Things here in Cahul have suddenly started moving at a very quick pace. 2 weeks ago, a gang of us went to the local orphanage and played games with the kids for a few hours. When I think of an orphanage, all I can think of is Annie Warbucks and that awful place she grew up in NYC while she and a bunch of young girls in tattered clothes cleaned all day and sang jaunty musical numbers. Turns out, that's not reality. I was pleasantly surprised at this orphanage. It was actually a pleasant place to be. I'm not saying that I didn't feel for the kids, but they certainly had formed their own families. The women who ran the place cared for them each deeply, the kids were very much 'siblings' in the traditional sense. The older boys clearly had control and if they said something the younger ones listened but they were also their protectors. One of the little girls was shy about participating and the older boy went over and talked her into it and stayed with her until she felt comfortable. (Pause for political snide remark...isn't it amazing that families in the non-traditional sense sometimes still work?)
We were there for a few hours and it was nice. Dylan, another volunteer, ran the project and is trying to make it a monthly thing. There were 7 of us volunteers there that day but he would like to get more as well as some Moldovan youth volunteers to make it sustainable .
Since then, Holly and I have been trying to make our apartment seem more 'homey' furnishing it with rugs and personal items and we have proudly held some actual dinner parties for the Cahul people. We have adopted the Fulbright scholar from the University, Erin, as one of our group. She's only here for a year but her boyfriend is from Moldova so I have a feeling she'll be staying longer. I've also made friends with a few Russian students from the University and they have agreed to teach me conversational Russian in exchange for help with their English. This pleases me greatly as I have learned Russian is a necessity for survival.
I am insanely lucky to have such a great group of volunteers with me here in the South of the country.
As for the impending holidays, I think it will be strange but okay. It will be my first non-traditional Thanksgiving in my lifetime. The majority of volunteers are throwing a traditional party in the Capital this weekend but we 'southies' have elected not to go. Instead, we are throwing the 'anti-Thanksgiving' which means Mexican food. (I don't know why). On December 3rd, we are throwing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for our work partners to educate them on what the holiday means to us in the U.S. This of course has been misconstrued amongst juvenile volunteers as an exclusive party that only certain people are invited to and not a professional event in which we are doing our job and promoting peace and friendship among Moldovans. Sometimes I am in Peace Corps High School.
November has flown by and it is less than a month before Christmas. I have never spent a Christmas away from Honesdale, PA in 38 years so it will be strange. Thankfully Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czech Republic will help with that. Last Christmas was a pretty hard day in dealing with the aftermath of the death of my nephew but it also showed what a strong family I have. The end of Christmas day last year didn't feel like a holiday was ending, it felt like we had all survived together. I'm sad that I can't be there this year where there will be some laughter and happiness again but on the same level, knowing that everyone is so much better now gives us all the strength to be happy wherever we are. I never thought last year at this time that i'd be celebrating Christmas listening to Mozart in Vienna but I'll be doing it.
One thing I am TOTALLY psyched for is the lack of Christmas commercialism here. There is no Black Friday, there is no 'shopping season.' There is not marketing shoved down your throat on TV commercials and store windows and billboards, it's wonderful. Plus, the Orthodox religion celebrates Christmas on January 7th which means I will be in country to witness their traditions and have no work for a few weeks. I think I may enjoy the Christmas season this year.