Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 18, 2009

Well today was one of those day you hope never happens while teaching. It was really our first day to work on statistical procedures. I said, “Please go to the menu bar choose ‘Tools’ and under ‘Tools’ ‘Descriptive Statistics.’ I got 9 blank stares after the translator, Mihai, relayed my instructions. Only 2 out of the 9 had an ‘Office’ version that included the statistical package I needed. Most of you know that I don’t panic easily but I was sure close. Everything that I had planned for the rest of the week required that software. What was I going to do?

Fortunately, Mihai is not only a fantastic translator of English to Romanian but he is an absolutely amazing computer tech. He had already fixed a problem on my computer that Baylor ITS had given up on. He whipped out some disk and installed the needed software on everyone’s computer that needed it. Now we were off and running. Not really! My testing still was not over. After a few more instructions, we discovered that about half of the class had “Office 2007” while the rest of the class and I had 2003. A lot of changes were in the Excel program in 2007 and I had learned to do the procedures in the 2003 version. Again it was Mihai to the rescue. We did get through day but it was not easy.

We discovered Monday that many of the students notonly didn’t know Excel basics as they had told us they did; they also lacked just basic computer skills. BUT they all bring laptops to class. I actually had Mihai teach basic Excel Tuesday morning and he did a great job but that took much longer than we planned because he had to stop to teach many of the students basic skillss.

I guess all is well that ends well. By the end of the day as I watched them apply the procedures to actual data all of a sudden I would see a big smile break through a strained face and I knew the procedure had worked for them and they had the results they needed. Each time that happened the student and I breathed a big sigh. So maybe teaching is not so bad after all!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17, 2009

We are back in the classroom this week learning more about the Moldovan way of life.

The students presented their research projects Monday morning and as they do so we learn more about Moldova. Several of their projects related to education for children in the boarding schools. (We have previously called them orphanages but now they are referring to them as boarding schools which is more accurate since most of the children have parents but they have left the country or are not able to care for the children.) I wondered why they were so intent on 15 and 16 year olds having a career plan. I knew that in the US a 15 year old may change ideas about careers several times before they decided. Children here are required to go to school through the 9th grade. Then they can go on to high school or enter a trade school. Those who go to a trade school are more likely to find jobs than those who finish high school and even those who go on to college. Having a high school or college education does not prepare them for the jobs that are most available in Moldova. Very different from what we have experienced in US.

We were told that there are no babies in the boarding schools and we wondered where the babies were. They are still in the hospital. Babies whose parent/s don’t want them or cannot care for them leave them in the hospital. Someone told us of a child that is 6 years old who has been at the hospital since birth. That may not be unusual but I don’t know that for sure. I don’t know who takes care of them in the hospital or if there is a part of the hospital that houses them that is similar to a boarding school.

I am surprised at how appreciative people are of anything we give them. An undergraduate social work student helped Preston find some books in the library and when we were leaving he gave her a pen and note pad with the School of Social Work logo on it. She was so appreciative and then saw “Baylor” on it and was so excited to have it. The smallest gift is a big thing to these students.

All the graduate students in the class have laptop computers. Preston had asked them to bring them to class to use for the statistics course. We thought some of them would have to share with others because we didn’t expect everyone to have access to a computer. But they all have one! Vadim told us that you can get one for $250-300. They are not new but he says they are very adequate.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 15, 2009

February 15, 2009

We have had a very pleasant weekend. Friday afternoon we went to the college for Social Work Day. The director (president) of the college told us that every semester they have a specific day to feature each of their programs. The undergraduate social work students present a program consisting of a short play, the pictorial introduction of each of the students, some small group activity, a speech by a faculty member, and what seemed to be a debate between the faculty member and the director. Of course we couldn’t understand any of this since it was all in Russian. We didn’t think about asking our interpreter to come with us so we are just guessing at what it was all about.

We were surprised that the program was in Russian since all the classes we are teaching this time are in Romanian. Vitali said that since almost everyone in Moldova understands Russian (whereas not everyone understands Romanian) and there were central Asian students there who speak Russian that most general meetings are conducted in Russian.

