Today marks six months in Moldova. I know it’s cliche, but it’s really, truly hard to believe that I have already been in this beautiful country for six months, for one half of a year. I remember sitting on the plane as it took off from JFK airport and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this!”. I was excited and nervous and had no idea what was to come. Here’s a recap of my first half year in Moldova.
Month 1: June.
We landed in Moldova and were greeted by Peace Corps staff and volunteers at the airport. We then spent 2 days in Chisinau getting adjusted, then moved to our pre-service training sites. I got my first bee sting while waiting to be taken to meet my host family, and broke out the med kit for the first time. We met our host families, got settled into our new rooms, and used the four or five rehearsed Romanian sentences we had learned. Over the next month, we spent our mornings learning Romanian and our afternoons doing technical trainings. We gained new friends, sweated more than we ever had before in our lives, and struggled through long days of training. We figured out the public transportation system and got more or less used to rutieras. I use my first outhouse, and then my first public squat toilet (ew!). I attended my first Moldovan wedding. We visited three gorgeous monasteries. We also visited the National Museum of Natural History and Ethnography. We attended several hub sites, where we learned about health and security and received our rabies vaccines. At the end of the month, we had our site announcements, when we found out where we would live for our two years of service!
Month 2: July.
We had our Site Team Conferences (with our school directors) and visited our sites for the first time. I fell in love with Festelita and visited a nearby monastery. We drew monsters in class, I spent a lot of time with my host brothers, and I laughed with my host mom about elephant green tea. I visited Festelita again to meet my new host family. I cut my hair, celebrated another volunteer’s birthday, and played with our kittens. We began practice school, and we had our swearing in ceremony, officially becoming Peace Corps Volunteers.
Month 3: August.
We completed practice school and had a mini-carnival to celebrate. I helped my brother harvest onions, went to the Chisinau zoo with my host family, taught my host mom how to play Uno, and learned to laugh at a number of small mishaps (my host family’s kitten falling into the outhouse hole, the same kitten getting in a fight and injuring his paw, and my host mom backing the car into the garage staircase). We had our final language class (and tried not to cry). Our language instructor, Galina wrote us poems and we had a crash course on Moldovan history. I packed my bags and had one last celebration with my training host family. We loaded up all our belongings and moved to our permanent sites to start our next chapter. I spent many days in the school’s library and attended a school open house. I adjusted to village life, got to know my new host family, and started taking bucket baths. I also read over ten books in two weeks and celebrated Moldova’s Independence Day in Chisinau.
Month 4: September.
We had the first day of school, and I began teaching English. I took a surprise day trip up north for my host niece’s baptism. I continued to adjust to life in Moldova and in my village. I experienced an earthquake, read many more books, and spent many hours alone. I also spent each evening talking to my host mom after dinner.
Month 5: October.
I went to Chisinau for a Tech4Dev meeting and ATIP Auction and attended the National Day of Wine while there. I went to my raion center for the first time, watched my students do traditional dances, and celebrated National Teacher’s Day. I continued to teach English at school, and still had lots of free time. I made another trip to Chisinau and spent time with my host mom’s sisters and daughters, as well as attended a luncheon at the Ambassador’s residence. My host family continued to work on the kitchen and bathroom renovations, and I was attacked by our rooster several times. I spent many cool nights bundled up in my blankets, thankful for our soba (stove), and spent many evening talking with my host mom over sunflower seeds and ice cream.
Month 6: November.
One of my partner teachers began her maternity leave and my schedule changed once again. We had our fall vacation. All of the M31 EE volunteers gathered in Chisinau for one week of IST (in-service training) for both language and technical trainings. We learned the results of the United States election and cried and hugged each other, and then Moldova had its own elections. I taught a few classes completely or partly on my own. I ordered a new camera (hopefully arriving soon), and had less free time than before. I called my grandparents on Thanksgiving, thus making my first international phone call. I spent the weekend after Thanksgiving taking a surprise trip to Ungheni in the north to celebrate with other volunteers and drank plenty of house wine. I made my first cookies in Moldova and shared them with my 7th grade classes as part of a lesson about making cookies. Nina from Peace Corps came for my first site visit to see how things are going and I observed a Romanian lesson. I got more comfortable teaching and felt like a real teacher again.
I’m so thankful that I’ve gotten to spend the past half year exploring the culture and landscapes of Moldova and that I get to spend another one and a half years here. If the past six months are any indication, my time here is going to fly by more quickly than I can imagine!