All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Robert Kennedy

Thursday, June 30, 2011

And yet another week goes by...

Hub site today. Translation – another trip into Chisinau on a sweltering hot day. The difference today was we were allowed to travel without our LTI’s. This was a test as to how well we can maneuver around by ourselves. Christina, Lyndsey and I decided to meet up to venture out together. Thankfully we were all able to get a seat on the bus (not always easy) and we successfully venture into the city. We even had time to stop at a Magazin and get a cup of coffee before heading to school. Hub site day is always nice because you get to see all the other trainees and the administration usually gives lectures regarding culture in Moldova. It sounds boring, but it’s actually really interesting and pretty necessary for integration. However, on this particular day, the conference room we always use had an air conditioner that wasn’t working which stayed broken for the whole day…and it was brutal. We all survived, of course we did but it wasn’t easy. And it was all information that we really wanted and needed to hear but I’m sure many tuned out due to the lack of air. Since things were running late the breaks were few so it was unfortunate. I did get to see my buddies from team building last week so that was uplifting and Jesse and Michael never fail to make me laugh as I ended up in a group with them. Also got to meet Brendan who just arrived this past Sunday. He had a medical issue and was postponed for two weeks. I can’t imagine traveling all by myself here and then jumping into language (and he’s in Russian!) two weeks behind. But he has a great attitude. He’s from New Jersey and seems really nice. As per usual, I jetted over to headquarters during lunch to upload all the emails and blog postings I had done all week. It’s always nice to reconnect with the world even if only for a few minutes. After the day was over, Lyndsey, Christina, Andrea and I went back over to headquarters and took advantage of some more internet. Then we relaxed in the backyard for a while before heading home to Stauceni. We experimented to see if we waited a little longer if the bus would be less crowded. Experiment success! It was still pretty hot but we were too tired to care. So I just got home and showered and now I feel okay, just exhausted. Anxiously awaiting dinner so that I can get to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. Can’t believe tomorrow is Friday already.
Today, Rodica had some mercy on us. Realizing that we were all completely exhausted from Hub Site day, she went easy on us in language class. We just weren’t retaining anything. We were all extremely grateful. When I came back from lunch, another current volunteer, Suzette, came to speak to us about her experiences. She is about to COS (close of service) in 13 days so she is pretty excited. She said some pretty interesting things. One thing, in particular, she said was that any time she felt like ET’ing (Early termination) she just reminded herself that she’s wanted this for a long time and she wasn’t going to let Moldova beat her. That’s a good way of looking at things, I think. Towards the end of her talk, two more volunteers, Ohad and Derick showed up. They pitched in their two cents as well. Derick came over to me and asked if I was Jennifer. I was a little taken aback as I had never met him. I said yes and he said that he was friends with this guy Rich at the US Embassy and Rich was from where? Honesdale, PA. Oh right, I keep forgetting that my brothers know people everywhere in the world. I laughed and told him that we had gone to the same high school, although he was older. I told him to tell Rich that I would see him at the 4th of July celebration at the Embassy next week. Small world…and all that…
After Suzette’s talk, we had to meet in our smaller groups as we are going into Chisinau on Monday to interview some current NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations which in the U.S. are non-profit organizations) to get some perspective as to how they are successful in this country. So our group sat with Rodica and she translated our interview questions into Romanian for us.
When we were done I went outside and Christina and Lyndsey waited for me so I walked home with them. It was a Friday night but I was dead tired. It had just begun to rain, thankfully because it was hot as balls outside. So I watched the rest of Back to the Future and then fell asleep by 8:30. The sun doesn’t set here usually until after 10:00pm but with the rain it got dark earlier and I fell asleep calmly to the nice thunderstorm outside.
After a good night’s sleep, I woke up well rested and wanted to get going with the day. How often have I said that in my life? But I was excited as we were going to go visit our colleagues in Cricova; our first venture outside of Stauceni on our own not going to Chisinau. This is exciting stuff! IT was pouring rain but I waited outside for Lyndsey anyway. Under the umbrella it was fine and I enjoyed the clean air. Lyndsey called and told me to go along without her and I enjoyed the walk in the rain. Language wasn’t too overwhelming. I’m getting the sense that towards the end of the week they lighten up a little bit as they know our brains are in desperate need of a pauza! (break) So after our second break we just had a ‘cultural’ lesson and Rodica and Ina taught us about the history of Moldova through the Soviet breakup and living through Communism. It was very interesting. Christina was sick so she didn’t make it to class, but we decided as a group that even though it was rainy, we still wanted to get out of town. We walked up to the entrance to the village and waited for the bus. We all rode it together into Cricova. Cricova is a big wine country so it was cool to see all the vineyards on the bus ride there. We got off the bus and the pizza place we were meeting at was right across the street and everybody was there but Maryam who was also sick. We sat outside under umbrellas and had a relaxing lunch for about 2 hours. When the rain really started to come down outside, we all went inside. It was a really nice place and not too expensive. And I have to say…pizza? Not too bad. I also ordered some fries. I realized I hadn’t had French Fries in almost a month. Nor have I had red meat. Great. I’m not eating red meat out of force! KT will be loving that one!
I spoke to Julie a little bit because I didn’t really know her as she was in the ARBD (Agricultural and Rural Business Development) program. I found out that she was in the same program with my buddies from team building, John, Thomas and Jeremy. I told her to tell them I said hi and how they helped me survive team building along with Jesse. She told me she had invited them along today so we may just see them.
 Jesse, Maria, Julie and Courtney didn’t stay too long as they had to get home to their families. Also, they do this kind of thing every weekend. It wasn’t as novel to them. Jessica headed out shortly after but Alicia and Tom hung in for the long haul. Just as we decided to pay our bill, Thomas, John and Chris (another ARBD) showed up. They saw that we were paying and suggested we all go to a bar. We all agreed except Jen K. She wanted to get home so she took the bus back to Stauceni. The rest of us trekked a little over a mile (I know, right?) to find a bar that Tom and Alicia like…but it was closed. So we found another one close by. The rain had stopped so again we sat outside under the umbrellas. I know it is June but it was in the mid-50’s. However, the air was so crisp and clean it was nice to be outside. We all sat there for a few hours and relaxed and laughed and it was awesome to just really get to know each other outside of school. I was so sad that Christina was missing it. We had left Stauceni at 1 and now it was nearing 6 so we decided we should head out. Thomas, John and Chris had walked from their village, about an hour walk so they wanted to head out too. It was such a pleasant afternoon. We easily got the bus back to Stauceni and came home. I hope that we get a chance to do that more often. It was so necessary and was so nice to kick back for a few hours. I came home and showered and am now comfortable relaxing in my room. I really can’t complain right now. I feel incredibly content. And tomorrow is Sunday…which not only means I can sleep in…but plicenta!!!!!
