Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I have two theories about socks here in Moldova. My first theory is that the importance of the sock was unbeknownst to me until this October. The second theory is that all Moldovans are conspiring against me in an effort to convince me to wear socks. Yes, the first one is probably more likely, but bear with me, and maybe you’ll believe my conspiracy theory as well.

The first occasion upon which my sockless feet were an issue was early October. I left for school wearing flats and my host mom and sister both mentioned that I should put on socks so I don’t get sick. I evaded the situation and told them I was fine… because who wants to wear black socks with brown flats?! The next night at dinner, my host mom looks under the table and sees that my feet are, again, sockless. She yells “Cristen, I told you to wear socks!” I should have seen this coming.

For the rest of October, I have been told multiple times every week to wear socks. Now it has become kind of a joke. I just laugh when she tells me to put on my socks. Plus I’ve given in, and I go put them on.

Then yesterday, my partner teacher mentioned that I must be cold without socks. Then shortly after, another teacher said the same. All I could thing was: my coworkers now too?!

Conspiracy… okay, probably not. But be warned. In Moldova, you can find ways to avoid eating too much (Moldovans are the most hospitable people in the world and relentlessly offer you more food) but you can’t get along without a good old pair of socks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Conversations in Romanian

One thing that is very different in Moldova is the conversations. The topics, the tone of voice, the body language. You name it, its different. Its one thing to converse with another culture when you understand all that is being said. It is something completely different when you dont understand everything and cant express all that you would like to say.

Right now, my language isn’t great, so Ive definitely had my fair share of slip ups.

For example, after my swearing in ceremony, I left all my fellow Peace Corps volunteers, loaded my life into a car, and had to say goodbye to the volunteers whom I had spent just about every hour with for the past 10 weeks. Being who I am, I cried, of course. And this was infront of my school director and village mayor- but Im only human! Anyways, my mayor and school director drove me back to my village and during the hour and a half drive, we chatted as much as was possible. My mayor asked me if I was sad to be coming to Tintareni. “No,” I told him, “I’m just sad to leave all my friends, but I will have many more friends in Tintareni!” He laughed a little and said “Many friends?!” “Yes,” I said, “I will have many friends in Tintareni!” He laughed harder now and my school director said to him “she doesn’t understand.”

It was only later, that I realized what I had said to him. I had told him that I will have many boyfriends in Tintareni. All I could think was “wonderful… now my town mayor probably thinks Im a hooker.” Hes a bit of a comedian, though, so all is good!

I’ve also been known to mix up bolnav (sick), murat (pickled), and murder (dirty).

My host sister asked if I was hungry and I wanted to tell her that I felt sick. So I said, “ma simt murat.” Which means “I feel pickled.” Yes, I felt pickled… She didn’t understand, but she got the idea and didn’t try to offer me food anymore.

I told my host family that I ate my other host family. They got a good laugh out of that and I guess I did too.

So, just about every time I talk to someone, for the first time or second time or even third, the conversation goes exactly the same:

Moldovan: How do you find Moldova?

Me: I like it very much. It is beautiful, my host family is great, the people are great, the food is delicious.

Moldovan: Do you miss your home and your family?

Me: Of course, very much. But I want to be in Moldova, if I wanted to go home, I would go home.

Moldovan: You should find a boy and stay here:

Me: (laughter) Maybe, but my mom wouldn’t be very happy. She wants me home.

Moldovan: Well she can come visit Moldova

Me: If it is life, it is life (this is the best I can do… it both satisfies them and ends the questioning about me finding a Moldovan husband. Usually at this point, we both have somewhere to go so we say our goodbyes)

After this, if the conversation is not over, it turns to family, food, money, or a persons weight. It is hard sometimes to be a part of these conversations because American culture is so different. Moldovans very openly discuss income, the hardships they have, and how much a person weighs. This is one thing I am learning to adjust to, or trying to adjust to at the very least.

Anyways, that is how about 75% of my conversations go… when I’m lucky! Last week I had a slightly more interesting conversation. I came home from work and both my town mayor and the mayor/governor of my raion were at my house (A raion in Moldova is the equivalent of a state in the US). What an interesting conversation we had.

