Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

We began our class with Russian undergraduates today and for the first time since we have been here we are disappointed in our class. Someone had told us they wanted us to see what differences we saw in the Romanian and Russian students. (Remember that Russian and Romanian refers to the language they speak; not what country they come from) There is so much competition between the two groups but we had not expected to find much difference in teaching them. The Russian students are much more resistant to what we have to say and don’t seem to think that we could possibly understand their culture or what they can do in their countries. Of the 12 students in the class only 5 of them entered in to conversation with us and the others showed little or no interest in what we were teaching. It was as if they had to be there but they were not going to pay any attention to what was going on. This was not our experience with the graduate or undergrad students we had in class in the previous weeks. We will just have to see how the rest of the week goes. Hopefully we can convince them that these social work skills can be helpful for them in their countries as well as in the U.S. Some of their resistance may come from their distrust of Americans.

One student with some force in her voice said, “Here the purpose of social work is to bring people to Christ.” Shortly thereafter, she asked Preston directly, “How many people have been saved as a result of your social work?” He replied that he had no idea and only knew that clients had said to him that they thought he was a Christian based on the way he had worked with them as a social worker. He then asked the students if they thought that the social work students at the State University in Chisinau would agree that bringing people to Jesus was the primary purpose of social work. That sort of took them back and they finally agreed that they would not. They then got into a debate as to whether a Christian would ever need a social work. They were divided on that question but most seemed to agree that a Christian could solve their own problems with God’s help. Wow! Where are Garland, Sherwood and Yancey when you need them? This is where class ended, ten minutes after we were supposed to the done. I think this is why we felt so badly at the end of the day.

What a difference a day makes. We don’t know what made a difference but today it was like we had a different group of students. We began by asking what they had heard yesterday that was new to them. They stated several things and asked good questions. We went on with the discussions and most of them were interested in what was being said. By the middle of the day they were being very friendly. At one point they were talking among themselves and took a vote. Preston asked what they were voting on and they said they couldn’t tell us. But they did ask if we had anything to do after class on Thursday. When we said we didn’t, they said they would have a surprise for us. We wish we knew what made the difference. Maybe having some time to think about what was said in class gave them a better perspective or maybe they were tired. Still they are not as interested in learning the helping process as they are in discussing how social work is done in America—who does it, who do they see, etc. Most of the students are from central Asia and really have little idea of what social work as a profession is like.

Shortly after we started this morning a student asked, “You said yesterday that you did not believe that saving souls was the main purpose of social work. What do you think is the main purpose?” Preston replied, “Helping people solve their problems in living.” He talked a bit about the Mathew 26 passage (“I was hungry and you fed me. etc) and that ended it. We picked back up with the helping process and the issue did not come up again. We talked some about this with Oleg and he was not surprised given the amount of theology that is a part of their curriculum. Their BSW is a three year program and is heavy on Bible study.

We only have two more days and then we will be on our way home. Actually the time has gone very quickly. But we are ready to come home!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

This weekend has been very COLD!!! This morning it was 1 degree with snow flurries. The sun is shining now so it should warm up but the predicted high is 19. This is the kind of weather we thought we would have the whole time we are here so we are thankful for the warm (40’s) days we had. It is hard to think about 40 degrees being warm!

Saturday morning we met the parents of one of the guys that stays here. They came from the U.S. for a couple of weeks. Genie had on a Baylor sweatshirt when we met his dad so he immediately started talking about colleges in the U.S. He asked if all students and faculty signed a statement of faith at Baylor. When we said no he said, ”Oh, so it isn’t a Christian university.” That was a statement not a question! Preston said that he disagreed with him and the father’s comment was “It depends on your definition of Christian.” To him a university is only Christian if everyone there is Christian. We also had a conversation with Alex in which he said that treating women as equal to men was against the Bible. The funny thing is that he certainly treats Lucia well. They are a very loving couple. In fact the whole family is very affectionate with each other especially the children with Lucia. Often when we are watching a movie, Irina and Maria will both be cuddled up with her in a big chair.

Saturday morning Alex left to meet some friends from Ukraine. A while later he called to say that he was at a Moldova wine expo and wanted Lucia and us to come. Wine is Moldova’s top export and supposedly the Queen of England drinks only Moldovan wine. We took a taxi and drove through parts of Chisinau we have not previously seen. We first noticed that it was more upscale than we had seen before and then we saw what looked to us like university buildings. Sure enough we were in the university district. We learned that there are 7 universities in Moldova. It reminded us of the areas around Rice and SMU. The city looked really beautiful with the yards and buildings covered in snow.

When we got to the exposition it was in something like a fair grounds area only the buildings were better than the HOT buildings. The place was set up like little restaurants with tables for each wine distributor and there were lots of distributors and lots of people drinking Moldovan wine. It was really very interesting and a strong indicator of Moldova’s entry into capitalism.

In addition to wine, there were several booths that had Moldovan crafts for sale--mostly pottery. Genie had a wonderful time with that and the pottery may make up in weight going home for the books we brought over.
When we left we walked about a mile in the snow to meet our taxi. It was really cold—probably close to 0 degrees. Our faces, ears and feet got awful cold but it was exciting and felt good to walk. Moldavians like to walk and this was our first opportunity to do much walking. We have both noticed something strange. Neither of us has been bothered by our usual joint pains, nor with indigestion. That seems very strange to us since we have not been following our usually diets and maybe that is what it is. However, we are eating things here we usually avoid at home like carbs. They use a lot of bread, potatoes, rice and pasta as fillers. Preston tries to go light on them, but cannot avoid them as well as he does at home. Neither of us however think we have gained much weight. Of course we may be fooling ourselves since we do not have a scale. We are only judging by the fit of our cloths.

Genie is not feeling well this morning (Sunday) so we are skipping church. She either has a cold or allergies. We hope she can get over it before the long flight home on Friday. Preston is already dreading the long hours in the little cramped seats. Debbie and Susan will be picking us up at the DFW airport so at least we will not have to drive home.

The Moldovan adventure is getting close to being over! We both have mixed feelings about that. It has been a great experience and we will greatly miss our Moldovan friends and family. It is hard to think we may never see them again. On the other hand we have truly missed family and friends in Waco and can hardly wait to see you all again.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

It is snowing today and has snowed all night! It is really beautiful. The temperature today is to be 18 to 4 degrees! It was really cold last night but there isn’t much wind today and it doesn’t feel that bad. It is to be very cold all weekend—15-4 on Saturday, and 24-21 on Sunday.

We completed our time with the Romanian undergrads yesterday and really enjoyed them. All of our students, graduates and undergraduates, have really gotten into the helping process. I don’t think that they have ever been taught any systematic approach to practice. We had them memorize the stages and steps as homework and they all knew them perfectly the next morning. Most of the Romanian undergraduates can read and understand English, but are hesitant to speak it. Victor, our translator, is their English teacher and he encourages them to talk to us in English.

Mariana, a really great student who speaks English, talked to us about social work education in the US and Baylor in particular. She finishes this year and really wants to continue her social work education. She is from one of the villages and says that there are no social workers there and there is tremendous need. I asked Vitalii what “village” meant and he said it usually refers to a rural area. We hear, “In my village….” a lot. From our one trip outside of Chisinau we know that there is a world of difference outside the city. I don’t think we could say the Chisinau is 3rd world, but you don’t go far outside the city limit before it is.

We had a long conversation with Alex last night about conditions here. He worries so much about his children’s future. He would sacrifice everything to get them a university education. The problem is that unlike the US a college degree does not necessarily predict at least a middle class lifestyle. There are many here with degrees that do not have jobs or are underemployed. This means that the young people are not really motivated to study and plan for college. Irina, the oldest daughter, spent 2 years in a Baptist school in Georgia, but ended up coming home because she missed her family so much. She has a job working with a program that sends young adults to the US to work and travel for a summer. She loves her job and I’m sure does well because of her USA experience; but, I doubt it pays much or has much of a future. Alex wants them to have a career.

