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 café 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.

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