Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Gratitude #4

Tomorrow is December and I can't believe it. I feel like I was just saying how I couldn't believe November was going by so quickly and now it's really just gone! How? It's crazy how life works like that, time passing and all. 

So this is the last week in the Gratitude series! It's been fun to do and really, it's been pretty easy to do. When you're actively thinking about the good things in your life, you can absolutely find 30 things to be thankful for. Likely more. Here's my last list.

November 24: These quotes from a weekly email that I rely on for inspiration: 

"Simple. That's what it is. When it comes down to the things that shift this world and shake up souls, the ideas are simple. They're basic, not extravagant."

"Just keep going. Keep showing up for things if you ever want to see them grow. You have to swallow your pride, and swallow the parts of you that want to see a movement grow in a day, and just get used to tiny movements. Tiny, microscopic shifts that may never matter to anyone but you. Celebrate those little things and then keep going."

"And to that I say again: just keep going. Every day you are given nearly a thousand and one 'sink or swim' moments. The important part is that you remember to choose to swim. You remember to kick your arms and kick your legs and swim. You won't always feel like you want to. You won't even know where you are heading off to sometimes, what direction is shifting you where. But this was never a story about destinations. This has always, always been a lifetime full of coming & going & leaving & staying & listening to your heart when it whispers to you, 'This matters most. Pay attention.'

November 25: Books. I've read 22 books since I've been in Moldova. Some of them have been terrible, some of them have been life-changing. I've read almost 200 pages in 3 different books just today. I usually have one I'm reading on my Kindle and one physical book. We have tons of books in the Peace Corps library that we can take back to site and read, and I've got a bunch on my Kindle I haven't yet read. Since I've found that I have more time to read than I had had before I got here, I'm doing a Winter Book Challenge, which has added some titles to my list that I wouldn't have picked up without the prompts. I've finished 4 books for that, and I'm enjoying the challenge.

November 26: Letters and cards from people back home. I have a rotating display of them on my desk and I definitely reread them! I know everyone's don't make it here but I am thankful for the ones that do (and the ones that don't - in that case it's the thought that counts!) and it makes my day (or week, or several weeks) to see an envelope in my locker whenever I get to check it. So many different people, from family to church to friends to sorority sisters to people I don't even know in person, have sent me mail, and it's just the greatest. Anyone who's sent me anything - you're the greatest.

November 27: Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for my family, because they're awesome! While it's depressing that I don't get to eat the yummy food they are cooking, I am sitting on their counter and watching them do it! So it's basically like I'm there, except the dog gets more turkey than I do. Technology is much appreciated at times like these, as we got to "hang out" while they got ready to have their Thanksgiving. I even got a chair set up to "eat" dinner with them! 

November 28: I spent the weekend with a bunch of PCVs to celebrate Thanksgiving. It could easily be a really difficult time for all of us. For a lot of people, it's the first Thanksgiving they haven't spent with family. But everyone's attitude the whole weekend was so great. No one brought measuring cups, our beater had one beating part, the whipping cream didn't always whip.. Didn't matter; everyone was in good spirits and made the best of everything. I got to spend time with people I knew well and people I didn't know at all, and it turns out, both groups are wonderful.

November 29: My Peace Corps family. Thanksgiving with them. It's hard to describe all the feelings I've got about people here, and I'll try to do that in another post sometime soon.. But they are wonderful. We got to have TURKEY and potatoes and cranberries and dessert and vegetables and the whole room was just filled with happiness and love. I'm a little sad it's over! It was the best Thanksgiving I could have imagined for my first Thanksgiving away from home, with the best people.. And probably the best food I'll have for a while. 

November 30: The kindness of strangers. This weekend, as I went to Anenii Noi for the first time, not 100% sure of where to go, but both the driver and a young guy my host mom introduced me to on the way were set to tell me where to get off the bus. It doesn't go into the town I needed to be in, but it stops nearby so I just had to get off at the right place and walk about 20 minutes. They were both concerned about my getting off correctly and told me which way to go. Then today on the way home, we couldn't catch a bus and these guys stopped for us and put a bunch of Americans in their car to take us all the way back to our raion center! We tried to chip in for gas and they gave us back 1/3 of it because they said we were chipping in too much. We get into some interesting situations as PCVs but there is often a stranger there to help us out when we need it.

And that's it. It's practically December - just hours from now. I'm feeling pretty good about life at the moment, so we'll see how the rest of the year goes. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November Gratitude #3

Whaaaaat three weeks of November have happened already? Are you sure? I have no idea where time goes. It's very confusing. At this rate, I'll be back home next month or something. (Just to clarify, I actually won't.)

