It’s Been a While

Where do I even begin? So it’s been nearly 3 months since I left Moldova. It’s still surreal. I wish I could find a way to describe every bit of emotion and feeling I’ve had since being back, but I can’t. And even if I could, I don’t think anyone would want to read an endless post. So, I’ll do my best and cover what I think is the most important.

First of all, I want to say thanks to all those people – my people – that made my last week or so in country painless. You all know who you are, and if you don’t I’ll make sure to reach out and let you know. One of my hesitations leaving was all the people I’d be leaving behind. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you probably know how important my new friends were to me. I was afraid to lose them. It’s taking some time, and I’m not fully there yet, but I’m starting to realize that just because we’re not in the same country or on the same continent doesn’t weaken our friendship. Yes, it looks different than it did before but that’s only natural. I love my dear friends in Moldova and wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’m rooting for each and every one of them ♥

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I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my decision to leave. Part of me regrets it. I think about certain days or aspects of the service. I think about the school and students I left behind, partner teachers, host family, community members. There are times, more often than I’d like to admit, that I miss it whole heartedly. I miss walking to school and seeing students run around in the courtyard before the bell. I miss talking in broken Romanian to the teachers before and in between classes. I miss classes and my partner teachers. I miss the feeling that I was a part of something bigger than myself. Then I take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

I remember that most days I came home and cried (alone, on the phone or via Skype). I remember safety incidences that threatened my health and safety. I remember either standing in the back of the classroom occasionally saying a word in English. Or I remember the complete opposite, being left completely alone with a class of students and no lesson plan. I remember my host mother nagging me to: Mânca! Mânca! I remember my host father making “helpful” comments about my body. Ultimately, I remember I can’t romanticize my experience.

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There were good and bad days, moments, weeks. I can’t categorize my experience in a black and white way, no matter how hard I try. The one thing I know, and will always know, is that I am so grateful for the experience – every part.

Re-entry into American life was incredibly difficult, and at times it still is. Everything is so different and frankly overwhelming. I’ll admit I’ve broken down a time or two since being back, but it’s all a part of the process (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). I’m happy to be back with family and friends. I’ve enjoyed going to my younger brother’s basketball games, being able to drive, and so many other things. I don’t think I’m fully readjusted. I know it’s a process.

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My life plans were flipped on their side. It was always: college, Peace Corps, grad school, career. That’s not the timeline anymore. I still plan to travel and go to grad school but the timeline’s different. I’m only slowly starting to put one together. I’m cautiously optimistic.

I wasn’t sure what to do with this blog after I left. For a while I thought about deleting it. I’m not in Moldova, it seemed logical. I’ve changed my mind. Writing here is almost therapeutic. I don’t know how often I’ll write, or even what about but I’m going to keep it for the time being. It should be interesting!

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Journey Home

This post is going to be different than my other posts. As you may have inferred from previous posts or from talking to me (if we do that), I’ve been having a hard time. A combination of factors ranging from my host family life to school to my personal health and safety have left me questioning my role here. In all honesty, I’ve felt this way for a few months. However only recently I decided to act on it. As of last week, I decided to resign from my position as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I’m sure this will come as a shock to many of you. Though I hope you can respect my decision; I did not make it on a whim. I’ve seriously been considering early termination since October. At the time there were a few issues I was dealing with. However I was conflicted. I didn’t want to appear like I was giving up or taking the easy way out. Also, part of me believed that my circumstances/situation would improve. Then in November a few things happened that changed my mind – I was determined to leave.

I write this not to discredit or talk bad about Peace Corps or Moldova, or any combination of the two. In fact, the PC Moldova staff have been incredibly supportive of me during my time here. I absolutely do not regret coming to Moldova. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it again in a heartbeat. In these past 6 months I have learned so much about myself both personally and professionally (not to mention what I learned about Moldova). I have made incredible memories and have met incredible people, some of whom I know I’ll keep.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me, especially in the past two months. To the few people I spoke with whose reactions were positive (e.g. “I’m so glad you’re doing this, I wanted to tell you to come home but I didn’t want to pressure you”), thank you for letting me make this decision on my own. I am confident in my decision in large part because of you. I’ll never be able to thank you enough – particularly my parents. You’ve watched me cry via Skype more times in the past months than I would like.

