Thursday, November 29, 2007
2. The final version of my project website's front page should be completed by tomorrow.
3. I've been given the task of helping create the official Invest-Credit website. This will mainly involve writing much of the content in English so they can translate it into Russian and Romanian. Here's a competitor's website, you can see how high the bar is for us (note at the top you can choose English an option. This organization receives a lot of funds from the Soros Foundation).
4. McDonalds now does home delivery here! I saw the sign on the way to the office today. I doubt that we'll be taking advantage of that, but I thought it was cool.
5. On Sunday, we're tentatively scheduled to take a day trip to Romania with Tanya. Another stamp for the passports!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Joni and I have been reading books about Moldova. I finished The Moldovans by Charles King. Considered the definitive history of the people and country.
If you spend much time in Moldova, or plan to, this book is a MUST read. From the 1300s to 2000, King has done amazing research into the fascinating history of this part of Europe. He explores the Moldovan identity crisis. I learned that what I wrote in my previous post doesn't even cover half of it. Reality is always more complicated than it seems.
I found it fascinating how from 1812-1989 there were large battles for the Moldovan identity. Romanians didn't treat Moldovans all that well when they owned the territory, and the Soviets were inconsistent with their manipulations of the language, changing their mind about 3 times and killing or imprisoning those who followed orders the first two times.
King also covers the troubles in the 1990's, the issues with minority people groups, and possible political consequences for the future. He does a really thorough job of defining the various political views and giving their histories.
I give the book 4 stars for a really well-researched history on Moldova. I learned a lot.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
In this picture, Tanya, me, and Kelly are working on the turkey. We decided not to try to do a whole turkey, so we just bought some turkey breasts and I found a yummy-sounding recipe on cooking.com called "Turkey Breast with Mustard Sage Crumbs." So Tanya placed the turkey breast on the pan, I coated it with Dijon mustard, and Kelly put on the crumb topping. Good teamwork, and the results were DELICIOUS. Meanwhile, Rachel was at the sink peeling potatoes.
Once the turkey was in the oven, Kelly went to the living room to work on the table decorations, and Justin helped her. She wanted to make origami turkeys, but they turned out to be more difficult than expected. Between the two of them, though, they managed to end up with one perfect turkey, and he was definitely a good addition to our Thanksgiving festivity! In this picture, he's really enjoying his apple cider.
Justin also, being the gentleman of the group, brought home some beautiful flowers to adorn our banquet, so I arranged them in a teapot for display.
Our table was a sight to behold once it was finished! We had the turkey breasts, green bean casserole, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes with apples, Stove Top stuffing, cranberry sauce, and croissants! We're very thankful to Tanya, who had brought over many American items for the celebration, which enabled us to do the green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce! She also brought the festive paper plates and napkins, which made cleanup much easier!
In this picture, from left to right, are Rachel, me, Justin, Kelly, and Shauna (Tanya was our photographer!). The food was all delicious, and we had a FANTASTIC time together - eating WAY too much. After the meal, we watched a little bit of football we had downloaded... You can't have Thanksgiving without watching football, right?! Then we ate dessert - apple pie (made by Tanya) and pumpkin pie (by Kelly)! Both were delicious. And then we rounded off the evening with a vigorous round of Phase 10 before saying goodnight.
It was such a fun evening, and we are SO thankful for the dear friends God has given us for our time here in Moldova.
Joni: Inna, did you get your hair cut?I didn't laugh at her then, but I did laugh over it later. What woman HASN'T said this over a new hairstyle?! So it looks like in some respects women are the same everywhere, no matter what country they live in!
Joni: I love it! It looks great!
Inna: Well, thanks. I liked it for the first hour after I got it cut, but then I didn't like it anymore.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
One of the best ways to learn language and culture is to read the same textbooks that children read in school. In post-Soviet countries there are textbooks for teaching Russian to non-native Russian speakers. I discovered this method in
So, I found a textbook for teaching Russian to primarily Moldovan-speaking 6th graders. It’s filled with wonderful stories, Moldovan poems, legends, and information about the country. (Fortunately, it was printed in 1997, so nothing bad about Capitalists). Here are a couple that struck me as, well…Moldovan.
One exercise required putting the sentences in proper order. Yes, I did it correctly:
1. Tanya put on her fall coat and went out into the yard.
2. There were other girls there.
3. Tanya began to play.
4. She ran and began to get hot.
5. Tanya unzipped her coat.
6. And then she drank some cold water.
7. That evening, Tanya became ill.
8. Her throat and head hurt badly.
9. Tanya was sick a long time.
10. Later, the doctor came and gave her medicine.
The exercise’s discussion question: Why did Tanya get sick?
