Cum se spune românește “what a weekend”? 

While my week followed my normal schedule, this weekend has been filled with amazing surprises and I decided to Vlog about it! Not featured in the Vlog was an amazing barbecue at another volunteer’s host family’s house and an early morning hike overlooking our town. Every day that I’m in Moldova, I fall more and more in love. ​

I’ve added some photographic evidences of the aformentioned barbecue and hike.

Little House at the Edge of the Village

27 hours of Romanian class. 12 hours of technical class. 7 bowls of terci (porridge). Approximately 60 pounds of bread. 98 times saying “Nu înțeleg” (I don’t understand), and counting. Two showers. Two days without electricity or running water. Countless hours of eating cherries and strawberries freshly picked from their place in the garden. One marriage proposal. Two loving host parents. One latrine.

These are just a few ways I have measured my first week in my training site in Moldova. I was going for a RENT, “Seasons of Love” themed intro. Did it work? No? Oh, okay, moving on. Like I said in my previous post, I do not become a fully-fledged PCV until I am sworn in. Until then, I am living in a small town in the Ialoveni district very close to Chisinau taking classes and integrating a bit more into the Moldovan culture. My hosts are an elderly couple, Maria and Gheorghe. Neither of them speak a word of English, which makes for extremely entertaining meals filled with waving arms and over annunciated consonants. Their house is situated at the edge of the village, overlooking the rolling hills and fields of Moldova. I am directly across from the school, which means my commute comes out to exactly 3 minutes and 22 seconds.

Before I continue, I will answer some of the questions most of you are probably asking yourself. No, we do not have indoor plumbing. Yes, that does mean I have to use a latrine/outhouse. No, I have not gotten used to the smell. Yes, we do have an indoor shower, however we only turn on the water Tuesdays and Saturdays. Yes, that means only two showers a week. Don’t worry mom, I’m using deodorant I promise.

Instead of forcing all of you to sit through every detail of every day of my week, I’ll give you a glimpse into the typical day of a PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) in Moldova. I wake up around 7 o’clock and have breakfast at exactly 7:30 every morning. I have Romanian class at 8 until around noon, when I return home from lunch. At 1:15, technical classes start for my Health Education training and last until about 5:00. Several of the volunteers in my town have made it a tradition to go to the closest shop and get ice cream. Fun fact, there is a brand of ice cream here called Amir! The evening is spent however we see fit. For me, it’s mostly studying. All in all, the day is extremely tiresome because my brain is constantly trying to take in every detail I possibly can. Every Romanian word, every new view, every new statistic.

The language has been the most frustrating barrier to hurdle. When I signed up to be a PCV, I knew that I would be living in a country in which I did not speak the language. That being said, I underestimated how unnerving it could be to be in a room surrounded by people speaking a foreign language without understanding a single word. Here is a quote that I took directly out of my journal** on day three of being in my village: “Today has been a lot. My brain hurts. Don’t know how to work shower. Too afraid to ask. Going to bed instead.” Bad day aside, I’m learning more and more every day. I can have full conversations with my host parents at lunch without pulling out my phone to translate, albeit extremely basic conversations. It’s been one week and I already can see so much improvement and it just gives me the drive to keep learning and keep drilling the vocab and keep talking with people.

**P.S. Thank you Anne-Marie McMenamin for the amazing journal with Moldova on the cover. I’ve been using it every day!

Before I end this post, I have two stories that I want to share with you all. The first involves the very first night I arrived at my new home and my failed attempt to give gifts to my new hosts. When I brought my host parents the Charlotte shot glasses I had brought for them, I was met with blank stares. Up to this point, I had learned how to introduce myself and name a few items in my house, but in this moment dulap de haine was going to be of very little use. Maria held up a finger as if to say “Wait one minute” and ran to the phone. She spoke very quickly, hung up the phone, grabbed my arm and hurried me outside to the fence that separated her garden from the neighbors. A girl who appeared to be about 19 or 20 named Dorina met us at the fence. Maria began speaking to her and Dorina explained to me that she spoke English. I have Google translate, Maria has Dorina. After we cleared up the misunderstanding, Dorina helped clarify a few things that I had previously misunderstood. From the balcony, Gheorghe began yelling things to Dorina about me. She began to blush and laugh and turn away. Little did I know, Gheorghe was trying to set me up with my very first Moldvan girlfriend. He kept asking her to translate things and her cheeks began to match the red rose she was standing next to, each time laughing as he repeated his inquiry. The rest of the week has been filled with Gheorghe asking me how much I like her smile and telling me that she was the smartest in her class. We were warned during orientation that the older generation would try and set us up, but I was not expecting it this fast!

The last story is more of a description. Moldova is beautiful. The soil is a rich dark brown saturated with minerals that is prime for growth. Every family has their own garden that supplies the freshest of fruits and vegetables for the summer table. One afternoon, a few of my fellow trainees and I wandered from house to house, visiting everyone’s gardens and eating the fruits directly from the trees. Our village is placed at the bottom of a hill and one of my friends lives a bit farther up the incline. Her host father has an impressive garden that stretches maybe half an acre. Its center is lined with rows of grape vines, reminiscent of the vineyards on the Italian country side. In the center of the field is a cherry tree with a wooden ladder for reaching the ripest cherries. I climbed one rung at a time and looked out over the garden and to the hills that surround our village. I took a breath of the freshest air and opened my eyes to the green expanse. I can truly see how I’m going to fall in love with this country.

