Apple Adventure

2018-09-15 17.43.072018-09-15 17.42.56-012018-09-15 17.51.23-01

Nothing says fall in New York like apples. A few weekends ago, our family went on an apple adventure in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Our first stop was at Westwind Orchard. The orchard didn’t produce enough apples this year for u-pick, but there is a nice area for hanging out, along with a small restaurant serving Italian tapas and wood-fired pizza, a variety of hard ciders, and a small store selling locally made goods and foods.

2018-09-15 17.49.082018-09-15 18.04.482018-09-15 18.44.46

My sister and I ordered a flight of hard cider to try and we all got some pizzas to share. There are a bunch of tables outside and we played some cornhole while waiting for our food. There were lots of families enjoying the beautiful weather and gorgeous location.

2018-09-15 19.35.252018-09-15 19.36.192018-09-15 19.38.402018-09-15 19.38.43

After eating our fill, we headed down the road to a small U-pick orchard. Stone Ridge Orchard is a traditional apple orchard. The apple trees are 200-plus years old and the orchard doesn’t have the commercial feel typical of many U-pick orchards in New York. There were no lines and the employees were incredibly friendly and helpful. We explored the orchard after a long conversation with one of the employees. In addition to plenty of apple trees, we were encouraged to walk up the short hill to see the 300-year-old white oak tree. The tree is massive and absolutely stunning.

2018-09-15 20.01.212018-09-15 20.18.242018-09-15 20.05.50

We picked a bag of apples, then bought some apple cider and donuts. Before heading out, we sampled some of the hard cider made with apples from the orchard.

By then, it was late afternoon, so we headed home. It was a perfect outing on a beautiful day!

Life Lately 7/23/18

Hanging out with my mom’s parents- they celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary by dancing the night away at my cousin’s wedding on Saturday

After a bit of a blog break, I thought it was time for a Life Lately post to catch up on the past few weeks. The last two plus weeks have been a blur of being busy, and it looks like the next few weeks will be just about as busy. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Traveled to Iceland. For my COS (Close of Service) trip, I flew from Moldova to Iceland (with flight changes in Ukraine and London on the way), where I met my brother and parents. We spent a week traveling in Iceland, doing both the Golden Circle and South Coast. I’ll be posting more about that soon, but it was a nice trip in a gorgeous location! We had a lot of fun!

Returned home to the U.S.A. After the trip to Iceland, I flew home with my family. Although I was sad to leave behind my life in Moldova, I was also ready to come home. So far, I’m enjoying being back home in upstate New York.

Went blueberry picking. The very first thing I did after coming home (besides sleep) was to pick blueberries the following morning with my mom. I love blueberries, but they are hard or almost impossible to find in Moldova, and picking blueberries several times each summer is a family tradition I love. We often pick at least 30 quarts to freeze each year.

Visited with both sets of grandparents. I’ve missed my grandparents a lot over the past two years, and I’m happy to be home and able to spend time with them. On my first day home I visited both sets of grandparents and began to catch up.

Helped get things ready for some summer guests. My parents own an old farmhouse, which is where my grandpa grew up and my great-grandma lived until her 90s. As with many old farmhouses, it needs a fair amount of work. Some family members are going to stay there for a visit in a week or so, so we spent some time up there one afternoon deep-cleaning and clearing stuff out.

Went to my cousin’s wedding. This past weekend was my cousin’s wedding. The ENTIRE family came, and both the wedding and the bride were gorgeous! We had such a great time and it was so nice to see my entire extended family on my mom’s side.

Started to get my room back in order. I left for the Peace Corps pretty soon after I finished college, so I never really unpacked for college. After two years, I really needed to go through things and get things organized and cleaned. I also decided to change up one wall of my room, which is still a work in progress.

I think that’s it for now! Of course, I’ve also been eating lots of my favorite foods and I briefly hung out with a close friend the other day. I was worried about the process of getting back into the swing of things here, but we’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to get stressed or miss Moldova too much. I’m looking forward to seeing some more family, (including cousins I haven’t seen in years), meeting up with friends, swimming, kayaking, and just enjoying this summer to the fullest in the coming weeks!

A Look Back: The Fourth Six Months

Today marks two years in Moldova! I almost can’t believe it! In some ways, it seems like just yesterday that I was getting off the plane in Chisinau and taking my first steps on Moldovan soil, while in other ways it seems like a long time ago. This last quarter of my time here has been filled with its share of both ups and downs. According to the “cycle of vulnerability” as a Peace Corps volunteer, this is apparently quite normal. I still a little over one month left here, but I’m sure that time is going to pass quickly. The past 6 months have been a whirlwind of emotions, both excitement that I’ll soon be returning home, eating American food, and spending time with my friends and family, and sadness that I’ll be leaving this beautiful country and its wonderful people behind. In particular, I’ll miss the abundance of fresh fruit and veggies in the summer months, the sunflower fields that stretch on forever, my host family, my teaching partners, and my students. I know it’s almost time to move on to the next chapter of my life, but it is definitely bittersweet. Anyway, here is the recap of my fourth six months in Moldova (you can find the recap of the first six months here, the second six months here, and the third six months here).

Month 19: December.

At the beginning of the month, I accompanied the dance ensemble from my village to an international talent competition in the capital, spending the day with my students and their dance instructors. I observed a Russian lesson with 8th grade students and didn’t understand a word. In English Club, we did a US state poster project, which the students got really into. We had some gorgeous sunsets, as well as our first light snowfall. We celebrated Sfantul Andrei, and I attended a Christmas/New Year concert, also with the dance ensemble, in our raion center, and spent a morning in the capital with my host mom and her friend, Natasha. I spent Christmas at home in upstate New York with my family, with two weeks packed with holidays, celebrations, and spending time with family and friends.

