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, December 27, 2012

Wrapping up 2012.

I had to spend one full year in Moldova. 2011 was a half year, 2013 will be a half year, but 2012, I was here. And I made it. Some days are harder than others but overall, it's okay. The thought that seems to inspire the perseverance is "I will not be here the rest of my life." When I encounter people I do not care for, or slip on the ice, or can't communicate in Russian that I want Tuna in water not oil, this is the thought that pops into my head.
The world didn't end so that's a good thing. On Friday, Dec. 21st, I invited a group of volunteers down to celebrate. In case it did end, these were the people I wanted to be surrounded by and since it didn't, there was cause to celebrate. There was a lot of snow and it was cold so we decided to stay in the apartment all night and eat and drink. There was a lot of laughter and it was desperately needed.
Natasha, Lindsay, Conrad, Ross, Jesse, Chris, Kitsy and Holly. A great way to celebrate the end of the world.

Kitsy, Me and Lindsay. When we arrived there were 11 girls in our program, we are the only 3 left.

My boys that keep me laughing. Conrad, Sasha, Chris, Ross and Jesse.
Soon after, everyone went their separate ways for Christmas. Michael and John came to visit for the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we decided to go out to dinner with Jesse at one of our favorite restaurants, the Flamingo. We were the only ones there so it was like we had the place to ourselves. It was quite pleasant. Christmas day was a lot of cooking and a lot of Skyping with our respective families. This is what my holidays look like now. 

My loving brother Bob sleeps through the family Skype call...he woke up later. It's okay, he works hard.

Then on to the family in Georgia.

The guys all left the day after Christmas and now I get a few days to myself before leaving on my Transylvania excursion to Romania for New Years. So in looking back, here are my Top 10 things I loved about 2012:

  • The End of the World (December 21, 2012)
    • As noted above, I gathered together with some of my favorite volunteers to celebrate the world not ending. It was one of my favorite get togethers of the year.
  • Trip to London/Paris (May, 2012)
    • The first two weeks of May I spent exploring London and Paris with all my old pals from Too Faced. I am still in awe that they all came at the same time and we were able to do that. I know that they didn't come specifically to see me, but the fact that we all made it work and had such a blast together will remain in my heart forever.
  • The Election (November 6, 2012)
    • Without getting into politics, it was kind of cool to watch this all unfold from halfway around the world and stay up all night until we heard Barack give his acceptance speech at 9:30 in the morning. 
  • Wednesday afternoons at Mamma Mia
    • Throughout the entire spring, all of us here in Cahul would gather at our favorite restaurant on Wednesday afternoons and have dinner together. Pretty much the entire gang is gone now and Mamma Mia (the restaurant) itself has closed down, nonetheless, it will always be my favorite memory of Moldova.
  • The perfect kiss (April 27, 2012)
    • After flirting with the waiter at the restaurant mentioned above, we finally went out one night in April. He didn't speak English, I barely spoke Russian and yet at the end of the night he kissed me. Just that perfect kiss that reminds you that you are attractive to people regardless of language and you are still alive.
  • Summer Barbecue (June 1, 2012)
    • Ryne's going away barbecue/Sasha's birthday. It was a giant party at the local lake to kick off summer. Pretty much every person I knew in Cahul was there and it was the last time we were all together. Bittersweet, but a fantastic night.
  • The Walking Dead
    • I know, it's so lame to be happy about a TV show, but no show has had me this excited and provides buzz points to discuss with everyone the next day since LOST. It's one of those guilty pleasures that just pushes you through.
  • Trips to the Ukraine (January, July & August)
    • I went three times. Once in January with John, Jeremy and Chris. It was freezing cold but a great time. Once in July with my dear group of friends for my birthday and lastly in August to Zatoka with my Moldovan friends. For never having visited the Ukraine before, I sure made up for that this year. Funny, as you think of it as being a frozen tundra and I spent 2 out of the 3 trips at the beach of the Black Sea.
  • U.S. Embassy 4th of July party (July 7, 2012)
    • The big shindig thrown by the Embassy for the ex-pats, state workers and volunteers is always a great time. A time to let loose, listen to good music and all be together. They have decided to discontinue it so unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the last one. 
  • Viktor
    • Viktor is the Moldovan that I grew the closest to. Unfortunately (for me) he decided to become a volunteer in France so he moved away for the rest of my service. But he was definitely a highlight of this year as I have countless memories of him. The best ones being our long talks learning about our different cultures. He changed my perspective and my life forever.
Signing off for 2012 and heading into Transylvania, another sentence I never thought I'd say. See you in the new year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

