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Safe and sound in Aruba

Mel and I arrived safe and sound in Aruba. The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that Google Voice numbers expire. Due to the fact that texting rates are so ridiculous here, I connected my Google Voice number to my phone, hoping to keep rates low as I was connected to the Internet. Well, apparently Google Voice numbers expire when not used. The reason I know this is because in the middle of my texting I was seeing confused texts from me, but I wasn’t sending them. It was very confusing until we figured out what happened.

Now that it’s resolved, I found out there is Internet everywhere, so if you need me, text me. It’s quite convenient while I’m laying on the beach and absorbing harmful UV rays into my white, white ski n.

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Opportunity Next Exit

I’m an Intern… and?

Opportunity Next Exit

Let me just preface this post with I’M AN INTERN AND I’M 25. Ok, I said it. This is something I used to be embarrassed about until I met other 25 year-old interns and until I really realized just how lucky I am to be in this position. It is true that I have had a lot of experience in my life but it is not enough to get me to where I ultimately want to be in the business world and this internship has helped me in numerous ways to get my foot in the door. One thing it’s helped me do is remember  what I love to do, and what I excel at: networking. While it may seem like I’m abnormally social for Kansas City, I love it because I meet new people EVERY DAY. While I hope to have a new post relating to this soon, I’m going to get back to my point: networking and learning from others.

Tonight I reconnected with someone at an event whom I highly respect. He left a poor work situation where he wasn’t given the respect and acknowledgement he deserved and is now doing HUGE things and working with big name clients. (I’m so proud of him!) But this event? It was pretty cool. It was sponsored by AAFKC, and they brought in Justin Ahrens from Illinois. He’s done great work for his company and I think he was really insightful when he spoke about how companies can use “wonder” for inspiration for both their clients and their employees. He suggested ways for thinking outside the box and making a difference. But this acquaintance of mine who just so happens to work for this studio where the event was held decided to join in on the networking pre-and-post event, but skipped the event. Why? Because he doesn’t care what the speaker has to say.

Now, this brings me back to an intern status. This speaker had a lot to say. Is it totally related to what my acquaintance does? Well, no, not really. But can we learn from it? Absolutely. Everyone has a story to tell and speakers tend to do it in more organized ways than many of us, and sometimes the story is repeated. In my opinion, something can always be learned from these stories so they aren’t worth skipping out on. Maybe it’s because I’m an “intern” and I don’t quite have my whole body in the door yet but I do hope when I am accomplished and successful in my work that I will not frown upon new ideas and thoughts and only attend events for the networking. As an intern who is new to the marketing field, I’m learning something every day but I sure hope I’m teaching others something, too. I sure don’t know everything there is to know about marketing but I do know a thing or two about a thing or two and if you want to listen I’d love to share it. The great thing about my internship? I’m an intern but I have a real job…. and I love it because I get to learn something from someone (or many people!) every day!

Moral of the story: listen to what people have to say, even if you “think” you know more than them. You might be surprised!

Transitions

I am currently sitting at a Mexican restaurant in the Denver airport… just amazed that my week and a half in Kansas City is already over and I’m transiting to State #2. I’m long overdue for a post, given that I didn’t update before I officially left Moldova, and totally missed KC. Life back home seems so mundane, yet at the same time, I never stop.

There will be a post coming soon… filled with some photos, I hope.

Words of Advice for Teachers

Tomorrow marks the very last day that I will be an English Education teacher, because it is the “last bell” (aka the last day of school). It’s been a long (and at the same time short) two years, and more than anything I am going to miss the people I have met here, and watching the 2nd graders grow up and develop their English skills.

But today, as I was making my cherry pies, I temporarily misplaced one of the memory cards for my camera, so I grabbed another one. As usual I forgot to clean it but it wasn’t important because I didn’t have many photos to take. But I didn’t realize this until I opened the folder to load the images onto my computer and I found this video.

Maria was given a medal during the Soviet era for being the best teacher in Moldova because she created a language lab using tapes and headphones for the students to learn (which, ironically, have since disappeared). She compares to my high school English teacher when I think back on the passion for teaching they have, and their love of children. So, I believe the question I asked Maria here was, “If you could give a teacher advice, what would it be?” For all of you future teachers out there, this is for you. Don’t forget it!

