Prayer of the Wampum

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

This is Me, Teaching

Here I am in my 7th grade class. Yes, I'm holding a cigarette, but no I'm not smoking. I'm about to do a smoking experiment with them, and here we are talking about the long and short term effects of smoking. At this point they are answering what would happen to my body in this moment if I were indeed smoking.
Outside, doing the experiment. There's a cigarette in the opening of that bottle, stuck in there with cotton, which represents their teeth, skin and mouth. They are watching as the smoke fills up in the bottle, which represents their lungs. And that's Profira, one of my partner teachers, in the back.
Here I am puffing the smoke that collected in the bottle into their faces, to make 100% sure they are turned off from smoking.
I posted this one because of my silly face. I'm holding the cotton that was around the cigarette, which is now all yellow and gets them to understand the yellowing effect smoking has on the teeth and fingers. They were most repulsed by that cotton.
And here I am with the 4th graders who I asked to teach me their jumping game. They kept raising the string higher and higher! I had to tell them I'm taller than them and it's not so easy for me!


More Easter

An adorable woman talking about her dead husband, whose grave is behind her.
A couple eating at their relative's grave.
Another picture from the night before Easter.

Easter and the Day of the Dead

These are the skinned animals I saw in Soroca a few days before Easter. I saw them in the distance and knew I needed a picture but was too afraid to really look so I blurred my eyes and took it...Now I'm seeing it for the first time and I'm glad I didn't look in person.
In Moldova, Easter starts at 10pm the night before. Everyone goes to the cemetery and lights candles on their loved ones' graves. The pastor comes out at midnight and everyone, while holding candles, marches around the church several times while singing. People then stay up all night long and have a masa (dinner party) at 4am the next morning. I didn't stay up all night but still had to get up the next morning to eat!
This is Scott's host grandfather ringing the church bells. He was so, so honored that someone was taking his picture.
Scott's host family at Larissa's mother's grave on Easter morning. They lay food on the graves and sit and eat the cemetery while they wait for the priest to go around and read the names of the deceased.
The whole community at the cemetery.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pledge to Life-Long Vegetarianism

"But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him." -Orwell

This morning Ion, my host brother, came in from the town to slaughter our pig.

"We've got some work to do this morning," he told me, on my trip to the outhouse. I wasn't entirely sure what he was talking about, as it seems Moldovans always have work to do. I contemplated what he might be talking about, while squatting, and trying to keep my balance through my visceral shivers. My goosebumps were as pink as our pig's enormous ears.

On the way out I saw Ion in the pig pen, cornering the pig. It wasn't until that moment that I remembered Nina telling me that Thursday was the day to cook for Easter.

I ran into my room and blasted the new Cursive record as high as my computer would allow. But it was not enough. I did exercises to distract myself. But still, with tears dripping onto my burning abs--hoping the physical pain would distract me--I could hear the pig singing itself to death.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Basketball, Goats and BBQs. All, obviously, Moldovan style.

Hello friends.

Though I’ve been posting pictures, and you’ve been seeing my whereabouts, I’m feeling the need for some good old Moldovan stories. To start off with a quick and funny one—we had a language training weekend a few weeks ago, and there I was sitting with my Moldovan teacher, Adrian. He’s a smart man, that Adrian, and much more educated than most Moldovans. He speaks English fluently, and takes pride in keeping up with American culture…

There was a talking prompt about American TV. A girl in class was going on and on about how much she loves Sarah Jessica Parker. After about ten minutes of her preoccupied monologue, we realized we were being insensitive to Adrian, talking about something he’d have no idea about. So we stopped, and I apologized to Adrian for getting caught up in our own conversation. He was offended. He knew what we were talking about, he protested. And then with a hmph!, he spouted it: I’m aware. I’ve seen “Sex in the Village.”

Note the goat pictures below. The mother goat, shown, Mitzah Capritzah, gave birth last week. Scott and I were sitting on my bed, playing chess, when in walked Nina, my new host mother, holding a baby goat. Her cheeks were lollipop red from her abrupt entrance—she’s one Moldovan who understands privacy. “I just realized you both hadn’t seen the babies,” she cried, “I wanted to bring one in.” Two days later I asked her their names. The mother has a name, but the babies are identity-less. Will you help me find names for my baby goats? Post comments, with name suggestions. Winning names will be announced, with proper credit awarded, in two weeks.

And then, of course, there’s basketball. After a three month season, my team finally went to the peace corps tournament, to play other Moldovan teams. My team was furiously excited, being the first time for most out of the regional center, and the first for everyone in the town of Orhei. We were to meet in front of the school at 7am. At 6am, I was woken up by the ringing of my phone. “We’re all here, where are you?” my team wanted to know.

