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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Long and Winding Road.

And just like that, it was over.
I am sitting in a hotel room looking out at the Dublin airport. Doesn't feel real.
This whole last week was a whirlwind. I was mostly in Chisinau doing the administrative procedures I spoke about in the last posting. But it flew by.
I spent as much time with my Moldovan friends and fellow volunteers as I possibly could. It was actually a lot of fun. The one thing about all the busyness is that it didn't leave me any time to process what was actually happening.
SO here was the last week:

Tuesday 2, July:

I went to Chisinau to go to Site announcements. (Holly and I also took this opportunity to lug our biggest suitcases up to Chisinau so we could prepare them for shipping. This is fun on public transport) This is the big ceremony where the new volunteers are assigned their permanent sites. Holly and I wanted to be there because when we found out we got Cahul 2 years ago, the volunteers that lived there were so nice to us and made us feel welcome and it was great. So we did the same. 2 girls were assigned Cahul, Teo and Kate. Kate is a COD, like me, and Teo is an SED (Small Enterprise Development) volunteer. We chatted with them extensively and it was great. After it was over, we went over to Lindsay's. Conrad's brother was visiting for their last week and we wanted to hang out with them. Kyle is a ginormous human being. He towers 6'6" and is easily the most laid back person I have ever met. He instantly fell into the groove with our group. He has lived in South America for years so he treated us to some chili. It was so pleasant and relaxing.

Wednesday 3, July:

Wednesday was filled with good intentions even if nothing really worked. I went to the bank to being the procedure to close my bank account but the line was super long and I couldn't wait as I had to go back to my training village, Stauceni. I got on the bus with a bunch of other volunteers to travel to Stauceni one last time. We were going to meet some of the new volunteers to tell them what to expect on their upcoming site visit. On the bus ride there, it was very crowded and I somehow 'unfortunately' was surrounded by 5 young men in uniform. It was a tough ride...for reals...
Anyway, got to Stauceni and Jen (Kitsy) and I walked through the streets towards the school reminiscing about our days in training and laughing. It was a good sense of closure. The panel discussion wasn't too long and I did run into my original language teacher, Rodica so it was nice to see her. I had intended on visiting my original host family but they weren't home. Sad. I hope they know how much they meant to me. Jesse and I went out with some of the new volunteers that would be in the South and had a beer with them to answer their questions and such. They are very cool people and I think they will love the South as much as I did. I got back to Lindsay's around 9 and everyone was so tired from the day and the night before that almost everyone passed out before 10.

Thursday...the 4th.

The PLAN was to go have a big barbecue to celebrate our last 4th but Moldova wasn't cooperating. I trekked up to the bank again and was able to shut my bank account down but on the way back to Lindsay's, it was a DOWNPOUR. And it didn't stop for hours. When I got to her house, it was like I had jumped in a pool. Thankfully, I was in a good mood and just found it hilarious. We had to cancel the outdoor barbecue and Conrad and Kyle whipped up some magical blue cheese burgers and we just hung out at their apartment. 

Men prepping the meat, my favorite site.

Kyle indulging.

Not what we planned, but still very pleasant. The boys all decided to make it a full night of celebration and left me and Lindsay by ourselves. That turned out to be the best decision yet. She and I crawled into her bed with a bottle of wine and watched a movie. But mostly, we got some long-needed one-on-one time to just have a long, heart-felt chat. We both needed it and we talked until about 3am when the boys stumbled in. It was great.

Friday, 5-July

I got up early and headed back to Cahul. I had to finish everything at the apartment. I got home and then ran around to everybody to say goodbye. It was SO hot so it wasn't entirely pleasant but I got it all done. I cleaned and packed up my room. I offered to help with the rest but Holly insisted she had 2 weeks to go with nothing to do so she just wanted me to relax. What am I gonna say, no?
Natasha and Sasha came over to hang out for the last time and we sat around the kitchen table and talked again until about 3am. I really love those 2. I think it's going to be very hard on them when we leave. Even though our impact was significant, I think they will miss us.
Sasha and me.

Saturday, 6-July

Another scorcher. Natasha came over with breakfast, homemade doughnuts from her mom. I was going to head to Chisinau early but it was way too hot so we found out when the last bus was and I decided to take that so it would at least be tolerable. Natasha stayed with me all day and then walked me to the bus station. It was an uncharacteristic delightful ride. There was barely anybody on the bus so I could open all the windows and stretch out. There was a light rain but also I could look out the left side of the bus and see the sun setting over the sunflower fields and Romania. I know it sounds like a freaking movie, but that's the way I roll. I arrived to Chisinau about 8:00 and got a taxi to Lindsay's. She was pretty tired so I just set up on the couch and left her alone. The boys stumbled in again at 3am and were very confused that I was sleeping on the couch. I chatted with them for a while. They're pretty funny brothers.