It has been raining all night and all day. And it is COLD! It’s hard to believe that just 4 days ago I was sweltering in that room in Chisinau because right now I’m bundled up tight. It has got to be in the high 40’s. I slept well though. Got up around 10 and did a lot of leisure reading before diving into some more Romanian flashcards. Christina called and I filled her in on the events in Cricova. She was sad she had missed it but looked forward when we could do it again with her. I went downstairs for lunch around 1 and Anatolie warmed up some zeama (soup) with smitina (sour cream), my new favorite. Although I’m quickly learning that as much as I enjoy the smitina, it does not love me. Sad thing, but probably healthier in the long run. Lyndsey called after lunch and wanted to hang out. The rain had died down a little but it was still really windy and cold. We decided we would take the bus around the village and look for some sort of a cafĂ© that we could just have a coffee and chat. We went out to the bus stop and no buses came for nearly 20 minutes and we were freezing. So we instead decided to walk to the Magazin, grab some snacks and head back to her house since nobody was home. It was a cold walk and my umbrella actually did that thing in the movies where the wind blows it upside down. It was crazy. We got back to her house and basically just sat at the kitchen table and read through her travel books and started planning travel options for once we are off lock down. We both want to go as many places as possible so we were trying to figure out which destinations we had in common. Her boyfriend was coming to visit in May so that was the only thing currently she had planned so we decided to see if we could figure out some sort of a Christmas trip. We are looking at possibly Amsterdam and Switzerland, or Greece, or Turkey. We’re going to feel out some of the other volunteers at Hub Site this week and see what group is going where. The other Lindsay texted her and said that she and Conrad were out for a walk and they wanted to stop by to borrow a movie. So they joined us and we all chatted about traveling for a while and then played a game of Left, Right, Center (a dice game). Yes, things are quite exciting here in Eastern Europe. I stayed until about 6 and then came back here and watched a movie and relaxed. This week is going to be a busy one as I have to travel 4 out of the seven days. I know I’m going to be quiet tired but it’ll be nice to do some different things besides school and home. Tomorrow we are going into Chisinau to interview some Moldovan non-profit organizations. I don’t think it’ll take too long and then we were planning to walk around the Piaza and do some shopping but if this weather is still like this I think we’ll just make it an early evening.
Went downstairs for dinner and Tatiana had Gallina (Christina’s host mom) over visiting. They chatted in Russian while I ate my chicken and mashed potatoes and fresh plicenta. It was very pleasant. Anatolie soon joined us. He always brings another level of energy to the room. The radio in the kitchen is on 24 hours a day. So suddenly Tatiana says something in Russian to the effect of “this is my favorite song!” Gallina reaches over and turns up the radio so we can listen to the slow melody. Anatolie jumps up out of his chair and grabs Tatiana and whisks her around the kitchen as if they were in a Moscow ballroom. They are giggling like teenagers and Gallina and I just sit and watch. These are the moments that you just can’t buy.

The worst thing about today? I don’t have internet access and my brother Lynn is turning 40. How am I supposed to give him shit?!?!?!?
One thing I have learned already is that everything I have truly dreaded, never turns out so badly. I was really wondering how today was going to go but look at that? I survived. Isn’t that remarkable to know that I will actually not die doing stuff I’m not used to doing? There’s got to be a lesson in there somewhere.
The weather here is inexplicable. It is freezing rain, winds that have already broken two people’s umbrellas, it is truly bizarre. I mean we are all wearing winter gear. It’s the last week of June! So nobody knows what is going on. BUT, I will say (and my fellow trainees would probably kill me) I totally prefer this to the heat. Even though it’s chilly, once you’re inside you’re fine. In the heat, you’re just hot and sticky all day long. But I guess that’s just me. Well that’s not true, Andrea said she felt that way as well.
Anyway, we had language lessons in the morning. We stayed with the same people so it’s me, Lyndsey, Michael, Andrea and Jamie (or as we call it Remedial Romanian) and we switched over to Ina today. Rodica had us all last week and I think she needed a break. So she got Christina, Lindsay, Conrad and Jen K. (or as we call it AP Romanian). We’re not doing too badly though, we just crack way more jokes and make fun of ourselves more. Making it fun is definitely a survival skill. So after language, 5 of us; Lindsay, Jen K., Jamie, Andrea and myself headed into Chisinau with Rodica. We met up with Lilliana, our program manager and we all went to a community center to interview the heads of 5 non-profits here in Moldova. They were all dealing with children with disabilities in different aspects. I have to say, I didn’t know what to expect but it was really interesting. And all of us felt pretty good about how much Romanian we understood. I mean Rodica and Lilliana translated everything but we found that for the most part we understood before she translated. That’s not too shabby for 3 weeks of learning! Lindsay is probably the best. She’s nearly fluent. It’s very intimidating but she’s really impressive. She speaks fluent Italian so that helps too since Romanian is similar. But all the heads of the NGO’s were impressed and inquired about hiring us but Lilliana said that we were already ‘spoken for.’ But Lilliana told us we should all feel flattered that we made enough of an impression on 5 heads of organizations that they were all vying for us. I think she was being nice…they all wanted Lindsay. To be fair, Lindsay has her masters in counseling and treatment of children with disabilities so she was really in her element. I can’t fault her for that. But actually it was quite interesting hearing what they had to say about NGO’s here in Moldova. There is definitely work to be done. Even though it was cold and rainy, the trip into the city was a success. We had planned on maybe hanging around in the city and shopping a little but the weather was just too bad so we headed back. Thankfully, it was still a little before rush hour and we caught the rutiere at a different spot so we all got seats which rarely if ever happens. So the ride back to Stauceni wasn’t too bad. It was packed, but having a seat makes all the difference. Tomorrow isn’t too bad of a day but we do have our interviews with Lilliana, Violeta (her assistant) and Jeffrey (the country Director) as to where we will be placed for the 2 years. It’s really our only chance to say ‘hey, here’s what I really want to do.’ So, since I’ve already eaten dinner I think it’s a good excuse to lie here and watch a movie on this cold and rainy night. I don’t even have to feel guilty about it. (For those of you who are laughing thinking…when does she ever feel guilty about that…yeah…you’re right…)
6-28 & 6-29
The last two days have been sluggish to say the least. The rain hasn’t stopped, the cold has gotten much worse and we are all wiped out. Yesterday we had language class in the morning as per usual but as per unusual (?) we had the afternoon off. I was psyched. One thing I didn’t expect was to learn SO much about my fellow trainees bowel movements. It is a topic every single day. We are all reacting differently to food and other things here that every single day we discuss, in detail, our movements from the day before. It’s strange and yet so normal now. If you asked me the bathroom habits of anyone of my fellow trainees, I could easily write a thesis.
It was cold and rainy and could think of nothing better than going home and lying in bed. Of course I have to make friends with Lyndsey who always wants to do something. So she, myself and Christina wound up walking to the Magazin. The rain had subsided presently so we took advantage of it. As soon as we got to the Magazin, it started pouring again. So we bought an ice cream (I know) and stood outside under the awning watching the rain and talking. Lindsay and Conrad walked by and joined us and we all stood there hanging out outside a convenience store…could we stick out more as Americans? We stood there for about an hour. The rain let up a little bit so we decided that was our best chance. Lyndsey and Christina wanted to keep walking around but I bowed out and came home and rested. I had a quick meal and went to bed for the evening. This morning we had language again and then we split into two groups along with Cricova to go on field trips to villages to visit current volunteers. We received some unfortunate news that one of our friends in Cricova, Alicia, decided to ET. (Early terminate). She had had an unfortunate incident in Cricova and she didn’t feel safe any longer. I’m not going to speculate as all I have heard is second hand information so I will just say this, she will be missed.
