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The moon

There is something about a rising moon on a perfectly clear evening that takes my breath away. Tonight I stepped outside to go buy some water and I saw the moon just barely peeking over the horizon. It was almost transparent and a light shade of pink; blending in with the light shade of purple that was the sky. It was so beautiful that I just stood there for a minute… watching it rise. As I walked the 2 minutes to the store I forgot about it (short term memory loss, ADD, the cold, I don’t know…) and when I came out, it caught my eye again: this time as a bright orange ball. The snow of the last 4 days and the sun of today brought such fresh air to our village and clear skies that I felt I could see every nook and cranny on this full moon. Again, I stood there for a minute… looking quite silly, I’m sure, to the men standing in the street. But I didn’t care. It was beautiful… so beautiful, that I looked back over my shoulder every couple of steps to catch another glimpse on my way home.

Photographing the moon is something I have not been able to do properly. I think it is because I need a different lens, but this is the best I got for tonight… just know it does NOT do it justice!!


In high school I had a group of friends that were all very intelligent and they knew exactly what they wanted to go to college for, and they did just that. Me, on the other hand? Well, I was all over the board. I wanted to be a teacher, then a photojournalist, then a photographer. I hadn’t a clue. But they voted me as “the one the most likely to get married first”. Considering I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life I guess that made sense (plus, I supposed I always talked about it. Oh, wait. That hasn’t really changed). At that time I never thought much about traveling and exactly what my future might hold, until I was asked by teachers in the art department of my school to join them and other students on a trip to Paris. That 6 day trip (in which I lost my passport so then spent 2 of those days in the Embassy and 2 more traveling) forever changed me. While many of my classmates are now married (or not married) and have babies on the way or a couple in diapers, I’ve chosen a different path. A different destiny, if you will. Unlike my friends who all knew they wanted to be in the medical field and classmates who chose to settle and raise a family, I’ve chosen to travel. But that doesn’t ever seem to really stop me from asking “what if”.

Grey’s Anatomy is a television show that these same friends got me hooked on watching. As any Grey’s fan would say, “the first couple of seasons were great. They should have stopped while they were ahead,” however, that doesn’t keep me from watching it. Today I tuned in to a new episode after watching the newest episode of Glee. My dad sent me a quote a few days ago from Susan L. Taylor: Thoughts are energy, and you can make your world or break your world by your thinking. Well, maybe my thoughts told me I needed to download these shows and watch them in the order that I did today because it just, well, clicked. I’ll begin with Grey’s since that is how I began this. If you haven’t watched an episode before I’ll key you in to this: it’s just drama, drama, drama. But that’s what we all love, right? So anyways, in this episode, it begins with Meredith, the main character, holding her adopted baby from Africa. As with every episode, we see one thing happening and we hear her voice speaking over what is going on. Whatever she begins with saying is a prelude to what the episode is going to be about (usually rather deep thoughts) and then the episode ends with her concluding thoughts. Today it was this: The baby you have is the baby you were destined to have. It was meant to be. That’s what all of the adoption people tell you. Anyways I like to think it’s true. But everything else in the world seems so completely random. What if one little thing I said or did could have made it all fall apart. What if I’d chosen another life for myself. Or another person. We might have never found each other. What if I’d been raised differently? What if my mother had never been sick? What if I’d actually had a good father. What if. What if. What if.

Hm. Wow. Just think about that for a minute. Done thinking? Yea, I’m not either but I’m going on anyways. The rest of the episode plays out as if things had been different; if her mother hadn’t had that disease that makes you forget things and died, if her father hadn’t been absent, if her current husband had stuck with his ex wife, if her current best friend was her enemy, etc. It was all of the stories put together of how the relationships between the characters on the show were presented- which of course, because it’s about drama, didn’t even come close to ending that way. For the first 20 or so minutes, everything looks perfect. The people that we thought were supposed to be together were together, pregnant or with kids already, and happy. Everyone was happy and everything looked great. But then the truth was revealed that the baby Shepard is pregnant with is really not her husband’s kid, but instead that of his best friend… and this, that, and the other. In the end of the episode, it seemed that the flaws we now know of with these people were still their flaws; even though they had made different life decisions. And when these flaws came out, the “destiny” of the person ended up being the same as we know it is today. One of the doctors says this which I think sums it all up: Some things are going to work out as if they were destined to happen; and some as if they were just meant to be.

