Monday, June 30, 2014

Off Lockdown and Onto Worrying

I was going to start this post by saying it's been a busy couple of days, but then I realized I probably say that every time, because I really just never rest (Today I accidentally slept in til 7:40 when I have to leave for school at 8, but thankfully mama gazdă came in my room to tell me to get a move on). 

This weekend was our first weekend that we were allowed to leave our village for any reason other than Peace Corps training days in Chișinău. Which means we left both days and did too much gallivanting. Saturday was an optional Peace Corps training event, but most of us went to learn stuff and meet current volunteers and go out to dinner after.. Which was fun, but with that and language class in the morning, we were pretty tired upon return. Some of the trainees that live in other villages get to stay out late in Chișinău and have all sorts of fun, but our buses stop running pretty early so we don't get to do any of that. Maybe a good thing, I suppose, but it can be inconvenient at times (or so we've noticed once or twice). 

Sunday one of the COD mentors offered to show us around Chișinău, so we went to do that. We walked through a few parks, saw some of the sights, and then we found the National History Museum. I obviously made instant plans to return one day so I could go in it, BUT THEN it turned out to be the last Sunday of the month so there was no admission! We went in as I told stories about the sculpture out front (thanks Italian art) and revealed to everyone that I am actually just a big nerd about museums and art and such.. So now they know. But there were really cool etchings and woodcuts and artifacts in the museum! So I walked around mostly by myself to avoid being a spaz in front of the people I have to spend the next two years with. 

We also went to some stores, and split up for lunch (my group of 3 went to a pizza chain for burgers... Yeah, you read that right.), and then we went to the Peace Corps office and hung out there for a little while. We found a secondhand store and peeked in there, and then we returned to Măgdăcești. One of our friends couldn't come on Sunday's outing, so we made plans to make it up to her the next day. 


Today we had some, uh.. unforeseen free time in the afternoon, so we went and bought coffee and a log (seriously, a log) of ice cream. We took those to Naomi's outdoor kitchen (that's apparently a thing here, though not at my house) and made the coffee and mixed it with the ice cream to make a sort of coffee ice cream milkshake situation. This turned out excellent, and we took our bucket of milkshake over to my house to watch a romcom, which I was way overdue for. The Internet wasn't the fastest, so we had to pause every so often while we talked and/or played with Ionela (actually she played with us, more accurately). She decided again that I needed to have a baby and delighted in shoving her doll up my shirt and helping me give birth. This happened about 5 times in 10 minutes, so I am now the proud mother of one child that I gave birth to five times. 

This is a big week for the M29s (my group/class of trainees) because on Wednesday we find out our permanent site placement. I think it's a pretty big to-do and there is a party/mixer afterwards to go to.. We're all pretty nervous/excited.. We are supposed to be flexible and serve in whatever conditions we are placed in, but let's face it - we all have some sort of preference. Some people want a bigger city, some want a village. Some want an NGO, some want a mayor's office. Honestly my only "preference" is that I just want somebody to be near me. Yes, Moldova is quite a small country, but I would love to not be 8 hours from the people I'm currently closest to right now during PST. And I know people do just fine in a tiny village on their own, but I might not be one of those people that does just fine.. I just think I need an American (one from any sector would be fine!) within a half hour from me so we can see each other if we need/want to.

There's another picture where we all look better, but this one includes the cathedral of Cathedral Park, so..

So wish us all luck for our placements - on Sunday (and through Tuesday) we will be visiting our future host family and work partner/work site, so let's hope it all goes well for everyone. Until then! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ionela Runs the World

I am currently watching Ionela try on all my jewelry. It's not as thrilling as it sounds (or maybe it is). It's very strange to live with a child when the last time you did was when you were one, too. A lot of us are having trouble with the kids that we are living with - we love them, but they sometimes don't knock, or give you any personal space, or give your belongings any personal space.. Ionela has seen me naked, so whatever. Today she sat on my hip and pointed to my stomach saying, "Ai bebe!" over and over at max volume. So she's saying that I have a baby, again and again. Don't know if it's her way of saying that all the food they feed me is making me fat, or if she's just crazy. I'm guessing it's the latter, even with 4 meals a day some days.

Now she's dancing around wearing 5 of my rings and my tiara.

