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.

Computer lesson #3

“Tonight you’ll sleep with Irina,” said my host mom as I introduced my host dad to grooveshark, which is how we get Pandora to work over here in Moldova. I should have started this thread of blog posts on Saturday, when we began our first computer lesson. The first two lessons went pretty much like this:

Day 1-
Host dad (HD): How do you turn on the thing?
Me: With this button.
HD: How do you turn it off?
Me: You close it.
HD: But it’s not off. How do you turn it off?
(side note: he was the technology teacher at school for awhile, in which he taught himself how to use a computer using a book as he was teaching the students at the same time)
Me: Oh, off. This button… click…
HD: (interrupting) OH! SHUT.DOWN. I remember!
Me: Great, yes, shutdown.
HD: Now, I want to call my Elena. How do I do that?
Me: Skype. I already downloaded it. Here is your login and your password. She hasn’t accepted your request to talk to her yet, so you can’t talk to her. You’ll know she’s on the computer when it’s green.
HD: But can’t I call her?
Me: No, not till it’s green. But, look, I’m here. You can call me. Here’s how you write a message. Click here, write.
HD: Where?
… and it went on.
Day 2:
(Host Mom -HM- comes to my room)
HM: Catusa, Nicolai needs your help.
Me: Ok, five minutes.
(go to their house)
Me: What happened?
HD: How do I call my Elena?
Me: You can’t. It’s not green. Plus, it’s too late.
HM: I TOLD him! See, it needs to be GREEN. That’s what I said. I should have taught the technology classes, not you.
HD: Leave me alone.
HD: Ok, I want to go to a site.
Me: What site?
HM: Odnoklassniki [Russian/Moldovan equivalent to Facebook]
HD: Yes, Odnoklassniki
Me: Oh, boy. Ok. It’s in Russian so I don’t know how to use it, but, sure. Let’s go. Do you want to create an account?
HD: You need an account?
HM: I TOLD you that you need an account!
HD: Leave me alone. No, I don’t want an account.
Me: Ok, fine. We’ll log into mine. (log in). Now we’re here. What do you want to do?
HD/HM: I don’t know.
Me: Let’s find Elena.
(we find her then look through pictures)
Me: Now what?
HD: let’s look… oh! Solitare.
Me: You know how to play Solitare?
HD: Yes. Watch, Antonina. (struggles with moving the touchpad mouse)…
… there is a 6 that goes on the 7… a 2 that goes on the 3… now nothing. Why are there 3 cards here?
Me: Let me change the setting for you.
Me: Have fun. I’m going to bed.
HD: No, I’m done now. How do I close it?
Now we’re at Day 3. My host dad came into my room this afternoon as he had some students that were waiting to begin their lessons and sat next to me asking me what I was doing (I was watching a video review on a new camera). Side note: my host mom does this all the time… but my host dad never does. He sat there for a minute then went to begin his lessons. Two minutes later he left, then came back. Just after that, I was packing up to leave and he seemed rather frantic when saying, “Please go look at my computer. I don’t know what happened, but something happened and it won’t close. Then please come back and tell me what happened.” When I went to look at it, I saw that it was installing updates (it’s a new computer and this is only the 3rd day it’s been used). “So, I should just leave it there until it’s done?” “Yes, HD,” I said, “Leave it there until the screen is black. Then turn it back on.” “But how do I do that?” oh boy…
HM: Cate, he is busy? (in English)
Me: What?
HM: He is busy?
Me: I don’t understand.
HM: Are you busy? (In Romanian)
Me: Oh, no. Not really.
HM: Ok, good. HD needs your help.
HM: How do you say ‘busy’?
Me: busy.
HM: He is not busy?
Me: Haha. No, She is not busy.
HM: Ok, I’ll tell him. He is not busy.
… doamne.
I go in for dinner and my HD asked me if I wanted mamaliga (a traditional cornmeal dish). I said sure, whatever, I don’t care. Then my HM informed me that she didn’t want to make it but my HD informed her that I wanted it and so did he. I guess we’re bff now. About halfway into dinner and a couple of shots of wine in, my host dad tells me he would like for me to show him how to listen to music on the computer. Of course this isn’t a problem… except they don’t have any music on their computer. So instead of choosing youtube, I decided on grooveshark, which, like I said in the beginning, is the European version of Pandora. I wanted to take a bath so I went to get the water started then took the computer to sit on the bed because there wasn’t room on the table.
HD: You don’t need the cable?
Me: No.
HD: But it won’t work without it.
HM: It’s a battery.
Me: Yup, she’s right. It’s a battery. It will work for a few hours without the cable.
HD: Oh. Ok.
(I tested to find the easiest way to use the site, then added it to the favorites bar so it’s easy to find)
HD: That was too complicated. How does it work?
Me: I haven’t shown you yet. Go to the star… then click where it says “search” and type in the name of an artist you like… etc
HD: I don’t know where the letters are
Me: Find them
HD: I…r….i…n…a…space…L…o…g…h…i…n
HD: Oh! Look! Irina Loghin
Me: Yes, click there. Here you can watch a video and here you can just listen to the music
(he seems to get of the hang of it so I stand up to go get in the tub)
HD: Where are you going? It doesn’t matter when you go to bed. It’s all the same.
Me: To take a bath
HD: (looks at HM) she’s taking a bath? Is the water ready? Is it stopped? Is it hot?
HM: You’ve had too much wine and now you’re going to sleep with Irina tonight.
Me: I’m taking my bath now. Have fun.
(I take my bath then come out to see my HD has figured out how to change the videos on grooveshark)
Me: Ok, do you have any more questions?
HD: Yes, I have thousands of questions.
Me: Ok, what are they?
HD: How do you do this again?
… good thing I still have 2 1/2 months. We have lots of computer lessons ahead of us!