So This is Christmas...and what have you done?

How is it Christmas already? Last year at this time I was prepping for my journey to Vienna and Prague with Lyndsey. I can't believe that was a year ago. Last week, Lyndsey left. I knew it was a possibility for a long time, but she finally decided to go. She was my best friend here and it was really hard to see her go but even harder to see how unhappy she was here. So she is back in Pittsburgh now and with her fiance and she is happy. I know I will see her again. It is hard to imagine the next 7 months without her as she has been by my side since day one, literally as we sat together on the plane here. But I shall persevere.
As I've said all too often, I think she is the last one to leave for now. We do only have 7 months to go so I'm hoping the rest of us can hang in there. 
So Christmas is next week. There are a few of us who are staying behind. The plan is to have Christmas dinner and lie around all day and watch movies. We'll all have Skype dates with our families so it will be all right. I will have to make cinnamon rolls just to make it feel like a holiday.
For New Years, I am heading to Transylvania. (Things I thought I'd never say). I will be going with Lindsay, Conrad, Michael and John, 4 of my best friends left here. We're only going for a few days but it will be nice to get out of here as well as explore Transylvania. Yes, I will nerdily visit Dracula's castle, sue me! I like kitsch! 
We are covered in snow here and it is glorious. It is so pretty and crisp and clean. I know I will get annoyed by it in a few months but right now it is really cool. 
Locals building snow men.

The view from my apartment window.
Lastly, the worst part of the week was the shooting in Connecticut. Personally, there are three side effects of this ridiculous tragedy that are incredibly frustrating.
1 - Social Media - I know this is a time for discussion. I believe this is THE time for discussion. But why can't it be just that? A discussion? I know there is passion and anger and confusion and the need to place blame, but man, ignorance is so, so blatant under the microscope of social media. I have just seen sides to people I do not like. I really don't care if you are pro-gun rights or anti-gun rights or religious or atheist but why oh WHY do people feel the need to post their points of view as if they are the end all be all on the subject. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. That is one of the glories of freedom of speech. But that means EVERYONE, not just you. Oh the senses of entitlement is just plain sad. It disgusts me. I daily contemplate why I am a member of Facebook. It really does bring out the worst in people. And if ONE more person posts one of those status updates where they're 'daring' me to copy and paste it if I care, I swear...

2 - Living Abroad - It is so difficult to have a conversation with Moldovans because they're question is always "why did this happen?" How do I answer that? Why are there school shootings? There is no answer. It is despicable...and honestly? Embarrassing.

3 - The f@#king media - Explaining the freedom of the press is a little difficult too. Where is the line of decency? Is there anyone out there really hoping to get a statement from a traumatized 6 year old about what just happened? Do they need to clutter the streets of Newton with camera trucks and journalists just in the hopes of getting footage of people at funerals or getting a soundbite from a neighbor? Is this what we've come to? And worst of all, why are we plastering this guy's face and name all over the place. I don't want to know his name. I don't want to know what he looks like. I don't want him to get any credit or notoriety or fame for this. Why do you?

I will get off my soapbox now. It is a worldwide tragedy that is being experienced. We feel it here, you feel it there and in that we are all together.