In Eastern European countries there isn’t much said about microbes and washing your hands but there is a lot said about “never drink cold drinks,” and “stay away from any draft!” The tightly-bundled babies in the summer and the looks of horror older people have when they feel a draft on the minibus is evidence of this.
There’s a section in the book that features Aesop-like fables with animals. Most have a good moral to the story. Then, there’s this one:
“A cat was happily playing in the meadow with her kittens. At that time above them, a giant hawk flew by. He saw the kittens and swooped down to the ground. The hawk snatched up one of the kittens. But he couldn’t make it back into the air because the mother-cat pouncedon him. The fight began.
The hawk let go of the kitten and began to tear the skin of the mother cat with his claws. He poked the cat in the eye but the cat didn’t give way. She threw the hawk to the ground and grabbed him by the throat. The hawk couldn’t get free from the mother-cat. And the cat bit off his head. And thus, the fight ended.”
Wow. I guess the moral of the story is “it’s a cruel world out there.” Or, “don’t mess with the mother-cat.”My least-favorite story is one that goes like this:
“The teacher called Vasile to her desk and asked him to write on the blackboard in Russian: ‘Radu eats lunch at 2:00.’
Vasile went to the blackboard and wrote: ‘Radu eats lunch in the course of 2 hours.’
All the students began laughing, and Vasile asks them why.
‘Shame on you for not paying attention!’ one of his classmates said.”
Ah, the traumatic and brutal education of public schools. Radu’s mistake in Russian was a common one of forgetting to write the preposition “at.” This probably happens often in my Russian speech as well, but I’d rather just be told I made a mistake rather than “Shame on you for being careless!” But, Vasile probably never made that mistake again, so maybe it really is a good thing.
So, just a couple examples of what I learn while studying. Much of the book is surprisingly a-political, not much history or discussion of current events or even geography. Much of it is just about family, nature, and education. I will probably keep it forever.
Monday, November 19, 2007
First, we met for dinner at a new Italian restaurant. It's owned by this little Italian guy who only speaks Italian and bad Russian. It's the type of place that serves bruschetta as an appetizer, and has real oil and vinegar on the table for your bread and salads. Here's a pic, you can see the owner/chef in the middle. Joni had a fettucini alfredo that came with ham, and Justin asked for the chef's special and got one of the best penne dishes in tomato sauce he's ever had (also with ham). For desert we had homemade tiramisu, which was incredible! The prices weren't bad, the place was packed with Americans, and we had a great time! Then, it was off to the ballet!
The show was packed and the audience was really into it, applauding a lot. When they really get into it, everyone starts clapping in unison to the beat of Tchaikovsky's music. We were really impressed by the stage props and the orchestra. In a neat twist, the Nutcracker was a real person from start to finish, no toy props were used.Apparently, several of the dancers also perform in plays (like Romeo and Juliet) at this same theater. Quite a bit of work and rehearsing for only one performance per show.
A great Saturday evening with good friends and fun culture in Chisinau!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Meeting with Vasile in the office can be frustrating, because I'm trying to explain and understand things in Russian and English, which gets really hard when talking about technical stuff.
When Ghena joins the conversation I have to have him translate their Romanian dialogue to me, which is frustrating for all parties. Yesterday, Vasile called and said "Why don't we just Skype rather than go to the office to talk?" This ingenious idea saves us both 2 hours on the minibus and allows him to spend more time programming. I also discovered his typed English is quite decent, which saves me a whole lot of stress.
So, here's where we're at:
1. The front page will be completed by December 1.
2. The 4 major sub-pages will look just like the front page, so hopefully those will only take a few hours to write.
3. The behind-the-scenes administration stuff will be completed by Dec. 23.
Dima and Sasha are still working on all of this at home, and Vasile just has to get them together occasionally to combine code. All of them are working in their spare time, around school and other for-pay projects.
We're still on track to have the first version posted by the time we leave.
Thanks for your continued prayers for their efforts! Pray for free time and creativity for them, and smooth communication along the way. Thanks!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
From centuries B.C. it was used as a hilltop fortress, surrounded by a river. Later, Stefan Cel Mare ("Stefan the Great"-- Moldova's historical patron figure, king, and military leader) built a fortress there. Control of this territory has passed from Germanic tribes to Slavs, to Romans, to Greeks, to Mongols, to Turks, to Moldovans, to Russians... you get the picture.
This was the nearby village as viewed from a cliff high above.
