Top Memories 2017

2017 was a good year.  This was my only complete calendar year spent in Moldova, and I’m so lucky that I’ve had such an amazing adventure here.  2017 wasn’t without its challenges, but it really was a year full of wonderful memories, fun adventures, and special moments.  Here my top 20 memories and moments from the past year.

Graduation Ball.  In July, the 9th grade students graduated from our school and had a dance and ceremony.  I think this will remain one of my very favorite memories of my time here.  It was one of the first moments when I felt completely a part of my community.  Together with the new graduates, their parents and families, and the other teachers at school, I ate and danced until the early hours of the morning.  It was a special celebration and I was so glad I got to be a part of it.

Walking through the fields.  In August, right before the first day of school, I walked through the fields on the margin of my village with my host mom, host sister, host niece, my sister, and a fellow volunteer.  It was such a beautiful day and it was such a nice escape into nature before the school year started again.

Visiting Et Cetera Winery.  When my sister was visiting, we visited this winery with a friend.  It was such a peaceful mini-vacation with excellent food, great lodging, and friendly people.

My parent’s visit to Moldova and our trip to Romania.  It was so cool to be able to show my parents around the country that is my home now, as well as to go to Romania.  It was a wonderful vacation and I’m so grateful they were able to make the trip.

My sister’s visit to Moldova.  On the same note, I was so happy my sister was able to make it here as well!  It was fun to show her around Chisinau and my village and my students still talk about her sometimes (she went to the first day of school with me).

Language Day Celebration.  Our village went all out this year for the Language Day and Independence Day celebrations, with culinary competitions, dancing, and sports competitions.  The pole climbing competition made me a bit nervous, but was fun to watch.

My host niece dressing up in my clothes.  One afternoon, my 7-year-old host niece, Valerica, dressed up in one of my skirts, my sunglasses, my earrings, and even my name tag!  She then declared she was a model and I was her photographer.  It was a fun way to spend the afternoon and she always makes me laugh!

English Club.  This is more like a lot of wonderful moments combined.  So many of my best days in the last year are thanks to the English Club I do with my 7th to 9th grade students.  Most recently, some of my students in 7th grade told me that they don’t want me to leave this summer because everything is better now that I’m here.  When I asked them what they meant, they said that they want to come to school now and that they love having something to do after school.

Teacher’s Day Party.  Instead of doing a small celebration at the school like they normally do, the teachers at my school decided to pay a bit of money and have a larger celebration at a restaurant in the next town over to celebrate Teacher’s Day.  We ate, drank, and danced the night away and everyone (including me) had a lot of fun.  I also mastered (at least as much as I probably ever will) our village’s version of Moldova’s national dance, the hora.

Mini-Vacation to the North of Moldova.  This past spring, my friend Andrea and I took a weekend trip to the northern part of Moldova and also spent some time in Chisinau.  We visited Curchi Monastery and Orhei Vechi on a guided tour.  We also ate at some nice restaurants in Chisinau and attended the opening of a Himalayan restaurant.  It was a really nice trip before the last leg of school.

Winter Walk to Ermoclia.  Last winter, after a snowstorm and freezing temperatures for too many days, my host mom and I took a long walk to the next village.  The snow was pristine and the temperatures warmer and after several days cooped up inside, it was a welcome escape.  We visited her friends there then walked halfway back before someone offered us a ride back to town.

Teachers’ Excursion.  Last summer, the teachers at my school took a trip one Saturday to two monasteries in the northern part of the country.  We visited Saharna Monastery and Tipova Monastery, taking in the gorgeous views and nice (though very hot!) weather.  On our way back, we had a full picnic on the side of the road.  It was a lot of fun and helped me get to know the other teachers better!

PCV Thanksgiving.  A little over a month ago, I got together with a group of volunteers to celebrate Thanksgiving.  The food was great and the company even better.  After spending the entire autumn in my little village, it was nice to get together with other Americans and eat all the foods we had been missing.

Constelatia Talentelor.  One recent Friday, I got to accompany the student dance ensemble from my village to an international competition in Chisinau.  The students are all my students at school and I went to film it for them.  They did a great job and I spent most of the afternoon with them, helping me get to know my students better.  They actually ended up getting called back for the finals and won Grand Prize!

