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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Oh Peace Corps, you and your acronyms, I so will miss you. What is Coscon? It is another way of saying COS (Close of Service) Conference. Yes, it was time to gather us all together one last time and tell us all of the stuff we need to do to get out of here. And it was a doozy!
So,'s been on my calendar for about a year now. It's been no secret that 2013 has already had its share of challenges. I have gone back and forth between dreading and looking forward to the COS Conference. I mean yes, I would get to see all the original M26's one last time and we would be away from everyone else in a secluded location in Moldova with no supervision but also there was nowhere to hide and I would have to be in rooms with people I had basically written off. As usual, I created 1000 scenarios in my head not knowing in reality what it was going to be like.
So I arrived at the Peace Corps Headquarters in the center of Chisinau and met up with all my 'classmates'. We all piled onto a fancy bus and they shipped us off to a secluded 'resort' called Vada Lui Voda. (It pretty much sounds like it looks). It was SO quiet and so green and no I wasn't high. We had the place entirely to ourselves. We all checked into our rooms, ate lunch and walked around to enjoy the solitude. The afternoon began with some 'sessions' like the ones I had hated back in PST (Pre-service training) where the administrative staff encourages us to share and write on flipchart paper. The problem is, we're not in PST anymore and we're not all strangers, so this evolves into a lot of inside jokes and private and side conversations. I never realized JUST how much side conversations annoy me and I again long for my mother's ability to just stare down the room until they are silent. We got through the afternoon. We had a dinner, the food was okay but my dear friend, Chris had thought ahead and brought a lot of meat as well as his grill. And the barbecue was on. There we were a mere two years later, all sitting around like we were old friends. Where had the time gone? I know it's cliche, but seriously, how did this happen? 
We learned that 64 people were invited to serve in the M26 group in Moldova. 55 arrived here. And guess how many of us were at the COS Conference? 32!!! Yes. I was one of an elite group that had survived. So I looked around at these people. There were a bunch of them I really didn't know, there were a few that I genuinely didn't like, there were a few who I adored and there were a few who I honestly can't remember life without them. But one thing we all had in common was that we were all still here. It just made me smile, it was so weird. I never finish anything. I get bored so easily and I was one of 32 people who had finished this. Crazy.
After a good night's sleep, we had to report in the morning at 7am for breakfast. (Ugh!) Then a full day of 'sessions.' Some were interesting, surprisingly and some could have been summed up in a quick email. I decided to combat my boredom and ADD with movie making. My friend, Dahnika, lent me her video camera so I spent my day shooting footage of people to compile into a movie at a later date. (Coming soon).
At the end of the day, we had a 'roast.' We had all previously drawn each other's name at random (supposedly) and had to sit in a 'hot seat' while a fellow volunteer 'roasted' us for 2 minutes. Most of the education volunteers were sentimental and wound up crying. Our group was total dicks to each other...and that's all right. It's how we roll. After dinner, everyone was heading down to hang out by the river. I saw it as an opportunity for some alone time. I went to the room and showered and sat on a swing outside my room and read for a while. It was a good moment. People started filtering back in after dark. I hung out with a few people for a while but still made it an early night. The next morning it was another early one as we were filled with information about post service insurance, readjustment allowance, post-service traveling, job workshops and in the midst of all that we had our language skills tested one last time. It was a lot of information. I've never been more grateful for my Starbucks Vias and my Dunkin' Donuts tumbler that keeps my coffee hot. (Thanks again, Mom). 
As the day came to a close, they threw us a big celebratory lunch with lots of meat and well, who am I kidding, there was a lot of meat. We packed up our stuff and waited for the bus. And I was sitting in this outdoor amphitheatre waiting for the bus with my three friends, Dahnika, Jen and Lindsay. When I arrived at PST, I thought Dahnika was this snotty little girl who had no time for anyone but herself and her bitchy best friend, Lindsay was this athletic, blonde, gorgeous, super positive motivated girl who I was determined to hate and Jen (Kitsy) was this super nerdy, studious serious student who had no desire to socialize or have fun and got under my skin at every turn. And now...they were three of my best friends that i have made here. So strange how things change.
We piled on the bus and it was done. The last time we would all be together. We all leave in July on separate days so we definitely won't be a big group again and it's probable that I won't see the majority of them. And that was that. 
So I, of course, was thinking about to my arrival here back in June, 2011. It was an all night flight. When I got off the plane it was hot as balls without A/C in site. I was tired, I was way fatter so I was SUPER hot, I was dressed in 'business casual' because things like that mattered back then, I was surrounded by strangers. When I got to my village, I was shoved into a house with strangers who spoke no English, didn't know what food I liked and they lived at the top of a steep, steep hill that I had to walk up every day. When I got into 'my room' I had discovered my passport and all of my money was gone. I fell asleep and hoped it was all a dream. When I woke up, I almost didn't get out of bed. I honestly don't know why I did. But I did. How did I do that? Why?
So 2 years later, I am 85 pounds lighter, I now speak 3 languages, the lessons I've learned are way too valuable to merely be written and the things I have to look forward to are immeasurable. As I sit here under this pile of paperwork that I have to complete in the next 75 days, there are no regrets. 
The surviving M26's

