Tag Archives: Ialoveni

Getting Into Costume

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Cowboys, Indians, pirates and other characters have begun arriving at Champa’s school. Her grant project to create a costume and prop wardrobe for its drama program is progressing nicely, with many of the costumes now completed.

 

The school, LT “Andrei Vartic” in Ialoveni, Moldova, recently received its first batch of stage props, including some great hats. As you can see in these photos, Champa and I had fun trying them on with her project partner Ana Doschinescu, in the white and blue dress, and another teacher, Tamara Vîrlan.

Ana, Tamara and Champa can’t wait until the project is completed and students start using the props and costumes on stage. We’ll keep you posted.

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Story Time at the Library

Readers, I seek your assistance — the first and only time Champa or I will make such a request while we are serving in Moldova as Peace Corps Volunteers.

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The library where I work in Ialoveni has launched a project to create a “Story Time at the Library” program for toddlers along with educational programs for adults. They’ve already raised nearly $1,000 locally — a lot of money here — but need $2,303.94 more to create a kid-friendly room with small chairs, educational toys, art materials and the like.

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I’ve worked with the library and Peace Corps to launch a fundraiser through the Let Girls Learn program championed by Michelle Obama.

As you can see in the infographic, the librarians did a survey showing overwhelming community support for the idea, which is similar to the story times held at many public libraries in the States. Their target audience is kids a bit younger than those you see in the photo above of a school group recently visiting the library.

The project is just the latest example of how Ialoveni’s library is trying to redefine itself for the modern world and become a vital community resource. During the past year alone it has expanded beyond books to create programs for video animation, advocacy, computer coding and robotics, together with new services for special-needs users.

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You can learn more about the project and donate here. Your contribution is tax-deductible in the United States. You can donate in honor or memory of someone and, if you choose, share your contact information with me. You can also send words of encouragement to the project team. I will be administering the funds.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, support what the Peace Corps is doing or just want to support a great cause for the holidays, I hope you will make a donation. On behalf of the mothers, children, families and librarians of Ialoveni: Mulțumesc (Thank you)!

 

 

Talking Turkey

 

I ate Thanksgiving turkey twice on Thursday — first when I usually eat breakfast, then for dinner.

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The early meal was for a television story on TVR Moldova explaining our holiday to viewers across Moldova and Romania. Cătălina Russu, a television reporter who lives in Ialoveni, invited me to join her as she broadcast a live story from Jeraffe, one of Chișinău’s top restaurants.

As her story began, as shown in the first clip above (also on YouTube), we discussed Thanksgiving foods and traditions while the chef, Nestor Perez, prepared a turkey roll stuffed with herbs and butter. I had not previously met Nestor, who lived in America for many years after leaving Venezuela and now lives here with his Moldovan wife. Thanksgiving Menu 2017After our first segment, we all took a break and then moved from the kitchen to a table to eat the cooked turkey with pistachio-infused rice.

I shared my own Thanksgiving menu (seen here) with Cătălina and showed her how American kids use their fingers to make turkey pictures for placemats. The highlight, though, was Nestor’s food, shown in the second clip above (also on YouTube). It was fabulous despite the early hour. You can see for yourself in Cătălina’s story, which is easy to follow even if you don’t speak Romanian.

As soon as her second segment was finished, the cameraman and another reporter pulled up chairs so they could try the turkey, too. By 9:30 a.m., I was done and heading back to Ialoveni by bus to prepare the next round. (Around the same time, my Peace Corps Volunteer colleague Anne was discussing Thanksgiving on another television program here.)

I bought the turkey for our meal from a local farmer, who delivered it on Wednesday to our host mother. I found sweet potatoes at a downtown store. IMG_9393Champa discovered dried cranberries in the market, which I cooked with juice and brandy to make a sauce. One of our local stores now sells Parmesan cheese, so I bought some and combined it with mashed potatoes in a casserole. For my peach pie, I used slices of local peaches we’d bought last summer and froze. We made cookies with chocolate chips and brown sugar we bought when we were home last summer. We bought the Armenian and Georgian wine during our recent trip there.

We were prepared, in other words, and had even finished the desserts and some other items earlier in the week. Our host family and a Peace Corps Volunteer from Minnesota, Cindy, arrived in the evening. We then ate too much, laughed too much and went around the table to each say why we give thanks.

