Last 100 Days, Days 75-71

As I’ve mentioned, I’m sharing a photo and a look back on my favorite memories in moments in Moldova for each of my last 100 days here.  I’m counting down, so here are days 75-71.  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 75: Each October, Ziua Profesorului (Teacher’s Day) is celebrated with special celebrations. For my first Teacher’s Day, I traveled with the other teachers from my school to our district center for a concert. It was the first time I got to see the dance ensemble, made up of students from my school, perform- they are very talented! The next day, we had a large meal at the school to continue the celebration. (October 2016)
Day 74: In the center of Moldova’s capital city, Chisinau, there is a pretty park called Cathedral Park due to the church in the center. One fall day, I walked by as the leaves were changing color- it was gorgeous! (November 2016)
Day 73: One of the hardest parts of being abroad is missing out on American holidays and celebrations. For my first Thanksgiving abroad, I joined a group of volunteers in the town of Ungheni, located in the north-west of the country. We made and ate traditional Thanksgiving foods (with a twist) and enjoyed the company of one another! (November 2016)
Day 72: Moldova is beautiful in the summer and warmer months, but it can also be beautiful in cold, snowy weather. I spent an afternoon walking around central Chisinau one winter day, delighting in thick snowflakes falling down and the silence that snow always seems to bring. (December 2016)
Day 71: I had a fun time attending a yoga retreat hosted by some fellow volunteers in the town of Criuleni (slightly north-east of Chisinau). In addition to yoga and delicious food, I also got my first view of the Nistru river and enjoyed spending time with other volunteers. (December 2016)

Eu Iubesc Moldova! | I Love Moldova!

Earlier today I watched a short video an American who has traveled to every country in the world. The video included a picture and a short anecdote about each of the countries. It was an interesting peek into the various parts of the world. And then Moldova came up on the list…and I was so disappointed. There was a picture of a man ice fishing and the traveler simply said, “Very cold.” That’s it.

Why did this make me feel disappointed? I truly believe Moldova is a beautiful country, and although my time here has not been without its challenges, I’ve really loved the opportunity to live here for two years. If I could edit the video I watched this morning, I would say something like this: “It’s a beautiful country with sunflower fields stretching as far as the eye can see, and incredibly welcoming, wonderful people”. I would also recommend that this traveler return during the warmer months.

Winter is long and cold here, and while there are some snowy days with everything coated in a fresh layer of white snow that are really beautiful, Moldova presents its best self during the warmer months. In the past few weeks, Moldova has emerged fully from spring and begun to bloom. The grass is a vibrant green and daffodils and tulips are sprouting up in gardens throughout my village. The plentiful fruit trees are full of delicate white and pink blooms. Baby goats and lambs frolic in the fields. Garden plots have been plowed and planting has begun, showing the deep, nutrient soil. The birds are singing and the children can be heard outside laughing as they play.

Soon, summer will come, and those fields will be turned into various shades of green, tan, and yellow as the corn, wheat, and sunflowers grow. The days will be consistently hot, and the days will become a bit more lazy as people must take breaks at the hottest period of each day. Fresh juicy fruits and vegetables will fill the outdoor markets in every village, town, and city. The smell of barbecues will fill the air. Flowers of every kind will grow along fences and in front gardens.

I, for one, am very happy the warmer months have returned and with them, Moldova’s true beauty. So, if you’ve ever considered visiting Moldova, you might just be (pleasantly) surprised! Just maybe plan your trip for the spring or summer!

*See my posts about places to visit in Moldova here.

