I’ve recently been reflecting on the early days of my stay in Moldova. There are so many memories and stories. Thinking about all the people I met and all the experiences and knowledge I gained puts a smile on my face just thinking about it now.
Before I moved to my current town, I lived in a small village about an hour from the capital. There 10 of us volunteers would stay for 10 weeks of intense language and technical training. While there, I lived with an amazing host family. The fact that they, along with 9 other families in this village would accept foreigners, especially those who knew not a lick of the language prior to coming, is beyond astonishing. The hospitality I received from them (and my current host family for that matter) amazes me. If the point isn’t clear enough, I could easily write pages of the immense kindness and generosity that I have received from my host communities.
My first host family consisted of my host mother, father and two host brothers with a host sister who came to visit for the last month or so that I was there. One of the many memories I have is how my host father would introduce me as his youngest son, since I had just joined the family. Anytime he mentioned it, it always created laughs as everyone would be drawn to my height and reference the fact that my host father had younger kids than I. Other memories include playing sports (and a lot of soccer) with my host brothers and the one time I was feeling a little under the weather and my host mother made sure to keep me healthy (this is just one of the many examples I could provide of her kindness and her hardworking attitude).
Setting the Scene
One of the activities us volunteers had to do was interview the mayor and the librarian. Our language teachers assisted us in understanding anything we might not have understood as they were with us. It was neat to hear from these individuals about the community and if there was anything we could do to help them (even for the limited amount of time that we would be in the village). When we went to speak with the librarian, the Council of Youth was also there. There was about 20 or so students from the community, ranging in age from 10 to 18 years old. We had not expected to meet them at this point (thinking we would meet them after interviewing the librarian), so to say we were surprised and nervous is an understatement. The council was very respectful and talking with them helped us find out more about the needs of the community, as well as what people outside of our host families were thinking. Eventually the Council of Youth asked us if we could teach them English for the summer. Somehow we agreed; having classes every Wednesday and Sunday. (Once we had finished our training program, one of our language teachers confessed to us that she did not think we were going to go through with it.) Looking back on that time, it helped me (and many of the other volunteers) see how to run an English club (and how not to).
Now that you have been given some background, I can tell you a story about one of my host brothers.
A Host Brother Story
My younger host brother is a very energetic human being. After language and technical classes ended for the day at 5pm, I would head home where many days, my host brother would be waiting to play with me. We would play all kinds of games and I had a lot of fun with him. He also would assist me with learning Romanian. Almost every day, he would ask if I needed his help and he would be very critical to make sure I was pronouncing words correctly. I felt as if I was in the first Harry Potter film and Hermione (in this case, my host brother) was correcting a fellow student on the proper way to say Wingardium Leviosa. But with his help, I did gain better insight into correctly speaking the language.
My host mother wanted him to learn some English while I was living with them, and I tried my best to teach him, but like so many of us, he wanted to know the language without having to study. At one point, I was teaching him the alphabet and he turned it on me, so that I ended up studying the Romanian alphabet instead. I guess I should have had this in mind when it happened again.
I would bring my host brother with me when I would go to English club. He wouldn’t always stay the whole time, but it helped him learn a little bit of English. On one Sunday, I decided to quiz him on English numbers as we walked to the library (where the club was held). The Wednesday before, we had taught the local kids how to count numbers, so I wanted to see what my host brother remembered. I thought this would be a great way to utilize our time as we took the 10 or so minute walk to the library. The time was utilized well, just not in the way I had expected.
We made it to about twelve before the tables turned. Looking back, it seems like a blur, but somehow he had taken control of my lesson. I had even planned to allow him to stop counting when we got to 20… but instead, now that I was counting in Romanian to one hundred (o sută). The teacher had become the student.
You could argue that maybe I wasn’t a good teacher if a student could hi-jack my lesson. In most cases, I would agree, but not here. Gheorghe, my host brother, is different. One part lovable, one part conniving, one hundred parts a blast to be around. No other kid has this ability to sway lessons quite like him. Oh, and did I mention: He is only 8-years-old. I know he has a bright future if he works hard, and I can’t wait to see where he goes. For now, I’ll grab a cup of joe and practice our secret handshake for the next time I see Gheorghe.