Thursday, April 30, 2009

One year!

Sorry to anyone that has been trying to follow this blog. But I have made a couple of landmark dates and I want to note them here. First off it was a couple of months ago that I passed my first year in country and this week coming I will celebrate my first full year in site.

Just as other volunteers report having that first year under your belt changes your whole life. I am not sure why but life is getting busier. While I am still in conversation with my partner over a project we might do some day, I have almost completed one year of after school English clubs with about twenty some kids. But just recently I have been helping out other volunteers and their partners with strategic planning. In fact last week we did two days of strategic planning in three languages, Russian, Moldovan and English. There was lots of good conversation in the mix. It is called going with the flow.

One thing that happens at the mid service mark are medical check ups. I have passed all of mine with flying colors. In the next couple of months we will loose a TEFL and Health teacher group as they complete their service but we will be getting in new volunteers for all our programs. But that will make my training group the second most senior, we are not the babies any more, we are the experience.

Spring has come and the garden is in. It stays light much later now and that means I can take a later bus home from the capital and walk the last hour in light. Today is the first day of the last month of school and it is a holiday, labor day. We are all getting ready for the summer but what will we do?

Sorry there is no picture with this blog but I am going it on dial-up and I am not sure how long it would take to upload a picture but longer then I am willing to wait.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Back for a bit...

Christmas is over along with the loooog holiday that started with Christmas on the new calendar and ended with New Years on the old calendar. I took the opportunity to travel to Italy with Jus, my son and am now back home in Moldova. The picture at the right is one of the class posters that the kids at school posted just before the holidays. Living in an Orthodox country makes the Christmas holiday fair game in school. But as the poster reads it is all associated more with the New Year.

It has been ten months in country and since another group has gone through training and are in their sites we are now not the newbies on the block. I have settled into my wonderful host Mom's life and home and look forward to my birthday masa this coming weekend.

This week we are having a conference with the other Community Development volunteers in country. It has been great exchanging experiences especially with the more senior group that have been at this a little long then my group.

I spend most of my time in the south of the country either in my small village or the larger raion (like a country) center to shop for those things not available in the village. There also some volunteers in the larger city and it is an opportunity to talk to someone in English. No one in my town speaks English.

I am sorry to those that have been following this blog that I have been absent for quite awhile but I have no access from my village. I can not guarantee that won't happen again but thanks for keeping up.

I am in the capitol for a meeting and have the time to post something. Hope this happens again soon.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Three months

It is the end of my first three months as a volunteer. In Moldova this is significant as our policy only allows two out of site overnights in the first three months and no vacations. But getting here is almost a let down. I have not planned any vacation and our group is struggling to get together to celebrate our imagined freedom. I think we are going to end up in the capital for a restaurant dinner. We had tried a camping spot but the excessive rains in parts of the country have closed down the river side camp.

But staying in site for a solid three months has done wonders for my thinking Moldovan brain. The language is getting better, still not easily conversant but they say that about the end of your first year that comes. Since it is summer and my first assignment is with a school organization, these three months have been rather slow. While it can get rather warm here during the day it seems to cool off at night. Part of the cooling is because we are in a rural area with trees as both Chisinau and near by Romanian cities are hot and stay hot.

The attached picture was taken during children's day at our local kindergarten. If you look closely you will notice that the children are not exactly sitting on the ground, something not allowed here, sitting on the ground. This is also the same posture you hold while going to the bathroom. It makes for strong legs and if you do it right strong knees. Both of those areas on my body are becoming stronger. I try to walk for an hour each day exploring another part of my village.

The Olympics have started in China and I was able to watch some of the opening ceremony on our television. Our reception is not good so I plan on relying on the BBC and my trusty radio for much of my coverage. It will be a new experience and I hear that the folks in Michigan are relying on the Canadian Broadcasting Company for their coverage.

My school director has asked me to sponsor an after school English Club and I look forward to further discussion with him about what he wants to happen. I believe he is interested in making English available to students, right now we offer French. I have some thoughts on how we might be able to accomplish this using the Peace Corps and a solution we used in Birmingham.