So we went on a field trip to a volunteer named Haley’s village. It was about a half hour north of Stauceni. He works in the mayor’s office. We traveled through wineries and fields to get there; it was beautiful. Haley met us and showed us around a little bit. We sat down and met with the mayor and Haley’s partner. (Every volunteer receives a site partner with whom he works directly with). They spoke in Romanian and Liliana translated. Although I will say, I picked up more than I did on Monday. It was interesting. Then for a side project, Haley started a youth council in the town. So he had about 7 of them come to talk to us. They were all between the ages of 16-18 and they were adorable. They spoke about how learning about leadership inspired them and they started the initiative to build a park in their village because as youth, they really had nowhere to go and hang out with each other. These kids did that. They didn’t tell their parents what they wanted, they didn’t complain, they took the initiative and got something done. The budget has been passed and they are awaiting funding. It was really inspirational and they all had such bright eyes with hope you couldn’t help but be impressed. It was a good reminder of why we are all here. Before Haley got to that village they didn’t have anyone who had the time to take interest in them to motivate their needs. And now he’s helping them get a park built. It was a fantastic inspiration. We rode back to Cricova and Stauceni and told Liliana that it was just what we needed. I came home and had a quick bite. Tonight’s dinner was borscht, real Russian borscht. Gotta say, not really a fan, much prefer Mom’s ‘polish’ version of a borscht. But hey, that’s just me. I showered (since it’s been a couple of days) and came right up to bed. Tomorrow is yet another long day at hub site but at least I get to see everybody. Hopefully internet access will help me to upload all this to keep y’all informed.
Talk to you next week!
 Conrad, Michael and Tom getting a beer.
My dear friend, Lyndsey.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week #2

Yes, it’s my birthday. Didn’t know quite what to expect; but it was a good day. We had to be in Chisinau for training at 8:30 which means I had to wake up extra early to get on the crowded transit. And BOY was it crowded. That is probably one of the most challenging aspects of Moldova so far. I was greeted with many “Happy Birthdays” and we headed into the city. We had a mini language lesson in the morning while we received more immunizations and our LTI’s sang me Happy Birthday in Romanian. From there we had group sessions throughout the whole day. Only once a week are we with all 55 volunteers; and today was the day. Christina, in my training group, lovingly announced to the entire group that it was my birthday so the entire hall sang to me. Then the PC Staff sang to me in Romanian again. It was lovely. We went over to the PC office for lunch and we got to use the internet which was so nice. Got to see some pics from my HS reunion last week. It looks like everyone had a good time. I’m still so sad I had to miss it but I will be sure and be at the 25th. Got to catch up on a couple emails and FB messages. I wish I had more time on the internet, also a struggle, but it is a minor inconvenience. We had more sessions in the afternoon and in our last session of the day; my dear fellow trainees surprised me with a Moldovan cake. It was very nice and much appreciated. We headed back to gear up for another hot bus ride. Even though it is still a long walk through Chisinau, it is getting easier. Hopefully in time, I will struggle even less with all the walking. We finally arrived back in Stauceni and my trainees and LTI’s were nice enough to hang out for about an hour and visit for my birthday. We wound up talking so late that my host family called and wondered where I was as they were holding dinner. I got home for dinner and was pretty tired but managed to fit in a call to Mom and Leroy before now. And now I go to sleep. Before I do, I’ll remember that last year at this time I was getting ready for my Dad’s funeral and now I’m in the middle of Eastern Europe trying to make the world a better place. I think I’m doing okay.
Tomorrow is more language training and then an afternoon of SDA’s (Self-directed Activities). If I’m in charge, it will be group nap.
Peace and Love.
OK, it’s official, Romanian is hard. We are learning in 8 weeks what most people learn in 4 years. It is extremely accelerated and extremely difficult. Thankfully, there are 9 of us going through the exact same thing (well actually many more, but 9 in my direct group) and we have each other to feed off of. Today was a little bit hotter than it has been all week. More like the first day we arrived. Thankfully, we weren’t doing a lot of walking so it was tolerable. Met Lyndsey outside as we live 3 houses away from each other and walk to and from school together each day. She is one of the most real people I have met and I value her company daily. We had language lessons from 8:30 – 12:30 and even though it is only 4 hours, it is exhausting. At one point during the lesson, the electricity went out in the school (found out later the whole town) so the fan was dead now too. It was a hard morning. I came home for a quick lunch and then headed back to school for “SDA’s.” (Self-Directed Activities or as Lyndsey describes them, self-destructive activities). Today’s topic was learning about Stauceni the village. We were split into two groups, one had to walk around and map the village, physically and the other group had to find out about the town. I was grateful to be in the group that had to sit around and ask our LTI questions while the other group trekked all over Stauceni getting the layout of the land. So it was Michael, Jaime, Conrad, Andrea and I grilling Rodica and Ina about the culture in Stauceni. One fun moment was when we learned about the Cracker Factory and all decided that would be a fantastic band name. We laughed about it for quite a while. It didn’t take too long and we were done by 3:00. I wasn’t expected home until 4 so Jaime and I walked up to the nearest Magazin (convenience store) and I just wanted to get some cold water. Since I was hot and tired, I didn’t pay attention and accidentally bought cold water, but it was carbonated (like Perrier) which I hate! Blech! Waste of money. Electricity was still out everywhere so it wasn’t even that cold. I was disappointed as I was really looking forward to chugging a cold bottle of water. It’s the little things, really. I’ve been living on bottled water because the natural water is such a process to be able to drink. We have to boil it, let it cool, then pour it through a filter, and then drink it. It tastes fine after all of that but it does take some time. And if you’re thirsty for water, you don’t feel like waiting for a half hour while it cools. Eugen and Antolie have been bringing me ice cream nightly. I feel a little spoiled. I still really shouldn’t complain about the heat as it has been very nice and tolerable as of yet and it is only June. I know July and August can be brutal. I’ll probably refer back to this and laugh at myself. One of the weirdest things to get used to is the wild dogs. There are stray dogs everywhere. And not the ones in the U.S. that are sweet and you feel bad for, these ones are out for your blood. And I’m not being paranoid because I don’t like dogs, it’s for real. We were lectured on it in safety training to stay away from them; we were given audible dog repellants and all given rabies vaccinations. Dog bites are a genuine concern. I got home at about 3:30 and decided to study and read in my room. Tatiana and Eugen were working outside around the house. I’ve offered to assist but I am always refused. They stick to the ‘you are the guest’ policy very strictly. The power just came back on so I guess we can eat dinner now. Although I guess it wouldn’t have been a problem since they have a gas stove. Have I mentioned what an amazing cook Tatiana is? She is realizing how much I love her potatoes as now I’m getting them every meal. This morning for breakfast I had a big omelet with salami and cheese that was delicious too. Some days it is strange to have all your meals prepared for you, some days it just rocks. Tomorrow is another morning of language training and then on to Chisinau for the afternoon of “Team building” exercises. I can only imagine what that entails. Details to follow…
Peace and love.