**Side note - Please stop using "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen to pay tribute to the victims. I know it has a haunting melody and a religious title but it is not a hymn. It is a song about an orgasm. Read the lyrics and not the title, it's getting awkward.

Jeff Buckley's cover of 'Hallelujah'

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving with the locals.

We held a Thanksgiving dinner for all of the volunteers in the South and their Moldovan counterparts. We had a total of 47 guests. Cooking a meal for that many people isn't easy, but we succeeded. The turkey was raised in the neighboring village of Brinza. We killed it, plucked it, gutted it, cleaned it and cooked it. It was primal...and awesome. Holly, Jesse and I had the most guests mostly because it was held here in Cahul and we invited all of our Moldovan friends and their families. But in total we had 14 Peace Corps volunteers and 2 local Fulbright scholars. I'm still pissed I didn't get any pumpkin pie, but whatever. Peace and friendship...

Our friends Vica and Natasha.

The crowd awaits.

Jesse carves the turkey. RIP, Leonard II...

Some of the spread.

Gicu, a local student who not only got us the turkey, but helped us prepare the entire meal.

The Moldovans dig in. Most of the foods they have never heard of or seen. All were labeled with descriptions in Romanian and Russian. We had to hand out the recipe many times for stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Me, Holly and Jesse.

Me and my best friend, Sasha.

Jesse posing with Sasha and his family.

The full group of Americans.
Front - Victoria, Kim, Maggie, Bethany, Rachel, Liz, Tom, Ross and Frances.
Back - Holly, Jesse, Sylvia, Kelly, John, Gene and Me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

One last T-Day in the former Soviet Union...

I don't think it's any secret that the last few months have been challenging. And here we are at the day of thanks as celebrated by the U.S.A. In trying to explain the holiday of Thanksgiving, I have learned it is not easy to tell people why we celebrate it since the origins are sketchy at best. But instead of delving into the horrors of the origins, I choose instead to just find things to be thankful for, here is what I came up with:

  • I have a roof over my head, a nice apartment, a great roommate and indoor plumbing.
  • I have survived 2/3 of my service and only have 9 months to go.
  • I can read Russian.
  • My 15 year old niece is my best friend.
  • I have said goodbye to way too many friends in the past few months, but as Winnie the Pooh said "I am blessed to have something so special that makes saying goodbye so hard."
  • The Walking Dead
  • After being gone for nearly 2 years, the gang at Too Faced still care enough to not only keep me in their thoughts and hearts but also still send me things from home that only they know I miss.
  • That my family took the time to learn how to use Skype just so they can talk to me. I know it isn't their preferred method of communication but they figured it out...that's love.
  • Learning to make food from scratch. Definitely proves just how lazy we have become when it really isn't that difficult and is SO much better.
  • I have been in 8 different countries this year, some of which I probably never would have even looked up on a map if I weren't here. (Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, France and the UK)
  • Comedians on Twitter. 
  • Best CA, in PA, in NY, in NC, in family, in Moldova, in France, they're freaking everywhere.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving day and we will have a small gathering to celebrate the day (if we get paid that is...otherwise it's bread...lots of bread) Saturday we will be making dinner for 15 volunteers and about 40 Moldovan to once again teach them about this uniquely American holiday. And thus, the holiday season begins. Makes me start to wonder, where will I be next year at this time? (Oh God...please don't ask me...)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jenny from the Eastern Bloc

I can't comment too much on politics per regulations, but I will just say, watching the election from outside the US is pretty eye opening. The results started coming in here around 2:00am. I stayed awake all night with my roommate, Holly and our friend, Maryam. They were a little delirious...

But we made it through the night and at around 6:15 we heard the news. Around 8:30 we heard the speech and we were asleep by 9. Interesting night. But a very pleasing one. I pulled up the FOX News site because that was the one that was most pleasing to see. Love you, Todd. :))))))

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What good is sitting alone in your room...

I am a theater person. Have been since I was a wee child since my Mom first put me on the stage. I love everything about it. But, as with everything, there are pros and cons.


