Going Home (to Moldova)

 

I recently returned from a fairly short trip back to Moldova to visit my host family. I spent about a week in my village. I arrived just over a year after I left Moldova at the end of my 2-year Peace Corps service there. I was blessed with cooler-than-normal summer temperatures (so thankful! a few weeks before I went, it was hovering around 100 degrees), and my host family made sure I ate lots of ice cream.

My three oldest host nieces joined me in the village so we could spend time together. The week was mostly spent at “home”- reading, drawing, playing, and talking. We also walked around my village and visited the public library, the park/playground, and school. It’s summer vacation in Moldova, so I didn’t see many students (just a couple who I passed on the street) or either of the partner teachers I worked with when I lived there. This was a bit disappointing but not entirely unexpected. I did get to enjoy some tea and cookies with a small group of teachers from the school I worked at one morning.

I spent my last evening in the capital with my host sister and her family. We took a very brief trip to the city center, where we walked around Cathedral Park for a short while. Some day, I’d like to go back for a longer amount of time and visit some of the attractions and wineries I never visited when I lived there, but it was a nice, short trip spent with some of my favorite people!

Top Memories of 2018

I’m sure we all say this most years, but wow! What a year 2018 has been! Before we leap into 2019, I thought I had better wrap up 2018 with some of my top memories from the past year (in years past I’ve limited myself to 20 or so, but there were so many great moments in the past year, this list is longer than usual!).