At the end of the day, I know what I’m doing is right for me. I’ve had amazing experiences and wouldn’t change any of it. I’ll be leaving Moldova and returning to the States at the end of this week. I know a lot of people back home may want to see me right away, but I’m going to ask for some space right now. I need to take some time for myself.

I’m looking forward to what lies ahead!


So relevant right now! (Also, Caleb is Colony House before they were Colony House!)

 

Hello, Old Friend

As you may notice, it’s been over a month since my last post. I chose to not write for a while for a few reasons. I’m not going to go into every detail for a number of reasons. However, I will try to do a brief overview of what’s been going on the past month or so. A lot’s been going on so get ready.

Let me start by saying that my school situation got worse before it got better (and it has gotten better). I was struggling with not doing much at school and not planning well with my partners. I didn’t have a firm presence in the classroom and therefore the students didn’t see me as a teacher (well, most of the students anyway). I tried talking to my partner teachers, but it didn’t seem to do much good. I was discouraged, frustrated, and angry – to say the least.  Then just a few weeks ago something changed. Even now I can’t quite tell you what happened, but things started to get better. I was doing more and connecting more with the students and my partner teachers. This past week was by far the best week of school I’ve had. I was able to connect with some students and even my partner teachers. I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting there.

You know, the neighborhood geese.
You know, the neighborhood geese.

In other news, I was able to visit my dear friend in her village last weekend! It was nice to have a change of scenery and be with someone who speaks fluent English 😉 We walked around her raion center for a few hours and then headed over to her village. It’s quite different (but actually not that different) from where I live – just smaller. We made cookies with her little host sister, which was an experience in itself. We didn’t have any measuring cups or spoons so we were eye-balling it all. In the end, they turned out pretty well. We also ate delicious food, went for a walk around the village, and watched Netflix. I was sad to leave on Sunday, but the time we had was wonderful, and I look forward to more!

This past week I helped one of my partner teachers and the 8th form class organized a Halloween party. Halloween isn’t widely celebrated in Moldova, but a lot of kids like the celebration. The 8th formers were excellent at organizing and taking charge. Really, they’re the best. The petrecere took place at 3 pm this past Friday, and it was a big success. There were games and great decorations courteously of the volunteer before me. Everyone had a great time, including me!

Halloween set up!
Halloween set up!

Also this past week I started tutoring a young, married couple. They approached me two weeks ago and asked if I would be willing to tutor them. They have a basic knowledge of English, which makes it easier for me. They are very eager to learn and I was happy and yet overwhelmed. They would have liked to meet every day, but I could not handle that schedule so we compromised on two days a week. Our first two meetings went well. It’s more of a conversation and learning phrases, rather than grammar rules. It’s what they want, so I’m happy to help.

Well, these few paragraphs don’t even come close to summing up what’s gone on since I last wrote, but they’ll have to do. Until next time!

One of the neighborhood houses
One of the neighborhood houses

 

Colony House released a new music video for one of their songs. Treat yourself and check it out! (seriously, they are the best)

It’s My Birthday

Two weeks of school down! For me, it’s been a whirlwind of nothing. I haven’t had the opportunity to plan with any of my partner teachers. For the most part, I’ve been a voice-box because I am the only person in the school who has perfect English pronunciation. I’m not going to lie, it’s been frustrating because I’m here to co-teach and not just enunciate. I’ve made my concerns known to my project director and my partner teachers. Tomorrow is the beginning of a new school week and I’m hoping it’s going to be better. I understand that my partner teachers’ have a lot of work to do at school and at home, so I’m hoping they start seeing me as a resource.

I know, personally, I can’t do 2 years of just saying vocabulary and reading text. Also, I know it’s not fun for the students. I understand I’m new to the school and my partner teachers are learning to trust me and get to know me; I get that. I’m just frustrated. I don’t like not doing anything, having nothing to contribute. However, the kids are excited, for the most part, and that’s encouraging. I’m just going to try and start the week fresh.

One of the English classrooms.
One of the English classrooms.

As some of you may know, tomorrow is my birthday. It’ll be my first birthday away from friends and family back home – weird to say the least. However, this weekend I was honored with the presence of one of my favorite people in the world – a fellow volunteer in a village about 2 hours south of me. She arrived Saturday around 11 am. I can’t describe how happy I was to see her lovely face. We’ve only been separated for a month but it feels much longer than that.