You see, we all want things in our lives. We want happiness, we want this spouse, we want this car, we want this job, we want to live in this place, etc. But if anyone else there is like me (and I’m sure you are), we wonder “what if”. In my life in particular, I often wonder what my life would have been like if my mom hadn’t died. What if she was still alive… would I have found my love for photography, traveled to France in high school, gone to KU, had the friends that I had, and then come to Moldova or would I still be living in the suburbs of Kansas City, married, and working in an office? What if I had been accepted to Teach for America… would I still have filled out the application for the Peace Corps… just to see? What if I cut ties back when I was first questioning things… would I have the relationship with my host family that I do now? What if. What if. What if.

While I can’t stop all of these thoughts (and the thousands more that came with that) from happening, I can try to control them. Wondering “what if” really isn’t going to do anyone any good because, as they later said in the show, “we make our own destiny”. And, I strongly agree with this although we don’t necessarily realize it at the time it is happening. One never knows what is waiting around the corner… so why not go and find it out for himself. While I may not necessarily choose who I meet and when I meet them or when opportunities are going to arise, I can begin by making good decisions. Because I can’t go back and change things there is not a point in wondering “what if”. Some things are going to work out because they were meant to be, and others because they’re destiny. But I’ll never know which is which and, well, it is what it is. It’s up to me to move forward and focus on now instead of wondering “what if”.

Which brings me quickly to Glee. The quote that got my head racing: you can’t change your past but you can let go and start your future.

I’m really not going to comment on that because I feel like it speaks for itself.

At the end of the day, all I can say is this. Five years ago and I had no idea how many changes I was going to go through that year, let alone proceeding 5. Heck, I didn’t even know Moldova existed and I thought Spain was north of France. I do not know what my future holds for me (even though a couple of Roma fortune-telling women seem to think otherwise). I cannot tell you (or myself) why I’ve made some of the decisions I’ve made in my life or why things happen the way they do. But, regardless, they do. The last 20 months of living in Moldova has changed me in ways that I didn’t even know possible, and quite frankly, I didn’t even know needed changed. It doesn’t matter what got me here; what matters is I’m here and I’m happy I’m here. Something about my being here was meant to be so it could shape my destiny- whatever that may be. And you know what? I’m 100% (ok, 99%) all right with that… at least right now.

Also, I wanted to end this post with a photo of the snow from today but I just looked at them and it doesn’t even do close to justice for the amount of snow that is now on the ground. Unbelievable.

Laughing till she cries

If you’ve been reading my blog since sometime around August 2010 and March 2011, you probably know how hard it was for me to adjust to my host family. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m glad because now it is a completely different story. As much as I can’t wait for June, trust me when I say leaving my host family is going to be the hardest part of these two years in Moldova. Ok, moving on because I’m already teary-eyed; which is not what I meant by the title of this post. Well, not really.

The daily knock on my window around 6pm meant it was time for dinner. I walked the 7 seconds to the casa mica where my host family lives and cooks, and when I entered, my host dad was sleeping so I tried to be quiet. My host mom didn’t care that he was sleeping because it was time to eat- and the mamaliga was going to get cold (and it’s not good when it’s cold) so he needed to get up anyways… so she broke the ice and asked if I was cold. “Yes, yes I am” I said, because it’s freaking cold out there! As my host dad started to get up, he was “ouf, ouf, ouuuufffff” ing because apparently his leg is really hurting him today (I didn’t know this was a problem). When he made it the 2 steps from the bed to the table, he had a hard time sitting down. Once he sat, he had a hard time sitting. So then he stood up (with my host mom laughing at him this whole time). At one point when he was standing up, he bent down to pick up some mamaliga and cheese crumbs that had fallen to the floor. As he did this, it looked like he was a ballerina so I asked him if he was one (yes, I do bring jokes. Sometimes. And really, I think only my host mom appreciates them because she’s the only one that ever laughs. No one else seems to get them- in English or Romanian). This then caused him to laugh (once he got it) but my host mom was way ahead of him- so far ahead, in fact, that it almost brought her to tears. My host dad then added to the humor in sticking his leg back as if he was dancing, and then when he came back in from stepping outside for a couple of minutes, he stood next to the soba and did a table-top bend/move/dance-thing-whatever-the-technical-term-is-I-don’t-know. He’s a funny one!