  1. Went cross-country skiing with my mom. Winter seems like such a better season when you actually get out and enjoy the snow and cold, and this is one of the best ways to do that!
  2. Made it home to my village just in time to celebrate Christmas with my host family. After a VERY long journey back to Moldova from the United States (I got stuck in JFK airport for 24 hours), I was so happy to celebrate Christmas with my host family and snuggle with my host nieces.
  3. My students coming to our house for caroling, uraturi, and seed-throwing. It was nice to see the various Moldovan traditions for both Christmas and New Year.
  4. Found out when my last day in Moldova would be. We had a COS (Close of Service) lottery with all of the volunteers in my group and selected the days we would finish our Peace Corps service.
  5. Visited Andrei with my partner teacher, Liuba. Andrei is a man from my village who suffers from health issues that leave him bed-ridden, but had been asking for some time to meet the “American girl”. We had a really nice visit.
  6. Got ambushed by some neighborhood kids (my students) in a snowball fight. I’ve determined Moldovan kids are ruthless when it comes to snowball fights!
  7. Celebrated English Week at school. This year, English Week was actually two weeks and combined with Russian Week. We held lots of competitions, played games, and organized fun activities with our students. At the end of the two weeks, we had a dance for the older students, which they always really enjoy.
  8. Attended my host cousin’s wedding. It was a simpler affair than my first Moldovan wedding, but this time I could actually speak Romanian and everyone had a lot of fun dancing the hora (Moldova’s traditional dance).
  9. Organized a week of activities for Peace Corps Week. We held a mini “International Film Festival”, skyped with an American class of 5th graders, and hosted several other Peace Corps Volunteers at an event about what home means to each of us.
  10. Successfully completed our “control” (audit) at school. Each year, the education officials come to the school and observe every teacher, class, and audit the records. It’s a stressful week, but I enjoyed working together with my partners on some really good lessons. On the last day of the audit, my partner teachers and I didn’t have any lessons, so we were responsible for cooking a meal for the auditors in the school cafeteria.
  11. Celebrated Easter with my host family. Easter is the most important holiday in the year for Moldovans, and I celebrated it with my host family.
  12. My host niece, Valerica, visited and we celebrated her birthday. I can’t believe the little 6-year-old that was my first friend when I moved to my village is now 8! We had lots of fun playing together and spending time together over the Easter break from school.
  13. Celebrated one of my partner teacher’s birthdays. I was so happy to go to my partner teacher’s birthday party. It was moments like these that I felt like I had found my place in Moldova and in my village.
  14. Attended our COS conference in central Moldova. To help prepare us for closing out our service and returning home to the United States, Peace Corps held a 3-day conference for the group of volunteers I arrived in country with. We had a great time reminiscing and reflecting on our two years of service.
  15. Held an American meal at English Club. To thank my students for coming to English Club regularly for 2 years, my site mate and I prepared several American foods and had a small party with the regular participants. They especially loved the tacos (we had taco seasoning mailed to us from the U.S.) and mac and cheese!
  16. Attended the Peace Corps Moldova 25th anniversary celebration. My partner teachers and school director joined Peace Corps in the capital for a celebration of 25 years of work and service in Moldova.
  17. Went to my final Last Bell celebration at school and celebrated in the forest with my colleagues. I gave a short speech, received lots of flowers, poems, and letters, and said goodbye to many of my students on the last day of school. After lessons had ended, the teachers gathered for a barbecue in the forest, which lasted for several hours.
  18. Accompanied the dance ensemble from my village to an International Traditions Festival. I helped chaperone the students and afterwards, I enjoyed a meal with the other chaperones while the students had some free time to explore the festival.
  19. Had a farewell dinner with my fellow English Education volunteers. We all spent the first 10 weeks in Moldova living in the same town and completing our training together, and remained close throughout the two years. It was a bittersweet dinner, since for many of us it was also goodbye, but we had a good time and enjoyed each others’ company.
  20. Held two day camps in my village. My site mate and I held a week-long Leadership Camp for our older students, and I held a week-long English Camp for the younger students.
  21. Milked a cow! This was one of my goals while living in Moldova and just before I left, I was finally able to milk a cow at my host aunt’s house.
  22. Said goodbye at farewell parties both at school and with my host family. My colleagues, students, and partner teachers surprised me with a farewell party at the school, complete with some of my favorite foods, a gorgeous cake, and gifts. My host mom’s sisters and brothers came for a farewell party at home as well.
  23. Rang the COS bell, marking the end of my service in Moldova. I was proud to have made it all the way to the end, and excited to figure out what was next.
  24. Traveled to Iceland with my family! On my way home from Moldova, I met my parents and brother in Iceland for a week-long trip. Some favorite highlights were swimming in a hot spring pool, visiting a greenhouse combined with a restaurant, and all of the beautiful sights we saw.
  25. Picked blueberries! Blueberries don’t grow in Moldova but are my absolute favorite food, so I was so happy to make it home in time for blueberry season!
  26. Spent lots of time with family. Cousins, aunts, and uncles visited this past summer and we spent a lot of time hanging out and soaking up this rare time together. The reason for their visits was bittersweet, as we were also saying goodbye to our Grandma Jeri, but I treasured the time spent with them and with Grandma Jeri.
  27. Went to my cousin’s wedding! My cousin got married and the whole family came for it. We had SO much fun celebrating her and her new husband!
  28. Went to Rochester to visit some friends and have a girls’ weekend. We hung out, went mini-golfing, and spent some time on a beach.
  29. Baked a crazy amount of recipes with pears. Our pear tree produced a ton of pears this year, so my brother, sister, and I made just about every possible recipe with pears: pear cider, pear sauce, pear pie, pear crisp, pear cake, baked pears, etc. It was fun to bake together with my siblings and everything was delicious!
  30. Went on an apple adventure with the family. We drove a couple of hours and visited an apple orchard known for its hard cider and wood-fired pizza then headed to another orchard to pick a bag of apples.
  31. Took a short trip to Vermont. We spent a couple of days in Middlebury, Rutland, and Bennington.
  32. Traveled to Scotland and Ireland! It was my first ever solo trip, and I fell in love with Scotland and enjoyed spending time with my sister in Ireland.
  33. Helped out at the family’s Christmas Tree Farm. My parents took over my grandpa’s tree farm a couple of years ago, and I helped out each weekend for a few hours.
  34. Published an advent calendar of activities for our town together with my brother. We provided ideas for things to do at home or in our community for the 24 days leading up to Christmas. It was a success and we had fun doing the activities.
  35. Spent a quiet and simple Christmas Day at home. We had a lazy, slow morning of eating breakfast and opening presents, then some family came over in the afternoon for good food and conversation. We ended the night with my birthday cake and gifts, then after our guests left watched a funny movie.

