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!

A Look Back: The Third Six Months

A couple days ago I reached my one and a half year mark in Moldova.  As with the first half of my time here, the time has passed quickly and I can’t believe the next of these recaps will be my last.  It feels like my time here is started to wind down, which is certainly bittersweet.  As excited as I am to eat my favorite American foods and see my favorite people back home, it will be incredibly hard and sad to leave behind everything here.  In the meantime, I am enjoying every minute and soaking in this incredible experience.  Here’s a recap of my third quarter in Moldova (you can find a recap of the first six months here, and a recap of the second six months here).

Month 13: June.

The month kicked off with a celebration in the village park for Children’s Day with song, dance, and games.  With the school year finished, I joined my fellow teachers on an excursion to the northern part of the country to visit Saharna and Țîpova Monasteries.  Most of the month was spent at home spending time with my host mom and visiting host niece, Valerica.  We picked strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.  Our courtyard was filled with the sound of little ducklings.  After months of torture from our rooster, he met his end and we ate him.

Month 14: July.

Our village welcomed a group of fellow Peace Corps Volunteers as they did a walking tour of the southeast of Moldova, visiting libraries, schools, and mayor’s offices to spread peace and friendship.  I spent a wonderful night celebrating with my former 9th graders, their parents, and my fellow teachers in honor of the 9th grade graduation.  There was a graduation ceremony, followed by plenty of food and dancing.  My host nieces spent much of the month with us and we played plenty and had a lot of fun.  I attended the opening of a monument in my village honoring those that were deported from the village during Soviet times.  My parents came to Moldova and we spent an amazing two weeks exploring Moldova and Romania.  We explored my village, Soroca, Orhei Vechi, Tipova Monastery, Purcari Winery, Comrat, Cricova Winery, and Chisinau.  In Romania, we visited Sinaia, Bran Castle, Brasov, Rupea Fortress, Sighisoara, Maramures County with its wooden churches, and Breb.  Valerica (my host-niece) spent a fun afternoon dressing up in my clothes, earrings, and sunglasses and pretending to be a model.

Month 15: August.

I made my host nieces American-style pancakes (with real maple syrup!) and scrambled eggs.  The library grant project I worked with my school on was underway and I took several trips to our raion center and Chisinau to procure furniture, technology, and new books.  Heather, my sister, came to Moldova and we spent a weekend in the capital before heading to my village for a week.  Together, we went to my village’s celebration of Language Day and Moldova’s Independence Day, where we ate and enjoyed the performances by my students and various competitions (and tried not to be too nervous during the pole-climbing competition).  I visited Et Cetera Winery with my sister and a volunteer friend, and on our way, we walked through the fields at the margin of my village with my host mom, host sister, and host niece, enjoying the beauty of a summer evening in Moldova.  I got a site mate (another volunteer living in the same village) and I spent some time working on projects with him at school.

Month 16: September.

We celebrated the first day of school with the traditional First Bell ceremony.  I said goodbye to my sister and got back into the swing of the school year.  We celebrated International Day of Peace at school by making a huge peace sign in the school courtyard and students shared what peace means to them.  I enjoyed the beautiful autumn sunsets over the village.  The corn and grape harvest began, and I baked banana bread and chocolate chip cookies.  At school, we completed our pre-tests for the year and the schedule changed many times.

Month 17: October.

Autumn continued in my village, and along with came more pretty sunsets and making wine.  One day, my host mom called me and told me to come to the garden in the valley to pick strawberries.  Although a little confused, I joined her, and to my surprise there were autumn strawberries!  At school, we celebrated Teacher’s Day and I joined the other teachers at a faculty party, where we ate yummy food and danced for hours.  I finally mastered several different versions of Moldova’s traditional dance, the hora.  We completed installing our library project and had an opening ceremony and celebration.  Our English Club (with students from 7th through 9th grade) started up again.  At the end of the month, our village received visitors from Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and after touring our school, we joined them and a group of other volunteers in our raion center for lunch.

Month 18: November.

I spent our autumn vacation in Chisinau, attending a conference and catching up with friends.  Our English Club continued.  My village celebrated Hram (Village Day) and I attended the concert held at our Casa de Cultura (Cultural House).  I made cinnamon and dinner rolls for Thanksgiving and spent a weekend in Chisinau with other volunteers for Thanksgiving.  I attended the school’s celebrations for Youth Day, with skits, songs, and dance.

It’s been a pretty good and fairly busy past 6 months!  Here’s to the last part of this journey and my remaining time in Moldova!

A Look Back: The Second Six Months

Today marks one year in Moldova.  This means I am close to half through my time here in Moldova.  The time has passed incredibly quickly.  Though not without challenges, my first year here has been a positive, amazing journey.  Here’s a recap of my second half-year in Moldova (you can find a recap of the first six months here).

