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, July 21, 2011

What is with the freaking HEAT?!?!?!?!?

I could not be more over the moon with happiness. But I’m going to have to back up…
So yesterday was the actual fourth of July. Even though we celebrated hard core on Saturday (can I again reiterate what a blast that was?) we decided we had to at least have a beer in celebration of our nation. So after language, our LTI’s gave us a quick lesson in basic Russian. Most villages we are going to have a variety of Russian and Romanian so it’s best for us to at least at least safety phrases in the other language we aren’t studying. It was kind of a joke because we were all a little burnt out on a Monday morning but we have we can at least call for help if there is a problem. After language we had planned on going over to Cricova again to celebrate with our fellow COD’s but since we had made friends with the ARBD village, they invited us over to their village, Ciorescu. So we headed over there. None of us had ever been there so my friend, Jeremy texted me and gave us directions. We arrived at a cool bar in a strip mall (very common here) and got an outside table. Between the 3 villages there were about 15 of us. It was a beautiful day, which have been rare here the past few weeks so we enjoyed the sunshine and the nice weather. It was very low key and we all just sat around and enjoyed each other’s company for a few hours. We didn’t stay too long before going home because we were all nervous about today…site announcements!
‘What is a site announcement’ you may be wondering, well, I’ll tell you. So for the first 8 weeks here in Moldova, we are all broken up by program for training. So I’m in Stauceni with 8 fellow COD’s. The rest of the COD’s are in Cricova. However, at the end of training, we are all scattered around the country and assigned to our 2 year project. And today was the day, we found out where that was.
We arrived at hub site first thing in the morning and had another long morning of training sessions regarding safety, STD’s, integrating, the usual. Then we broke for lunch. At PC Headquarters, the current volunteers were all there because they all came to watch the site announcements; apparently it’s a big deal. So after lunch, we broke into our groups and our program managers gave us a breakdown of what we were going to expect in the next few hours. The trainees from all the programs had been buzzing all week. Where were we going to go? So FINALLY after a long, drawn out afternoon, we all went out to the parking lot of our school and a huge map of Moldova was drawn in the parking lot. On the map, cities were taped all throughout the country. The current volunteers stood ‘on’ their respective cities/towns/villages so we could see where they all were. We all gathered around and Jeffrey, the country director, drew our names out of a hat and on by one we were sent to our village of residence for the next 2 years. My stomach was nauseated. I hate not having control of things so it was a real testament of patience. Finally, the moment had arrived. There were 53 of us so we knew it would be a long wait time. Fortunately, my name was called second! And I was sent to the city of Cahul which is on the Southwest border of Moldova near Romania. It is a big town. I was thrilled. The job description is in Romanian so I don’t have all the details but I know it is a non-profit organization for Teen empowerment, so I was over the moon. Not to mention that my home will have running water, and indoor toilet and central heating. Talk about lucking out! I was over the moon. AND there are 5 other trainees there with me which helps with the safety factor. One of which is Jesse, who is probably the smartest person I know so that’s awesome, and Magdelene who is also a musician and really wants to start a choir. I almost hugged her. Also, there are already 5 volunteers there. I really lucked out and am so happy! I watched everyone else get placed. Christina is not too far from me. Michael and Jeremy are a couple hours away but relatively not too bad. Unfortunately, Lyndsey is way north so that was disappointing but all in all it was a successful day. We all got a packet of information. Keith, my mentor, was there and he walked me through it. Then he said the best thing I had heard all day. “Do you want to go for a beer?” I nearly screamed in his face…”YES!” After we all got it together, there were about 12 of 16 of us who wound up going for a beer. I walked with Michael and Jeremy and we dissected the day. The bar was about a 10 minute walk but it had a nice balcony overlooking Chisinau and we all just sat there and relaxed. There were 7 current volunteers and the rest of us were trainees. It was so enjoyable and the stress release was so great, I just had a great time.  The Stauceners that were there were Michael, Kitsy, Conrad, Lindsay, Jamie and myself. Christina, Lyndsey and Andrea had headed to go to the internet café again. I was sad that they weren’t there because it was a great time. Jeremy and Jesse and I talked for a long time. Can’t say enough how the two of them make me laugh every day. I’m so grateful to have met them. And I’m glad that we are all near to each other; Jesse in the same village! We walked and found our Rutiere and we were all in such good moods we didn’t even notice how crowded the bus was. We all just chatted and joked around with each other. We really are like family and it’s awesome how in as little of a month how well we know each other. When we got to Stauceni it started to rain, but just a like sprinkle so even the walk home was enjoyable. I enjoyed a long, hot shower and a quick meal. Tomorrow we are going on a wine tour in Cricova. The action doesn’t stop here in Moldova.
