Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. -Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I don’t usually talk about politics on here. But, as you probably know, the US elections were this past Tuesday. I know people from the other side of the election don’t understand, but Wednesday was actually one of the hardest days of my life. I was devastated. Not because my candidate didn’t win, but because I feel like America voted for all of the values that I don’t believe in and against all of the things I stand for. That they voted for racism, for sexism, for rape culture, against immigrants, against LGBTQ people and rights, against female reproductive rights, against blacks and Hispanics and Muslims. As a Peace Corps Volunteers, we fight for equality, we fight for diversity, we fight for love and peace. On Wednesday, it was hard to see how we were supposed to continue to share our “American” values with our host countries when we aren’t sure exactly what “American” values are anymore.
On Wednesday, my English Education volunteer group was in Chisinau for a week of our In-Service Training. When we woke up at 7 AM Moldovan time, the election results were not yet official, but it was pretty clear who would win. We dragged ourselves out of bed and hauled ourselves to our training center, where it was immediately clear we were unfocused and upset. The Moldovan Peace Corps staff member that was presenting the first session charged forward, but didn’t force us to work in groups or talk really at all when it became apparent we weren’t willing to do so. It was in the middle of this session that the final result came in. As we learned about it, some volunteers left the room for a minute, others cried in their seats, and we all collectively were in shock.
While I can talk for days about why I am unhappy about the results, I want to focus on the support and love we were given that day. Our Moldovan staff members were incredibly understanding and supportive. We were given extended breaks and a much extended lunch break so that we (the volunteers) could just sit together and process things. One Moldovan staff member, who has lived in the United States as well, said something that was truly remarkable. She talked about how she had never once seen a Moldovan cry over the results of a presidential election. She said that she was awestruck because she was realizing that we were so passionate about our country and so confident that we, as citizens, could actually affect change in our country. That we were so proud to be Americans that we were actually heart-broken about the results. That we truly believed in our country. She said that in Moldova, this response seemed so unusual because many Moldovans don’t believe their vote truly counts. That many Moldovans don’t believe in the system and don’t believe things can change based on their vote. That our tears were actually a beautiful thing, because it shows that we do believe we have the power to change our country and our world.
I think that Wednesday was also a defining moment in the service of each and every volunteer that was in that room. We cried together, we hugged each other, we sat in silence with each other. We talked about our fears and our hopes. I don’t think that at any other point in my life I have felt so fully supported. Many volunteers questioned whether they should go home, that perhaps that right now in this moment in US history, they might be more useful fighting the fight at home. Others were glad to be and stay in Moldova. The staff reminded us that this is exactly why we’re here. That we’re here to promote peace and friendship and tolerance and acceptance. That we need to do this now even more than before. That we don’t want the media that makes it here to be the only view Moldovans have of the United States and Americans.
And, we ordered a huge order of MacDonald’s food for all of the volunteers and ate it together sitting together in the Peace Corps lounge (they deliver here!) while figuring out what this all means for our country, for our lives, and for our service here in Moldova. It may have been a very difficult day, but in many ways it was also a really beautiful day.