August 11, 2010

A List of Positives of Moldova

Thank you all for the comments and notes of encouragement. It means more than words can say to read them and know that you all are praying for me and sending love and positive thoughts. As Marta suggested, I have made a list of the positives about my experience here in Moldova. It really helps when I see them all on paper and I realize that, even though this is one of the most challenging things I have done in my life so far, they are some great things to enjoy about it. Here I go:

I can now speak another language, Romanian and when I was in Milan last month, it made all the difference for I can now understand Italian. Learning Italian is going to be so much easier now.
I can live in another culture and different language, on my own and be perfectly comfortable doing so.
I have met some amazing Moldovans, especially my host family in Vasieni. I absolutely love them and the feeling is entirely mutual.
I have met some amazing Americans in the persons of my fellow PCVs and our amazing staff at Peace Corps.
Moldova has some of the cutest dogs and cats I have ever met. They are stray for the most part but they still are very friendly.
Since moving to Moldova I have started running and can now run for more than an hour. I never put much energy into trying before and now am registered to run my first official race, a 10k in Athens, Greece in October.
I have had the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite things to do - travel. It is so much less expensive to travel within Europe from here.
I have everything I need to live comfortably here in Moldova including my own apartment.
Peace Corps takes really good care of us and provides even the littlest things e.g. dental floss.
I have learned not to sweat the small stuff.
Moldova has some beautiful countryside and I have learned to appreciate it.

These are just what I can think of now. I will be sure to add to the list.

I had the honor to co-MC the Swearing In Ceremony (in Romanian) for some new PCVs last week. It was amazing as I watched the new PCVs and remembered my own Swearing In last year. I remembered the goals I had for my service here, the reasons why I signed up for PC. Our Ambassador to Moldova Asif Chaudry addressed the gathering and talked about when President Kennedy made that speech in Michigan in 1961 and how those students followed up with him and PC was born. It renewed in me the hope and optimism I had when I answered the call to service and made me realize that I still had some work to do here and not much time. Our Country Director, in his address also made me realize why I stay here in Moldova. He spoke about his own service and I realized that each one of us go through the same emotional roller coaster that is Peace Corps. It is an amazing ride and I believe that my service here will make a difference. Even if it is a small one, I would have been successful. So, as I go through the next 11 months, these are the things I keep in mind.

Stay tuned.....

July 15, 2010

Ups and Downs

Any PCV will tell you that we all have these: ups and downs. When we experience the "ups" it's a beautiful thing. We can conquer the world and are ready for any challenge that our service brings us. We smile and laugh and dance and sing. I enjoy the "ups" very much. A huge part of the "ups" is the ability to communicate and connect with friends and family back home. Here in Moldova we have great internet access and this makes a world of difference.

The "downs" on the other hand are something else. When we are down, we are very, very down. Nothing seems to go right, we feel disconnected from friends and family back home and miss everyone. We understand that they are busy and have things to do and even though we know this, it still feels like we are much further away than we really are.

I am having a "down" day today. Work is not going great and I feel very disconnected from the people at home that mean the world to me. I am having one of those days when I question why I am here and think of how life would be so much better at home in America, or anywhere else but here for that matter. Obviously, I don't like "down" days, but I understand that they are a part of life where ever I am.

So, here is hoping I can once more get over this hump and connect with friends and family and have an "up" day tomorrow.

June 10, 2010

One Year Anniversary in Moldova

One year ago today I arrived in Moldova. Wow how time flies. I remember sitting on that last flight we took here and having a moment of "O my gosh, what am I doing? Why am I doing this?" I was excited and terrified at the same time. When we got off the plane and entered the arrival hall we were greeted by our awesome Country Director and other staff. When the first of us collected our luggage and went through the exit doors, I heard a loud cheer that was PCVs already in country and I immediately exhaled. Things were going to be fine.

