Wednesday, April 22, 2015

4,349 pages later...

April seems to be moving a lot more slowly than say, March or February. I think it's because in February I was working really hard with a deadline (plus that silly short month! 28 days, what's up with that?) and in March I had a great vacation to break up the month and to pass the time quickly. Now it just seems like I'm waiting for things to happen - a visit from a friend, the money for the grant, the 10K I'm going to fall over and die while running, and other things that I'm "counting down" to but that aren't happening anytime soon. 

However, April's length (or the many holidays, or the fact that I've spent a lot of time in the village lately.. I don't know) has made it the best month for reading so far. I've still got a week left in April but I've already read 6 books this month. I'll probably hit 7 or 8 by the time May arrives. Which is good, because May 1 starts the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge, which I think I have convinced both my PC BFF and my sissy to do with me! (This is your reminder, guys.)

During the winter I read some clunkers, but lately I've been killing it with choosing great ones to read - I think that's how I'm moving through them so fast, because they're so good! So I thought I'd give a nod to some of the great ones (or not so good ones that had some good quotes) in anticipation of the start of this challenge and because, you guys, I've read 41 books since I got to Moldova. FORTY-ONE. That's way more than I normally get through. 

  • "Nevertheless, each time our spirits sank, something would happen to renew our hope. Sometimes it was just a sunset. It was a beautiful sunset." - Jane Mendelsohn, I Was Amelia Earhart // This perfectly describes a bad day in the Peace Corps - maybe nothing is going right, but then, there's a beautiful sunset. Or a phone call from a friend. Or a quote in a book. Something will happen to renew our hope. 
  • "And even though these last nine months have been the most trying of my life, they've also been the truest." - Claire Kells, Girl Underwater // I read this just about exactly when I hit 9 months of service, so I don't think I need to explain that one any further. 
  • "I feel more like myself. That is all I need: to remember who I am. And I am someone who does not let inconsequential things like boys and near-death experiences stop her." - Veronica Roth, Divergent // Well, maybe boys occasionally, but definitely not near-death experiences..
  • "But you will do it. It doesn't matter if you believe you can or not. You will, because that's who you are." - Veronica Roth, Insurgent
  • "'You're the one who has to live with your choice,' she says. 'Everyone else will get over it, move on, no matter what you decide. But you never will.'" - Veronica Roth, Four // Particularly relevant these days, as people try to talk me out of what I believe I want to do. 
  • "He still had some doubts about the decision had had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision." - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
  • "The alchemist said, 'No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn't know it.'" - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
  • "So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people to things before they are ready." - Amy Poehler, Yes Please // Amy Poehler is such a genius. If you haven't read her book, DO.
  • "That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me." - Amy Poehler, Yes Please // See? Genius. 
  • "The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are." - Amy Poehler, Yes Please
If you can believe it, I've got a ton more.. But maybe that's enough, especially because I am still going to add my list for the #SCSBC15 to this post! If you want more inspirational quotes, just ask and I've gotcha. 

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules. - The Last Letter From Your Lover, Jojo Moyes
10 points: Read a book you have never heard of before. (Just go to a shelf and pick a book based on the cover, the title, whatever you want!) - Michelangelo's Notebook, Paul Christopher
10 points: Read a book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years. - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain
10 points: Read a book that won a Goodreads “Best Book” award in 2014. - #GIRLBOSS, Sophia Amoruso
15 points: Read a book by an author who is completely new to you. - The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan
15 points: Read a book by an author you have read before. (No re-reads for this one.) - Since You've Been Gone, Morgan Matson
15 points: Read a book with "light" or "dark" in the title. (Or "lightness" or "darkness.") - Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
20 points: Read a book with the name of a city, state or country in the title. - Looking for Alaska, John Green
20 points: Read a book with an animal on the cover. -
25 points: Read a book that is part of a series with at least four books. - Sisterhood Everlasting, Ann Brashares
25 points: Read a book that is longer than 500 pages long. — The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
30 points: Read a book with an alliterative title. (All words in the title must begin with the same letter; no exceptions for articles or prepositions. Examples: Gone Girl or Nicholas Nickleby. Yes, this is tough, which is why it's worth the most points!) - Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

I don't have my animal book yet, and I feel as though some of the others will change when I sit in the PC library for a decade and look at every single book.. But there's the preliminary list! Now I can get back to reading, right...?