So, team building…translation, everybody let’s go out into the middle of a forest in the middle of a city and play games. Seriously, there is a giant forest in the middle of Chisinau not to mention a lake. It was very bizarre. Anyway, we all showed up at 1:00 on an extremely hot Friday for some team building exercises. All the trainees were there as well as most of the LTI’s and PC staff. They split us up in to 5 groups and 5 volunteers who run summer camps for kids in Chisinau took us around and played team building games with us. I will be the first to admit, this is not my cup of tea. I am a ‘stay inside on the computer’ kind of a gal, but fortunately, I was in a group with 4 of the funniest guys who were all similar computer nerds. And we had fun! The first game was a name learning game which we had to learn everyone’s names. I knew the guys right away John, Jesse (from my tech group), Jeremy and Thomas. They were big on cracking jokes and I just greatly appreciated their sense of humor. From there we played a series of games basically with the gist of, trust each other, ask for help, think outside the box, etc. It was incredibly hot outside and the bugs were out for blood…literally…but we survived. Some may say I should have a more positive attitude in doing things I don’t like to do. However, in my defense, I think the fact that I did something I didn’t want to do, didn’t complain, powered through and found people who helped me laugh about it was a show of great strength and strategy. Overall, it wasn’t too bad. I did survive and I made some great new friends. On the long walk back to the bus, I thanked Jeremy for making the activity so fun and he agreed that it wasn’t technically his thing but it did turn out to be fun. The bus ride back to Stauceni, as per usual, was extremely crowded and sweaty. We had to split into two groups. So Christina, Lyndsey, Andrea and I took a bus on our own and got off early in Stauceni to stop at the Magazin (store). We went in and got some much needed toiletries and all got a cold drink and some ice cream. We sat outside and decompressed for a bit and it was really nice. When I got home, Tatiana was making some fresh plicenta which is my new favorite pastry. It’s cheese mixed with egg and dill wrapped in dough and baked. It is delicious, especially fresh out of the oven. We ate dinner and then had fresh plicenta. My legs were incredibly sore so I went to bed but it was hard to sleep because my muscles were screaming silently.
This morning I woke up for class and my legs were still very sore and I noticed not only were there a lot of bug bites but also a small rash on my legs. That always happens to me when I’m outdoors. It never shows up that day but the morning after there it is. I went to class at 8:30 with Lyndsey. We had planned to go early but both of us were too exhausted. When I got to class, Ina noticed my rash and insisted I call the Medical center. The PC takes every little medical issue extremely seriously. I talked to Iuliana who is the lead doctor and had to describe the rash. She made me go home and cover my legs in hydrocortisone and takes some Benadryll. She did not know if the rash was contagious and did not want me in school. Doctor’s orders to go home and sleep all day? I’ll take it! I slept from about 10:30 until 7:30 tonight. Terrible, yes, I know but I’m not ashamed. I mean it was doctor’s orders! So hopefully by tomorrow the rash will be better. We are on lockdown tomorrow as it is city elections and sometimes they get volatile. If the rash isn’t better by Monday, I will have to go into Chisinau to the medical office. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I’m really happy that I only have to go into the city once next week. Although if I have to go to PC, they’ll send a van for me so I don’t have to mess with the bus. We’ll see what happens. For now, I’m going to enjoy this ingheata (in-gets-ata/ice cream) that Antolie has brought me for dessert.
So this morning I woke up and the rash was a little bit better but the spider bites seemed to have gotten bigger. I have the worst reaction to spider bites. So I had to keep popping the Benadryl and applying the hydrocortisone. It was UBER hot so I didn’t do much. I had a few meals but mostly studied and slept. Around 5:30, I was called for dinner which was ham and potatoes. As I was finishing, Antolie arrived home with his friend Iurie and they had stuff to have a picnic. So even though I had just eaten dinner, it was time for a picnic. Lyndsey called me and said she had my homework assignment from Ina and she was going to bring it over. So she stopped by but Antolie and Tatiana insisted that she stay for the picnic. In fact, the made us go get Christina since Iurie was her host father and he was staying for dinner. So Eugen, Lyndsey and I walked over to get Christina and we had a big old party! There was tons of sausage and pork ribs and potatoes and wine and beer and juice and it was fun. It was nice to eat with my new friends and have an enjoyable relaxing Sunday evening. I learned that Sunday is typically the day to party as it is a celebration for the end of the week. There were some fireworks in the distance for the political victors in the elections. I don’t know who they were but someone was happy. Just as I was falling asleep the rain started and it rained through the night; literally until I had to leave for school. It was a very relaxing day.
Since today was the longest day of the year, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that it was yet another exhausting one. Language every single morning for 4.5 hours is exhausting. We are learning in 8 weeks what most people learn in 4 years. It’s so tiring and by the 11:00 hour we are just plain loopy. Today at 11:30 Lyndsey randomly looked at me and said “you don’t have your ears pierced.” It was the most random statement and it gave us both the giggles and we were done. Thankfully so was language class. We walked home for lunch and then as per usual, headed to the Magazin to get a drink. I usually get a bottle of Pepsi, but today I just got a small can of coke and a bottle of water. Lyndsey got an ice cream. At the Magazin we ran into Christina, Andrea and our PCVL Craig. We waited for them and walked back to school with them. Craig informed us of all the traveling he has gotten to do since he’s been here and that lifted all of our spirits. We’re all so focused on training and exhausted at the learning that we forget about the perks of being here once we survive training. Our afternoon was another tech session in which Craig and another volunteer, Vince, talked to us about what life in the more secluded villages is like as well as activities in communication. It is sometimes hard to work with everyone as we are all such different personalities. It has been a LONG time since I was in college and I forget how hard it can be some time to work with people that have different styles of learning. But there is no choice, I HAVE to figure it out. This is a huge challenge but thankfully I’m not the only one and am so grateful to have Lyndsey and Christina to discuss with on our walks home. When I got home tonight, I finally communicated to my host mom that I desperately needed to do laundry before my pants got up and walked away from me. So that is what we are doing now. I know having a washing machine is a definite luxury that I will not have when I get to site so I need to take advantage of it while I can. In the meantime, I have finished dinner, studied today’s lesson from Romanian and updated my flashcards all while watching Back to the Future. At least my multi-tasking skills haven’t evaporated.
Happy summer.