Month 7: December.

I participated in Dressember, to raise funds and awareness about human trafficking.  I took a weekend trip towards the north and Criuleni for a yoga retreat with other volunteers, stopping on the way in Chisinau and checking out some of the tourist sites while the snow fell lightly.  I got used to the winter weather, spent many evenings eating sunflower seeds with my host mom and talking, and continued to bucket bathe (though much more rarely as it was cold!).  I went to my raion center (Stefan Voda) to run errands with my host mom on the oldest bus I’ve seen in Moldova.  We celebrated the holidays at school: I taught my 3rd and 4th graders “Jingle Bells”, my 4th grade students surprised me with balloons for my birthday, and we had a afternoon and night of festivities at the school, with songs and dance.  I spent Christmas Eve in Chisinau with some other volunteers and ate at a really nice Italian restaurant for my birthday.  On Christmas morning, I headed back to my village and celebrated my birthday with my host family, school director, and partner teacher and her family.  The next day, my colleagues at school surprised me with a beautiful birthday present.

Month 8: January.

I celebrated the New Year with my host parents at home, enjoying the fireworks many of the neighbors set off.  I attended the village’s Winter “Carnival”, which was like a variety show, with my host-niece.  We celebrated the old (traditional Moldovan) Christmas and New Year, complete with carolers coming to our house (mostly my students).  The bathroom was finished (though the shower didn’t work) and I no longer had to use the outhouse!  We had a big snowstorm and very cold temperatures for a week.  I walked to a nearby town with my host mom.  I participated in the Blogging Abroad New Year’s Challenge (my posts: 7 Ways Globalization Shows Up in Moldova; 5 Ways My Students Give Me Hope; Cheating? What’s That?; and Looking Beyond Our Assumptions) and was featured on Design Mom.  We had a conference on grants and projects in Chisinau, and I visited MallDova for the first time.  I received a big, amazing package from my friends with all my most-missed foods.

Month 9: February.

My partner teacher and I held “English Week” at school.  We also had our first “open lesson”, which is an observed lesson.  I observed a couple of “open lessons” as well, a homeroom lesson and a Romanian lesson.  The weather changed and spring approached. I visited my host sister in Boscana and some other extended family near there.  We celebrated Grigore Vieru, a famous Moldovan poet and writer, at school with an assembly.  I went to Stefan Voda with my host mom and nearly got frostbite.  I spent a weekend in Chisinau for a language training.  At school, we had “Festelita Are Talent” (Festelita Has Talent), celebrated Dragomete (sort of like Valentine’s Day), and started our weekly English Club.  Peace Corps week started, and I skyped with my mom’s 5th graders in the United States.

Month 10: March.

We finished Peace Corps Week: my students helped create a video, and I participated in a Peace Corps Week event in Causeni.  Marţişor, which is the holiday that welcomes spring in Moldova, was celebrated.  My English Education group of volunteers gathered at our fellow volunteers’, Champa and David’s, to enjoy Nepali food and American desserts.  We had a short spring break off from school and celebrated International Women’s Day.  We had “control” at our school- which is essentially an audit and a week of observations.  I completed and submitted my VRF, which is the document that Peace Corps uses to monitor our successes and work in country.  My host mom and I went to my school director’s birthday party.  I spent a day in Chisinau for mentor training for the new group of volunteers.  The weather was beautiful and warm!  My partner teacher, Ina, returned from her maternity leave.

Month 11: April.

I went to Chisinau for a weekend to celebrate a fellow volunteer’s birthday and enjoy the gorgeous weather.  My host niece, Valerica, visited for a few days.  My English Club at school skyped with a friend’s 3rd grade class in the United States.  We enjoyed gorgeous spring- and even summer-like weather.  Tracey, our Peace Corps Moldova country director, visited my school and came to an English Club meeting.  My school and I worked on and submitted a grant proposal for a Peace Corps SPA grant.  I enjoyed Easter Break, and celebrated both Easter and Memorial Easter.  I walked with my host mom and visited her sister, who had a baby calf!  We had a huge, late snow storm that caused wide-spread damage throughout Moldova and left us without power for 2 full days.  Good weather returned quickly.  I went to Chisinau again with a partner from school (a Romanian teacher) to present our grant proposal (and we were awarded the grant!) and also visited my host sister in Boscana.

Month 12: May.

