Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soroca

I went to Soroca today, a city of the north. Here there is a small chapel on the top of a hill where this panorama is taken from. Also an old fortress from the 1400s. It was cool to go here even though it was snowing and cold. I can't imagine how awesome the view would be from the top if it were a clear day. A new friend took me here, and we met his sister. They are from the area so they took me on a great walk around, and we stopped for some placinta and coffee.






BLOC APTS

I really think that these old bloc apartments make for some cool pictures. They are everywhere in Balti and I tend to take a lot of photos of them. They are so weathered on the outside, and usually are not older than 20 years. Also since each person living in each apartment actually owns their apartment they tend to invest a lot in them. As you can see many have the outside of their own balcony covered, or their apartment insulated for winter, or others simply decided it would be cool to paint their own, while the others remain untouched. It can make for quite the patchwork on some apartment buildings. Another thing about these apartments is that they are more often than not amazing on the insides. Moldovans are obsessed with having everything be "frumos" (pretty) so they often have the insides of these apartments decked out and remodeled.


Friday, December 10, 2010

The winning failure

So bad news on a grant that was won by a community partner and myself. We won the grant, but due to several complicated issues we were unable to implement it. We were one of six out of 60 that applied and won. This is quite the accomplishment in itself, and I am proud of this fact. Sadly we had to write an email yesterday about how we would not be able to accept the money. Below is pasted parts of the project, and what it would have done, for those interested in what it is I do here... or don't do. This is what we would have liked to have done.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF TARGET AREA
Council for Unity would like to offer support to children who have become socially vulnerable due to the migration of parents working abroad. Earnings abroad shield these children from poverty, but make them vulnerable to other risks. These children lack parental support and are more vulnerable socially and psychologically. Without guidance or communication with their parents, children may fail to develop social skills and struggle to establish healthy relationships with their peers. This often puts children at risk of making poor decisions. As some cases have shown these children are forced to deal with problems they are not capable of too early causing emotional and psychological trauma. Additionally, many parents and citizens of Balti do not recognize that these problems form when parents work abroad. Within „Liceu Teoretic Vasile Alecsandri," 35% of children from the ages 6-19 have at least one parent working abroad, 10% with of which have both parents working abroad. Moreover, it is well understood that many more parents leave to work abroad and do not register with the mayor's office – making the actual number much higher. Finally, this problem is growing. It is with these students, and this grant that Council for Unity hopes to develop better communication, psychological, and social services.

PROJECT SUMMARY
We would like to remedy the aforementioned problem through three goals: 1.) To provide the community and parents with information and resources that will promote awareness and understanding of the gravity of the problem, 2.) to improve the relationship between children and parents through communication, 3.) to help these children integrate socially through team building with others in the same situation, and to have monthly group discussion led by a psychologist.

By helping children integrate socially we can help disadvantaged children in a number of ways. Educating children actively, and giving children the skills and confidence to integrate socially, will thus cause them to make wiser decisions. If we can help children integrate socially, then we can help prevent them from turning to alcohol at a younger age, and mitigate risks of human trafficking that exist in Moldova. Educating the community is key to this success as it will reinforce our goal's and organization's success.

We plan to increase communication between children and parents abroad through paid Skype time and activities such as drawing, writing, and photography. We desire paid Skype time because often parents abroad have access to a cell phone, but not a computer. Skype can make these calls for the cheapest rate available. Activities such as drawing, writing, and photography are great because they will keep children busy with constructive, rather than destructive activities. In turn we will transmit students' work - every smile captured on film, every dried brush stroke, every verse of poetry – to their parents via post. Coordinator of Council for Unity Corina Ceban and Peace Corps Volunteer Christopher Cote will facilitate this project in collaboration with leaders within Council for Unity will plan and lead writing, photography, and art activities for children. Additionally, collaboration among other community organizations in Balti will be necessary for this project’s success. We plan to involve current students and graduates of “Ciprian Porumbescu” School of Art in Balti. “Ciprian Porumbescu” School of Art will make a minimum of two appearances to teach different art techniques. This will both help boost the success of the children’s artwork learning, as well as the project’s integrity within Balti.

