Also, in October I helped coordinate “Europe Code Week” in Balti at the University. We had somewhere around 75 kids come to these sessions throughout the week to the various topics from HTML, CSS, AngularJS, OLE Technolgoy, and Git! It was a success and I was encouraged by the students enthusiasm and desire to learn more.
As soon as I got back to Moldova after my travels I made an immediate stop to visit some of the inspiring girls from the “Girls Go IT” camp. They were having a follow-up conference to continue to work on their projects and review their process. I was grateful that I was able to jump-in on the last day.
Talking with the girls about Technovation Challenge
All the girls who were able to attend the Girls Go IT follow-up conference
As for November… it was a blur. Some highlights include hanging out with youth to practice their English, the weekly-tech club we started at a local school, and celebrating Thanksgiving with some PCVs and local friends. I’ll just share the month of November in photo-form. Poftim!
With Onorina at Thanksgiving
View from my window of the first snow this winter
Practicing English with this fun book “Where the Wild Things Are”
Thanksgiving meal in Balti
The day before #dressember at the office
Cute puppy watching people pass by through the stone wall along my way to work
Homemade pizza and coffee for breakfast? Sure, thing.
Having fun sketching out a web design during tech-club one week
The M29s in Balti at Thanksgiving (after we realized we were the only M29s at the table)
Care package that I thought was lost (but it was just sitting in Chisinau)
Europe Code week was this past week starting on October 10 and ending today, October 18. Countries all over Europe hosted events during this period of time to introduce coding by engaging people in learning something new and exploring how code works.
I had learned about Code Week during the Girls Go IT camp this summer and thought it could be something we could do in Balti, the city I live & serve in (which happens to be the 2nd largest city in Moldova). After sharing it with a professor at the University here in Balti, we worked on the details, logistics, and he found the contacts to present 5 different topics for code week. (The surprise was on me when I discovered I was one of them!)
So why code week? Why learn to code? As quoted from the Europe Code Week website:
“Today we live in a world that has been affected by rapid advances in technology. The way we work, communicate, shop and think has changed dramatically. In order to cope with these rapid changes and to make sense of the world around us, we need to not only develop our understanding of how technology works, but also develop skills and capabilities, that will help us to adapt to living in this new era.
Learning to code helps us to make sense of how things work, explore ideas and make things, for both work and play. What’s more it helps us to unleash our creativity and work collaboratively with wonderful people both near us and all over the world.”
I was impressed. The week went incredibly well, way beyond my expectations. Even though all of the presentations were in Russian (except for mine) I can say I learned a few new things. Those who attended were both high school and University students and they really enjoyed it. Many of them came each day to continue to learn. The topics that were covered at the Balti code week location were HTML, CSS, Angular JS, OLE Technology, and Git. Some of the students shared that they would like to continue to do more sessions like this in the future. So, we shall see what is possible!
As I try to keep a monthly recap from my time in Moldova as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I looked back at August & September and realized what a blur it was. A full two months of fun adventures, new experiences, lots of laughter, but not without tears.
In August I shared about my friend’s visit to Moldova but as I look back now and reminisce, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have had a friend visit me here. There’s something about being able to share the tastes, smells, sounds, friendships, and daily life with someone from home — a little glimpse of understanding of the life I’ve come to know and embrace over the past year. It was a sweet gift and I am so thankful for the opportunity to share daily-life adventures and laughter together during her visit.
Then for the last two weeks of August, I traveled to a nearby village to help with a summer IT camp for girls along with 5 other Peace Corps volunteers, and a number of trainers and organizers. It was both an incredibly challenging and rewarding two weeks — where I met some amazing talented young ladies and also bonded with fellow PCVs over trying to understand our role as volunteers at this new camp.
I will be honest in sharing that once September rolled around, I found myself exhausted, burned out, and in the middle of what Peace Corps calls the “mid-service crisis”. Peace Corps tells you about this during training. The mid-service crisis is known to come around right in the middle of one’s service where you may find yourself at a low-point and questioning your decisions asking things like…
“Can I do this again for one more year?… How is this the halfway point already?! … What am I doing?… What work have I done?… What will I do this second year?… There’s not enough time left!… What am I going to do after Peace Corps?…”
I am grateful that I was not alone in this and felt supported, understood, and encouraged by some amazing friends during that dreadful “mid-service crisis”. One thing is for sure, it was a great reminder to me that you can’t have the happy “this-is-amazing” moments without the low “what-am-I-doing” points in life. After a busy summer full of helping with trainings, implementing new ideas and projects, saying goodbyes to the departing PCV group and hello’s to the incoming trainee group, I am grateful that season has passed. But that means we’re a little more closer to our end of service next summer. (Ack!!)
