Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Family in Moldova

"Have you been crying today?" she asked as we sat down to coffee and sunflower seeds at the kitchen table that I hadn't eaten at for over a year. 

How did she know? Besides the fact that I'm, um.. known for my tears, she knew because she's my mom. My "host" mom, sure. But she has been as much a real mom as she possibly could be for the last two years, even though I only lived at her house for two months when we first arrived for training in Moldova. Recently I went to visit my training host family after spending much too much time apart.

Our first Country Director said something about host families - even though you spend two years with one and two months with the other, often you'll have a stronger connection with the first, short-term family than you will with the one at your permanent site. She said this tends to be the case because when you get to this new country and you know absolutely nothing, your training host family has to teach you literally everything. When I arrived at Angela's house, I did not know one word in Romanian. I didn't know how to ask where the outhouse was (it took me two days to even try - don't ask), or how to find the school where I'd have lessons. When you can't communicate, it feels like you can't do anything, so that first family really has to help you learn how to live again. Of course this would form a strong bond; in order to survive, they are what you have. 

A few hours after we landed in Moldova, we were dropped off at our host families' houses. I was shown my room, I sat down on the couch, and then a tiny person came in to investigate. She was adorable and I didn't understand a word she said, but I knew she wanted to help me unpack. I was hot, exhausted, nervous, kind of scared, and maybe a little panicky.. But then she started trying on my bras and asking what literally every single item was for, so I was able to forget about some of those feelings for a little while. That was just the beginning of our being best friends. 

Day one in Moldova with Ionela.

Ionela was 4 years old when I arrived, and she was a little firecracker from day one. During our two months of training, she played with me, learned how to give me commands in English ("Come to eat, Catherine!"), fixed my hair, went through all my things, cuddled with me, drove me crazy, and forced me to watch Frozen about a gazillion times (who are we kidding though, I obviously started it - it's a quality movie). And I loved having her around; she was like my baby sister who I couldn't quite communicate with but who loved me just the same. Now she is 6 years old and she starts school in the fall. It can be hard to see time passing when it feels like every day in the village is the same, but when you walk into a house and see that the little girl you love so much is suddenly not as little, you realize that two years have indeed gone by. She is still perfect, wants to play 24/7, dreams up little kid scenarios, says I'm Anna and she's Elsa, and sleeps in my room with me. When I left to move to my permanent site, she sat in my suitcase so I couldn't pack. I already know she'll probably be the hardest person to leave.
We tried every single Snapchat filter roughly a hundred times each.
 Nina and Virgillia are my sisters, too. Two years ago when Nina finally came home from school or dance practice or somewhere and could speak some English to me was the best thing. Now I could communicate a little more easily! That summer they took me swimming, and out with their friends, and let me and Ionela join in on their YouTube workout sessions. Nina helped translate for me and Virgillia could occasionally convince Ionela that I did indeed have homework to do. 

After we had our coffee and sunflower seeds, mom asked, "Have you had any cherries yet this year?" I hadn't, so of course we had to go out back and pick some! Mom climbed the tree and passed handfuls of perfect cherries down to me, which I stuck in my pockets that were quickly overflowing. I spent the next two days just hanging out with everyone - playing with Ionela, walking to the store with Nina, attempting to make placinta, surprising extended family members at their house, even getting to see host dad on Skype. 

I'm thankful to this family because in just 15 minutes I easily feel more part of the family than I have in the whole two years at my permanent site. I often wonder how different my service would have been if I'd been fortunate enough to have such a caring family to live with the whole time. 

I remember one of my first days in Moldova, I sat down to dinner with the family and Nina said, "Catherine, you don't like fish, do you?" I may have avoided it in the lunch they had packed for me that day (and possibly another time or two). "No..." I said sheepishly, hoping that wasn't a deal breaker. They all laughed and said something like, aha, we thought so! Don't worry, it's fine! That night I truly felt like part of the family, and I'm pretty sure it's because they told me I was. Americans in Moldova use the term "host family," but not every host family uses it. It's normal to us to say "host sister" and "host dad" but to a lot of hosts, that doesn't really make sense. But here I am a sister and a daughter, and I have sisters and mom and dad. 

They still remember the list of foods I don't like to eat, and the first words I learned (puțin, puțin! - a little, a little! aka self-preservation during masas). We all remember how in the past I could barely hold a conversation, and now our world is completely changed because I can. Two summers ago, mom would make me breakfast and then get back to working around the house or in the garden. Now she makes me breakfast and sits down to chat. 

