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

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dead People's Easter

No, I'm not being crude. Tomorrow is a National Holiday and is literally translated as 'Dead People's Easter.' Everyone gets together, goes and buys flowers and tons of food and then go to the cemetery and have a feast on the graves of their loved ones. Sounds weird? And it? In the US, death is SO morbid and foreboding and here it is celebrated. They include members of their family in the biggest celebration of the year even if they have passed on. It may seem morbid to us, but overall, I think it is kind of sweet. The cemeteries here are filled with joy and happiness and it is a celebration. Isn't that a refreshing take?
At work this week, we are mostly focusing on the anti-human trafficking festival that is fast approaching. Since I will be gone for 2 weeks on vacation I am simply trying to assist in what I can before I leave. It's hard to focus as all I can think about is visiting London and Paris with my CA friends. I can't believe I haven' seen them in almost a year. And the week before vacation is tough because all you're thinking about is going and it is so hard to focus on the task at hand. 
Today, my friend Erin and I decided to 'treat' ourselves and get our hair cut. I haven't had my haircut since about a month before I left the US. It seems like such a simple thing, but I just haven't done it. We didn't know what to expect in a Moldovan Salon but it was magnificent. Just to sit in a chair and lean back and have someone wash my hair was so glorious. I felt like a new woman! Erin and I were giddy.
We also had a fantastic meeting with the director of the Cahul Theatre. He had been coming to the anti-trafficking meetings and finally on Friday, I approached him and told him that I was a theatre director and would LOVE to tour his theatre and learn about their process here. He was elated and met with us this morning to take us up on the offer. Theatre, or the any of the Arts for that matter, are not exactly prominent in Moldova but there is a small community of artisans that have the passion to do it. The theatre itself is pretty small, much like the Chino theatre I worked at. It seats 100 people. The stage is no extremely wide but it has some depth to it. It is in an old Soviet building so the acoustics are pretty solid. The dressing rooms are literally right off stage. I can't imagine a group of my Chino teens in that dressing room having to stay silent while the show was on. I laughed to myself when I saw it thinking of what a challenge that would be. It is a professional theatre so the actors are paid and the directors are hired on contract from other cities in Moldova as well as Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. The perform in classical Russian style. Gheorge, the director, said he would love to explore some European styles or absurdist, but he is very aware of his audience and according to him, they just 'aren't ready.' He showed us all the posters for their past shows and he showed me a script he is perusing for the next season. It is by a British playwright that I had heard of and he was thrilled that I had heard of his selection. They perform mostly in Romanian, sometimes Russian but never in English. He did express some interest in trying an English performance at some point in the future. They are currently in the process of building a brand new theatre across the park that would seat 200 people and would have a much bigger stage which would allow for bigger productions. He showed us the plans for the new building and he is very excited about the possibilities. This theatre is celebrating its 25th year in existence and they are having an anniversary celebration at the end of the summer that he asked me to be a part of. I told him that I brought some DVD's of some of the shows I had directed and he asked if he could view them and show them to his company. So in a few weeks, a group of Moldovan actors will be watching the Chino Community Teen Theatre's production of 'The Who's Tommy.' Crazy how things work out. He invited me back to the theatre whenever I would like to see a performance or would like to sit in the booth and help backstage or whatever I would like to do. He also asked if I would sit in on rehearsals and watch how they work to see how it differed from the American way of doing things. I was in heaven. The three of us sat around for a while drinking tea and he told us stories about the Soviet times and where the arts fit in to his history and his family and it was just fascinating. I was thinking back to last summer when my program manager told me that she appreciated my skill set but there wasn't a lot of theatre in Moldova that I could apply them to specifically and I laughed. Because a mere 9 months later, the two biggest parts of my day are working acting seminars with University students who are making a film and now working at the local theatre. What a lucky girl!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Easter Weekend