Moldovan children, girls, Skype, Moldova, Cate

Baba’s and computers

The Internet coming to Varatic has been the topic of discussion in the street (yes, the only street) lately. All of the Babas (aka old women) have been talking about who has already had their Internet installed, who is still waiting for the phone, who has Internet AND TV, how much everything costs, why did this baba get Internet if she doesn’t have anyone to talk to and doesn’t know how to use a computer…
Oh, wait. That last one. Let’s go back.
She doesn’t know how to use a computer.
Honestly I do not even remember learning how to use a computer. I know we had a really old one we played games on and made cards with and we had a printer with that paper that was folded like an accordion with perforated edges… and then I remember learning to type in school… and getting our first home computer in 3rd grade for Christmas and Mom had it hidden under the dining room table (not a very good hiding place for snooping kids) and my Aunt spent all Christmas morning programming it… then creating an email account and getting email addresses from my friends (aka their parents) and spending 45 minutes typing a paragraph to a children’s author, then learning properly how to type and then becom
ing the master at it through AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)… and then the rest is history. I don’t remember it. Not sure how I learned but I just did. Maybe it’s because I was a kid and I just absorbed everything… who knows. But I just don’t remember.
Most of the villagers in Varatic, though? No idea. I have not seen one person that knows how to properly place their hands on a keyboard and type. The Internet is for finding videos, chatting on Russian Facebook, Skyping with relatives abroad, looking up the weather, poorly translating homework assignments into English, and copy+pasting articles found online and calling it a properly written paper by the student. This is what the KI
DS know. But most of the parents… and grandparents? Nimic.

Apparently today the Internet was supposed to run out with it being the first of the Month and all. There has been quite a bit of confusion, however, because we had to go into the city to pay for the Internet but didn’t get it for a few days and then it wasn’t really clear just exactly what we were paying for in the end and if the month of April is
covered or not. Apparently it’s not. The reason I know this is because our neighbor’s Internet stopped working and she called the city and they told her this (although mine still works?). This is how her conversation apparently went:
Baba: Why isn’t my internet isn’t working?
Internet company: I don’t know.
Baba: How can you find out?
IC: Do this, then this then…
Baba: Slow down.
IC: Do this… and type in 1… 34…
Baba: (quietly, away from the phone) Do this… and type in 1… 34…
IC: Who are you talking to?
Baba: My little granddaughter. I don’t have any idea what you’re saying!
Somehow kids are learning here, too, what to do.
The first day we had the Internet, these 3 girls (one has her head turned) called me to tell me goodnight. Made my day!

Computer lesson: showing off

Just as soon as my host dad had taken his last bite of dinner he was already out of his chair and walking to grab his laptop to go sit on the bed. This was the dialogue as he did so, and then showed off his computer knowledge:

Host Dad: Look! I’m going to tell you the weather for the next 10 days!
(sits on bed and turns the computer on)
Host Mom: It’s going to be -2 tomorrow night.
HD: Leave me alone. You don’t know that.
HM: Yes I do.
(HD opens up the weather page using the star I taught him)
Me: BRAVO! Look at you using what I taught you.
HD: Yes, and look. (presses on the down arrow). The page moves without the mouse.
Me: Very good.
HD: Ok… Tomorrow it will get to 10 degrees and tomorrow night it will be -2, Tuesday will be…
HM: (interrupting). See. I told you it will be -2. And I didn’t even need the computer to tell you that.
HD: (continues with just a slight pause) 13 … (and continues to say the predicted forecast for the next 9 days.
When I finished bathing, he had pulled up traditional Romanian music videos, had made them full screen, and they were also watching TV. My host parents are turning into the ultimate multitasks.

Behind closed doors: pt 2

This video is from my favorite duo on YouTube. As soon as I started watching it I immediately thought of my post on “behind closed doors”. This little girl wrote this song… so it is from a child’s standpoint.
Please don’t cry. I’m sorry for what I did. Please don’t cry. I’m with you and it’s alright.

Computer lesson #4: Social Networking

When I entered my host parent’s house for dinner tonight, my host dad was already searching for music videos online and they’d already successfully Skyped with their daughter and her kids in Cambodia… all without me! I was very impressed! But HD had forgotten all about going to the star (favorites) button.
Me: Why aren’t you using the site I showed you for music?
HD: I forgot how.
Me: You go to the star, remember?
HD: But the star is just a star. It doesn’t mean anything.
Me: except all of the websites you’re going to use. All in one place. Doamne.
Then they wanted to create a Russian Facebook account so they could see photos of their daughter and her kids and they didn’t want to keep using my login… when we tried to do it it did not work because you need a cellphone so they can text an activation code and someone (aka one of my students, I assume) apparently used my number to create their own account. So we made a Facebook strictly for the sole purpose of them being able to look through photos of their kids… and me, of course, because they agreed to invite me to be their friend and, of course, I accepted. We took a quick photo using their computer and I absolutely LOVE it. (Students: PLEASE DO NOT FIND THEM ON FACEBOOK!!!!! THEY DON’T WANT TO SEE WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME… AND THEY DON’T CARE)
I’m really going to miss them.