Anyway, today we had our second progress check with our Program Manager and with Alex, the Director of Program and Training. I think it went well; it was relatively informal, though they did have a few questions that I made sure to prepare for. After we are all interviewed, they will finalize a site for us to live and work at for the next two years. We find out our permanent site placement one week from today! Some of us (I'm not saying me, but I'm also not not saying me) have countdowns on our phone and everything and there is one girl who is able to tell you how long til then down to the minute. That girl is really for sure not me. We're pretty anxious to find out where we're going to be for the next two years. Really all I want is to be near ANYONE else, so I don't die in Moldova of loneliness or something.

Today I successfully and correctly asked in Romanian if I may wash my clothes, and I learned how to use their washer! There are a lot of confusing buttons, but Ionela was more than happy to help. After they wash, I'm sure she will be eager to help me hang them to dry. She wants me to dance with her right now, so I'll post this and update more later!

P.S. I feel like I have a cold, but if I tell my host family, I think they'll just say, "I told you so" because they keep telling me cold water makes you sick, but I keep some in the fridge and drink it anyway.... Because I like it, so... Whatever!

Enjoy this picture of Ionela trying on my bra. She sure did.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Great day in Chișinău!

Not every day is a good day but some days turn out to be great. Yesterday was one of those days for me. 

Cow parade!
The day before had been not so good. It was slightly redeemed by getting to video chat with Becky, but that was the only bright moment; otherwise, it just stunk. 

But then! Yesterday happened. Once a week we go into Chișinău and we get to see everyone. (Normally during the week we are just with our sector.) This is obviously fun because we have friends in other sectors that we get to see. Yesterday we had classes about sexual assault awareness, alcohol awareness, etc. but the topics of sessions vary each week. We also get shots (yesterday was rabies and typhoid) so I'm going to be great at getting those after this is over. We have short language class, which is nice because it's not as stressful and I think I actually said some sentences correctly yesterday. 

I have been craving an iced coffee for quite some time. There is no ice here anywhere. Even if I had an ice tray, I would have to boil water, filter it, and THEN put it into the tray and freeze it. So I've got an iced coffee mix or two but it is much too much work for me at the moment (I may eventually put one in a water bottle and just put that in the freezer). Actually, the only cold thing we drink here is beer, really. The stores will have water and juice and soda in fridge things, but I don't buy them too often. I put a water bottle in the fridge and my host mother told me I was going to get sick from drinking cold water. This is what they think so this is why there is no cold water. BUT in Chișinău, there is a coffee place that seems similar to Starbucks, so Olivia and I ventured there during our lunch break and got THE BEST iced coffee of my entire life. I mean, maybe it wasn't, but it sure felt like it was.

So my day was already great AND THEN we got to language class and the mail came. Not everyone got mail, but I got FOUR cards! So it was the greatest day ever. Two from my mom, one from my dad, and one from Samantha at church! AWESOME. 

This has directions and kilometers to many places
After we were finished with all our shots and classes, a few of us walked around Chișinău, saw the sights, bought some popcorn, and had some fun! Naomi bought some honey from an old man selling it and she opened it right there so we could taste. The man came over with tasting sticks and basically shoved one in each of our mouths, which was hilarious. And the honey was good too! 
We got home and had dinner, and then I went to Naomi's house to do homework, which of course didn't even happen. Then when I walked back into the house, host dad said, "Catherine, come have some wine!" so I had some wine and Nina took me outside to show me where they were making compot. I have had compot to drink before (it's a fruit juice that they make) but I didn't know how they made it. Three women, including host mom, were outside pitting cherries for cherry compot. There was a huge box over a fire and probably 20 jars of cherries and water (I think) boiling inside water. They will drink these throughout the winter, and every kind I've tried has been pretty good! 

Chess board organized by an old PCV!

So it was quite a long day but it was also an awesome one. And enough to carry my good mood to today! Let's hope it continues! On Sunday our mentors are going to come visit us in our town so we can hang out, which will be great! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

An Important Update

I just thought it was important for everyone to know: I did find the bathroom.

I've gotten multiple concerned messages so I must not have said that I did indeed locate the outhouse.

I asked for the bathroom and they thought I meant I wanted to shower, so I had to rephrase my question.. And then Nina showed me outside. Hindsight's 20/20, but I should have asked in the daylight. Nevertheless, I was able to successfully use it and have been able to ever since! Although it is an outhouse, so. Super fun.