I make my regular trips into Cahul and yesterday went in to pick up a package from L.L.Bean. A friend had ordered some clothes from the states and successfully received them so I thought I would try. It took just about three weeks from the online ordering to picking them up. I have yet to decided whether the cost and time were valuable but it is nice to know I can get packages from the states. While I had to go to our rion (sort of like a state but the size of a small Michigan country) center to pick up the package and it had to be inspected by an official after I filled out a form I could not understand at the very least it was a new experience.

I am still somewhat frustrated by the internet access here as it is dial up and slow and for some reason yahoo does not always load completely leaving me without my address book or the ability to reply to messages received. But I would be lost without the ability to communicate with the rest of the world in a two way conversation. I remember years ago the first time I was in the Peace Corps communicating only by snail mail but then I was in a site with other volunteers.

Oh, I bought a phone only to discover that it does not work right here at my house. One of the reasons I started walking was to play the Verizon man to find spots in town that it does work. I have a couple that depend on the weather but that is better than nothing. Peace Corps volunteers do a lot of texting to communicate. It is cheaper then actual phone calls. It is also mostly prepaid as Moldovia is just getting the contract thing going. Unless you do make phone calls a lot and live where you can do that the contract idea does not seem too useful.

One nice thing about the internet as I have been able to Skype with Susie in Romania and when she is not out of her site and her computer is working we spend at least an hour on the phone each week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I few weeks

I apologize to those that have been following this blog. I did not realize how far behind I have gotten. I guess that the slowness of up loading pictures with dial-up had kept me from thinking blog. In fact I am waiting right now as a picture is attempting to upload. But life has slowed down with summer at least for me. But as I write this the cow bells are sounding in the road in front of our house as the cows are followed home. We also have some sheep that have a sheep bell that pass by both in the morning and afternoon.

I have spent much of the summer so far working on my language skills. I had a tutor for a while but her grandmother has become ill and that is her first responsibility. She will be going back to school in Chisinau this fall so I will be in need of another tutor soon.

I have started working on the strategic planning ideas I have for my partner organization. This week my school director asked if I would start an English club after school in the fall. I have come to the conclusion that I am game to teach anyone English that wants to learn as it opens up a new place for people. I have been reviewing the material we have on teaching English. I hope to marry it with some kind of ecology/service activities.

Last weekend I broke down and bought a phone. I had resisted it all through training as I did not grow up with a cell phone in my hand but it is the main communication tool for PCV. Texting is how we communicate and it was lonely without access. I only got it home to discover it does not receive much here at the house and I have to climb one of the hills around our village to be able to send and receive messages. But it is helpful to keep tapped into the grapevine of PC gossip.

I am nearing the end of my first three months in site which here in Moldova means more freedom to travel around Moldova. I am not sure it will make a difference but we will have to wait and see. I have had good interaction with other volunteers as there are four in the city I travel to to shop and we have had others visit. But I spend most of my time here in my site where I am the only one that speaks English. That is until we have English club this fall.

The picture is of a bridge across the river/stream that runs down the middle of the valley this village occupies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dial up is ssslllloooowwwwww

As I enter my third week in site I thought I would do something rather then describe my week so I want to tell you about our cat and one of our dogs. Mulka is the cats name and when I first saw her (I think it is a her) I immediately assumed that she was a kitten with her size. But I am starting to think she might just be a small cat as she gets very little to eat. In fact I think her diet is made up of what she begs from the table. She has a rather erratic life as sometimes she is allowed feed from the table and other times she will shooed away with a foot. But Mulka always comes back for more. She weasels her way into the house when there is food around.

Her companion in crime is Laura, who is a male dog and is allowed to run free. I say this because our other two dogs are chained to something, Laura is the pet dog. Laura is not much bigger than Mulka and they play like they are little kids and best friends. Mulka will chew at Laura’s leg and Laura will chase Mulka not only in the garden but in and out of the house. That is until they are discovered running in and out and are shooed out. At first I was somewhat concerned for Mulka and the ruff housing but she seems to hold her own.

The reason I decided to write about Mulka and Laura was what I found this morning on my way to the outhouse. When I wake up in the morning I usually head to the outhouse to start my morning. This morning when I stepped out of the house there were Mulka and Laura. Mulka was curled up on top of Laura who was curled up on the ground. Since they are so close in size Mulka almost covered Laura up completely. As I noted, they are not regularly allowed in the house and especially not at night. It is warm enough these days that there is little concern for their safety. But Laura slept on the asphalt that is our yard and Mulka was sleeping on top of him like a blanket. They were not still there when I retuned from my mission.