  • Growing up learning life lessons from movie musicals.
  • Finding strange people just like yourself to relate to.
  • When math and science don't make sense, finding something that actually does.
  • As an actor, transforming into someone completely different to forget reality for a few hours.
  • As an audience member, losing yourself in someone else's story.
  • As a director, watching scared auditioners turn into superstars 6 weeks later.
  • Becoming skilled at poker faces when you can't react in the moment to strange situations.
  • The ability to completely tune out of situations by going somewhere else in your brain.
  • The exhilaration of curtain calls whether your bowing or applauding.
  • Finding generic things to comment on when you've witnessed people you love in horrid productions.
  • When listening to music, staging it in your head.
  • Noticing artistic elements of stage and movies that are tribute to connoisseurs. I can often be found saying "oh NIIIICE back-lighting, there."
I could go on and on about the pros of having an artistic background and majoring in theatre in college and loving music and dance and being truly grateful that I grew up in an artistic family yada yada yada.
Only recently, have I noticed the cons of being this type of personality. Through a series of very strange events, I have noticed just how much I plan events in my mind. I tend to 'stage' different scenarios or rehearse reactions so that I am prepared for what may come at me. I'm sure it stems from my 'control-freak' problem that I want to be prepared for any possible outcome. The problem is, here in Moldova, and probably mostly everywhere, it's pretty rare that you can predict an outcome or more to the point, predict others actions or reactions. To top all that off, I can't be as eloquent with my words in Russian so even though in my head I sound like Jon Stewart sounding off against Fox and Friends, I wind up sounding like a 4 year old trying to negotiate an extra cookie. It's exhausting. And I am always disappointed, rarely pleasantly surprised. Because I have inadvertently created a series of un-meetable expectations and unless I have an untapped psychic ability, it just isn't going to happen. It's so easy to say 'relax...whatever will be will be' and yet in the moment, you really want to be prepared. I want to have to cool one liner that is delivered like in a perfect theatrical moment that leaves the audience oohing and aahing. But, I can't. Because I'm not living off an Aaron Sorkin script here, unfortunately, I am stuck in reality. I'm in a constant state of improv, every actor's nightmare. I stopped being an actor in the late 90's and transformed into a director. Every director is a control freak, they have to be to get anything done. And that somehow transfers into real life. I'm not sure when it happened, but it did. I went from being an easy going actor into an OCD riddled control freak. Life here is anything but in control. There is an entire gamut of emotions in play every single day and it is emotionally exhausting. 
And now I'm caught in the middle of a long stream of consciousness about diagnosing this do I get out of it? The condition and the stream? These are just late night revelations that come to me as I can't sleep. Things I do know? I miss my family and hope they're all okay during this crappy storm that has hit the Eastern seaborne. And even though some of my friends here have really disappointed me here in the last week or so, I am truly grateful for the lessons I have learned. They are certainly ones I will never forget.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Inner Monologue of Sanity

Well it wouldn't be a week going by without having to say goodbye to yet another friend. This time it was Jeremy. One of my first friends here. I think I've become numb to sadness. Standing at the airport yet again this morning saying goodbye to him, it is just starting to feel normal...which is probably terrible. Or maybe it's because it's so evident that I will see him again that it didn't phase me. I will miss him though. He was one of the main reasons I made it through training last summer. His cynical sense of humor made me latch on to him and together we faced the long days of summer when both of us wanted to throw the towel in.
Me, Michael, Matt and Jeremy.