We are so glad we didn’t have to try to get to the school today. Irina had to go to work and she called a taxi because she fell so many times trying to get home last night from the bus stop. It took her 40 minutes to find a taxi that would come out here. She said they either had too many calls or didn’t want to come this far.

For supper last night we had grape leaf rolls (similar to cabbage rolls) and pickle soup. Can you imagine?!?! It is really good. I asked Lucia to give me the recipe and she said she just puts it together without one. I want to get several of her recipes.

We wanted to cook something for the family this weekend so we went to the grocery store yesterday after class to see what we could find. It was quite interesting trying to find enough ingredients for any of the recipes we were going to use. Vitalii, our driver, was with us and he knows nothing about cooking. He could ask to clerks where things were but that didn’t mean we recognized them when we got to the right shelf. We were looking for cream cheese. We knew they have it because Lucia had told us that it was expensive. We finally got something that looked like it but when we got home Lucia said it was some other kind of cheese. Vanilla came in a carton, Baking soda is in an envelope. They don’t have baking powder. They don’t have crushed pineapple, only small pieces. It will be interesting to see if anything we do is worth eating!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Our House

Entrance to our house.

Valentine Dinner

Valentine's Day dinner at Green Hills Restaurant
Tatiana (Natasha's mother), Oleg Turlac, Natasha Turlac, Genie and Preston

Our House

The house where we are staying.


Abandoned warehouses across the road from our house.

Church Singers

Singers in a church service.

Genie and the Girls

Genie, Irena, Maria, Lucia in church

Preston & Genie at School

Genie and Preston in front of school where Voice of Truth Baptist Church meets

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We have completed our time with the graduate students and today were with the Romanian undergraduates. There is a difference in teaching the two groups—age and experience. The graduates were so much fun because they could apply all the teachings to what they are doing or not doing in their practice.

Today the students asked if we meant the same thing they did when we said social worker. We were a little surprised at the question and asked what social worker meant to them. They said there are two catgories: social workers and social assistants. Social assistants are the trained, educated workers and social workers are untrained. We knew that the graduate students always referred to social assistants but they never mentioned the second category. We saw one of them in the hall and asked her about the two categories and she said that was not her experience. However, she was trained in Romania and not Moldova. She talked to the undergrads about it and they said it is true in Moldova. We are going to have to check this out with some of the faculty or other graduate students before we leave.

We were told before we came in 2005 that Christian women don’t wear pants or jewelry in Moldova. The graduate students did wear jeans and some wore earrings and occasionally a necklace. The undergrads seem to be much less likely to wear pants or jeans and not jewelry. So we think it is probably the college that promotes this standard rather than the Christian community as a whole. The girls in the family we are with wear jeans all the time even to church. When we talked about taboos in the undergrad class they even included Christian women wearing jeans and jewelry as a topic that is hard to talk about.

When it is cold here people don’t seem to dress in layers as we had assumed they would and as we are prepared to do. They all wear very warm outer wear—scarves, heavy coats, hats, gloves. But otherwise they dress much as we would if the temperature was in the 40s or 50s. They have on skirts or jeans and a light sweater or blouse. I don’t know if they even know about silk underwear or “cuddle duds!” Maybe we should tell them about them!

Last night right after supper we were watching “Spirit” with Danny while the others cleaned the kitchen. About halfway through the movie Alex brought us warm cherry pie with ice cream. The cherries were about three times as thick as they would be on cherry pie in U.S. It was wonderful!! We are really being spoiled! Lucia had canned fresh cherries last summer. It was slightly tart and just right with ice cream. I (Preston) really loves suffering for Jesus. Tonight we are having pizza made from scratch. Coming home is going to be tough. We are really being spoiled.

This afternoon we went with Alex to visit a privately owned orphanage in Chisinau. We visited a state owned orphanage in 2005 and some of you may remember the pictures we took there. This one was very different! There were only 30 children there and no more than four children to a room. At the state facility the bedrooms were large rooms with 12 to 15 beds, one right next to the next. They had a nice “homey” looking dining room, study rooms, and a large meeting room. They opened in 2002 and took children who were living on the street. They don’t require the children to leave until they are 18 and before they leave they help them learn skills they will need to provide for themselves. It has been funded by a Dutch mission group but will loose their funding in 2008. They are hoping to find new sources of funding and if not they will try to either find the children’s families or find families to adopt them. It is a very nice facility and it will be a shame if they have to close.

I talked to them about field placements. The director’s niece is a teacher at CTE in the social work program and is working on a degree in psychology. We met her in 2005. She takes her students there to visit, but I don’t think it is a field placement. The director did not have a very high opinion of Moldovan social workers, but seemed to have a high opinion of social workers trained abroad. We got the idea that even as we get people better trained here, it will take a time to over come the current image.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Today was a much easier day than we have had previously. Four of our graduate students taught the undergrad Romanian students a portion of the helping process and tomorrow four more will teach. We will finish the process on Wednesday and Thursday. They did well in their teaching. We feel very good about their understanding and ability to explain it to others. All in all seems to be a good way to do a final examination. They taught in Romanian and the translator softly translated into English for us. We’ve been thinking how we might do something like this with our Baylor MSW students. We took a half hour after the undergraduates left to give feedback to the grad students who presented.

Some things are the same here as they are at home. For instance, cell phones are the rage. Everyone has a cell phone and they want the latest models. And of course they ring during class and during church services! Another example has to do with teenagers here at the house and the teenagers I know at home. On weekends they stay up half the night and sleep most of the day. And as at home, Poppa doesn’t like them sleeping during the day and then the arguments begin!

After class today we rode and walked around the downtown section of the city. The flower markets are beautiful with roses, tulips, carnations, and most any other flower you want right on the street. We went to an outdoor craft market, a book store, and a candy shop. Then Vitalii took us to a cafĂ© for coffee. It was called “Big Deal” and the name was in English. It was a neat little shop in the basement of a building and Vitalii said he could tell us from experience that it is a great place to take a date! It reminded Preston of some ratskellers we’ve been to. It was also like a place he spent some time in St. Petersburg. We think 2/2 and supper club would have liked it. We had great coffee, but Vatalii stuck to hot tea as is the custom. Actually, Preston has really gotten into a afternoon cup of tea with lemon and slenda. Yes, he brought his supply with him.

We have tried for two days to send some more pictures and for some reason we can’t get them attached. So we will keep trying. Preston got some great pictures of the downtown area today that we want you to see. Hope we don’t have to wait until we get home.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

We have had a very quiet, restful weekend. We spent most of Saturday reading, writing, doing cross-stitch, and napping. We had Lucia good cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Lucia, Alex, Maria, and Danny went to the market and then to McDonalds. Danny is like lots of children and loves McDonalds—mostly for the toy!

About 1:00 Alex came to our room and said “We have opportunity for steak. You want?” When we said yes he said “About 2:00.” So, on Moldovan times it was ready about 2:30. We had steak, potatoes, green beans, potato salad, and rice with carrots. Lucia told us they only eat meat when they have barbecue sauce to put on it. We brought a huge bottle from Sam’s Club and it will probably to gone by the time we go home.

Daniel was really feeling good and being silly (guess McDonalds got to him!). For lunch he wanted potatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, and honey mixed together! He told his mother something in Russian. She laughed and said when Daniel wants to be sarcastic he calls me “Your Majesty.” He is such a cute little guy and just lots of fun. He and Preston play a game at every meal about who is going to sit by Genie. Daniel loves to tease and be teased.