Today was a roller coaster. Language every morning was exhausting, have I mentioned that? I came home for lunch and had my usual “Zeama” (chicken stew) but today Antolie added a spoonful of sour cream. Wow! It was delicious. I had 3 bowls. After lunch, Lyndsey and I have been going to the Magazin to get a soda but I don’t want to make a habit of that not only because I don’t want to drink that much soda but also, it’ll add up after a while. So we went back to school early and just hung out outside because it was so nice out. We didn’t have language in the afternoon, but another volunteer, John was coming to talk to us. He turned out to be fantastic. He was completely real with us and told us what it is really let us know what we could expect. He had served 4 years in Azberjahn (sp?) and he was in his second year here in Moldova. It was so refreshing and honest and inspirational and totally what we all needed to become reinvigorated at the grand scheme of things instead of stressful language lessons. It was fantastic. Christina, Lyndsey and I talked on the way home and just felt so much better about everything. It was the best we had felt in a while. Sometimes we get stressed by little things and the loss of our comforts and missing our families and not having internet but in the grand scheme of things, these are such minor difficulties. It was a nice kick in the ass that we gravely needed. The 3 of us are really a support team to each other and it is greatly appreciated. I know that there were some who didn’t enjoy it as much as we did but for the three of us, it was exactly what we needed.
Overall, it is now 2 weeks that we’ve been here. The first week, I probably would’ve gone home in a heartbeat just out of heat and exhaustion but thankfully, I powered through. They don’t call this job touch just for marketing purposes, it is tough. Every single day you question your decision but with friends you can survive anything. I hope it will become a little easier when I have more regular access to internet. Although I could get an Orange stick (mobile internet) I would have to sign a contract for 2 years and pay a lot of money. Current volunteers have strongly advised to wait until you get to site (at the end of July) and get DSL at site. It’s cheaper and faster and a better investment overall. So we are striving for that…although it isn’t easy. The walking is getting a little easier. My legs aren’t AS sore. My ankle still gets stiff towards the end of the day but I hope with time that will heal more properly. I’m still pretty winded when I get to my home at the top of the steep hill. IT’s getting easier, but I’m still winded. My goal is by the end of the summer to be able to get up it at a decent speed without being so winded. I think that’s achievable.
This weekend my group of trainees has made plans to go to the neighboring village of Cricova to meet up with the rest of our COD trainees and go out for pizza. I am looking forward to getting out of Stauceni aka Dodge and seeing a little more of Moldova.
Hope all is well in the US of A.
Per curind (see you soon)
 My street where I live

The school I go to...

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Week One

I am sitting in the airport, finally, in New York, otherwise known as Kennedy.  I can’t believe I’m actually here. 14 months of waiting and now all that’s left is getting on a plane.
The last few days in Pennsylvania were pretty great. Big families are not without their drama, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There were many emotional goodbyes, but at long last it was time to go. Brother Bob drove me down to Philadelphia at the crack of dawn on Monday morning the 6th. We arrived at about 10:30am. “Staging” was to begin at noon. After saying goodbye, I had to maneuver my 100 pounds of luggage up to my room. I found a girl already there, Holly, and we chatted a bit about where we came from and how we got here. At noon we made our way down to the ‘staging’ area. There we spent about an hour filling out, guess what, more paperwork and registering and finally it was official. We were Peace Corps trainees. The next 6 hours were spent with all of us getting to know each other, sharing anxieties and aspirations and many ‘get to know you’ activities. I can’t even explain how refreshing it is to sit in a room with 54 other people and know they are going through all the exact same things you are. The majority of people in the room were post grads, there were a few my age, or what they refer to as ‘mid-career’ and a few retirees. It was really quite a vast group of people and really exciting to finally be there. After we were done and officially ready to go, we all went out for Philly Cheesesteaks. The hotel was set on the University of Pennsylvania campus so we were in a hub of many options but we felt that was pretty much as American as you can get for a last meal. I advised my new out of state friends to get Yuengling beer as it was the local flavor. They all enjoyed. (I think). After dinner, some wanted to walk around Philadelphia, see the historic sites, find bars, etc., but I really just wanted to rest. I had some last minute details to finish up and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to do since everyone else was out. I repacked my one bag so that it made weight, I ran over to CVS to pick up my last few items, got some coffee, made the final phone calls to the family, cancelled my phone, showered, and watched my two favorite people Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for the final time. It was a good night’s sleep.
I awoke early this morning and did the final packing. Holly and I went across the street to Dunkin’ Donuts to get some coffee before we had to converge in the lobby. We were all separated by training class by the infamous Peace Corps ribbon. Since the beginning of the Peace Corps, you are given a ribbon of color to attach to your suitcase. When you arrive in country, the organization recognizes your luggage by the color of the ribbon. It is iconic and I have heard about it for years. So when we got our ribbons it was a pretty deep moment. We loaded our tons of luggage onto the buses and left for JFK. Since there were 56 of us, we had two buses but had enough room to spread out. Most people slept. I woke up when the two Midwestern boys in front of me were snapping pictures of the NY skyline. They were too cute. When we arrived at JFK, the luggage debacle began again. Thankfully, this is a well oiled machine and it moved rather quickly. And now here we sit. We’ve been sitting here in the terminal for close to 4 hours now and as I look around it’s like we’ve all known each other for years. So onward to boarding. 

I’m finally here. I don’t know what to think as of yet, I think I’m still OD’ing on “tired.”
The plane from New York to Munich was actually quite pleasant. There were 4 seats across the middle row and there were only two of us so we could stretch out. Unfortunately, I was too wound up to sleep which in hindsight was a huge mistake. I watched 3 movies instead; “No Strings Attached,” “Just Go With It” and “The Green Hornet.” All were entertaining in their own way, but I really should’ve slept. When we landed in Munich we had to walk down what I’m pretty sure was the longest hallway in existence. I literally felt like we were walking for miles. Again, in hindsight, it was nothing. After the long hallway we had to again go through security. It was boiling hot and everyone was pretty tired and cranky. However, we survived. We boarded the super tiny plane from Munich to Chisinau (which I have now learned is pronounced “Kish-i-now.”) It was really small and somehow we weren’t informed that on this type of plane we could only have one carry on. And yet on the first plane we were allowed to have two…not sure what were supposed to do with that information but…
We all got boarded. The seats were TINY! My ass has certainly seen more comfortable two hour increments. And since it was a tiny plane, and we were all packed for 2 years, our luggage was all too heavy to make it, so some got left behind. Finally we landed in Moldova. I was one of the fortunate ones and all my bags arrived. Some are still waiting…
We were greeted at the airport by our Country Director, Jeffrey who guided us where to retrieve our bags and board the buses to the training center. There were a few mentors on hand to assist and we were on our way. I was so dead tired I barely spoke to anyone on the bus ride, in fact, barely is overstating it. When we arrived, the current volunteers in the mentor program all greeted us and walked us through the registration and lunch and welcome seminar. At this point, everyone was so dead tired that everyone was nodding off in the seminar. Thankfully, they showed some mercy and it was less than an hour. We received yet another bag to carry, which was AWESOME, filled with information packets, our cell phones, water filters, smoke/CM detectors, fire extinguishers, a huge bottle of water, in essence; it was not light. And they were all identical.
