the letter and sending it off.

Also within our organization we have started the beginnings of a youth council. This allows youth to get involved in volunteer-like activities in the community and provides me with some younger contacts who have interest in their community. With them we have just started a clothing drive last week. We will then make packages for the poorer of our community, and near Christmas we are going to go around in a caruţă (horse drawn cart) and deliver our presents. The idea of us going around in a horse drawn cart is awesome and I can't wait because I'm sure we'll all get some good laughs. With the concept of a youth council I'm a little concerned as how we can foster one where I work, and how we can keep the kids interested. I'm going to try and keep a positive attitude about it.

For awhile I felt like the projects I have started are only temporary and when they finish up I will be left with nothing to do but now I'm starting to realize/hope/believe that these small projects were a great place to start. By doing some smaller things like this in the community it forces me out in public and also demonstrates what I am capable of. I also hope that by accomplishing a few things I will instill some trust in me throughout the community. In the least by getting involved in little projects I've met people and made contacts for my future two years here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Want some fresh Moldovan mail from me?

Give me your address by posting a comment, or send me your address in an email to chrisbcote@gmail.com and I'll see what I can do.

Celebrating Birthdays Before it Gets Too Cold.

So it's actually hit – the cold. Yesterday marked two things relating to cold: morning frost and long underwear. It is not really really cold yet, but the earliness points to the apparent beginning of a Moldovan winter. According to a fellow volunteer's awesome/fancy pants digital watch whom I met up with: sunrise is 7:00 AM and sunset is 4:40 PM – ouch. It's colder when it's dark out.

I think a lot of other volunteers will have more of a problem with this because they are from warmer climates where the sun stays out longer. For us in the northwest it can get cold, maybe not as cold as Eastern Europe, but I get the picture (or right now I would like to think so, I'll get back to this I'm sure later in the winter). But the dark I think I am cool with. I mean it gets dark around 5:30 PM in Seattle in the winter, and we just read books and drink coffee and so on. I'm pretty sure I can get used to that. Maybe on the weekends I will feel like I have to get out of the house, and that is what other volunteers are for. More importantly than other volunteers, though, is friends within the village. I've got a little group of village friends in my simple Nokia cell phone that because it is not really cool and does not play music I'm sure Moldovans don't think it is 'frumos,' (refer to Matt's blogpost).
A couple of weeks ago I had a lot of ideas of what I can do in my village. Really what I'm concerned with is finding something I am directly responsible for on a regular basis to keep me occupied. I believe that this will eventually be what I have mentioned in earlier blog posts being some kind photography group. I had a meeting with a fellow volunteer named Kay where we decided to collaborate some to make a couple of interactive presentations to inflame interest. From this group we believe we can get together a passionate group. The problem is that not all kids have cameras. We know that there are probably grants out there, but right now I am thinking it will be better to get some kind of group together, get some curriculum together, and see what we can do with what we have. At the same time I am worried that I will be excluding kids that don't have cameras. I am hoping that we can get youth to share. One thing I know is that organizing something like this may sound simple, but doing so is taking a lot of time. It is one thing to discuss with another volunteer, then think of how we are going to explain this in Romanian, then actually getting a grip on these kids is going to be hard around the holiday season. I think we have to try though. We will see.

I find my situation here a little different than other Peace Corps Volunteers in other PC serving countries. Many think of PC and think of somebody in the green lush grass with Mount Kilamanjaro in the background and little supplies. Here I do live under some challenging conditions, but the one thing I do have is really fast internet at work. The funny thing to me about this is these two extremes existing in the same environment. Here I can skype somebody, but there is a guy on a horse drawn cart out my window. I think that I find this very amusing and so have noticed, or take interest in identifying such extremes existing in the same home or community.

I have been stressing myself out about how much or what we are doing within work. Recently I am realizing that we, in America, work at a faster pace. I realize that things here within where I work are going forward, which is great, but slowly. I have been making serious efforts to chill out when I'm at home. I have been reading a lot lately which is nice. I feel like I don't like to read really long books though – maybe I'm scared of commitment? Haha. Well it just feels so much more productive to read a bunch of smaller books to me. When I get really bored I just read out loud to the mice I hear under my floor boards. No I don't really read out loud, but I do hear them under there. Looks like they are heading indoors for winter too. I don't have a problem with them, as long as they don't take cover under my sheets.

