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.