Bunica scarf and cake!
Bunica scarf and cake!

The day consisted of walking around my village, a little grocery shopping, and lots and lots of talking! We talk frequently on the phone, but seeing someone in-person is a whole other experience. We made our own food for lunch and dinner (yay for feeling like real adults!) and had cake to celebrate my birthday. It was perfect. It was a cool weekend, weather wise, so we were all bundled up, each of us fighting off some type of virus. We drank hot tea with lemon. Perfect ♥

We also watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. If there are any PCVs, or future PCVS, or anyone considering the PC The Hobbit (and Lord of the Rings) is the perfect metaphor for what you’ll go through/are going through. Seriously, any current PCVs out there watch it and tell me it’s not true – I dare you. We’re on this adventure and there are times when I, personally, doubt why I’m here. What am I doing? I don’t feel like I’m contributing at school (yet). I feel weird, but this movie is so on point about everything. Watch it. All three of them. That’s my life and will be my life for the next 2 years.

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My girl and cake ♥

Unfortunately our weekend had to come to an end. Currently, I’m sitting curled up with tea and tissues (toilet paper actually) to fight off the cold I have. I’m thinking of watching the next Hobbit film.

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My birthday gifts from this girl ♥

Seriously, you all are missing out if you’re still unaware of Colony House. YouTube. Do it.

 

Day 1

You may notice this post is not my usual Sunday post. There are two main reasons for that. The first reason is that not much happened. Last week consisted of me hanging out and going for walks, and trying to keep myself busy. I went to school twice and nothing really came of it. The highlight of last week was that it was Moldova’s Independence Day, on the 27th. My host family took me to the center of town where there was speeches, dances, and music. I understood some of it, but it was interesting to watch nonetheless.

The second reason was that I was not feeling too well. Let’s just say my food did not want to do the whole digestive track thing – or it did it too fast, maybe. This was highly inconvenient, having to run to the bathroom every half-hour. On top of being sick, my host family has not been happy with the amount of food I eat. Since coming to Moldova, my appetite has decreased significantly (though, to be honest, I now probably eat a ‘normal’ amount of food). However my host family, especially my host mother, does not like it. She’s constantly telling me to eat and I just can’t eat more than what my stomach can physically hold. Additionally, my host family has had a hard time grasping that I can’t have any dairy products and that I don’t like to eat (a lot of) meat and oil. I can’t tell you how many conversations about food I’ve had with my host family – at least, one a day. It’s come to a point where I’m at my wits’ end. It is exhausting and I don’t know how I’m going to handle that for two years.

Moldovan Independence Day
Moldovan Independence Day

So, those are the reasons why there was no post this past Sunday. And now, today was the first day of school! This is it. It was an interesting experience, not like an American first day at all. Primul Sunet, or First Bell in English, is what the first day is called. At 8:30 this morning, the school year officially began. The new first graders proudly paraded outside and everyone clapped for them. There were speeches by the school director and from administration in the school and from the city.  There was music, and poetry, and the official ringing of the bell.

Everyone was so glammed up, I don’t even try anymore. I will never attain the level of frumos-ness as the Moldovans. But that’s cool because I’m happy with the way I dress. It’s all good.

School
School

School itself was….. interesting. It was a short day; it ended at noon. The first class was the Moldovan equivalent of homeroom. I sat in the back of one of my partner teacher’s classes. They talked about adolescence and puberty and then they transitioned to talking about life goals (all in Romanian of course). While sitting in the back, I met a woman from Denmark who is also living in this town. She’s working with a Christian organization here. She gave me her phone number, we will definitely be in contact in the coming weeks.

The next couple of hours were eventless. One of my partner teacher’s and I were supposed to co-teach a class on American history and culture, but they cancelled it so the students could bring flowers to district administrators. So I sat in the classroom and ‘read’ (I use that term loosely) the 9th form history textbook. Then one of my other partner teacher’s came in and we talked about her English. She told me that she isn’t very confident with her English skills. I reassured her that her skills are great (no lies)! She speaks four languages fluently and she’s worried about missing a word here and there. Seriously incredible.