Psychosocial activities we plan to utilize are team building activities as well as those in Council for Unity that lead sports activities. With these activities we seek to adapt Terre des hommes' s “MOVE” curriculum. “MOVE” seeks to “increase their [children's] self-confidence through games and sports. It is recognized that this self-confidence is essential in getting young people to integrate socially, and is also a factor in preventing exploitation and abuse.” We also plan on having group discussions with a professional psychologist to shed light on the mental effects related to these issues. Between Corina Ceban, Christopher Cote, and those trained in Council for Unity’s sport department we can accomplish these goals.

In the information section we plan on producing quarterly brochures for Balti which will include what our center offers, has accomplished, existing resources in Moldova, and articles to educate.

SPECIFIC GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
General Goal: To provide support and education to children who are vunerable due to parents working abroad.

GOAL 1: To provide and increase communication between children and parents abroad.
Objective 1: To increase communication through 60 parcels per month which would include drawings, letters, and photos sent to the parents of 60 children overseas per year.
Objective 2: To increase the direct communication between parents and children through 60 hours of Skype calls a month to 60 parents abroad for our first year.

GOAL 2: To help these children integrate socially through teambuilding activities, psychosocial activities, and psychological consultancy.
Objective 1: To solve problems by offering psychological counseling in groups once a month.
Objective 2: To hold activities once a week that educate the notion of respect, trust, responsibility, self confidence, and discipline.

GOAL 3: To raise community and parent sensibility of the seriousness and impacts that arise when children are left home alone.
Objective 1: To increase the knowledge of problems related to parents working abroad by 20% in the first 6 months. This will be done through surveying the community and parents.
Objective 2: To inform and involve the community (parents) about what we do as an organization, why we do what we do, what we have done, what we plan to do, and the resources available through 500 brochures four times a year.

Through the above set goals we believe that we can more effectively offer children information, communication, support, and confidence necessary for them to integrate into society. This is all done through active education and participation. Additionally, the information we provide will give cultural understanding and sensibility to the issues related to children when parents leave for work. We believe that this is the first step in resolving the issue and that our organization will be one of the first to address such issues first-hand. We imagine that the Small Project Fund will provide us with the financial resources necessary for one year. Beyond that we plan on seeking local funding for salaries and administrative costs when once our program is running and providing a vital service and is demonstrating results in the community. It is our vision that this program will function as long as the need exists.

MONITORING
In order to monitor our progress and evaluate success, we have established the below goals, which we think are possible within the first year of our project. We hope to use the Royal Norwegian Small Project Fund to get our program started, and while progressing and succeeding with these monitored results, search for local funders with evidence of our successes in order to be sustainable.

Within our first six months we aim to accomplish the below goals:
− Monthly: have offered a minimum of 200 Skype calls, totaling 50 hours, for 20 families.
− Weekly: have offered 3 different activities a week attended by 50 children with ages 6-19.
− Monthly: have sent 50 letters/drawings/photos to parents abroad from their children.
− Have increased communication (amount of time) between children and parents abroad by 30%.
− Have reduced the number of school absences by 10% due to our activities (among our group of children.
− Have increased this group's grades by 10%.
− Have successfully informed 600 of 1000 through distribution of brochures.

Throughout the period, we will monitor the number of participating children in activities. At the end of each month we plan on collecting data to record our month's progress. Each person involved will be assigned daily responsibilities to collect these statistics for activity attendance, letters sent, and discussions on Skype. With compiled statistics, we will analyze our progress with our above set goals. From here, we will have an enhanced ability to make any necessary adjustments for the second half of our first year.

Sushi

Yeah I know, I'm in the Peace Corps and making sushi, kind of funny I suppose. With winter coming I have been cooking more, and I gave a try at sushi a couple of times. It turned out pretty good. I made a lot of it, and invited my site mate Laela over for lunch. Was a pretty nice shin dig.



Sunday, December 5, 2010

And the snow fell


So winter came last week. A quick snow fall hit, but it was a wet snow. A couple more hit, but were melting. This morning when I woke up I took these pictures out of my apartment window. This seemed to be a good one, but right now the sun seems to be melting the snow away from the trees. All the snow makes for quite the slippery walk, epecially when the water freezes at night. I think I mentioned this in another post last year, but the PC gave us these things called Yaktrax and they work wonders on ice. Even though Moldovans give me (and other volunteers) funny looks it is worth it. Winter has arrived and I have been hunkering down and staying cozy in my apartment. Mostly making a lot of good food while I'm home. Thus the picture of yesterdays hash browns, coffee, and toad in a hole.




