Victory/Europe Day

Veterans from the village prepare for a gun salute in front of the World War II monument

Victory Day is celebrated on May 9th in Moldova. In some villages, Europe Day is celebrated instead, and in many, both holidays are celebrated simultaneously. Both holidays celebrate the victory over Germany during World War II and remember those that fought and lost their lives in the war.

Students lay flowers around the monument in memory of those that died and fought in World War II.

In our village, all of the students and teachers gathered at the school (there were no lessons for the day), and walked the short ways to our village’s World War II monument by the park. Some community members and those that work at our mayor’s office also joined us.

Students lay flowers around the monument in memory of those that died and fought in World War II.

Some students recited a poetry about peace and a teacher introduced the daughter of one of the men from our village who fought in the war. There was a gun salute, and then each person passed by the monument and laid flowers in memory of those that lost their lives or fought in the war. It was a short and simple ceremony.

Flowers laid on the monument in memory of those that died and fought in World War II.

My host mom told me that in the past, it was a much bigger holiday, and there was a parade through the village attended by almost everyone in the village. My village was directly in the middle of the front line during the war. As a result, there are almost no houses that are older than 70 years old, as almost everything was destroyed.

Flowers laid on the monument in memory of those that died and fought in World War II.

Some students walked to the cemetery with a teacher to lay flowers on the graves of the Romanian soldiers that died here while fighting. It was unusual in Moldova to have buried and marked the graves of the Romanian soldiers, mostly unnamed, after the war. However, our village has a section of the cemetery dedicated to just them, with stone crosses marking the graves.

Graves of the Romanian soldiers that died here during World War II (photo from earlier this spring).

Since the day is a national holiday, we had the rest of the day off. Many families have barbecues or picnics, a lot like Memorial Day in the United States.

Last 100 Days, Days 60-56

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 60-56  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 60: Each school subject has a week each year dedicated to celebrating that subject. We celebrated English Week with various trivia competitions and making posters to hang up in the hallway. (February 2017)
Day 59: Each spring, the snow melts in Moldova. This means two things: 1) that the warm weather is coming; and 2) that the roads will turn to a muddy mess. Because few roads are paved in paved, the mud can be quite bad and makes for very muddy shoes. Thankfully, the mud eventually dries up and the gorgeous spring arrives. (February 2017)
Day 58: On March 8th, International Women’s Day, I joined my host mom on a walk to the next town over to visit some family friends. It was a warm spring day and it was so nice to get outside. (March 2017)
Day 57: Although my host dad brought this cat home shortly after I arrived, everyone jokes that he is “my” cat. I’m not much of a cat person, but he has stolen my heart, and I will miss him when I leave. (March 2017)
Day 56: Most Moldovan houses have a flower garden near the gated entrance. In the spring, we were graced with these beautiful tulips, daffodils, and flowering fruit trees. (April 2017)

Close of Service Conference

Our M31 group at theCOS conference (photo credit: David Jarmul)

As we begin to wind down our service here in Moldova, the M31 group (the 31st group of volunteers in Moldova) met this past week for our Close of Service (COS) conference. The conference was held at a camp-style resort near the forest. This conference serves to prepare us to wrap up our time here in Moldova and reintegrate into the United States again. It was definitely an emotional time for us, as we begin thinking about how we will say goodbye to our communities, partners, students, and host families and reflected on our service here.

We started off the conference by thinking about the successes we’ve had and our accomplishments and favorite memories in Moldova. We also discussed the close-out procedures (medical, administrative, etc.) as well as readjustment to life in the USA. At the end, we met with our separate programs and discussed the things we need to do in the next 2 to 3 months in our sites as we prepare to and begin to say our goodbyes. For example, we need to wrap up any projects or meet with our partners to transition responsibilities to them. We also need to create a plan of how we want to say goodbye to the various groups of individuals that have been a part of our lives the past two years.

