Preparations leading up to Easter in Moldova

Today has been my favorite holiday celebrated here in Moldova so far, hands down. People have been preparing for it for days – cleaning their homes, shopping, baking, and preparing food.

My host family tried to explain it to me throughout the week which had peaked my interest the more they shared with me about it. I heard about the early 4am wake up on Sunday morning where would go to the church and have our food blessed and see the church lit up with “luminaries” all around. I was told that I would eat a lot of delicious food and drink house wine throughout the day and take naps in between. It sounded like Thanksgiving and Christmas all put into one day. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this day.

Eggs are dyed red for the Easter celebration (I read somewhere that the reason they are red is to represent the blood of Christ). I will explain more later about what you must do before eating one of these special eggs.
Eggs are dyed red for the Easter celebration (I read somewhere that the reason they are red is to represent the blood of Christ). I will explain more later about what you must do before eating one of these special eggs.

Yesterday, I had to make a quick 2 hour trip to Chisinau with my Technovation Challenge team for them to pitch their idea and get more feedback before they submit their project in less than two weeks. It was a tiring day doing the trip in one day, but I am grateful that the girls got to experience it and get some good feedback about presenting and their app idea.

The girls presenting at the Generator Hub in Chisinau. Even the #girlsintech documentary film  was there that day to film all the teams that were there to present their ideas.
The girls presenting at the Generator Hub in Chisinau. Even the #girlsintech documentary film was there that day to film all the teams pitching their projects.

We made it back to Balti before dinner so we could help at our homes with Easter preparations. Well, at least that is what happened at my apartment with my host family. I got home just in time to try to help with the Easter day preparations.

My host mom preparing all the different kids of meat for the Easter celebration. All happening in one photo - sarmale (rice mixture with meat wrapped in cabbage or grape leaves), parjoale (fried meatballs), roasted lamb, and a new chicken recipe.
My host mom preparing all the different kids of meat for the Easter celebration. All happening in one photo – sarmale (rice mixture with meat wrapped in cabbage or grape leaves), parjoale (fried meatballs), roasted lamb, and a new chicken recipe.
I got to help with chopping up pickles and ham for a salad... I didn't do quite a good a job as my host mom though -- although, she's the one with all the years of experience of chopping them into perfect squares. Mine were more like mutilated rectangles.
I got to help with chopping up pickles and ham for a salad… I didn’t do quite a good a job as my host mom though — although, she’s the one with all the years of experience of chopping them into perfect squares. Mine were more like mutilated rectangles.

Final preparations were made and the basket of food for the morning was prepared to take to the church in the wee hours. At 11:00 pm I heard all the church bells near our apartment start ringing as some people made their way to the church to be there throughout the whole night for the church service and blessing of food.

You could feel the anticipation throughout the whole city of what was before us… all the cleaning, all the food preparation, all the plans made, all the traveling to visit family — all leading up to Easter day — to celebrate Christ had risen (Hristos a înviat).

More to come about Easter day celebrations! Coming up next…

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5 Fun and Unique Signs of Spring in Moldova

Here it is, almost the end of March and signs of spring have been noticeable for a few weeks now. I had great intentions on sharing this information at the beginning of the month, but time has gotten the best of me lately.

The following are the top 5 ways I have discovered that spring is around the corner in Moldova. Enjoy!

1) Celebrate Martisor [mar-stee-shore]…

A martisor that my host mom gave me to wear on my coat.
A martisor that my host mom gave me to wear on my coat.

March 1st marks the first day of spring in Moldova. In honor of this day, known as Martisor, people make or purchase red and white pendents and give them to friends and family. They will wear them for the entire month of March pinned to their clothing or coats, close to their heart. It is believed that when you wear it for the entire month of March that you will be strong and healthy in the year ahead. On the last day of March you then take it and hang it on a fruit tree and make a wish. If the tree blooms in the spring then your wish will come true.