Behind closed doors

Being 24 years-old puts a whole new perspective on life. I’m old enough now where my friend’s parents are now my friends, I have friends who are the parents of teenagers, and I have friends my age with their own kids (and, well, everything in-between). I hear stories of what I did as a kid and of what my friends did and instead of blushing with embarrassment, I laugh at the ridiculousness of it. My friends who are parents of teenagers talk to me about what their teenagers are doing (or not doing), and I see the first-hand struggles (and joys) of being a new parents. I love being 24 because I do get to see all of this, and it isn’t weird. It’s awesome. And while I wouldn’t consider myself wise by any means, sometimes I would like to get into the heads of some of the teenagers I know and tell them what they’re doing is stupid and they’re going to lose their friends and they’re going to hurt their parents and what they’re doing is taking them down the road but I am not their parent so it is not my place (and I think in this instance I might be too old to be their friend, too). But really, I’m not writing this post for that reason. I’m writing it from the perspective of a person who is in-between making those silly mistakes (I hope) and seeing what happens to the parent when the kid makes them.

Today I saw the frustration/hurt/sadness in two of my adult friends with teenagers. One has a daughter with a boyfriend who is crazy in love with him but is forgetting about her family and friends in the meantime and the other has a son who just started smoking cigarettes and is skipping class in order to do it. One mom just misses her daughter, and the other started crying for her son and the pain it causes her. She said when she was pregnant she was so happy because she was having boys- so she wouldn’t have to worry about them. But now she worries and she doesn’t know what to do.
This makes me hurt. I wish, as a teenager, I could have seen the pain I caused my dad. I wish I could have seen him cry the tears I am sure he cried when I stopped being the straight-A student I’d always been because I had other “priorities” and when I gave up a sport I had loved for those same “priorities”… and when I started mistreating my body because I didn’t know what else to do. I wish I would have treated my dad as an adult that I respected instead of someone that I greatly despised because he was telling me what to do. I wish I knew at times that I was going down the wrong path and my dad was right when he suggested I do something different. I wish I was that kid that never caused pain and hurt to my dad/family/friends… but unfortunately that wasn’t me. If I knew what I know then about what happens behind closed doors when we do something to hurt our parents, I hope that I would have done something different and changed the way I was behaving. Because now I see… it really does hurt. And parents really do cry even if they do not want to admit it.
Maybe I’m wrong, but the way I see it is parents want their children to have a better life than they had. They want their children to be perfect and not to make mistakes (even though it is a way of learning). They want their children to grow up to be strong, patient, hard-working, intelligent, and beautiful people who have nothing but manners, respect, and a successful future. And when their children begin to smoke (which they know has a good chance of killing them in the future), or focus ALL of their attention on a significant other (which they know will cause them to separate themselves from their family, friends, and probably schoolwork)… they hurt because they don’t want to see their child hurt.