The COD Group July, 2011
Jen, Lindsay, Andrea, Maria, Tom, Christina, Me, Jessica, Jamie
Conrad, Michael, Courtney, Jesse and Rozzi (not pictured...she was chasing a butterfly or something...)

The COD Group, April, 2013
Jen, Me, Lindsay, Violeta (our Program Manager), Michael, Conrad, Tom and Jesse
Movie, coming soon! :)))

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Oh that's right, I'm a grown up...

Being constantly surrounded by post-grads, I tend to forget that. But I was incredibly fortunate on Saturday night to be invited to dinner at the Deputy British Ambassador's home. My friend, Lindsay, is friends with her and I tagged along to a dinner party. An actual, grown up dinner party. There were matching dishes, actual wine glasses, courses, classical music, it was very unsettling. And by unsettling, I mean amazing. I really miss this. I miss this whole scenario. It was so nice to have an evening not talking about where to go to Grad school, or maybe having to move back in with your parents or people constantly trying to prove that they are the smartest in the room and that their degrees aren't worthless. All those topics that I have become accustomed to and able to tune out as I can't relate or care less about them. I was at a dinner party with people who were successful in their careers, who wanted to talk about world politics and world issues, not in a challenging way as if to say "I know more than you" but an actual exchange of opinions. It was refreshing and exhilarating  We danced, we sang along to 80's songs, we laughed, talk about a much needed reminder of what I am and what I want. Exhale.
Lindsay and I.

Lindsay and I and our friend, John, from Scotland.

John and I enjoying the dance floor.

We are REALLY good dancers.

Me and my friend, Bill, from um...yeah I don't remember.

Monday, April 8, 2013

90 days

Can you believe it? I am down to 90 days. Here are 90 things on my mind:

30 Things I will miss:

  1. Sasha
  2. Certain volunteers...not all of them.
  3. Randomly being asked to pose for photos like a celebrity.
  4. Pizza for $5
  5. Stocked medical kit/free medical care.
  6. Borscht
  7. Bitching in English knowing no one around you can understand you. (That may get me in trouble at some point)
  8. Sour Cream on Everything!
  9. Fresh vegetable markets. (I know...)
  10. A completely un-'processed' diet.
  11. 25 hour work weeks.
  12. Cursing in Russian...although that may continue.
  13. Mamaliga.
  14. Bus rides for a quarter. ($0.25)
  15. Dead People's Easter. 
  16. Farm fresh eggs.
  17. Adjika
  18. Mamma Mia (The restaurant and also the people from 'Wednesdays.')
  19. The 'slow clap' to stop people from talking.
  20. The inner circle.
  21. Socially acceptable to wear the same outfit 3 weeks in a row.
  22. Socially acceptable to showering once a week.
  23. My hairdresser. :(
  24. Random people saying "hello" because they hear me speaking English.
  25. The Kebab House.
  26. Arguing about 'the current.'
  27. People staring at my shoes wondering what I'm thinking. (They are converse...)
  28. Tucano Coffee.
  29. Weekend trips to Romania or the Ukraine.
  30. Being reminded every day to be grateful for where I had the privilege to grow up.