Last weekend was quite interesting. I had a fellow volunteer over and he stayed for Friday and Saturday night. Sunday was my birthday. On Saturday we went for a walk and ran into some of my host parents relatives. She led us in and we met up with her husband who quickly chauffeured us to the beci (cellar) where we tried both of his homemade wines. The beci is the man's area. It is where they hang out and shoot the breeze. There he was quite the host. All Moldovans are really. We were eating all sorts of foods down there. Fish in tomato sauce, home made cheese which is really salty (brinza), pickles (which I had been missing), some type of pork that is basically the back fat (I didn't want to try it), walnuts that he broke us with a hammer and so on. I asked our host which of his wines he preferred the most and I almost laughed out my goodies when he pointed to a jar of homemade vodka. It is really common for men to make
homemade vodka. Turns out we spent some time in the beci eating and drinking some of his vodka celebrating my birthday early. After awhile we took a walk to the villages soccer field and before I knew it me, my friend, and this 56 year old man were having somewhat of a pull-up contest on a bar. I had a great time and it was great to ask and receive opinions from somebody about Moldova.

On a more frumos side I just got myself some shoe polish. It comes with it's own little sponge which is wonderful. Keeping clean and polished shoes is one of the many ways to a Moldovan's heart. Or that's what I hear anyway.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moldova, It's situation: what I've observed.

Being from USA a lot of times people are inevitably comparing, or asking me to compare, my country with Moldova. I often get questions, or assumptions like something is “mai rău decît voi, da?” Something being worse than you all right? I often have to let them people know that America is not perfect. The easiest things I can explain is that, “we have problems, just different problems than you have here.”

In case I have not mentioned it in other blogs posts, Moldovans right now have a situation which forces, if not tempts them to live abroad because salaries are small and jobs are not available here. With an unstable political situation many Moldovans do not jump at the idea of investing in anything other than the construction of their own homes. To generalize, but not so far off, Moldovans work abroad to survive a lot of the time. This I have observed from living in my village and visiting others.

My host father has been working abroad for the last 10 years. He is home now, and has been for just over a month, probably one of the biggest stays he has had in his own home for these 10 years. Due to the point that Moldovans are constantly searching for work abroad, they often are comparing prices and talking of exchange rates. In Chişinău you can find somewhere to exchange currencies on every block.

Since this situation with Moldovans exists, where it's citizens are so hungry to immigrate to other countries for a better salary there are a lot of restrictions on immigration. I believe it is quite difficult to get the paperwork straight to leave to other countries if you are Moldovan. Moldovans in some ways are trapped here. Though they can go to Ukraine and Russia freely (if I have understood correctly), but other than that I believe they need visas. Visas are in high demand, therefore the situation is difficult.

All of this leads me to a frustration am forced to explain. Moldovans, since they are so concerned on getting to other countries to make money for their home here, where 11 lei equals 1 dollar US, they often ask me how much things cost. In training we have discussed that you can just deny these sorts of things, and often I do, but sometimes I just feel like that is not solving anything. Last night for instance at dinner my host father was asking me while pointing to a loaf of bread “Chris, how much does this cost in America?” This is not an unusual situation. I sighed, and said, “three dollars.” For Moldovans they think “wow, you're so rich, here that is only 3 lei.” Or maybe they just think I'm crazy because I'm spending 33 lei on bread?

Because many Moldovans are centered upon moving to make money back home they are only concerned on how much another country's currency can do for them here in Moldova. In this situation I just mentioned with the bread I had to go on to explain, “listen, this is not crazy, the price of living in America is more expensive, and salaries are bigger there, but that doesn't mean I'm rich.” Well that is what I tried to explain, or attempted to with my language. I final response when the conversation got more complicated was direct: “Americans aren't living in Moldova.” I was not saying it in a degrading way, I just think I had to figure out a way to shift their minds away from how much a salary abroad would do for them here.