Monday, November 29, 2010

video
This is a "caruta," or horse drawn cart. A lot of people use them in Moldova. They usually use car wheels and tires on their cart as it allows for a smoother ride. In the winter they sometimes use a sled. Last winter I was lucky enough to ride around on one of those.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some random photos


Picture of Chisinau. Capital city of Moldova.

My favorite kid from our center.

Me on my birthday. The director of where I am volunteering pulling my ears 25 times for 25 years of living.

Me getting ready for a Halloween skit at our street children center.

Crows Were Everywhere

video

There was about a week long period where every morning these crows were going nuts. I happened to have my camera with me to document it. It is really too bad that the quality is no good. But honestly as far as I could see in every direction their were crows. It was a bit apocalyptic and creepy.

My Awesome English Club





Sooo many volunteers have tried to do English clubs here, with limited, to little success. I happened to get lucky. I have been doing an English class every Thursday for about three months now and enjoying if for many reasons. The 12th graders I teach are awesome. They have great personalities, and them combined with my goofiness gets things moving along well. I started by teaching different kinds of American music. Blues, folk, country, anything. These things usually led into social issues or what have you. Also we would dissect the lyrics to the best of their ability and discuss them. I'm really saving rap for a special day. For Halloween I talked about our traditions in America and so on. When I came back the next week, a few days before Halloween, they put on a full skit dressed up head-to-toe and had prepared all sorts of foods. I was really surprised and regret not having my camera with me.

Recently we have been doing more activities. In some of these photos you can see that somebody had to sit in front of the class and ask questions about what profession they have. "Do I work inside?," "Do I work with people a lot?," and so on until they guess correctly. Obviously they are not allowed to look at the chalk board. I thought this photo "a clown" was pretty funny. I guess they thought "babysitter" was a good one for me.

In the other photo you can see that I am trying to spread a little bit of American slang. I crack up when I teach Moldovans slang from America because it has been so long since I have been home, and it kind of gets me reminiscing. Bottom line though is that this English club is by far one of the coolest things I have been doing. I have made friends with a cool group of students and they actually care about learning when I step in the room. We have a good time a lot of laughs. It is one of the things I look forward to each week, and am really proud of.

Civic Education Project - "The Village"




A project I helped plan for, and am currently involved in is called "The Village" It is a really interesting participative civic education project. The below is quoted text from the handbook that was put together by another volunteer. It shows some of the reasoning that we set out to do the project in Moldova.
In Moldova, civic education is obligatory for students in the 5th through 12th grades. Despite this
fact, studies done have shown that civic education that is not participative has a limited impact on
the development of democratic attitudes and behaviors. Alongside bookwork, students must be given
opportunities to work together and be engaged in solving real community problems.
Local public administrations and civil society organizations in Moldova, have the mission to educate
and engage youth in civic action—the very mission of the civic education curriculum. Therefore, a
recognized relationship should exist between formal classroom study and the goals of the local public
administration and the NGO community. Civil society organizations have the opportunity to be working
together with schools to enable students to learn in their domain of expertise while accomplishing the civic
education curriculum goals.
SperanĊ£a, in partnership with the Educational Society for Malopolska (MTO), and Peace Corp
Moldova, is introducing two successful participative civic education programs in 18 to 24 communities
in Moldova. These civic programs (Village and PA) will be evaluated in partnership with SIEDO and The
Ministry of Education to explore an official relationship between civil society organizations and the public
schools in order to achieve their many common goals for adolescent civic development.

Essentially these children choose everything in a village. They design a "Peep" which is an identity, not their own, with a biography and so on. Then they speak through this "Peep" in all public discussion. This all leads to a village/town getting constructed. The children choose on a government, city planning, dividing up public versus private land, tyrant-ran village, whatever they choose goes. The point is to get them involved in decision making and all sorts of decision processes. This way, hopefully, they will become more active citizens in real society.
I have been actively taking part with a group of 11th graders, two hours a week. Our group decided on the name "Peepville." Although my group is older than many others who are participating throughout Moldova, they tend to stay focused, and excited when I show overt enthusiasm.
I know, the "Peeps" look like voodoo dolls. Another interesting fact is that all the groups throughout Moldova are keeping track of their "Village Project" through an online blog. Check it out here: http://cetatenieactiva.com/

Monday, November 22, 2010

I’ve been here for more than a year now which means in some ways I’ve acculturated without maybe realizing it. One example is learning that the private busses get me to the capital city Chisinau much faster. These are sketchy guys who you walk by and they just say “ChisinAU!” and you just sit in the van until it fills up. It took me awhile to realize that this option is the best as they go straight to Chisinau while others top to pick up others and let others off in villages. This process can get annoying if impatient. Instead, like I mentioned, in private vance you just have to wait until they are full – which is what I’m doing now, writing in a notebook, to pass the time, and hopefully put on my blog (which is what I am doing now I guess). I have not mad any good entries in a long time. I guess this rapidly approaching winter will solve that issue.

