Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ziua Raionului & Gradinita Christmas

It is currently Christmas Eve and I am patiently awaiting a phone call from my host mom. She is playing Santa at the kindergarten today and I get to go watch that happen, so that'll be entertaining, probably. 

Until then, I'll tell you all about Ziua Raionului, which my partner and the mayor took me to yesterday. 

The day before, multiple people informed me that I needed to be frumoasa, which I think was code for: step it up a little, Catea. You're going to see people besides us tomorrow. My host mom even came home and said, the mayor told me you guys are going to a fancy restaurant so you'd better wear your high heels. Um, okay. Would you like to pick out a dress for me, too? Just kidding, but really. That might have helped. 

I apparently did well, because when I got to work, everyone really liked that I looked nice (and were probably wondering why I don't put that much effort in on a daily basis - well I'll tell you, it's because I'm in a serious relationship with my snooze button.. I just can't quit it). 

After hanging out working for a while, 5 of us piled into the mayor's car, and we were off to Ștefan Vodă! When we got there, my partner asked where my friend was, and they told me my seat number multiple times before dropping me off to meet her while they went who-knows-where. So I found Kelsey in the Casa de Cultura, working hard with her Youth Fund kids. 

Then it was soon time to find my seat, and eventually the mayor and my partner showed up. It was about 3 hours of speeches, dances, songs, poems, skits.. And it was awesome. I mean, admittedly, it started out a lot more awesome than it ended.. I got tired, okay?! And ended up kind of tuning out with all the Romanian - it's very hard to have your active listening turned on for such an extended period of time. 

After the performance was over, they said it was time to go to the restaurant, so I thought it was just a special day and we were going out to eat, but we saw a big bus and my partner said, they're going to the restaurant too! So that was slightly confusing, until we got there and I figured it out. It was a big banquet hall (the mayor even told me his daughter's wedding reception had been there) and there were so many people. My partner kept pointing out important people - the wife of the raion president sat at our table, for example. 

My partner (the wife of the raion president is on the far right)
It was a very Posh Corps event. You know how you can tell you're at a fancy event by the number of forks you don't know how to use? Well, there was only one fork here, but there were three different glasses for each person. You had your wine glass, your champagne glass, and your glass for liquor. Priorities, people. The table was stocked with local wines from Purcari and Et Cetera wineries, plus others I didn't recognize, and of course, a bottle of cognac every few people (of which I did not partake). 

There was SO MUCH FOOD and I ate pretty much everything. It was the best and most I've eaten in probably 6 months. Which, if you recall, is about the whole time I've been here. I can't even tell you how great it was. There were tons of great vegetables, and there was meat, and there was the greatest smoked cheese I feel like I've ever eaten, and oh, the wine. We started out with servers, and they would politely say, ma'am, what would you like to drink, and the mayor would answer for me and we would always be trying the same wine (precious).. But eventually the men at the table got impatient and wanted to pour the wine for us on their own, so that happened. He wanted us to try basically every wine, so we had to do that. He would say, Catea, this is from Et Cetera, remember how we went to that winery together? Yes, Primar, in fact, I do. 

Then there was dancing! Suddenly the mayor stood up and offered me his hand, and we were dancing. Then we did the hora, and then I got a break while he danced with Kelsey's partner, and then we danced some more! 

Finally the night was over, though surprisingly I wasn't itching to go (sometimes I have to go to events and I get tired and secretly cranky, but not for this). My partner stole some candy for me, we got our coats, and we headed back home. It was a fun day! 

I've also now been to the kindergarten Christmas/New Year's program, which was adorable. The kids sang, danced, recited poetry, did skits.. And they were adorable. Everything one would hope for in a nursery school Christmas program. Crying and messing up and just being precious. It was great. And my host mom was Santa.. Kind of a scary Santa, but I guess it worked for her, as only one girl cried.

And I got to Skype with my family for Christmas and "open" some presents that will wait two years for me. Tomorrow I'll see my friends for Christmas Day and all will be well! 

Merry Christmas!! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Currently #6


Reading Adaptation by Malinda Lo (and two other books, but I've been hooked on this one for a bit). Sissy recommended it and I haven't decided if I like it or not, but I'm halfway through. I bet she tricked me into reading this without telling me it's part of a series... THANKS, Hannah.  

Writing tons of notes on this report on modern libraries. There's an organization here that works with libraries in Moldova. They have just started a PCV program where a group of us will learn something new each month to help us work with our village/town libraries. The PCV that works with this organization sent us a report to read about libraries in America and I thought it was so interesting that I took pages of notes, and got really excited about the program we're starting.

Listening to X, aka Chris Brown all day long. Amanda told her mom to send it to me and it was one of her best ideas ever. I don't know if 16-year-old me would believe that 24-year-old me isn't as obsessed with CB as she was, but I'm making up for it a little bit I think, having played this CD at least 6 times in the last two days. 

Thinking about day 200. I've been in Moldova for 200 days as of today. It feels like a lifetime and also like no time at all, which is simultaneously frustrating and encouraging. 