We had apple crepes with homemade whipped cream for breakfast this morning. Lucia made the crepes and Maria peeled and cooked the apples. For lunch we the borsch. Alex told us it was Ukrainian borsch but he didn’t know the difference in Ukrainian borsch and any other. Lucia said she is likes the ingredients in her soups all to be the same size and thickness. Not only is she a good cook she is a very particular one.

Today we went to their church again. Every Sunday the service is different, Even though we can’t understand we can tell the form is different! Today they had a visiting preacher who is from the college where we are teaching. In fact his wife teaches social work and was in our class the first week. He didn’t preach but 30 minutes so to make up for it they had about five selections of special music.

We met a Baylor alum who lived in Moldova previously and has just come back. His name is Mark Dalton and he is from Dallas. He majored in economics and knows Steve Gardner. We are going to have dinner with him one night and talk some more. Alex had told us about him and that he would be back before we left. Alex has a Baylor notebook we gave him the last time we were here and he said when Mark saw it he couldn’t believe his eyes. He asked Alex where in the world he got it. Mark was very surprised to see something from Baylor in Chisinau!

Monday and Tuesday our grad students will teach the undergrad Romanian students so those days will be much easier for us. They will finish on Tuesday and we will teach the rest of the week.

We hope to listen to the Lady Bears tonight as they play Texas. Since the game is at 2:00 there it will be 10 pm here. When they play at 7 pm we aren’t willing to get up at 3 am to cheer them on!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

College of Theology and Education

This is the main entrance to the College of Theology and Education in Chisinau, Molodova.

Serghei Namesnie

This is Serghei Namesnie, director (president) of the College of Theology and Education.

The Scenic View

Here's the view from our classroom window,
looking into somebody's back yard.

February 17, 2007 On Teaching

On Teaching

Yesterday (Friday) was an absolutely wonderful day of teaching. I (Preston) don’t think that I have ever felt more affirmed as a teacher in over 45 years as a college teacher. Some of you who are not really interested in teaching, especially social work may want to just skip the rest of this entry.

I mentioned in the Thursday entry what one of the students said about seeing her practice through entirely different lenses. Well that trend continued today with student after student having breakthroughs of insight. One said, “I’m repenting of the way I’ve been dealing with my clients.” The funny thing is that we were working on the evaluation step of the helping process. We had started that discussion on Thursday and we were moving very cautiously. When we were here in 2005, I asked several times how they evaluated their programs and every time I was told how many had been saved in their ministry. Teaching about evaluation was hard because they have no background in research and no experience in thinking quantitatively about their work. They were immediately engaged in the idea of somehow measuring the effectiveness of their interventions. I had asked them as a homework assignment to design an evaluation for one of their clients or for their project (program). The first student to report works in a women’s health care program at a hospital. We visited this program when we were here before and decided that it was basically an abortion prevention program. Abortion is probably the top contraceptive method here. When I pressed her for program objectives, she said that “being saved” was their first objective. I swallowed hard and said, “OK what was the second?”

The class helped her formulate a second objective something like, to increase the decision not to abort among the women with whom they work. So I thought, OK I’ve dodged that bullet. Her program also has an education component that is delivered in the schools; so, we talked a macro level objective on reducing the abortion rate in Chisinau. She seemed quite satisfied with herself and then said, “I think I was wrong to see the major objective as making Christians out of my clients.” The comment really got no response from anyone including me. In fact, she sort of said it under her breath and it did not register with me for a while in part because so much was happening as the other students were discussing their programs. That, by the way, is a major frustration. A really great discussion is going on among the students and you cannot understand it and cannot participate until you get a brief summary of it from the translator. Actually, I think all of us heard that comment at a somewhat subliminal level; because later in the afternoon it was repeated by a number of students. At some point, I used the quote, “Preach Christ, and use words only when necessary.” and they loved it.

In the last hour of class, a student who works in a hospital for children with leukemia spoke up and wanted help on how to evaluate her program. She was supposed to work with the parents of the children who were dying. (Oh, Helen, how I wished for you.) It was obvious that she really had little idea of what she was supposed to do to help the parents and absolutely no idea of the literature on death and dying—not even Kubler-Ross. Somehow we got back to the skill of defining role and purpose and after struggling with that for a while she told us about one parent she had talked to. The woman’s child was dying. The student said she had noticed that the woman was always dressed nicely and looked great. As she talked with her she asked her how it was that she always looked so great and always smiled and seemed upbeat. The woman replied that early on she had not and that her son had asked about it and said it made him sad to see her so disturbed and unhappy. She had decided right then for her son’s sake she would dress in bright colors and smile. The student told the story as an example of great coping with a difficult problem in living and the class all seemed to agree. Now death and dying is not my field, but I do know enough to know that being strong for her son showed her strength but it also cost her dearly in emotional energy to do that and hide her own grief. I asked the class what they thought the woman needed from the social worker. After some probing they did a great job of applying the whole helping process to case and the student was then able to define her role in her practice. She ended, by saying, I can see now that just evangelizing is not my major objective. By that time we were beyond the time to end class and everyone just sat there. Someone said, “We need a good story to end on.” Another said, “Galina has demonstrated door handle communication.” I sure wish there was a way to plan a class like that.

Here are some other quotes from students in class yesterday. Tatiana, one of the teachers and a very reflective student said, “This class has totally changed my way of thinking and my point of view and my way of acting not only with my clients but with my husband and children. (I think she was talking here about using “I” statements and avoiding “Why” questions.) Now I really understand the difference between a friendship and a professional working relationship.” Victoria said, “With my new lenses, I see I have made lots of mistakes. I’ve asked many ‘why’ questions and now I know other ways to ask questions to help my client.” Tatiana said her mother had asked why she was working so hard and studying so much. She s replied, “I don’t think it is so much, because it is so interesting.” These students sure know how to affirm a teacher.

I have been thinking all along of this project as being one to get the CTE faculty MSW degrees so they could better teacher their undergraduates. Education and degrees have really been my focus. Another experience in class yesterday expanded my vision. Natasha, the student who works at the hospital in the abortion program, said, “I have been talking to my co-workers about the helping process and how excited about it I am. Now, they want me to teach it to them; so, in two weeks we have planned a time for me to teach them.” Maybe we won’t even have to wait for degrees to be awarded before Baylor Social Work has a significant impact on social work practice in Moldova and the people Moldovan social workers serve.

February 16, 2007

First, a report on the forum concerning whether Christians should celebrate Valentine’s day. We didn’t get a very straight answer (which is typical in Moldova) about what happened but Oleg did say that the president of the college started the discussion by talking about the love of God. He said “that colored the whole discussion because no one was going to disagree with him.” Oleg did say that he told the group that he celebrated Valentine’s with his wife by getting her flowers and going out to dinner. So I don’t know what was accomplished but that at least talked about it. Oleg says they have to put a spiritual slant on everything here.

Today was our last day of class with the graduate students. They will come back two days next week to teach undergraduates and we will be there to observe their understanding of the material we have taught this week. The social work dean left today for central Asia so he said his good bys in class this morning. The class gave us a framed, enlarged copy of the class picture we had made and they all signed it. They also gave us a ceramic piece that is a map of Moldova and some Moldovan candy. (Moldovan chocolate is fantastic!) When we had finished class today the students just didn’t leave. We dismissed them and they kept sitting in their desks and talking and asking more questions. We dismissed again and they still stayed. They are so eager to learn and to get all they can. They are really good students. They even got interested and even excited about research! Amazing!