Over the last twelve months I have learned a new language to the point where I can function in my community and the country. I have met new people, my Vasieni host family in particular with whom I have made a strong connection and have a strong bond. I have eaten different food, some of which I absolutely love, others, not so much. I have drunk house wine, which I had never done before. I have helped with grape harvesting to make said house wine. I attended an Orthodox Christian Easter Service, much different from what I am used to.

I have had lots of highs and some lows here in Moldova. It is truly a sacrifice that we make to enter Peace Corps. It is also an enormous learning opportunity. I have learned to relax more. To be more easygoing. To stress less. To let the small stuff go. To choose my battles. Along the way, I hope I have taught some things too.

I still struggle with being here and away from family and friends and the conveniences of America. I am still not as busy with work as I would like to be and that sometimes makes me question whether I am doing any good at all. I take it one day at a time though and try to look for the positives for being here. Deep inside I am also committed to serving out my time here. I am committed to being present and in the moment throughout the remainder of my service here.

So, here is to me and my colleagues who persevere here in Moldova. Here is to our second year. To the new Trainees and eventual Volunteers who have arrived today, it will be okay!!!!

May 28, 2010

Some Realities about being a Peace Corps Volunteer

My dear friend Oriana is getting married tomorrow and I will not be there to share her big day with her. It breaks my heart. Events like this make me realize just how big a sacrifice Peace Corps is. We volunteers give up a lot to come to our host countries to serve. I also wonder if the host country nationals really understand the depth of our commitment to Peace Corps service. We PCVs often talk about food we miss, our favorite TV shows, our favorite things we liked to do at home in America, but when it comes down to it the greatest void is that of family and friends and important events like weddings, births and sometimes the chance to say goodbye to a sick loved one.

I love my friend and I wish her and her new husband-to-be all the goodness that life has to offer, I wish them lasting love and happiness, I wish them a healthy family.

May 18, 2010

Spring in Moldova

Spring is a beautiful time in Moldova. For a few weeks now the trees have been coming alive with beautiful flowers and blossoms. Now they are fully clothed in their beautiful green leaves and flourishing. It is amazing how green everything is. It is a special shade of green that truly heralds the arrival of Spring.

The countryside is beautiful and colorful and resplendent with all the fields overgrown with flowers of every shade and type, meadows, sheep with their new lambs, goats with their new kids, cows with their new calves, horses with their new foals, hens with their new chicks, duck with their new ducklings, geese with their new nurselings . There is life everywhere you look in Moldova. People are outdoors more and everyone is happy and enjoying Spring and the promise of the warmth of Summer. Moldova is transformed and winter is a distant memory with the arrival of all the new life.

I love to go on walks and see all the trees beginning to get their fruit. Fresh fruit and vegetables will abound now. Something awesome to look forward to. Everyday the trees hold a new surprise that was not there the day before. I already had fresh strawberries from the garden and look forward to cherries. Moldova has the best cherries!!

The new group of trainee volunteers also arrive next month. We are really looking forward to their arrival since we will no longer be the new kids in town!! Summer brings all kinds of things to look forward to and this is one of them. June will also be a year that I arrived in Moldova. Wow, time does fly. It's been a year of ups and downs and I am happy to report that with the arrival of Spring, I have also had a renewal. I look forward to the rest of my time here in Moldova. I really do.

April 2, 2010

Easter in Moldova

I know it's been a while. I am still here and taking one day at a time. It is Easter or Paste weekend and I want to share how it is celebrated here in Moldova. I will be spending it with my host family in my training village Vasieni going to church with them and celebrating their way, the Orthodox Christian way. I do miss my traditional way of celebrating in Barbados though. Today, Good Friday we go to church starting at noon for about three hours. The Pastor preaches based on the last seven times Jesus spoke while hanging on the cross - called The Seven Station of the Cross. We sing hymns like The Old Rugged Cross, beautiful hymns that I love and miss. I remember as a child it was a daunting day since it is hard to sit for three hours as a child. We don't eat meat on Good Friday, only fish.