In other news, in September there was a big celebration for my host nephew in honor of his baptism. As part of tradition in the Orthodox church, a baby is baptized on a date decided between the family and the priest, not during a church service. This ceremony is called a botez and it involves deep traditions and rich cultural ceremonial practices within the Orthodox religion. After the botez (baptism), there is a big celebration involving copious amounts of food and drink, too many photos taken, lots of gifts given, and endless dancing the hora (dancing in circles). This momentous event for the baptism of the child is called a cumatrie, which would best be translated to “big celebratory party”. The cutest and best dressed little one we celebrated that day enjoyed all the attention and dancing into the wee hours of the evening. I’m pretty sure he outlasted me!
Also, in September I helped my host family at their village house with the fall harvest. From beating the seeds out of the sunflowers to collecting corn in the fields I learned a lot about how much work it takes to keep things going in the village. For example, we collected the corn from the field by hand for the pigs to have food for the winter… but sadly, with the little amount of rain we had this year the corn was about waist-high and there wasn’t much corn to collect. My host dad told me that last year they collected 3 wagon loads of corn and this year we didn’t even fill the bottom of the wagon.
Also, the month of September was spent trying to catch up and meet up with some amazing youth I have had the privilege of getting to know either recently or over the past year. These girls inspire me and I am so encouraged by their passion for learning and willingness to try new experiences.
Then lastly, I spent two days in the capital, Chisinau for a conference that brought two of our programs together for some collaboration and sharing — perfect for the Small Enterprise Development (SED) and Community & Organization Development (COD) volunteers. Even though this conference was held on the first two days of October, I’m throwing it in as part of the fun from September. I got to spend some much-needed quality time with some lovely friends during this conference… so much-needed that we didn’t get a single photo together — hooray for living in the moment. 🙂
As October has already shown that it’s rapidly speeding its way toward the end of the year, I am looking forward to all that is ahead within the next couple of weeks. Coming up soon: a visit from my mom and brother, beginning a communications club at a local school, introducing more code workshops during Europe Code Week, and kicking off Technovation Challenge Moldova for 2016. Here’s to a great toamna (fall) ahead!
My host family recently had a celebration in honor of the baptism of my host nephew. After the baptism (botez) at the church the family gets together for the cumatria, which is the celebration party in honor of this momentous occasion. There was a lot of food, toasting, and dancing. I will be sharing more later, until then…
I’m going to do a little rewinding from a few months ago when school was still in session and I was spending once a week with 3 kindergarten classes sharing simple English words, phrases, and songs. I spent about 30 minutes in each class between two different kindergarten schools averaging about 70 kids overall each day. Those days were exhausting but lots of fun.
Over the course of the school year they learned their numbers 1-10, colors, fruits, vegetables, animals, basic phrases like good morning and goodnight, and a couple of fun songs – all in English! I was impressed how quickly they picked up the words and phrases. Also, as the course of the school year progressed, I got over being nervous of singing in front of people, mostly with small children though.
I loved when I would arrive to each class and I would hear a whispering chorus of “Doamnasoara Sara! Hello!” (Miss Sara!) through the classroom until the teacher would bring order to the room. Toward the end of the school year I introduced the “Hokey Pokey” song. I loved their laughter as they sang and danced to the song with me.
My host mom was one of the teachers in one of the classes I would visit weekly. This was her final year teaching as she retired this past spring from teaching for many years.
Since it was my host mom’s last year of teaching and the kids in her class were moving onto first grade into another school, she created a whole program for the kids to put on for their families.
