I’m happy to report that I survived my first birthday/Christmas away from home. In fact, although it was certainly not quite the “Christmas” I love, it was actually a pretty good day. I didn’t even cry!
On Saturday (Christmas Eve), I met up with some other volunteers in Chisinau to celebrate my birthday. Most of the volunteers are travelling for our vacation, so it was a small group, but I had a good time. Our hostel was right off the center square in Chisinau, which was a perfect location. After checking in, we ran some errands and grabbed some light food at McDonald’s. By the time we headed back, it was already pretty dark out. The center of Chisinau, along Stefan cel Mare street, is pretty impressive at Christmastime, particularly at night. There are lights strung on the Arc de Triomf, above the street, there is a huge Christmas tree, games and carnival rides, and booths selling food and mulled wine. It’s really quite beautiful.
The other volunteers had some additional errands to run, so I stayed at the hostel by myself for a bit and called my grandparents because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to on Christmas day. After they returned, we walked to the restaurant I had selected for my birthday dinner. It was a very expensive (by Moldovan standards) Italian restaurant. The food was very good, but even more, we all really enjoyed the fact that it was fully decorated for Christmas and was playing American Christmas music.
Photo cred: Susan Speth
We ended our night watching a movie in our hostel room (which we had to ourselves!). It was a simple birthday celebration, but it was nice. And, after all, I’m not really used to celebrating my birthday (one of the downsides of being a Christmas baby), so it was a good birthday in my book!
On Sunday, I headed back home to celebrate my birthday with my host family. My school director, as well as my partner teacher and her family, joined us for a masa. Again, it was simple, particularly by Moldovan standards, but I had fun. I ended Christmas day skyping with my family for a couple of hours.
On Monday morning, still in bed, I got a phone call from my school director telling me I needed to come into school for a meeting. I was slightly annoyed, having thought it was my first day off from school, but I got dressed quickly and walked to the school. When I arrived, I was surprised by most of the teachers, who sang “Happy Birthday” to me in Romanian and gave me the most beautiful gift. I received a book about our town (in Romanian, of course!) and a large hand-carved clay wine pitcher. It is a traditional wine pitcher, and it’s beautiful!