Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Let Girls Learn - Girls In ICT

Have you heard the First Lady talk about Peace Corps lately? No?! You're behind. Catch up. 

Now that that's settled, aren't you excited about Let Girls Learn?! With this program, Michelle Obama is collaborating with Peace Corps in 11 countries - and Moldova is one of them. From the Let Girls Learn website about Moldova: "In Moldova, 25% of female youth believe that "wife-beating" can be justifiable. Education and empowerment are needed to combat dangerous social norms. There are 120 Peace Corps Volunteers in Moldova working with communities on projects in English education, health and community economic development." source

While ICT education is not education about domestic violence, it is something I find myself passionate about for girls, not only in Moldova, but all around the world. Men outnumber women in most STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). And WHY? Why can't we be scientists and engineers too? (My dad is reading this and thinking, well then why were you an art major...? I told you to take Calc 2!) But studies show that even girls who are passionate about technology don't choose to pursue careers in it! If girls in America don't think they can do this stuff than certainly girls here aren't sure either. So if I can empower them to learn skills in these areas, I feel that I should. 

Girls In ICT is a global effort by the International Telecommunication Union to encourage girls to consider careers in technology. In Moldova, GirlsGoIT is a program with the support of UN Women, Novateca (the libraries program I work with), and a few other organizations. Last week, GirlsGoIT had an event for girls called Girls In ICT, so I took two of the girls I know from my English class to Chisinau so they could attend. 

While the thought of being responsible for two 11-year-olds (who don't speak English) in the big city was slightly terrifying, it turned out to be okay. We got there early and walked around the parks to see the monuments of Chisinau, which they hadn't seen before. Then we went to the event, and we were the youngest attendees. ("We" meaning "them" because I'm pretty sure I was actually the old lady there.) 

Massage train - photo courtesy of GirlsGoIT

There were two presenters - one woman talked about different presentation software to use online, and the other woman, a graphic designer, talked about how to make a good presentation. There was about an hour and a half for both of them, and then an hour to actually make a presentation using one of the programs they had discussed. It was a little tough for the girls I brought, because it turns out they didn't quite know as much about using computers and the Internet as I had assumed, but one of the presenters was excellent about working with them and they were quick learners!

Photo courtesy of GirlsGoIT

Each girl who attended the workshop made a presentation and sent them to the organizers of the event - voting is currently open (do it here, if you'd like! Some of the presentations are in English) and I believe that the girl whose presentation gets the most votes will win an internship with e-Government Center Moldova!

Photo courtesy of GirlsGoIT
Hopefully we can work on learning more IT skills back in the village with more kids, girls AND boys! I'll just have to learn some more specific Romanian, perhaps...

Want to know more about GirlsGoIT? Sign the manifesto here. 
What about encouraging girls in Moldova to pursue STEM careers? Here's the gofundme page for a book called Elena the Engineer - they are fundraising to send it to 500 libraries in Moldova!
And about Let Girls Learn? Here's the White House page and here's the LGL Peace Corps page

Join the Movement! - Photo courtesy of GirlsGoIT

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I decided I'd try to do the #100happydays challenge. I post a picture each day on Instagram of something that made me happy that day. Some days it's easier than others. Some days it feels impossible. But I'm halfway done and going strong. This kind of goes with my "be more optimistic" New Year's resolution. 

I am finding that it's easier now to notice what makes me happy every day. When I first got to site I had a hard time, and I kept a "list of accomplishments" document open on my computer. I tried to think of things each day that I had "accomplished" so I could feel better about myself. They ranged from: "September 1, 2014: Gave a speech (that I wrote myself) in Romanian to hundreds of people at First Bell!" to "August 7, 2014: It's 8:16 a.m. and I haven't cried yet, so already that's better than yesterday!" Just like some days my post for this is a selfie with the medal I just got from a 10K and other days it's just a quote that inspired me because I couldn't find happiness in much else that day. 

As for the rest of the list.. Be in a better mood? Maybe. Start receiving compliments from other people? No more or less than usual. Realize how lucky I am to have the life I have? Yes, most days. Fall in love during the challenge? Well, that's ridiculous, because I fall in love every day. 
So here are thumbnails from my first 50 days. If you want to see the picture a little bigger, my Instagram feed is on the sidebar (to the right) or just click that link. 

My favorite picture: That cute newborn puppy for day 4.
My favorite picture: My friends and me hanging out in my village, day 13.
My favorite picture: The tulips blossoming, day 30.
My favorite picture: It's tough to choose between horses, Iana and her bunny sweater, and the marathon. So I won't.
My favorite picture: Okay, this one's tough too, but I'll go with crowd favorite, day 46, the goslings.

Am I happy every day? No, of course not. I'm not a superhuman (or wait, am I..?). But I don't think the point of this challenge is to be happy every single day for 100 days in a row. It's to be able to appreciate the things in your life (big or small) that make you happy. And couldn't we all be a little more appreciative of those things? 

So I'm still working on this, and I'll update again in around.. 48 days, give or take. That will make 100 Happy Days. Which picture is your favorite?? :)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Currently #9


Reading The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. This book was published after her death, which was just days after she graduated from Yale. She's a beautiful writer and it's a shame this is all we will get from her, because it's wonderful so far. I'm also listening to Killing Kennedy on tape, which is really interesting. 

Writing letters to strangers, as per usual. One to a boy in Spain who is collecting postage from different countries, and one to a girl I met online in a group on Facebook who wants a pen pal!