Volunteers at the conference

I think most of us are struggling with the conflicting emotions this time brings up. I’m sad to leave behind my partners, students, and especially my host family, but excited to go home and be with my family and friends. Some moments I feel very ready to leave, but other days I can’t imagine actually leaving. To give an idea of some of the things we discussed, here are a few sample questions we were asked to consider and my responses to them:

In what ways have I changed? This one is hard to answer. I think I’m much more patient, flexible, and deal with random constant changes much better. However, in some ways I have far less patience, especially when I watch the news in the United States. I’ve gained numerous skills and, even more than before, really appreciate honesty, directness, and responsibility.

What are the critical aspects about my experience that I want to share with my family and friends? I have plenty of humorous stories to share, but more than anything I hope to share about the relationships I have made, especially with my host family. I’d love to also share the aspects of Moldovan culture and life that I love- their love of dance (the hora), Moldovan music, big celebrations for everything big or small, their value of family, etc.

What activities am I looking forward to the most when I return? I want to spend time with family and friends. I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of outdoor activities this summer, like biking, hiking, and kayaking. I can’t wait to eat ALL the food (though not all at once of course) and pick blueberries (which sadly don’t really exist here).

What will I miss about Moldova? I will miss my host family, my students, my partner teachers, my colleagues, the sunflowers, the gorgeous flower gardens, the dancing, the singing, and so much more.

Last 100 Days, Days 65-61

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 65-61  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 65: I celebrated my first birthday abroad twice: first in the capital on Christmas Eve with some fellow volunteers, and then on my birthday in my village. My host mom prepared traditional Moldovan foods and my school director and one of my partners and her family joined us. I later found out my other partner, who was on maternity leave, had her son on my birthday! (December 2016)
Day 64: My host parents and I brought in the new year quietly at home. As soon as the clock struck midnight, various families in the village set off fireworks and then my host parents and I shared toasts and wishes for the new year. The day before, I attended “Carnival” in my village with my host niece Valerica. It was a variety show of sorts, and Valerica performed “Jingle Bells”. (December 2016)
Day 63: Most of our Christmas break was spent inside due to extremely cold temperatures and snow, but on the last weekend before we went back to school the weather warmed up a bit. I joined my host mom on a long walk to the next village over through deep snow to visit some friends. It was gorgeous outside and nice to get outside after many days stuck in the house. (January 2017)
Day 62: Moldovans celebrate Christmas on January 7th. My host brother and his family came to visit, and we also welcomed students carrying a decorated star. The children say a prayer and then receive money, candy, and braided breads. (January 2017)
Day 61: While in Chisinau for a training, I made my first trip to MallDova, a large and modern shopping mall in the capital. While many things are quite pricey, it felt a lot like any small mall in the United States. (January 2017)

Last 100 Days, Days 70-66

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 70-66.  See all of my “Last 100 Days” posts here.

Day 70: Moldovan sunsets can be stunning, especially during the cooler months. One particular sunset made the entire sky look like it was on fire. It was probably the coolest sunset I’ve ever seen! (December 2016)
Day 69: Teaching English can be fun, especially when I have the opportunity to teach students about traditions from the United States. Leading up to my first Christmas in Moldova, I taught our 4th grade students “Jingle Bells”. (December 2016)
Day 68: On the last day of lessons before Christmas vacation, one of my 4th grade classes surprised me for my birthday with a bunch of balloons, birthday cards, and singing “Happy Birthday” to me in English. It was so sweet of them, and I really enjoyed it! (December 2016)
Day 67: The last day of school before Christmas break was filled with celebrations and concerts by the students. The older students sang, danced, performed skits, and played various games and competitions. It was a lot of fun and I was impressed by the talent of many of my students. (December 2016)
Day 66: I spent Christmas Eve in Chisinau, taking in the Christmas lights and eating dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant with friends. Though different from my Christmas Eve traditions in United States, it was a fun and relaxing night. (December 2016)