When we got close to the house this afternoon we saw a group of people standing just outside the gate to the house. Oleg said, “Oh, it looks like there is a funeral. Don’t be freaked out if you see an open casket.” As we got closer they began to walk down the street with several men carrying the casket. Alex and Lucia said that their neighbor had died and they were having his funeral there in the street. The cemetery it right down the street and they were carrying the casket there. They also said that the cemetery is where the neighbor sat everyday to beg. They think he may have died there in the cold.

Interesting difference in names. Here they call their great-grandparents. Grand-grandparents. I like that.

Daniel's Bear Claw

We're indoctrinating Daniel to be a good Baylor Bear!
He is wearing a Texas shirt that Vicki Northern sent him.

Alex and the House

This is our host, Alex, standing in the door of the house where we're staying.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 15, 2007

Several of you have asked if people of Moldova celebrate Valentine’s Day. We didn’t know if they would or not but brought some valentine candy and other valentine things just in case. At breakfast yesterday the family wished us a Happy Valentine’s Day so we assumed that they did celebrate. But as we told you yesterday, the students in our class were unaware that it was Valentine’s Day until we told them and had candy on their desks. Before dinner one of the daughters came in with candy for all her siblings and Alex had bought flowers for all the girls in the family. We had candy in little plastic hearts for each of them. Daniel LOVES sweets so much and he was overjoyed! We went out to dinner at a nice restaurant with the Turlacs and there were heart shaped balloons and red candles on the table. But today the college had a forum for faculty and students to discuss if Christians should celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. I think they believe that Catholics are not Christians and so if it is a Catholic saint’s day then Christians should not celebrate it. We don’t know what they discussed but were just surprised they were having the discussion at all. One of the faculty told Preston about the forum and his response was that if it was a question he was glad they could discuss it. Hope it was an unbiased discussion! One of the American students staying here told us that they went to another restaurant last night that was also decorate and that they called it “Lovers Day.”

This morning we had apple crepes for breakfast! I don’t know what time Lucia got up to get that many crepes made but they were delicious! She is a really good cook. Alex cooked tonight and we had lamb, potatoes, fried cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, and deviled eggs with mushrooms. As you can tell we are eating well!

We had some more translation problems today. It is amazing what words can’t be translated. Many times they are words we would not have thought would be a problem. Today it was rehearsal, truancy, and doorknob. They don’t have door knobs here but have door “handles.” They could ever imagine what a door knob would be. So we changed Shulman’s “identifying ‘doorknob’ communication” to “Identifying ‘door handle’ communication.” Sorry Larry!

Teaching these students is exhilarating! They actually want to learn. Even after eight hours in the classroom they are still fun and actually reflecting on what you are teaching. Late this afternoon when we had been working on the work phase skills, one of the students had a real breakthrough. They have some how learned that they should be friends with their clients. We have been over the difference in a professional working relationship and a friendship a zillion times, but all of a sudden it hit her. I think we were going over the “identifying purpose and role skill” for the hundredth time, when she said, “Now I see, if I don’t start my relationship out in the right way in the first session, then my client will always see me as only a friend.” Well, at least she said something like that. At the end of class she came over to us and said, “Thank you so much for helping me see my work with different lenses.” And that is really close to what she said! Almost everyday two or three students come up after class to thank us for teaching them and to say how interesting the material is to them.

Today Preston was giving an example and thought he would use a name they were familiar with rather than English names. So he used one of the names of the boys here at the house. Every time he said it they would laugh. He finally asked what was so funny and they said he was pronouncing it wrong. We were sure it was right because that was how the family pronounces it. Finally we spelled it for them and they said “Oh, that is a Russian name. We (Romanians) have a name similar to that but not pronounced that way.” Another Russian/Romanian word is “da” for “yes.” We asked if that was not the same word in Russian and Romanian. Our translator said yes, “but the the Russians took it from our language.” Our Russian friends here at the house just laughed and said the Romanians took a lot of Russian words and claimed them as theirs. There is much competition and disagreement between the two.

Another problem we had (have) today was with our computer. It was working fine when we left class yesterday but this morning when we tried to get it to “communicate” with the projector nothing happened. Vadim, the social work dean, worked with it for a while and then gave us his laptop to use with the projector and that worked fine. At lunch he got their computer expert to come to see what was wrong. He determined that the computer had lost one of the drivers and we could either have the material on the computer screen or show it through the projector but not both. So we worked through the projector. He though he could down load what we needed after class so it would work again. But after working on it for a couple of hours, he was unsuccessful. So we are right where we were this morning. It’s not too bad a problem; we just have to sit so we can see the wall and the students at the same time. For you computer experts, we tried the function F8 key, but it does not work. We are praying that nothing else goes wrong with the computer. You don’t know how good it is to hear from you. We even smile involuntarily when the Baylor page shows up when we want the internet.

February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!!

We brought those little conversational hearts with us and gave some to the class along with some Reese’s pieces (which everyone loves). They were all surprised that it is Valentine’s. They don’t celebrate in the way we do. They have it connected to religion since it is St. Valentine’s Day. We explained that it is not a part of religion in the U.S. but is a very capitalistic venture since all husbands and boyfriends are expected to be very romantic and buy candy, cards, flowers and other gifts. We wore red today and a couple of the students had on red. When we mentioned that it is a Valentine color they said they had no idea that there was a color of Valentine’s Day but could see how red would fit.

It is raining today. It is just a steady rain but not very hard. However, it has produced a lot of water! The house we are staying in is on an unpaved street. There has been a large puddle most of the time we have been here but today it is a LAKE! They were laughing about being able to go fishing in it because it is so large. This morning Alex saw several cars stuck in it. So Alex had Vitali drive to that spot and he took us in his van through the water to meet Vitali.

It is extremely muddy. Of course on this street we are in mud most of the time but because not many yards have grass they are muddy as well. It seems like every time we go out we get mud on our clothes.

The temperature today is in the upper 40s but feels colder because it is so wet and damp. The forecast is for very cold weather this weekend—in the teens! We have enjoyed the warmer weather and had decided we just were not going to have to deal with it being really cold. But it looks like we were wrong! Snow is predicted for Saturday and if this wet weather continues it may well be icy as well.

Even in this rain people have clothes hanging on the clothes lines! It makes me very thankful for Lucia’s washer and dryer! I (Genie) washed clothes yesterday and it took over 2 hours for the washer to complete the cycle. I kept going back to check and they would still be washing. She said she put it on a long cycle but I can’t imagine how it could be that long. She did not have a dryer when we were here last time but has one now. It also takes a long time and even then the clothes aren’t completely dry so we end up hanging clothes around our room for them to finish drying.
Many people have the flu in Chisinau. From a fourth to a half of students are absent from classes and many are in the hospital. Everyone keeps telling us to be careful, take our vitamins, and use hand sanitizer often. We hope our flu shots work on this strain of the flu!!

For those of you who came with us last time you will be interested to know that there has been absolutely no mention of chapel this time. I don’t know if they think we are too busy in classes or if they remember what we did last time and decided to forget it! Probably the former since they are generally most appreciative of anything we do!

We hit a real communication snag yesterday. Those who teach practice know that there is a set of skills known as the elaboration skills. They are skills the social worker uses to help the client tell her story and to elaborated on the details. Well, who would have ever thought that th ere is no word for elaborate in the Romanian language? Our translator, Slovic, and several students who know English struggled with it and finally came up with something but it became obvious that it was not exactly what we were trying to convey.

As we were talking about the 7 step helping process, one of the students asked if mezzo was the same as “group work.” As we talked more I realized that she had learned social work as casework, group work, and community organization. For some of you who don’t know social work terms and maybe even some newer social workers that terminology has been dead at least 30 years. That is how far behind modern social work they are.

February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!!