Today I had to fight off a bee while inside, which, on the list of my ideas of a good time, that situation's probably just about last.

But do not worry. I have found it, and my neighbor PCT even demonstrated to me the proper way to use it. She is quite helpful, because as it turns out, squatting is somewhat of an art.

Anyway, that's all for now, and now you know!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Day in the Life of a PCT

I walk about a mile and a half to get to school every day. Some of it is on paved roads, and some of it isn't (today it rained, and I walked through mud for the not-paved part - it took much longer than it usually does). Another PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) lives about 3 houses down from me, so we generally walk to and from together, unless we leave the bar at different times after school.

Romanian lessons start at 8:30. There are 14 of us taking Romanian at the school in town, all in the same job sector (Community Organizational Development, or COD), but we have three language instructors so we are split into three rooms, and we rotate our teacher each week. This week my group of 5 has Liliana! She does not let us speak English in class, so I don't say as much as I might. But this is good! Then we will learn. The lessons go until 12:30 and then we have a break for lunch. Some people walk home for lunch, but my host mother packs a lunch for me (this is true of the majority of us) so I sit with the others and eat. Usually we eat outside, but today it was raining, so we stayed inside and learned how to play Euchre!

Then at 2:00 we have Tech, which is training for COD. Sometimes we have guest speakers or presentations from locals or current PCVs, but today it was just our Program Manager with us. We had a project due today: a community map, which we had been working on in groups for a few days. We work in small groups a lot and switch the groups for different activities. So today we had an activity to do where we discussed different site placement situations and we presented our map. Friday we are taking a field trip in two groups. One group will visit a Mayor's office and another will visit an NGO. These are the two places we will eventually work in, and though I'm not sure which I would prefer or which I would be more qualified for, I decided to sign up for the NGO visit. She mentioned that the visit would also include a short trip to the Mayor's office, which sounds good to me since I want to know more about both, AND my mentor is the one taking us around the NGO she works at, so I will get to see her again!

Tech lasts until 4:30 or 5, and then usually a bunch of us go to a wedding hall that is a bar when it's not being used for weddings. Sometimes we get a drink, but the main draw of the bar is its Wifi. A lot of us don't have Internet at our houses (I am lucky! No toilet but I can blog.) and even though I do, I go so I can hang out with my friends! There are 3 CODs that do not live in our village because they are studying Russian rather than Romanian, so sometimes they will stay and hang out for a while.

Then I walk another mile and a half to my house! Dinner is ready pretty much whenever I get back, so I eat with 1-3 members of the family. Today we had soup with potatoes and some kind of meat, and fancy Italian wine that they were proud to have with me (supă cu cartofi și carne - today's lesson was about food). Then I'll do my homework, or play with little host niece, or both at the same time... Sometimes I hang out with my host sisters while they dance around and sing American songs (and songs in Romanian that I don't understand). Occasionally there will be a second dinner later, and sometimes a relative or neighbor will join for that. Everyone's favorite "phrase" to say to me (family, relatives, neighbors... EVERYONE) is "Puțin, puțin!" because I have to say this all the time if they ask if I want shots of liquor or if they have me eat a second dinner when I'm not hungry - it means, a little, a little! I'll take a shower, do some reading or writing or cross-stitching, and then go to bed!

It's kind of a busy day, and a long day, so I'm often very tired - obosită is another word I say a lot. I go to bed even before the 4 year old, and way before the rest of the family! And mama gazdă wakes up even before I do to do way more work than I do... But I can talk about that later. She's currently in my room watering the plants and cleaning stuff. I look so freaking lazy right now. I hope she thinks I'm doing homework. Congratulations to you if you read all the way through this - it was as long as my day!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cafea All Over Town

Today we had a half day of lessons. We also have a community mapping project that involves walking around the whole village and observing, talking to people, making note of where things are, etc. in order to make a map of Magdăceşti. My group of four planned to work on our map today after language, so we started by going to the side of the village we hadn't yet visited, which began with a stop at one of "our" houses. We figured we would just hang out outside while she dropped off her books, but we were mistaken, as her mamă gazdă (host mom) invited us in for coffee. 