At times living here it is difficult to exchange responses with a Moldovan. Each of us volunteers have these situations everyday, and each of us has some kind of calculated and constructed responses for such situations. It is a sticky situation to be asked “hey, your country is better than ours right?” or “This is better in America right?” and when you have a complex response to explain in another language it is tough. I often finding myself explaining that I like it here more, because in some ways I honestly do. People live simply here and they know it, it is what they love. These people value family and food, and spending time with both around a table. These people have culture and traditions to follow. In many ways I wish I had such back home.

Moldova has found itself in a complicated situation right now. It is fighting its way through a lot of things both politically and economically. I believe people will continue to work abroad for some time, and stay concerned upon this until their situation begins to resolve itself. The resolution is complex, and will take some trust within their country to invest. Moldovans are a hard working people. Yes many may work abroad, and many more quite likely will, but I believe with Moldova's traditions people have something to hold onto in their country. They are a proud people. Some do stay abroad, but many also do return to live their lives here because of their traditions and family. Moldova is developing, and as it develops more returning Moldovans will have incentive to invest in businesses, organizations, and other institutions here. This all happens with trust and time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What I'm thinking today.

I went to Drochia this last weekend. It is a city pretty far north. I really like visiting other volunteers and their sites to check out their situation. I plan on visiting as many volunteers as possible while I'm here so I can leave knowing I saw the majority of Moldova.

Sadly though, the ride back almost killed me. Being slightly hung over, cramped and sweaty (nobody opens windows in Moldova, they think it will get you sick, long story), having a bit of a cold, and being in a hurry to catch the bus I didn't brush my teeth. This being after I ate eggs for breakfast left a taste in my mouth that was more than disgusting. My stomach hated me. I fought of the urge to puke. Somehow I made it out alive. When I got out of that bus I was so happy I was talking to myself for about a minute while I walked to the Peace Corps office in Chisinau mostly saying "oh my god" while breathing a bunch.

On the bright side I had a notepad with me 0n the trip and I brainstormed a lot of ideas that I could do in my village. Things are moving along within my organization as yesterday and today we have been talking about some general ideas. Things are slowly moving forward for a youth council as well. I am about to start a small photography group with kids in the high school, and so on.

The problem has been swine flu. No, not for me, but for this E. European area. There is a huge scare and I believe that two people in Moldova have been killed from it. Last week all students had the week off for Autumn holiday, and because of swine flu they all have this week off. Because of this things have been moving slower, because a lot of the things I have been working on include kids, and they're all at home!

Within my two years here I would really like to do two things generally:
1. Ignite some community involvement. This would be huge because in general people tend to worry about what is going on in their house, and as long as that is good then they are content. This stems from when communism was around - the government took care of everything, so it's understandable in some ways for them to have this mentality. On the other hand it's been 20+ years. If I can help to show the power of this to the people in my community I would be very pleased.
2. Promote community identity/pride. I think this one will be a bit easier because activities in within the community do this. I think this can be done through projects we take on and complete. I think it would be cool in the summer to put on some kinds of contests - Moldovans love certificates!

My birthday is coming up next weekend and I think I'm going to have two PC guys over. This will be nice and relaxing. We can speak in English some and I can give them the grand tour of the village if it is nice enough out.

And that is what I am thinking today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I think I'm going to buy a turkey.

Happy late Halloween and hello all, sorry that I have not written anything for awhile. I had been kind of busy around work, and then I had to go back to PST (my original host village where I had training) for more training. I was there for two weeks and did not have internet. It was really cool to go back and be able to speak much more fluently with my original host family, but I was also around my original COD group everyday so we ended up talking a lot in English and I'm worried that my language dropped some. Well actually we did have more language classes while we were there, which was nice and helpful. The good thing about the whole two weeks was that we got to hang out, talk about our lives in our villages, what we are all up to and working on. The problem with this is that we all hung out for two weeks everyday and now I'm back to my village by my lonesome and it is not the most social atmosphere, it is like starting over on accommodating to living alone. I was almost too social and now realize that that is not the regular life I will be living back at site. Over all it was a blast though!