So this is week three of the things I'm thankful for! You can find week one here and week two here.
View from my apartment this weekend

November 17: Days when my host mom and I get along. The stars aligned and we were both in a good mood. She showed me how to make plăcintă and helped me figure out better washing machine settings (which included translations from Russian to English to Romanian - the machine is German but has Russian and English labels), and then at dinner we stuck around talking for a while about tons of different things.

November 18: Lilo! I miss my little puppy and it's her birthday today!! So I hope she gets spoiled even more than usual (is that possible? Unlikely) and eats a lot of treats. Speaking of dogs, I'm thankful that our dog here is warmer. She doesn't get to come inside, which breaks my little heart, but they moved her up closer to the house and made her a better house, so A. I can play with her now (before I had to trudge through the garden) and B. She should be warm during the winter. I hope! 

November 19: Rainboots. Or whatever kind of heavy-duty boots I have, because thankfully, they work. What does the sun look like? I have no idea. I can't recall; it's been so long. But at least my feet are dry.
Probably colder than I look, even. And wetter.
November 20: Obviously, Becky. It's her 23rd birthday so I'm thinking of her even more than usual, which is already a ton, as we talk almost every day. I love that she can't stand when I don't have Internet for a day and if I forget to tell her when I know in advance, she freaks out and thinks something terrible has happened. I love that we still need each other's advice 5,000 miles away, from serious life stuff to Snapchats asking which scarf matches the outfit of the day. I love that I can count on her to always be either on my side or to have a logical reason not to be. And I love knowing that when I get home in 2 years, she'll still be there ready to be my favorite person in person again. (Actually, she'd better be at the airport to pick me up, or I take all of this back. Just kidding..... But seriously.) 👯✌️✌️

November 21: When people who you haven't seen in a while are just ready and willing to embrace you, figuratively and literally. So many people made today a great day that I couldn't begin to list them all. Special shoutout to my adopted Bunică for always being one of those people. 

November 22: The sun was shining today and that's both a fact and a summary of the day. I had the best sleep I'd had in forever in the comfiest bed, and then woke up and went shopping with two cool PCVs. We were so successful in finding things we were looking for, and it was so much more fun with company. I found the perfect present for my family and successfully navigated the post office in Romanian, so I'm pretty excited about that. Then I got to hang out with some more friends and eat some good food.. It was a very good day!
The menu just said "egg" so I was not expecting this.. But I thought it was good!

November 23: It's the opposite of fun to get up before 5am and walk 20 minutes in the dark to catch a rutiera. I have to do this if I have to be anywhere before noon. And whenever I come back at night, I have to walk back to my house in the dark. But soon this will all change! The bus is going to come all the way to my house now! So I won't have to struggle with bags and mud and darkness and cold to leave or get home, since host mom got her signatures and her support and her votes to make our side of the village a stop on the route. So I am very thankful for that. 

Next week will be the last in the November Gratitude series! Seriously, November, where'd you go?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How To Make Friends, AKA Speak English

It rained last night (obviously, because I had just done laundry and hung it up outside) but I was optimistic (AKA stupid) and decided I could make it to work without my rubber boots. I was wrong. So wrong. Thank goodness my host mom and I walked together this morning because I literally just stepped wherever she stepped and my shoes were still gross and not frumos all day long. If I hadn't followed her, I probably wouldn't have made it all the way without losing it (it being a shoe and/or the tiny bit of sanity I still have). 

Needless to say, I'll be rocking the boots tomorrow, but now you have background for why I was not in the greatest mood this morning (sorry for taking it out on you a little bit, Jeff - you're awesome!). The weather affecting my mood is not the greatest thing, but, in my defense, it's very gloomy and cold and I don't really remember what the sun looks like.

So my partner disappears somewhere (normal) but I know I'm supposed to go to the school today, and she told me when I got there that it would be after lunch. So I'm working on other stuff (like my new logo?!) when Alexandra, the other woman in the office, answers the phone and talks to my partner. She tells me that there is a class without a teacher today and that I should go over to the school.. I look at her as if she's lost her mind and repeat what I do relatively frequently, "Nu sunt profesoara." She says she knows I'm not a teacher but all I would have to do is read with them like I do with my partner's daughter. I figure, why not, how hard could it be, I'll just wing it. Like I do with everything these days! (I also have not been able to confirm if this is even an English class.. Maybe I'm about to walk into Biology in Romanian or something.)

I get about a third of the way to the school and I hear my name from behind me. It's Alexandra, telling me to come back to the Primaria. She says the kids just left and I don't have to go, so we go back to our office. Then my partner comes back and says my English group is here. Have I mentioned my English group yet? No? That's because I've never met them! So we're having our first meeting! I head to the mayor's office (he's out somewhere so we get to use it) and my partner puts me on one side of the big long table facing 5 girls and 1 boy, all in the 6th form, I think, so they're about 12? Maybe. Actually, they decide it's best if one of them sits next to me, so they put a chair next to mine for the boy. 