I spent a lot of time outside on the wooden swing my host dad built.  We celebrated Labor Day (which was uneventful in my village) and Victory Day (celebrated by all of the students gathering by the monument in our village, a few gun salutes by veterans, and flowers laid by the monument).  I took a mini-vacation within Moldova with my friend and fellow volunteer Andrea.  We visited the Victory Memorial and Eternal Flame monument and park in Chisinau and attended the opening of a new Himalaya Restaurant, along with a number of other volunteers.  The following day, we went on a guided tour to Curchi Monastery and Orhei Vechi.  I wrapped up my English Club for the school year with a competitive game of Jeopardy.  School began to wrap up with end-of-year exams and restless students as well as a Saturday day of classes in the form of a Day of Sports.  I helped my host mom harvest flowers from locust trees (used to make tea) and we took an afternoon trip to a nearby town’s hram (where we met up with fellow volunteer Erika).  I ate the first strawberries of the season and helped my host mom pick locust flowers to make tea with.  And, finally, the school year ended with the Last Bell Ceremony.

It has been a pretty good first half of this Peace Corps journey!

Year in Review: 2016

2016.  It’s been quite the year.  Without even getting into it on a global scale, this has been a year full of huge changes and amazing experiences in my life.  I’ve called four different places home (Elmira, Walton, Costesti, and Festelita).  I started the year off as a college senior, completed my final semester of college, graduated in April (though I won’t get to see my diploma in person till I go home in about a year and a half), traveled to South Africa, substitute taught for a month, and then departed to Moldova as a Peace Corps volunteer in May.  Whew!  This year has been a combination of hard, challenging, amazing, and occasionally mundane.  Here are my top 16 moments of 2016 (in no particular order).

1. I suppose this is more than a single moment, but all of the days and nights spent with my Perry Apartment roommates laughing and talking.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to live with for my final year of college.  From nights when we all crammed into one small bedroom instead of the huge living room to eating homemade cookie dough by the spoonful, I certainly miss living with my four roommates.

2. Experiencing St. Patrick’s Day in Rochester with Kristine.  I spent a short weekend in Rochester with one of my best friends, catching up and watching the never-ending parade of green.

3. Graduating College.  I’m not actually sure what date I supposedly graduated on, but I did it!  Our college had uneven trimesters and I finished in April between the 2nd and 3rd terms, but I think I technically graduated in June (I didn’t get to go to graduation and I’ve never seen my diploma, so it all feels a little like it didn’t happen).

4. A trip to South Africa.  My parents called me one day and basically were like “Hey.  So I know we said we were going to go to Canada in three weeks, but would it be okay if we go to South Africa and visit Heather [my sister] instead?”.  Um, obviously!  It was a great trip and the best graduation present ever!

5. Related, going bar-hopping with my sister in South Africa.  This is usually not at all my thing, but I had a really fun time going out with my little sister and her friends.  She basically forced me to go out with them, since I won’t be in the United States for her 21st birthday this coming spring, but it truly was a lot of fun (and no worries, totally legal there!).

6. Substitute teaching for a few weeks before leaving the country.  I really enjoyed getting to work with kids after a semester off from teaching at all, and I even got to substitute in the art room and music room, which I really enjoyed!

7. Getting together with my high school friends (again, before leaving the country).  Although I’d seen them individually, the four of us hadn’t been together since I think freshman year of college, and I was so happy we could get together one more time before I left the country for a long-ish period of time.  Also, one of them drove a 4-hour round trip just to come meet up with us for a few hours (I really appreciated it, Beth!).

8. Moving to this beautiful country called Moldova and starting my Peace Corps service.  Do I really need to say more?

9. Attending my first Moldovan wedding.  It was definitely an event I will forever remember.

10. Spending 8 hours a day with fellow volunteers during PST.  While this was also rather hard at times (that’s a LOT of time to spend with the same people), I have so many wonderful memories, including singing to 90s hits, eating ice cream every day, haircuts during lunch breaks, and lots of laughter.

11. Getting our site placements and visiting our sites for the first time.  I was a little worried when the blindfold came off and it appeared there was no one else even somewhat close on the map to me, but as soon as I visited the following weekend, I loved my little village.

12. Getting to know and love my host family(ies).  I was incredibly fortunate to be placed with wonderful host families both for PST and now here at site.  My current host family often introduces me to others as their “American daughter” and they have been beyond wonderful to me.

13. Teaching middle-school-aged students.  What?! The one age level I always said I would never want to teach has become my favorite.  They’re seriously awesome!  And just in general, finally feeling like I belong at school.

14. All the little “surprise” moments that are some fantastic mix of strange, unexpected, bizarre, and cool.  As probably any Peace Corps volunteer can tell you, regardless of where they serve, this is what makes Peace Corps both amazing and challenging.  One small example: when the bus, during a snowstorm, stops halfway up a hill, backs down it, and hooks up a car to the back and tows it all the way to town.

15. Walking through the sunflower and wheat fields during my first visit to site.  It was so truly peaceful and beautiful.  Think of fields of yellow sunflowers stretching far to one side and fields of tall wheat stretching far to the other side.

16. Exploring Moldova.  So far, I’ve been to Chisinau (too many times to count), Ungheni, Criuleni, Causeni, and around the towns of Festelita (Stefan Voda raion) and Costesti (Ialoveni  raion).  Moldova is a beautiful, diverse country, and I hope to see much more of it while I’m here.