The first week was great. We had a big win against Scott’s team, and a big loss against a city team, Singerei. Spirits were high. My team, who try to refuse to run at every practice, and never want to do any drills, showed up to practice everyday the subsequent week, at 1:30, and stayed till 5. The running drills that in January they wouldn’t do once, they were doing 5 times. They were talking and drawing out strategies. Obviously, I was a happy little volunteer.

Week 2, once again, they arrive at school an hour earlier than planned. It’s Sergio’s birthday, the tall kid who moved my wood in his horse and carriage. Everyone is pumped. The first game goes terribly, with our four points coming from 2 successful foul shots and one basket, thanks to Ana. There were two games before our next, so my kids went to the market to get “some lunch.”

They come back, a half hour before the game, visibly excited. Being my naïve self, I assumed this was evidence of their high spirits; to me, they were more pumped than ever. The game starts, against Scott’s team once again, and it’s the sloppiest basketball I’ve ever seen in my life. And let me tell you, I know sloppy since I’ve lived in this country. They aren’t passing to anyone, aren’t staying in their zones, even worse, throwing the ball over their heads backwards to shoot. (Sorry Dad, but don’t think I’m pretending I’m not guilty of the same folly in my youth.) I got angry. Time outs were called. Why were they acting like this? It was a sign of disrespect, in my opinion at that moment, that they thought they could act like fools and still beat Scott’s team. They ended up winning by a basket, when the week earlier they had beat this very team by over 20 points. When they lined up to shake the other teams hands, I could smell their little secret on their breaths. They were all, save from the two girls on the team, horribly intoxicated.

Needless to say I wasn’t happy. My body in fact, still, feels pinched with anger at them. But it has waned slightly, after realizing that it wasn’t in fact done out of disrespect for me, but rather represents an untidy part of their culture, that is supported by their parents, and echoed through every hallway of their daily lives. It was a sad day for me.

But then Shaun came to town! I had my first visitor, who can be seen below! We went to the big city, bought a grill the size of floppy paper plate, and had a bbq to end all bbqs. I suppose what I mean by that is that it made us tremendously happy. Scott and Shaun bought meat at the market in Soroca, after almost buying what they thought was a lamb, and later decided was a skinned dog. They bought pork instead. We grilled tons of veggies and sat on the porch of my new house until the sun went down. It was such a serene night for me here in Moldova, because it was calming and reminiscent of home, but also because it promised night after night of the same easily attained happiness here. We’ve vowed to grill every night of the summer.

I have some crazy school stories, but I think I’ll save them for later, and let the tranquility of our bbq induced happiness marinate a while with you all. Besides, who wants to hear about a an 11th grade boy beating the pulp out of his petite and shy, female colleague? And why would I go into detail about breaking up the fight, and then having the principal laugh at me for caring about the incident, for treating it like it was something that needed to be addressed on a community level. Surely I wouldn’t tell you that he told me, sincerely, that I should have smashed both of their faces in, as a penalty. And there was no shock by him when I wanted to do a violence lesson with the class, and the community. None at all.

Nikki's first Moldovan barbeque

Scott and Shaun cutting the meat. Evidence of my first visitor in Moldova! And let me tell you, Shaun's trip here changed his life.
Enjoying the porch.
My big time bbq.

Contest: Name my goats!

Mamma goat, Mitzah
Mitzah isn't actually as bohemian as she looks. Those are not dreadlocks, but the rope Nina uses to tie her up. There are the babies! Name them! Post comments! Whoever wins will have the prestige of telling their story to other Americans, who have no idea where or what Moldova is. It's also a resume builder!
There's my new host mom, Nina, throwing ______ up in the air. That blank belongs to you. Name my goats!

The night she walked on in with a new baby goat. In this picture _____ is one day old.


That's my team in the back there, with Scott pointing to his team in the distance.
My team saluting the other team, at the start of the first match.
Scott with his team. No, their jerseys aren't from Moldova. They came in a package.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

The Blue Mosque at night.
Scott's mom, Sherry, Scott and me at a hookah bar...
Inside the Blue Mosque--once again, covered up like good women.
Inside the Hagia Sophia. We touched everything.


Scott and Sherry in front of the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul.
An outside hallway in the courthard of the Blue Mosque.
The man and son who frantically tried to sell us carpets.
View of some mosques from the part of Istanbul on the Asian continent.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Scott's Mom in Moldova

Scott and Sherry at the piata, a real, real live Moldovan experience.
Larissa and Sherry, with their heads covered like good Moldovan women, in the church after the celebration for the souls of the dead. People stay in the cemetery all day with food and serve people as they walk through. Again, eating for their souls.
Sherry in the famous pose, on top of the wine barrel in Scott's cellar.
Larissa made this 'colac,' aka, large bread, for Sherry's arrival. It's a Moldovan tradition and she's already talking about making one for my family when they come.
A cloudy morning in Saratenii Veche, Scott's village, which translates to the Old Salt Land. And, 4th in the series: Moldovans at work. (yes, the bridge is broken, it's not your computer screen)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Acropolis.
That's one happy Scott, thanks to the NYU grad school acceptance he received an hour before the picture was taken. (Allow me to brag.)
On the beach in Mykonos. Gloating in the NYU decision.