I have been trying more seriously to just make friends. Yesterday I ran into a guy I had talked to named Slavic, and we talked and I think I'm going to buy a two liter beer and hang out with him this week. Moldovans really don't drink that much in bars in the village, or if you hang out there it is frowned upon (or this is how I have understood the situation). So, what people do is hang out at their houses. This is harder for me because I do not know very many people, and it is getting colder now, and it is weird for me to be wondering around on walks just trying to find people to talk to. Anyway the point is that I'm really trying to get as social as I can right now so that I can stay sane through this cold winter. It is getting really cold, and I hear that in the village most of the time during the winter people just hang out indoors and not much else. SO, I gotta find friends to hang out with. Foarte important.

Another thing that I might want to do is start lifting some weights so I can be tough. There is an old weight room below the liceu (high school) and I talked to a dude named Vasile who opens it up at night for people to work out. I don't know if it is very popular in the village, but if I start going and see that people like it it may be possible to find funding for more equipment as the equipment there is outdated. Also this man Vasile seems very motivated and has shown interest in teaching kids fitness. There are so many small things I think I could do, but I feel like I need to just focus on one, and push towards that goal!

ON THE BRIGHTEST OF SIDES I think that today I convinced my host parents to let me buy a turkey. Yeah, that would be sweet. My plan is to buy it around this Thanksgiving, raise it, and then eat it next Thanksgiving. I am planning on buying a male because they are bigger and look prettier with all of their feathers. I laugh every time I tell somebody, but hey, I'm pretty excited. The only thing I'm worried about is becoming friends with my turkey, and then not wanted to kill it when the time comes. Anyway, my host mom is putting the word out there for me so that I can get a good price because I think they are scump (expensive).

Also when we were done with our training we got to have a nice dinner at an Italian restuarant and we got to have some champagne and so on. We got to meet the U.S. Ambassator for Moldova. He was pretty cool until I found out that he was born in Pullman, and went to WSU (for those of you who don't know this is my rival University). He said a nice speech, and then I took this picture next to our flag. That's all for now team. Hai!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Telling time by my Brita meter

The days have been scooting along quite quickly. When I arrived here I had two kittens – they're now cats, or pretty much of that size. When I think of how long ago arriving to the “Hotel Turist” on our first night it does seem like a ways back. At the same time I always feel like it is towards the end of the week. Another way I have been telling time is by the digital meter on the top of my Brita water filter. It is set for four weeks and I swear that bad boy is winding down before I know it. I think time has been moving along because I have been busy – I'll enjoy it while I can, before winter strikes.

My time has been occupied by all sorts of events. One great one about a week back is that my host dad came from Moscow. He works there and only comes back for about three to four weeks every four months. This is a typical situation for a Moldovan family as jobs are scarce in this country, and when they are found they normally do not pay much. His name is Iurie and he is pretty much the man. He has a positive attitude and a hardworking character. He is always cracking jokes and I have rarely seen him in a bad mood. The first week he came here we had a huge masa which is when there is so much food and wine that you don't know what to do with yourself. It was a blast. After most everybody left and it was just the closest of the family we hung around talking and drinking wine until the wee hours. I was a little bit hung over at breakfast and my host dad said “We washed our throats yesterday really good.” I laughed so hard and we continued to elaborate on the joke it was ridiculous.
Every Sunday our village soccer teams have matches. One weekend I got to go with them to a neighboring village to watch them play. There is the junior league, and the seniors. There I just hung out and tried to get to know the boys and men. This excursion included a rutiera ride jam packed with every boy asking me questions, most of them being inappropriate, and poking me. These kids don't know much English, but somehow every ten year old knew “mother f___er.” Being immature most of the time, I couldn't help but laugh while the littlest ten year old repeated it while we were kicking the soccer ball around. Over all it was awesome because I got my face out there and also met some other guys from my village who were about my age.