A Day in Chisinau with Valerica.  This past summer, I spent most of a day showing my host niece Valerica around Chisinau.  Although she’s been to Chisinau, she hadn’t seen most of the tourist attractions, and it was really fun to see it all through her eyes.  We ate (at her request) at Smokehouse, an American BBQ restaurant, where she had mac and cheese and a strawberry milkshake.  Then we walked around Cathedral Park and Stefan cel Mare Park, where she got to ride on a carousel.  Finally, we rode on a trolley bus (a first for her).  We had so much fun!

Harvesting Locust Flowers with My Host Mom.  This past spring, I helped my mom harvest locust flowers to use in tea.  It was great bonding time with her and I was happy to help out with something (although my fingers hurt a bit).

Planting Potatoes and Collecting Grapes.  My family in the United States has a small garden, but I had never really planted potatoes.  I helped my host mom plant several rows one afternoon and can’t wait to do the same when I return to America in our family’s garden.  I also spent some time helping my host parents pick grapes to make into wine.

Welcoming Turul Moldovei to my village.  Turul Moldovei, a group of Peace Corps volunteers doing a walking tour and spreading peace along the way, spent a night with my host family and me this summer.  We visited our school and the local library and cultural center and spent an evening eating great food.

Being Home for the Holidays.  I am so, so happy I had the opportunity to come home for Christmas and the winter holidays.  After spending Christmas abroad last year, it was nice to be home with my family and friends.  We’ve had a great two weeks and I’ll be sad to head back to Moldova later this week (but also excited to see everyone there again as well).  I love my life and experience in Moldova, but there really is no place like home (however cliche that is).

Well, that’s a wrap.  Here’s to a happy, healthy, and successful 2018!

Happy Father’s Day!

I have been very blessed to have a wonderful father and two amazing grandfathers in my life.

father's day dad

[Me and my dad; my dad, sister, and me; my dad, sister, me, and my brother]

Growing up, I was always a Daddy’s girl, and that hasn’t really changed much over the years.  My dad is kind, loving, and a great listener.  He is always there for me, even when I’m not the most enjoyable person to be around.  He supports my dreams and encourages me to chase after them.  When I’m upset, nothing calms me down like a hug from him.  I love driving backroads with him for hours and when I got my driver’s permit, he would let me drive all over the countryside, him pointing out where different people live and memories from his younger days (he sells real estate, so he knows the backroads really well).  We often work on construction/home improvement projects together, and I have learned so much from this time spent with him: how to use power tools, how to spackle walls, how to paint, and how to fix and build things.  When I was 8 or 9, I helped him put up a wood-paneled wall in my parents bedroom and I remember feeling so proud that I was allowed to help out by using the nailgun and helping get things level.  He was always so patient when I helped him.  Rather than rushing through a project, he would explain the best way to do things and how to safely use the tools we were using, and then he let me do it, even though it would have been much quicker and easier for him to just do it.  I hope that someday, I can pass this on to my own kids and that I will remember how important it is to let them help and gain some independence, knowledge, and pride.

father's day poppy

[Poppy, my sister, and me; Nanny, me, and Poppy; me and Poppy; my sister, brother, me, Poppy, and Nanny]

I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have two grandpas involved in my life.  Both of my parents grew up in the same small town I grew up in, which means I grew up in the same town both sets of grandparents live in.  Although my dad’s mom passed away before I was born, my grandpa remarried to a wonderful woman and is still living today.  My mom’s parents have always lived just around the block from us, so I spent a lot of time at their house both growing up and now.  We would spend the majority of our summers at their house, swimming in their pool, baking with them, and playing cards and other games.  When my cousins would come and visit, we would alternate nights staying at their house and at our house.  My sister and our cousin Jacqui would sleep there one night, and then the next night, my cousin Iris and I would sleep there.  Poppy (my mom’s dad) is a true example of a respectable old man.  He has worked hard his entire life and continues to work hard even now.  He is kind and patient and he loves to sing.  I can remember him teaching me how to dance when I was only 4 or 5, my feet on top of his as we danced to oldies songs.  From a young age, he would let us help him make his mother’s delicious cinnamon and regular rolls, a process that takes most of the day.  When we were swimming in the pool, he would toss us green beans from the garden, which always tasted good combined with the chlorine from the pool.  People I barely even know will tell me stories about Poppy from when he was the ag teacher at school or the principal of our local BOCES.  One of the custodians I worked with last year at my summer job said, on several different occasions, that Poppy was one of the people he respected the most.

father's day pappy

[Me and Pappy; Pappy with all the grandkids (minus Sarah, who wasn’t born yet)- I’m on his lap on the left]