From there, we had to split up into our groups by program so I went with the other COD’s. (Community and Organizational Development.) and we met our language trainers. We were all (the entire 56 of us) were split into 7 villages surrounding the capital, Chisinau. I went with my fellow 8 trainees (Jennifer K, Christina, Andrea, Jamie, Michael, Lyndzey, and Lindsay and Conrad who were a young married couple.) to the village of Staucenia (stew-chen). We went to our school where we would be having our language lessons for the next 8 weeks. It is a brand new school so it was pretty nice. It was still boiling hot outside, but I guess I shouldn’t complain because I have been assured that it can be much hotter and not only that, but we could have arrived on a truly boiling day. We had a really quick talk with our two language trainers, Rodica and Ina, about basic phrases to get through the night.
And then we met our host family. I was introduced to Tatiana, my host mom. She has a husband, Antolie, and a 16 year old son, Eugen, but neither was with her. And from the school, we had to walk to her house with all my luggage. Her house? At the top of a 45 angle hill. No lie. I almost died when I saw it. Here she and I were dragging the equivalent of 100 pounds of luggage behind us. How did people do this before there were wheels on luggage?!?!?!? But again we made it. We arrived at her house, both of us dripping in sweat and breathing heavily only to find that my room was at the top of yet another staircase. This sweet woman took all of my luggage up the stairs. I offered countless times, but she insisted. She did not speak a word of English so I got to be an expert in hand gestures and signaled to her quickly that I would like to wash up. Staucenia, being one of the wealthier villages in Moldova, she had a full shower, an indoor toilet AND a washing machine! I know; I’m spoiled. The hot shower felt so good I almost cried. I couldn’t even believe how good it felt. When I was finished, she brought me in to eat the dinner she had prepared for me. We spoke very little, but the food was good. I ate chicken and potatoes and some sort of pastry stuffed with goat cheese. Not too shabby. I had a small glass of wine, as here in country they do shots of wine, not glasses, and communicated that I was tired. It was 7:30pm. I was asleep by 7:45. I thought about unpacking and organizing for a split second before I fell asleep…but clearly I got over it.
I awoke straight up at 5:00am this morning. Took me a minute to figure out where I was. Once I processed, I went back to sleep. I woke up again at 7 when my travel alarm went off. This time I was actually able to get up and organize a few things. It’s far from finished, but I could at least lay out what I needed for the day. Language dictionary? Check. Registration papers? Check. Passport and Moldovan cash?...Passport and Moldovan Cash?...PASSPORT AND MOLDOVAN CASH?!?!!?? Where the fuck was my envelope? I tore everything apart searching for it, but it was gone. I didn’t know what to do. I was way too tired to panic so I sat down on the bed, did some deep breathing and went downstairs for breakfast. I had some oatmeal and a hardboiled egg and we had to head down to the school. Tatiana walked me there. I was trying to keep calm, and it’s not like I could bitch to Tatiana because she didn’t speak any English. I also decided that I didn’t really want to tell everyone because I really looked like an irresponsible idiot. When I got to the classroom, I was only one of two that was there. Andrea was sitting there and going against my own advice, I told her what had happened. I just needed to get it off my chest. Quickly, the other trainees arrived and it was all lost in the chaos. As we were about to leave, I privately told Rodica and Ina what had happened. They agreed to pay for my bus fair there and once we got to the PC Headquarters, I could discuss with Alex the head of security. When we arrived, I let my mentor, Keith know what happened. The mentors were there to take the trainees on a walking tour of Chisinau. He went with me to see Alex and I had to stay at the headquarters. He noticed that I had the wrong phone number. On his contact sheet, I had Michael’s number and he had mine. He said we needed to switch back as soon as we could since our numbers were given out to all the staff. I told Keith to go on without me. I was at HQ for a while, explaining and re-explaining my story. Alex surmised that my bag got switched with someone else’s and before we panicked or started any procedures, my training team would have to go home that night and go through all their things. He said to check with Michael first since our numbers were switched. In the meantime, I would go into the city and exchange some USD for some money for the time being. Since all the mentors had left on tours, Rodica and Ina agreed to walk me to an exchange place to get some cash. When we were finished with that, Rodica tried to get a hold of Keith to see if we could meet up and I could join the tour but she couldn’t get a hold of him. Instead, she got in touch with two of the ARBD (Agriculture and Rural Business Development) mentors, Sam and Cosi and I joined their group. Cosi asked me what had happened, but without going in to detail, I just told him that there was some minor drama but it was okay. From there we all walked back to PC headquarters where there was a big lunch buffet. Since it was mostly vegetables, I just had some bread and cheese and some drink. I KNOW I’m going to have to get used to eating vegetables; today just wasn’t the day. I found my friend Ashley, whom I had shared the plane ride with from NY to Munich and let her in on the drama. She was pretty worried for me. She’s a nice gal. I haven’t bonded with anyone really, just her and another girl, Kerry. But neither is in my training group. Everyone is really nice, but they are all pretty young. I mean I get along with younger people, obviously, but I haven’t made any real connections. I know it’s only been 2 days, so I’m not going to stress out about it. Michael, in my group, is my age. He just turned 40 so it’s nice to have at least one peer. He’s really nice and fun to talk to and he’s got a great attitude, but it’s selfish of me to expect him to spend all his time with just me just because we were both born in the 70’s. He’s very nice though and really is good at cracking stupid jokes when we are all really tired. He is definitely the one I can relate to the most. I’ve also enjoyed talking with Lyndzey R. She’s from Pittsburgh and seems to have the same dry sense of humor I do. Everyone is really nice; we’ve just only known each other for 2 days.
But I digress, I sat and talked with Ashley a bit at the lunch buffet and then we headed back to the school we were at the day before for some more training. On the way to the training, I caught up with Michael and told him the whole situation. He was very sympathetic and offered me money to hold me over. He said he had unpacked the night before and hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. He said we could switch phones at the first break.
First, the CD (country Director) discussed the history of the Peace Corps in Moldova as well as Moldova itself. And he began with a traditional Moldovan bread and wine ceremony. Two of the PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) came out in traditional Moldovan dress with a huge loaf of pretzel bread and glasses of wine for everyone. (However, since we are government sponsored, they couldn’t provide actual alcohol so it was just our choice of apple or cranberry juice). Then, the finance department came in to teach us about money; how we would be paid, how much, when, what the currency looked like, the exchange rate, etc. As we opened up our folders we had gotten the day before, Michael turned around and caught my eye. And he slowly held up my envelope with money and passport in it. I almost cried. Somehow in the chaos of the day before, our folders had gotten switched. I was so relieved! We were in mid-training so we couldn’t talk, but I was so happy. A huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.
At the first break, he gave me everything and apologized profusely and I assured him I held no ill will. The day before was chaotic. He did feel badly for me having such a stressful day when he had it all the whole time but the relief of having it back outweighed it all. I was so grateful! I immediately let our LTI (language technical instructors) know and the staff that it had all been recovered. Everyone was thrilled.