It seems like this is typical, and she seemed to really want us to come in for coffee and treats, so we did. It was interesting to the three of us that don't live there to see the way one mamă gazdă interacts with her Peace Corps Trainee, since we all have different host family situations. She was very kind to us and made sure we had more than enough chocolate and nuts to eat, and I think she enjoyed having us there as much as we enjoyed being with her! She doesn't speak English and our Romanian is only a week old, but we felt pretty confident about our ability to have a conversation with her. This is especially great after a discouraging language class, because then you think, oh, well maybe I do know something! 

We then walked around that side of town and went to a second house to work on our map, which was fun! At that house there was a very pretty gazebo outside for us to work in, and more food. The second mamă gazdă brought us a big plate of cherries to share, and then when we were about finished, she brought us cookies and coffee. 

They're all so sweet to us! We didn't expect any of that, but it was all lovely and we got to bond with one or two more host moms than we normally do. Now I want to visit everyone's house so we can meet all the families hosting us! Each house and family is so different - some of us are with just one woman, others have grandchildren in the house, or just a couple, or older children.. It's very cool. 

Now I am just hanging out at the house with my host sisters and niece.. And tomorrow is Sunday so we have the day off - woo hoo! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chickens and Pigs and Sunsets, Oh My!

Yesterday I learned what I can and cannot eat and today I broke all the rules. 

To be fair, it took them a week to tell us that information and I had already confirmed that I liked certain things, so my host family is going to continue to give them to me. Such as, brînză, which is homemade cheese that we aren't supposed to eat uncooked. Guess what was right next to my fried egg tonight? If you thought brînză, you thought right. And did I eat it? Well, I can't confirm or deny that, but if the medical officers ask, I absolutely did not. 

I am also to wash every piece of fruit I eat in water that I have boiled and filtered, and I'm not saying I didn't do that, but I am saying that I was outside next to the raspberry bushes, cherry trees, apple trees, and other unidentifiable fruit bushes (she told me the name, but guess what language it was in?) and I was offered some of these things. I'm also saying that it's rude to decline and that I love fruit. So you can come to your own conclusions. 

Ionela also showed me everything in the backyard, much of which I had not seen before. We went out to pick cherries a few days ago and I saw that there were lots of baby chickens and two pigs, but I thought that meant I had seen all the animals, and I was very wrong. There are lots of baby chickens and two pigs, but there is also a pen that I hadn't seen before that I got to go in today. It has bunnies, ducks, ducklings, chickens, and maybe a rooster? I couldn't tell for sure, as my knowledge of gender in farm animals is relatively lacking. 

I'm also pretty sure I've been eating some of these animals, but whenever the pigs start squealing like something is killing them, I make sure not to go outside. I don't think I'm quite ready to help kill a chicken or something. Just a hunch. 

There is also a gorgeous view from the edge of the fenced property, which I got to see the sun setting over today. Many fields and hills and such. 

Tomorrow is Fridaaaaaayyyy! Oh, but I have school on Saturday too. Well, it's the thought that counts. Here is one last picture to sum up the day. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

An American In Moldova

Sunday we had the whole day off - woo hoo! Naturally, I slept in. Most of my group decided to walk around town but sleep is crucial to me so I did not join them. 

My host parents went to church, I think, but my host sisters didn't go, and instead they invited me to the pool! I wasn't completely sure that I wanted to go, but sometimes it's better to say yes than no, especially if there isn't any great reason to decline. (Though now I have learned how to politely decline invitations in Romanian, if you were wondering.) Plus, it's freaking hot, so the pool sounded excellent. 

So we got ready, which took them a lot longer than it took me... Probably because all I did was put on a swimsuit and shorts and all they did was get super cute like they're going out somewhere fancy. As if it weren't obvious enough to everyone I meet that I'm a sloppy American; whatever. 

We walked through town to get to the rutiera stop and got on rutiera #1. Then we switched buses for #2, and traveled to Chișinău to the pool! We met some of Nina and Virgilla's friends there and hung out for a long time. I didn't say much or understand much, but every so often (mostly when riding the buses) they would say, "Catherine, go." "Catherine, come." "Catherine, now." So at least I knew when to get on and off! Then we went back into the center (or what I assume is the center) of Chișinău and went to a pizza place for dinner. 

Some of the Moldovan lei
It was a very long but fun day! The sun must not be as bright here or something because surprisingly I am not too burnt for being out in the sun. 

I think it was the first day I've ever not seen an American. Like not any. Any time I've lived in or visited other countries, I've always had friends or family or classmates, so it was kind of strange. 