At first we chatted about what Im doing, same old thing, how I like Moldova, etc etc. Then he went on to tell me that he knew other Peace Corps volunteers and my host mom said that one of the volunteers works in his office. I was excited because I finally understood at this point who this man was, where he worked, and that he knew one of my fellow volunteers. I said “oh! You work with Thomas!” His face change and he responded seriously “no, Thomas works with me.” I apologized but, “Crap! Ive offended the most important person Ive met in Moldova” is the only thing that was running through my head. Luckily for me, the storm cloud passed and he changed the subject.

After this, we talked about my family and where we would visit when they came over and other random things. As him and my village mayor where about to leave, my village mayor commented “isn’t it funny that Cristen is in Tintareni and she is so thin yet working with a bunch of fat people.”

Yes, my mayor said this. All you can do in this situation is smile and nod…. and smile and nod is what I did. It hasn’t failed me yet J

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Thursday in the Life of ME!

What a long and interesting day today was…

It began like everyday does. Around 5am I first hear the rooster crowing. Then 30minutes later, give or take a few, the cow starts mooing. It’s a little after 6 now and my host dad is up and working, so the dog is now barking as well. I definitely don’t need an alarm clock here J

By 6:30 it was time for me to get up, get dressed, have breakfast (toast and milk fresh from the cow-don’t tell Peace Corps… Im not supposed to drink it!), straighten my room, and head off to school. The school is just about a 2 minute walk from my house so that part is the least of my worries.

Thus begins my day:

7:30-8:15 class with grade 9a

8:15-10 Plan next week’s lectures… well we only accomplished 1/8.

10-10:45 Head home and relax/ play some solitaire/ pick up materials that I forgot this morning in my 7am stupor.

10:55-11:40 Class with grade 9b

11:45-12:30 Club with grades 7 and 8

12:30-12:50 Head home (against my will) for lunch in the short 20 minute break I have. Also, while walking down the hall, receive 2 hugs from students and an apple (I think that officially makes me a teacher).

12:50-1:35 Class with grade 6. One of my students praised me afterwards, telling me that he is so happy I am here from America and he can not wait to learn about health.

1:35-4 Proceed home for my second lunch of the day. I said that I wasn’t hungry because I already at lunch an hour ago. I was told that it is better to have to meals than to spankings. I cant disagree with that…

4:10-4:55 Class with grade 5. One of my students wrote a poem about me. Ill have to get a hold of that and share J

5-5:45 Class with grade 8 (aka obraznic- cheeky). This one started out well. My partner began talking and the kids were listening, shuffling some, but attentive for the most part. Then it was my turn to talk. I simply was inviting them to join the club and then introducing myself. I got one sentence out before they burst out laughing. Yes, laughing at me. I must say, that is the first time I have ever flat out been laughed at. I guess there is a first time for everything. Yes, it hurt my feelings a little bit. But lets be serious, my language is the best it can be after 3 months or learning, so I cant blame them too much. It paid off because while they laughed for a few minutes, my partner went and got the principal. While the principal scolded them, my partner and I ate watermelon in the teacher’s lounge. The rest of class was smooth, minus a few who had to suddenly get up and leave because they were trying so hard not to laugh. You cant take life too seriously and the best I can do is laugh it off as well!

It is now 6:45 and Im done for the day! Ill probably waste some time on the internet and read a mindless book before I take the time to prepare for tomorrow. I don’t have lessons tomorrow, but I do have a lot of planning to do.

Part of my job is also to work at the medical center, tomorrow Im going to stop by… lets hope that it is more successful than my 8th grade lesson J

Just another day in my life in Moldova, always interesting, always full of surprises, always has ups and always has downs. Aside from the few minor set backs today, Ill go to bed happy because I have a great host family, great partners, a bunch of students and professors who cannot wait to learn from me, and a lot of people in the US and Moldova who I love and love me J

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back To School!