30 Things I'm excited to see on my post-service trip:
  1. Victor!
  2. Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria.
  3. Reuniting with a HS friend in Munich, Germany.
  4. Revisiting Paris for a second time in a year.
  5. The Dewar's factory in Scotland as I know my Dad would love that.
  6. Fulfilling my promise to myself to go back to London and see another show at the Globe within a year.
  7. Jameson and Guinness factories in Dublin.
  8. Seeing where 'The Quiet Man' was filmed in Cong, Ireland.
  9. Visiting Liverpool, England and see where The Beatles originated.
  10. The White Cliffs of Dover.
  11. Seeing Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg, Austria.
  12. Swimming in the English Channel off the North Coast of France.
  13. The Cliffs of Moher on the West Coast of Ireland.
  14. Laduree Macarons.
  15. Having a beer at McHughs Pub in Belfast.
  16. Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
  17. Seeing where my Irish ancestors originated in County Mayo, Ireland.
  18. A trip back to the Meat burgers in London!
  19. Visiting the Titanic museum in Belfast and seeing where it sailed.
  20. Taking a train ride through the countrysides of Germany and France.
  21. The Book of Mormon in London!
  22. Spinning on top of a mountain in Austria...oh you bet your ass, I will.
  23. Aligot - French Mashed potatoes. Google it...
  24. Standing in the Trinity College library in Dublin.
  25. Hot crepes in Paris.
  26. Green...everything is so GREEN!
  27. Exploring castles in both Ireland and Scotland.
  28. Avoiding 'weeping angels'. (Doctor Who shout out)
  29. Borough Market, London.
  30. Boarding that plane...destination: U.S.A.!!!

30 Things in the US I cannot wait for:
  1. I could dedicate an entire list to food, but just to name a few; Cheesesteaks, sandwiches, cheese, bacon, breakfast foods, steak, burgers, Chipotle, maple syrup, Thai food, sushi...I gotta stop my mouth is watering.
  2. Pedicures (Get ready Jena...Haley...Mom...Jill...)
  3. Drive-Throughs
  4. Driving!
  5. Baseball games.
  6. Sleeping on a mattress.
  7. Water pressure/hot water/lit bathrooms.
  8. Bottomless coffee.
  9. Washers and dryers.
  10. Cold cuts.
  11. Magazines...actual, tangible periodicals.
  12. Movie theatres.
  13. Concerts.
  14. Game nights.
  15. Disneyland.
  16. Fountain drinks.
  17. Remote controls.
  18. Shampoo selections.
  19. Department stores.
  20. Online Bill pay.
  21. Live theatre starring my friends.
  22. Target.
  23. Smartphones.
  24. Meals at Nana's Pasta House.
  25. Oscar parties.
  26. In-n-Out!!!
  27. Vacuum cleaners.
  28. Homemade pastries.
  29. Huge hugs from family and friends. 2 years worth.
  30. Trying to remember every day what a privilege it is to grow up where I did.
90 days...and counting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

до свидания, Ukraine.