In the distance you see the monastery and cave complex there where monks dug out a dormitory and used to live by the hundreds. That's what we toured.
There's a village just under the complex. This is a "traditional village home" renovated for tourism.
The belltower and entrance to the monastery/cave complex. They rang right at 3 o'clock.
These were the dormitories. This was pitch black, except for the flash of the camera. You could see on the walls where thousands of candles had been burnt through the centuries by monks.Not pictured: The worship area inside where the Romanian Orthodox priests still work and people worship. There were a lot of icons, candles, and a monk-like priest who lives there and keeps people quiet.
There was also a sign in Russian about a patriarch of the church who, just before he died, prophesied that one day there would be telephones without cords (cellphones) that would connect people all over the world, and connect them via sattelite to the cosmos. It is through these devices that the Antichrist will communicate with people before the end-times. In other words: "please avoid using your cellphone here."
Here's Joni on a ledge just outside the dormitory and worship area. Yes, it was cold. It's snowing in Chisinau as I write this post.
A cross on top of the plateau/complex. There are only traces of all the old fortresses that used to exist here.
We didn't learn much about the history while we were there, but saw some historical artifacts at a museum. The only somewhat-complete history I can find is on this website, but the English is isn't great. It was a fun time!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
But, November 1 was a holiday of sorts because it is when the government turns on the hot water systems to all the heating systems in the city. Most buildings use a radiator heating system (“отопление”). The radiator pipes fill with steaming hot water, and this radiates enough heat to warm entire rooms. We were fortunate enough to have a mild fall, so the office wasn’t too cold before that. Now, it’s ridiculously hot in the office (but it’s great).
Our house has a similar system, except our hot water is dependent on our own heater instead of the government. We have a European-model gas heater that runs our radiator system and even has its own thermostat, so we can keep our home a comfortable 21 degrees celcius. Here are what the radiators look like, we have one in every room.
Having the water heater means we didn’t lack for hot water this summer, either. When you turn the hot water in the tap on, you hear some clicks from the heater as it is sparking the gas burners to come to life. The water runs through the heater and heats up pretty quickly.
I imagine this system is probably more energy-efficient than the central air-heating systems we have in the States and our electric hot water tanks that run all the time.
This is the first time I’ve lived in a place that had such a system that actually worked and I think it’s great. The last place I lived had the physical infrastructure, but after Communism fell the boiler system was looted and never rebuilt, so everyone had to either cook their own hot water or install water heaters. We’re very blessed not to have that problem here!
Thursday, November 8, 2007
So Kelly and Shauna just spent the night at Tanya's house, and I arranged to arrive at Tanya's about 5:45. (The game started at like 2, but I wasn't really interested in watching the whole thing. I believe Tanya is the only one who got up and watched the whole game.) I arrived just before 6am, just in time to see the bottom of the ninth inning and the Sox win!!!! I can't imagine Tanya's neighbors were very thrilled with the shouting and clapping, but we sure were excited!In this picture is me, Kelly, Tanya, and Shauna. Tanya provided all the Red Sox shirts. We are all holding little plastic pumpkins, which is a tradition in Tanya's family to hold a pumpkin when you're nervous at the end of a game.
Then we made a delicious breakfast of pancakes (with real maple syrup that Tanya had someone bring to her from the States, and peanut butter!), scrambled eggs with tomatoes and cheese, Canadian bacon, muffins, and hot chai tea! YUM!!!!!!!!
We sat and talked til almost 11:00, when the other girls realized they had to get going for the day. It was such a blast, though, to do this fun thing with other Americans here in Chisinau! I'm very thankful for some girlfriends to talk to and have fun with here!
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
When most Americans think about learning language, they think about sitting in a classroom with a textbook open. That’s only one (very weak) aspect of learning (you probably don’t remember much of your high school French, do you)?
I used to work for a missions agency that was over-the-top serious when it came to learning language. They equipped us with seminars, workshops, evaluations, materials, etc. to train us how to learn languages. From that experience in learning Azerbaijani, to teaching English to foreigners, and studying Russian in various settings, here’s my advice on how to learn a language:
1. You have to want to learn. It’s not just enough to see it’s necessary. My dad has seen the value of learning Spanish for 20 years, has bought some books and software but has never actually learned it. It takes time, stress, and pain. If it doesn’t hurt, then you’re not doing it right. Everyone can learn, it just takes some people longer than others.
2. (easy one) Expect how many hours it will take you to learn. Our government’s translation service lists their expectations for language students to attain General Professional Proficiency (meaning you can converse on the street on basically any topic and some work topics).
