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, 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.