In English, but in a Moldovan style: I wish for you a year with success, health, peace, and happiness.

A Look Back: The First Six Months

Today marks six months in Moldova.  I know it’s cliche, but it’s really, truly hard to believe that I have already been in this beautiful country for six months, for one half of a year.  I remember sitting on the plane as it took off from JFK airport and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this!”.  I was excited and nervous and had no idea what was to come.  Here’s a recap of my first half year in Moldova.

Month 1: June.


We landed in Moldova and were greeted by Peace Corps staff and volunteers at the airport.  We then spent 2 days in Chisinau getting adjusted, then moved to our pre-service training sites.  I got my first bee sting while waiting to be taken to meet my host family, and broke out the med kit for the first time.  We met our host families, got settled into our new rooms, and used the four or five rehearsed Romanian sentences we had learned.  Over the next month, we spent our mornings learning Romanian and our afternoons doing technical trainings.  We gained new friends, sweated more than we ever had before in our lives, and struggled through long days of training.  We figured out the public transportation system and got more or less used to rutieras.  I use my first outhouse, and then my first public squat toilet (ew!).  I attended my first Moldovan wedding.  We visited three gorgeous monasteries.  We also visited the National Museum of Natural History and Ethnography.  We attended several hub sites, where we learned about health and security and received our rabies vaccines.  At the end of the month, we had our site announcements, when we found out where we would live for our two years of service!

Month 2: July.


We had our Site Team Conferences (with our school directors) and visited our sites for the first time.  I fell in love with Festelita and visited a nearby monastery.  We drew monsters in class, I spent a lot of time with my host brothers, and I laughed with my host mom about elephant green tea.  I visited Festelita again to meet my new host family.  I cut my hair, celebrated another volunteer’s birthday, and played with our kittens.  We began practice school, and we had our swearing in ceremony, officially becoming Peace Corps Volunteers.

Month 3: August.


We completed practice school and had a mini-carnival to celebrate.  I helped my brother harvest onions, went to the Chisinau zoo with my host family, taught my host mom how to play Uno, and learned to laugh at a number of small mishaps (my host family’s kitten falling into the outhouse hole, the same kitten getting in a fight and injuring his paw, and my host mom backing the car into the garage staircase).  We had our final language class (and tried not to cry).  Our language instructor, Galina wrote us poems and we had a crash course on Moldovan history.  I packed my bags and had one last celebration with my training host family.  We loaded up all our belongings and moved to our permanent sites to start our next chapter.  I spent many days in the school’s library and attended a school open house.  I adjusted to village life, got to know my new host family, and started taking bucket baths.  I also read over ten books in two weeks and celebrated Moldova’s Independence Day in Chisinau.

Month 4: September.


We had the first day of school, and I began teaching English.  I took a surprise day trip up north for my host niece’s baptism.  I continued to adjust to life in Moldova and in my village.  I experienced an earthquake, read many more books, and spent many hours alone.  I also spent each evening talking to my host mom after dinner.

Month 5: October.


I went to Chisinau for a Tech4Dev meeting and ATIP Auction and attended the National Day of Wine while there.  I went to my raion center for the first time, watched my students do traditional dances, and celebrated National Teacher’s Day.  I continued to teach English at school, and still had lots of free time.  I made another trip to Chisinau and spent time with my host mom’s sisters and daughters, as well as attended a luncheon at the Ambassador’s residence.  My host family continued to work on the kitchen and bathroom renovations, and I was attacked by our rooster several times.  I spent many cool nights bundled up in my blankets, thankful for our soba (stove), and spent many evening talking with my host mom over sunflower seeds and ice cream.

Month 6: November.


One of my partner teachers began her maternity leave and my schedule changed once again.  We had our fall vacation.  All of the M31 EE volunteers gathered in Chisinau for one week of IST (in-service training) for both language and technical trainings.  We learned the results of the United States election and cried and hugged each other, and then Moldova had its own elections.  I taught a few classes completely or partly on my own.  I ordered a new camera (hopefully arriving soon), and had less free time than before.  I called my grandparents on Thanksgiving, thus making my first international phone call.  I spent the weekend after Thanksgiving taking a surprise trip to Ungheni in the north to celebrate with other volunteers and drank plenty of house wine.  I made my first cookies in Moldova and shared them with my 7th grade classes as part of a lesson about making cookies.  Nina from Peace Corps came for my first site visit to see how things are going and I observed a Romanian lesson.  I got more comfortable teaching and felt like a real teacher again.

I’m so thankful that I’ve gotten to spend the past half year exploring the culture and landscapes of Moldova and that I get to spend another one and a half years here.  If the past six months are any indication, my time here is going to fly by more quickly than I can imagine!