I was impressed with how much work my host mom put into this performance for the kids. From putting the program together with music she found online and skits she wrote, to creating the bow-ties for the boys and the headbands for the girls. The performance had music, singing, poems, dancing, and skits. I compiled a quick 2 minute video from a few of their dances during the performance. They’re pretty adorable if you ask me. They “rang” the bell to signify the end of the school year and shared some traditional Moldovan dances like the hora and then threw a wildcard in there by Psy (the artist who sang “Gangnam Style”). Enjoy!
In March, I taught the kids a new song for mother’s day and they continued to request it through the rest of the school year. My host mom even incorporated it into the performance that day. They loved this song… they requested every week.
…and then that song would be stuck in my head for days.
It’s summertime here and it is HOT. When it gets in the high 90’s and you need to take public transportation to get to your destination 2-3 hours away, it can be the biggest challenge to your day this time of year. You see, most Moldovan’s have a strong aversion to the current, which means that most if not all of the windows in public transportation stay closed, and if they are open they won’t stay open for long. If you’re lucky, maybe one will remain partially open and you’ll be situated in the perfect spot to receive the little breeze that comes your way. A few weeks ago it had to be way over 100 degrees in the rutiera (think big over-sized van) full of people and I’m surprised that I or anyone else didn’t pass out from the 2-3 hour ride. It was like riding in a smelly steamy sauna. Last week I got to experience a mini-bus ride in the village with 50+ people on it in 90+ degree heat. I think that my definition of personal space by the end of my service will look very different.
In June, 68 new Peace Corps Moldova volunteers arrived and they have been going through pre-service training, which has brought back all kinds of memories for me from a year ago. (How is it a year ago already?!) I helped with some training sessions for 4 weeks which had me traveling back and forth from site a lot and left me exhausted by the 4th week. Lots of hot 2-hour rutiera rides in those weeks.
In Balti, we said goodbye to 3 of our site mates who we spent the last year with. It feels different with them not being here and they are missed.
The kids in our apartment complex area put on a concert for us, especially for Leah and Paden who at that time were leaving and going back to the US in a few days. It was incredibly touching and so sweet. The evening consisted of dance performances, singing songs, reciting poems and skits in a mix of Russian, Romanian, and English.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to play games outside with them in the evenings. We’ve played dominoes and UNO in a mashup between Russian, Romanian, and English. It’s been a lot of fun to get to know these kids and also challenging as we try to communicate between 3 different languages.
At the end of June, I traveled to a friend’s village to celebrate her birthday with her host family along with a few other volunteer friends. Moldovan’s celebrate well, check out this incredible spread of food!
In July, we celebrated America’s Independence Day in Balti with a BBQ at another PCVs apartment complex outdoor area and invited our host families. You can read more about that experience HERE. Of course, I brought bubbles for the kids that would be there and it was a big hit for some of the neighborhood kids, especially this little guy pictured below.
A few days later in July, my primary organization I work with celebrated their 10 year anniversary. We had a big celebration with some of their partners and beneficiaries with a lunch at a really fancy banquet hall complete with speeches, certificates, gifts, and an abundance of delicious food.
We have a children’s park in our city with old soviet style amusement park rides. One Saturday in July a friend and I decided to go for a ride on the ferris wheel as we were passing through on the way home… because, why not?
I met up with some the girls from my Technovation Challenge team to see one of them sing in a choral concert. I enjoyed the concert and spending time with them afterward hearing about what they have been up to this summer.
Later in July, we had a fun get-together/meeting at another volunteers site. He just moved into a new apartment and we made pizza cake and ate amazing food all day because he’s quite the talented cook. I thought they were joking when they said we were going to make a pizza cake for dinner… no joke, it happened. Best meeting ever!
A few times between June & July, I went to my host family’s village house and enjoyed learning more about their honey bees, helped collect the fruit from the trees and potatoes from the ground, assisted my host mom on some home decorating, and saw a bit of the process that goes to making homemade rachiu with fruit (more on all that another time).
August is going to be a busy month with a friend’s visit from the US, beginning the work for a grant project for two communities in the North of Moldova, and helping out with a summer camp focusing on IT skills for young girls. I’m really looking forward to the next month ahead! PLUS… I recently received fun news that my blog has been selected as one of the finalists in the Peace Corps Third Goal “Blog It Home” contest! Voting on Facebook will happen August 3-10. I will share more details soon as I receive them. Stay tuned!