A very happy girl…
So since our site announcements have been…well…announced, the trainee community has been buzzing. Some people, like me, are over the moon, some are throwing fits. It’s funny how people come halfway around the world and yet are still surprised when everything is not catered to their needs. It has been an enjoyable exercise in learning who people really are. Granted, before I judge too deeply, how would I have reacted if I was sent to a remote village doing something I wasn’t planning on? I’d like to think I would’ve handled it with grace and at least gone on the site visit this weekend and checked it out. I’d like to think that, but I guess I’ll never know.
Yesterday, we took a tour of the local college of wine here in Stauceni. There are two colleges in Europe dedicated to the making of wine. One is in France, the other is here in Stauceni. It was a pretty cool tour. It is incredibly old and we learned a lot about the process. It was one of those experiences where I step outside of myself and think “wow…I’m walking through a vineyard in Eastern Europe…and it’s a Wednesday…” I have those moments every once in a while where you remember where you are. Some days you forget what a unique position you’re in, today wasn’t those days. I was pretty grateful for my location.
Tomorrow is officially one month that we’ve all been here in Moldova. Where has the time gone? I’m sitting in a room of 8 people who one month ago we’re strangers and now they’re family. It’s so strange. We are planning on going out for a beer to celebrate after class tomorrow. Plus, I think we all need to relax before our big trip this weekend to our permanent site. I don’t know what it’ll be like and nobody knows what to expect. And even those of us who aren’t verbalizing it, it’s still a little unnerving. Not really the visit itself, but the fact that we have to find our own way there. That’s very intimidating with our limited language. I’m one of the fortunate ones since there are a bunch of people going my way but there are some who are on their own. Lyndsey is one of those and I marvel at her courage. I honestly don’t know how I would handle her situation. I think we all have a pretty good situation here in Stauceni and are nervous as to what ‘real life’ will be like outside of here. I guess we’ll see after the weekend. It’s hard to predict anything really.
Tomorrow is also our first language check-in. They call it a progress check but it’s a test. It’s pretty scary. I guess I should be studying…
So…it’s been a long week. The inexplicable weather changes here are just well…I don’t want to be redundant…
This week we are back to boiling hot temperatures.
So the good news is, I passed my language check-in on Friday. Who knew? I guess you always (mostly) know more than you think you do. So I was pretty proud of myself for that. When we were done, we decided since it was our 1 month anniversary in Moldova we would all go into Chisinau for a drink. We went over to PC Headquarters to use the internet for a while. Then we all met up at a wine bar with 2 current volunteers Heath and Leah, a married couple who live in Chisinau. The wine bar was great and super cheap. It was a 2 liter jug of wine for 15 lei (which equals approximately $1.75) and homemade plicenta. It was a great evening for all of us to relax.
The next day we had language in the morning and one final prep for site visit. We were all really tired and decided to go home and nap and then reconvene later that evening. However, it never happened. Everybody pretty much crashed for the night.  The next day we were all going to be separated for the first time so we wanted to make sure we were ready.
I had to travel by myself for the first time which was pretty intimidating when you have basic Romanian skills. I had to take 2 different rutiere’s to the South Bus Station in Chisinau and then get on the bus to Cahul which was a 3.5 hour ride South. There were other trainees going that way but we never managed to coordinate. I got the first 2 rutiere’s without a problem and arrived at the South Bus Station at about 8:30am. I ran into Jesse, also going to Cahul and we rode together. It was a very long ride through the countryside and it was extremely hot. Another fun fact, people don’t like to open windows because they are superstitious about the ‘current’ or wind that comes in. So it’s really hard to find a window you can open. That makes for a long ride. The better part of the ride was riding by the miles of sunflower fields. That was pretty cool, I had never seen anything like that.