From there we went into language classes. We had a short two hour language lesson and even though it is difficult, I think my theatre memorizing skills will come in handy. I know when I am less jet lagged and a little bit more used to all this damn walking (sidebar…people here walk EVERYWHERE! I’m from LA. We walk NOWHERE. I used to drive to the bank across the street. I am SO not used to it. My feet and ankles are swollen every night and my hands swell up too. I hope in time, I will get used to it but for now, it is quite painful. I am doing my best to hang in there, but it is really hard!) I will be able to retain more of the language knowledge. At the end of the day we had to get our Hepatitis Immunizations and then we were off back to our village. To get to the bus, we had to walk 10 minutes, uphill , in the rain. I know, it sounds like a grandpa tale, but it was true. I wasn’t sad about the rain, it felt really good! But the uphill almost killed me. I was so exhausted by the time we got to the bus stop. Then we had to all pack on to a very crowded bus (bus=large van) and head back to Stauceni. And then from bus stop to my house? 3 blocks…UPHILL!
BUT, Tatiana had dinner waiting. And this time we were joined by her husband, who is a fun, jovial guy and Sergei who was helping them do some yard work. Son, Eugen is in his room cramming for finals so I’ve barely seen him. He tends to run the other direction when he sees me. We had a nice dinner, now that I knew a little bit more Romanian. There was still a lot of gesturing but it was better. Hopefully it will get better every day. Antolie was pointing at objects on the table and teaching me the Romanian word for them, so that was helpful. Tatiana made me this delicious soup filled with herbs, chicken, noodles and potatoes. I’ve noticed I barely have an appetite since I got here. Maybe all this damn walking, and small meals will help me shed some poundage. I believe that would come in handy for all these damn hills.
Overall, it’s a huge adjustment. It’s really hard. I can’t form an opinion yet because I’m way too tired and sore to be objective. All I can say for sure is, it’s definitely not for everyone. Jury is still out on whether or not it is for me.
Peace and love!

I can’t believe we’ve only been here two days. Today was a little bit better. I felt a little more secure actually having possession of my passport and money again. However, when I woke up, my legs were so sore and weak, I almost tumbled down my staircase. One thing about Moldova I have learned is that none of the steps are even. And the third step on my staircase is a way bigger drop than the second. I misjudged and twisted my ankle. It was okay, but a little painful. Tatiana had to go to work early so she left me with Eugen. We hadn’t talked much, he’s very shy, and was also very focused on his English exam that morning. I learned later that English exams in Moldova are critical and if he didn’t pass, he wouldn’t go on to high school. So he was pretty stressed out. But he was very sweet. He made me coffee and sat with me while I ate my oatmeal and then he walked me to school. He helped with my Romanian as much as he could. When we arrived at school, my LTI’s wished him luck on his exams. It was already a better day. Soon the whole class arrived and we began more language lessons for about 2 hours and then we had to yet again go into the capital, Chisinau for more staff sessions. The bus ride is about 20 minutes and the buses are oversized vans which are privately owned and the owners will squeeze as many people in as possible. Often it is uncomfortable, but it is still a ride and it is very cheap. Only 3 Lei (translation about $0.50 USD). On this bus ride, I sat next to Lyndzey and we inadvertently vented our frustrations with the process so far and we both felt a lot better after laughing about them and made the conscious decision that our motto would be “I chose this.” So any time we were feeling really bad or felt like complaining, we could remember that we chose this and to suck it up. As we arrived in Chisinau, I braced myself for another long walk. It wasn’t as hot out as it had rained a bit on the drive there so that wasn’t a problem. My ankle was still a little sore, but not too bad. But as we were walking on the streets, I stepped on it wrong again, stumbled and twisted it again. Now, it really hurt! I braved it out and got to the headquarters easily enough. The next few hours we sat outside in the courtyard at headquarters and just relaxed. Everyone just sat around, checked email, conversed, studied their language, just relaxed. It was much needed. We all ate our pre-packed lunch together. My host mother, Tatiana, gives me a lot of food and it is all good, but for some reason, I haven’t had too huge of an appetite. I don’t know if that will change or not, but I really don’t eat too much.
After lunch, we headed over to the school for a safety seminar. They really do school you on how to take care of yourself, what to do in case of an emergency, evac plans, etc. The training staff is very nice and VERY skilled in their jobs. After the safety seminar, we headed downstairs for more language classes. Romanian isn’t the easiest language to learn, but I will admit, it could be much worse. I never realized having taken Latin in high school how handy that would come in someday. And it has a lot of similarities with Italian so I think I’m doing okay. I mean it’s only been 2 days and I have had way more conversations in Romanian today.
After language lessons, we had to head back to Stauceni in the pouring rain. Since it was raining, the autobus was packed and standing on a bus for 25 minutes in the rain on a sore ankle…not fun. Since they were so crowded, our group had to split in to two. So on the second bus it was just me, Christina and Rodica. It was ok, not the greatest, but we arrived home. Since it was only the 3 of us, we got off at a stop closer to our houses as opposed to the school so it was a short walk.
When I arrived ‘home’ Tatiana nor Antorie was home, so Eugen prepared dinner for me with the help of the neighbors, Serg and his wife….? It was a little awkward at first because they were all speaking in Russian and just kind of staring at me eating, none of them were. But then Antorie got home with another friend and we all sat around and it was a lot of fun. Eugen, very relieved that his English exam went well, was much more social and he translated much of the Russian and I helped him with his English. When the friends left, Antorie, Eugen and I chatted for quite a while. They wanted to know why I wasn’t married or had babies which was hard to explain. (Even in America…) They asked about my family and I said I missed them so they insisted that I call my “mama!” I skyped my mom but she didn’t really have it all hooked up yet as I said she wouldn’t be hearing from me for a few weeks. I think she was surprised to hear from me and it was good to see her and Leroy, even if only to wave to them. For those who were trying to catch me online, I’m sorry if I ignored you, I was in a hurry.
Finally, I said my good nights as it was approaching ten and I had to be up again early for what else? Language classes in the morning.
Today was a much better day than yesterday, ankle injury aside. Hopefully as I catch up on sleep and get more used to the walking, they will continue to improve.
Peace and Love.