We brought those little conversational hearts with us and gave some to the class along with some Reese’s pieces (which everyone loves). They were all surprised that it is Valentine’s. They don’t celebrate in the way we do. They have it connected to religion since it is St. Valentine’s Day. We explained that it is not a part of religion in the U.S. but is a very capitalistic venture since all husbands and boyfriends are expected to be very romantic and buy candy, cards, flowers and other gifts. We wore red today and a couple of the students had on red. When we mentioned that it is a Valentine color they said they had no idea that there was a color of Valentine’s Day but could see how red would fit.

It is raining today. It is just a steady rain but not very hard. However, it has produced a lot of water! The house we are staying in is on an unpaved street. There has been a large puddle most of the time we have been here but today it is a LAKE! They were laughing about being able to go fishing in it because it is so large. This morning Alex saw several cars stuck in it. So Alex had Vitali drive to that spot and he took us in his van through the water to meet Vitali.

It is extremely muddy. Of course on this street we are in mud most of the time but because not many yards have grass they are muddy as well. It seems like every time we go out we get mud on our clothes.

The temperature today is in the upper 40s but feels colder because it is so wet and damp. The forecast is for very cold weather this weekend—in the teens! We have enjoyed the warmer weather and had decided we just were not going to have to deal with it being really cold. But it looks like we were wrong! Snow is predicted for Saturday and if this wet weather continues it may well be icy as well.

Even in this rain people have clothes hanging on the clothes lines! It makes me very thankful for Lucia’s washer and dryer! I (Genie) washed clothes yesterday and it took over 2 hours for the washer to complete the cycle. I kept going back to check and they would still be washing. She said she put it on a long cycle but I can’t imagine how it could be that long. She did not have a dryer when we were here last time but has one now. It also takes a long time and even then the clothes aren’t completely dry so we end up hanging clothes around our room for them to finish drying.
Many people have the flu in Chisinau. From a fourth to a half of students are absent from classes and many are in the hospital. Everyone keeps telling us to be careful, take our vitamins, and use hand sanitizer often. We hope our flu shots work on this strain of the flu!!

For those of you who came with us last time you will be interested to know that there has been absolutely no mention of chapel this time. I don’t know if they think we are too busy in classes or if they remember what we did last time and decided to forget it! Probably the former since they are generally most appreciative of anything we do!

We hit a real communication snag yesterday. Those who teach practice know that there is a set of skills known as the elaboration skills. They are skills the social worker uses to help the client tell her story and to elaborated on the details. Well, who would have ever thought that th ere is no word for elaborate in the Romanian language? Our translator, Slovic, and several students who know English struggled with it and finally came up with something but it became obvious that it was not exactly what we were trying to convey.

As we were talking about the 7 step helping process, one of the students asked if mezzo was the same as “group work.” As we talked more I realized that she had learned social work as casework, group work, and community organization. For some of you who don’t know social work terms and maybe even some newer social workers that terminology has been dead at least 30 years. That is how far behind modern social work they are.

Our students

Students at College of Theology and Education with their certificates

At the marketplace

Here are some women selling their wares at the food market.

Dyers and Turlacs

Here we are with Oleg and Natasha Turlac at their house( the house with
the dark hallway that we mentioned in one of the entries below).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Preston must be working on something that's pretty interesting!

Irena at the computer

Here's Irena, the eldest daughter of our host, at the computer, and and Maria, an adopted daughter, with her back to the camera

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

February 13, 2007

We have a new translator this week named Slovic. He is very interesting and the students like him a lot. He not only translates the words but he also stands and sits as we do and uses the same hand motions and voice inflections that we do. Yesterday the students were memorizing the Helping Process and they started talking to Slolvic and laughing. He began saying the steps as if he was memorizing them. Then he told us that the students told him it was most important for him to know the steps so that when they were asked the repeat them he could give the right answer even if they did not. He is good about letting us in on the jokes in class so we know what all the laughing is about!

Today we met with the president of the college and the dean of social work to talk about our dreams for the continuation of the master’s program here. We also gave him the money that the Baylor social work faculty and staff and some Lake Shore folks gave us to spend as we saw best. We asked him to purchase social work books in Romanian and Russian for the social work department. They are still in desperate need of books in their languages. We have tried since we were here in 2005 to get books for them and have found that it better to give them the money and let them purchase them.

We heard a very interesting comment in class today. We were doing assessment and planning for a case one of the students offered from their practice. In identifying the client system it came out that the woman was Russian. That is her primary language was Russian. The students in class identify themselves as Romanian, i.e, their primary language is Romanian. One of them commented that the only lazy people in Moldova were Gypsies and Russians. The interesting part of this is last week when we were discussing diversity, stereotyping etc. they all assured us that there was not any discrimination in Moldova. They finally admitted to some prejudice against gypsies but strongly denied that there was any based on language. After that comment, we worked on this pretty hard and had good discussion. As would be true in any class some got it and some did not. One student who really got it said, “I will have to work on that, but it will be hard.” We talked to Oleg and Vitali about this later and Oleg said, “This is what I’ve been trying to explain. It is the extreme nationalism that occurred following the fall of the Soviet Union. People are still very angry at Russia and anything Russian.” We think it is like institutional racism in the U.S. Any kind of discrimination is illegal in Moldova, but that does not erase individual attitudes.

I (Preston) am finding teaching the practice course and the skills lab much more difficult than teaching the Introduction to the profession course. I know that seems strange to my colleagues in the SSW since I teach advanced practice. I was really exhausted Monday by noon and still 4 hours to go. As I’ve thought about it, I think it is the demand to not only teach theory and talk about skills, but you have to be prepared to demonstrate the process and the skill at the drop of the hat. I have developed a much greater appreciation for those of you who teach our students the foundation practice courses.

Monday, February 12, 2007

February 12, 20007

It is back to a routine today. That means getting up earlier than we have been, getting to the college by 8:30 to set up the equipment before class begins at 9:00 and teaching until 4:00. The weather is cloudy with lots of fog but not very cold.

We have found that Moldovan time is different from our time. If we want Vitali to pick us up at 8:30 we need to say at least 8:15 for him to be here anywhere close to 8:30. We talked about it in class today and they confirmed that they are just always late. When we give them a ten minute break it is usually much later when they come back. We just start without them but it doesn’t seem to bother them!

We also found that we have a different schedule for the last two weeks than we had expected. We understood that we were to teach undergrads next week and have the last week to sightsee or travel around the country. But today we found that they expect us to teach the last week as well. They have classes for the Romanian students and separate classes for the Russian students. All these graduate students are Romanian (I think that just means their primary language is Romanian) so next week when they are teaching undergrads they will be teaching the Romanian classes. Vadim, the dean, wants to make sure the Russian students get this information as well so consequently we will teach the Russian students the last week. At least the days will be shorter. He said we would begin at 10:40 until lunch. That’s a short day! But then as he gave us a more detailed schedule we find out that lunch is at 2:00. We knew that the lunch break for the graduate students had been at 1:30 but didn’t know that was the norm. But that is still a much shorter day and will give us time after classes to tour around some.

There is a very distinct division between Romanians and Russians. We think the Russians face some discrimination but our class says they do not. Remember, however, this is a Romanian group! Of course the language difference makes it hard for them to associate with one another but many people speak both languages. The Romanians associate the Russians with the Soviet reign in Moldova so they seem to be second class citizens. There are separate churches and schools. The government promotes the Romanian language. In fact a person cannot get a government job if they do not speak Romanian.

