Last Bell

Last week I was invited to one of the local lyceums for a tradition Moldovans refer to as “last bell.”  Basically, on the last day of the school year, the schools hold a big ceremony with all the students and teachers.  So one of the English teachers I worked with to hold a writing competition invited my site mate and me to attend.  And I’m so glad she did.

The ceremony began at about 8:30 a.m.  Students from grades 6 to 11 lined up, dressed in their best, in a half circle outside the front of the school.  Next, there was a procession of all of the graduating 12th grade students, who came out of the front entrance of the school carrying balloons, walked around the half circle of students, and lined up on the stairs facing their younger peers.

Administrators spoke, the Vice President of the District spoke, student leaders spoke, and they handed out certificates and diplomas to students and teachers of all grades and subjects.  They even handed out the certificates we had printed for the students who won the national creative writing contest we held through Peace Corps (there were five from this school).

Photographers were there taking pictures throughout the ceremony.

At the end, two of the older students picked up two young children and carried them around on their shoulders as the two young ones rang the official “last bell.”  And then the senior class let their balloons go with a loud cheer.

For me, it was a great experience for a couple of different reasons.  Not only did I get to enjoy observing the Moldovan last bell tradition, but it was a success in that I felt like a part of the community.  Many of our volunteers here work in schools teaching English or health lessons, but my site mate and I do not, so our interaction with the schools here is more limited.  So I just felt honored that they thought to invite us to come, and that, even though we don’t work in the schools as teachers, we can still work together and share successes as a community.

I’ve included some pictures and videos below, I hope you enjoy as well!

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Visiting my host sister’s English class

This week I visited my host sister’s 12th grade English class to speak with the students, and wanted to relay some questions from my visit:

Student: How old are you?
Me: I’m 25.  (Look of shock).  Why, how old do I look?
Student: You look 20 maybe.

Student: Why did you become a volunteer?
Me: (My usual answer).  Simply, I wanted to help.  I had done volunteer work in Argentina and Mexico and after seeing people living in poverty, I wanted to help change that, to help people in developing countries have a better life.

Student:  What should we do if we want to live and work in America?
Me: Good question.  Well, generally, I would say you should study a lot, get a good education and work hard.  One good thing about living here in Moldova is that you all speak so many languages.  In the United States, very few people speak more than one language.  But here in Moldova, you know Romanian and Russian, and you study English and French.  That’s a lot of languages, and I think it’s good that you all have those skills.

Student:  What jobs are there in America?
Me:  Well, right now we are having a problem with jobs.  It’s a big problem.  Many people are unemployed, which means they can’t find jobs.  Many students who are graduating from universities in the United States are also having trouble finding jobs.  But, as a Moldovan, I would look for jobs involving international work where they might need you to speak other languages.  But I would also encourage you to consider staying in Moldova and working here.  You can help make things better in Moldova.  But I wanted to work in another country, so I can also understand the desire or wish to work abroad.

Student: Who are your favorite celebrities?
Me: Actually, I really like politics, so I don’t follow celebrities as much.  I like elected officials more than celebrities.
Student: But who are your favorite celebrities?

Student: Who are your favorite musicians?
Me: That’s a hard one.  I like a lot of musicians that aren’t very well-known, or aren’t very popular.  Do you know…(and I name some obscure bands/musicians)…?
Student:  (Student shakes head).

Student: I hear a lot of Americans are fat because they eat fast food.
Me:  Well, we do have a problem with obesity, but not all Americans are fat.  The obesity problem is much more among populations who have less education, or people who earn very little money.  In the U.S., we don’t all have gardens like you do in Moldova, and so we buy everything from supermarkets.  And many times, fast food is cheaper than fresh fruit and vegetables.  It’s a problem, but we’re trying to educate people about how they can eat healthy.

Student: Do you have any tattoos?
Me: Nope, no tattoos.
Student:  Because I see you have some earrings high on your ear.
Me:  (Smiling) Yes, yes I do.
Student: If you could get a tattoo, what would it be?
Me:  Actually I don’t think I want to get a tattoo because you can’t remove them, and I’m not sure if I want something on myself permanently.  And if I decide I want to remove it, they actually have to repeatedly burn your skin to do that, and it looks very painful.  But if I did get a tattoo, it would be something very meaningful that I would want forever.
Student:  Like what?
Me: Uhm…maybe something religious, or a quote from an American author named Henry David Thoreau who went to live in the woods alone for a long time and wrote many interesting thoughts and perspectives…