Listening to 8tracks. While I read, while I write, while I yoga.. Is yoga a verb? It is now.

Thinking about what a great week we had recently with friends visiting - that friend who convinced us to run in the marathon and who we got to explore Chisinau with and see cool places that I'd never seen before! 

Smelling plăcintă! Today she made it with brînza, which I can't remember her ever doing, but I'm excited about it because I love it with brînza (it's like homemade cheese). 

Wishing for the weekend! No, I know, it IS the weekend. But this upcoming weekend is TEDxChisinau, AKA TED talks, but in Chisinau! This sounds thrilling to me and I can't wait to go. 

Hoping I get a girl or two to come with me to Chisinau this weekend. There's an event called Girls In ICT and girls are invited to come and learn how to create presentations using different kinds of software. It's an international event to encourage young girls to consider a career in IT, and I'm really excited about it. I told my English class/club and one girl (one of the star students, of course) signed up immediately. A few others said they'd ask their parents, so I'm hoping that at least that one girl gets to go, and maybe one or two others! 

Wearing my pajamas, BUT today I'm calling them my yoga outfit, because. Well. 

Loving my mother on Mother's Dayyyyyy! 

Wanting my package from my mother to be here so I can start wearing my Jawbone and be motivated to get up and walk around, for crying out loud. Because if Olivia gets more steps in a day, that's just unacceptable. Competition will fuel me, guys. Remember when I tried to beat all the boys at all the standardized tests? (More importantly, remember how I CRUSHED them?) That was awesome. I need a challenge, here. 

Needing chocolate. Where's the chocolate in this place, jeeeeeez.

Feeling overwhelmed about everything that's going on this month. Almost all of it is stuff I'm looking forward to, like Girls in ICT and TEDxChisinau, language training, and other fun events with PCVs, but it feels like a lot at the moment and I don't know if I can schedule my life well enough! We're getting a lot of work done on the park, too, so I hope I can get everything in order for that - the other day I went to Chisinau with the mayor and we bought the playground equipment, benches, and fence.. So now I need to get all that correct and recorded on my budget.. Apparently it's hard to do nothing, but it's harder to do something! WEIRD. 

Clicking this artist who takes photos of fruit.. But it's not the still life you're thinking. This piece with 20 Unconventional Compliments to Brighten Anyone's Day - so give one to someone, already! And this TED talk about the power of body language - it's 20 minutes but worth a watch. 

And just to brighten your Sunday, here are some of our cute baby geese.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Chisinau International Marathon

It seems that it's been quite some time since I've done any updating here, which isn't that notable except that it means I've missed sharing about a holiday or event or two that I'm just going to skip, unfortunately.

I started this post with the paragraph above, wrote a ton, and then realized it was just too much. There was too much of me in it; no matter how many times I changed shirts my heart was always on my sleeve. Which is fine, sometimes. But I went downstairs to eat my dinner (potatoes) and decided to scratch all that and start over. Maybe those words will appear in a future post but for now, I'm going to switch my focus. 

Instead, I will talk about the first Chisinau International Marathon! There was a marathon held in Chisinau in 1986, but this is the first time since then and they really pushed for an international presence. Which seemed to turn out amazing, because their marketing and branding was excellent and I'm pretty sure people came from all over. They said there were 1,000 runners but 10,000 people there at the start. Here's a link to a story about it with tons of pictures (don't look for me in them, though!). 

I knew for quite some time that this was happening. I knew I had friends planning to run. And I knew for sure that I would NOT be participating. But, as we know, the best laid plans.. 

It turns out that all I needed was the right motivation. The right person to say, "You have to run too!" You know, those people who make you want to be a slightly better version of yourself? Sometimes we get to meet them and become friends with them. And suddenly I had a momentary lapse in judgment where I registered for the 10K. 

Let me be clear on the fact that I don't run. I've got that Couch to 5K app, but I'm not very good at using it. In my defense, the weather really determines my ability to go outside and do ridiculous things like jog near the cows. (I mean, what if they bite me? Sometimes their moos seem very aggressive.) So I didn't do much training for this thing. 

Eventually the time came for us to actually run. We were all prepared with our protein gels and our short shorts, but I don't know that we were mentally prepared. For one, I'd never even been to one of these things to watch. So I only vaguely knew what was going to be happening. 

There were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. Obviously, the 10,000 that I mentioned earlier. The PCVs were in the wrong spot but we were ushered over to the lineup (props to the marathon volunteers) and made it to where we needed to be before the thing started. When it did, everyone just started moving and we were all running through the starting line and down the streets of Chisinau. There were people all down the street on the sidewalks advertising and cheering and watching, and I think the start filled us with so much adrenaline that, at least for me, carried me a lot farther than I thought I would be able to go before I had to switch to walking. 

I beat death, AKA the pacer for the race, so there's an accomplishment, right?

We ran/walked through Chisinau, sometimes with other PCVs, sometimes alone. When you got back up towards the start/finish line, you really had about 2km left, so that was misleading, but luckily there were PCV cheerleaders on both sides for much needed encouragement. 

Really before I knew it I was passing the last group of cheerleaders (they should all be professionals, by the way - they were really excellent) and crossing the finish line, and a sweet Moldovan girl was putting a medal around my neck - I had finished! It was kind of exhilarating and I kind of wanted to cry, I was so proud of myself. But I didn't, shockingly enough. I'm not saying it was the most fun I've ever had, but I'm also not saying I wouldn't do another one in the future. 

Because now I know I can.

Photo by Beni Coombs