People walk and ride the bus to get to their destinations. There are people walking in the city at all hours (at least the hours we have been out). There are also many cars and very poor streets. Oleg told us that in 1960 when they were doing city planning they predicted that by the year 2000 there would be very few cars in the city and everyone would be traveling by public transportation. So they didn’t do anything about building or maintaining streets. Now they have many cars and when driving you must dodge the holes in the road as well as the CRAZY drivers! Vitali, who by the way is an excellent driver, says you must have 5 sets of eyes to drive in Chisinau. There are no lanes. Everyone makes his own. They even pass on the wrong side. Traffic lights are in weird places, like on traffic circles. It would be like having a traffic light just as you enter LaSalle from the circle. It is wild. Preston is really glad he does not have to drive. By the way, they drive on the right hand side. Someone had asked about that. Friday we parked in the parking lot that was barely wide enough to get two cars in and then had to back up to get out of the lot. But so far we have only seen one wreck! Amazing!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

February 11, 2007

This morning as we were driving to church Vitali asked Preston “How was your weekend?’ Preston responded, “It’s been good. I’ve gotten a lot of work done.” Vitali laughed and said “we measure how good our weekend is by how much rest we got and Preston talked about how much work he got done.” Gives you something to think about!

We were discussing churches with Oleg and Vitali and they asked about the church we attend. We described some things about Lake Shore to them and said that we are considered a liberal Baptist church. They said if someone from a Moldovian church came to our church they would think it is conservative because our ministers wear robes, we have a choir, we sing old hymns and not praise choruses.

We went to church with Alex and Lucia again today and had some different impressions this week. We found out that the time they had to speak to people is not greeting each other but they have a specific topic they are to discuss with one another. Today the topic was “What does faith mean to you.” So we are wondering if the first sermon they have could be equated to Sunday School in which they have a lesson and then a 5 minutes break to discuss a topic. Then they come back together and start the worship service. The second sermon was again one hour! During the sermon on several occasions the pastor asks a question and gets responses from the congregation. Wonder if Dorisanne would be willing to do that or would she wonder what kind of answers she might get. We hold our breath even when Rachel asks the children questions during their sermon!

Both Sundays after church Genie has asked what was the sermon about and neither time has anyone offered to tell us. When you can’t understand the songs and sermons you watch the people around you. Preston says he does that even when he can understand the service. There is always a lot of moving around and children coming in and out. One lady didn’t like it this morning because she couldn’t see the screen for the words to the songs. She asked someone to move and then there was much discussion all around her. Would like to know what all they were saying. But the lady did finally move to another part of the auditorium.

We had cabbage rolls for lunch today and they were really good. Lucia and her girls really do prepare good meals. Yesterday morning we had pumpkin pancakes and as the students who stay here came to breakfast they all exclaimed “Oh, good. Pumpkin pancakes!”

Many times we feel like we are in the middle of a youth group. With the six children from the family, some of their friends, and the 4 students that are staying here it would make a good size youth group! Sometimes Alex, Lucia, Preston, and Genie just sit and watch all the activity!

The students we keep referring to are not really students; they just appear that way to us. They are in their mid-twenties and all college graduates. They work for Children’s Relief International which is affiliated with Texas Baptist Children’s Services. They are working at orphanages teaching English, working with youth groups in churches and doing other activities. They all have year long commitments. They seem to work hard and are committed to their work.

Tomorrow starts another week of teaching. We have really been working hard on figuring out the best way to teach social work practice to this group. We spent lots of time with Krist-Ashaman and Shulman (SSW folks will understand this) and hope we are prepared to teach them the theory behind the helping process and skills they need to apply it out. Where are you Ray? We need you.

Friday, February 9, 2007

February 9, 2007

We have finished our power points for the rest of our stay here so we are feeling good! However, we did have a scare this afternoon when Preston tried to put the material on a flash drive and it wouldn’t work. He turned the computer off and tried to start it again and it wouldn’t start! All our work was on the computer with no backup on disk or flash drive. After about ten minutes Preston was able to get it started again. We then went to the college and made hard copies and also have it on the flash drive! So now we feel safe.

We have been very careful about drinking only bottled water and avoiding the water here as much as possible. However today we realized that we are eating grapes and apples that have been washed in this water! Guess we will give up on fruit!

Preston is having a hard time with his diet. We wonder what his blood sugar level will be when we get back. Fortunately, it was very good when we left. They have potatoes all the time and lots of other carbs. They use potatoes and bread to fill you up.

This morning we had homemade doughnuts. Lucia had put sugar on most of them and told Preston the ones without sugar were for him.

Lucia watches her grocery money very carefully. She told me that powdered sugar was so much more expensive than regular sugar so she makes her own powdered sugar. She used a coffee grinder with regular sugar and grinds it in to powdered sugar. Would you have ever thought of that? They are very resourceful.

Little Daniel was fascinated with the “Splenda” that Preston brought with him. He asked us what it was and we told him it was “like sugar.’ So now he calls it “like sugar.” Every morning at breakfast he asks for a packet of like sugar on his plate and he puts it on whatever he is eating.

At meals we sit on stools without backs. There are two tables that seat about 12 people. There are benches on one side of the tables and these little stools on the other. They use them in lots of places. Sometimes they are to sit on and other times they use them as small tables.

With so many people eating table manners are not a priority. Everyone reaches for whatever they want and serves each other’s plates. At least at mealtime we don’t have to worry that we are not following the proper rules of the culture.

We still forget sometimes about taking our shoes off. But we have decided that we like that tradition. So the next time you come to visit us you may find shoes at the front door!

They do not have trash collection or mail service in the city. Alex told us that a friend of his has some money he is trying to invest in starting a trash collection. Alex has a trash barrel in the front yard and a couple of times a week he burns the trash. That explains why there is so much trash around in yards and on the streets.

I don’t know how they get mail. We sent a package to them after we were here in 2005. Alex said they went to get it (I don’t’ know where they went) and were asked all kinds of questions about who it was from and what it was. Can you imagine having to answer questions about something you got in the mail?

There are lots of dogs all over the city. Alex said one of his friends said if he could do something for the city he would kill all the dogs. They run loose and there is loud barking most of the time. Some people do have dogs as pets but they don’t let them in the house. Most of the dogs I have seen are big dogs and are just roaming around.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Yesterday and today we have spent preparing for classes next week. We have finished now except for a few finishing touches. It has been a very enjoyable two days. The weather has been beautiful, about 45 degrees today and the prediction is it will be in the 50s later this week.

We have slept later than we usually do, eaten breakfast after the children have gone to school, visited with Alex and Lucia, and returned to our room to work. We have taken time out for Genie to do some cross stitch and read a novel and for Preston to take a nap!

Monday and Tuesday nights we had movie night again. We moved the furniture in their family room around and made a theater and used our computer and projector to show movies. We have watched two movies each night. Lucia always comes up with fruits, cheese, cookies, and drinks. Some of the kids watch with us and others come in and out. It has been a lot of fun!

Tonight we went to Oleg and Natasha Turlac’s for dinner. Oleg is our official host at the college. Vitali, who is driving for us, is Oleg’s brother so he went to dinner with us. When we got to their apartment building and opened the door to the building there was absolutely no light! It was so dark you could not see your hand in front of you! We could not tell where we were or what direction to go in. Vitali opened his cell phone for light. It did not do much good as we stumbled up a few stairs and ran right in to several (we couldn’t tell how many) people who were coming down the stairs! We turned a corner to a very small elevator that the three of us could just get in. It was very dirty with trash all over the floor but it did have a small light. We got out of the elevator into a small hall. Vitali unlocked a door and we went into another hallway. He opened another door and we were in another hallway. He then knocked on a door and Oleg came and let us in. It was an adventure just getting to the apartment!