There are also some interesting folktales about the story of martisor, you can read about a popular one here.

2) Women’s Day…

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Flowers from a vendor in Chisinau.

International Women’s day is a big holiday that is celebrated very well here. Flowers and/or gifts are given to all women on this day in celebration and honor of the role that women play in every day life. I had to travel to Chisinau that day and met many strangers who wished me a “happy day” and some even smiled. I saw lots of flowers everywhere, many being purchased and many men and women walking through the city with them. I’m pretty sure the demand for flowers for Women’s day in Moldova is probably equivalent to flower demands for Valentine’s day in the US, if not more.

3) Kindergarten children singing and dancing…

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Every kindergarten classroom hosts a program called Matineu in honor of their mothers and to celebrate spring. I was able to attend 2 of these celebrations with some of the classes I teach English words to every week. During this hour long program, the young kids are dressed in fancy costumes and they recite poetry, dance, and sing songs about spring and their moms. I had taught them a song in English a few weeks prior to this program called “I love my mommy”…. and the surprise was on me when I got called to the front of the room in the middle of the program to have them sing it (which I was not prepared to do so).

Also, I included a short little clip of one of the songs that took me by surprise – I didn’t know there was a Romanian version of this song. Let’s see if you can recognize it… it was a popular song from 1997. Oh the new things you can learn… I have to admit, I didn’t know what to think of this at first but it’s kinda cute.

4) Spring flowers…

One of the many snowdrop flowers you can find at the beginning of spring.
One of the many snowdrop flowers you can find at the beginning of spring. (This photo was taken by one of the youth from a photo club/workshop I started a few weeks ago)

Beautiful spring flowers begin popping up around the beginning of March. Many of them can be found in the forest. My host dad said you can oftentimes find people selling them along the road. The first ones that pop up are snow drops (pictured above) and some small wild purple flowers that I don’t know the name of yet

5) Thick Mud…

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A muddy road my friend Katie and I ventured along in her village.

Mud… or glod as it is known in Romianian. This is something that is not scarce here in Moldova. In the villages where they have no paved roads it can be extremely muddy, and requiring you to clean your boots multiple times a day. In the city, there is still a lot of mud, but at least there are some parts that you can get by without muddy shoes. Ugh…glod for days.

Happy Spring!

Classroom Notes: About Stories and Icebergs

This is part of a series, “Classroom Notes” that I will be sharing as I connect with a classroom in the U.S. through the World Wise Schools program. You can read the previous posts about this series here at CLASSROOM NOTES.

A few weeks ago I met with the 6th grade class to share and discuss the topic of cultural differences. We had an activity that I used during Peace Corps training that uses the analogy of an iceberg. When it comes to seeing and understanding cultural differences it can be quite challenging — just like an iceberg. There are things that you can see above the surface (tip of the iceberg) like facial expressions, food, and art and then there are things that you cannot see below the surface like rules of social etiquette or the concept of beauty that are found much deeper under the surface of the iceberg.

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Some of the students here in the lower left part of the screen during our Skype call.

Previously, I had found a neat online tool to illustrate this. You can find the online activity HERE.  It really helped with understanding how there are some things that are much more noticeable like how someone dresses as part of their culture, however one may not understand WHY just by looking at them, but the reason why they may dress a certain way has to do with a deeper level of understanding within their culture which is hidden below the surface of understanding.

Another fun part of our call was a video that I found within the depths of Peace Corps resources explaining different cultural gaffes from around the world. This certainly gave them a different perspective and something to think about if they ever travel abroad.

Cultural differences are just that… different! There is no right or wrong way of doing something — part of experiencing a new culture is learning about the differences and seeing things from a new perspective. There are MANY things that I just don’t understand here in Moldova but I just have to remember that those things are part of Moldova’s culture and history and I may never understand them. And they may not understand me/Americans — but that’s the unique part of being a Peace Corps volunteer; we get to share those experiences and differences with one another.