I could probably add more to this list, but that might be a little excessive. What were some of your favorite memories this year? Here’s to a happy, healthy, and fresh New Year!

Life Lately in Moldova

Peace Corps Moldova

I was awoken at 2:30 in the morning last night to an earthquake.  This morning, I found out the epicenter was in Romania, and it was a 5.5 earthquake.  The room shook pretty good, but nothing in my room fell at all.  And it was pitch black, so I wasn’t able to see anything.  I just stayed in bed under several layers of blankets (it’s cold here at night!), and when it finished, promptly fell back asleep.  I think under normal circumstances, it might have alarmed me more, but I was so tired, I wasn’t really processing what was happening.

In other news, I’ve read 5 books in the past week.  Despite working and teaching and planning, I have wayyyy too much free time on my hands.  I’m hoping to fill that time soon with an English club or other club with students, but I’m still figuring out what they want and need, so it’ll be a bit until I start that.  Although I’m bored, I do love that I’ve rekindled my love of reading and that I have the time to read for fun.  I’ve read almost 15 books since arriving here, and I think that’s more than I had read in the 2 years prior to that.  I had gotten some books from the Peace Corps lounge, but now that I’ve made my way through them, I’ve been very happy to have a tablet that I can use with e-books.  I still prefer a real book, but it sure is convenient to have an e-reader!

The weather is finally feeling like fall!  This past week was actually rather cool, and I even wore lined stockings one day!  I think after the hottest summer I’ve ever experienced, my body is having more trouble adjusting to the cool weather.  At night, it’s been quite cold.  My host mom has mentioned that she’s never started heating the house with the soba this early, but that she thinks she might have to, as it has been freezing in the house at night.  I’ve been pretty comfortable with a big pile of blankets and a couple of layers of clothes.  I’m really glad I was able to squeeze my favorite blanket from home into my suitcase.  It’s warm and has been keeping me warm for the past 10+ years, and it seems to be doing the job just as well now.  The only problem is staying warm if I need to make a late-night trip to the outhouse (and I know it’s only going to get colder) or when I have to climb out of my warm nest in the morning- brr!

I am seriously craving “American” foods, namely my mom’s cooking (especially mac and cheese!).  I also really want to bake.  I’m trying to figure out how to make chocolate chip cookies without brown sugar.  I’ve heard it might be possible to get brown sugar in Chisinau, but haven’t had time while there to see.

I think that’s all for my rambling thoughts.

Less Than Two Weeks…

I’m finally past the two-weeks-until-Peace-Corps-staging point.  In just a week and a half, I’ll be heading to Philadelphia for staging.  Staging is a 2-3 days of training that occurs in the United States before you depart to your country of service.  In other words, staging is the point at which you say goodbye to all of your friends and family members and start your journey in the Peace Corps.

I have to admit, it was a bit of a shock to come back from our South Africa trip and realize I only had about 3 weeks left before I left.  Before our trip, it still felt like a safe distance away, but three weeks is pretty close!  I’m definitely getting a  bit stressed at the moment.  There’s a lot to do before I leave- buying last minute items, getting things settled at my bank, figuring out loan deferment, getting prescriptions sorted out, visiting and spending time with my loved ones, figuring out how to pack everything into so few bags, and much more.  I’ve also been subbing at our local elementary school, which I’m thoroughly enjoying, but it’s also taking away from the time I could be spending getting things crossed off my 2-page to-do list.  My lists have gotten a little out of hand…I have a to-do list, of course, but I also have…approximately 3 packing lists, a list of passwords for all of my online accounts, a list of luggage information, a list of days I’m subbing at school, a list of the people I want to see before I leave, and a list of things I still need to get.  I’ve always been a list-maker.  Just ask my mom- she’s always been a little annoyed by the hundreds of lists she finds all over the house.  But I think this time takes the cake- my mom actually told me today that she’s “never seen [me] make so many lists!”.  Oops!  I think there’s just so much swirling through my head, and I’m worried if I don’t write it all down, I’ll forget to do it.