My First Week

Part 1: Staging

When I first arrived in Philadelphia for staging, I had about nine million things running through my mind. Are any of these people in the airport PC people? How am I going to carry all of my bags when I needed my dad to help me get them to the ticket counter? If I tell the cab driver to take me to the best Philly cheesesteak, will he? I fought the urge to ask that last question and instead found the hotel. I spent my free time before check in wandering the Drexel Medical Campus, taking in some of Philly’s sites, and yes, eating a pretty amazing Philly cheesesteak. Soon, the hotel lobby became a holding zone for all of the PC Moldova future volunteers. With volunteers comes their luggage. It looked like an REI catalogue had vomited all over the carpet. We were assigned our rooms and met for a quick “Welcome to Staging” presentation and then were let loose for the night.

The next day we started the official staging process, dressed in our finest business casual. Staging seemed a bit redundant, echoing what we read in the Pre-Service Training Handbook. It focused on Peace Corps general rules and topics related to their mission. That being said, it was the first time we were all together as Peace Corps Moldova trainees. (Quick side note: We are currently called “trainees.” We do not receive the title of “volunteer” until after we are sworn in on August 17th.) The whole day felt like a blur. Before I knew it, we were on a bus to JFK the next morning with all 100 lbs. of our baggage in tow.

Part 2: The Journey

Before you read any further, do me a favor. Go to Spotify, or Youtube, or whatever music browser you prefer. Search for “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap. Now put on your best headphones and hit play. For reasons I cannot understand, this song has been my travel soundtrack since it first graced my ears. I had it on repeat as I flew from JFK to Vienna to Moldova.* I had it playing when we flew over the Atlantic. I had it playing when we flew over the Swiss Alps. I had it playing when I first stepped foot on Moldovan soil. As we drove to our secret hotel outside Chisinau, I fought my sleep deprivation and watched the rolling hills and small villages pass by. I saw blue roofed churches and well worked gardens overflowing with cherry trees and strawberry vines. I was taken aback by frumusetea Moldovei (Moldova’s beauty).

*I’m leaving out the fun details of the flights. Just know little sleep occurred and much coffee was consumed.

Part 3: Week Zero

The hotel we were staying at was the height of luxury. If you watched my previous vlog, you saw my room. I had a private bathroom, a private bedroom, AIR CONDITIONING (!!!!). Needless to say, PC Moldova was putting its best foot forward. The five days that followed came to be known as Week Zero, the week before our real training began. Don’t let the name fool you, much training occurred during those five days. For example, we started our Romanian lessons on day one! But I don’t want to spend the rest of this post telling you every detail of what we did and what we learned. Know that we spent time learning some rudimentary Romanian, going over the basics of PC Moldova, and listening to PC staff inform us about our new home. Instead I want to highlight moments from the training that encapsulated the experience.

The first moment was the warm welcome we felt from the Moldovans. Our first morning, we were welcomed with traditional bread and wine (not really, it was juice. No vin during training!). The next night, we were treated to a cultural dinner and a show! A dance troupe filled with men and women of all ages demonstrated traditional songs and dances all while wearing traditional garb. Until this point, I was unsure if Moldova was right for me. But the joy that was emulating from these performers and the warmth they projected onto us was contagious. I began to see what I was going to experience for the next two years and it truly warmed my heart.

This one is actually a collection of a few moments. When we didn’t have anything scheduled, we were free to hang out and get to know our fellow volunteers. Every second I spent with these amazing people was unreal. I felt a connection to each and every one of them. I could tell I had found some really amazing friends. That being said, it also made me miss the people I left at home. My parents, my friends. I got to facetime with a few people and seeing their faces filled me with joy, but then I would end the call and realize I was sitting in the conference room of my Moldovan hotel. I’m lucky, though. I know that in two years I will come back to the US and these connections will not have dissipated. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, isn’t that what they always say?

Quickly, I want to speak about a special moment during one of our lessons. We had an amazing talk from a current volunteer in which we discussed the TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called “The Danger of the Single Story”. If you have not watched this talk I highly recommend it. The conversation that followed was short, but it opened my eyes to what we as volunteers were doing in Moldova. We are fighting the “Single Story” of what it means to be an American and at the same time creating one.

And the last moment was our departure to our host families. For this part, I want you to go back to whatever music device you were using and find some good ol’ Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On.” Not because I love her, which I do, but rather because this is what was blasting from our rutiera (bus) as we hurried our way to our new town. Our driver seemed to know exactly how fast he needed to speed as he swerved past cars, barely missing oncoming traffic. Our luggage was piled into the back of the van, swaying with the momentum. I was feeling every emotion under the sun. I was excited for the true adventure to begin. I was terrified of meeting my new host family. None of these were new, just multiplied and all at once. We pulled into our village and saw dozens of eyes peering through the windows, trying to see americani din Corpul Pacii (the Americans from the Peace Corps).

We unloaded the bus and they called out our names one by one. When it was my turn, a short, older woman raised her hand. Mama Maria. She smiled and I could see the kindness in her eyes. She helped me grab my luggage and she walked me to the house, which was conveniently located directly across the street from our drop off location. We carried our bags into the house and shut the door behind us. Welcome home.

First Vlog! 

Bună seara din Chișinău! 

Seeing as I’m new to this blogging thing, I thought I would try my hand at vlogging. I apologize for the awkwardly close views of my face. ​​​