Last 100 Days, Days 80-76

As I’ve mentioned, I’m sharing a photo and a look back on my favorite memories in moments in Moldova for each of my last 100 days here.  I’m counting down, so here are days 80-76.  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 80: One of the things I first fell in love with at my new house was all of the gorgeous flowers in our courtyard and garden! My host mom often cuts the fresh flowers and puts them in a vase in my room, which makes me really happy! (August 2016)
Day 79: When I first moved to my permanent site, my host family was building a bathroom. In addition to bucket bathing for the first six or so months, this also meant that we didn’t have an indoor toilet. I quickly got used to using an outdoor squat toilet- they aren’t all that bad to be honest. (August 2016)
Day 78: The first day of school falls on September 1st in Moldova. The school year starts off with a special holiday called “Primul Sunet”, or First Bell. This was my first day of school here in Moldova, and I really love how they make the first day of school a special celebration. After the ceremony, I joined one of my partner’s homeroom class and met some of my students for the first time. (September 2016)
Day 77: Moldova is known for it’s wine, and each October, the country celebrates Wine Day. The central road in the capital is blocked off for a block, and various wine vendors set up booths serving wine and other foods. It’s a fun celebration and well-attended each year. (October 2016)
Day 76: Most Moldovan families raise various birds (geese, ducks, chickens, etc.) and other domestic animals, and my host family is no exception. As a result, the food is very fresh and often straight from the back yard. Unfortunately, my host family’s (old and large) rooster decided early on that he didn’t like me and constantly tried to attack me each time I walked to the outhouse. One day, my host mom got angry and tied the rooster up as punishment. It didn’t help much, but it did make us all laugh! (October 2016)

Last 100 Days, Days 85-81

As I’ve mentioned, I’m sharing a photo and a look back on my favorite memories in moments in Moldova for each of my last 100 days here.  I’m counting down, so here are days 85-81.  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 85: To wrap up everything we learned during Pre-Service Training, our last two weeks were “Practice School”. We taught real lessons to real students and received feedback. The second week, one of our partners from the schools we were placed in across the country came and taught with us. It was nice to start working with our partners and exciting to finally put everything we had learned to use. (August 2016)
Day 84: After practice school, we had a couple of final sessions, and then we were sent off to our permanent sites. During our last Romanian lesson, we talked about the things we would leave behind in Costesti and the things we would take with us. On our last day, we boarded several vans with all of our luggage and headed to the capital, where our host families picked us up and took us to our new homes. It was a bittersweet day. (August 2016)
Day 83: After arriving at my permanent site, I had to learn how to bucket bathe, as my host family was building a new indoor bathroom. It was a new experience, but I got the hang of it fairly quickly! (August 2016)
Day 82: When I moved to my site, my 6-year-old host niece was visiting my host parents for a couple of weeks. She quickly became my best friend and helped me quickly learn Romanian. We played together, colored together, and even worked in the garden together! She lives several hours away, but we get to talk on the phone every once in a while and visits during school breaks. (August 2016)
Day 81: During one of my first weeks in my village, I got to experience my first gorgeous Festelita sunset, over the thatched roof of our neighbor’s house. (August 2016)

Best Friends

Me with my host niece and best friend, Valerica, last spring

Life as a Peace Corps volunteer challenges a lot of notions we have about how life should be.  One example: my best friend in Moldova for the past two years? She just turned 8 yesterday. A lot of other volunteers’ best friends in Moldova are also much younger or much older. In a lot of Moldovan villages and even larger towns, there aren’t a lot of younger adults, since many of them are working and living abroad. Since the majority of volunteers are in their 20s (though there are also others in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s!), this means that most of us have friends that are either kids or significantly older than us.

For many of us, some of our first friends at site are kids. Why? Kids don’t see the barriers that many adults might- they are open, friendly, and don’t care how well we speak their language. Play, whether tag or hide-and-seek, is an international language. Kids are also patient and naturally helpful. And so many of the first relationships volunteers develop with locals are with kids.

In my case, my best (and first) friend at site is my now-8-year-old host niece Valerica. She was six when we first met, on the day I moved to my village. She came to pick me up from the capital with my host mom (her grandma).

When we arrived in my village, she took my hand and said, “Let’s play!”. My host mom often tells others about how she was so nervous when I first moved in, saying “I thought she [me] would be so bored and lonely. And she only spoke a bit of Romanian! But Valerica just started playing with her, and it wasn’t a problem at all!”

She doesn’t live in my village, but visits during the school breaks and spent much of last summer here. She is cute, funny, smart, energetic, and loves to spend every minute with me. One of her favorite activities is to pretend to be a fotomodel or model and have me be her photographer. I usually indulge her.

I will miss her so much when I leave, but I hope she’s old enough that she will remember me. And I hope that someday she can come visit me in the United States!