Friday night we had another delicious dinner and then watched two movies with some of the family. We watched the 1963 film “Lilies of the Fields” and an old John Wayne, Robert Mitchum cowboy movie. The boys loved the cowboy movie.

Saturday Preston spent most of the day working on the statistics course to be taught this week. Saturday evening two of the interns came over for Valentine’s dinner. It was a delicious meal and beautiful table. Lucia, Inna, and their friend Nancy spent all day working on the meal. We had a salad, chicken cordon bleu, wonderful mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli, and two cakes! We could not have had a better meal at any restaurant in Chisinau! We had planned to take the interns out for Valentine’s but Vitali told us the restaurants would be terribly crowded and you would probably have to pay about $50 just for a reservation. We all agreed that we would much rather be at the house and have Lucia’s cooking. It was a delightful evening.

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 12, Lesson # 2

Lesson # 2

In my last entry I said I’d learned two lessons last Tuesday. I wrote about the first in that entry and now for the second.

The second lesson is that I don’t have to figure all this out alone. I can trust our CTE partners to help.

One of the issues Vadim and I needed to work on as I said before was how to work out internships for the CTE MSW students. The CTE undergraduates have 4 practicum and it was in his describing these that I discovered that some of the MSW students were the field instructors for those “internships”. As we explored issues--not being able to take time off from their own agencies and the lack of qualified field instructors by USA standards--it occurred to us that perhaps they could do peer supervision. So, what we came up with is a plan that over two semesters they will meet as a group every other week. They will take turns presenting cases, program designs, research issues and other challenges to the group and get feedback paying attention to theories, skills etc. Vadim will be the designated leader but they will take turns being the facilitator. It certainly won’t CSWE standards but for now it is probably the best we can do. When we get this cohort of students through then we may move to a model that comes closer to meeting USA accreditation standards.

OK, you wise souls out there give me feedback on this innovation.

February 12, 2009

Today is a rather cold and rainy day. Fortunately we are staying at the house and don’t have to get out in the weather! We are so glad that we have had relatively warm weather so far—at least much warmer than it was two years ago at this time. Everyone keeps saying, “I can’t believe it is February.” Lucia had several pots of tulip bulbs planted and they have begun to come up. I am afraid they will be ruined as it is sure to freeze again. In fact snow is predicted for tomorrow.

More about the children in the family we stay with. There are 7 children and young adults here from 22 to 6 years old. Two are from the boarding schools. I am so impressed at how respectful they are of the parents and of each other. As long as we have stayed here I have hardly heard a cross word. Not that I can understand all they say because their first language is Russian but you can tell by the tone of the voices that they are speaking kindly to each other. If Lucia or Alex asks them to do something they do it immediately and each does whatever they need to do to contribute to the family-cooking, cleaning, feeding the dogs, working in the garden, etc. I would think they are just on their good behavior for guests but when we are here for several weeks it makes me think they are always good to each other.

With as many people as live here and others who come to visit family members, it seems there is always someone eating. Lucia cooks so much food and it is all consumed! They start with breakfast at 7 or so in the morning and some folks are usually eating when we go to bed at 10:30 or 11. Lucia is such a good cook it is no wonder not only the family eats here but their friends as well. We had pumpkin pancakes, cereal and fruit for breakfast this morning and homemade ravioli for lunch. She cooks most of the day!

Chisinau streets are not good at all! Some are worse than others and this street is really bad. There is one place in this street that is a huge hole and when it rains Vitali is afraid to drive the car through it. However, a couple of days ago they were working on the street. They brought in gravel and poured it in the hole. It didn’t look like enough to do much good but since it has rained all day we will see if it helps. Otherwise we will be walking down the street to the car when we go somewhere.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We have not been as faithful to our blog as we were the last time we were here. We were talking to Oleg and Vitali about that and we all decided maybe it is because we are use to the Moldovan way of life and so things are not new to us this time.
One thing I have noticed that I didn't remember from our last visit is how many people smoke. It seems like most people you see on the street have a cigarette in their hand. There are small shops all along the streets where you can buy cigarettes. Oleg also said that are not many restaurants that have non-smoking sections. If they do have one you have to walk through the smoking section to get to it. I have gotten so use to there being no smoking in various places that it seems unusual to see so many folks who are smoking.
The girls came over Sunday night and Lucia had dinner for all of us. She cook lasagna with home made noodles. It was delicious! The girls had a chance to visit with the family and we all enjoyed being together. They are coming back tonight and Lucia is cooking pizza with her home made dough. We are going watch some episodes of "The Bachelor" that Megan has downloaded. Got to keep up with our TV programs!.

