Monday, September 8, 2008

The dealings....August Update

My entertainment for one evening was watching my host dad lower a watermelon down to the bottom of the well to keep it cool. “It's even better than the refrigerator or the cellar”, he said and he was right, the next day he brought it back up and it was wonderfully cold and yummy. He also said that when he was growing up, his family would store up to 20 watermelons in the well! Hmm...wouldn't that be nice, a watermelon a day till the end of summer! He also mentioned rather proudly that growing up he spent all his time in the fields with the watermelons and the only thing he ate was watermelon and bread. My host mom then added, “That is why he's not healthy today.” referring to how in the last few weeks, he's been banned from alcohol because he's getting injections for all his sickness.

This month, I've noticed that the church bell has been ringing more than the usual every Sunday, in remainder of it being a day of rest or for other days, being a Saint's day. I normally ask when I hear the church bell ringing outside those days, “Is it a holiday today?” to my host family and they would respond, “No, someone died today.” I've learned to tell the difference and need not ask anymore.

When there is a death, the bell rings every 20 minutes during the whole service, and then follows a march with the casket to the cemetery passing through the road by my house. I can tell when this happens due to the amount of religious flags and towels draped to the side of them passing my fence, and sometimes there would be a choir singing along.

I asked my host dad, after observing that lately there has been more deaths following each other than when I first came, “Is it true that there are more deaths in the summer than in any other time?” He said that this year the weather has been really hot and food has been more expensive that is why more people have been dying and besides in the winter, people have wine to drink and they stay healthier that way. I'm not sure how true the last explanation is, but it sure made me think.

Before it got steaming hot outside, during one of my walks around the village I stopped to the buy a bar of chocolate with walnuts (the best kind, only if it's in the red packaging with Russian letters on it). Then I thought how wonderful it would be to walk and eat at the same time, until I got some stares along the way. I wasn't quite sure what was going on, I usually get stares, or sometimes even dirty looks, but this was different, it felt different. I didn't understand what it was from, until I was walking pass this house and a lady came out, barely any teeth left and said something I couldn't understand, I couldn't tell if it was from her missing teeth or if it was in Russian. However, she motioned at my purse and then I realized that she must have seen me eat the chocolate, so I gave her some. It totally occurred to me at that time how arrogant I must seem to walk around eating something that some people can not afford. I feel really bad for not taking that into consideration beforehand. Well, now I know not to do that anymore.

I've been spending the last couple of weeks working on drawing a mural for my host mom's classroom. She had seen some of my work that I'd started after getting all my art supplies from the art piața and later asked me to do a mural in the new classroom. I should mention that she had just gotten her Psychology teaching degree and will now start to teach it at the high school! It will be the first time the subject is being taught at the school, which is very exciting, therefore, she got a bigger classroom. As of now, I've finished the drawing and will spend this week painting it to get the room ready for the new school year. She's been wanting it to be a surprise for her students and the staff, so she has asked me to not say anything. I've been feeling weird being seen around the school at 9pm on a Saturday night. I bet they are all wondering, “What the heck is the she doing sneaking around here?”

It has been a process working with my host mom, I've got to say because, she is a perfectionist such as I. She definitely wants it to be a certain way and I totally understand, she is the one who has to teach and see at it all day everyday. I've been trying to not take things personally and know that she is only voicing what she wants and I want to think I would do the same if I were in her position, if anything I should probably learn from her to demand for what I want. I have a hard time already trying to figure out what it is I want at most times, so I guess once I have that down I should be on the right direction.

Well, it boils down to this, I only have four more days to paint because this weekend I won't be in site. I will be spending my weekend at the beach! Yes, finally this summer will be complete! Therefore, it's crunch time and the other day she asked me if I knew that this Wednesday is Independence day for Moldova, which means no one will be working. I had no idea, I mean I was told during training but do I remember these things? No. We were both glad that I can spend all day Wednesday day painting, but what I want to tell you more about is what she said after all of this.

When you think of Independence Day, 4th of July for us, what do you think of?

Pride and joy for your country? To some extent we all feel that way for America. Well, she said that she doesn't understand why Wednesday is Independence Day when the people in this country can hardly live. It's not something to be joyful about. She explains that she doesn't want anyone to have something another person doesn't have. For one to have an advantage (fair or not) over another person. She said that she doesn't see how Moldova can benefit from their Independence from Russia when now that the country is The Republic of Moldova, no one knows where it is on the map. Yes, Moldova is independent, independent from help and resources.