One girl is my partner's daughter, who I already know and who practices English with me every so often already. Another I know from Hram - we rode in the căruță together and then danced the night away, so I'm glad to see her again! The others are new and I asked their names enough times (and messed up their names enough times) so I actually think I remember all of them now! But I said the boy's name over and over and I still lost it, so I'll have to hope they say it for me again next time. 

They have these short stories to read that are less than a page long, so they take turns reading it aloud and I correct their pronunciation - this is the important part to them. I'm pretty sure they don't know what the stories mean when they're reading them to me, and I think we would have translated them had we had enough time. We didn't today, but they are going to come back again! It was so much fun and they were so precious. Most importantly, it improved my mood tons! (Or is the most important thing that they got help with their pronunciation? I'm conflicted.) 

After lunch, my partner's daughter came to the office by herself and we worked on translating it some, but she got tired of doing that after about a third of the story and played on my phone and made me get a profile on what is basically Russian Myspace.. So for as long as I tried to avoid that, I'm on there, and I have one 12-year-old friend. Feeling pretty popular. Maybe the other girls will be my friends too and then I'll really be makin' it. 

The first meeting of my English club (that I didn't know was happening til it was happening) - I think I can safely call it a success! Then I made it home without falling in the mud, and talked to my little friend Iana on the way, so even if today didn't start out so great, it's not too bad now! 

P.S. Happy birthday to my little pup who I love and miss so much! 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November Gratitude #2

When you have 15-20 minutes to walk to work every day, you have 15-20 minutes to think every day (twice). A lot of the time this means I'm thinking, oh my gosh, WHAT am I doing here?? So it's helpful to remember the good things going on in life, which is why I'm doing daily gratitude for the month of November. (Plus, Thanksgiving.) If you missed the first one, it's here.

Side note about my walks to work: Becky recently informed me of this ridiculously addictive podcast, Serial. It's a nonfiction story told week by week, and this first season it's about a murder from 1999. They're trying to figure out if the guy in jail really did it, so naturally I'm hooked. Now I can't wait to listen to that for 20 minutes each way. 

November 10: Alexandra, the woman in my office who is not my partner. She always talks to me and actually tries to understand me AND help me with Romanian. This is not true of everyone so I really appreciate her effort. 

November 11: Veterans Day makes today an easy one. But I'm also thankful for my partner's daughter, because when I help her with her English homework, I actually learn more Romanian.
The herd of turkeys that wanders the village..
November 12: Homemade wine to go with plăcintă ghițmane, which is only the greatest food in Moldova. It's a pastry of sorts that can be made with different fillings, sweet or savory.. My favorite is with potatoes. The ghițmane kind is baked in the oven with yeast (sometimes they're fried on the stove, and sometimes they just use flour without yeast) and it's the greatest. Mark your calendars for when I come home and we have plăcintă night where I make pounds of it and we all burst. 

November 13: The exchange of skills and communication that goes on with PCVs. I might design a business card for someone and then he might read something of mine and help convince me that it's not awful.. It's always nice when people don't tell you you suck! There's a lot of support within the PC community, and it's good to have. We all risk insanity without having each other to talk to, I think. (Wait, is that just me??)
Cute little kindergarten boys helping each other put on shoes
November 14: Just Dance and hot showers. I know I've said it before, but the fact that people put Just Dance songs on YouTube is just the greatest. I make my bed into a couch and get my exercise, and today I even had the foresight to plug in the hot water when I started so I would be ready by the time I was done! (When I want to shower, I have to plug in the hot water heater thing and wait an hour.. So cleanliness requires a lot of planning.)

November 15: Clear nights in the village—there are some where you can see what feels like a million, trillion stars. It's breathtaking. Also for a good PCV traveling companion who wants to talk but also wants to nap some, too. I travel alone so much so it's fun to not for once! 

November 16: Naps. 

Come back next Sunday to read more about what I'm thankful for this month. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November Gratitude #1

It's a popular time to express gratitude, what with it being the month of Thanksgiving and all. While I'm usually such a trendsetter (ha, ha), I've been seeing (and loving) a bunch of people telling the world what they're thankful for, so I thought this time I'd be a bandwagoner instead.

I plan to do a weekly roundup of at least one thing I've been appreciating each day, because let's face it, is it ever a bad idea to count your blessings? Didn't think so. 

November 1: The fact that I've made it through 150 days in Moldova. Can you even believe it? I can't. As of this posting, it's been just a smidge over 5 months.

November 2: My godson Kamci and all the pictures his mom posts on FB so I can see how big he's getting! 