I (Preston) was thankful for the weekend. Teaching a full course in a week took a lot out of me. I think it was especially hard since the course is not one that I usually teach. I guess it was OK though because they all got their program evaluations designed and actually applauded at the end of class. We were so tired that we slept in like a couple of teenagers to 10 AM. Eat your heart out Bob Baird.

We are really enjoying the BSSW interns. As Genie said, they had supper with us Sunday night and we were going to watch a movie but ended up just talking with them and the family. They are really pumped about their Moldovan adventure from riding the trolleys that are packed like sardine cans to visiting an underground winery to walking places like the Moldavians.

I had my official liaison visit with them yesterday. I met with them and their American supervisor first in a group to do an overall assessment of the placement. The School faculty had agreed we would only use international placements if we could provide the intern at least as good training as they would get in the USA. Realistically, these students will have to be able to practice a high level of social work in the jobs that get after graduation in May where ever they may be. No need to worry! These students are getting great social work experience. I believe that they are practicing with more autonomy, although with good supervision, than do most of our interns. They simply have to! They are also required to be more flexibility and resourceful than most interns.

Gaynor Yancey, I hope you are reading this because these young women are just as much a credit to our undergraduate program as they are to the graduate program. They give a lot of credit to their community development concentration and Jon Singletary's teaching, but they are also drawing heavily on their generalist knowledge and skills. I'd say that what they are doing is really advanced generalist practice. Their work includes doing community development in a 3rd world village, consulting with an international agency, developing programs for transitional youth, empowering the handicapped, consulting on program evaluations, doing advanced case management with at least one youth and doing research on Moldovan social workers. People here see them as experts and dog gone if they aren't performing as experts. WOW! Can you tell that I'm impressed.

I learned 2 important lesson this morning; see, old dogs can learn new tricks. I have been terribly worried about how to do internships for the CTE MSW students. I consulted with Jon Meyers yesterday hoping to get a lead on some MSW's in Moldova who might provide some field instruction. We were unable to identify any and I loss some sleep worrying about it last night. For those of who are not social workers field education is where all of the class work and skill training comes together in social work education. It is the heart and soul of social work education.

The first lesson I learned (again) is that social work education in Moldova is not going to immediately or ever look like SW ed in the USA where we have been at it for over a hundred years.
We cannot duplicate the field program Helen and Erma and Ester have created at Baylor, but I must say you ladies are in my head all the time along with CSWE rules. As we worked on this today Vadim, Dean of the CTE social work program said, "This is an experiment and we students are apart of the experiment." By the way, have I told you that the dean is also a student in this program?

As we talked about how to do field education, Vadim pointed out that the students in the MSW program are among the most educated and experienced social workers in the country. They all have at least 4 years experience and most have created and direct social work programs. They are the field instructors for the undergraduate students. They cannot leave their jobs to work in another program; so, they must be allowed to do their internships where they are. And if they are the best of the best who is going to supervise them?

It's time for the interns to come for supper so I talk about lesson later.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

February 7, 2009

We have been here for a week now and finished one course. Next week we will visit in social agencies and social work programs at other schools. The last week Preston will teach statistics. Our interpreter knows excel (which is what we will be using) very well so he will be a great help with that course.

One of the best ways to learn more about the country is visiting with people who have lived here for a long time. Last night we had dinner with Oleg and Natasha in their home. They both grew up here and were teenagers during the soviet era. It was a delightful evening--good food and good conversation. They have both lived in the US for periods of time so they can understand the comparisons between the two counties.

They talked about how Americans think and talk about food a lot. After breakfast we are thinking about what we are going to do for lunch. They said here food is not that important. They eat as a necessity and not as a social event.

