Last week I attended two graduation “balls” for the graduating seniors at my lyceum. The way they celebrate graduations is a bit different here, and its even different in Cahul than from a smaller village. Because my school is so large, there are three sections of the 12th grade, split into 12A,12B and 12C. In my school, the “A” lyceum classes are the “real” classes which means that they study more science and math. The “B” and “C” classes are “human” (=humanities) so they take an additional foreign language and have more literature and history classes. I taught 12A this year and last, and they’ve generally been my favorite class despite some discipline problems with the boys and a giant gap between levels. Overall they were the most respectful class that I had, and they are the reason I think that I like teaching. I also taught 12B last year, but they took English as a Second Foreign Language, meaning that they’d had French for 9 years and then started taking basic English starting in the 10th grade. They were a lot of fun, but unfortunately they didn’t fit into my schedule this year.
The graduation balls are a combination of prom and graduation. Each section of the class books what is basically a wedding hall for a night. Students dress in ball gowns and suits while parents and teachers dress up in wedding attire. We eat a giant meal, then listen to some speeches by administration, homeroom teachers and parents. Then, we dance. Imagine prom with dinner, parents and teachers present. Oh, also a lot of cognac. The dances end when the sun comes up, so I managed to get myself out of there around 3am on Friday and 2am on Sunday. Nothing like walking home alone at 2am in a fancy dress. It’s funny because I refuse to take a taxi for three blocks, but none of the other teachers would walk home. They were amazed that I wasn’t afraid, but I’ve walked home alone in Brooklyn in the middle of the night. Cahul is only scary during Easter week.
Now that the graduation ceremonies are done, I don’t have much to do. We’ve been slowly sorting through our apartment and trying to get rid of things. Its amazing how much crap we’ve collected over two years. The package I sent home made it, intact (the postal worker was very concerned that the souvenir vase I’d packed would shatter–the exact convo went, “You should not send this, what if it breaks?” –”Then it breaks”). I’ve finished writing all of my reports for PC and am waiting on a job opportunity to play out before I finalize my travel plans. I have a flight booked from Bucaresti to Nepal, but that’s it. I can’t book anything due to the job, because if I get it I’ll have to go straight there from Kathmandu. Will disclose description and location once its finalized.
A funny little side story:
About two weeks ago, my partner sent me an email saying that she’d left her phone in a classroom, but she wanted me to come to the village to stay with her in-laws (who I love) the next day. This was a Tuesday night. On Thursday morning at 6am, I had a skype job interview lined up, and had to be in Chisinau later that afternoon. When she called me on Wednesday morning, I told her all of my problems with staying over Wednesday night in a village, and she provided solutions to all of them and basically told me to get ready and meet her in center. So I got ready–which meant packing a bag for a week, since I had to go to Chisinau directly from the village to take care of my COS medical exam and a couple of exit interviews–and met her and her husband at the bus. We ate shashlik which is Moldovan BBQ–the most genius thing I’ve discovered here. They dig a hole, stick two pieces of wood on the outside to balance skewers or other things, and put a wire mesh basket of meat over hot coals. I mean, its not a new idea, but coming from SoCal and NYC, no one would just dig a hole in the backyard to grill and I was very impressed. While I was in Valeni, it hailed which no one liked, but then it thunder stormed, which I love.
We had a big dinner with her in-laws (mother, father, sister/husband/kids) and talked about life and the school system and her sister-in-law had an economic view of the country which made total sense to me (basically people here take their remittances and build houses which is a one time investment and does almost nothing to help the economy). She wanted people to build businesses and make money off of that to build their houses. She worked in Romania for a few years and they bought a tractor with that money so that they could make their farming more efficient. I was amazed by her, but that’s kind of a side point.
Doamna Elena, my partner’s mother-in-law, made up a bed for me and made sure I had a place to plug in my computer. Aliona left her laptop and internet stick in my room just in case mine didn’t work. They both woke me up at 5am and Elena brought me coffee and fluffed my hair. After my hour + interview, she saw me outside drinking water. She thought I had gone back to bed after a 20 minute interview, and was amazed that I had spent the whole time talking to someone. When she asked how I felt, I told her I felt as though I had spent the last hour doing sports, that’s how fast my heart was beating. She looked at me and said, “well, you don’t need water for that. I have something better for you”, led me into the kitchen, and poured us some moonshine made from quince (the best rakiu I’ve had here). She may be one of my favorite people in Moldova. She then fed me stuffed grape leaves, homemade sour cream and we talked about life in the village. She even told me that talking to me was interesting because she had to simplify her vocabulary and speak slowly, which I appreciated to no end. I speak clean Romanian, so I can have problems in a village where they speak dialect. When I told her I needed to leave, she took me by the hand and got me a ride back to Cahul with a friend of hers that was driving by. I’m going to try to visit her again before I leave.