The apartment was very nice. It had a large kitchen and a rather small living area. They had put a table in the middle of the living area for us to eat. They have a baby, Roman, that is 3 months old and Natasha’s mother came here from the U.S. to help with the baby. She has been here since the baby was born. She is from Moldova but lives in Minnesota now. She and Natasha had cooked dinner together they said. We had mashed potatoes, a beef dish, a salad of tomatoes, olives, and cheese and some cheese balls.

Roman cried most of the time we were there so we didn’t get to visit with Natasha very much. Both she and her mother were trying to get him settled. But we had good conversation with Oleg about the partnership of the School of Social Work with their college. He is an administrator with the college and has a great interest in making this partnership work. He has spent several years in the states so he has a good perspective on U.S. colleges and of course knows his college well. He presented some new ideas for possibilities for our continuing to work together. We are to meet with the college president, academic dean, and dean of social work later this week to discuss the partnership further.

Our departure from the apartment building was about as adventurous as the entrance but at least it wasn’t a surprise!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Monday, February 4, 2007

We are not teaching this week but will be preparing for our classes for next week. So we have spent the day at the house. We enjoy being here with Alex and Lucia. They are so anxious to make us comfortable (comfort’able as he says) and be sure that we are happy.

They live a very simple life. The day begins very early with two of the children going to school at 7:00 a.m. Children get themselves up and have breakfast on their own. The oldest girl goes to work at 9 and the oldest son works with the youth at a church so he only goes to work a few times a week. Maria goes to school about 8 and Daniel, 4 years old, stays at home. Lucia spends her day cooking, washing clothes, and cleaning the house. She seems very content with her duties. Daniel loves to be with his mother and, as most little ones, says “Mama, Mama” about a thousand times to day! He is a very lovable child and gets lots of attention. Alex spends his day working on the house, always planning and adding to the house. He has had very interesting and varied jobs. He has had several businesses and says he is happiest and feels the best about himself when he has a business of some kind. Right now he is working on the possibility of selling medical supplies. He is very personable and seems to be a good salesman.

The house is two stories. Originally the first floor was a garage and the living quarters were upstairs. Through the years Alex has made the garage into living quarters to rent to missionaries or others who come to Moldova, usually to work in churches. When we came in 2005 that is where we stayed and the kitchen was upstairs. To get to the upstairs you have to go outside and up stairs on the side of the house. In 2005 the kitchen was upstairs so we went up there to eat. Now Alex has added to the downstairs and made a kitchen there and made a bedroom where the kitchen was upstairs. This time we are staying in a large bedroom upstairs and now we go outside and down stairs to eat. Four students are living in the bedrooms downstairs. They are here with Children’s Emergence International and will be here for a year.

Lucia loves to watch movies. Daniel asked today if we could have movie night again tonight and she immediately said she would like to. She said watching a movie is the only time she can relax. Otherwise she said she just sees things or thinks of things the need to be done and just keeps on working.

Alex and Lucia are in their early to middle 40’s. I think they think of us as parents. Their oldest children is Irina (pronounced Irene-a), 20 years old, and she works with an organization called “Travel and Work” that places students in the United States to work for several months and then have a month to travel. They usually work as housekeepers in hotels or in restaurants. Vadim is 18, Inna (E-na) is 14, Staska is 12 and Daniel, 4. Marie, 16, is a girl from one of the orphanages that they “adopted” last summer. I don’t know if it is a formal adoption but I think it is more like a foster child. All of the children are very good kids and very loving and caring.

One of Alex’s dreams is to develop a program for children at the orphanage to prepare them for life outside the institution. He plans to build a greenhouse and create other activities for them and have them stay at the house on the weekends. Remember that at age 16 they are put out of the orphanage usually with no real preparation for life. Lucia told us the other morning she found Maria crying and asked her what was wrong. She replied she had a bad dream and was back at the orphanage. She would be a good study in resilience. She is warm, cooperative and does well at school. Alex wants to send her to the states for college at a school in Pensacola, Fla.; this for a man who makes $12,000 a year and considers himself middle class.

Preston’s trip to the program for alcoholic and drug dependent people was a real adventure. Preston, Alex and Vatali went to a village just outside the city limits. The group has an attic that they are working on as they live in it. Eight men live there. Alex kept telling about the men who were there. “This man was in jail for two times.”; “this man was a thief;” “this one killed 2 people.” Eventually, the pastor of Alex’s church and his wife came in and Preston relaxed a little bit. He figured the pastor brought his wife, it must be OK. There were about 18 of us there. We don’t know how many were people in the program and how many were workers. Preston recognized several from the church we visited Sunday. He thinks it was sort of like an AA meeting but all that had happened by the time we left was a lot of passionate singing and the pastor’s sermon. Preston did not have to say anything and was glad. He had the feeing they knew a lot more about dependency than he did. They don’t call it a halfway house, but it functions a lot like Freeman Center or the Mission Waco half way house just with much less funding and no 12 step program.

On the way home we go stuck in the snow twice. Once Preston got real worried that they would spend the night in the car. He talked himself into believing it was just an adventure (cognitive restructuring, if any of his students are reading this) and anyway he knew that Gaynor and Rob were praying for us. They are colleagues at the SSW and the best prayers we know. We finally got home in one piece and early enough to participate in movie night. Daniel ate a whole lot of candy and was bouncing off the walls. I don’t know when he might go to sleep.

All is well here. We are well fed, warm, and loved. Van, “life is good.”

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Sunday, February 4, 2007

This morning we went to Voice of Truth Baptist Church in Chisinau. This is the church that Alex, Lucia and several of their children attend. The oldest son goes to another church where he works with the youth group and one of the girls attends yet another church.

The church is about five years old. It reminded me in some ways of Lake Shore. It meets in the auditorium of a school (Lake Shore’s beginnings), has moveable chairs, and is very friendly. However, it is very different in many other ways. The service was more of a contemporary service with a praise group and songs on the screen.

They stood for the first part of the service, singing many songs and praying. Of course we had no idea what they were singing or saying. Irina, the oldest daughter, from time to time told us what was happening. They introduced a family that is going as missionaries to Russia and had a prayer for them. Then one of the four pastors gave his sermon.

After the sermon we had communion. When we came in we saw they were preparing for communion and asked Irina if we could partake. She was surprised that we ask and said that of course we could. She had never heard of a church that would only allow their members to have communion. This is the first time either of us have had communion with REAL WINE! Genie was impressed with the thought that we were partaking of the bread and wine in the same way that was probably going to happen at Lake Shore this morning and that Christians had participated in for centuries. What an awesome experience this is!

The auditorium was filled with people standing at the back. There were people of all ages from babies to elderly women. I did not see any older men. Families with small children sat at the back and came in and out as their children got restless. There were a number of older women that sat in front of us. They looked quite old, but on second consideration were probably our age and we thought about how different their lives have been than have ours. They have lived through persecutions for being Christian and other hardships of the Soviet era.

After communion there was a time of greeting with people turning to speak to one another. We thought the service must be over but everyone got quiet again and sat down. Then we had the SECOND sermon from one of the other pastors! His sermon was one hour long (Thanks Dorisanne for short sermons!!!). Preston got worried that since they had four pastors that we might have four sermons. It would be hard to sit through an hour sermon if you understood what was being said but to not know was really hard. We watched some children on a hill outside the church enjoying the snow with their sleds to help keep us awake. The entire service was 2 ½ hours! Although it was long and rather cold (everyone kept on their coats) it was a very worshipful experience. The pastor came to greet us before the service and spoke in English.

The church has a ministry to alcoholics and Friday afternoon we met one of the men who has been through the program. He was doing some carpentry work for Alex. He is an addict and was in prison for some time and is now a worker in this ministry. He claims only a 3% recidivism rate for the program. They take only highly motivated individuals and “God does the rest.” All of the people who work in the program are former addicts. It sounds like our rehabilitation programs in the ’60’s & ‘70’s doesn’t Martie? I wish you were here because I am speaking to their group tomorrow night and what little I know about addiction I learned from you.