So why am I going to Chisinau on a Wednesday? Well, it turns out that we got all the funding necessary for a playground at “Evrica,” the street children organization that requested me as a volunteer. I have to go to the bank and sign forms to get access to the money, and get this playground installed before winter. The grant was through a Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). This essentially is a project that Peace Corps Volunteers get approved, then gets placed on the PC website. Normally this means that the volunteers get their friends and families to give towards their project. In my case an American NGO lead by Moldovans in Washington DC did all the fundraising necessary for the project. Their name: Casa Mare. They were very hardworking and persistent in doing so.

So I am excited. For many reasons. I am glad to be getting something concrete installed as well as knowing that my efforts are working in some way. The playround will have a sandbox, two slides, a swing for four, monkey bars, and a titter-totter. Also we have funding for balls, games, and a ping pong table.

I feel more settled in Balti now, but currently moved. The apartment is better than the last. I was completely happy in the last one, but my landlord sold my apartment and bought this new one. So here I am. I have two bedrooms, and as of yesterday hot water, which I still have not used yet. After doing this post I will have a hot shower. I have been bucket bathing for about 16 months now. To be honest it gets you clean, and frankly I’m used to it. I have grown to realize that the challenges here are not condition or amenities, they tend to be mental challenges. Challenges with dealing with others that may not appreciate your efforts, challenges with wondering if you are actually making a difference. What you’re doing. These things tend to weigh heavier than having to heat up water in a tea pot and splash yourself from a bucket.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Little Sarcasm

Well any of you all who know me know that I like to joke around a lot. A lot of the time these jokes or lines I say tend to be pretty stupid, but I like to say them anyway, as I really don't have what people call a “filter.” If I think something is funny, I usually say it.

Here in Moldova, in Romanian, these jokes do not translate very well as they tend to be sarcastic. Although, I must say that these kind of things are getting much better for me as Moldovans around me are beginning to understand me. A great example of such a joke is something that I have always thought to say to a Moldovan, and finally had a good opportunity. Here in Moldova they are big on slippers, especially come winter. In the village I had a pair for getting around outside, and a pair strictly for the house. I think that if I wore the outside pair inside, or even joked about it my host mom would have gutted me like one of her chickens. Trust me she is good at it, one day I came home from work to find all 90 dead. Anyway, so slippers in Moldova. A very popular pair of slippers are a comfy looking bunch, with the word “sport” sewed into the tops of them (I wish I had a picture for you all).

I have always wanted to joke with a vendor in the piata about this, but decided not to. Yesterday I was at work after about a week off because of some health problems (that’s another long story) and saw that my coworker Ana was wearing these slippers. I immediately smiled, but tried to hide it, and in the middle of our conversation with a stone cold serious face asked, “soooo, what kind of sports can you play in those?” pointing to her slippers. She actually thought this was really funny, and I was really glad. I know the joke is really lame, but it is the kind of sarcasm that I miss, and that I notice I still cling to, I simply refuse to give it all up. It is something that I miss about our culture in USA.

Not everyone is sarcastic in the USA, and I agree that too much sarcasm can probably be seen as a sign of weakness, just simply annoying, and even exhausting at points. But I would say that it is something that defines American humor, and I tend to miss that. To cope with this I do simple one-liners like the slipper one daily, and I find that I enjoy my day, and Moldovans around me too, as they are not used to it. I think it really is a great way to spread our American culture to Moldovans, especially in the workplace. Speaking of which, I should probably be on my way right now.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Settled-in? and why Russian sucks + update

So I guess I'm settled into my new place. I can't believe that I have been living in this apartment, and in Balti, for almost three months now. I guess the one downfall about my moving here is that I do not use, and can not use, Romanian as much. Living in Hirbovat I spoke it constantly at work, and obviously for everything with my host family. Here in Balti the majority on the streets speak Russian. I would guess that within Moldova this city has the highest amount of Russian speakers. A lot of them speak Russian, and only Russian, but when I speak to them in Romanian they understand what I'm saying. I honestly have not had too many experiences where I was doomed. Though yesterday when I got a haircut the lady did let out a pretty big sigh when I told her I spoke no Russian. Thinking of it though, in that situation I should have been the one letting out the big sigh.