It's wine season kids and the scent is in the air. Everybody is making wine all over the village and I helped just a little bit. I wanted to help my host family but they are so hardworking that they picked all the grapes and I didn't get to help. I did get to help with the process though, which is what I really was interested in. My host dad and I one day last week pulled up a couple of barrels and I helped a little bit while we cleaned them. Three different types of grapes and put them in a barrel. There the grapes are right now as we wait for them to ferment. When it is time we will dump all the juices into another barrel and put it back in the beci (cellar), and just like that we have wine for a year. These grapes are delicious.
I went on a great walk this morning to the margins of the village. From there I went up into the hills and took some pictures. It was a beautiful day. I was glad that I brought my water bottle because I think I covered a lot of ground and became really thirsty. I really like hiking up in the hills through the woods in my village. Each time I have taken different routes to different places. I find myself desiring to discover the best angle to look down on the village, or best viewpoint. I also like seeing the other people in the village hard at work in the morning. I think a lot of people wonder what the hell I'm doing when they see me way off somewhere, but they never say anything. I'm just happy that I have been staying busy in one way or another because as of now I'm telling time by the meter on my Brita water filter.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Conversation with my host Mom

Host Mom: "We only have four watermelons left Chris."
Me: “How many watermelons do you think we've eaten this summer, 40?”
HM (in high pitched, come on you're way off tone): “Nuuuu, 60 or 70!”
Me (laughing while choking on, yes, watermelon): “How many kilograms, 100?”
HM: (again, high pitched, learn how to count tone): “Nooooo, 200 kilograms or more!”
Me (grabbing my head laughing): “Jesus.”

This here is a picture of a Moldovan "beci" or cellar. People put watermelons, wine, anything else there to keep it fresh here. It is underground so it stays cold. As you can see my host family has got some watermelon. Seriously my host mom said "We're going low" when I took this picture. There's 18 there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The idea of owning a motorcycle seems awesome, I've got a walnut tree at my house, and other things...

I've had this conversation with other volunteers, but never have I wanted to ride a motorcycle, or even in a sidecar as bad as right now. When you're in the PC it is against the rules to ride motorcycles - you'll get kicked out. But dang, everybody has a motorcycle here and motorcycles just seem way cooler here. Not to mention more often than not motorcycles have some sort of sidecar that begs me to hop in. I don't plan on riding in a motorcycle in Moldova because it will get me kicked out, but when I get home I may just have to buy a motorcycle and convince fellow volunteers to do the same. We could start a ex-PC biker gang or something (one that spreads world peace and friendship of course).

I know it's been a hot summer because in the mornings I'm cold, and my 10 dollar battery operated Radio Shack digital clock with temperature read-out says 68 degrees and I feel like I'm freezing to death. Not a good sign. The winter could kill me. I think that I wish that I had brought that sleeping bag for winter. Dang, live and learn.

The jump rope I bought, sadly, was of terrible quality. The second time I used it it ripped four times by the handle and I kept having to re-tie it. I'll have to keep my eyes out for a new one of higher quality, but I don't know where I can find it. I bought this one in Chisinau in a store called SPORT, I don't know how I will find a store there with wider selection than that.

Yesterday I got 100 surveys back that we sent out to the high school. It asked 9th-12th graders to rank problems in the community, and rank what kinds of extracurricular activities (if available in their community) they like most. It also asked them if they would be willing to volunteer in their community and so on. The results leaned towards too much trash on the street and quite a spread on extracurricular activities. Yesterday and today my coworkers are busy finishing up accounting papers so I've prepared the results in excel to discuss with them tomorrow. Hopefully we can throw around some ideas brainstorming what our next steps may be!

I've been trying to talk to anybody I can in my community. It is both good practice and helps as far as connections for later. Kids are the easiest and funniest to talk to. They are also the most curious. A lot of boys have scooters (again, God I wish I had one) and they cruise around back and fourth yelling "Naroc!!" which means pretty much "what up?!" I stop them every once and awhile to see what they are up to.

Yesterday was a cool day because I got to help out four high schoolers with English. My tutor for Romanian is also the English teacher in the HS. She happens to tutor kids in English twice a week where I work so I hopped in there. We have a white board so I wrote the words down and helped with pronunciation. We then went on to translate a song my coworker had picked out - James Blunt "You're Beautiful." First of all I'll just be honest, this guy's voice is ridiculous. I was laughing half the time because the passionate lyrics mixed with his high pitched voice I could barely understand in English what was going on. Not to mention the last time I've heard the song I was probably a freshman in college. And again, these lyrics, my goodness. It was awesome though because the kids had to say what the lyrics were in English, and then write them down. Then my tutor would tell me to translate the lyrics from English to Romanian. I was a regular Moldovan speaking Romeo.

