Friday, February 26, 2010

Yep, I think Spring might have just happened

Today I went to work at around 12 o'clock to find that it was locked and didn't really know what to do. I looked in my wallet to find about 28 lei, and figured I would go for a walk and get a haircut to waste some time. I arrived about 10 minutes too late for a haircut, and ran into this funeral ceremony. Here they carry the body through the village and to the cemetery for burial. Everyone stops on the streets, both cars and people in respect. In the back of the crowd is two people. One person has a basket of treats and walks up to everybody on the street. As you can see I got biscuits and some candy. The other guy has a bucket full of wine and he walks up to everybody offering a cup to honor the dead.
Here you can see the candy I was given. It was very interesting to observe how everybody stopped and paid respect. The experience was also very interesting due to the pure spontaneity of it all.

A fellow volunteer Ryne is coming to visit me today, so my host mom hurriedly cleaned my room for him/me. Moldovans are really big on being good hosts, and want things to be really nice for them. I feel bad, and tell her this, because I simply wanted her to help me shake-out my rug, but instead she scrubbed my floors and much more. Spring is out though, and as you can see my dog 'Tîmcă' is enjoying the sun. Another nice indicator is that the flowers have peaked through the dirt, and are reaching out of dormancy. As am I. I decided today to get a tutor for my language. Which is an interesting tale in itself. This basically entailed me walking to a strangers door, pounding on it, and explaining that she was recommended to me as a good teacher. She seemed pretty nice, and it will be cool to meet with her this coming Wednesday to get a move on and a bump up on my language skills.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Village Photos

Here I got to visit the wonderful village of Lozova where Matt (another rad volunteer) and I hit up Loz Vegas and got crazy.
During our language training Neal explained to us why Louisiana 'should' be the richest state in the U.S.
A weathered sign where there used to be a bar.
Me thinking how ridiculous I look in my village with an orange jacket - since (I'm generalizing) all Moldovan guys wear black jackets and hats.
Where I have to decide whether or not to choose ice or mud on my street.
A trail that links my side of the village with the other.
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Spring and stuff

A good Monday. It's sunny out, which means there is no snow, now the next challenge is mud. But still, it is beautiful out, and I almost forgot what everything looks like in my village when it is not blanketed with snow. I'd like to think it is spring, but I'm scared another snow will come as soon as I've accepted that it's spring, so I'm a bit apprehensive.

This morning I woke up and did my laundry. This is not an easy task, especially when you wait until you have one pair of underwear left. I told my host mom that "I'm having an underwear crisis, and need to wash my clothes." She laughed, and helped me find the needed supplies: bucket, soap, water, my hands. It was a nice day so I think it will actually dry out and I won't have to wait for it to freeze, then unfreeze, then put it by the heater for it to dry - it might just be dry today. I also had an awesome lunch which has triggered me into a great mood. This fried bread called turtă, and soup with a chicken breast. I'm pretty sure that is my favorite Moldovan lunch. I don't know what has gotten into my host mom, but she has really been stepping it up with the meals.

Overall things are moving along at work, but we will see this week. We have started discussing the specifics of our budget, and we are having a community meeting tomorrow to discuss the 'newer' direction of our organization. We hope that this meeting will spark some constructive criticism, and maybe spark interest which will lead to more community involvement, or better yet, some people who want to help us.

In other, sadder, recent news: two of my cats died, I left my second debit card in an ATM, and my computer screen's pixels are dying. One of the cats was my favorite, and we have no idea why it died. The debit card system here is different than in USA (I blame that, not myself (denial?)) because it gives you your money and then you have to request the card, so I often put the money in my wallet, turn, and leave. With the computer I might have to send it to USA to get it fixed, which sucks because I just got internet at my house. Sigh. I'm not going to let it get me down too much.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A sweet update.

I took these pictures today! So I put them here simply to share before I begin my blog update.