Anyway, there is minimal Romanian practicing here for me, and if I want to get better it would have to be through a tutor or some mainly Romanian speaking friends - which I am working on. Spending time at home in Balti though is interesting because I'm by myself, and have nobody to talk to like I did with a host family. The point and fact of the matter is that my Romanian level is at a halt, and the idea of learning Russian seems ridiculous to me.

I do recognize that I am in a unique opportunity living in a city that speaks Russian, and that I have a year left and if I tried really hard I could pick up a thing or two - outside of the 11.3 words I know at this point. But this is what is discouraging. 1. Russian is really hard, anybody will admit that. 2. I studied Romanian intensively for two months, about 4-5 hours a day, 6 days a week, lived with a host family for a year, and I am about average at Romanian. Now I live by myself, don't have a chance (or am I convincing myself of this???) at intensive classwork, or a family to practice it with. I guess I think of how hard I worked on learning Romanian, and what level I am at now after a year, and then I think of picking up Russian - seems too much.

I have recently decided that I do want to learn another language though. I just think that I would like to learn another Romance language as it would 'click' faster.

Living up here with a site mate has been good. We have been pretty good at holding ourselves to running about four times a week for over a month now which is good. We are expecting another new volunteer up here in Balti with us the around the 6th which will be great. At this point the grant writing process is moving along quite well. We are almost finished writing the proposal in both English and Romanian. Now we need to find possible funders who would be willing to fund the playground for our street children center. Speaking of which, I better go and work on that now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A touch on work, and a few random photos.

Overall things are picking up. I have been in Balti for a month now. I have began to understand how the street children organization functions and we have been looking into the possibilities of a playground. I am not sure yet where we can find funding for such a project, but I have started looking. Having some kind of material or activities at this center is probably the biggest problem we have identified. These children have a wonderful facility, but simply do not have anything to dig into. Another problem that we would love to resolve is the problem we have with food transportation. We have a kitchen, but since the center is funded through the mayor's office there is a central kitchen where it is all made. Due the the fact that our center functions 24/7 we have to get somebody to take a bus and carry each day's food in bags. This can be complicated when there are many at the center as the containers full of food are very heavy. It is often a two-person job, and when the children at the center are little they can't help! So! We need a car basically. Haha. The most ironic thing about it all is that the mayor's office has budgeted us money for gas, but because we have access to no car we can't use it. Interesting predicament that I am hoping we can resolve.

Below are some random pictures from my days here.
Every evening it has been just pouring outside for probably a month now. This is the view out of my kitchen window from last night.

These are "Smilies," some fries that my sitemate convinced me we should bake. They are probably the most unhealthy thing in the world. Between the two of us we couldn't finish this many.


Here is the entrance to my apartment building on a sunny day. I live on the second floor, but on the opposite side of the building.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Things Done Changed (again), I moved!

So I moved. I switched 'sites' as we call it as Peace Corps Volunteers. I now live in Balti, the second biggest city in Moldova (I think). The place is great, and there is even another volunteer in the city with me. I am now assigned to an organization which focuses on street children, or children from rough family situations. The organization is open 24hours a day, and has all sorts of services. Below are a few pictures of my new apartment. I live on my own now and it is awesome. It's been hot out lately and I just bought a fan. About 35 C, which I think is 95 F. Ahh!

Marx, Engels, Lenin

My kitchen.

Room.

Bed. Notice the carpet on the wall. Very Moldovan.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

church in park. chisinau.


wrestling at our 'hram,' village birthday. winner gets a ram.
woman walking the village goats.

dead plant by my window.

our outside sink.

door to a village building.

Friday, May 21, 2010

woman at the market cutting up a cabbage.

casey throwing darts.

vendor in the market.


village boy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

peeling paint.

'priza' or plug-in.

village boy.


natasha.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

our new chickens.

abandoned house.

typical car.


our puppy looking at one of our chickens.