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It was such a lovely day. The only thing that could have been better would have been sharing Thanksgiving with our family back home, who we missed even more than usual throughout the day. We’re thankful we will be back together with them next year — and thankful to have found another wonderful family while we’re here.

Libraries Turn the Page

In both America and Moldova, libraries are racing to redefine themselves and remain relevant in an online world.

IMG_9072Back home, where people now routinely download books and find information on the internet, libraries are emphasizing their roles in providing expertise and bringing people together, whether with story times for kids, study spaces for students or programming for retirees.

IMG_9175Here in Moldova, the transition has been even more challenging. Library budgets and salaries are tiny. Many library buildings are old, with collections dating to Soviet times. There are no resources to buy books, much less comfy sofas or cappucino machines.

Last week, the library where I work in Ialoveni showed how some Moldovan libraries are moving forward despite these challenges. Together with the local Consiliul Raional, or county government, it organized a “library day” to showcase its recent innovations.

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Under the leadership of director Valentina Plamadeala, speaking above, the library now has a film animation class, a club that produces crafts from recycled materials, a robotics program and a workshop to teach modern advocacy techniques. It’s organizing a new weekly story time for toddlers that will also provide educational programming for parents and grandparents. It hopes to provide new programs for people with special needs, building on a Braille collection it recently added. The library is reaching out to its community in interesting ways, too, using videos, infographics and social media.

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Located near the city’s main traffic circle, Ialoveni’s library is named for Petre Ştefănucă, a folklorist and local hero who died in a Soviet gulag. At last Tuesday’s event, I was moved as librarian Larisa Petcu, above, showed off the small museum that honors his memory, telling local high school students about him. I was also impressed by the presentations from some other nearby libraries that participated in the event. Cătălina Russu, a reporter for TVR Moldova, also attended and produced the video shown at the beginning of this post (also available on YouTube; at 1:35, I speak briefly in English.)

Novateca, a program managed by the nonprofit organization IREX with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with USAID, has been a driving force behind the modernization of Moldova’s public libraries, building on similar programs in neighboring Romania and Ukraine. Since it began operations here five years ago, Novateca has provided thousands of computers and other resources, trained librarians across the country, increased public support for libraries and promoted a more expansive vision of their role in a civil society.

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I’ve become a big fan of Novateca’s work and was pleased to see its director, Evan Tracz — himself a former Peace Corps Volunteer, in Turkmenistan — at last Tuesday’s event. (He’s in the center of the photo below, awarding certificates to me and others with Tudor Grigoriță of the Consiliul Raional.) Evan and his team have had a transformative impact. Novateca is now winding down its activities as its funding comes to an end. Many of us hope Moldova’s libraries will continue making progress without them.

I have great respect for the people I work with at Ialoveni’s library. They are doing so much with so little, earning less in a year than some American librarians make in a couple of weeks. They keep looking for better ways to serve the community here without a coffee maker in sight, much less a cappucino machine.

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Champa’s Projects

Composting. Arts and crafts. Helping kids with special needs.

These are just some of the things Champa has been doing here when she isn’t teaching English at her school. Recently Peace Corps Moldova asked her and several other eduction volunteers to highlight their out-of-class activities for a conference. Her presentation reminded me of how busy she’s been. These photos tell the story:

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Champa hosts a weekly English conversation class at our local library.

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She participates sometimes in a weekly club at the library where local women create hats and other objects from recycled materials.

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She’s helping a local NGO compost its food scraps and start a vegetable garden and has also started a compost pile with our host family, shown above.

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For International Children’s Day, Champa organized a project in which local residents described in a few words what the day meant to them. (That’s our city’s mayor in the blue shirt and tie, helping her.)

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She is managing a Peace Corps small grants project at her school to create a costume and prop wardrobe for its drama program. She’s posing above with her school partner Ana and in the bottom photo with Ana and Ina, the project’s designer.

Champa also volunteers weekly at a local center for special-needs kids and, of course, does all of her regular work at the school, as well as participating in community cultural events, hanging out with our host family and sharing all of the shopping and cooking with me. She doesn’t like calling attention to herself but today I’m making an exception.

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