We arrived in Cahul at nearly 1:00 and we were met by our partners. (Partners are our Romanian or in Jesse’s case Russian work partners who would be our main contact at our new job.) Victoria, my partner, met me with another volunteer from her organization, Iuliana. They realized how hungry I was and took me immediately to lunch. I bid ‘adieu’ to Jesse. We went to this fantastic Moldovan restaurant and ordered barbecue pork and mama liga with smintina. (Mama Liga is a type of cornmeal that is delicious and smintina is sour cream that they smother over it.) It was incredibly delicious and even though it was still boiling hot, at least I wasn’t starving any longer. From there we walked a little bit around downtown Cahul which is a miniature version of Chisinau. It’s very nice. We got on a Rutiere and rode out to the Pegogical college (College of library science and arts) where there office is. The office of “Perspectiva” is on the 3rd floor of the college. It’s very small but functional. From there Victoria took me over to my new host family’s apartment. It is across the street from the college and up on the 4th level (yikes!). My new host mom was away on vacation, so her son and his teenage daughter, Katya and her best friend Ana were there. They spoke nothing but Russian. Great. Luckily Ana had been studying English and was able to at least communicate my basic needs. They let me shower because I was quite literally dripping with sweat. The cold shower was great and the apartment had an indoor toilet AND a washing machine. Living in the lap of luxury. Since none of us spoke the same language it was a long afternoon of watching MTV Ukraine (which actually only plays music videos…can you imagine? Not a 16 and Pregnant or a Jersey Shore in sight!). Music really does bring people together though because even though it was hard to speak the words, I could tell that our tastes were pretty similar. I was also amused at the top videos that were played. I wrote the list down
The Lonely Island – Mother Lover
Martika – I Feel the Earth Move
Roxette – It Must’ve Been Love
Kool and Gang (no it’s not a typo, that’s what it said) – Fresh
KLF – 3am Eternal
And pretty much anything featuring Pitbull.
It was very interesting. The night was boiling hot so I didn’t sleep too well. The next morning I went back over to Perspectiva to meet with Victoria again for a while. After that I went into town to meet up with Jesse as well as some current volunteers in the city; Ryne, Vince and Jes. Vince and Jes are about to COS (Close out service) in a few weeks which makes me sad because they are really great. Ryne decided to extend so he’ll at least be there for another 10 months. They were all really great and took us to what looked like an incredibly fancy restaurant. The food was delicious and ridiculously affordable. I had chicken stuffed with mushrooms and brinze (feta cheese) and more mamaliga. It was another great meal. We talked for a while and they showed us more of the city and introduced us to some great people who I hope to work with as well when I get there. I headed back to the apartment which was still really hot so I showered again. And then wound up reading a book all night. The two girls, Ana and Katya were reading a Russian book so I didn’t bother them. Again a scalding hot night so didn’t really sleep again. Had to get up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday to catch the bus back to Chisinau. Ana and Katya went with me since they were headed to Chisinau too and they helped me buy the ticket and find the bus. On the bus already was Jesse and his partner and Victoria joined us soon after. It was a smaller bus this time which took way less time to get to Chisinau but was way hotter.
We arrived in Chisinau at about 11:30. I said my goodbyes to Ana and Katya in Russian (yup that’s right, have to learn a little Russian too…). We walked to Hub Site and met up with everybody else who was already there. We had a seminar all afternoon with our partners and I got to know Victoria a little bit more. She’s super cool and we had fun together. After the long day, a couple of the volunteers headed back to the wine bar to cool off a little bit. When I got home, Eugen was the only one here and he admitted in his broken English that he missed me a little bit. I had a quick dinner and went to bed. About 9:30 Eugen knocked on my door and told me to come downstairs. I figured out that it was a Romanian holiday and Anatolie and Tatiana had just gotten home and wanted to celebrate. So they broke out the wine and I was covered with hugs and kisses because they missed me. (I was only gone for 2 days…) and we all sat around and ate plicenta and drank homemade wine. I think the more wine you drink, the easier it is to understand Russian and Romanian…a slippery slope…
Today we had to go back into Chisinau for an all day seminar with our partners so Victoria and I bonded some more. The partners were scheduled to leave at 2:30 so we had an early day. Victoria gave me a big hug goodbye. I look forward to working with her.
This coming weekend is the 50th Anniversary party for the Peace Corps. We are going to the party all day so I’m pretty excited about that. If it’s half as fun as the 4th of July party it’ll be a good time. On Friday we are touring a vineyard. Can’t say we’re not trying to get the most of our time here!
This past week has been a blur. Since I’ve gotten back from Cahul it is had been insanely hot. Can NOT figure the weather out around here for the life of me. I can’t believe I thought I could handle Africa. But the heat has really slowed everybody down. Energy is down, everyone is cranky; it’s pretty bizarre. On hub site day, last Thursday, at least the air conditioner was working so that was pretty pleasant. Afterwards, we all went back to the wine bar. The one great thing about hub site day is that it usually ends up at a bar with everyone hanging out. It is always nice to intermix with programs. COD and ARBD hang out a lot but we barely get to know the English Ed or the Healthies.