The ride home today was one of those breaking points of sanity. The in country travel here definitely tests your patience. I live in Cahul which is approximately 150km south of Chisinau, the capital. To get to Chisinau, I have to take a bus. There are buses to pretty much every village in the country but they are sparse. I am fortunate to live in a bigger town so I can catch a bus pretty much every hour from 6am - 5pm. Some of my colleagues are not so lucky. If I catch a rutiera (Root-ee-ara), it takes approximately 3 hours to get to Chisinau. If I take an autobus, it takes about 4. Or I can take an illegal illicit car and that takes about 2.5 hours. If you're closer to Chisinau, you can hitch...yeah that is still big here without all the serial killer implications it has back home. So what are the differences?
A rutiera (or a mashrutka in Russian) is a mini bus. It usually seats about 20 people in seats. 20 people in a minibus, that sounds crowded. Ha. There are 20 seats...but I've seen up to 40 people in it. Even if all the seats are full, they pile people in like sardines and they stand for hours to get to their destination. I do not buy a ticket unless I have a seat, I'm funny like that, but many people do. There is absolutely no leg room in the seats and your feet are usually elevated on things that are on the floor. During the summer time, the locals refuse to open windows as they have a deep superstition about the current (or wind) and refuse to let 'fresh air' into a moving vehicle. Dripping in sweat, surrounded by a stench that is inexplicable, these are not the most comfortable rides ever. I prefer traveling in the winter as at least you don't need an open window to survive, but now you are also adding in the benefit of big fluffy winter coats and hats. These are definitely the extreme cases. I have had rides on these where I've been plenty comfortable, but there have also been some hellish trips. My iPod is my link to sanity. I am lucky to have the ability to completely check out of a situation and lose myself in a podcast or in music and try and focus on that.
An autobus is a large bus that seats closer to 75-100 people. These are way more roomy even though they sometimes still stack people in the aisle. The disadvantages of these are they take way longer and that is where people bring live animals on such as chickens for the trip. Or if you're carrying luggage you have to take one of these as there is no room for it on the smaller transportation vehicles.
The illicit cars are the most ideal. This is someone driving a minivan and there are usually only 6 or 7 people in it. In the summer they have air conditioning, in the winter they have heat, there is leg room, it is quiet and everyone has to have a seat. What are the disadvantages?'s pretty illegal so they can get in a lot of trouble for doing it. These, obviously, are a little bit harder to find, but they are ideal.
As for hitchiking, I haven't done it. No real desire to try. Most of my friends have done it without a problem but I guess growing up in the 70's i have seen way too many horror films to feel secure in doing it. Plus, I am just not confident in my language to negotiate such a thing.
Why am I going on about transportation? This morning was one of those hellish rutiera rides that I spoke of. It was a rainy Saturday morning and after leaving the airport I went right to the bus station to get a bus back home. I just wanted to be in my bed to enjoy the rain. Jeremy had left me 2 big bags of coffee which was great except I had nothing to carry them in. So I was holding two bags of coffee and my camera bag. I got a seat next to the window but there was no leg room (as usual) and I was over the tire so my knees were basically at my chest along with the 3 bags on my lap. I lost myself in a podcast for the first hour and managed to actually doze off. When I woke up we were in an area I wasn't familiar with at all. I have traveled this road many times and yet I recognized none of the scenery. Come to find out, the main road had been closed and we had to take the back road through some of the villages. It doubled the time of the trip as well as driving on dirt roads covered in potholes with your knees up to your chest? Not pleasant! I managed to maneuver my three bags between the side of the bus and me so i at least had a lap. A lady sat down next to me with 2 kids, one a newborn and one about 2 years old. She threw the 2 year old on my lap and breast fed the newborn. Yes...this is a completely normal occurrence for strangers to throw their child on your lap to make more room. It has happened to me more than once. It usually doesn't phase me but at this point, I had no lap so the kid was literally in my face and on the bouncy road he was inadvertently punching me repeatedly. This went on for about 2 hours. Oh...did I mention I had to pee? I sat with my headphones on blaring Les Miserables trying to escape into the French Revolution where I would feel more comfortable while I was being bruised, holding my bladder and trying to not let my coffee beans explode all over the bus. (That is not a metaphor, the bag of coffee had opened...but it smelled better than anything else on the bus so I just let it waft.) Throughout the 2 hours, although I had a blank look on my face, my inner monologue was screaming the entire time. Why was i on this road? Why had I drank 3 cups of coffee before this trip? Why didn't I just go sleep for a while before I went back to site? Why did Jeremy have to give me 2 pounds of coffee before he left? Why didn't the Nationals beat the Cardinals? Why in the world was Romney gaining on Obama? Why didn't I save the Vampire Diaries episode when I knew I would want to watch it again? Why didn't I remember to buy curry paste when I was in Chisinau? Why did I bring my camera bag...I didn't even take photos? Would anyone 'really' notice if I tossed this kid out the window? Oh wait...I can't...BECAUSE NO ONE WILL OPEN A WINDOW! 
And then the bus comes to a screeching halt...why? GEESE! F&#*ing GEESE! There was a huge gaggle of Geese crossing the GD road and the driver didn't want to hurt the stupid ass geese! Inner it a gaggle? WHY DO I KNOW THAT WORD!!!!!!??? So now I am sitting in this horrible position (literally and figuratively) and my iPod dies. So how am I to pass the time without going insane? I START COUNTING THE GEESE. There were 27 in case you were interested. 27 freaking geese. If there were 28, I may have lost it.
We finally pulled into Cahul what seemed like 14 hours later (real time 4 hours). The woman took her child...oh, YOU'RE WELCOME! I got off the bus and walked over to a cement building and just leaned against it. My inner monologue was silently screaming, my knees were so glad to be stretched, I inhaled my coffee, stretched out my back and started the 4 block walk back to my house. 
An old lady walked by me. 
Доброе утро. (Doh-bray oo-tro/good morning)
Доброе утро. I said to her. And I started laughing. What the hell is my life?
And there I was...leaning against a cement building in the middle of Eastern Europe laughing like a mental patient as this little old Moldovan woman slowly backed away from the crazy American who was slowly losing her mind. 
And was just another day.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mid-Season Slump

