Monday, October 13, 2014

8 hours and 300 km later...

This weekend, World Hospice and Palliative Care Day was celebrated around the world. One of my COD friends is working with an NGO in southern Moldova called Hospice Angelus Taraclia, and she helped them to plan an event for this that she asked me to be a part of. Since I am in the southeast area of Moldova and Miki is in the south, logically it would be easy to get to her for this event, buuuuut.. You can't use logic here when it comes to transportation, so you'd be wrong. 

Friday I woke up at 4:30 a.m... Did you know there was a 4 in the morning as well as in the afternoon? Now I do. The earliest rutiera out of Căplani leaves at 5:30 and I had to be sure to catch that. Leaving before the sun is up is not my preferred travel time, but I did get to sleep on the warm, heated bus and watch the sunrise while we were on the road. 

I made it to Chișinău's central bus station around 8:30, but my 9:10 bus was leaving for Taraclia at the south bus station, which I'd never been to and didn't know how long it took to get to, so.. I booked it from the central station to the main road to catch a trolley bus to the south station. I made it there a few minutes after 9 and quickly found what I assumed was the right bus. I asked the driver if I needed a ticket and he told me where the ticket office was and what to tell the cashier, so I successfully did that as well (list of accomplishments for the day was already pretty high, given the hour). Turns out there was a more direct bus that didn't go through some of the towns I went through, but it was cool to see all of those, especially knowing that I have/had friends in some of them, so I didn't mind! (Now I can say, Naomi, I passed through your town! and stuff.)

I got to Taraclia around 12:45 and Miki and her partner were there to meet me! Before going back to her house for lunch, we stopped and hung up some posters for the event.. The event that would be happening the next day.. I could just feel Mass Comm. professors cringing from around the world.

After lunch we went to the House of Culture and we met with the people who work there. Hospice Angelus needed their permission to use the town square, so they wanted to make sure everything was a-OK. Miki's idea for the event was to perform a hip hop dance and then teach it to anyone who attended who might want to learn it. So during PST III, I taught her the dance (thanks to Olivia, fabulous Airband choreographer, for letting me steal her moves!) that we planned to use. She showed it to the House of Culture people and we had to change some of it, but mostly we figured it would be fine. 

At this meeting, they wanted us to show them the dance (cool) and show them how we were going to teach it (for sure). However.. They kind of had their own ideas about the teaching part, and basically told us, do this now, do this after, then do this.. Even if all of that wouldn't really work. Some of what they wanted wouldn't work for a simple reason, so logically I could just explain that to them, right? 

I forgot to mention something about Taraclia, and about Miki. Miki learned Russian while I learned Romanian. No big deal, people speak both, right? Welllllll not in Taraclia. So I was back to not understanding anything. (After this weekend, I know a few more Russian words, but there's no way those few words together can lead to any comprehension other than guessing based on context.) So while we're floundering in there and not being understood, they say, oh hold on, we'll bring in a translator (Miki translated that for me). Great! That'll be awesome. 

The translator speaks Romanian! 

So they tell us something in Russian, which she translates to Romanian, which I translate to English. Miki understands much of what they say but the translator is very helpful when we want to tell them something that I have the words for but Miki doesn't, and eventually we (hopefully) get our point across. We dance and try to teach them the dance for hours (I think I can say "1, 2, 3, 4" in Russian now.. So that's helpful) and finally we are set free! Our hope for the next day is that it will be nothing like our practice session, because if so, we will have no control over how we do anything.. Our optimism levels falter slightly, but we try to be positive and hopeful about the event!

Then we have.. The best day ever. 

Miki let me sleep in, which was the start of a wonderful day, as we stayed up quite late the night before hanging out with one of her friends and as I was really tired from 8 hours and 300 km of travel.