Flowers from the students!
Flowers from the students!

Well, that was my day. I left soon after that and came home to workout, eat and rest. This school year should be interesting!


 

No shame!

Nothing Much

Greetings! It’s weird to think that I’ve been at site for almost 2 weeks now. In that time, I have not done a whole not but time’s still flying by! My stomach’s been playing games with me this past week, so that’s been fun! My host parents were so concerned that they called the PC doctors before I got a chance. I’m pretty sure my stomach is just adjusting to the new foods and such. I’m being careful.

On my way back from school.

I went to school twice this past week: once on Monday and once on Friday. Monday was a meeting for all English teachers in the district of Rîşcani. Moldovan meetings are quite different than your typical American meeting. In America, we like to promptly start at the given time, finish within an appropriate amount of time (usually…), end the meeting, and then move on with our day. However in Moldova, things are a bit more fluid here. The meeting was supposed to start at 9, but really didn’t start until about 9:30. The composition of the meeting was quite different. People talking over each other and much more lax agenda (and I’ll admit, I had a hard time because I’m accustomed to a completely different way). About half of the meeting was in English and then the other half was in Romanian. I understood some, but I was fighting to pay attention for most of it. All in all, it was an interesting introduction to the administrative side of Moldovan teaching.

Friday morning, at about 8:15 am I received a phone call form one of my partner teachers. She asked if I could come to school at 9 for another meeting. So I hurriedly got ready and made the 20 minute trek to school and made it just in time. Yet the meeting did not start for another 20 minutes, so my red-cheeked, sore-ankle-self hustled to school to be 20 minutes early. This meeting was conducted exclusively in Romanian but was only about 30 minutes long. A room full of about 6 people heard a presentation about national policy and such on teaching. After the meeting, I met with the 3 English teachers and we decided what classes I will be co-teaching. It was exciting because it made teaching more real. So without further ado here the classes I will co-teach for the 2015-2016 school year: 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c, 4b, 4c, 8a, and 9b. Lots of little kids and a few of the older ones! It should make for an interesting first year.

Party prep!
Party prep!

In other news, yesterday was my host mother’s birthday and that means one thing: Party! All of yesterday morning and day was spent preparing food and setting up a table for a masa (massive dinner part of sorts). I got to help by wrapping certain dishes in saran wrap! It’s something though. The party itself was filled with bountiful food, drinks, conversation, and laughs. I did my best to participate in all but fell short (I will never eat enough to please my host family, no alcohol here, and conversation… well, I did my best). I think my host mother had a great birthday. The party went on for hours, but I clocked at around 9 pm – I was exhausted. Though the party went strong until about midnight.

After the excitement of last night, my host family slept-in. Around 11 am, my host mother informed me we were having another masa, but a smaller one. A few more friends came over and again they ate, drank, conversed, and laughed. This evening’s guests were amused by my tattoo (the date 1809, for those of you who are unaware). They wanted to know what it meant, so I got to explain what that date means. Just imagine 7 blank stares when I tell them what my tattoo means. I got a few more questions and one of the women knew Lincoln (so yay!).

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Well, that’s my week in a nutshell! Nothing too exciting. This upcoming week is the last one week of summer vacation for students. I believe I’ll be going to school at some point and planning and such. We’ll see!


Comedy is fantastic. Trevor Noah is great (he’ll take over The Daily Show soon!!!) and this is a great bit.

I’m Official!

As the title not-so-cleverly hints, I am an official Peace Corps Volunteer! The M30 English Education and Health Education trainees swore in on Wednesday August 12th, making us official volunteers. The day before we swore in was a free day. I took the day as time to pack, run to the ATM, and, of course, spend time with my friends. My host family was on vacation so I was alone, other than their bunică who occasionally checked in. I made a simple lunch and had a few friends over. It was incredibly hot, so we ate and talked. What else do you need? Overall, it was a nice way to spend my last day in my training village.

Packed and ready to go the next morning, I was picked up will all of my stuff around 8:15 am. We picked up a few other volunteers and their luggage, and eventually headed in to Chişinău for the ceremony. Nerves and emotions were flying high that morning because we would all be dispersed throughout the country. Now, Moldova is not a large country but not being able to call my best friends and ask them to meet me near the school in 15 will be hard. However, we do have the luxury of smartphones and internet (for the most part), which are things not all PCVs get.

