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.