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, June 25, 2013

2 Weeks Notice

2 weeks to go. How did this happen? I can't believe I have been here for 26 months. But now it's almost time to go. And the COS (Close of Service) Process is long and tedious. So here's what I have to do to get out of here:

  • Administratively
    • Final volunteer report to be submitted to Washington D.C. regarding my activities the last 4 months. (We did these quarterly)
    • Site Report - A report about all the resources in Cahul.
    • DOS - Description of Service, a report describing eloquently everything over the past 2 years.
    • Signing of the Fly American Act - Agreeing I will use an American carrier to arrive in the U.S.
    • Signing of the non-indebtedness - From my landlady ensuring I don't owe her anymore money.
    • Signed Post-COS travel itinerary.
    • Returning of PC equipment - Including Britta water filter, yak traks (for snow), fire extinguisher, smoke/CO2 Detector and Security Procedure handbook.
    • Close bank account
    • Close Orange internet/phone account.
    • Interview with CFO - Hannah regarding Policies.
    • Interview with Country Director, Janet.
  • Medically
    • Full physical
    • Blood work
    • Stool sample - yeah...2 days in row, it was awesome.
    • Urine sample
    • Mammogram (because I'm 40)
    • Dental Visit (deferred until PA...because I know people)
    • Explanation of post-service benefits.
    • Clearance card from the WHO,the World Health Organization, not the band :(
    • Record of all immunizations and vaccines
  • Personally
    • Sorting 2 years of crap into piles. 1 - Keeping, 2 - donating/leaving and 3 - Shipping home.
    • Goodbyes to Moldovans including work partner, members of the community and my dearest friends.
    • Cleaning the apartment to Moldovan standards (oy) and getting landlady to sign off on it.
    • Closing out electricity, water, trash and gas bills to the landlady's satisfaction.
    • Taking at least 2-3 trips to Chisinau with luggage and donations and PC property. (3 hours on bus, both ways...NO A/C)
I'm at about 75% done with all this stuff but it has been a long road. We were given the COS 'packet' at the COS conference back in April. Everyone had the best of intentions to leave time to get it all done...but we're all scrambling now. So I have one week left here in Cahul and then I will go to Chisinau for the last week and stay with Lindsay and Conrad and Michael. But if you've talked to me lately (and if you haven't, why not...???) and I seem aloof or distracted (more than usual) this is why. 
Still pretty shell-shocked so let's just let that all settle in...2 freaking weeks!

Friday, June 21, 2013

This is 40.

The dreaded 40th birthday, it happened. I can tell you confidently that when I turned 30, I never dreamed that I would spend this birthday in Eastern Europe, and nonetheless...
I went up to Chisinau to spend the weekend with my best buddies. Since we are in the last few months of service, we are not allowed to leave the country. I decided to treat myself and rented a hotel room for the weekend. A real bed, a real shower, a pool, a robe, a terrace...yes, please. 
I gathered my best buddies together on Saturday evening and we went to a steakhouse. There are few of these establishments in Chisinau so finding one was a feat all in its own, but finding one of this quality?! Sure, I haven't had a steak in over a year, but this was one damn good piece of meat. It was a lovely evening and I was surrounded by really great friends. Jesse was behind the camera so he is not pictured, but he did come through as the MVP for best gift. He found an old Soviet theatre pin in one of the markets. I was truly emotion I'm not familiar with when it comes to Jesse.

Thomas, Jen, Chris and Me

Conrad and Michael

Dahnika and Thomas, everyone's favorite new couple.

Maryam, Holly and Lindsay

Me and John, one of my best buds.

Dahnika and me. She left the following Tuesday. Miss her already.

It was a pretty relaxed evening, but a great one. The rest of the week was pretty busy too but that was definitely my favorite evening. If Rozzi, Jessica, Courtney, Christina, Maria, Erin, Dylan and Jeremy had been there, it would have been the complete circle of my favorite group of Moldova pals. (Truly miss you guys.)

Also got to have a true Moldovan barbecue in the woods with my theatre friends. And when I say a true one, I mean, we were in the middle of a forest and it was awesome! These people are great.

Marinating the chicken with onions, water with gas and herbs.

Building a fire. Don't try this at home, kids.

Smokey the Bear would be horrified.

But it tasted oh so good...

Anyway, 40 came at me with a vengeance. I had to get new glasses which entailed having my eyes dilated. That was fun for someone like me who is naturally clumsy anyway. Had to get a mammogram...those are fun! I wish I could do it every day. (Please note sarcasm). Plus various other medical procedures that, well, nobody needs that much detail. I got poked and prodded by the medical team so that I could begin the process to leave Moldova. It only rivals the application process. 
After a week in Chisinau, I am back in Cahul now and the packing has begun. The apartment is just in piles. Things that I am taking, things I am throwing out/donating and things I am shipping. Subjectively, I'm kind of impressed at how little I have accumulated. I know PCV's who have it much worse. There is still a lot of work to do, but it's okay. 
I will be leaving my beloved Cahul in 2 weeks time and heading to Chisinau for the last week of my service. It doesn't even seem possible and yet time is not on my side here. 
So that was birthday week. When I turned 20, I was home from college working at Woodloch Pines, living in Pennsylvania for the summer. When I turned 30, I was living in Southern California in the middle of directing "Kiss Me Kate" for the local community teen theatre. I am now 40, living in Eastern Europe finishing a service with the Peace Corps. 
So when people say, 'where do you see yourself in 5-10 years' I just laugh. 
I have no fucking idea. 

