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'