Saturday morning we had to get up at the crack of dawn to go into Chisinau to help out with the 50th Anniversary Party. Since this is the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps, there are celebrations all over the world. Ours was held in Stefan Cel Mare (Ste-fawn-chel-mahree) Park. The good thing about getting there early was that it was still relatively cool and since there are trees everywhere there was always a place for shade. I was slated to take pictures all day, unfortunately my stomach was barely cooperating so I didn’t take nearly as many as I should have. I haven’t had too many stomach problems here but we are all very concerned with them and since we all discuss them in great detail every morning, I knew it was only a matter of time. I have learned to stay away from Sour Cream (as much as I love it) and to limit the ice cream to once a day. (That may sound like a lot but in brutally hot weather with no air conditioning, sometimes the promise of ice cream can get you through the day). The festivities went from 10-4. There were many speakers including Jeffrey, our country director, the US Ambassador in Moldova, the Director of Agriculture in Moldova and the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps which is the highest office from Washington that has ever visited the country. After the speakers, there were many local performers as well as many volunteer performers. It was a very enjoyable day, if not for the blaring heat. Towards the end of the day I was looking forward to going home and resting and showering, but sometimes you get a curve ball and you just have to go with it.
So I’m sitting chatting with my friend, Jeremy, and another guy Matt (from English Ed) comes over and invites us to come to his house. Matt is pretty fortunate in his host family situation as to have a pool. Normally, I would flat out say no but the thought of jumping in a pool was so blissful that I agreed to go. I even surprised myself since I usually say no to everything, especially when it requires some effort. So Jeremy and I piled onto a bus with Matt and Holly (also from EE…also my roommate from staging in Philadelphia) and headed to their village of Cojusna. (Coh-joosh-nah). The Rutiere ride was about 20 minutes and it was pretty hot. When we got off the Rutiere, Matt’s host dad called and said that unfortunately they had just treated the pools with chemicals and therefore we could not swim. It was a punch in the gut. Never failing us, Matt told us that he had been to this club nearby that had many pools and if we wanted to, we could go there. Standing in the middle of a dusty, dirt road, in the blaring heat with no shade in sight, we agreed. Matt failed to inform us that this ‘club’ was a 5 kilometer hike (that’s just about 4 miles kids…yeah). But we did it. We walked up dusty unpaved roads, through fields, by lakes, over a fence (for reals, I climbed a fence) and finally arrived at this oasis called “Goa.” It was a country-club-esque resort on the edge of a lake that had 4 swimming pools, a beachfront, a hot tub, 7 bars, a dance floor with a dj, etc. It was like nothing I had ever seen in this country. It was heaven. We went right over to the shower near the beach and basically just stood under the water, fully clothed and rinsed off. It was awesome. Matt, Holly and Jeremy had brought bathing suits, apparently I was not clued in to the fact that this had been an actual planned afternoon, so they all went and changed. We spent the late afternoon and evening there in this crazy oasis and it was wonderful. Since it was nearly 10 when we had to leave, Jeremy and I realized that we had missed the last rutieres back to our villages so Matt and Holly graciously offered to let us stay. We took a taxi back to the village square and enjoyed listening to Matt try and converse in Romanian with the driver while intoxicated. We stopped at their local bar and got something to eat and hung out for a bit more. We went back to Matt’s house and even though there were chemicals, we jumped in his pool. There was no one there and at that point, we really didn’t care. We stayed up late playing games and talking until we all crashed out.
The next day, again brutally hot, we spent the day lounging around the pool. Matt’s family was back so we didn’t go in the pool since it was still being ‘treated’ (I seriously think they just didn’t want us in it since we were all okay after the night before). We decided we should probably head back since it was nearing 6 and since we had school the next day, we couldn’t stay another night as tempting as it was. We thanked them for a magnificent adventure and then Jeremy and I headed back into Chisinau since we had to get a Rutiere from there. It was another half hour ride and then we had to walk through the city to find our bus. It was a lot of fun. Even though it was exhausting, very dirty and very hot, it was a great adventure. Certainly something I probably never would’ve done if I knew all it entailed beforehand but I’m pretty grateful I took a chance.
All this week, every day has been hotter than the next. I have a cold. Guess somewhere in there I may have caught some germs from all those public pools or something, but I’m okay. I know how much worse it could be. But man it sucks having a cold in the heat. Our LTI’s have been very patient with us as our brains have basically turned off and we have had some free afternoons to rest and basically sit still. Tomorrow is hub site again. Even though it’s a pain, it’s always fun to see everybody and I know it’ll end up at a bar.
One funny thing in the Romanian language, “Eu Fac” means I do. “Eu Fac” phonetically is yo-fuck. Well you can just imagine what tired and hot brains do with this phrase. I hear someone say “I gotta go fac a dus (fuck a douche)” which means take a shower, pretty much daily. It is funny how grown adults can collapse into giggle fits over such simple things. But as our poor LTI said in her broken English, “remember…you can fac just about anything in Romanian.”

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