I also learned more about the shopping patterns. Natasha said the reason they don't want you to try anything on unless you will buy it is because the salespeople think you are just wasting their time if you aren't going to buy. She says they don't even want you to come look at things unless you are going to buy it. That ruins all the fun of just shopping around in a store! Natasha and I are going to have a "girls day out" late next week so I will see what we do. At home we would go shopping not necessarily to buy anything.

Yesterday we heard that in the state universities you do not have to attend class. You can register for a class and pass the final and never come at all. Or you can register and pay the professor some money and pass without even going to class or passing the final exam. That explains the attitudes of a couple of our students.

The Family in Moldova
We have had several conversations with students and Vitali, Oleg and Natasha about family life in Moldova. Actually, I think we pick of ideas from the Moldova Students and then check them out with the 3 Turlacs.

Two of the students are designing program evaluations of programs for 16 year olds aging out of the boarding schools (We have discover this is a more accepted term that orphanage.) Looking for outcomes lead us to discussion when children start to live and be independent of family. It seems it is very common for adult children to live with their parents well in adulthood. We have heard numerous stories of sons living with parents well into their 30's-even after they marry. Economics play into this. Housing is very costly as is food; but I believe there is more. One foster family that we know of have had a young woman living with them since she aged out of the boarding school at 16 (2 1/2 years ago). When we knew this family 2 years ago the 16 year old was affectionate and clingy and could not seem to get enough of the family. This visit the family has confided to us that they are worried about her because she is spending less time with them, has not made friends apart from her boarding school friends, and spends most of her time with friends and her boyfriend. I can hear my U. S. friends and colleagues say, "So, isn't that normal teenage, late adolescent behavior?" Yes, it is in the USA, but it is at least less typical here. Our friends, the family I've been talking about, are hurting and thinking they have not done a good job with this young woman because she is no longer as close to them as before and is making friends outside the family. I can remember having some of the same feeling when Debbie, Sam, Susan, Liza and Laura went through this period, but it was not as disturbing because it was expected. This family does not have this to fall back on. Their biological children are still in the home and have no thoughts of leaving emotionally or physically although 3 of them are older than their foster daughter.

Tracy, this has given us an opportunity to discuss the development theories you taught last May. They still believe the stages are the same in this culture, but the times people move into and out of stages are different.

This has caused a bit of a problem from a research perspective. How do you determine what is a successful foster placement for a child? In the U. S. I think we would use staying in the family until they age out at 18 at least one measure of success. That does not work so well here. I think the student finally ended up accepting that what is "normal" for a child reared in a boarding home but may not be the same for someone reared in a typical Moldovan family. She is using living in the foster home until graduation as one measure of success, but also wants to use as an objective the frequency of contacts with the family after graduating.

We are having lots of fun learning and experiencing new things. I hope we are not boring our readers with our reflections. Thanks for staying with us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 5, 2009

For some reason I don't seem to have as much "down" time on this trip as I had the last time we were here. So I haven't been as faithful in writing on the blog. It should be easier next week when we won't be in the class room. Preston will be visiting with the Baylor interns, the faculty at the college, and trying to locate agencies for the students in the Moldova college to do their internships.
Every time we come we learn new things about the culture. The Baylor interns have been very adventuresome and traveled all around the city. They told us that they discovered while shopping for clothes that you are not to try on anything unless you are going to buy it. Now what if you try it on and don't like it? Guess you have to buy it anyway! Joy said that they went to one store and she saw a ring that she liked. She picked it up and started to put it on to see if it fit her when the salesperson grabbed it out of her hand and put it away.
The Moldovan people we have talked to have absolutely no sympathy for the economic crisis in the US. They say we are so much better off even in a crisis than they have ever been. So why should they feel sorry for us. Again, as last time we visited, they say they would love to be a poor person in America because they would have more than they have here. I don't think that is true but you can't convince them of that.
I have been surprised that people we meet in different places seem to know all the people we know in other places in the city. It just seems like a small community to me but it is a large city, 1 million people. I mentioned this at dinner last night and they said it is because I am interacting with "believers" and that is a small community--that they do know each other.
The things they like to have from the US are interesting: brown sugar (to make molasses), maple flavoring (to make syrup), barbecue sauce, boxed brownie mix, flower and vegetable seeds, US candy (even though they make very good candy here). Would any of us ever think of making our own molasses or syrup? I certainly wouldn't!
Our interpreter is a young man that is a student in another university in the city and is studying journalism. However, sometimes he gets really excited about what we are teaching. Today Preston was talking about something and the interpreter said "I think we could find that. Let's go to the library and search for it." I think it is interesting that he gets so involved in the material and is not just translating without any interest in the topic.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