So it is official, I believe this is what they would call 'a slump.' I had been told that midway through service I would feel this. I didn't believe it, but nonetheless, here we are. It has been a slow summer that I have mostly spent integrating into the community and practicing Russian. Even though Russian is slow going, I really like it and know more than I think I do. Some days I feel like I'm learning nothing and then I'll be in the market in town and have a full conversation and be like 'oh damn, I'm speaking Russian.' So that's encouraging. 
3 more of my friends decided to move home. I don't know why, I guess I have it really good in Cahul and where I live and don't understand the struggles. As far as PC goes, I think we have it pretty good here in Moldova, but then I live in a populous town, not a rural city so what the hell do I know? What I do know is that I have no excuse for not finishing my full service. I have a great apartment, great friends, great location...I can certainly hang in there for 10 more months. Take THAT, naysayers!
Saying goodbye to Viktor was one of the hardest things I have had to do since I've been here. I didn't realize what a major part of my life he was until he was gone. Isn't that always the way? Always hard to be the one left behind too because I still go to all the places and see friends we hung out with whereas he goes off on a new adventure in a foreign country and gets to experience all new things. I guess I finally understand what my friends and family felt when I left. So...sorry for that. It sure does suck. But he's doing well. He's living in a village in France Northwest of Bordeaux. For his volunteer service he is helping to renovate a castle. Yeah...he's in heaven...son of a bitch...but we get to Skype a lot. Guess I should get used to that as that is probably the method at which we will communicate for the rest of our lives... :(
The new school year began. My organization is waiting to hear if we secured funding to keep ourselves running for another 6 months. If we do no, not too sure what I'll be doing. But I'm pretty sure we will get it. I'm still helping out at the Salvation Army. The couple that runs it is a Georgian couple (the country, not Atlanta) and they are fantastic. We will be holding our annual American Thanksgiving dinner there. I can't believe it's time to start planning Thanksgiving again already. 
September blows. It always has. I have always hated this month and this year is no exception. So I'm not a total bummer, I will say that Lyndsey went home to visit her family and fiancee and I never thought she would come back, but she did. And she is staying. So that is a nice surprise that makes this month a little bit sweeter. In October we have our mid-service medical checkups and then our final in-service training. After that we're on to Thanksgiving, than Christmas and before you know it the new year. And then we're down to 6 months. I can't believe it's that time already. Time to look for jobs. (And no, I still don't know, DON'T ASK!!!!!)
One thing that always helps? Friends. Actual 3-D people, but also the TV show. It's the perfect prescription when you're feeling really blue. No matter how many times I have seen the episodes, they can always make me smile. That sandwiched with all the new TV starting in the next few weeks, my mood is starting to pick up.
Lastly, a bit of a nice accomplishment, the film I have been helping on all summer is finally in the editing stages and we were covered by the news here in Moldova. (Yeah...that's me in the purple shirt in the beginning...)