So today was the first day I didn’t have to travel to Chisinau and it was nice. It was way more relaxed, not as frazzled, nice and cool. I woke up and had breakfast with Eugen. I feel badly for the kid. It’s quite obvious he has been told to wake up early and make breakfast for me. He’s 16. If I were 16 on a Saturday morning, I’d want to be in bed. BUT, this is a different culture, I keep reminding myself that. He walked me to school but was told this was the last time he had to do it as now I guess I am able to walk the 1/8 mile down the street to the school by myself. Yay! I was way early for class, bad habit, always too early to things. But I could relax and wake up a little bit more. We had language lessons from 9-1:00pm. The language is not easy and I think I’m getting it but it’s just hard to retain information. Same problem I’ve always had in school. I understand it, I participate in class, I comprehend it, I can read it, but retaining it? Eh. When language was done at 1, our mentors arrived from their sites all around the country. The other half of the COD program arrived as well as they are staying in a neighboring village. There are 20 of us all together. With the volunteers that are already here, there are close to 50. We all ate lunch together in a big room since the rain was coming on and off outside. Afterwards we played some ‘get to know you’ games which I always feel awkward in for some reason. So my nerves palpitated for a bit when it was my turn to do the ‘my name is’ turn but I survived. We played games for about an hour and it was fine. I guess for me, it’s always weird to be in a group of people who know each other so well. As hard as they try, you still feel like an outsider. I know it’s unavoidable and unintentional but that doesn’t make it any easier. Sometimes I look around and feel pretty isolated. I’m pretty used to being one of the ones in charge and the center of attention so just being one of 50 people is a rare change for me. It’s hard to get used to being one of a group again instead of the leader of a group. I keep reminding myself that everyone is feeling that. Well maybe not the post-grads, but maybe the people my age. A small group of us in our language class are starting to really get along well. We find we all have the same senses of humor and have begun to confide in each other. We do all agree that Lindsey and Conrad, the married couple in our group, may just be the perfect couple. They are both beautiful, both smart as hell, both athletic, and the worst part? They’re both nice! It’s ridiculous. I want to hate them so badly but I can’t, they are just such great people. And they just adore each other which is equally nauseating and endearing. Lyndzey and I usually sit at the back of the class and do our best to keep each other amused. She has a boyfriend at home so I’m pretty sure she appreciates the distraction as much as I do. Since she is from Pittsburgh we can share a mutual missing Pennsylvania vibe.
After the mentor session we were free for the afternoon. Only 4:00pm and we were actually free. We all stood there not really moving. I felt like the characters in Time Quake when they regained the power of Free Will. We were all just staring at each other. Thankfully a few of the mentors suggested we all go get a beer. I kind of wanted to go home and take a nap because hey, I have to ease out of my laziness, but for community sake decided to go with. However, since this was our home village and we have only seen the bus stop, our host homes and school and the mentors had never been there before, we had no idea where to go. So basically we just walked around for a half hour. It was nice. I returned home here and my host family is here in the house but all behind closed doors so I just came up here to my room. It is nice and cool and relaxing so I have no complaints. I don’t know what the rest of the weekend will entail. I sure hope I get internet soon so I can catch up with the rest of the world. Although I guess this is probably good for the first week so I can focus. I know if I had internet I’d spend all my time on it. So now, with no other choice, I will study my language I learned this week and probably try and sneak in a nap before I get called for dinner.
On the home front, I’m wondering what’s going on in the NBA playoffs. I’m wondering how good a Double Double would be right now. I wonder how my High school reunion went last night that I’ve been helping plan for the past 2 years. I hope that people enjoyed themselves. I wonder how my Godson is enjoying his last days of high school. I wonder if Jeremy has crop-dusted Andrea’s office lately.  I wonder about where I was a year ago, sitting planning Dad’s funeral and now here I am a year later in the middle of Eastern Europe. It doesn’t feel like I’m halfway around the world, it’s just another place on Earth. We don’t speak the same language but we’re all just people.
Nuopta Buna (Good Night)
My first day off. My ankle is still a little swollen so on the advice of my host mom/nurse, I have to spend the day with it elevated and resting. Poor me. Thankfully it isn’t too hot so I unpacked (finally) and have been listening to my podcasts. Since no one in the house speaks English, I don’t have to worry about the bad language in them. It’s actually the most relaxed I have felt all week. I read all of my going away cards again. I have a feeling any time I get down about anything I will just pull those out along with my “Tommy” book and they will make me feel really good. What an amazing group of friends I have made in California. I miss them all so much.
I tried to communicate at lunch with ‘mom and dad’ without using my English crutch, Eugen. Not gonna lie, I think I’m doing pretty damn well for only having 3 days of Romanian lessons. Antolie took me outside and showed me the garden and the chicken coop. He is very proud of his home. He is the nicest guy. Tatiana stayed inside and prepped for dinner. Everything looked delicious. I managed to communicate that I eat very little in the morning (dimeneata) and eat more in the evening (soera). She finally understood and only had coffee for me. Yay! Room is unpacked. Even though it is not perfect, it’ll do for now.
Well, I can’t say I haven’t caught up on sleep. I sleep minimum 10 hours per night. One thing that is awesome about my host family is that they let me do my own thing. Yesterday was the beginning of week 2 so needless to say I came home and crashed right after dinner. We have language lessons from 8:30am – 12:30pm, “home” for lunch, then Tech sessions from 2-5:30. Tech sessions are with us and the group from the village from Cricova who all come together with our program managers, Lilliana and Violeta as well as Craig, the PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. He re-upped for a third year to help out in the training program.) and learn about the COD program and our own backgrounds as well. I really like everyone in our group. They are from all walks of life and it is interesting to hear everyone’s stories. Yesterday we learned about the existing program and today we had to go around and literally tell our life stories. People are fascinating. One guy, Jesse, is pretty much a Doogie Howser-esque prodigy, Courtney, like me, is a refugee from the fashion/beauty world as a former HR manager in Louis Vuitton, as well as a few others who have survived insurmountable childhood circumstances just to go to college. The stories could go on for days. But it was pretty interesting. The language isn’t easy, but for one week I think we are all doing pretty well. Tomorrow is yet another day in Chisinau with all the current trainees. I don’t like these days because I’m not a fan of the crowded buses into the cities with no air. (They don’t open windows). Plus the bus station is a good 15 minute walk to the Peace Corps headquarters. However, there will be internet access (hopefully. If you’re reading this, there was) and we can have some cold water which, I have found, is a rarity. Never been a fan of room temperature liquids, don’t really have much of a choice here. It will be a long day, and even though it is my birthday and I will be busy all day, it will be okay. I wish my birthday fell a few more weeks into training so we had a little freedom to go out and hang but we are still technically on ‘lockdown’ (for the first 3 weeks we have to be escorted everywhere) so it will be down to people wishing me happy day and reading messages from home. Oh well, I know it could be much worse. Every day is hard but I’m surrounded by really cool people who are struggling just as much and we remind ourselves daily that WE CHOSE THIS! So I’m okay.
Missing all friends/family!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The final days...

So there's only a few more days left before I depart. People keep asking me if I'm nervous. I'm not, I'm just anxious. I have been planning this for over a year now, it's time to stop planning and time to go! I thought I had planned everything really carefully but you just can't plan for everything. Money has become a small issue but it always has been and I'm sure it's not going to get any better. It was upsetting when it all didn't work out at first but in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal. Spending the last few days with family are all that's important. Mom took me on a big old shopping spree so I feel a little bit more prepared clothes wise. I packed one large suitcase this morning and as soon as the laundry finishes I can pack the other one. Then I just have to prepare my two carry on's and then I'm ready to go. Tonight dinner with my sister and then a movie with my nephew. Tomorrow one last family gathering at the place where my 20th HS reunion will take place 4 days after I depart. At least I get to see the place...
Back to packing and figuring out all the stuff I am missing!