I’ve also been a bit emotional the past couple of days (but I totally blame the season finale of NCIS on my excess emotion tonight!).  That’s not necessarily unusual for me, though.  I’m trying really hard not to think of all of the goodbyes and such that are coming.  Or the hundreds of little things I need to do.

Random Tidbits

Hello everyone!  I hope the weather is nice in your corner of the world and that you’ve had a good weekend!  Here are some random tidbits from my life:

2016-03-13 23.21.34
Hard at work (see #7 below)

1) I went to Rochester, NY for the weekend to visit one of my best friends from high school.  It was a fun weekend- we went to the St. Patty’s Day Parade, hung out, and I got to meet a bunch of her college friends.  She lives really close to downtown and I was impressed with the city.  It was actually a bit nicer than I expected.

2) I got my first sunburn of the year while watching the parade!  I was smart enough to put sunscreen on my face, but I didn’t think to put it on my neck/chest.  Luckily, I was wearing a long-sleeved crew-neck shirt and pants, so only a little bit of skin was showing!  I’m very pale-skinned and I burn very easily.  I try my best to make sure I cover up or wear sunscreen, but it still happens several times a year.  A summer never goes by without getting burnt at least a couple of times, despite my best efforts.

3) The weather has been really nice this past week!  Incredibly warm and sunny for upstate New York in March!  It’s been great to be able to open the windows and air out my college apartment, as well as soak up the sun while walking to and from my classes.  About halfway through last week, though, I realized I’m very short on short-sleeved more casual t-shirts.  I went shopping briefly on Wednesday, but didn’t end up getting any shirts- will need to go back soon!  I have a couple gift cards, so I guess those will be put to good use.

4) Speaking of clothes shopping, I’ve been working on figuring out what to bring to Moldova with me and what I still need to purchase clothes-wise.  It’s a little tricky, because we only get 2 suitcases and have to pack for four distinct seasons.  I got a really nice winter coat for Christmas, and I’ve ordered LLBean Bean boots (they should work as both winter boots and rain boots), but I’m still looking for a pair of black dressier (ish) boots that have good rubber soles and a good tread.  I found a pair I loved, but they didn’t come in wide-calf and the regular-calf ones didn’t fit.  Depending on where my permanent placement is, it might only be acceptable to wear dresses and skirts (and no pants), so I’ve also been trying to build up my dress and skirt wardrobe.  I don’t really mind wearing dresses and skirts (although it is a bit harder to keep warm, so I’m still working on figuring out that piece), but don’t have many.  I bought two dresses and a skirt at Old Navy last week, and also ordered a skirt and a couple of dresses from ThredUp (but ended up returning the dresses- they didn’t fit.  I love the skirt though!).  We’re getting there!

5) We were out of eggs all week last week, but we finally got some, so I made some banana bread this afternoon- we had a few very over-ripe bananas that worked perfectly for bread!  I already had two slice- yum!

6) The end of my undergraduate college experience is getting closer and closer each day!  This semester has been flying by very quickly, and the end is fast approaching.  It’s definitely bittersweet.  I’m really excited to start my new adventure and a new chapter of my life, but there are many things I will definitely miss about college.  It’s been a (mostly) good four years, and I’ll be sad to leave.

7) I’ve been putting off the dreaded edTPA (a portfolio-based assessment to become certified for teaching in New York State) since the fall.  I made a little progress over Christmas break and my February break, but really need to tackle it and get it done in the next couple of weeks.  I spent about 5 hours this afternoon/evening getting some of the lesson plans done, which apparently requires spreading papers across half of the living room floor (see photo above)- oops!  Guess I should clean that up before I head to bed!