Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Today, Moldovans had the opportunity to see a partial solar eclipse. In true Moldovan notification fashion, I didn't know anything about it until this morning. The eclipse would be at 1:30 p.m., allowing me to take one of my sixth grade classes outside to see it. I did the best I could to fashion viewing devices, thinking back to what we used on the day of the solar eclipse when I was about 10 years old. I cut out small pieces of black construction paper (thanks, Mom) and poked a hole in each piece with a needle, minimizing the sun's brightness.

I tried to make the lesson informative by drawing the location of earth, the sun and the moon during an eclipse, including giving those vocabulary words. But the kids were so excited that the eclipse was starting soon, I ditched the vocab lesson and handed out the construction paper.

After a few minutes, some seventh graders came outside with pieces of thick semi-opaque glass that one of the science teachers had given them. They were happy to share with my students and the approximately 45 others outside.

The kids loved it, and so did the teachers. Several of them went inside to get other teachers to look at the sun. If I would ask a teacher if she wanted to see it, she'd politely refuse. But when I would thrust the glass in her hand, she would eagerly look at the sun and be impressed. One cleaning lady loudly exclaimed, "It's the moon!"

Well not exactly, Doamna, but close enough. Two girls tried taking pictures of it with their cell phones, through the glass. One got it to work, but the other didn't.

This strikes me as one of the few times when Moldovans have embraced science in my time here. Although my new books about planets (thanks, Aunt Jane) are the most popular in my English library, great amounts of superstition and ignorance remain when it comes to science, especially among adults.

Here's a list of some of the absurd scientific "facts" that Moldovans consider common knowledge or that have been told to me by specific Moldovans:
- The Current, i.e. any kind of wind flow, is bad for your health.
- Going outside with your hair wet will make you sick.
- Sitting on the ground (especially concrete) will sterilize you.
- For a period of several days, a young woman in my village was shaking when she walked. After doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her, her family brought in an exorcist.
- When I told my pregnant sister-in-law, Olesia, that drinking wine was bad for the baby's health, my host family laughed out loud. Olesia, smiling, asked me, "Where'd you hear that from?"
- A woman whose fetus had died late in her pregnancy was told by her doctor that the fetus "wanted to die".
- The South-West Asia typhoon in December 2004 was the result of an underwater Russian nuclear experiment in the Indian Ocean.
- Earthquakes on the Pakistani-Indian subcontinent are the result of God punishing non-Christians.
- America has tornadoes because of U.S. government scientific experiments in Alaska.
- A man in my village died from smoking; he fell asleep in a room where there was a lit cigarette, and it poisoned him to death.

There will surely be more incidents to come in further episodes of "Stiinti Watch". Until then, I can be happy that no one in my village began apocalyptic tribal dances during today's partial eclipse. Then again, who knows what happens here when there's a full one.


At 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Experiments in Alaska DO cause tornadoes. Duh. Everyone knows that!


At 5:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

peter, so glad the books have arrived and are going to good use. non-fiction is always popular! aunt jane

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admit I missed some posts, but, um...when did you get a sister-in-law?

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Peter Myers said...

A host sister-in-law, John. As I wrote "sister-in-law," I considered whether I needed to add in the adjective "host". I concluded that it wasn't necessary, since I wouldn't have an actual sister-in-law in Moldova. Thanks for proving my assumption wrong, John.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Peter Myers said...

I was impressed by Google Ads today actually being topical. The first ad was for Moldovan tourism and the second was for eclipse sunglasses. Whether you all want to tour Moldova or have an eclipse to see is another question, but at least it's more relevant than Romanian business solutions.


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