Smelling mint Oreos! I don't know how many days I can really be expected to stretch out this package of cookies for.. So don't judge me.

Wishing I could have been at my house last night in person instead of just with Skype. Multiple people conspired to keep me up until 2:30am so I could see them all together without even knowing that's what was happening. It was awesome. And obviously worth staying up til 4am talking to them! Slightly jealous that Becky and Rasheesh and my mother all got to hang out without me, buuuuut.. I guess I was included as much as I could have been, haha. 

Hoping we can successfully make it to Prague and have a GREAT time.. So great that it re-energizes us for the new year. Because 2015 is a lot of Moldova. It's daunting, a little bit.

Wearing sweats on sweats on sweats, duh. Actually I guess I'm exaggerating slightly (who, me?!) because it's just the one pair of sweatpants. 

Loving everyone, near and far.

Wanting it to be time for our Christmas party! We are having a tiny Christmas party at Kelsey's house for some of the lost boys so that we aren't sad and lonely on what is, for some of us, the first Christmas away from family, and for all of us, a day where we don't want to be alone. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about it. 

Needing to organize my room and decide what I'm packing for Prague.. The worst part about going anywhere - packing. Nu-mi place. 

Feeling better this weekend after a week filled with feeling terrible. Turns out it's more helpful to talk about stuff than to not.. Who would have thought? 

Clicking the A to X Writing Advice, which is fun and informative. Also these most-highlighted quotes from recent fiction by women. Here's a sample: 

“For although a man is judged by his actions, by what he has said and done, a man judges himself by what he is willing to do, by what he might have said, or might have done — a judgment that is necessarily hampered, not only by the scope and limits of his imagination, but by the ever-changing measure of his doubt and self-esteem.” - The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Currently #5


Reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, my fifth book for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge. It's entertaining if not occasionally a bit hard to follow. I was attempting a book in Romanian but I had to give up, because, guess what? I'm not at that level yet. Or ever. 

Writing this blog, obviously. The latest of that is my last gratitude series of November and this long thing I wrote about all the PCVs I'm obsessed with. TRY to guess who's who; you can't, and I'm not telling.

Listening to more Christmas music than any one person should. I've pretty much got my quota for the year listened to, and I'm nowhere near done. How many times can I hear Mariah Carey tell me that all she wants for Christmas is me before I get sick of it? The limit does not exist. 

Thinking about how I always seem to have accidental sleepovers at Kelsey's house. Today makes number... 3. (An accidental sleepover occurs when you plan to go to someone's house but not to stay the night, and you end up staying. I'm sure my mother is oh-so-glad that the closest volunteer to me is a female now that she knows I have so many of these.) We hung out today and I had planned to catch the last rutiera home but I got 3 phone calls in a row from my host mom so I figured I should answer.. And she said, "Do not come home." Uhhhh.. She told me it was too dangerous with the ice and snow so I had to stay here and wait for the morning. So that's what I'm doing now! 

Smelling cough drops and shampoo. 

Wishing I could think of really great Winter Wizard ideas.. We have a Secret Santa type thing that goes all the way through to the end of February (hey, winters are hard) that's called Winter Wizards. I'm really excited about it and obviously want to be the best wizard ever, but it's hard to think of stuff to write to them online/cute little gifts to send, especially when you don't know your match SUPER well (which I don't, but I love them anyway - maybe I love everyone though? It's questionable). But I did manage to find a cute little something to leave in their locker the next time I go to the PC office so that's fun!

Hoping that we get good news about our project concept note tomorrow - that's the day we find out if we made it to the next stage of applications or not. I'm really really hoping we do, because I don't know what the next step is with the project if we don't. 

Wearing the comfiest pants known to man. MOVE OVER, PAJAMA JEANS. STEP BACK, SWEATPANTS. There is a new winner in town, and I don't even own them. Kelsey is letting me borrow these sweet legging things and they are so soft on the inside I want to marry them. That, or just try to find a pair of my own in Chisinau later. Can you marry pants? It's questionable. I'll hold out for a little longer, maybe I'll fall into deeper love with a sweatshirt or something. 

Loving Christmas crafting, cookies, friends, romcoms, and sleepovers! 

Wanting my mother to open the package I sent her RIGHT NOW but also not wanting her to do it without me. I don't want to brag or anything but it's the cutest present Moldova could ever produce and I just can feel it sitting in the house, waiting to be opened. But I won't allow them to do so without me watching while Skyping, so there's that. The party line is that I have to explain stuff (which is somewhat true, but not totally necessary) but really I just want to be excited while they're excited opening the greatest present ever. Ask her about it when you see her. Maybe she'll carry it around and show everyone. Good idea, I think.  

Needing there to be stairs on our new spiral staircase. The staircase exists.. And it's usable. But there aren't exactly steps, just the shells of them, so it's still slightly dangerous.

Feeling fed and comfortable. Turns out Kelsey's a great cook (is this post JUST about Kelsey? I mean, maybe), plus, the pants. 