And THAT is awesome!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

2 Years Down...30 Days to Go!

Yes, I have been in Moldova for 2 years. Isn't that crazy?
Two years ago today, I arrived via plane into this really hot and strange Eastern European country that no one had ever heard of. Two days ago, a group of 50 new people arrived. I didn't go up and greet them this time, but I certainly know what they're going through.
For the first week I was here I kept repeating to myself "what am I doing here" and "what did I get myself in to?" There were many times when I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and go home. And that's all I had to do. All I had to do was walk into the office and say "I want to go home" and they would have me on a plane in 72 hours. It could have been the moment when I stood at the bottom of the hill where I would live for 8 weeks and looked upwards and realized I would have to climb it every day at least twice a day all summer in the hottest weather I had experienced in a long time. Perhaps it could have been the first morning when I woke up and saw that all my cash and my passports were gone. (They were recovered later that day from a fellow volunteer who had accidentally taken the wrong bag...don't worry, I still give him shit about it). It could have been that first week in trying to learn Romanian and realizing just how bad I am in 'school.' (I'm sure it's some form of ADD because I cannot retain things, I just lose interest. And when someone puts a test in front of me, it just escapes me. Sure wish I knew that back in HS.) Or maybe it was sitting in a room of post-grads realizing that they were all going to school or had gone to school for some form of public policy or development and I was way out of my league. But I didn't. I stayed. Why? Because it took almost a year and a half to get here and I wasn't just going to turn around and go home. Mainly because, I had no home. I had no car. I had no job. So I better just give this a shot since it was, at the moment, all I had.
But I'm not saying all this to make myself out to be a hero because I'm so not. I guess I'm just proud of myself for not giving up when they actually do make it pretty easy to do so. Many of the people I arrived with chose that option. I don't judge them for it, they had to do what they had to do. But being one of the 31 people left standing is a big point of pride. 
Am I sad to leave? Not really. I will be sad to say goodbye to Moldovans and a few Americans, but it will be okay. I love the people I have met and the experiences I have had, but it's time to go. 
I'll take this opportunity to answer the same questions I am asked over and over again:

  1. Are you going back to Too Faced? I can't believe how many people have asked me this. I love Too Faced, I love the people there and I loved my time there, but one of the points of coming here is that I wanted to do something different with my life. Going back to the same company and the same job would kind of make this entire 2.5 years moot, no? So no, I'm not going back there. They are some of my best friends there, but my time there is done. I think all of us would agree on that. And I think it would be pretty arrogant of me to think that they are just holding a job for me counting the days until I returned. They are not. And that's okay.
  2. Are you going back to LA? For the time being, yes. I have a great community of friends there and I like living on the West Coast. Plus, the opportunities there are limitless.
  3. Will you be working for the Peace Corps? Possibly. I am going to explore the opportunities they have to offer and if it works out that way, then yes, maybe.
  4. Will you take a job elsewhere? Yes. I love Los Angeles and I would love to live there again, but if I am offered a job in DC or NY or SF or even overseas, then yes, I will take it. 
  5. When are you arriving in the U.S.? August 5th (or 6th), I will arrive in Newark, NJ and spend a few weeks with my family in Pennsylvania as well as visit some friends from college in Philly, Kutztown and NY.
  6. When are you arriving in LA? Hopefully right before or right after Labor Day.
  7. When do you leave Moldova? Tuesday, July 9th, 9:00pm. :)))
  8. Where will you travel? I will be in Ireland and Iceland for approximately a month...unwinding.
  9. Are you worried about coming back to the U.S.? Yes. I am. I have changed. I know time hasn't stood still and the ego in me will find that hard to take, but I'll get over it. I also may go through a period of "these are not problems" when I hear people complaining about trivial things. Sorry about that, I'll do my best to keep it in check. I'm also having trouble speaking English fluently and correctly. I have had a few conversations on Skype with people back home where I cannot remember the English word for things. So that will be interesting. And witnessing the excess and all of the things that we have that we take for granted. I will be relying on other RPCV's  (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) for support in this as they will be the only ones who can relate.
  10. Are you concerned coming back without a job or a place to live? Yes. I have people I can stay with, I have friends who will temporarily employ me but yes, I am concerned. But I'm also ridiculously positive that something will work out. Perhaps this is something I should be more worried about?
  11. Are you excited to eat U.S. food? Hell, yes! However, there's a catch. I've been living for 2 years on a completely organic and unprocessed diet so I have to be careful. I wish I could just arrive and gorge on everything I see, but I can't. So I'll probably be a little snobby about eating organic foods. I am excited to have a big old Italian sub sandwich...but it will kill my stomach for days. 
  12. How have you changed? Not sure. I just have. You tell me. I'm skinnier, so that's cool.
  13. What's the first thing you will do? Hug my Mom...for a while.
  14. Do you regret joining the Peace Corps? Nope. Not for one second.

The welcome sign to Chisinau. I don't know why the photographer didn't feel the need to include the entire word.