Sunday, 7-July

Sunday I went and met the new volunteers so I could help them get to the bus station and show them how to buy the tickets etc. Then I went into the city to buy some souvenirs and then met my theatre friend, Diana for lunch. That was a hard goodbye. I hate that I met her so late. I really do. She gave me the sweetest gift. 

I headed back to Lindsay's and I helped her basically cook all the food in her refrigerator for the boys to snack on for the last few days. We all crashed again pretty early.

Monday, 8-July

I had to get up early to get to PC to do my final medical clearance interview. Lindsay wanted to ring the COS (Close of Service) bell but Conrad wasn't really interested. Conrad compromised that they could do it if no one else was around. 
He wasn't really taking it seriously...he sprinted out after this photo.

Ran into a lot of volunteers there so it was nice to say goodbye. Went out to lunch with Thomas and John one last time. Have I mentioned how much I love these guys?
Thomas and John
I did a little more souvenir shopping and then got a chance to meet my original program manager, Liliana for some coffee and say goodbye to her. Then I had to head back to PCHQ to do my exit interview with the country director. It went really well. She's a really nice lady and I think she has the ability to do great things.
We all treated ourselves to a hotel for the night so we could get a good night's sleep so we went there and checked in and took a quick dip in the pool.
Thomas, Chris and John. Peace's hard, man...
After that, we all headed to one last dinner at the steakhouse we had gone to for my birthday. It was a great group and a lovely evening.
Kitsy, Chris, Matt, Tom, John, me, Lindsay, Jesse, Holly and Conrad. A great group.

Chris, Lindsay and Conrad all ran a marathon a year ago in Finland. They were toasting to that. 

Victoria, Jesse and Holly...after some wine...
Tuesday, 9-July

The day had come. It has been on my calendar for so long and suddenly there it was. Got up early to have breakfast with the gang and then headed to PC. Dropped all my bags off and Holly and I had to taxi it over to the bank to pick up our forms that our bank account had been closed. Got back in time to say goodbye to Lindsay and the Mapp boys. They were pretty excited. It was a quick goodbye, thankfully because saying goodbye to Lindsay wasn't easy.
Kyle, Lindsay and Conrad...haven't seen Conrad smile that big in a long time.
Even though I told them not to, Sasha and Natasha came up from Cahul to hang out for the day. They are too sweet so we took them to lunch. They hung out at PCHQ for the day while I ran around finishing everything up. Finally...I got the stamp. I was done and I went outside to ring the damn bell with Kitsy, Thomas and Brittany.


I was told to give a speech...I may have said inappropriate things...

Thomas, Me, Kitsy and Brittany

My Cahul family: Holly, Natasha, me and Sasha.
And that was it. We walked over to get a drink while we waited and said goodbye to Thomas and Brittany. Then Kitsy and Chris left...then it was time to go to the airport.

Victoria, Natasha, Jesse, me, Holly and Sasha.
I was minorly panicked as I had left my Visa copy at the PCHQ and there were a LOT of phone calls by security to verify I was there legally. I was pretty afraid they weren't going to let me on the plane, but it all worked out. So I hugged all my best buddies and headed through security.
I got on the plane and sat down and we took off.
As soon as the wheels were in the air, the tears came. I think over the past stressful weeks that moment was what I was waiting for, being in the air with nothing else to do and I had made it and I just released. There was an Irish woman sitting next to me in her 60's. She looked at me and asked if everything was okay. I told her that I had lived here for 2 years and now I was leaving. And she said "Oh honey, you'll never really leave." Yeah...that sure helped the crying stopped. So this lovely woman held my hand and let me cry. And I was off to Ireland.

And now here I am. Waking up in Dublin. Not really sure where I am or how I feel or how to act. Just in going to breakfast this morning, I could tell things were different. I asked permission to do everything, I answered questions in Russian, I giggled happily when the lady asked if I wanted more coffee for no charge, I couldn't fit the large Euro bills in my wallet, I ordered way too much bacon...I could go on.
I will say, it's nice to be in a country where I never have to spell my last name for people. :)

I don't think I'm ready for reflection yet but I'm going to give it some time so stay tuned. Just going to focus on my day ahead. Taking off to Belfast on a bus. It's unseasonably hot here (awesome) so I'm starting to worry about my lack of shorts that I brought in my small backpack. 
Electronics are all charged, backpack is packed, I unfortunately have to put my pants on to get on the bus (sigh) but other than that, ready to go.

See you soon.

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