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Personal thoughts

I promise to recommence with the description of what has been going on here soon, but I feel like I need to write a little bit about my inner struggles for the moment.

First, let me start with something funny. This is especially for Kayla and Kim. Remember that night last spring when we had M&M's and wine? (For my younger viewers, I am 22 and actually legal - especially since the drinking age here is 16 or 18.) Well, the wine we had had no effect on me really except to make me giggly after a bit. Last night I went to dinner and had the strongest wine I have ever had in my entire life. I hadn't even had two whole glasses and I was completely overwhelmed by how hard it hit me. Nothing happened, obviously, because I could feel the difference and stopped drinking, but I thought you would want to know. Next time, I have a much better idea of what kind of wine to get!

Right, so the inner struggles. Language barriers aside, cultural differences here are sometimes hard to handle. For one thing, people don't really encourage each other or help each other out. I mean, people have been super nice to me and Anna, but I think it is because we are strangers and teachers. In general though, someone was explaining to me last night that when I wished him good luck and told him not to worry about his interview today because he would be marvelous, that people here wouldn't say that to someone else. Also, I was told that it is truly un-french for people to just open their doors and welcome new people in. I have never experienced it here, but it seems like it has a lot to do with me being American. I think this is effecting me so much, because after 5 days without emails, I got all of your letters at once. Mom was writing about the neighborhood, and how everyone was helping each other out, and Malise wrote about the horrible work conditions in Moldova, and I got updates on how to use my computer and about peoples lives at school ... I miss it.

The thing I miss the most is choice. When I took my GRE, I had to write an essay on choices. I said in that essay that there were very few situations in life where a person didn't actually have a choice. After three weeks here, I don't think my essay would have been so forceful. Teachers are made to move whenever the government feels like it. If you studied science and math at university, they can make you teach any subject in that field, at any level. So, let's say you studied biology. They could make you teach calculus, because it is in the same field. I would say that those things are actually rather different, wouldn't you? Kids can't take lots of subjects, they have to choose after one year of high school. You choose a business route, a humanities route, or a science route. If you change your mind, you basically have to start high school again.

I personally have a lot of choices, but I really feel bad for my students, because they don't. They definitely have the benefit of a better education system where everything is standardized, but to do that and never take a class in the arts or play a sport just seems like a waste. In America, we complain that they are taking away these "extras," but here, they almost don't exist at all. I am lucky to be at a school where they teach theater and fine arts. However, to get into these programs, you have to have really good grades and takes up to five extra hours of classes a week, including on Saturday morning. This year, so few students signed up for theater and art (10 and 9 respectively) that they had to combine the classes. So, there are kids that take the train from 45+ minutes away and/or sleep here at the school to study a special arts program that is now a combination between two very different types of art.

The good news is, Anna and I are combatting our least favorite cultural difference, and we seem to be making an effect. Smiling is considered suspicious, and not to be done unless you are quite familiar with a person. (This from a country where they kiss each other on the cheeks instead of shaking hands when they meet you!) Anyway, Anna and I smile at everyone all the time, and now - whether they are laughing at us or humoring us, I don't know - people are smiling back. It's great!

I am blessed to be here having an experience to compare life at home to. One smile at a time, I am going to work my way through these cultural differences. Until then, thanks for the emails and support from home. I really appreciate it. Love always, ~Heather