Clicking the amazing history of the to-do list (history's somewhat lacking in this piece, but still a good read) and an article by someone who sent all her text messages in calligraphy for a week. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This is your brain. This is your brain on Peace Corps.

I spent November being intentional in thinking about the things in my life that I'm grateful for. But if I'm being honest, it didn't require a whole lot of thought on my part. Each day, something would happen and I would record it in my draft for the weekly post. I never sat down and thought about it at length. 

I don't speak out loud very much. It's difficult when you don't speak the same language as your coworkers and the people you live with, but it's not impossible. It's not that I don't say anything, it's just that I don't say much. I never thought about fluency in a language being a luxury, but, oh, how it is. I can absolutely communicate basic thoughts and I'm not completely lost all the time with getting around and living my life here, but I'm not able to connect with anyone on more than a basic level. 

In a book review for The Other Language by Francesca Marciano (which I have not read), the reviewer says about the book: "Yet she discovers, first as an adolescent and then as an adult, that fluency in a language doesn't guarantee her yearnings will be heard, much less understood." True, but not altogether comforting.

With all of that and with the amount of time I spend alone (most of my time), I have a lot of time to think. But I don't use my time to think. Sure, I'm introspective and I question things and journal and I spend a lot of time in my own head. But I just spent this weekend with other PCVs and for the last few days, I haven't been able to stop thinking. 

It's hard to describe what's going through my head because I can't even pin it all down; it's so varied. But here I am trying.

I'm thinking about the future. What I want in life, what I don't want, what I hope to have eventually but not anytime soon. I'm thinking about the present. What I want to do, what I am doing, what life is like. I'm thinking about the past and how somehow, all the choices I made have led me to this moment and this adventure. I don't know if everything happens for a reason but I know some things do and I've got to be here for a reason. 

I'm thinking about my Peace Corps family. I'm thinking about how you can enjoy time with so many different kinds of people who have such different life experiences, and how they can turn your world upside down just by showing you a different point of view or by saying something to you that they didn't even know would have such an impact. Maybe they'll never know. 

I'm thinking about how you can meet someone "new" at every event, because every gathering of people is a slightly different mix. The perfect mix. A beautiful mix.
You can vaguely know who someone is, speak to them at length for the first time Friday, and pull an all-nighter with them Saturday only to fall asleep with them on the couch Sunday morning. 
You can pinky promise someone to be their best friend and not have any doubt that you both mean it. 
You can dance with someone and cook with someone and play cards with someone while someone else carves a turkey in the next room. 
You can plan events with people in all the languages you know (or try to know) and laugh about how ridiculous it all is instead of getting frustrated with how difficult it is.
You can have someone look into your eyes while they're talking to you and just feel that they're getting to you all the way down in your heart and soul. 
You can get lost with someone and not even care because you're with them whether you know where you are or not. 
You can have a conversation that starts with politics and elections and ends up with a link to a multilingual version of "Let it Go." 
You can find people who inspire you and people to look up to - people who might be younger or older than you, but that make you want to say, "I want to be her when I grow up." 
You can tell someone how you really feel and not worry that they will judge you or tell the whole country all your thoughts. 
You can count on someone to tell you the Packer score (we're ahead, hopefully) and someone else to be confused about why you're a Packer fan from Virginia. 
You can have a friendship that started day one with banana bread flavored beer that you'll never stop talking about. 
You can miss the people who have had to leave, and you will.
You can only hope that people are okay with the hugs you give that are probably too long for real life but that you want to prolong because of your lack of friendly human contact. 
You can fall in love with the people in your program, the people in your part of the country, the people you just want to fall in love with. 

I'm thinking about how I can look around at a room full of PCVs and feel like I'm at home with these people I didn't even know existed 6 months ago. I'm thinking about how 6 months ago we were literally strangers, and now I can't imagine life without them. There are some that I absolutely do not want to have to do life without, and I feel like I know who some of them are at just 6 months in. I feel like I knew who some of them were at 6 weeks, or 6 days. Is 6 hours pushing it? I'm thinking about how I have absolutely fallen in love with these people, and I can say without a doubt that they are the perfect people to be on this crazy journey with. It couldn't have happened any other way. 

I'm thinking about this quote from The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan: "It's not quite love, and it's not quite community; it's just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team." In other words, "the opposite of loneliness." This perfectly describes the way I feel about the people on my team, the people in my corner, the people I'm going to be spending the next 20 months with and the ones who, even when I am lonely, manage to talk to me from another part of the country and make me feel like maybe, just for a moment, I'm not. 

I'm thinking about how I may never stop thinking. I don't know what's going on in my head but it's something. I'm thinking about how I don't want to stop because maybe I'll figure out something I need to know, or something somebody else needs to know. 

I'm thinking about how crazy I am for being here. Yes, sometimes I want to get on the first flight back home, but with weekends like this one I just had and thoughts like the ones I've been having.. With all these things I think are true, I think I'll stick to feeling crazy for a while and see what I can do here, in this place, with these people. What am I doing? I don't know. But I'm thinking.. I'm thinking I'm gonna make it.