The school year has officially started. Last Thursday was the beautiful first bell ceremony. It is a ceremony celebrating the first ever bell for the 1st graders and the last ever first bell for the 12th graders. A bunch of prestigious people spoke, the mayor, principal, priest, a doctor from the government (I’m not so sure about who he was…), and last but not least, me! Okay, maybe I’m not prestigious, but it felt pretty special giving a speech to the entire school and about half of my village. Yes, that’s right; I gave a speech in Romanian! It went surprisingly well J

So on the first day, all the kids bring flowers. They are flowers for their favorite teacher, the principal, anyone they want. After each of the speeches, a few kids brought up flowers. I even got a few! Every time they give flowers they kiss you on the cheek. I’m still getting the hang of it… sometimes they kiss both cheeks and sometimes they only kiss one. I may or may not have embarrassed myself by going for the second kiss while they start walking away. Haha! Oh well!! Then after all was finished, the rest of the kids give out their flowers. I got a bunch!! Here is a picture of me with my two partner teachers and all my beautiful flowers!

There has been a lot of work to do. Writing long term plans and planning lectures. I have 8 classes total. I will have 4 classes tomorrow (Wednesday) and 4 classes Thursday. I’m a little nervous for the first day but I can’t wait to meet all my students!

Today I was at school to work on a few things with one of my partners. On my way out, I ran into another professor whom I’ve seen a few times. I saw her last week at the medical center and she always has a huge smile on her face. Anyways, she asked me why I wasn’t at school yesterday and said I should come even when I don’t have lessons. It’s the little things that make the days so wonderful J

I also made a pretty big leap in my work that I’ll be doing at the school. I was talking to my partner about attending other classes in the school because I am very interested to see how they teach, methods, discipline, etc. She told me I could and said that teachers are interested in learning about methods used in the United States. Of course, since that is part of my job, I was overjoyed to hear this. There is a meeting that is held every month for all the teachers. (I’m not quite sure yet what goes on during these meetings but I guess I’ll find out.) So I asked if I could teach a different method each month. It was approved by the director and I now will be teaching all the teachers each month! I know it isn’t THAT exciting, but I think I will be able to make a big difference.

I plan to dedicate my next blog to food here. But it is tasty and all homemade. Stand by for recipes!

I know I neglect this blog…but I’ll try to get better about it!

Miss you all, lots of love!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Well now is when I might actually start having time to write in this thing! Im about to start week 8 of PST (pre-service training). These last two months have been absolutely crazy. Busier than I could have imagined. I’ll try to sum up what Ive been doing!

So every week I have language class Monday through Saturday 8:30am-12:30. After that we usually had tech sessions from 2-5. Tech was where we learned the ins and outs of being a teacher in Moldova/ working in the medical center. This all happens in the village where I am currently living (Budesti… pronounced more like Boo-desht… the little squiggle under the s makes a “sh” sound). So Im here with 6 other health volunteers. Also, almost every Thursday, we travel to Chisinau. This is called hub site day. On this day, all 53 trainees meet up and have info sessions about anything you can imagine (anything from finance to peace corps policy to personal safety).

This has been my summer up until last week when we started practice school. Practice school is two weeks of, well exactly what it sounds like, practice school! My future teacher partner came to Budesti this week, all the way from Tintareni (Ill get into this later, but Tintareni is where Ill be moving in about a week and a half!)! So my partner was here and we had to teach classes for 4 days. It may sound simple, but planning a lesson in Romanian, writing a lesson plan in Romanian, coming up with ideas in Romanian, communicating those ideas in Romanian, and the actually teaching a class in Romanian… yeah, its definitely not that simple!! However, we worked through the week and made it! We had three very successful lessons and one that was a little less than successful. Overall, it was a great week. Next week will be week two of practice school and Ill do basically the same thing all over again but with my other teacher partner!

After week two of practice school, I have a day or two free and then I have my LPI (I cant remember what it stands for.. language something something). LPI is a language test. If all goes well, which I am pretty sure it will, I will have swearing in ceremony on August 17th and then I will officially be a Peace Corps Volunteer!!!!!

If it sounds exhausting, its because it is exhausting! Every day is busy and full of surprises. On top of everything, I have to study the language every night AND try to communicate with my host family… in Romanian.