As I tried desperately to explain to my nephew why Easter is a week later over here, I became exhausted and gave up. Still recovering from said exhaustion, I'll just say, it just is. Orthodox Easter is a week later here. Deal with it.
The past few weeks have been actually busy. My partner (when I say my 'partner' I am referring to my Moldovan counterpart. It is not a gay term. Although still 100% supporting gay rights. NOH8!) is really starting to pump out some project ideas as we have deadlines to meet for funding. So currently we are proposing a project to be done in the summer to educate new graduates about social media in the workforce. It's weird to me that now people have to be educated on the dangers of social media. I guess when you're 20 years old you don't think that a photo of yourself doing a keg stand will harm your chances at getting that dream job. ( happy there was no internet when I was in college...) We submitted the project to the US Embassy to apply for funding. So we'll see how that goes.
I am also involved with fellow volunteer, Dylan, and Fulbright Scholar, Erin, in creating an anti-human trafficking festival here in Cahul at the end of May. There are SO many hoops to jump through to get this done. We have been having weekly meetings with local administrators, church leaders and Moldovans to try and organize this and it is a lot of work. It would involve all the local high schools, the University and the 2 colleges all participating. The organization "La Strada" will be coming and giving seminars to each of the aforementioned schools during the week. On the weekend, there will be musical acts, entertainment and information booths about human trafficking all over the city. There are many factors involved in planning this project between egos and money and timing and scheduling, it's insane. But hopefully the planning will be worth it. Working with Dylan and Erin is great. They've become two of my best friends here and I will be greatly saddened to see them leave in June. Also, there's a possibility that I will get to go to a week long conference with my partner in Estonia. (WTF?) I had to google it. But it is across the Baltic Sea South of Finland, West of Russia. I know, it blows my mind too. We would be going in August so the weather should be perfect. I'm really hoping that happens. I can't think of another time in my life I would get to visit that part of the continent.
This weekend was also Easter weekend which is the BIGGEST holiday in Moldova. Since I do not live with a host family, I knew I wouldn't experience the true Easter, but that's okay. It involves going to church from about midnight to five am (I'm already out) followed by a huge masa (feast) all day. But I experienced none of this because for the first time since I've been here, I got sick. Ugh. My roommate, Holly, went to a village to celebrate with her partner (again, Moldovan counterpart) so I had the place to myself which was good because it was like an infirmary in here. Tissues everywhere, empty tablet wrappers, water, tea cups, blech. But, I'm better now. I'd rather get it over with now. Today my sense of smell returned and so did my friends as we all gathered to have a traditional Moldovan Easter lunch. Well, by traditional, I mean we made Fajitas, but at least I could taste them. 
Holly is leaving for vacation on Wednesday to Poland so I'm hoping to get Lyndsey to come visit me so she doesn't go stir crazy in the village up North. I worry about her. The following Monday is Dead People's Easter. I'm not being funny, that's what it literally translates to. It means that everyone goes to the cemetery and sets up a huge masa (feast) at the graves of their loved ones so they can celebrate Easter with them. Yes, it is a National Holiday. My partner was shocked that we have no such thing in the US. It's interesting that we think of a cemetery as such a somber place and they use it as a place where they can still celebrate with loved ones who have passed. All about perspective, I guess.
Two weeks from today, I am flying to London to meet up with my TF girls. Two weeks from this very moment I will be sitting in a pub with my friend, Kathryn. Two week from Thursday night I will be sitting at Ghost, the Musical with my friend Juli. And two weeks from Sunday, I will be toasting champagne in Paris with my friend Jules. What is my life?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

May the odds be ever in your favor...

If I needed more indication that my life is different than it was a year ago, I traveled to another country just to see a movie in a theatre yesterday...I think it's official, life has changed. 
All my roommate wanted for her birthday was to see 'The Hunger Games' in the theatre. We are fortunate that we are very close to the border of Romania and the city of Galați  (guh-lots) is just o n the other side of the border. Holly found a movie theatre in a city just south of Galați called Brăila (Bry-ee-lah) that was showing the movie. When we first mentioned this jaunt, many were interested, but few actually went. However, it was the perfect combination. At first the idea of it sounded a little shady, wake up at 4am, get on a bus, go to a foreign city, take a train to another city, search for a movie theatre, get back to said bus at the perfect time so that the driver will take you back home...and yet, it all went smoothly, down right delightful. There were four of us that went, besides me and Holly, Erin and John also went too. Erin is a Fulbright scholar from New York and she lives in Cahul for the year. She's one of my favorite people although I'd never say that to her face. We all woke up at 5am to meet our private driver, Dimitri who picked us up outside of our apartment. It was still dark out. (I stayed up all night for those wondering how I came to be awake at that hour on a Saturday). The border cross wasn't even 20 minutes away and the border guards thought it was hilarious that this group of Americans was up at 6 in the morning to go see a movie. We were stopped a couple of times since we were coming from Romania and they do stop a lot of vehicles to check for smuggling but the police were very nice to us. Once in Romania we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the Prut River. Our driver, Dimitri, was awesome. Although he was familiar with Galați, he was not as familiar with Brăila but he stopped and asked directions a multitude of times until he found the movie theatre we were looking for. It turned out to be a brand new movie theatre complex called Cinema City inside a new mall. For those of us who haven't seen anything like this in nearly a year, it was pretty damn exciting. We got to the mall at about 9am and the movie didn't start until 11:30 so we had some time to wander and to shop. There was a nice coffee shop to relax in, even an indoor ice skating rink. We got to eat Chinese food for lunch, a rarity and it was delicious. The movie theatre had stadium seating and popcorn and it was just heaven. The movie itself was fantastic. It was a wonderful day. We left John in Galați (not on purpose, he elected to go further south in Romania to do some exploring) and we headed back. We were back in Moldova by 4:00. It was just a wonderful day.
Other than that, I've been working with the film group on their new film. The three guys I work with Vlad, Viktor and Sasha are putting together their new film and I have had the privilege to go to their rehearsals. So when they asked me for some acting techniques, I was like 'wait...I know how to do something.' It's been so long since someone has asked me for something that I actually had knowledge and expertise in. So I gave them some acting exercises and they listened intently and we worked on it and it was awesome. I almost felt normal. I was showing Sasha some vocal warmups and he started singing a little bit and I said 'oh, let me play it for you on the piano.' We had been rehearsing at this cultural center and there was a piano in the room so I sat down and played some scales for him. And then played the piano for a little bit. It was damn near normal! When I think that I haven't done theatre or played music for nearly a year, it's almost mind-boggling. I mean I think I just tune it out (pun intended) for the most part but then when I actually think about it, it's so ridiculous. So now to be in this situation where I can not only participate but also use my own unique skill set, it is insanely gratifying. 
I have 29 days until I leave for my Spring vacation in London and Paris. I cannot WAIT to see my Too Faced girls. I don't know how it went from being 4 months away to less than a month away. April is chock full of stuff to do so I haven a feeling it will continue to fly by. Maybe the odds are ever in my favor.