Tonight we laughed till we cried. Yea, I’m going to miss this. Ouf, ouf, ouuuffff.

Taking pictures

Who do I really take pictures for?

When that thought crossed my mind, it was because I was taking photos of things that are not “print worthy”. I mean, why was I taking photographs if I didn’t hope to see them hanging on a wall someday? Of course I take photos of things because I want people to hang them on their wall to enjoy. However, I also take them for my students. And my family. And my friends. I take photos of things for other people- usually not myself. I take photos because I want to share what I see with people who may never get the chance to see it. It’s kind of like the idea of my photojournalism project… I want to photograph schools so kids can see what schools are like in other countries because they’ll probably never get the chance to see them (because, who really goes to see schools when they’re traveling? If you can think of someone, please do tell me because I’d like to talk to them!). I take pictures of food and people and details for other people. I have been there. I know what the people, the food, doors, sidewalks, etc look like… so why do I photograph them? For others- that’s the answer.

This is something I had been wanting to write about but of course I never got around to it (like the post on France. Hey, the photos are done and most of them are on facebook. Check them out if you want). Today I came across this article and it made me glad I haven’t written it yet. And here’s why. The photographer whom this article is about talks about his “rebirth” in Venice, California. He is one of those lucky and incredibly talented people who got a start at a young age and has had much success in his life with photography. With an overloaded schedule of commercial shoots, he felt like something was missing. Then he thought of a quote by Helmut Newton:

You should be able to walk out your door and find a picture within two or three miles.

Mr. Alston jokingly added, “Of course, he always picked these great places like Monte Carlo, so he could say that.”

Well, I chose Moldova. It is definitely not Monte Carlo or Venice… and I can definitely gind a good picture within two or three miles. But this is beside the point of what I’m wanting to say. Later down in the article he says:

If you can find joy in walking down the street, and you see a leaf, it makes you happy and you photograph it, that’s a beautiful thing.

Mr. Alston is right. Sure, I take photographs of things I wouldn’t normally photograph for my personal use because I have other people in mind. In fact, I would venture to guess that 90% of the images I make are for that reason. Photography, though, makes me happy. Using Alston’s example, I can take a picture of a leaf when walking down the street. I may never, ever show anyone else that photo or I may never even look at it again. However, for that split second, hearing the “click” of my shutter close made me happy. And that, my friends, is why I take pictures. It makes me happy.

Turn around

Yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had at school. Thankfully I had plans to help celebrate the birthday of (now) 12 year-old Iustina (on the right). I could not have asked for a better way to turn a terrible day wonderful.
Once I left school I went straight to Maria’s house. Shortly after I arrived, the Priest (Iustina’s father) showed up and invited Maria to their house to celebrate the birthday. Once she finished up her tutoring lessons, we walked through the cemetery in the snow together. The Priest and his wife have 4 children but there is always a plethora of kids visiting and even guest animals.

This is their youngest son, Sergiu. In their backyard they have a pen full of pigeons, doves, and birds that I have no idea what kind they are. Left: Maria, Iustina, and me.

After lunch/dinner we went across the street to visit the church. They still had the decorations from Christmas up and they wanted to show me. Behind the Priest is a wall. When I was in Razeni, we had a tour of the church there and I remember them telling us that females are not allowed behind the wall (but they did let us stand at the doorway and peek in) and I didn’t understand why. When I asked my Priest this question, at first he just said, “I don’t know. That’s just how it is” because he did not want to offend me; a foreigner with possibly different beliefs. But then his conscience got the best of him and he had Maria translate for me (although I understood what he was saying). Apparently this “sin” dates back to the 600’s. Before then, women were allowed behind this wall and at baptisms. But after this time, they were forbidden. This is because at this time there were a lot of poor people who could not afford undergarments. Women would wear long skirts and dresses, but there would not be anything underneath them, so when they were having their monthly cycle (or if they had just given birth), they were considered “unclean” and “dirty”, so it was preferred if they just stayed home and definitely out of the church as to not make a mess. Then, once they were allowed back into the church, they wanted a place just for the men, which is why now, only men are allowed behind this wall. To this day in Moldova (and possibly other places), women are not allowed in a church or at religious ceremonies if they are on their period, even though there are now products to keep it clean.