We went for a walk and I got to see how BEAUTIFUL Taraclia and the surrounding villages are. We were just walking along and everything was flat, the fields met the sky and it was lovely, and then we walked a few more steps and suddenly you could see valleys for miles! It was stunning. We practiced our dance out there, performing for the valleys and the far off villages and it was amazing. 
Our captivating audience

After our walk, we went back to her apartment where her host mom had cooked the best meal either of us had had in these whole four months we've been in Moldova. It was so simple, but so great - lamb and potatoes with some sort of seasoning, and a bunch of great vegetables.. I'm practically drooling just thinking about it. 

With the morning having been so great, I'm thinking that even if the event is a bust, we've still had a pretty good day. 

We head over to the square and try to help set up. The event is to start at 4:00, and at 4:00, no one is really there. But they are playing loud music so Miki and I dance and try without success to get the few kids there to dance with us. There is an MC who says stuff I don't understand, and a woman from the news arrives to tape stuff.. So it's not too exciting for her, either. We hope that more people will show up eventually. Another PCV in Taraclia comes to support us and while we're talking to her, the MC says our names and we are apparently supposed to go up to the front to perform. 

I'm thinking, but why now?? No one is here! (Miki told me later that she was thinking the same thing.) 

We head to the front of the square near the stage, and the song starts and even though the sun is in our eyes, we can see that suddenly there are about 20 young girls in front of us waiting to see the dance, and more people around the square than there had been literally minutes ago. It was as if they all appeared out of nowhere. 

We performed the dance, and then the MC said we were going to teach it.. And ALL THOSE GIRLS were lined up, ready to learn. They all wanted to do it with us! We went from getting rejected by 8 year old boys to having a line of girls all excited for us to teach them. 

They learned so quickly and we only taught half of it before switching to teaching line dances (Cupid Shuffle, Macarena), which they all participated in. It was so exhilarating, and Miki and I could not believe how amazing it was. Everything happened so fast; it was such a rush! Miki had also lined up a kid to play electric guitar (a precious and super talented 11 year old that she is obsessed with and now I see why), so we stopped the dancing for that to happen, and I thought we were done with it. 

But the girls didn't want to be done. While the kid played guitar, they were off on the sides practicing the beginning of the dance and asking me to teach them the rest of it, which was difficult, because they were trying in Russian and a little Romanian and a little English.. But all at once so I didn't really get anything out of the conversation, ha. They couldn't wait for his set to be done so we could teach them more! (A little sad, because he was SO good.)

We taught them the rest of the dance and we all performed it a few times. They wanted their pictures taken with us, and they were so excited to talk to us and to dance with us.. It was so awesome. 

When I was on the Dance Team in college, if you had told me that I'd be teaching a dance in America, I would say, no, I think not, literally any other girl on the team would be better and more qualified to do that. If you had told me that I would successfully teach a dance to young girls in Eastern Europe without really even being able to count in their language, I would NEVER have believed it. But that's what happened! Sure, I didn't understand anything people were saying, but you don't need to be able to translate to understand emotions and excitement and engagement. And dance is universal. 

The event may not have raised as much money or awareness for World Hospice Day as the organization hoped, but I think most of the people there had fun - even if they didn't participate, we were likely entertaining to watch. 

Most importantly in our lives, it was such a personal victory for Miki and me. We felt great about it (still do, hello!) and felt great about ourselves.. Which might sound slightly selfish, and it does feel like that a little bit, but at four months into Peace Corps and two months into being at permanent site, I feel like the personal victories are immeasurably crucial. This will motivate us to keep moving forward and to keep trying new things and to stay positive, and I think we kind of need that motivation. It's like this day revitalized us and now we know we can DO things, which yeah, we could have told you that before, but it's way easier to believe you can do something if you've done something. We were bouncing off the walls excited during and after, and I would have gone 600 km if I'd needed to to be at this event with Miki. 

I'm so glad she thought of me for this and included me in her event, and if I loved Miki before (which I did), now we're even closer. Which is awesome, because she's awesome, and we are clearly awesome together. 

We can definitely conquer another year and 10 months now, so I hope Moldova's ready. 

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