It has been a month since my last post. Since then, I have visited Orthodox monasteries with other volunteers, learned enough Romanian to hold basic conversations with strangers (as well as more in-depth conversations about life with friends), written lesson plans about health in both English and Romanian, and have visited the site that will be my home for the next two years. Naturally, I could write in detail about each of these things–and I likely will someday. For now, I will focus on my site visit, both because it was the most exciting for me, and because it will keep my spirits up during these next intense and busy weeks of practice school (more to come about practice school in a later post).
For those of you who are unclear about my task in Moldova, I will describe my volunteer position. I will be working with two Moldovan teachers to teach students from 2nd-6th grade about health. The health education curriculum includes topics such as hand washing, dental hygiene, self-esteem, non-communicable diseases, substance abuse, healthy relationships, and sex education, depending on the age of the students. I will be planning lessons in Romanian and researching health topics to give students accurate information. While I will begin as a co-teacher, my true role is as co-facilitator. This is partially because the other part of my position is to teach my Moldovan partners different teaching techniques, especially for student-centered learning. Having grown up in the states, I am used to professors asking questions that require critical thinking and using different teaching methods to help students with different learning styles. Hopefully my experience both as a student and as a student consultant for a professor in college will help me this this part of my job.
I traveled with the director of my future school to my permanent site, where I met my future teaching partners, my host family, and my neighbors. My director, partners, and host family do not speak English, and there is only one teacher in the school (that I met) who speaks English. I had exactly two options: 1) I could feel disappointed and be jealous of other volunteers who have English-speakers in their homes and communities, or 2) I could embrace this as an opportunity to become extremely familiar with Romanian and accept the challenge to step outside of my communication comfort zone. I didn’t join the Peace Corps for option number 1, so it would have to be option number 2!
Once I got over my nervousness for meeting and communicating with new community members and a new family, things began to fall into place. My school director was kind enough to give me a tour of the village, as well as take me to a local festival that was focused on celebrating traditional Moldovan clothing. Over the course of the weekend, I also met the English teacher, a few students, and my two future partners. My partners are forate amabile; they seem extremely friendly, warm, open, and enthusiastic. They all wanted to know what I thought about the school, the village, and Moldova. I spent an afternoon drinking tea, eating biscuits and apricots, and discussing the school and life in Moldova with my future co-workers. By “discuss” I mean that I sat there with one eyebrow raised, hoping to catch a few words, and occasionally responding with very slowly-spoken sentences, but it was fun nonetheless.
Mama mea gazdă (my host mother) is an incredibly sweet, warm, and generous woman. She is genuinely happy and excited to have a new person living in her home. She is also an absolutely amazing cook, so do not be surprised if I come back to the states twice my original size. Tatăl meu gazdă is also very kind; I heard from many other volunteers that their host fathers were a bit stand-offish, but mine tried to include me in conversations, even when I wouldn’t understand. I also have two host brothers around my age, and they are wonderful as well. They will be working and studying away from the village for most of the time that I will be living with the family, but it was nice to meet them all the same. One of my host brothers said that they “always wanted a sister,” and I tried not to cry immediately. It was amazing how quickly I felt comfortable there. The family has an abundance of ducks, chickens, rabbits, nutria, three dogs, two cats, and two pigs. The garden is large and beautiful, and we have grapes to give us shade in the summer.
In case you couldn’t tell, everything about my future site is singing to me. The people are extremely friendly and hospitable, the children are energetic, the ice cream is great (this is more important to me than it should be), and my family is beautiful, inside and out. Lastly–but not inconsequentially–I’m in love with the beautiful scenery. Living in a valley close to a river reminds me of living in a valley in Southern Oregon, just a short drive from the Rogue River. Or, perhaps it reminds me of living at Reed, where we had a canyon for wildlife in the middle of our campus. Or, maybe it reminds me of our family’s cabin in Michigan, which rests next to a lake and holds so many warm memories of family. Essentially, my future home reminds me of the only other places in the world I have felt “at home.” I did not know that I would find one across the world, but I’m so excited to have another home.