Maria has a white cat at home, and this is the son of her cat. If you didn’t know, it would be very easy to think this is the same cat by not only the physical appearance but the mannerisms, too, and the way in which it responds to Maria.


I’m not going to say much about these photos because I do believe they speak for themselves.

Just shortly after they were taken, though, shit hit the fan. Then the fan flung the shit everywhere causing a big mess. I have never before physically felt my blood pressure rise, or physically felt it be that high and I hope I never do again. There are some children in this world that do not know how to behave, have no discipline, and have no respect. Until now I never understood why some kids were sent to military schools in the middle of the night without warning. Now I get it. Whether it’s the fault of the parent or just how the kid is… some kids need discipline in a military fashion in order to shape the hell up.

I took the advice of my aunt and started sending the kids outside with work to do, and if they didn’t do it, I’d give them a low mark. Well, the work and the low marks are still not enough to encourage them to behave. Now it’s a game and they even prefer to go outside. So glad they enjoy my lessons (sarcasm). I have come to the realization that children need discipline not just from school but from home, too. Without one or the other, they won’t behave. It’s been a year and a half here and I’m out of ideas and almost out of patience.

Sock Bun

I’ve heard stories of how my mom used to roll her hair around orange juice cans and sleep in order to have big, loose, curls. I’m not sure about you, but that sure doesn’t sound like I’d be getting a good night’s sleep if I did that. So instead, I’m trying this: sock bun curls. My hair might have been too wet for this, but we’ll see in the morning! I may have to experiment a few different ways. Maybe if I do this every night my hair will remember that at one point it used to curl/wave beautifully and therefore it will start to do it again. (Why did I wish to have straight hair??!!)

Sending the bad ones out

Just over 3 semesters into teaching in Moldova, I am finally giving in to sending the kids into the hall when they are misbehaving or just plain don’t give a shit about school, English, or me. Whatever. I’m over it! I’m tired of trying to get them to want to learn: they won’t. I’m tired of getting them to like me: they won’t. I’m tired of at least trying to get them to sit quietly: they won’t. So, I’m giving in.

Besides giving students bad marks due to their behavior in lessons, there are two other punishments I’ve noticed other teachers in my school doing. The little kids are told to stand up with their arms up above their head. This can last anywhere from 2 minutes to the entire class period, depending on the behavior of the student and the mood of the teacher. The big kids are usually not asked to do this. However, both the big kids and the little kids are sent out into the hall when they are misbehaving. Now, this is something up until this point I have been 100% absolutely against. I do not feel that it is a correct punishment to send students outside because I feel that they cannot learn if they are not in the classroom, and they obviously would prefer not to be there, so it is a form of reward to them to be sent outside… and I don’t want to reward their disruptive behavior. Well, with barely over 4 months to go, I just don’t care anymore. I’m tired of dealing with their shit. If they don’t want to be there, I don’t want them there either. At this point I am not going to convince them learning can be fun and English is important and they are lucky to have me (ha)… because if that was going to happen, it would have already happened. They are disruptive to my lessons and distracting to other students. So, I’m sending them out. It may be against what I believe, but I’d rather have a classroom where the kids that want to learn have an environment to learn.

The funny thing is that I started doing this today as I was covering a class for one of my partner teachers. When I told the kids to leave, they didn’t want to leave… and actually kind of shaped up a bit. Hopefully this will help to keep the rest of this week flowing smoothly since I will be teaching every class alone in the place of my partner because she has gone to the capital to help her daughter, who just had a baby. Fingers crossed.


With only 5 more months to go, I’ve started realizing things I am really going to miss about Moldova. As I am sitting with my back next to the warm soba (one of the things I’m going to miss), I hear Vasile outside. If our gate is open, he walks in yelling, “Antonina! Tonina! Antonina!” looking for something to do or for some flowers. I’m really going to miss him.