I had such a great time with them that I ended up staying even longer than I had planned, and I thought it would be my last visit, but I hope to make at least one more trip out there to properly say goodbye. Which I know will be practically impossible. There's so much more I could say about how much I love this family, but I really just want to say Thank you. Thank you for taking me in and helping me survive and being my family and loving this weird American girl that was put in your house for a summer. And please come visit me in America! Because I can't live without you.  

As I left the house again, mom and Ionela walked me out to the road and hugged me goodbye. "If you ever feel like you want to cry, just call me, and we'll talk through it," mom said. A simple statement that ironically makes me want to cry, because of how thoughtful it is, and how we never would have been able to do that two years ago. Now that we can finally communicate, it's time for me to go. Pardon me while I go cry about it. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Something of Impact

At our Close of Service Conference, we were supposed to prepare something for the "Something of Impact" session, where we all talked about how awesome Peace Corps was something impactful from our service. It could be anything. It WAS anything. 

I did not share. 

I had this prepared forever in advance, had written notes in my journal (which I carried to each session) so I wouldn't forget anything, and we had already placed bets on how many times I'd cry. But everyone said such great things - I laughed, I cried, I was inspired. So I thought, yeah, I can't do this. My natural "emotional basketcase" state plus a mountain of insecurity at the time just led to my sitting there listening to everyone else talk. Luckily I have a bunch of amazing supporters on my team, who said they still want to hear what I had to say. So here it is. 

I can, with relative confidence, walk the mile or so from the bus stop to my house on a moonless night.

You're probably thinking, okay... great job, Cat. How is that Something of Impact? 

My site is a small village that's three hours from Chisinau on a good day. We don't really have paved roads, and we have about 4 streetlights (and 3 of them are right next to each other). When I first arrived, my host mom made a big deal about the fact that there was a streetlight outside our house. I eventually realized that it was literally on just for me. Someone was paying to have that streetlight on because the volunteer, the American, lived there. 

So when I first got to the village, if I returned to site at night (which I tended to do, due to bus schedules), I would have a few streetlights, hopefully a moon to light the way, and my flashlight (or, more accurately, the light on my phone). And I knew I was getting close because I had the streetlight in front of my house to guide me. In other words, I had a lot of help making my way through the village. 

The road isn't terrible, but if you don't know it, it can be a little treacherous. There are holes to avoid. It's uneven. If it's rained, there are perfect places to step so you don't get as muddy. (The American is not good at finding these perfect places.) You never want to step directly where the cows have traveled on their way home.. 

Maybe you see where I'm going with this. In the beginning of my Peace Corps service, I needed a lot of help. I had my village looking out for me (with the streetlight at my house), I had my program staff, cohort, and people back home helping me out (maybe they're the rest of the streetlights), and I was trying to make it on my own (with my phone to light the way). It was really hard at first. I might trip, or make mistakes. Dogs would come out and scare me, or I would get homesick. Even if I tried to do everything right and not step where I shouldn't, some unforeseen obstacle would come out of nowhere and upset me or make me fall. It was really frustrating at times, especially when I would leave for a weekend and come back to new holes in the ground to avoid. 

But it got easier. The road got renovated a little, and I started to get used to the life I was living in my village and in Peace Corps. I felt a little more sure of myself. I cried less. I had successful projects, and English classes, and trainings, and I was helping other PCVs. I became more comfortable in the work I was doing and the way I felt about it. I could speak Romanian. I felt relatively accomplished (most days). I knew which dogs had a bark worse than their bite and which ones were just curious about the American walking by. They turned off the streetlight, and I was okay. 

Now I can walk from the bus stop to my house on a moonless night. That maybe doesn't sound so impressive to you. But without streetlights or natural light to show the way, most of the walk is completely dark. I'm doing this on my own, and I think I'm good at it. People don't keep lights on in their houses; cars don't drive by to shine headlights for a little while. But I'm used to it. I know where to step, I know what to do. 

I don't need to make such an effort to keep myself from falling.

Sure, there is still opportunity for me to slip up. A flash of something in the road that isn't normally there; being told I have to run important meetings using a bunch of vocabulary I'm unsure of. An animal might appear suddenly; I might have an unforeseen complication with a grant. But there are still a few streetlights and at least I know where I'm going.

And on those nights when it's completely dark and I'm making my way slowly through the journey, I've got you guys. I've got all these beautiful stars, these constellations, some of which I know like the back of my hand and that I know I'll be seeing for all of my life, that make the whole trip worth it.

Love to you, M29, my moon and my stars. You turn the darkest night into a breathtaking masterpiece. We've come so far, and I'm forever grateful that you've been there for me this whole time (whether you're still here or whether you've already gone). We did it! Vă iubesc, și mi-e dor de voi deja. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Catch up.