Another thing I'm really pumped about is at my house we have a huge walnut tree. I eat them all the time. You have to peel away a green layer and then you got a walnut. Crunch it on the ground and sha-bang-boom-bah. I never knew that they had this crazy green outside. Also I found out that in Romanian there isn't different names for nuts - it's nuts (terrible joke). They only have a name for peanuts, and the rest are just called nuts. Kinda crazy. I think it is similar with legs. Legs and everything on them is pretty much the same name. Legs and feet I think have the same name. Or I'm way off, I'm not quite sure.

Last weekend I headed into Chisinau for tutoring. While there there were a lot of other volunteers because there was a blues concert. There were Health volunteers there for In Service Training, and others for the concert so there were a lot of Americans. I got to hang out with a bunch of people who were also M24's and also got to see a blues which was really awesome. A good long weekend. When I got home on Sunday I think I slept for 12 hours. Which actually is something that is concerning me. I sleep so hard and so much more here than in the states. It almost freaks me out. I like staying up late by myself reading or whatever, but for some reason here I go to bed so early exhausted and I wake up like I've taken some Tylenol PM. It is crazy, I just always sleep like a rock for 10 hours every night. Yes I know I am complaining about sleeping, but still, it is concerning.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Six photos, and what's going down in my Moldovan crib.

So yes I have had a little bit of free time which allowed me to play with this new photo software, but hey, I have been busy around work and the community. It is slow, but at work I am starting to transmit that we do need some kind of organizational process before we just apply for grants. It seems that people I work with right now are very eager to start a new project with youth, but they don't know what exactly, they just know that they need funding. This can lead to some frustrations for me, because I have to repeatedly explain, "yes, this is great that these grants exist, but we need to actually sit down and think of ideas for projects in our community." It is tough, but I think that people at work are realizing that they need to settle down, and take some steps backwards to analyze our situation as an organization and a community.

Right now we are looking for projects in our community that will focus on youth, particularly youth in about 9th-12th year of school. I think it will be awesome once we throw some ideas around. We are currently discussing other projects that have worked for other small villages, and have finished formulating a questionnaire for the youth today. I personally have a strong interest in teaching children photography. I think getting together some of the less fortunate children of my village and putting cameras in their hands would be amazing. Ideally I would like to have meetings with them to talk about how to use cameras, meet to discuss what photos they enjoyed, and so on. It would be an awesome way for kids in this village to express themselves. Our main goal right now is to find and develop after school activities. Children in this village are not involved in much, and typically go home after school. Right now the majority of children (and adults) are indifferent to community activities and community involvement. It is vital for us, as an institution in the community, to harness their interests so we can begin to change the mentality that "community involvement is useless." It should be a very interesting adventure.

Anyway, that's what's going on in my world. In the mean time enjoy these pictures I took, and then rendered to make look cooler or worse, you can decide.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Viaţă mea acum.

Where to begin. It is Friday, and already the weekend. Last weekend happened to be a five-day weekend due to a couple of Moldovan holiday celebrations. One being the “Ziua de Independencia” and the other the “Ziua de Limba Noastra.” For those of you not living in a Romanian speaking country those holidays would be Moldova's Independence Day, and their 20 year celebration of switching from Cyrillic text, and the official language of Moldova being Romanian. For me this celebration of language included a huge concert in the heart of the capital near the monument of “Stefan cel Mare,” Steven the Great. This concert was awesome because I got to see and enjoy all of the Moldovan/Romanian Pop artists in person, this is awesome because ever since I have got here I have heard their songs blaring wherever I go. Also last weekend my youngest host sister started university in Chisinau. This leaves me with one host sister who is 22, who will be going to get her Masters degree in October. So this will leave me with a host mom. But actually, next week I will be finally meeting my host dad. He works in Moscow most of the time, and next week he is going to be coming home for a month. The funny thing is next week when he comes I will be gone for a seminar with my host partner – silly how that works out.

The equivalent of a boy band in Moldova and Romania.