They are speaking in Russian with Romanian subtitles. The gist is that they have been working on it all summer with a budget of almost nothing. But they are going to enter it in some international festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, etc. It's a long shot but they have nothing to lose by trying. They are fantastically creative and I hope their efforts are appreciated. It will always be a great memory watching these guys work and create something wonderful.
And my all too frequent tribute to my buddies who are leaving...I hate this...people, please stop leaving!



Gone too soon, girls...
Did I mention I miss Viktor?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Zatoka...I don't even know her...

I'm beginning to think the thing I am best at in this crazy time is integrating with the locals. As I have stated numerous times, I love the Moldovan friends I have made over the past year. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with them. Viktor is moving to France next week so we decided to take a trip to the beach for one last hurrah. There were six of us, Me, Viktor, Alex, Holly, Vlad and Marina. Holly and I were the only Americans and we had never heard of Zatoka so we were quite literally putting our lives in their hands. Zatoka is a small town in the Ukraine Southeast of Cahul.,+Ukraine&ie=UTF-8&ei=yLY_UIGoFPPN4QTFuYCACA&ved=0CAsQ_AUoAg

It is about a 5 hour bus ride with some time spent on the border. It reminded me a lot of the Jersey Shore only no one spoke English...much like Jersey. Since it was all Russian, we had to rely on them for everything. At times it was unsettling, but for the most part, it was kind of nice to be taken care of. The hardest part for Holly and me was that they kind of fly by the seat of their pants. We got on the bus and didn't have reservations to stay anywhere. We just walked around until someone made us an offer. It sounded SO shady to us but we ended up at the greatest place. It was run by an older couple. There were about 20 rooms. Each had 2 beds in them. There were 3 outdoor showers shared by the whole complex and two outdoor toilets. The entire place was covered in trees and vines and greenery so the breeze was nice and cool and the sun didn't sweat you out. It was remote and overlooked the sea from afar. It was SO peaceful and I just loved it. And it was 75 Hryvna (Hree-vna) which is equivalent to about $9/day...yeah, quite a deal. Outdoor showering sounds weird but it is SO relaxing. Especially after a long day at the beach with the cool air and the hot water...oh my God it's so awesome. We were on the beach all day, I couldn't bring myself to go in the water. it was just so filled with seaweed and jelly fish it grossed me out but everyone else was in it all day. Good for them! We ate dry, salted fish with beer (yeah...not really my favorite) and chatted in our broken Russian and English. It was so delightful. As we were about to leave a storm started to roll in. Winds like I haven't seen in years, it was unbelievable. I thought the entire place was going to blow over. I didn't sleep too well that night. The storm continued into the next day. It rained and the winds blew. We had a long bus ride back and all were slightly burned and cranky but it still managed to be a great time. I truly love these guys and I can't believe how fortunate I am to be friends with them. It's so funny to spend a day at the Black Sea like it's no big deal. From the outside it seems so exotic but it's just what's available to me. I'm so damn lucky. 
Marina, Vlad, Viktor, Alex, Holly and I make our way to the beach via the train tracks.