Ionela with her masterpiece
Last night was also great! I was exhausted after school but Ionela wanted to play, obviously. So we colored and I got her to let me do my homework by letting her fix my hair - I don't think she's ready for cosmetology school, but there's potential. Then they brought me into the kitchen for masă, which is kind of confusing to me because it seems like it's a second dinner, but it's just the whole table filled with food. I guess it's more social than to eat. We had champagne, which I thought meant we were celebrating something, but I don't think they were. They said it was a special Moldovan drink so I think they might have just wanted me to try it. 

Shockingly enough, the night wasn't great because of the champagne, but because we stayed up for hours talking and laughing and having fun and asking questions! I hadn't eaten the fish they'd sent in my lunch (or the fish at dinner) so they asked me if I don't like fish, and then laughed when I said I didn't. "You have to tell us this stuff!" So they know now that I do not like fish or mushrooms. We all translated for each other and they asked me about myself and my life and I asked them about their family and life. 

They said that when I arrived, they didn't know how to talk to me, but now that I know a little bit more and it's been a few days of living with them, they said "You are family!" and we have a much better time! Nina is in a dance group so we went online and watched each other's dance videos and she says she will take me to dance class on Saturday! 
Where I learn Romanian

I definitely stayed up too late, but it was worth it. After that I feel like I have two new sisters, a little niece, and two extra parents! Which obviously I need since mine are thousands of miles away, HOW RUDE.

Tomorrow we go back into Chișinău for classes and shots and probably other tiring stuff. 

So I'll say goodnight for now! Noapte bună!

(I know my pictures don't always go with what I'm saying, but I figure my main audience here could not care less.)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bună din Moldova!

I am in Moldova now! Actually I have been since Wednesday afternoon. But now that I've both wined and whined, I definitely need to update! (Until today, I had only whined.. I can't tell if that's going to be surprising to you or not.)

We got to Moldova on Wednesday, and it has been a rollercoaster so far. We went straight from the airport to the place where we will have some of our trainings/classes (and the place where we have had them so far) in Chișinău. I would have liked to go straight to a nap (here's where the whining starts) but we did not do that. So weird! There was a lot happening at once, like Moldovan press interviewing people, a special welcome ceremony, current PCVs meeting and greeting us, lots of information coming at us.... So obviously I was at the start of my mental breakdown.

Maybe I'm slightly exaggerating, but maybe not!

Because then we got dropped off at our host family's house. Which meant I was all alone with only people who I didn't understand....... And remember all that other stuff I was freaking out about? Yeah, add knowing nothing anyone said to me. My host mother showed me where to unpack (my room is quite nice) so I started doing that and a little girl came in to help. She is adorable and is a granddaughter, which I've worked out makes her my host niece, I think. She's 4 years old and likes me, so we hang out whenever I am at the house and she plays and talks to me like a 4 year old would, only I have no clue what she's saying. Her unpacking help included throwing underwear at me to put in the cabinet - after she had held it up to see if it would look good on her. I'm talking every piece of underwear and bra. Very cute; not exactly the most helpful. :) 

At some point one of my host sisters returned and came into my room and asked me some questions - she speaks some English! She's 17 and also adorable. So her English (and ability to use Google translate) has been very helpful. 

I did not know how to use the bathroom, as there is no inside toilet and I didn't ask where the outside one was... So I just went to bed around 8 and wanted to go home. 

Which brings us to Thursday, the day where I cried in front of everyone I don't yet know, and also the day where that crying was really helpful actually. My mentor and another girl both talked to me and made me feel better. I wasn't awful at learning the first Romanian words we went over, and then when I got back to the house and used one, my host mother was so proud of me. So post-crying all over the place, things started to improve. 

We've had a few days of language class and I'm already understanding more of what my host family says - and they are helping me with learning new words for things. We just had some excellent plăcintă that I watched my host mom make with little host niece (Ionela) sitting on my lap, AND when you have plăcintă, you have the house wine... So there you go! 

And we have decided that since I got my mental breakdown out of the way on day 1/2, I'm way ahead of everyone else and I can already move past it, so. Maybe I'll do a little less whining and a little more wining. :)

La reverdere!

P.S. While I was finishing this, my host mom came in with a bowl of cherries that were just picked from one of the trees outside. No whining about that!