Today was productive, yet funny as well. I believe that I have mentioned it before, but Yaktrax are provided to all us volunteers since we are an investment of the American people, and they care about us. I've been using my pair a lot, but as the snow has melted some, today I left without them. Mistake. My road connects with the main road with a quick uphill spot, and it is here I ran into trouble.
As I made my way half way up this short hill that is a sheet of solid ice, I realized I had no traction. I fell down face first on all fours scrambling to get my balance and stand up. It was comical to say the least. On the main road watching me were two women watching and laughing hysterically, along with a neighbor of mine Iurie. Recognizing my audience I became more nervous and said "I don't know what to do!" in Romanian. The women continued to laugh while I was slipping all over the place loosing ground downhill. The women could not keep their composure while laughing hiding their smiles and turning away from me. At one point I stopped trying because I was stuck in one spot and didn't know what to do. I was like a lost puppy that didn't know what to do.
Using my humiliation as fuel, somehow, I made it to the top of the ice sheet with both fists above my head in celebration, and a face of embarrassment. The two women were trying not to laugh as I met them there, but they couldn't help it. All I could manage to do was laugh and say, "I didn't have traction!" I then joined my neighbor Iurie into the valley towards work.
Oh work (sigh). It is going well, but slow. We are slowly including more and more people in our meetings to have more community involvement, which is ideal. I sometimes guide meetings with activities like today for instance. I had written on a big piece of butcher paper linked questions which produced better strategic planning. What is tough is when we've decided on a goal, and then somebody gets on something completely unrelated to the goal, and I have to ask where the connection exists.
So what we are working on? I think I have mentioned it to a lot of you all (friends) but I should put it here anyway. In a nutshell - In Moldova there are a lot of middle aged people working abroad in other countries, and because of this the parents often leave their children with one parent or with grandparents to live. This is an interesting problem because they are often shielded from poverty, yet develop other socially vulnerable problems. No guidance from parents, forced to grow up too fast with responsibilities, and so on many teens act out in different ways. So it is this target group we have decided to focus on. We think that our role can be to promote communication between parents and these children to improve and preserve their relationship. We think that we can achieve this goal through four objectives. These would be providing Skype time to children in our village to call parents, a psychologist to discuss the issue, information and resources that exist in Moldova for parents and children, and provide activities which produce materials to send such as letters, drawings, and photos, thus improving communication with between parents and children. It is a beginning, and we are planning best we can before applying for grants.
Another side project that I have started to explore is the weight room beneath the high school. I hope that we can work with community members to plan, then apply for a grant which would provide more weights and equiptment, do some repairs, and establish a more strongly organized program there. This is just in the beginning and I will be discussing with the main guy next week.
I personally have been busy in this weight room lifting weights three times a week. I am glad that I found it because I have been making some friends and staying in decent shape. There have been a couple of funny stories in the weight room. One would be the main guy there who is training me Vasile telling me that my calf muscles are small, and asking me if I want to grow them. The other was when I was resting in between sets and I made eye-contact with a guy my age who is in really good shape. I was resting and said "I don't know what to do (nu ştiu ce să fac)." He responded by pointing at his bicep, looking at me, and saying "weak (slab)." I did not take it too personally, I laughed, and then went to do some curls. It has been cool to hang out there and lift weights with guys from my community because they are dedicated to something regular, and therefore in my opinion take life seriously.
So again, to sandwich this blog post let us end where we started. That damn ice slope Winter Olympics 2010 patch. As I returned from work to that spot with a smile I was thinking, dang, I am going to fall on my face. And I saw a woman on the bottom part, while I was at the top. I paused, and said to her, "I fell down here this morning," and she said "me too." Then she said, "here, use this fence," as she shimmed up. I smiled, and when she reached me she helped as I began shimmying down by saying "take my hand." I hopped over, took her hand, and made my way to my house. It was awesome to see a complete stranger help me out, but it was even funnier to think that my day ended where it began.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Snowball fight and such.

So yesterday I started a snowball fight. It is one of those things you learn over time, that is, when you see a group of kids playing with snow you just know that if you lob one snowball in there that it will start a catastrophe. And it did. Before I knew it I had about 20 kids (no joke) throwing snowballs at me. It was kind of rough, but I like to think I held my own. Moldovans don't grow up playing sports that use a lot of throwing (in my opinion) so my accuracy plus the fact that the average age of my enemies was 10.3 years of age helped me.

I'm glad that I made the decision to start this snowball fight, and peg a few kids with snowballs. I was having a rough day and it made us all laugh. People walking by were laughing so hard at us. It was great.

Anyway, today I went the the raion center in Anenii Noi to get internet at my house. It will be installed soon and I will no longer be only using it at work. So that's pretty cool. What else, hmmmm. Oh I had a pretty good beard going and I shaved it finally. I didn't shave for about a month, and I think that's the longest I have gone without shaving. Not shaving in Moldova means that you are the Pastor of the church, or lazy. Or people don't shave when somebody dies because they are in mourning. To say little on the matter, it attracted attention. Now I feel like I look fresh and young again/more Moldovan.

I'll try to update soon with more action I promise.