Pappy (my dad’s dad) is a Korean War vet who is very proud to be a Marine.  From him, I have inherited my love of houses (he owned the family real estate business before my dad took it over).  He has a strong work ethic, and continues to work now, even though he is in his 80s.  He and Poppy grew up together, and I love it when he tells us stories of “the good ole days”.  He is a good story-teller and loves to tell stories of growing up in our town.  As a young teenager, he would sell the manure from his family’s farm in town to gardeners and saved his money until he could pay for flying lessons.  He didn’t get his piloting license until many years later, but it shows the ambition and entrepreneurial spirit he had.  After fighting in the Korean War, he got his piloting license and eventually purchased a plane.  I’ve always wished I could have flown with him, but he sold his plane right around the time I was born.  When we were really little, he had an antique car (I don’t know what kind, but it was a dark green color and didn’t have seatbelts).  Every year, after the antique car show in our town, he would give us a short ride around town.  When I was in 9th grade, I went hunting with him.  It is the only time I’ve ever been, and we didn’t see a single living creature, but we still had a good time.  For a while, we just sat on a stump in the middle of the woods and he told me about the grandma I never knew.  About how she loved to sing and played the piano and that when my sister and I sing every Sunday in the church choir, it reminds him of her.  I didn’t really know much about my grandma before that, and I treasure the stories he told me.  I remember lots of fun, family picnics at his house, always filled with laughter and stories and going up there during sapping season to help tap trees and gather the sap, which we then watched, mesmerized, as it boiled.

I couldn’t have asked for better male role models.  I have been so, so lucky to grow up so near to my grandparents and to be able to spend so much time with them.  I am lucky that they are both still living and able-bodied.  I am lucky to have both a dad and two grandpas whom I know love me.  And I’m lucky that I have so many wonderful memories of all three of them.

Top Memories of 2012

So, now that we’re a full week into the new year, I figured if I am going to do a “new year” sort of post, I better do it now.  Before I can really welcome in the new year, I’d like to share some of my favorite memories of 2012.

  1. Track practices.  As much as I dislike running, I definitely love track.  Track practices were full of fun (laughing and talking on runs, laughing during core, hanging out until everyone was finished, and more).
  2. Running with my friends and track-mates.  Both in and out of practice.  Some of the best discussions I have ever had occurred during long runs around town in the freezing cold.
  3. Girls nights with my best friends.  Sharing stories, drinking (non-alcoholic) strawberry daiquiris, and laughing until we cried.
  4. Helping out with the musical set.  I only did this on two occasions, but I really enjoyed it.
  5. Babysitting.  I babysat many times this year for several different families.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
  6. Baking.  With friends, with my mom or sister, and with my grandpa.
  7. Accomplishing 22 items on our Summer Project List.  We made jam, had a barbeque, made a poster, went to lawn sales, had a campfire, biked, hiked, cooked, baked, picked berries, went to the library, made breakfast with the family, painted planting pots, organized our backroom shelf, painted kitchen stools, made invitations, went out for ice cream, sketched, painted, made homemade ice cream sandwiches, made homemade bread, and camped.
  8. Celebrating my grandpa’s (Pappy’s) 80th birthday.  All four kids were home, including his two daughters who live in the south and who surprised him by coming up, and we had a wonderful family celebration: good food, awesome cake, special song (written by one of my musically-talented uncles), and gave him a steel guitar just like the one he played as a young man.
  9. Senior trip.  We went to Boston and enjoyed a huge suite at the hotel, a dinner/dance cruise, a Blue Man Group performance, and shopping.
  10. Biking along South River Road several times this summer.  It’s a very peaceful and beautiful ride that is about 9 miles.
  11. Sitting on the front porch alone.  Reading and going on my laptop, or just sitting there.
  12. Making new friends here at college.  I have made several great friends.
  13. Group skyping with my friends from home.  Lots of laughs and funny stories.
  14. Hanging out in the hallway of my residence hall.  For several hours.  On multiple occasions.
  15. Hanging out in a friend’s room as we waited for Hurricane Sandy (which fortunately ended up missing us)- played games, ate Chinese food, watched movies, laughed, bonded.
  16. Hiking through the snowy woods on Christmas day with my mom and brother.

What are some of your favorite memories from this year?  Did you try something new, make a new friend, or just enjoy time with family and friends?

Best of luck to all in 2013! May it be the best year yet!