French, Spanish, Romanian take 600 hours.
Turkish, Russian, Greek, Hebrew take 1,100 hours.
Chinese, Korean, Lezgi, etc. take 2,200 hours.
25% with a textbook/teacher format.
25% with a language helper.
25% on your own (homework!)
25% in the culture.
1. Textbook/teacher- Find someone who is qualified and knows proper grammar. Either let that person teach you using their method, or have them teach you via the textbook/curriculum of your choice. Strive to ONLY use the foreign language with this person,
[true, if they speak English they can explain certain things to you. The danger is that too much of your lesson will be in English. I prefer to use a textbook in English for the explanations, and the teacher to reinforce the principles with his/her own curriculum].
2. Language Helper- This is when you pay someone to sit down and practice what you’re learning with the teacher/textbook. This person can be anyone in the culture who speaks fluently. This is the person you ask “How do you say ______.” Record these conversations and practice listening and pronouncing with them. This is one resource I use with my language helper that is a HUGE help.
I replaced my Russian teacher because she was qualified for #1 (and wanted money like she was qualified), but what I really need is more #2. I have worked through a host of textbooks and can explain to you just about any point of Russian grammar. What I need is conversation practice and to learn how people really say things, instead of just a textbook way. Helpers are pretty cheap, flexible, and easily replaceable.
3. Homework- Flashcards (preferably in software format), grammar exercises from the textbook, journaling, reading, memorizing. This is where the rubber (#1 and #2) meets the road.
4. Immersion- Shopping at the market, riding the bus, going to church, listening to the radio, music, watching TV, movies, fun stuff! Just making the language a part of your day.
All 4 of these are essential to learning. In high school you probably only had #1, which is why you don’t remember your French. Eventually, you can even drop #1 and divide time among the other 3.
There are 2 quotes that I think about every day. One is on the bulletin board in the office and is written: «Кто не хочет—ищет причины. Кто хочет—ищет возможности.» Translation: The person who doesn’t want to do something looks for excuses. The person who wants to do something looks for opportunities.
The other comes from Steve Prefontaine: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Of course, the fastest way to get your 2,200 hours is to spend 40 hours a week at it, like a full-time job. Unfortunately, only spies and missionaries get paid to spend that much time on a language. However, I find that I need at least 20 a week to keep moving forward and not forget things, and that’s a big commitment for most of us.
Monitor your “iceberg.” Your iceberg is how many words you know. Some of those words are above the surface and easy to access, other are buried under the surface—words you’ve learned but forgotten, usually because you don’t use them much. The more of your iceberg is above the surface (through practice and immersion) the better you are.
I use flashcard software to keep track of how many verbs I’m memorizing, and the software keeps track of what I know well and not-so-well.Use Total Physical Response (TPR) learning whenever possible. Learn the basic actions of your day as you do them. I wake up, I eat breakfast, I shower, I brush my teeth... all of these are good for use with your helper.
Keep a notebook handy to write everything down. When you come across a new word somewhere, write it down immediately. Look up the definition and consider adding it to your flashcard list. I’ve filled up tons of notebooks with words, phrases, quick-reference grammar points, etc.
DON’T GIVE UP. 99% of people will say “I don’t have ______.” Do what you can with what you do have, and do your best to find a way to fill that ______.
Hope this helps someone somewhere!
Monday, November 5, 2007
(It's widely feared as a no-man's-land where money is laundered and arms, drugs, and people are heavily traded/smuggled).
The #1 obstacle to foreign investment in Moldova isn't the red tape, or Communist-led government, or the World Bank's ranking of Moldova as just the 92nd easiest place in the world for Doing Business in 2008.
Fears over Transnistria are what is keeping Wall Street out. It's also what will keep Moldova from ever joining the EU. The latest issue of The Economist has an article on new developments in the situation.
"This summer, the president, Vladimir Voronin, privately flirted with a private peace deal that gave the separatists guaranteed representation in a new federal parliament and government. That produced lots of protest—from patriotic Moldovans who thought the terms too soft, and from outsiders who feared that it would end up giving the Kremlin too much sway in the new country."
Rumors of Voronin making a deal with the Kremlin were prevalent in Western blogs a few weeks ago when Voronin and Putin met in Kazakhstan. The result of the meeting was that Russia finally lifted its ban on Moldovan wines, ending a sanction that had hurt the Moldovan economy for almost 2 years. "What was the price and what secret deal was made?" is the question.
Political hypothesis #1 (The Economist's optimistic view):
Russia has gotten tired of spending the money and troops to support Transnistria. Voronin has agreed to slowly integrate the country into Moldova, making concessions. Eventually, all will be peaceful and Moldova can slowly continue to look Westward to EU membership.