Vlad and Marina

Viktor on the beach

Oh how I love having my photo taken.

Yeah...I was pretty confused too.

This is Viktor stealing my camera...I am not this lame.

Yeah...he's pretty disgusting.

Viktor found this old Soviet bomb underneath the stairs of where we were staying. It wasn't active...

Viktor loves the water.

Me, Holly and Alex on the beach.

Ukrainian sunset.

USSR still lurking around...

Alex and Viktor hanging out with the birds.

Alex and Holly went on a ride...a decision they later regretted.

Viktor rode the bull.

I want to strangle him for leaving me.
But I just adore him.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The living is easy...

It's been a strange summer here in Post-Soviet Union land. One thing that is hard to get used to is that people here take their summers SERIOUSLY. Work is SO not a priority. The summer is for being with your family, vacationing, going to the seaside and relaxing. I have to say, it is something I can get used to. I have been traveling pretty much every weekend to Chisinau to be with the new group of trainees that have arrived. It is so weird to see it from this side now. I remember last summer and it seems like 10 years ago. It's a good group of people. The first weekend of July, the US Embassy threw their annual Fourth of July party. I decided to take Viktor with me. He likes to be around Americans, God knows why. His English is so good, he had me introduce him to everyone as Albert from Philadelphia. Naturally, everyone fell in love with him. How can you not? It was a great night.
Me and my friend, Michael from training.

Having a long awaited hamburger.

Viktor and I illustrating our cross cultural friendship.

Me and my friend, Rich from HS. Two HHS alums celebrating Independence Day in a foreign land.
The following weekend, a bunch of us headed to Odessa, Ukraine for a day at the beach. It was so fun and beautiful and just wonderful to get away. It wasn't too far away and I never thought I'd be able to say I went swimming in the Black Sea...but I did it. 
Love European beaches.

Me and my COD homegirls. (Just missing Maria and Andrea)

Our sunburned, beach hair'd group - Jessica, Me, Lyndsey, Chris, Conrad, Lindsay and Jenn (Kitsy).
When I came back from Odessa, Viktor and Alex went on a week long trip to Poland. While they were gone, it was super hot here, Holly was on vacation with her friends in was quite lonely. It was not a great time. Also, since I had spent money on my beach excursion, I was really looking forward to getting paid. We usually get paid around the 20th...yada yada yada...we did not get paid until the 28th. This resulted in a very cranky week of eating bread. When Jenn is not eating good food, she is a VERY angry and cranky girl. That on top of all my friends being was not a good time in my life. I am very glad that it is over. It was definitely the lowest I have felt since I have been here. 
In the past 2 months I have said goodbye to these people:
Erin and Ryne (Erin moved to Nepal, Ryne back to Chicago.)

Dima (Moved to Moscow)

Adam (to Monterey for Grad school)

Brad (moved back to Georgia) and Dylan (moved to Nepal)

Monika (moved to Boston for grad school)
It has not been easy. I knew saying goodbye to people would be a part of this life but I didn't think it would be this hard. With all these goodbye, people are constantly asking me, what's next? What is next for me. I am technically done with the Peace Corps in July, 2013. That is 11 months away. Do any of you know what you're going to be doing next July? Neither do I. So please stop asking. I have 11 more months in this country and I am going to do my best to make the most of them. I am not in American mentality mode where I have to concentrate on what I WILL be doing instead of what I AM doing. I will figure that out then. Thank you for your concern, let me worry about it.
In 3 weeks, I have to say goodbye to this guy:
Viktor and me.
He has been accepted as an EVS (European equivalent to the Peace Corps) in France for a year. Meaning I will be gone by the time he gets back. He is my best friend that I have made here in Moldova and the thought of doing this without him is only comforted by the fact that he is doing something with his life and seizing an opportunity. I don't know what this place will be like without him. I'm scared to find out.