Month 20: January.

The month started off at home in the US, skiing and hanging out with my grandparents, family, and friends. The trip back to Moldova was a bit of a terrible adventure, when I got stuck in the JFK airport for over 24 hours. Celebrated Moldovan Christmas at home with my host family, and welcomed carolers and seed-throwing kids to welcome in the New Year. One of my 8th grade classes sang Happy Birthday to me on the first day back to school.  Celebrated Mihai Eminescu Day outside in freezing temperatures. Went with one of my partner teachers to meet a man who is bed-ridden and who really wanted to meet the “American” in the village, had a really great conversation with him. Had our first heavy snowfall, and even a snow day! Was ambushed by some neighborhood kids by snowfalls and fistfuls of snow. Lost power and spent a night in candlelight. Had our COS (close of service) lottery and found out when I’d be going home.

Month 21: February.

The snow started to melt a little. Celebrated English Week at school and taught an open lesson with my partner teacher. Wore my hair down to school for the first time and got lots of compliments. Attended a 100 Days celebration with 1st grade students and stayed for a masa afterwards. Attended my host cousin’s wedding, and danced with my host nieces. Accompanied two students and my site mate to a GLOW mini-camp in the capital. Every student in one of my 8th grade classes did their homework (a first!). Kicked off Peace Corps Week with a mini “International Film Festival” with our students, showing short videos made by volunteers from all over the world. Spent much of the month relaxing and hanging out at home.

Month 22: March.

We continued Peace Corps Week with a video-chat with a class in the United States and inviting several other Peace Corps volunteers to come speak to our students about where and what home is to them. Both events were a big success! We celebrated Martisor, as well as International Women’s Day both at school and in the community with a big concert. Had “control” or an audit at school and helped my partner teachers prepare food for the guests one day. The first flowers started showing up in the garden, and we celebrated my host mom’s birthday.

Month 23: April.

The village prepared for Easter, and students got out of lessons early one day to do a village clean-up. We celebrated Easter by going to church early in the morning and then eating and sleeping the rest of the day. My host niece, Valerica, visited and we spent a lot of time playing together. Ate cake for Valerica’s 8th birthday. We celebrated Memorial Easter (in memory of loved ones who have passed) at the cemetery and at our house with a meal after. The flowers began to bloom in full force, and the fruit trees blossomed. Met with the Parent’s Association to make plans for a summer day camp, and got their approval! Went to my partner teacher Liuba’s birthday party, and had a lot of fun.

Month 24: May.

Started off the month at our COS (close of service) conference with my fellow volunteers. Victory Day was celebrated in my village with a short ceremony at the World War II monument and students and community members placed flowers around the monument. Ate the first strawberries of the year, and picked cherries. Had an “American masa” with my English Club to thank them for coming so regularly throughout the past two years- we ate a lot of yummy American foods. Attended Peace Corps Moldova’s 25th anniversary celebration along with my partners and school director. Had my last lessons with my students and celebrated Last Bell, the celebration that marks the end of the school year, and further celebrated with a barbecue in the woods with my fellow teachers.

Home for Christmas

When I left the United States one and a half years ago to start my Peace Corps journey in Moldova, I didn’t really plan to come home again until my two-plus year commitment was up.  This past summer I was talking to my grandparents and they encouraged me to come home for Christmas, and since it’s always good to listen to your grandparents, I took their advice and booked a flight home.

Being home for Christmas and just hanging out with my family and friends has been absolutely wonderful!  I love Moldova and my life there, but there really is no place like home.  The first couple days home were packed with things to do and people to see, so we spent a quiet Christmas at home, just hanging out and relaxing.  We ate comfort foods, watched a Hallmark movie, and played some cards.  In the evening, my mom’s parents came over and we celebrated my birthday with some yummy cake.

Yesterday morning, I went plowing with my dad.  We were super lucky to get a nice snowfall and have a white Christmas and we got a bit more snow the night after Christmas.  After he finished plowing, we went up to my family’s Christmas tree farm and took a nice walk through the farm.  It was a cold but calm day and everything was covered with a fresh coat of snow.  It was gorgeous!

Later in the afternoon, we celebrated “Thanksgiving” since none of us kids were home this year.  My dad’s family came over and we had a full turkey dinner.  It was delicious!  After, we opened some presents and had dessert.  My aunt gave me a beautiful ring that had been my grandma’s as well as a pair of earrings that had belonged to my great-grandmother, both of which were very special and meaningful gifts.

Photo a Day: Days 92-98

When I started this photo a day project, my goal was to take a photo a day for 100 days.  I’ve really enjoyed it (though I’ll admit there have been a few days I’ve forgotten), so I’m going to continue it.  My new goal is to take a photo a day until I finish my Peace Corps journey sometime this coming summer.

Here’s week 14!

Day 92: This time of year has the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Here is a gorgeous sunset.
Day 93: Our first real snowfall. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick for very long but it was beautiful while it lasted.
Day 94: A pastel sky at sunrise.
Day 95: A bright sunrise.
Day 9: We finished our U.S. state project this week in English Club. Here, one group poses with their poster.
Day 97: A group 8th grade students completed this poster on the state of Florida.
Day 98: I spent the evening going through journals and deciding what to take home with me when I visit the U.S. next week.