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.