This is on the island of Mykonos, where we met a pelican and a strange man. The pelican lost its pack on a trip to Africa for the winter, and this man takes after her. I think they're in love.
Lindsey and me still in awe of where we were...
A family of olive-sellers at the market in Athens.
This is the Theater of Dionysus, well, what remains of it, behind the the scaffolding.
I made Scott take this picture, in all honestly, so Marie could see how long my hair is. He couldn't get over it, rightfully so, that I needed that picture in that very instant, in a shoe store, when the backdrop outside was the Acropolis.

The Acropolis

And we, humans, think we are so powerful. Look at how small we look in front of the Parthenon. Do you have an ehanced appreciation for ants now?
This is the Caryatids. This side, what they call the porch side, was apprently dedicated to a God named Erechteon, who can't be traced back into history. It is also believed to have been dedicated to Poseidon. Only four of them are orignals--one was resculpted and one was replaced. How good are your magic eyes? Can you dechipher the difference?
This is me and Lindsey, Scott's cousin, with the Odeion of Herod Atticus. This time we look pretty large in comparison, eh? I suppose today's lesson is on perspective.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So I moved again.

I know, I know, who moves four times in 6 months. If you want an even odder question, who moves IN MOLDOVA four times in 6 months. I’m an anomaly.

The security director at peace corps came and did a site visit. He absolutely freaked out when he saw my house—everything was wrong with it. “What, you don’t like that I’m living deliberately,” I asked him sternly. Even worse, his main problem with the house: it won’t withstand an earthquake. WHOSE HOUSE IN MOLDOVA WILL WITHSTAND AN EARTHQUAKE??? Houses are made of clay! When I told Scott that Peace Corps was making me move, he adeptly noted, "Nikki, your house is like camping, inside."

Anyway, I was a good volunteer and I did what I was told. The house I’m living in now is a bit nicer, higher ceilings, and ya know, a cooking space. A week before I left Agripina, she had a big masa (dinner party) for the soul of her dead husband. They do this here—eat and drink for the soul of people. Especially now that it’s Easter time, there’s a lot of eating and drinking, and a lot of satiated souls up there. I sat at the masa for a half hour before I had to go to basketball practice. Everytime I was handed a shot of vodka, Agripinia would look at me with the saddest yet fiercest of eyes, and tell me, “you have to to, it’s for my dead husband.” I tired everything. I’m skinny [which usually works], there are rules about how much we can drink in peace corps, I’m taking medication that doesn’t mix with vodka, they will fire me at school if I show up drunk to practice, I’ll fall asleep this instant if I drink that, I’ll vomit this instant if I drink that.

The outcome?

I just don’t think you can say no to a shot when you’re drinking for someone’s dead soul. I think I’m going to have a masa for my mom in may, to which I plan on inviting Agripinia, and getting her back for this. Does this mean her dead husband, who was run over by a horse 8 years ago, will be drunk up there with my mom? I think that’s what they believe.

Below you'll find more pictures, some from the last night of living deliberately, and when we took Scott’s host family out to a crazy fancy restaurant in Chisinau. In fact it’s the only fancy restaurant in Chisinau. They’re villagers, who have been to a restaurant once before in their lives, so for obvious reasons, this was a big deal for them. Here are some pictures of both nights, two highlights of my time here so far.

View: Moldova

Scott's family at a fancy-pants restaurant in Chisinau.
Scott and I cooked garlic bread in the oven of my soba (fire) on my last night. More below.
We opened up our last bottle of wine from our vacation, a first cru wine from Beaune, France. We prepared a pretty damn good meal for what we were working with, but still couldn't help but laugh often at the fact that we're drinking such a serious bottle of wine in a house that is made of clay. (Note: I urged Scott to move the Kraft parmesian cheese off the table for the picture. I was feeling domestic, proud that we'd cooked all of this with the conditions we were working with. I didn't want to remember that we topped off our Moldovan-lifestyle meal with an American store bought product. But, alas, I've been revealed. You can see it there, right next to Scott on the bed.[Scott, what were you thinking??])
Is there not something hysterical about a baba talking on a radio phone?
This is how I moved my wood to my new house. Those boys are two of my basketball kids, and my new baba, Nina, is there in between them. Riding in that with my wood and coal, through the village, was full of laughs. From the boys, Sergui and Pavel, who couldn't get over how exciting it was for me. From all the neighbors, who had no idea why there was a foreign girl sitting on wood on their street, and more importantly, from the teachers at school who were outside when we passed by. I think the fact that the American was riding in this horse and 'carriage' was something they'll never get over. They felt accomplished, and so did I.