Speaking of host families, my host family is amazing. I only have 2 more weeks with them and Im very sad to leave them. I have a host mom and dad (Anastasia and Antolie) and two host sisters (Dana and Madalina). They also have 2 dogs and 3 cats, a bunch of chickens and ducks and roosters. Oh, and one of the cats had kittens so they have 3 little kittens running around too. I want to keep one of them J I am very lucky and my host sister Dana speaks English. We’ve become very close!

The people here are just wonderful, especially the other volunteers. I cant imagine being with a more amazing group of people. We come from all around the United States- Washington, Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, and me from Maryland of course! We’ve gone through 8 very difficult weeks together and we all care very much about each other. Its going to stink moving away from them! Luckily Moldova is only the size of Maryland so getting together will not be too challenging!

So Wednesday, August 17th is the swearing in ceremony and also the last day that Ill be living with this family. Directly after the ceremony, I leave for Tintareni, which is about an hour and a half north of Chisinau. This will be my home for the next 2 years. The host family Ill be living with there is also absolutely wonderful. My Tintareni host mom has a laugh that makes your heart happy. My host dad there told me if I wanted to, that I could stay for 5 years instead of just two. And my host brother there told me that if Im every scared or confused, he will be there for me.

I am truly blessed to be in this amazing country with so many wonderful people.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Staging and Getting Over There!

I guess this is really kind of where my story begins (at least the exciting part). Yesterday (Sunday) me and my parents drove up to Philadelphia. It was a rough day, to say the least, with a few tearful goodbyes.

Today, Monday, was a day of training known as staging. It was the beginning of preparations for what is to come in Moldova. It included a few get to know you games, overview of Peace Corps goals, Mission, and Core Expectations. By the end, myself and the other 54 volunteers were all beaming. All the nerves and sadness leading up to today has mostly evaporated. I am with a great group of volunteers and can not wait to spend a lot more time with them. After training we went to dinner together and got official Philly Cheesesteaks… it was yummy but I have to give my dad props- his are better J

The most exciting part was at the end, we were given the names of our training cities. I will be in Budesti with 6 other volunteers. We will stay here for training until August 17th which is when we will be officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. Whoo hoo!! Until then, Ill have A LOT of language training and technical training so I can be a somewhat effective health teacher.

The nitty gritty details: Tomorrow morning all of us leave from the hotel to take a bus up to JFK airport. Our flight leaves at 5:45pm and 8 hours later we will be landing in Munich, Germany. We have an hour long layover there and then a 2 hour flight into Chisinau (the capital of Moldova). We’ll be landing in Moldova around noon Moldova time (aka 5am Maryland time- ouch!). We have a few hours of intro stuff and then at 5pm I will be off to meet my host family.

On a side note- I managed to pack within the limits (maybe overweight but whos counting) and I dont think I forgot anything!

Fun fact- or not so fun fact- there are mannny wild dogs and they recommend we carry stones in our pockets to throw at them when they chase us!

Well, I don’t have too many more exciting things to say. Im sure the next few weeks are going to be crazy! Ill be in touch again soon!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Moldova? Where the heck is that?!

Most of you probably have no idea where Moldova is. I'd have to say at least half of the people I've told about Moldova have NO idea where it is. Well, its in Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Romaia and Ukraine.

I haven't learned my actual site yet- Ill find out in August- but Ill most likely be in a small town or village. There, I will live with a host family and probably wont be near many other voluteers. (Luckily most volunteers have internet access in their homes so Im keeping my fingers crossed that my host family will have internet in their home!) Most families have their own gardens, make their own wine, and love to cook and eat (yay!). The climate isn't all that different from Minnesota. Summers are warm and humid- average temperature is around 80. Winters are cold and can stay below zero for weeks.

My title will be Health Educator for Schools and Community. I will be teaching health to kids in all grades up through 12th. I will also spend time int he lcoal community health center and probably do outreach programs or a monthly program for the community. I wont have a lot of info on my actual assignment until August.

What happens when I get to Moldova?? I land there on June 8th. From June 8th till about August 5th I will be in training- learning Romanian, cross-cultural training, and technical skills. As of now, I can count to 30, say hello and goodbye, and introduce myself... so I have a loooong way to go!!

Until next time :)