November 3: My parents for (among other reasons) still solving my problems from 5,121 miles away, even if my mother is so terrible at Skype that when I can see them, they're upside down. LYLALAL! Also thankful for You've Got Mail. 

November 4: Being relatively close (less than an hour, usually!) to one of my COD friends and getting to share pizza, beer, and chocolate with her while we speak English quickly and fluently. 

November 5: When I get messages that make me feel good about myself, like: "It's actually impressive how solidly you've been able to provide me with any and all information I've needed these past couple days." I am pleased to be a real live version of Google for you, babe. 

November 6: Personally productive days - maybe I didn't do anything at work but I read 60 pages of my book, studied Romanian, did a dance workout, posted a blog, &c. 

November 7: Iana, my 8 year old friend. After a not-so-great first tutoring session, I met her on the way home and she ditched her friends decided to walk with me, hold my hand and listen to my iPod with me while we walked. When I feel like crap she looks up at me and tells me how beautiful I am, and she's totally patient when I have no idea what she's saying. I think I'll keep her around. 
Little Iana

November 8: Lovely, lazy November Saturdays where I can sit outside to finish a book and get some fresh air and sunshine. 

November 9: Pajama jeans, time to read, fresh homemade bread, anyone I've met in the last 5 months, and sunshine. 

Check back on Sundays in November to read about what I'm thankful for this month. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Currently #4


I know I only post sunrise pictures, but in my defense, that's the direction my house faces.
Reading July, July by Tim O'Brien. It's my second book for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge, which I'm fully excited about. It will also be the 20th book I'll have read in Moldova. I also just finished How They Met by David Levithan, reaffirming him as my favorite author. 

Writing nothing! My journal is looking at all the books I'm reading and feeling neglected. But I think it'll survive.

Listening to 1989, obviously. I currently can't relate to people who aren't obsessed with the new Taylor Swift album. Also Sam Smith, because he's excellent, and In the Lonely Hour is fantastic, and sometimes you need a break from Taylor. Hypothetically. 

Thinking about Prague! A PCV friend and I have decided to go there for a little winter/New Year's vacation. We're so excited. 

Smelling burning leaves. This morning as we left the house, my host mom handed me a box of matches and told me I had to set the leaves on fire when I got home. Excuuuuse me? What makes her think I'm qualified to do that? Don't know, but I did it. I think. Haven't checked on it in a while. 

Wishing I could get a Peppermint Mocha in a red cup from Starbucks and Instagram it. So if everyone living near an SB (aka, anyone in the States) could just go there and have a holiday drink of your choice and think of me while you do it, that would be great. I'll be over here with my instant coffee, living vicariously through you. (Feel free to Instagram it and tag me, as we all know that you didn't really go to SB if you didn't post a picture on Instagram.)

Hoping the turkeys I saw this morning on my way to work are somebody's Thanksgiving birds. Just kidding, they don't have that here. But don't worry, that doesn't mean I'm not celebrating my favorite holiday! There are a bunch of PC Thanksgivings throughout Moldova, and I will be attending the most fun one, obviously (I've just declared this, so..). A bunch of us will be getting together in a raion relatively near the one I live in, so that should be really fun! I'm looking forward to it, AND to getting together for American football the week before.

Wearing sweatpants, duh. Is there any other option?

Loving when I get to see friends! I had to go to the raion center to use the ATM so I got to visit Kelsey at work Tuesday and we went out for pizza afterward! It's always nice to feel like I have a modicum of a social life.

Wanting to dance! YouTube is the greatest thing, did you know that? I haven't been motivated enough to go for walks in the cold, but I have found yoga on YouTube, and after I post this, I'm going to do a ballet workout. It's like I've got all these dance teachers online just waiting for me to come to class.

Needing to find appropriate Romanian materials, as I'm going to search for my tutor for the first time tomorrow (yes, search.. The church she's at, which I've never seen, was basically described to me today.. So I hope I can find it - we all know how great I am at directions, and these ones were in Romanian. Luckily I'm way better at finding things when I walk rather than drive)! My tutoring packets are in my room somewhere..

Here's a picture of our puppy, just because. Isn't she cute?
Feeling somewhat accomplished for the week. After site visit, I met the president of our local NGO and we just spent time together working on a concept note for a grant competition, which we finished A DAY EARLY and successfully submitted! Now we wait to see if we even did it right and get to move on to the next stage.. So fingers crossed!

Clicking this post of things to remember. (Inspirational quotes are my jam, you know.) Also, this Apple commercial, which I watched without sound at first and still wanted to cry. So precious. If you don't cry when you watch it, you might be heartless. 

That's what I'm up to these days! Life is not bad.