After last weekend I got the chance to get back in the saddle of a regular week. This week went well in general. My host family and I are finally understanding each other, and we get along quite well. They are starting to understand my sarcastic sense of humor, which is good, because sarcasm is not so common in Moldovan culture. In the past I felt like a lot of situations were awkward, but now I think we have made a lot of progress because we don't have problems confronting one another, or asking questions. So you know, the Peace Corps gives me a salary to pay my host parents for living and for food. If I want to keep a certain amount to make your own meals everyday you can. I have opted for the “you make everything host mom” plan. This plan is pretty good, because I have found myself not too picky with the food Moldovan food. My host mom is pretty responsive to preferences I have, so I try to express myself when I like a certain meal. It is just a reality that culturally these people eat a lot of carbohydrates, and there is no getting around it. The only thing I don't really like is hard boiled eggs in the morning. Christopher's stomach is not in agreement. The only other real request I have made is that I would like some bananas, they sell them at almost any piata (market).

The summer here has been hot, and in the village I now live in I have to walk up and down a hill twice a day. It is not bad, but in the heat it will get you sweating. One of the things I really wish I would have bought and brought from America is the travel hammock I saw. It was awesome, packed small, and was affordable. This would have made the summer almost too cool though, because I could see myself reading and sleeping in one a lot. It would of made my host family think I was a joke of a human, that is, if they don't already. Summer is great though because I wear sandals everyday. Sandals are great because they don't create sock laundry, and you don't get as hot as you would in shoes. Well what comes with wearing sandals everyday is this criss-crossed tan line brought to you in part by Chaco sandals. Which, by the way volunteers in PC get 50% off their sandals, how fitting and stereotypical is that?

It is September 4th now, and I am starting to think about the winter. To be honest I'm kind of dreading it. I have never experienced a tough winter, and when I talk to other volunteers they tell me, “but you're from Washington, it gets cold there.” Then I have to explain to them how mild our winters are there, and that actually they are not that bad. Here people talk about how it gets well below zero, and we're talking about Celsius people, that's absolute zero if you have forgotten from you science text books, absolute. People tell me that I need some warm boots and I didn't bring any. I hear you can get some in the city that come fur lined, and for that reason alone I just may have to buy some. I also wish that I would have packed my sleeping bag. Next week we're going to go and buy wood for my soba. A soba is a fireplace built in the wall. I guess this fireplace heats up the wall well. The wall has tiles on it so they hold heat. I guess they do a good job of heating, or so I hear, so I think when the winter comes I will be okay indoors.

At work I have been networking as much as I can with other leaders in the community. Yesterday I met with a young guy, about two years older than myself, who is going to be a new PE teacher at the Leceul (high school). Turns out he teaches Tae-Kwon-Do to the primary school, and competes himself. He is hoping that we in our village can get a club together. He has also asked me if I want to go practice with him. I told him of course, and I look forward to it, as long as I don't get kicked in the jaw, or thrown down too hard. I have also met a lot of other figures in the community over the last month. Leaders of schools, hospitals, the mayor's office, and those who are just general community leaders without an institution.

In the office at work I have been helping with general computer problems. They usually consist of simple problems in excel. When I solve these simple tasks I usually get rewarded with a smile from my gold-toothed director, followed by “Bravo Christopher!” Two days ago I found out that all of our computers operate on a wireless network, which means I can bring my personal laptop to use there. I have a feeling that they forgot that, because a couple people I work with didn't understand how I was on the Internet. Other things I occupy my time with at work is researching community projects, brainstorming ideas for our community, and searching for small grants we can use for a couple of ideas we have in the works. It is tough right now because my partner and the director are really busy with finishing the auditing paperwork for the last three years. I have to hang tight they say, and after this we can get the ball rolling on other projects. Until then I just try to utilize my time at work as best I can.

I am pretty excited for this weekend. My host dad from my training village is turning 70 and there is going to be a masa at the house. A masa is a huge feast with accompanied wine and cognac. I really love my host family from training so am excited to spend a night there and rekindle good times. Tomorrow I'm headed to Chisinau and while I'm there I have to find him a gift. I have no idea what to get him, or how much to spend. Either way, I am sure they will be happy to see me. After this night I am probably going to meet up with some friends on Sunday in the Chisinau on the way back. It should be an awesome weekend accompanied by a lot of rutieras (tiny buses packed full of people). But for now anyway, things are developing well.