EEs and HEs spread out over Moldova
EEs and HEs spread out over Moldova

The swearing in ceremony was relatively short and to the point. There were speeches by the Moldova Country director, our program directors, the American Ambassador to Moldova, the Minister of Education, and a representative from the Department of Health. After the ceremony, there was a small reception for new PCVs, PC staff, and the people who came to pick us up and transport us to our permanent sites (in most cases it was the school director, in my case it was my new host mother). I filled a plate with some food and then made my way for the balcony, where my friends were congregating – in part to spend as much time together before we would all be separated.

However, the time had come to depart. My host mother was eager to leave and while I was reluctant I had no choice. I hugged all my friends as much as possible. We’ve only known each other for 2 months, but some of us cried like we’d been best friends for years. My host mother commandeered her car and we, along with a neighbor of hers that came into Chişinău with her, loaded my luggage in it and we were off. It was at that moment I started to realize what was actually happening. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, but I forced myself not to cry. I couldn’t handle any more awkwardness.

Swear in craziness!
Swear in craziness!

My host mother was very nice and accommodating on the drive up. My stomach was in knots though. I already missed my friends. Just as I was on the verge of crying, yet again, my host mother turned around from the passenger seat and said enthusiastically: “turism!” (tourism). I smiled and nodded as we pulled off the main road onto a sketchy dirt road in the middle of a forest. There was some talk of a church, but I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Then she started asking me if I was Catholic. After I said no, she repeated the question and again I said no. I was incredibly confused. Plus, I was not dressed for a church. (After swearing in, I changed into more comfortable clothes for the long car ride ahead).

A few minutes later we ended up at a monastery. Immediately, a group of Orthodox monks looked over at us (probably mainly me, athletic shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt are not Orthodox appropriate – especially for a woman). I felt uncomfortable at first, and was reluctant at first, but my host mother assured me it was alright. She led me to a place where I put on a make-shift skirt and a scarf to cover my head. The church itself was stunning and a bit overwhelming. I’ve only ever seen pictures of a church so ornately decorated. We even met the priest (I’m pretty sure that’s who it was. To be honest, I’m still not sure)!

My church garb
My church garb

My next big cultural excursion happened the following day. My host family let me tag along to a funeral. I know, it doesn’t sound super fun but they wanted to show me what a Moldovan funeral looks like – what the traditions are. We travelled maybe 45 minutes north of Rîşcani to the village where my host mother grew up. The person who passed away was an older neighbor. Let me explain what happens at a Moldovan funeral.

First, everyone meets at the house of the deceased person and bring flowers to the family. The body of the deceased person is in a casket, but a fully open one. Then as a large group, everyone proceeds to the church, and the body of the deceased is placed on a flatbed truck and driven in open air. The priest of the church is part of the procession. Upon arriving at the church, the priest and the body enter first and everyone else follows. We were given candles, I’m not sure what they symbolized but the whole church was filled with them. The priest does readings and a chorus of women sing. (Note: this day was extremely hot so my host sister and I stepped out about halfway through). Then after the church aspect, everyone walks over to the cemetery, in the same way we went to the church. At the cemetery, what you would expect to happen happens. The priest says a few more things and then the body is finally covered and put to rest. Then, of course, we had a masa at a nearby hall. Despite the heat, it was a really interesting experience.

Moldovan Cemetery
Moldovan Cemetery

Overall, my first few days here have been overwhelming, but good. My host family is so kind and include me in everything. One of my host sisters, the one who lives at home, is basically my new companion. She includes me everywhere and takes me on walks, and even introduced me to her friends. In other news, my other host sister had a baby boy a few days ago. I’m pretty sure I get to meet him in a day or two. 😉

Tomorrow I get to go to school and attend my first meeting! Things are moving.


 

I’ve included some more photos this post because of the many requests I get about that 😉

 

 


I had a lot of free time the past few days and finished the book Unbroken. I HIGHLY recommend it.  Seriously, if you haven’t read it yet get on it. It’s an easy and interesting read. You may recognized the title from the Angelina Jolie film (trailer below). I have not see the movie, but want to!