Here is an account of how it is done here in Moldova:

Easter is celebrated at churches in traditional, all-night services with the congregation standing the entire time. There are no seats or benches in Orthodox churches. In the early morning, people exit the church and form circles surrounding the building. Each family prepares a display on the ground or in a basket which includes special sweet bread (pasca), red colored eggs, wine, sausage, and a burning candle. It is quite an impressive sight as the many people stand behind their candle-lit arrangements expectantly waiting as church bells peal in the near-dawn darkness. The priests and attendants file out of the church chanting and they begin the walk of many circles. The priest dips a branch of basil into a large bucket of water carried by a young attendant, and splashes generous droplets of holy water over the people and their food in a traditional blessing. Everybody is supposed to eat the blessed food first thing in the morning for three consecutive days. Easter Monday is celebrated as an official holiday. Adults exchange presents of eggs and pasca and visit their parents and grandparents saying, ”Hristos a înviat”(Christ is risen). Children visit relatives and are given colored eggs, cookies, candies and money.
For forty days after Easter, the greeting is “Hristos a înviat”/”Христос воскрес” with the response “Adevărat a îviat”/”Воистину воскрес”. On the 40th day, people say “Hristos s-a înălţat”, with the response “Cu adevărat s-a înălţat”.

Memorial Easter (Paştele Blajinilor)
A week after Orthodox Easter, there is “Memorial Easter”, when people go to the cemetery with food and wine to visit with family and friends and remember those who have died. If flowers are taken, there should be an even number of blossoms. To decorate, towels are spread on the graves and individual arrangements are placed on the towels. Each arrangement includes colac (special braided bread), a red colored egg, a bit of candy or mini bagel, and a slender church candle. These special arrangements are called pomană, and they are given as a gift to other people to remember the dead person with the words “de sufletul lui…” (for the soul of…). The remaining of this saying is that the people believe that the soul of the dead will rest in peace, having all that he needs in the other world. Many graves have a small bench and table for food and wine. After decorating, a small can of incense is lit, and the priest and attendants come to give a blessing. As the priest chants the blessing, he pours a dash of wine alongside the grave. The family gives him money and one of the “bread arrangements” which is placed into a large basket carried by young boys. The priest and his entourage then move on the next grave and until all have been visited. There is much visiting as people go from one grave to another with an exchange of the “arrangements” which are presented with prosop (a towel), and the sharing of wine. There are no toasts, and a person will often dribble a bit of wine alongside the grave with the words “de sufletul lui” and “să-i fie ţărîna uşoară”. The exchanges may also include a cup or mug filled with candies or sweets and perhaps even a bit of sugar rice. Afterwards they eat and drink and the celebration is continued at home.

The Monday after the Easter of the Dead is an official holiday.

For Easter we say:
Sărbători fericite!
Un paşte fericit!
Happy Holiday
Happy Easter.

February 22, 2010

It's my Birthday Today.

Yes it is!! My first one in Moldova. The sun is shining brightly and I feel renewed. Thank you all for the very positive comments on my last post. When I read them they really lifted me up. I am feeling better now. Us Volunteers go through such highs and lows. It is a great feeling to know that you guys are out there praying for us and sending us cheerful thoughts. Thank you.

Birthday celebrations here in Moldova are so different from what we are used to. We are used to being treated my friends and family on our special day. Here in Moldova it is the custom for the birthday person to make a masa: that means you buy and cook all the food, and take the celebration to your workplace for your colleagues to enjoy. You do all the work for your birthday. This year, I will not be making a masa. Maybe next year. I really like to celebrate my birthdays the way we celebrate.

I am not doing anything special today because on Saturday I leave for London, England for a week. That is my birthday treat. I will have a little of the life I left back home. I plan to go to the theatre to see Wicked and eat delicious and different kinds of food and generally have fun. That will tide me over until the warm weather gets here and things start to come to life again.

About Me

I am a Social Worker and traveler who wants to take my social work skills to a higher level. I have volunteered for the Peace Corps and am posted to Moldova, Eastern Europe. I will also be traveling around Eastern Europe on vacation. The views expressed in this blog are mine solely and do not in any way reflect the opinions of the Peace Corps or the US Government.

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