I firmly believe that if this job were posted in a classified ad, it would declaim: „Seeking an individual of any age or gender who exudes infinite patience and hopeless frustration. Indepdently hardworking and disturbingly self motivated. Then in miniature print: Ability to laugh off anything is a must. Must not expect fiscal or phsyical recompensation”. On the days that I wake up, and I’m just not feeling it, it takes every bit of vigor to put one foot in front of the other. I can’t just slump out of bed and have a quiet day at work; Instead, no matter how I look or behave, I will still face the 500+ extra attentive people who continue to survey my every action, akin to a shark in shallow water as if walking down the corridor can lead to some crazy, unprecented act. I’ve had an interesting few weeks.
I was three days from vacation. Who was I kidding, back when I considered a school vacation to be a gift from God? I was just a silly kid who spent half of every school day slacking off with friends. As a teacher, it’s even more so an orgasmic break from the reality of hardwork going unappreciated. However, before I attained freedom status I had to complete four different evaluations for each of my eight classes, as my first unit as an educator in Moldova had come to an end. While putting together tests and review games in my new native language is no easy feat, it really is a dignified sensation to witness students recite what you have taught them. While my ego has never been subject to question, I believe I experienced my first genuine rush of pride. Knowing that I was a kinesthetic apprentice during my school days, I made sure I was able to reach each type of student in my classrooms which allowed the information to be broken down and actually infused into their minds, rather than rip through their eardrums like a roller coaster on a mission to the other side and out. Unsurpassed by all, I know have obtained at least a bit of my pupils’ trust as a competent, knowledgable educator.
I took full advantage of this vacation. I conquered my first full day off by traveling around and monestary-hopping with a few staff members and students. A few striking hikes and many photographs later, I had seen every bit of the two most popular destinations in Moldova (Orhei Vechi & Saharna) – cross that off the bucket list. Of course, I spent a few hours of Monday-Wednesday preparing for future lessons and getting ahead, but it was all to be worth it because after an American-style Halloween in the capital I knew I was going to go back and visit my summer PST (Pre-Service Training) host family that I grew so fond of. Outfitted with a newfound capability to speak Romanian, I confidentally hopped on all three bus routes and arrived back at Milestii Mici. As I was walking up the hill from the bus stop, I was cordially greeted by Valentine playing soccer in the street with the kids I spent much of my summer with. While I will spare you the play-by-play, I must convey that being able to say thank you, and I mean actually being able to vocally declare it and my gratitude for welcoming me in to their home in my most vulnerable state, was worth every bit of anguish I have tolerated along the way. We shared a great meal, caught up on each other’s lives and showered one another with whatever offerings we scruffled up. With every glass of house wine, I seemed to become more chatty, breaking loose of the shy and timid impression my stay had left. Blind to it at the time, now I reminisce in the shock on my host dad’s face as I spoke to him, and realize he was feeding me more wine the more loquacious I became – Yes, I do have a voice.. it was just concealed by English before. Touche, Tudor, touche.
Vacation ended perfectly, having been invited to my partner Galina’s house for a Sunday night feast. This was the precise type of affair I day-dreamed of upon my acceptance into the Peace Corps. We built a fire out of devoured corn cobs directly on the ground, and clustered around it. Two whole fish were slapped down on a steel grid sandwiched between two bricks and we watched as the open fire cooked them, skin and itensines and all. A single goblet was passed around and restocked with wine after each turn in the rotation while we used forks and fingers to rip apart the unbroken creatures from a communal bowl.
Back at school, my last week has been spent concentrating on my youth groups’ recent production in our district center. Having to teach a few more lectures alone this week, with basketball practice wedged between school and our group meetings, I was greeted by 9am-8pm days (who ever thaught that would happen in the peace corps?). However, I was spending so much time with my students and away from my virtual comfort zone that I totally overlooked the fact I am in another country. Augment that I was without internet and credit on my phone, I virtually lost my mind. One night a man walked into our school, who I later found out was a imperative figure in the political ministry, and during his rant recanted a story. I never dared to drift off, and during my attentiveness, I found myself on the brink of laughter. Before I belted out a chuckle, I scanned the room and saw nothing but somber faces. I hastily returned to reality and grasped that I must have not understood correctly. Oh yeah, I’m still a foreigner.
To make matters further tricky, in my tiny little world, I have been bordered by „village” talk. This is Moldovaneşte – a slang mix between lax Romanian and Russian. Having studied proper Romanian, I sometimes fail to be understood, but when I flee the village I remark the change. If I go to the store and buy credit for my first generation cell phone, my vocal requests are no longer met by second guesses or funny looks. Well, I’ll be damned. In America, if I didn’t know the answer to something I plugged it into some app on my smart phone. During my first 4 months in Moldova, I just remained silent and wished the raw silence wouldn’t instigate too many conundrums. Now, I orally express my desires and questions and somehow stumble upon an answer and full conversation. Progress.
I can never go a day without forgetting the adjustment I have made. I had to make two phone calls to find out who the President of the United States was. The power of communication has been demonstrated. On two days last week I went 18 hours without realizing we didn’t have power throughout the village. If those don’t shed light on my life, I don’t know what does. Being off the grid and not being able to be home to look over my family during a tragedy such as Hurricane Sandy was quite a difficult combination. My thoughts and prayers are with those severely affected, but if I can offer a positive spin on the situation, maybe times like these can open our eyes to how people in the rest of the world live on a daily basis. I resisted the urge to comment on Facebook statuses who were horrified of the thought of 3 days without electricity. Yes, it is tough, but as the Moldovan’s would say here.. „that is life, tomorrow’s another day”.
In case you are wondering, my group „TIRCOMED” (Democrit spelled backwards) placed 2nd in the competition and we were awared with 5,000 lei (~ 350 USD) for our school and community. Our 8-minute skit was full of laughter and educational skits that promoted equality and youths’ rights. Not only did I have a blast preparing all week, getting to know the older students, and learning the traditional Moldovan dance but over 50 people from our village came to the event to offer support, including our school director and Mayor. It was awesome. While not every day is filled with sunshine or butterflies, I am really quite happy with life at the moment.