Then she went on to say that Sunday is Ziua de Limba, which means Language Day when the national language switched to Romanian over Russian and the alphabet switched from Cyrillic to Latin. She seemed displeased and didn't seem to see the importance of such a change when she had to switched from writing Romanian using the Cyrillic alphabet all her life to one day having to write in Latin alphabet and till this day, she said she writes with mistakes. These changes she said, would mean something to her if it proved that Moldova is a thriving country but Moldova is poor due from it's independence from Russia.

On the other side, Language Day for some Moldovan signifies the greatest movement of independence from Russia and many fought for that change. It was interesting to me to hear her take on it, but I am not at all surprise for I've met many Moldovan who have expressed their desire to still be apart of the Soviet Union, where everyone had work and schooling and “wasn't suffering”.

There is a lot of history here and I am mostly listening and taking in information when this subject arises.

I came home from work one day to my host dad picking grapes and making wine. We sat and talked, well actually, I mostly listened to him explain to me the process of making wine and which grapes tend to make the best wine and so on and so fourth. I followed him to the barrel of grapes as he mushed it all together and he continued to tell me that there are some grapes that after being left for two weeks will clump together and float to the top of the barrel. He said at one time he gave the clump to the chickens, hens and roosters, as to every food items left over. He soon discovered that soon after they all kept on falling down and eventually fell asleep that that particular type of grapes are excellent for wine making. He said that the hen was drunk for 3 days, only waking up stumbling over for food and water!

Then he continued on with a story about his neighbor who one day did the same thing he did, but she didn't think that her poultry was drunk from the grapes, but thought that they all died, so she plucked all their feathers to keep for stuffing pillows and tossed them by the canal. She was awoken in the night to all the featherless chicken clucking their way back home. Wow, what an image!

As to work, I've started computer tutoring for the people at the office. My partner who usually types everything up for everyone is on vacation for the whole month, and so everyone has been coming to me to type up documents. I had to quickly learn how to type in Romanian and to read people's handwriting. After that I started to mention computer lessons and so far my accountant's cashier is the only one who've started lessons with me, but both my Mayor and the Secretary has expressed their interest. My goal is to get know how to conduct these lessons on a wider scale and later have a computer seminar for everyone in the village that is interested at the computer lab in the high school. The challenge is for me to familiarize myself with using the computer in Russian. Thank god, Peace Corps gave us COD volunteers manual on how to interpret it.

In the grant department, I've found an Infrastructure grant for the Mayor in which, he wants to use it for fixing up the main road and bridge in the village, repairing the bathroom in the high school (which is most needed), getting two more micro buses that will travel to and from our district center (right now we have one bus, people mostly hitch hike if they don't know anybody in the village that is going as well), and installing gas for those who don't have it already. The grant is from an American organization apart of the World Bank Organization and it needs to be written in English.

For the last several months, I've been spending most of my time translating information on the grant and giving it to him. Until one day, I found out that I could translate the whole web page using Google Translate in just a second. That must have been the happiest day for me in Moldova so far. Who would have known, my one month of wasted time can be done in a second. Don't know if I should cry or sing. I guess the only benefit to it is I've learned new Romanian words!

The next step is mostly waiting on my part for my tutor who wrote the last grant for the village, to write this one in Romanian and soon after I and my partner, who knows a little English will work together to translate it back in English. What a process!

That's the extent to what is going on in my work life. I'm hoping that as soon as school starts up once again I should be able to get some clubs going or participate in existing one and get to hang out with children more often.

I have a feeling that next month will go by much faster, since more than half of the month I will be occupied. There will be a COD project and design management seminar that me and my partner or my mayor will have to go to for three days, then I have my Language Exam with classes before hand for refreshing then the exam, and finally my vacation to Budapest and Romania! I'm sure that after all of that I will come back refreshed and ready to get more work going.

As you probably already know, my external hard drive decided not to work anymore and my phone was stolen. First it was the hard drive, which not only had all my documents backed up, but movies in which I've downloaded from other volunteers. Which left me to resort to find other things to occupy my nights, other than watching movies, such as reading, doing tae bo, yoga or mediating and playing games on my computer or just laying on my bed staring at my ceiling. Then my phone which was pretty much my life line to the outside world. Now without both of those things, I've experienced what it's like to go “without”. I had no idea I depended on those things until it is gone. The phone was more drastic, feeling so disconnected from people, it's not that I used the phone that much besides the occasional texting between the volunteers and people at home, but to know that there is no way to communicate gives me a panic feeling.

How did I get this way? What ever happened to life without technology, guess that is not possible, since I am using my laptop to type this right now. This is dependence, I am no longer independent of anything. Simply can't be. I don't think I can ever revert to times before technology.

Speaking of technology, all of this is in hopes that tomorrow my internet hero will come and fix it up and I will get to send this. Some of the info on here is out dated since I've written it several days ago. I'm sure you understand. Signing off with all the love in the world from Moldova!

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