I do have to comment on the fact that yesterday was wash day for me. I am not sure if I have mentioned this but we hand wash clothes around here. This means a couple of runs to the well down the road to replenish the water supply as you go as well as heating water. But it can become an all day event as according to the instructions on the box you are to let your clothes soak for two hours. Then you have to rinse them and attempt to wring them dry but they still drip on the line. I usually end up with two loads as mixing the lights and darks only makes the lights dark.

Once you have them on the line you have to shift them around as direct sun gets things dried faster. As I said I have not mastered wringing them out and the left-in water drips to the bottom of the hanging article. I have found that they dry faster if you keep turning them upside down. The darker stuff does dry faster as the sun hits them. I am sure this is much more than you ever wanted to know about washing clothes but I want you to appreciate your washing machines and treat them well.

Well, training is over. I have moved south to my site in a small village up the valley from the main road between Chisinau and Cahul. I am just north of Cahul and will most likely go there for those things you can not find in a small town.

The second Wednesday in May we were sworn in at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Chisinau. Our final language exam had been the Friday before. After ten weeks of training we are officially Peace Corps Volunteers.

The speaker of the Moldovan parliament along with the ministers from local government and agriculture came and spoke at our ceremony. My partner was there also. Our partners work with the organization that we are volunteering for and are responsible for making sure certain things happen. Your partner is important as along with your host family they are your entry into your new community. My partner is a physics and math teacher in the school I am working with and is just one year older then I am.

We left after the ceremony as while the mileage is not much it takes two and a half hours to make the trip. My partner’s son-in-law had returned from working in Russia for the Easter holiday and so was home with a car to come get me. Which was great as I had my entire luggage plus the distiller, first aid kit and heater that Peace Corps issues volunteers here in Moldova. Riding a bus would have not been fun!

Moldova is tied in the world for the highest percentage of GNP coming through remittances from family members working out of the country. Most families have someone like my partner’s son-in-law working in Russia or a western European country. The mother of my host family in training worked in Italy and the daughter of my new host family is in Russia. There is a need for more jobs paying a livable wage here in Moldova. Moldova is slowly adapting to a market economy after many years of Soviet control.

Today I did my first hand washing. While my family in training had a washing machine my new home does not. In fact running water comes as fast as you can carry it from the well down the street. The john is at the end of the garden. Your clothes are washed with your hands. I am not sure I will be wearing my jeans much as they are hard to wring out and drip for hours on the line.

But I can get dial-up internet through the phone. I might even be able to get DSL through the phone line. Think about it. It is much easier to use a phone line to attach to the internet then it is to put water or a toilet into a house that is already built. It makes for some interesting experience.

My next task is to find myself a tutor. While we had ten weeks of language training, in no way are we conversant at the level we need to do our jobs. Our first few months in site are supposed to help our language proficiency. Since I have yet to find someone that speaks English, Russian maybe but not English, here in town my language should soar.

I have left behind the good friends of training and am embarking on a new life and new friends.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Almost the end....

Introducing my door or gate dog. We have no need for door bells here as we all have a dog that starts barking the second someones steps into the yard. This is ours and she/he has gotten use to me and rarely barks when I come home or leave anymore. This dog reminds me of either Lady or Asta uncut.

Training is over and we have just the rest of this weekend before we move back into Chisinau for a day and a half. Our language exam was on Friday, which seems like a week ago, but it was just two days ago. We get the results Tuesday and we are sworn in on Wednesday. We are off to our new homes in the afternoon on Wednesday.

It is hard to believe that it has only been ten weeks since we all met for the first time in Philadelphia. Now we are speaking something resembeling Romanian with a Moldovan twixt. While the ten weeks seem long and short it was full. I have managed to get a second cold and my guess this all has to do with the stress, rain (we have a lot and last year they had a drought) and the different food. A couple of times a week we have a 45 minute hikes up the hill for lectures at the hub site and recently I have gotten real sweaty and then sat around getting cold. I think this may have helped. But it is all over now and we are all off to a new adventure on Wednesday. Wish us all luck!