Has it been a hundred years? 

I know, it feels like it has. I've got some soul-searching posts coming up (obviously), but since it's been so long, I thought I'd tell you what's been going on in life since the year started. 

  • Rang in the New Year with friends in the capital of Moldova.

  • Had a food-filled, binge-watching stay-cation during the winter holidays with a friend in my village.
  • Went on vacation to beautiful Romania with yet another friend and had potentially the most relaxing week of my recent memory.

  • Enjoyed a few snow days in the village - because we literally couldn't get out of our house; there was too much!
  • Found out my COS date - my last day as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova is going to be July 7, 2016. Right now that's just three months away (cue panic attack).

  • Helped out with the M30 Project Design and Management Conference, mentoring, answering questions, and occasionally translating (but jeez their language is good!). This was a lot of fun; the COD group gets some really stellar volunteers.
  • Ran a 10K in the underground cellars of the Cricova Winery. I know, right?

  • Made 60+ Valentines to deliver to PCVs - if I could have thought of anything else clever to put on them, I would have made them for even the PCVs I don't know.

  • Helped my village apply for a volunteer to take my place (IN THE VILLAGE BUT NOT IN THEIR HEARTS). 
  • Spent a romantic Valentine's Day eating so much food and watching so much television with a friend in her village.
  • Went on vacation to beautiful Poland, where I met my cousin and his girlfriend and had the best time! We did Krakow, Auschwitz, salt mines, and Warsaw. Spent a few days by myself (and with new friends) after they left, which was also spectacular.

  • LEAP DAY IN MOLDOVA! This wasn't actually very special but I did spend the whole day doing only relaxing things that I wanted to do. 
  • Celebrated International Women's Day (a few times) with my village, including a super fancy banquet at the raion center that we packed 12 women into a van to attend. I'm getting hungry just thinking about all the delicious food we had there.

  • Celebrated a friend's birthday with a weekend filled with fun and games. 
  • Hosted half the raion PCVs at my house for another weekend of fun and games, including a hike to the lake, #buddyyoga, and a kick line or two.

  • Filled up my third journal. 
  • Helped teach a computer usage seminar in the raion center library. This involved planning and teaching about browsing the Internet and setting up an email account, and made us pretty pleased at our Romanian skills. It was oddly a lot of fun to teach middle-aged Moldovan women about how to use the computer.
  • Met a friend's boyfriend and sister when they each came to visit, including a wonderful trip to the Mileștii Mici Winery, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest wine cellar. (See, don't worry, I'm still "wining.")

  • Attended and gave a presentation at the Regional Experience Exchange for libraries in our part of Moldova, where we learned about projects in other communities and talked together about advice and plans for the future in our libraries. 
  • Did 30 days of yoga in a row (and still holding strong in April so far with the intention of doing 30 more!). 

I never think I'm that busy and then I look back and see all these things I've done in just the first three months of the year! Now I've got three months left to pack in as much (or more!). 

There's a lot in my plans for April (working on my final project, meetings with the health center and villagers to inform them about said project, a Bible Study retreat, another 10K, visitors to my village, our COS conference..) so it doesn't look like things are going to slow down anytime soon. I'll try to take a breath once in a while and pay attention to what's going on around me, and be thankful for the time I've got left. 

Good things about the last couple of days: • delicious weekend of shopping, sangria, and foooood • the weather has been LOVELY • my bike quit working on the way to work but before heading home, a guy outside the Primaria fixed it for me, no questions asked • coffee • new whiteboards to use during English club! • meeting fellow crybabies • productive meetings with the mayor • yummy colorful salads • Gilmore Girls • outdoor yoga • YOU, for reading all of this!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Well, we're not going to baptize our children together.

This is my favorite phrase that I've never actually heard.

We're not going to baptize our children together.

Тебе же с ним не детей крестить, literally "You don't baptize children with him."

One of my friends learned this phrase and told me about it. His example is - you hate your boss, and your mom tells you to get over it, you don't have to baptize your kids with him. 

I think it also means: Well, we're close, but not that close. Friends, but not best friends. I'll hang out with her but I won't do something as serious as baptizing my kid with hers. An interesting way to explain the level of your relationship with someone. Maybe it's a little cheeky, as I imagine you'd never say this to someone's face (just about them), but I still think it's kind of cute. 

