On Thursday morning, we gathered up our numerous packed bags (wondering how in the world we had managed to accumulate so much more stuff than what we brought), and said goodbye to our host families. Of course, a proper goodbye in Moldova must include alcohol- at 7:30 in the morning, as I sat eating breakfast, my host bunica (grandmother) got out a bottle of cognac and poured a shot. She said a lovely toast wishing me success, health, and happiness, and then took a shot. She offered me some as well, but I politely declined. We were picked up at our houses and loaded everything onto rutieras (mini-buses) to head to Chisinau to begin the next chapter of our Peace Corps experience. In our PST village, we were divided into three rutieras, which meant there were 5-6 of us per rutiera (which are intended to fit 17-18 people, but can hold up to 40-some). Despite the fact that there were only five of us on our rutiera (the top of the hill folks), it was packed. We drove to Chisinau, where we unloaded all of our belongings and placed them in piles at the side of a building. Peace Corps had someone watching over our stuff, so we could leave our stuff there until it was time to load it into the cars that would take us to our new sites.
Before we could head to our new sites, our host families (at least one representative from each family) had to come to a host family conference. There was a short reception at the beginning, which we attended, then we were free until after lunchtime as our host families were taught all about the Peace Corps, requirements for safety and health, dietary restrictions, and much more. Several of us headed to a coffee shop to hang out, then I grabbed lunch with one of the other EE volunteers. We met our host families in the conference room and filled out and signed our housing contracts with the help of translators, then were released to leave with our host families. My host mother came, along with her 6-year-old granddaughter, Valerica, and we packed into a car that would take us to my new home. It was a very hot, long ride as it was in the 90s, humid, and the car didn’t have AC.
It was a bittersweet day for all of us. Although we’re excited to start our real work in our communities, this also means saying a (temporary) goodbye to all the people that you have spent 8 hours a day with for the past 10 weeks. The Peace Corps staff always stresses that your fellow volunteers become your family. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true. For the past 10 weeks, we have spent countless hours with each other, we have supported each other when things were tough, we have had a blast, we have sang songs loudly during our breaks (I think the locals might think we’re a bit crazy), we have laughed lots, and we have become a family. Even though we’ll see each other again in a couple of months (perhaps sooner depending on where we all are), it was still a hard goodbye, and there were even some tears.
When I arrived at my new site, I was surprised to find my room was quite different than when I had visited. My host family didn’t have all of the furniture the Peace Corps requires, so my host family had bought new furniture for the room- a big wardrobe, some shelves, a dresser, nightstands, and a nice, big (and real!) bed. The room was recently renovated as well and has nice wood floors, big windows on one wall, and everything is very nice and clean. I also have a table and two chairs in one corner to do my work. The house is very nice, but because they are doing renovations, there is no kitchen or bathroom in the house currently. Like most homes in Moldova, there is a summer kitchen, so that’s not a huge deal. There is a small spigot in the house with running water, but currently no sink. The (lack of a) bathroom has been the biggest adjustment so far, especially as it will be awhile before there is one. There’s an outhouse, which is pretty far from the house (and it’s a squat toilet- I’m going to have very nice legs by the end of this!), but no place to bathe. So I have a medium-sized (I’d like to get one that’s a bit bigger- this one is a bit to small) galvanized “tub” (really more like a bucket), a bucket to tote water in, and a small handled pouring cup to bathe with. There’s an electric kettle in the (unfinished) kitchen to heat water up in until it’s boiling, which I then add to the bucket of cold water to get decently warm water. It’s a bit difficult and takes a long time, but at least I’m clean!
My new host family is a couple that are about 60 years old. They are very nice, and respect my need for privacy. There is currently no internet, but once I get my residency card, I’ll be able to secure it. Overall, I’m very happy with my living situation here!