The snow is about two inches deep today but is beginning to melt. It is very cold and damp. We are thankful for a warm place to stay—warm physically and warmth from this loving family!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

February 3, 2007

We have completed our first week of teaching and think it was very successful. We gave each student a certificate of completion and wish you could have seen the smiles on their faces. They love to learn and have recognition of their accomplishments. We will get Steve Gardner to add a picture of the group that we have in class.

Yesterday the students gave reports about social agencies in Moldova. They had various groups to talk about, such as children and families, elderly, person with physical and mental disabilities, sex traffic and others. They all began by giving a picture of the issues globally and then compared to Moldova. I think they think much more about the world as a whole than Americans do! We learned a lot about Moldova through their reports and look forward to telling you about it when we get back home.

We asked if any of them were going to use the computer and projector for their reports and some of them said they didn’t think about that being a possibility. They said only teachers do that. Then one said maybe they would think about it next time. When we told them that students in American almost always use power point for their reports they were very surprised. Some of them don’t use the computer. However, several asked for electronic copies of our power points.

Some of you will remember that the last time we came we brought lots of pens and tablets. We didn’t have room to bring them this time but I wish we could have brought some. They are very careful with their paper. We did bring a few pens and they had fun deciding which ones they wanted. Thanks to Jim Ellor of the SSW faculty for providing these.

It snowed again during the night Thursday night so it was really cold Friday morning. One of the dangerous parts was how slippery it was. However, it is kind of like it is in Texas in the summer. We go from the house to the car, the car to the classroom, to the car and back to the house. We really aren’t out in the cold for very long at a time.

This morning Alex asked us if we wanted to go with him to the market. We took a taxi and went to buy groceries. It was quite an experience. People were everywhere, pushing and shoving trying to get to the counters. Most of the market was outdoors. They had beautiful fruit, lots of nuts, lots of vegetables that were right from the ground. Some carrots had been cleaned off a little but most of them had dirt on them just as they had been pulled from the garden. They had food, clothes, cleaning products, homemade oil—a lot of everything! Alex kept telling us not to get lost! We were very careful to stay very close to him! The driving of our first taxi driver would put the driving of New York taxi drivers to shame. We learned in class yesterday that old age pension was $25 per month and that the cheapest housing was around $50. Alex told us today that many retired police officers, doctors and others who have retired drive taxis to supplement their income.

The meat market was indoors and was something else. Fresh meat just out on the counter and people, mostly women, cutting off whatever you wanted. This was in a large building and the whole place was full of meat. Alex took us to one woman that he always buys from because he says she has higher quality meats. Genie wishes she had not seen where the meat we eat comes from! It is very good but Americans would not like these conditions at all. No cleanliness laws exist at this market!

The last place we visited was the spice counter. They had all kinds of spices in open containers out on the counter. I don’t know what Alex asked her for but she began taking a little bit from many containers and mixing them together. We asked him what it was and he said he didn’t know. He just comes to her every week and she makes him a mixture. The spices smelled wonderful. Much better than we get in bottles.

Then we went to a grocery store very much like HEB but much smaller. Alex said things are about 20% higher in the supermarket than at the open market. He said you don’t pay taxes on food at the open market and you do at the supermarket. You can get about everything you can get at home at this market. Well, not Mexican food products but at least the basics. I (Preston) wanted to find a package of chili mix to make chili for the family, but didn’t find any. If any of you have a recipe that is not too hot (Pam, probably not yours.) and does not depend on pre-mixed spices, please send it to me by email.

One thing we miss is Diet Coke. You know how we are about our cokes! Well we do have a bottle of Coke Light in our room. And who would have thought we would enjoy it without ice and not very cold? But we are drinking it and are glad to get it.

We cannot drink the water here. In fact the Moldovans do not drink the water either. They say they only drink it if it has been boiled. Do you know how hard it is to remember not to put your toothbrush under the faucet? I have only done it once and only once forgot and got water to drink out of the faucet. I took one taste and poured it out. Thankfully I didn’t get sick from it.

Tonight we have told the family we would like to have movie night. Vern and Debbie sent a number of DVDs so we are going to use the computer and projector and have movies. While we were at the supermarket we bought some “snacks” to have and make it a party. Wish we had thought to bring some kids movies for Daniel, 4 years old. The children have seen lots of American movies but were excited that perhaps we have a few they hadn’t seen. But we don’t have kids’ movies. Daniel asks us over and over when we will have kids’ movies! We told him we only have “chick flicks” and when he asked what that was we told him kissing movies. He didn’t want to see that at all! Since we have been here we have thought of a number of things we wish we had brought for our friends here.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

February 1, 2007

We are almost through the first week! Our students are giving reports tomorrow so it will be an easier day for us and harder for them. Students are the same everywhere in a lot of ways. Today they wanted to talk and talk about what they were to do, how to do, how long it should be, what if they didn't have enought inofrmation, etc. Of course we had talked about all of that on Monday but as time gets near they get nervous!

Several things have happened in class that have been interesting. Since most of them can read some English they begin to get the idea of a power point before the interpreter tells them. Today one of the words was "widows" and before we got to it they wanted to know what "windows" had to do with what we were talking about.

Eye contact is very different. Who do you look at? The interpreter or the person that is speaking. When a person is speaking they are looking at the interpreter but when what they said is being interpreted do they look at the person they were speaking to or the interpreter. Many times you just don't get any eye contact the with person and miss out on all the facial expresions.

Working through an interpreter does give you time to think about what comes next. So while they are repeating what you said and students are asking them questions you can gather your thoughts for the next idea. Of course starting and stopping in the middle of an idea is not so easy. Sometimes we forget where we were going with a thought! That can't be "old age", can it?

We have become aware of how many sayings or expressions we have that don't translate. Some we encountered today were: "keep an eye on," holding out on me," "pit fall,"be ing ripped off." It seems best to use very straightforward, familiar words. And jokes and teasing just don't translate!

During our discussion of the poor today one student said "Most Moldovans would love to live as "poor" people in the US live." They really believe that all Americans are rich and even those we call poor are not poor at al. Everyone has a house to live in and enought to eat. We told them that there are homeless people in the US and childen who go to bed hungry every night. I am not usre they believed us.

We were talking about the history of social welfare today and were reminded that history is recorded differently according to who is reporting it. Also that people in different countries learning different history. They know very little about the history that we think everyone knows, that of western civilization. Irena, one of the daughters in the family we stay with, studied at a college in the US for a year. She said she was amazed what she learned about Russian history while she was there. She said it was not anthing like the Russian history she had learned in her schooling here.

We have heard a bell ring at the end of each class. Today we realized that there is a person whose job is to go to each classroom and ring a hand bell. She just walks through the hall ringing the bell at the end of each hour.

Today it was very cloudy when we got up and warmer than it has been. Later this morning I looked out the window in the classroom and there were snow showers. This afternoon the sun came out and on the way home it began to rain. Sounds like changes in Texas weather, doesn't it?

Glad the Lady Bears pulled out a win last night! Sounds like it could have easily gone the other way! I tried to look up the score on the Trib webpage this morning before we left for class and it wasn't there. Then I realized it was only midnight there and yesterday's paper was what I was reading. It is nice to be able to go to that web page and read Waco news. The family here have no TV, don't listen to the radio, and don't get a newspaper. Of course we wouldn't be able to understand them if they did but at least they could tell us if anything was gong on in the world that we would want to know about.

Again, thanks for all your messages! We love having e-mails from you! Keeping them coming!