Not having any real background on this phrase, my assumption is that if it is sometimes used, it's related to the strong Orthodox culture we have here. There are many, many religious holidays and traditions. Baptisms are kind of a big deal. They involve a big ceremony and party and seem like pretty important events. So, even though I might hang out with Mihai a lot, and think he's a great guy.. We're just not going to baptize our kids together. 

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015
This post is part of the Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Well, it's all in the details, as they say. (Who says that, actually?) MY favorite tiny detail that you may or may not notice in Moldova is the GLITTER. 

I just want everything to be sparkly all of the time, because life is obviously better when it sparkles. Moldova really pulls through on this one for me, because they put their glitter ON THE WALLS. It's in the wallpaper! Or painted on! I'm actually pretty bummed that my current room does not have any. I think my first room was at least shiny, if not sparkly.. But this house is not much for the sparkles. 

LUCKILY we have a tiny little mud room area that has some! My house has different textures on all the walls too - I think this one is supposed to be like flowers.

Wonder what the chances are that I could bring this trend back to America..?

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015

This is part of the Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Meet the Mayor

Do I talk enough about how much I love the mayor of my village? No? I definitely do in person, so if you're missing out there, here's a little intro to Domnul Primar (Mr. Mayor).

Whenever we are placed in an organization, we all have a designated partner. For me, that partner was the secretary of the mayor's office. However, I soon realized that I would consider her as more of an integration partner than an actual let's-work-together-on-stuff partner. Luckily, the mayor fits that working together role, so I consider him to be my true partner in crime. In, um.. Peace and friendship, I mean. Don't worry, we haven't committed any crimes together. Except for that time he "stole" a man's peaches on our way to the capital once, but I'm 90% sure he asked permission. 

He is without question, hands-down, the nicest man in the village. Possibly in the country, even. 

His name is Valeriu, and he's currently the mayor. Before he was the mayor, he was a history teacher at the school. He also lived in the capital for awhile and was a representative in parliament, but returned to the village to raise a family. He has daughters that live abroad, but he likes to tell people that I am his daughter in the village now while his are away. (So he always asks me if I'm warm enough at home, and how I'm doing with everything.) 

Valeriu lives right next door to his brother. He's always up for a selfie. He tells me it hurts his soul to do the hard parts of his job, but he's always got a smile on his face for the good parts. He manages to keep the whole office in line during Monday morning meetings, and if there's music playing, he's asking the first person he sees to dance. 

The day after my grandpa died during my first month at site, I didn't tell anyone anything, but he still managed to think I needed cheering up and took me around to all the neighboring wineries. He's pretty great at toasts and speeches (you kind of have to be here) but the sweetest one I ever heard was after one of his classmates/coworkers died.

He always includes me in any village event that he can think of, and if I ask about something, he'll find some way to make it happen. I wanted to ride in a horse carriage, so he dressed me up in the national costume and, along with a bunch of others, we rode around in one for the Hram (village day) celebration. I wanted to know how to make wine, so since he wasn't making much this last year, he brought me to his brother's house to learn. I had a friend that wanted to visit the winery in the next village, so he and his wife took us for a tour! If I wanted the moon, I think he'd find a way to get it for me. This Christmas he asked me to be the Alba ca Zapada (Snow White, Santa's granddaughter) to his Mos Craciun (Santa Claus).

The mayor is even famous among the volunteers in my sector. My partner was busy for our very first conference with partners, so he came along and was totally the class clown. We had a number of activities where we shared things with the group, goals and objectives and such.. And he told the whole group (Peace Corps staff, PCVs, Moldovan partners) that he wouldn't let me eat or sleep until I learned Romanian. He is hilarious and always has something funny to say or a great story to tell. 

He makes working at the Primaria fun. I don't see him every day, because he's pretty busy and we work in different halves of the building, but if it's been awhile, he'll always come in to check on me and on whatever project we're working on. He helps me get my work done - if I ever have any questions, he's got an answer, or finds one for me. He's just so motivated! He's great to work with because he really wants to do all the good he can for the village. I think he cares a great deal about everyone here. 

Sometimes he talks too quickly for me, but he always realizes it (because my face shows clear incomprehension, I'm sure), laughs, and says, oh, was I talking too fast again? Catea, you've got to remind me! He's taken to calling me puișor, which technically means chick, but I swear it's cute and not weird. A term of endearment here. 

The mayor is definitely my favorite person in the village, and I'm sure he contributed to my not leaving during the time when I wanted to, just by caring about me and really wanting to work with me. He always makes sure I'm happy and taken care of, and talks about wanting to write my parents to thank them for sending me here. He makes me want to do everything I can for the village while I'm here, because if he's a part of it, I know it's going to be great. 

