I've been here about 4.5 months now and you would think that things would start to make sense a little bit. But quite the contrary...I never know what's going on from day to day. For a control freak who's obsessed with planning and details, that's something that's a little hard to get used to. I think I've gotten pretty good at it, going with the flow but there are still days when I'm like 'what the hell is going on?'
So training ended at the beginning of August and we were told all throughout the summer that the first 3-6 months at site were going to be pretty slow. I mean you are now a stranger in a new community and you have to take the time to get to know people and have them trust you before you can start doing things. I mean I guess it's the same at any work place. I can remember a workplace where a new person would start and we would all be cold to them until we made the universal decision on whether "we" liked them or not. (you know who you are...) Imagine that on a city wide scale. I'm one of the lucky ones, there are always Americans here in Cahul so it's a little bit easier. But on an individual basis, I still have to get a few people in my corner before I can make things happen. For one thing, I haven't lived in a 'cold' climate in nearly 15 years. The weather has begun to get cooler here now. Don't get me wrong, it's WAY better than the scalding hot summer days with no A/C but it's still unpleasant. But the interesting thing is, when it is too cold, people just don't go to work. Work is so secondary to personal safety, health and family it's inexplicable. And it's lovely. It's an interesting case study. Why do we risk life and limb just to go in to the daily grind. There are still things that we can get done from our homes when the weather isn't satisfactory. But I digress...
So, it is a few months of going into the office, getting to know people but not really doing anything. It's hard to explain this to people back home. I constantly am questioned, what is your day like, are you teaching, what do you do and I never have a good answer. There's an American mentality where you have to be in the grind working your butt off to be productive. Whereas here, I can walk downtown and say hello to 10 people. If 2 of them, say hello back because they know me and trust me? I've done my job. Part of my job is promoting peace and friendship, having people know and trust Americans so yes, that was part of my job. I know there are many of you shaking your head right now saying that's bullshit and 'this is what my tax dollars pay for?' But if there are 120 of us in this country and each of us get 2 people to trust Americans today, we just changed the minds of 240 (right?) people. Now imagine that effort all over the world. If all we did was that. But that's not all we do. We are in NGO's (non-profit organizations), we are in schools, we are holding seminars and starting clubs with more than just 2 people a day. That's all to come. However, in the meantime? What am I doing? I'm earning trust and it is a full time job.
In other news, the weather is getting really cold which is a shock to my system after nearly 15 years in Southern California. But I do have to say, I like it. I'm sure I'll be singing a different tune in February.
On the good news front, I am moving into an apartment. As much as I love my host mom, being a 38 year old woman, I would rather live somewhere else. I will definitely keep in touch with her and invite her over for meals though. I will be living with Holly, another volunteer here in Cahul. She and I were roommates at staging in Philadelphia so it's funny that we will be living together here. Holly and my lives are opposites as she grew up in California and moved to the East Coast whereas I grew up on the East Coast and moved to California. But we both love to cook, especially Mexican food and we get along really well. She's in her early 20's but has a good head on her shoulders. While I was at training over the past few weeks, she went and found us a great apartment with 2 bedrooms, a huge living room, a kitchen, bathroom and the most challenging part...it's on the 8th floor. And the elevator works...sometimes. Well, worst case scenario, I'll have a finely tuned asset by the end of this service. Holly's host mom moved to Bulgaria so she'll be moving in to the apartment this weekend whereas I have to wait a few weeks since I paid my host mom for the whole month. We're very excited especially since we have a great group of people here in Cahul and have started a Sunday Dinner tradition. You have to create your own family overseas I guess.
And lastly, the latest is keeping in touch with friends from back home. I know I have it pretty good being away in this day and age with all this digital technology but I'm still surprised at how hard it is to keep in touch with people. Being from a huge family, I'm pretty proactive at keeping in touch with people. Or at least I think I am. But there are some people who just aren't like that and learning to accept that is difficult. I know that people have lives and are busy and sometimes Facebook and email aren't their first priority but it still saddens me when I don't hear from people. Then again, I remind myself that it isn't always about me. And life does go on. I know they are not all sitting around missing me and waiting for the second that I send an email or a chat. Maybe they're thinking of me but they have problems too. Long distance relationships are hard, whether it be romantic, friendships, family or what. I'm grateful for this medium to be able to keep in touch as frequently as we do. But I would like to thank people who go out of their way to keep in touch. Especially those certain few who I talk to more now than I did when I was there. Your messages and emails and chats mean the world to me. Just seeing a familiar name in my inbox is so comforting. You may think that news and tales from back home seem minuscule to me but they are heartwarming and enjoyable. I appreciate them so much.
This was another midnight ramble brought to you by Starbucks Via.