"she can’t read"

There is a 9th grader at my school who cannot read in English, Romanian, or Russian. She sits quietly through all of her lessons and never causes any trouble so it seems like her inability to read has been overlooked every year. Today there were only a few students in her class so I made sure EVERYONE read out loud… her included (actually, I looked over the fact that she couldn’t read in any language… my goal was participation). I read two words as she followed the text with her finger and then she repeated them. Then there was a teacher’s meeting and at the very end it was briefly brought up that she can’t read, in which a few of the teachers did not know this. While I want to help her and I feel like I could, I don’t know what good it will do because the phonetics in English are very different from the sounds in Romanian and Russian. It breaks my heart that no one felt like they could take the initiative to help her learn to read. Yes, she’s 15. But that doesn’t mean she can’t start now, you know?

Lunch with the gym teacher

I didn’t even think he knew my name until today. The 62 year-old gym teacher at my school is a hoot and has invited me to his apartment (across from the school) for lunch or dinner countless times since I first arrived in Varatic, but I never really took him seriously. In all honesty I was a bit nervous to go there since he lives in an apartment by himself (his wife left him to make money for their children’s education, and his grown children both now live in Romania). Since the semester began I’ve been telling him I would visit on Easter vacation and I planned to take a friend with me as to not start rumors in the village or not give the wrong idea (trust me… it happens). But yesterday I was invited, once again, to join him for lunch because the daily holiday is celebrating 40 saints and the tradition says one must drink 40 Moldovan glasses – American shots- of wine. Apparently this was a true invite and I couldn’t refuse, as he went so far as to ask my partner teacher what I like to eat and what I don’t eat. By the second lesson I was hungry and looking forward to what he had prepared since I was told he can cook even better than some Moldovan women… and I can attest that this rumor is, in fact, true. The traditional meal he cooked was mamaliga, sheep cheese, and rabbit. Delicious.

The food was great and all but what I really enjoyed was the conversation. In two hours over lunch I learned more about this teacher and what life was like during the Soviet Union than I’ve learned since being here. Or maybe not learned since being here, but understood. He told me life during the Soviet Union worked because no one knew a different life. They were sheltered from the rest of the world and they were only taught to work. He then told me the story of a wolf and a dog. They story goes that a hungry wolf and a not-hungry dog met and the wolf asked the dog what it was that he had around his neck. He responded it was a collar that kept him home (so where they met, I’m not so sure… but moving on…). Then the dog told the wolf he can come live with him at the house because then he would never be hungry and the wolf responded, “I would rather be hungry and be free than have enough food and be trapped.”
The reason for this story was to explain the life during the Soviet times for them. Everyone had work. Everyone had enough to eat. Life seemed to be good… but they were not free. They were terrified to make a mistake because if they made a mistake they were taken to Siberia without a word and weren’t allowed to resist. He said this system of fear worked in the schools because the kids were afraid of discipline (oh, wait. What? Discipline? Ha). Kids actually had to- and DID- learn the information being taught to them. As soon as the bell rang signaling the end of the lesson the kids did not run out of the classrooms screaming. Kids didn’t skip lessons because they would be severely punished for doing so. Bad language wasn’t spoken in the schools or at home. But, again, they weren’t free and when the revolution started is when everything began to fall apart. People wanted to be free, but they’d been taught what to do and only how to do that since 1918-ish. That is why Moldova struggles today- they still need someone to come in and change how they think, not just what they do.
It really saddens me just how hard life is here- because really, it is. Unless a Moldovan lives- and is successful- in Chisinau, it is difficult for them. Children don’t see the importance of an education because most likely their future consists of working abroad (in Russia, Ukraine, or Italy primarily unless they’re lucky to sneak in the US). There really are no jobs in the villages for them to do unless, like I suggested earlier, someone comes in and changes how they think to then change what they do. Chisinau is becoming a more “modern” and “cosmopolitan” city but it’s only in a small part of the city and it still has a really long ways to go. The story of many old people here is pretty much, “I’m alone because my children and my spouse went to work abroad and then my spouse found someone else so now I’m here alone and I take care of the animals every day so I have something to eat and I drink so I have something to do. There is no happiness in life because there is no work and there is no money.” It’s unfortunate and heartbreaking.
Sorry for such a sad and depressing post. I’ll end it on a positive note saying he really made me feel good about my 2 years here. He told me that I am leaving an impression on the kids that they will never forget. As we walked through the halls to leave the school, every student we walked by (even the little 1st graders who don’t have English yet) told me, “hello” and some asked, “how are you?”. He told me the kids that don’t want to learn are never going to want to learn… as much as I wanted to change that when I came here, I can’t. But I taught them to say “hello” and I smile back at them and that is enough of an impression to last a lifetime.