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.