2016. It’s been quite the year. Without even getting into it on a global scale, this has been a year full of huge changes and amazing experiences in my life. I’ve called four different places home (Elmira, Walton, Costesti, and Festelita). I started the year off as a college senior, completed my final semester of college, graduated in April (though I won’t get to see my diploma in person till I go home in about a year and a half), traveled to South Africa, substitute taught for a month, and then departed to Moldova as a Peace Corps volunteer in May. Whew! This year has been a combination of hard, challenging, amazing, and occasionally mundane. Here are my top 16 moments of 2016 (in no particular order).
1. I suppose this is more than a single moment, but all of the days and nights spent with my Perry Apartment roommates laughing and talking. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to live with for my final year of college. From nights when we all crammed into one small bedroom instead of the huge living room to eating homemade cookie dough by the spoonful, I certainly miss living with my four roommates.
2. Experiencing St. Patrick’s Day in Rochester with Kristine. I spent a short weekend in Rochester with one of my best friends, catching up and watching the never-ending parade of green.
3. Graduating College. I’m not actually sure what date I supposedly graduated on, but I did it! Our college had uneven trimesters and I finished in April between the 2nd and 3rd terms, but I think I technically graduated in June (I didn’t get to go to graduation and I’ve never seen my diploma, so it all feels a little like it didn’t happen).
4. A trip to South Africa. My parents called me one day and basically were like “Hey. So I know we said we were going to go to Canada in three weeks, but would it be okay if we go to South Africa and visit Heather [my sister] instead?”. Um, obviously! It was a great trip and the best graduation present ever!
5. Related, going bar-hopping with my sister in South Africa. This is usually not at all my thing, but I had a really fun time going out with my little sister and her friends. She basically forced me to go out with them, since I won’t be in the United States for her 21st birthday this coming spring, but it truly was a lot of fun (and no worries, totally legal there!).
6. Substitute teaching for a few weeks before leaving the country. I really enjoyed getting to work with kids after a semester off from teaching at all, and I even got to substitute in the art room and music room, which I really enjoyed!
7. Getting together with my high school friends (again, before leaving the country). Although I’d seen them individually, the four of us hadn’t been together since I think freshman year of college, and I was so happy we could get together one more time before I left the country for a long-ish period of time. Also, one of them drove a 4-hour round trip just to come meet up with us for a few hours (I really appreciated it, Beth!).
8. Moving to this beautiful country called Moldova and starting my Peace Corps service. Do I really need to say more?
9. Attending my first Moldovan wedding. It was definitely an event I will forever remember.
10. Spending 8 hours a day with fellow volunteers during PST. While this was also rather hard at times (that’s a LOT of time to spend with the same people), I have so many wonderful memories, including singing to 90s hits, eating ice cream every day, haircuts during lunch breaks, and lots of laughter.
11. Getting our site placements and visiting our sites for the first time. I was a little worried when the blindfold came off and it appeared there was no one else even somewhat close on the map to me, but as soon as I visited the following weekend, I loved my little village.
12. Getting to know and love my host family(ies). I was incredibly fortunate to be placed with wonderful host families both for PST and now here at site. My current host family often introduces me to others as their “American daughter” and they have been beyond wonderful to me.
13. Teaching middle-school-aged students. What?! The one age level I always said I would never want to teach has become my favorite. They’re seriously awesome! And just in general, finally feeling like I belong at school.
14. All the little “surprise” moments that are some fantastic mix of strange, unexpected, bizarre, and cool. As probably any Peace Corps volunteer can tell you, regardless of where they serve, this is what makes Peace Corps both amazing and challenging. One small example: when the bus, during a snowstorm, stops halfway up a hill, backs down it, and hooks up a car to the back and tows it all the way to town.
15. Walking through the sunflower and wheat fields during my first visit to site. It was so truly peaceful and beautiful. Think of fields of yellow sunflowers stretching far to one side and fields of tall wheat stretching far to the other side.
16. Exploring Moldova. So far, I’ve been to Chisinau (too many times to count), Ungheni, Criuleni, Causeni, and around the towns of Festelita (Stefan Voda raion) and Costesti (Ialoveni raion). Moldova is a beautiful, diverse country, and I hope to see much more of it while I’m here.
In English, but in a Moldovan style: I wish for you a year with success, health, peace, and happiness.