[EDIT: I've changed my alliterative category to Killing Kennedy, which Bill O'Reilly is kindly reading to me as I walk to and from work.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Orthodox Easter

Hristos a înviat!

This weekend was filled with food and traditions, as it was Easter in Moldova. 

I left work on Friday around noon - the rest of the office had been cleaning up and painting outside the building, which I'm not sure why I wasn't asked to help with, but if I had known what they were doing, I would have - and was told not to come back until Tuesday. 

What, does Easter really take that long? Oh yes, it does.

My host mom started cooking on Friday.

On Saturday, we cleaned the entire house. (Maybe we just cleaned my room and the entryway and it just seemed like it took forever..) We took out the carpet and vacuumed and "mopped" the floors (mopping here meaning bending over with a rag and a bucket of soapy water - they could be on the next "real people" Swiffer commercial, I swear), and I reorganized everything while dusting it all off. It was a beautiful day and the sun made it more bearable to be cleaning for hours.

Later that day I was called downstairs to find my host mom making Блинчики (which sounds to me like blinch-ki and which I used to call clatite until I got to my village where they prefer the Russian). I was excited because A. I love those, and B. I know how to "make them." I have never made the crepe part, which admittedly is kind of the whole thing, but I've watched it enough that I'm sure I could, if given the recipe. I helped her with cooling and stacking the crepes and she told me I could fill them with fruit later. Which I did! I filled them with strawberries and cherries. She made cream to put on top of them, but that didn't really end up working so well, so next time we're going to melt ice cream to put on top (WHAAAAAT) - next time being this upcoming weekend, I think!

The "blinchki" process

She made tons of food Friday and Saturday, including boiled eggs that she dyed red.

There was a sunrise service and food blessing at the church way early in the morning, but I have not known her to go to church in 8 months, so we did not attend that. Nevertheless, there was knocking on my door around 9am to eat, which I thought was extraordinarily too early for a Sunday/for a huge meal. Did not matter what I thought, as the table was more full than I've ever seen it, and for only 3 of us. 

Champagne, fruit, blinchki, potato salad, eggs, chocolate cake, racituri, multiple kinds of meat, fish, etc..

She put on a kerchief and we all stood up for the prayer, where she thanked God for the meal and for our health and for a lot of other things. She had said the night before that the first thing we had to do (after the prayer, I assume) was play a game with the eggs, but it didn't end up being the first thing we did, so I hope we're okay with that. 

Pasca, traditional sweet bread for Easter - ours was store-bought but AMAZING

We had a champagne toast and then set to eating more food than I've probably eaten in the last month. We did play the egg game: two people take an egg and hit them together - whoever's egg cracks is going to die first. This is how she explained it to me; I might have gone with "whoever's egg doesn't crack is going to live longer," but, whatever. Then we each had to eat an egg. Oh, and I'm going to die first, which she thought was hilarious. 

We also had to have a jug of wine to symbolize the blood of Jesus. So after the two hour masa, I had to take a nap.

I woke up and ate again, at my host mom's insistence, which was then confusing, because we went to visit one of her friends (and then a second), and obviously they had a table full of food they wanted us to eat, too. I feel as though she sabotaged me, making me eat right before we went to more food and Moldovan women who try to make you eat everything (We can't NOT eat another Easter egg, because it's Easter!). I also think she might know some egg secrets because she won that game again with another person.. Proof that she'll outlive us all.. 

We stayed out much later than I would have liked, and I met a CHARMER who toasted to me: "La mulți ani, la mulți bani, și un moldovan!" (To many years, much money, and a Moldovan man.) Then he drunkenly, regrettably said that he would like to be that man, were it not for his wife sitting right next to him, who he loves very much. I don't know if everyone ignored just this or if they ignored him the whole time, but he would not be ignored by me. 

In the village, when I walk down the road, I greet people with "Good morning!" or "Good day!" depending on what time it is. After Easter, for the next 40 days, I will not say that. Before Easter, I was told that I would have to remember two new phrases - a greeting and a reply. I thought, oh no, I can never do that! Turns out that once I knew what I was supposed to say, it was easy to remember. Instead of my usual greeting, I must say "Hristos a înviat!" and if I don't get to the person first and they say that to me, my reply is "Adevărat, a înviat!" These mean, "Christ has risen!" and in response, "Truly, He has risen!" As we walked down to visit my host mom's friends, families were out on the roads in nice dresses, smiling and greeting each other with Hristos a înviat! and having such a great time with each other. I obviously enjoyed eating tons of good food and drinking champagne at 10am, but watching that was my favorite part of the day. 