BSSW Interns in Moldova

Ever wonder if what you do is accomplishing anything? I've had confirmation these last two days of the value of the social work education we provide students in the BSSW.

Joy, Leah and Megan are graduates of our undergraduate social work program and will graduate with their MSW degrees in May. They chose as their second internship to come to Moldova for an experience in international social work. They are working through the Moldovan office of Children's Emergency Relief International (CERI). This agency mostly works with children in Moldovan orphanages. There is a PhD social worker in this office who provides their supervision.
Just before they arrive changes occurred in the Moldovan government that drastically changed most of what they were to do here. I had concerns before leaving for Moldova that the situation would not provide the kind of professional social work experience needed for a successful field education experience. Well I should have had more faith. When we all got together Sunday night, they each began to tell me about the kind of jobs they had put together for themselves. I was absolutely amazed at their flexiblity, resourcefulness and ability to use social work knowledge and skill.

Leah's job is probably the closest to what was planned. She is working in a program that is designed to assist 16 year olds transition from the orphanages to independent living. It consists of a number of classes and other activities. She is working with Victoria one of our CTE MSW students. Her research project is to evaluate this project. My mouth hung open as I heard her insights into the issues and her plans. She was amazed that Victoria and other CTE staff saw her as an expert.

Megan was supposed to work with the Social Protection Agency on reducing the number of orphanages in Moldova; however, since her supervisor is no longer in this position she had no job. Together they identified a village that wanted to create more community spirit so she is now doing community development (her concentration) in the village. They now have a building that they are renovating and beginning to develop a community center. Jon Singletary, I don't know what you teach in that concentration course but she has some amazing knowledge and skills. She really appreciated how quickly you respond to her request for materials. Her research project is doing secondary data analysis to describe the characteristics of government employed social workers.

Joy has perhaps been the most resourceful. She has researched service to the hearing impaired and identified an NGO that works with these folks. She says that in Moldova these are a highly oppressed and disenfranchised population; so, she is working with a group using her knowledge of sign to empower them using strength prospective and ecological framework. She is using the same data as Megan but focusing on the attitudes of Moldovan social workers towards the handicapped. Wow.

Now I know that these ladies came to us as outstanding young women and would have been flexible and resourceful in anything they chose to do. What is wonderful for any teacher to hear is the credit they give to their faculty for helping them develop the knowledge and skills they are practicing.

Today they joined our CTE class and presented their research projects to the class. What a great job they did. It work out wonderfully for teaching. As they presented I was able to connect the research principles and terminology I taught to their examples. It was almost as though we had planned it that way.

A real bonus to this trip is enjoying time with them.

First days of class

We have had two classes, each for 8 hours. These students are willing to go long hours just to get the information that will be helpful to them in the work they are doing. The course this week is social work research. It is not nearly as much fun to teach or to learn as the skills courses we taught last time we were here. Yesterday was mostly lecture and this morning the three Baylor interns presented their research designs to the class. This afternoon the students started working on their own designs.
We thoroughly enjoy being with our family here. They are such a loving, caring group and so good to us. Last night some of their friends came over for dinner and then we watched one of the movies the Marti & Vern Sauter sent with us. It was an old western that they seemed to enjoy. One of the boys chose what to watch but Danik, the youngest, has been promised he can choose tonight. He is deciding between Wall E and Wizard of Oz. He is a little worried about the witch in Oz so we will see what he decides.
The weather here is not as cold as some days we have had in Waco this winter. I think it right around freezing most of the day. Today it has been either raining or snow flurries most of the day. The snow is not sticking to the ground but the Baylor students were excited to see the snow falling.
I think we are about to get on Moldovan time. We both woke up about 4:00 this morning but were able to get back to sleep and then weren't ready to get up at 7 when the alarm went off. Hopefully, the jet lag has passed.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Back in Chisinau, Moldova