Political hypothesis #2 (taken from this news source, which you have to now pay to read):
Russia has pulled out of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty to ensure keeping its troops in places like Transnistria because it is ticked off that the West supports independence for Kosovo. Russia will never leave Transnistria, and will never allow Moldova to join the EU. The deal was made in Kazakhstan: Russia resumes imports and Moldova's government remains pro-Russia.
Political hypothesis #3:
Transnistria will declare its independence, supported by Russia. Moldova can then move on and eventually elect a liberal pro-Western government, attract foreign investment, and become a part of the EU and/or Romania.
Political hypothesis #4:
The Communists fear losing the next election in 2009. Voronin's son is the richest person in Moldova, and they have many vested interests in maintaining their control of several state and private industries. In order to keep their majority they may allow Transnistria to reunite and give them enough seats in parliament to ensure the Communists will keep control of Moldova. The Communists will keep their vested interests and continue to hamper progress toward joining the EU and/or Romania, thus pleasing the Kremlin.
The next 10 years here may be really interesting.
Friday, November 2, 2007
While the law says there is such a thing as a Moldovan, and Moldovan language, in historic reality Moldovans are ethnic Romanians and Moldovan language is just Romanian. (Note when Joni was learning Romanian we didn’t call it Moldovan. This is controversial here and in talking about it with locals I have to choose which word I use carefully).
- Pre-1812, most of the land mass constituting
Moldovawas part of . Romania
- 1812- this land mass was taken by the Russian Empire and named
Bessarabia. encouraged Russians and others to settle there, and began to replace the Romanian Orthodox church with the Russian Orthodox church, and discouraged Romanian in education. Russia
- 1918- Russian Empire collapses and Bessarabia joins with
as a single country. Transnistria splits off and forms its own Romania . Socialist Republic
- 1940- Hitler and Stalin sign the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that officially gives Bessarabia to the
. Transnistria is united with Bessarabia and area is officially called USSR . (Most industry would be introduced in this Transnistrian section, made up mostly of ethnic Russians and Ukranians). Moldova
- 1941- Hitler invades
USSRand Romaniaagain resumes control of . Moldova
USSRre-takes . Moldova
- Stalin begins deporting Moldovans to Siberia and
, while importing Russians and Ukranians to the area. The local language is officially called “Moldovan,” and a new official alphabet in Cyrillic is introduced. Changes in the official language are made to make it different from Romanian. Kazakhstan also begins a new education program stating that Moldovans are their own race and Romanians are something different. (De-nationalization programs like this are designed to keep USSR Moldovafrom re-joining with more independent-minded , whose leadership had gotten on Stalin’s bad side). Romania
passes a law restoring Moldovan language to a Latin script. “Moldovan” is still the name of official language of the country. Moldova
Moldovadeclares independence from the . Some people begin to push for re-uniting with USSR . Transnistria declares independence from Romania and civil war ensues. Moldova
- Russian troops assist Transnistria, and a cease-fire is signed. Transnistria becomes its own entity. A 1994 vote shows that most Moldovans prefer independence to uniting with
. Schools in Transnistria teaching Romanian/Moldovan continue to use the Cyrillic script introduced by the Russians. Romania
becomes the only country in the world with freely-elected Communist government (in name, at least). Government continues policy of Moldovan as the official language. Moldova
- A 2004 census says that 60% claim Moldovan as their mother tongue, whereas only 16% claim Romanian.
Now, most former Soviet countries recognize Moldovans as their own ethnicity.
You can read the heated debate among Wikipedia contributors here.
The local media, and even the national anthem, don’t refer to the national language by name only simply as “Limba de Stata” (“Language of the State”). The ruling Communist party has clearly made their commitment to independence from
So, is Moldovan the Soviet-modified Romanian written in Cyrillic script? Or is it the dialect of Romanian that’s spoken here in
While most Moldovans claim Moldovan as their language, hundreds of thousands are applying for Romanian passports and citizenship based on their Romanian ethnicity…
If there’s enough interest in this post, I’ll post some of the latest political theories about how this is all going to end up. If I’ve made errors here, Serghei and anyone else more knowledgeable than myself should feel free to point them out.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Everything looks healthy and good. Joni will go back for a glucose and bacteria test in 2 weeks. Prayerfully, this will not set off another round of tests elsewhere like it did last time.
Too bad sonograms are not a tradable good, as that would dramatically reduce health care costs in America. This one cost us 50 lei (about $4).