We stayed home Monday and we are still eating delicious leftovers on Tuesday. Next weekend is Memorial Easter, so stay tuned for that adventure. 

Adevărat, a înviat.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Currently #8


Reading the entire Peace Corps library. Okay, not the whole library - it's too big. But I've just picked up a new stack to keep me busy, and I'm almost done with my first one, Ten From Infinity (but of course I'm reading at least 4 books right now because go big or go home, right?). I actually can't wait to get back to my house so I can finish the last 30 pages or so and learn the fate of the androids (there were 10 of them, and they came from infinity.. aka outer space, aka the characters in the book have no idea about anything). 

Writing in my journal - lists and thoughts and dreams I had the other night that were so perfectly analyzed by my PCV bunica. How could I survive without my journal? Answer is, I couldn't.

Listening to Ellie Goulding lately. Though, right now I'm listening to Alexandra work quietly next to me. Thursdays in the Primaria aren't much of a thrill ride (as opposed to Mondays, which are CRAZY). Occasionally she'll tell me a story, though! Today she told me about what her son does in Texas, and that through his work, he just saw my host brother, who lives in Texas also!

Thinking about how amazing it is that I've been in Moldova for 300 days now (302, to be exact, because this post took me too long to write). On Saturday, it will have been 10 months exactly. How close is that to a year? Hint: very. I cannot fathom how that could possibly be true. Didn't I just get here?

Smelling spring! Or is that mud...? 

Wishing for more spring. And hopefully good weather this weekend, because I have friends coming to visit my village! We're about to increase the Americans in this place by 200%. Assuming I can do math correctly. They don't have long in the village because of our great, frequent bus schedule, but I think we can cover all the highlights in a few hours. (It's quite small.) 

Hoping I don't have a heart attack and die when I try to run jog/walk in the Chisinau 10K that I just signed up for. I think it was an April Fool's lack of judgment on my part - my brain fooling me into thinking registering would be a good idea.. (Or was it peer pressure? Or a combination of the two? At least if it was peer pressure, I'll have good company while I struggle.) Because the last time I ran anywhere it was because a dog was literally chasing me (thanks, Moldova) so my ability to do this is questionable. I'm good at walking though, so if I just stick with that, I'll do great.

Wearing my favorite horse sweater over a dress and bright orange tights because I think it's autumn, apparently.

Loving my walk to work this morning, even through the mud, because on my way I saw a group of little boys, one of whom I recognized from the Pregatitoare class at the kindergarten (he's one of my favorites, too!). One said good morning to me, and I passed them (little boys dawdle, whereas I of course do not), and then I heard a tiny voice shout, "Okay!" I tend to say "okay" a lot, which I didn't think was that weird because I hear Moldovans say it too, but it's possible I say it TOO much.. So for the next few minutes (until I got far enough away) we just said "Okay!" back and forth to each other - he thought it was hilarious. 

Wanting to sneak our new puppies, Buzz and Woody, into the house to snuggle them. If only, if only. 

Needing a nap. Turns out it's exhausting to get up around 4 in the morning, travel ~3 hours, walk around Chisinau all day in heels (my fault, obviously), then travel ~3 hours back to site in one day. (What?? The title of this blog has the word "whining" in it - you should expect some of it.) Plus side, I got to see the sun rise while on the bus and it was OFF THE CHARTS beautiful.. Totally worth seeing the clock at 4:00. And I got to have a lovely coffee date and bonding time with "o Moldoveanca frumoasa."

Feeling excited about our park renovation project! Remember that time we applied for a grant and didn't get it? Yeah, me too. But then we went to a project design workshop and learned how to make our project better. We worked really hard for almost all of February rewriting and making sure everything was perfect and then submitted an application for a Peace Corps small grant. After returning from Italy, my partner and I went to Chisinau to present our project before the committee, and last week we heard the good news - our grant was approved! So we will be renovating a park this spring/summer and it's going to be awesome. 

Clicking this article about How Smiling Changes Your Brain and this #100happydays challenge I'm participating in - today will be day 11! (You can find my 100 days on Instagram by checking out the sidebar or by following me.) Read about it and join me and we'll change our brains by smiling for #100happydays! Or something like that.