Towards the end of training we were shown a graph with vulnerability and adjustment over time, and told how in the beginning six months of PC service are a bit of a roller coaster. Right now I feel like I am on the up side, so for now I'm going to enjoy it. My future here, of course, will hold challenges where I will feel venerable, but recognizing that ahead of time will soften any falls that may occur.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A tour of my village

Well I thought it would be a good idea to give a tour of the village I live in. Below are photos of some of the main sites in the village.

First off my new sponge. One of the best investments I have ever made. This little guy has an abrasive side for those places that need extra scrubbing.
This old work truck is a pretty common model in Moldova. I imagine it is pretty old, and left over from the Soviet period. This trail heads out to the fotbal field.
This is a tractor in my neighborhood. I know when it is coming because it is really loud. A lot of people work out in the fields during the summer.
A typical magazin in my village. A 'magazin' is like a corner store like a 7-11, but with wider selections. They have meats, dish soap, slippers, buckets, whatever you desire.
A corner just before the center of my village.

These are actually the grapes we are growing. I think my family will make some wine, and sell the rest. I believe that they said grapes keep well, so we will be able to eat them all winter. Yippeeeee. If you look in the center of this photograph you can see our attic.

These are my host sisters and one of thier boyfreinds. They went to Odessa, and came back with this watermelon. It weighed 9 KG, and according to my Nokia converter feature that equals: 19.84127 Pounds. I'm pretty sure I ate about 3 KG. The next day when I looked in our cellar I counted 18 more watermelons, and when my host mom saw me laughing she then told me that we were going to buy more. Like my last post stated, there are a lot of watermelons in my life.
This is one of my cats. Here he is eating a mouse that he caught. Probably pretty delicious.
These our our chickens before lunch.
And this is our chicken at lunch. Fresh.
I went to a church because one of my coworkers invited me to a wedding. The guy happend to be from Seattle, and was here with his wife from the village I live in. It is a long story and pretty complicated, but this guy from Seattle had to get baptized. In this picture they are preparing for the ritual.
This is my house. We actually have two. One is called the casa mica (small house), and the other (this one) is called the casa mare (big house). I live in the big house, and have two rooms, not exactly what I expected when I joined the PC, but I'm not complaining.
Our casa mica. In here is a dining room/living room and the kitchen.
This is where I make business.
This is inside my room. I got a lot of stuffed animals laying around, reminance of my host sisters. Some of them are kind of creepy, but this lion is pretty cool.
This is the Primiria (mayor's office) for our village.
This is a concert I went to in Anneni Noi for Moldova's Independance Day. Here is the ensamble from our village's high school.
I work in this building. In the building is the village's post office, a shoe repair place, and a place that fixes electronics. On the second floor is the NGO that I am partnered with. There there is a computer lab, meeting room, and offices. The partner organization in Sweden has funded their rent for 10 years, and the organization has access to the entire basement, and a lot of other rooms on the second floor. I feel that we need to think of some projects that can utilize all of the space that is paid for, but we will see.
This is the main street in my village. I am very lucky because it is paved really nicely as you can see, where in other villages this is not so common. I am lucky because in winter when it gets wet there supposedly is ungodly amounts of mud in Moldova. I walk up and down this hill twice a day to work.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I just ate my 134th Moldovan watermelon, and then I uploaded these pictures.

If there is one thing I have learned this summer about Moldovans it is this: They love their watermelon. I have been slamming watermelon about twice a day for awhile now, and I believe it puts me at a grand total of 134 Moldovan watermelons. I have been comparing this total with the total of watermelon I have eaten in my entire life prior to coming to Moldova, and I believe I have eaten more in Moldova. Watermelon vendors are everywhere, and sometimes they are selling other melons that I don't even think we have in America. One is called 'zemos' which is yellow on the outside, and tastes like cantaloupe. Anyway, here are some pictures from my everyday life -

This is a hill I hiked up to get a different view of the village.
The woods at the top of this hill/Moldovan mountain.
A Moldovan goat in my path.
A couple of my kittens chillin out in the sun.
My host sister with our Moldovan security system.
Some turkey, they seem to be everywhere, and magically know how to get home.
One of the many types of grapes we grow at our house.
Other houses in the hillside.