“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” – Jon Krakauer
So Doamna Director, a concrete schedule is replaced by absolute anarchy for the first month of school? All right. I read this quote. Yes ma’am, I understand that my class got cancelled today 3 minutes before it was supposed to begin. I see. I re-read this quote. Two weeks in, realizing I have met with 7th grade three times but have yet to meet my 5th graders. I guess, I understand. I re-read the quote. Aloud. Today, marking the significance that I made it through two weeks of school in Moldova without a bullet in my brain. Screw the quote; I went to the bar.
To my eleven (-ish) loyal blog followers, let’s backpedal a little, shall we? I strutted into the courtyard of the school bright and early on the 3rd of September. Dressed in my “Sunday best” and having practiced my speech so much my saliva glands were as dry as the Sahara, I was ready for Bell Ceremony. This holiday is truly a brilliant tradition that America should really adopt, or at least be envious of. To mark the first day of classes, the entire student body and staff, complete with their families by their side, gather to celebrate a day to commit to memory why education is cherished. The 1st graders are announced and munificently welcomed to the school, escorted to the front of the stage by the 12th graders. The school director gave an eloquent speech, followed by the Mayor whom delivered his punctual version. Thinking I was speaking last when things were winding down, I was surprised to hear him introduce me to the crowd and waved me over to the microphone. Three months ago, I was guzzling down beers with my fraternity brothers. Now, here I am giving a speech entirely in Romanian in front of an 800-person assembly… and I even made a joke.
To wrap up the speeches, a 1st grader is chosen to be toted around the courtyard on the shoulders of a 12th grader, manually hitting a cowbell. I’m sure you can identify the significance, but still it’s a really nice touch. After the service concluded, students shot me a final befuddled look and went in to their respective homerooms and presented their gifts. It is a prominent tradition to bring something for the teachers and staff who have worked so hard to provide a source of education. To my delight, I was given two bouquets of flowers and a sack-full of apples from their gardens’. Receiving gifts is nice, but getting them from people who don’t have much to give is poignant. The best part of this holiday: it’s a half-day, so teachers’ can have a commemoration of their own variety.
I spent the next two weeks in full surveillance mode; How was the student body going to react to me? What the hell goes on during the day? I issued a few introductory lessons and laid low for the most part, but the unwanted attention has reached a new sky-scraping level. All I can think is, man how cute and naïve was I to think I was flying under the radar before the launch of school. The giggles from the girls as I walk by, the occasional screams of “Hello” echoing from the opposite end of a hallway, and the distinctive treatment I get from the locals appears to be conduct that won’t be fading anytime soon. However, I will take it in stride and have become conscious that this is just as new of an experience for them as it is for me. So for now, I am sticking by the side of my Moldovan partners which is a blessing in disguise. Olga Bîrledeanu, one of the sweetest women I have ever encountered is in charge of the 4-b class. These kids are truly adorable. If I’m in sitting in the back of the class, they jump at any opportunity Olga has her back turned to shoot me a wink, a wave, or a look that means they’re coming for me as soon as the bell sounds. And as soon as that noise becomes audible, you better believe they swarm me like a pack of bees around a honeycomb. Whatever might be around me, they find interesting and are sure to ask about. Even the grumpiest grinch of a man couldn’t resist smiling around these children. Unfortunately, one thing I have noticed is a staggering amount of burn wounds. The sum of students, just in my school, in which I’ve spotted grim third-degree burn damage, could fill an entire inpatient clinic. I’m not exactly sure of the reason behind this, but it is something I will be sure to investigate.
Like a race horse with a bee stinging its’ ass, I raced out of the gate way faster than I should have, because I sure as hell won’t be able to keep up this pace. Fearful of downtime, I expressed my every desire to be as involved in the community as possible, and I certainly got my wish. When the fantasy of having a stable schedule comes to fruition, I will be coaching basketball, assisting with high school English classes, and collaborating with the mayor on a playground and sports complex renovation project. I have never been able to see anything but the big picture, so why start now even in tiny Moldova? Thanks for the welcome, Lăpuşna, and whether or not you ever come to understand why I am here, I hope I can enrich the lives of each and every one of you. Sincerely, Domnul Brett