I’m not sure how to end this on a positive note. I was that kid that caused a lot of pain for my dad and step-mom and I like to hope that I turned out pretty well. While I’m not a parent, I’m seeing just how hard it is to be one… from many angles at once… and often behind closed doors. While I can’t wait to one day have my own kids… there are moments like these that I know I CAN wait for. It’s not easy to be a parent, and it’s not easy to be a kid.

It’s amazing what a year does

One year ago Pavel, the love of Maria’s life, died.
One year ago, his funeral was difficult to attend because his death was unexpected and it was so apparent in Maria’s face just how much pain she was going through.

One year later, Maria is smiling:
One year ago, the Priest was greeted with tears as guests waited outside in the unexpected cold weather (and snow flurries):
One year later, the Priest entered the home and was greeted with smiles and laughter and warm weather, with guests waiting outside because it was warmer to be outside than inside, where we would be commemorating his death/life/soul:

One year ago, this room was empty except for a casket where Pavel was resting inside, a small table for food and wine, and a grieving friend.
One year later, it was filled with food, friends, and a loving ceremony blessing in which everyone present said prayers and blessed his soul.
…Once the ceremony was finished, it was time to eat (and drink, because what is a Moldovan masa without wine!?)

One year ago, the road was cold, dark, and it seemed so lonely:
One year later, sometimes it may seem like there is no one on the road with you, but even if you are the only one on the road, you’re still on the road… so keep on moving. At least the sun is shining!
Even though I no longer am greeted by HELLO AMERICA! as I enter Maria’s house, I am now greeted with a smile and a, OH, HELLO CATE! from Maria. I still love this couple, even if the couple is technically a single now.
So much can change in just ONE YEAR. Let it change. Let it happen. Because it will, no matter what.

"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.

If life were easy…

If life were easy everybody could do it.

This is a saying that I remember hearing as a kid and it recently hit me just how harsh of a saying it is. As much as I want to say it doesn’t, I must admit that there is some truth to it. Sometimes it feels like things are happening in life that are too good to be true and often that’s because they are. Nothing but good happens, the weather doesn’t affect the happy mood, and all is well. Then something bad hits. My host mother’s mother slipped on ice and broke her hip in three places and cannot get out of bed- just a few days before the snow and ice melted. Something happened to my partner teacher’s grand baby when she was born and now she is in the Moldovan equivalent to the NICU without a diagnosis and a low predicted chance of survival. My dad had a successful surgery but now isn’t sleeping. A teacher at my school who has been teaching chemistry for 50 years had an open lesson where many teachers from all over the area came to observe him and something went wrong with his experiment demonstration and many people started coughing and now people are saying he shouldn’t be allowed to teach. I was loving life int he village until someone took advantage of the fact that I don’t know much Romanian slang and apparently asked me a very inappropriate question and I gave a legitimate response thinking he said something else and someone overheard our conversation (or he overheard incorrectly but passed on the story anyways) and now people in the village are speaking about me in a negative fashion about something that is not true.
Life is hard. This is true. Accidents happen and people get hurt (physically and emotionally) but it is part of life. It is important to take it as it comes and focus on the good things not only as they happen but also afterwards. The good things happen to keep us going through the hard times… but often that is easier said than done.