Yes, the inevitable 'lasts' are starting. This past weekend was my last trip to Odessa. I can't believe I have now visited there 4 times. Never would I have thought I would spend so much time in the Ukraine which up until this experience had just been a major conquest in a heated game of Risk, but I have grown to love that country. True it is huge and I saw barely a speck of it, but it is great. I have visited Odessa at various times of the year and it has always been great. This time it was a quick turnaround trip for my roommate, Holly's birthday. But we all know what it was really about, food. That's what all vacations are about. We lovingly called it our day of 'sushi and dudes.' Holly, me and our friends Natasha and Dahnika left on a midnight bus out of Moldova. It is about a 4 hour ride to the Ukraine border, there is always some time spent there especially when there are Americans involved, and then another hour into the city of Odessa. We got into town just as dawn was breaking. The driver was pretty crazy and the ride itself turned into somewhat of an amusement ride. Thankfully we were all a little too tired to worry.
When we arrived there was NOTHING open so at 6:00am we were forced to walk around the city for a while. Not ideal, but thankfully the weather had warmed up just enough to not make it uncomfortable. We were basically just looking for some place to sit and have coffee. The only place we found to sit was in the train station and you had to pay to sit there. Ugh. Finally at around 8, places started to open. When I had visited last year with John and Jeremy, we had discovered this delightful restaurant called "Kompot." We found it and I assured my traveling companions that they would not be disappointed. I was correct. I got a giant homemade croissant covered in bacon, cheese lettuce, tomato and a garlic aioli dressing that all melted in my mouth. I can't remember the last time I had a fresh sandwich. It was served with a steaming glass of hot cocoa. It was seriously the best thing I have eaten in a very long time. Completely satisfied, we walked over to our hostel which was just around the corner. We had all (at different times) stayed there before so when 'Shekhar' opened the door to let us in, his face lit up as he was happy to see us. The hostel is owned by an American named John, who married a Ukrainian named Masha. Shekhar and two other students run the hostel in exchange for living there while they attend medical school. Shekhar is from Agra, India and speaks 6 languages. And he's adorable. We couldn't technically 'check in' until 2, and it was now 9am, but he saw we were tired and since our beds were free, he let us nap. It was just what we needed. We woke up by 1:00 and were ready for the day. He recommended a good Indian food place in town. I had never had Indian food and neither had Natasha, but Holly really wanted it so we went. Good LORD I don't think I have ever experienced such flavor. It was amazing. I couldn't even tell you what the hell we ordered but it was amazing and I will most definitely be exploring this ethnicity of food again in my future. 
It had started to rain which was unfortunate. We ducked into a coffee shop and had some coffee until the rain stopped. From there we walked around the historic district, shopped, took some photos, people watched, just relaxed.
As it headed toward evening, we found an Irish Pub to relax at for a bit until we were ready for dinner. Seriously, this trip was all about eating. Next door was the sushi restaurant I had been at twice before. I was very excited. And it didn't disappoint. We were so, so happy at such a successful day of eating and relaxing.
4 satisfied girls - Me, Natasha, Holly and Dahnika
There were a group of students at the next table who heard us speaking English. They too were medical students and were so delighted to speak English as they were used to speaking Russian all the time. We spoke to them for a while but we were all pretty exhausted. The best part of the evening was our waiter кириелле. (Kee-ree-yell). He was beautiful and he enjoyed us. He asked us to please come back. Oh, how I wish we could, кириелле.

Me and кириелле. 
We had planned to go out to Karaoke but in reality, we were all just really wiped. We went back to the hostel and our host, Shekhar and the other guy who worked there were still up so we hung out with them for a while before we all crashed. 
Unfortunately, this was the night of Daylight Savings in Eastern Europe so we lost an hour of sleep. We woke up later than planned as we did want to get back to Kompot for one final delicious croissandwich. We quickly packed and got ready and said our goodbyes to Shekhar and the glorious hostel that is the Babushka Grand. (Seriously, the best hostel I have ever stayed at.) We got to Kompot just in time and enjoyed our breakfast. 
From there we walked to the bus station but had a few more hours to kill before our bus left. The weather was absolutely beautiful (finally) so we could walk around without coats on. We found a coffee shop and had some dessert while we waited. 
The bus ride back was simple and it was so nice out so I could see the scenery. Started to feel a cold coming on which is so rare to me that it worried me. 
And now, it's the full-blown flu. Blech! All is well though. Only 95 more days to go. But who's counting?