Here we are back in Moldova! We left Waco on Friday morning at 11 am and drove to DFW. We flew from DFW to Frankfurt, had a six hour layover, and then flew in to Chisinau. We got here at 6:20 p.m. Saturday, Moldovan time, which was 10 am Saturday in Waco. We had been traveling for 23 hours. Our flights were good and uneventful. The plane to Frankfurt was not very comfortable as the seats were very close together and almost no leg room. Preston moved to a bulk head seat to sleep and that gave me two seats to sleep in.
Oleg and his brother Vitali met us at the airport and brought us to the house where we stay. We were so glad to see all of the family and they were happy to have us back. We had dinner with them and visited for a while. I was very tired and we went to bed about 9:30 and told them we wanted to sleep in Sunday and not go to church. Well, did we sleep in! We woke up at 2:00 Sunday afternoon! Danik, the six year old, asked his mother if we would eat breakfast or lunch when we got up.
We spent Sunday visiting with the family and with the three social work students from Baylor that are doing their internship here.

We have very comfortable accommodations. The family gives up their space for us when we are here. We have two rooms, one for sleeping and one with a table for computer and space to relax. There is another room that we share with the family which is their dining room and living room. We also have our own bath room. So they take good care of us. Lucia, the mother of the family, doesn't want us to do anything. She won't even let us help serve the meals or clear the table.

The weather is about 32 degrees but the house is very warm. So warm that we wish we had brought some short sleeve shirts and summer pajamas. We haven't been out since we got here so I am sure we will be glad for the warm clothes when we do.
It is 5:30 am Monday as I write this. I think my body is still on Texas time. We have both been awake for a while and finally decided just to get up and get something done!

We would love to hear from you. We can get our e-mail messages at our regular addresses: and
Will talk to you again soon.

This is Preston and I'm following up on Genie's comments. It feels good to be back in Moldova and Alex's and Lucia's home. I was afraid Danny the 6 year old would not remember us. There was no need to fear! He remembers us well and lots of things we did while we were here last time. He greeted us with big hugs and several times since out of the blue attacks our legs with a hug. We have not had much time with Vadim, Irina, and Inna the older children. They were out doing young people things Saturday night and of course we slept too too long Sunday. I thought I had regressed to my teenage years. Vadim and Irina are much the same but Inna has become a lovely young woman in the two years since we were here.

To our surprise, we found a new member had joined the family. Elijah is a 17 year old young man who has just aged out of an orphanage and come to live with the family as did Maria who joined the family 3 years ago. We have spoken and written a lot about what a remarkable young woman she is. She has been spending some time with a sister so we have not seen her yet. Our interns have had some interaction with her and tell us she is working as an English interpreter. Amazing, when she moved in with the family she spoke only Romanian, she quickly picked up Russian from the family and when we were here in 2007 understood a lot of English but would not try to talk with us. Now she is an interpreter. Alex says she is the top student in her school. Elijah, is a handsome young man with a quick smile and wonderful English. Joy, Leah, and Megan the Baylor social work interns had already met him before we got here because he is in the CERI (Children's Emergency Relief International) transition program. Alex and Lucia are in US terms foster parents for Maria and Elijah.

For you Baylor School of Social Work family folks: If you ever wonder if what we are doing works the answer is a mighty "Yes". We had an amazing visit last night with the 3 interns. They could not say enough about how well prepared they were for their work here. They have had to be incredibly flexible and resourceful. Because of changes in the government they essentially had to recreate their own jobs and they did that in remarkable kinds of ways. For example, Joy who is fluent in American sign, discovered an agency that works with the hearing impaired. She is now leading groups to empower them using, "the strengths perspective and ecological framework." I'll write a whole post on that later. Time now to get ready to go to the college. I sure wish I had one of the BSSW research professors here to teach in my place.