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015

This post is part of the Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I Never Knew

All it takes to make you think, man, what did I know? is trying to think about things you never knew. 

So what didn't I know before I came to Moldova? 

Well first of all, I'll need to admit that I had never heard of Moldova. Neither had a lot of people I know, so my go-to answer was "It's right by Ukraine." (In retrospect, I should have said, "It's right by Romania," because telling people it was right by Ukraine, even though that's literally where I ended up being placed, made them worry unnecessarily and even say, mmmm yeah you probably shouldn't go there. But I was obviously trying to be cool and dangerous, duhhhh.) 

After reading this prompt, I've spent the last couple of days thinking about all the things I never knew before I came here. Misconceptions, interesting facts, superstitions.. And it's interesting, because even some of the traditions and superstitions I've learned in my village are things my fellow volunteers have never heard of. So not all of these will even end up being true for all of Moldova, but I'm going to try to list some things I didn't know a year and a half ago. Some will really be things about Moldova, but others might end up being about myself.. We'll just have to see. 

I never knew...
  • That a village can run out of something for days. Right now, snowed in, we're out of bread. And when I say we, I mean the whole village. Recently I wanted to bake something with milk, so I went to one of the stores. "No," the woman said when I asked if she had any. "The milk car won't come for another two days." So I went to the next store and she told me the same thing (of course, they would have the same supplier! Why hadn't I thought of that?). I asked about other stores and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. "No, I told you, it doesn't come until Wednesday." Then I had the audacity to ask for another dairy product.. Nope. She said to me, "Just have your host mom call someone who has a cow." Oh, of course. 
  • That I would be able to have discussions at work in Romanian about topics I never could have talked about in English before.. Today the mayor and I discussed renting a tractor and the process of digging underground and installing pipelines to carry water through to the center of the village. Yeah, that's my latest project. What? I didn't really expect that I'd be able to communicate as well as I have in another language. I didn't think I'd be bad at it, but sometimes my level of understanding astounds me. I definitely have days where I feel like I've forgotten everything I learned, but I have really good language days, too. 
  • That I'd take so many selfies.

  • That I would simultaneously learn to love solitude and want so badly to be around people. 
  • That I would have a favorite type of plăcintă. I was offered some by my mentor on our second day here and, having never heard of it, I panicked and thought she said "placenta" - I have to eat that?! Luckily it's plăcintă, it's a pastry filled with something either sweet or savory, it's delicious, and my host mom makes the greatest kind ever. 

  • That finding a bay leaf in my soup meant I was going to get a letter. (This superstition has never quite been proven..) 
  • That sitting on the floor/ground or walking around barefoot/with improper footwear would cause my ovaries to freeze and prevent me from having children. (Also not proven.)
  • How to make wine - even now, I'm sure I couldn't do it all on my own, but I've definitely worked through the whole process.
  • That my "friends" in the village would be 11-year-olds or middle-aged women, and virtually no one in between. And also the mayor. Definitely never knew I'd consider the mayor of a tiny village in Moldova to be my BFF. 

  • I'd be able to navigate life in another country by myself for this long, starting at zero language and really zero knowledge of anything about this place. 
  • That chickpeas signal the end of a masa in the southeast region of Moldova. 
  • That I'd wish, on a regular basis, that I could experience life in this village when it was part of the Soviet Union, just for a day. Everything they tell me about life then.. I don't know, I just know the village would look completely different. 
  • What true loneliness is. 
  • The art of making a care package last practically forever - my self-control is off the charts now. 
  • What I'd become so passionate about.
  • About any of the people or places that I now can't imagine life without. I never knew I could fall in love with so many of the people I've met and experiences I've had and places I've been in such a short time.
That list only makes a dent in my time here - the things I've learned, the things I've done.. I didn't think I'd be asked to be a translator for conferences, or that I'd be interested in the lives of random old ladies that I've only met a few times, or that I'd practically want to be adopted by my training host family. I didn't know I'd have any fun teaching kids English or be able to assert myself in an office full of outspoken Moldovan women. I didn't know I'd be included in so many cultural events and experiences that are sometimes unique to village life, and I didn't know that the community would end up feeling more like home and more like a family than I thought it would. The mayor will probably tell the story for years about the American girl who saw the village she had to live in and cried for two days straight, but then he'll probably have a similar story when I leave this summer. So, it turns out there's a lot I didn't know. 

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015

This is part of the Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Behind the Gates

Pretty much every house in my village is enclosed by a gate. That doesn't seem to make anyone any less likely to invite you in, or to shout out a "Good morning!" as they see you pass by. But they've all got a gate. My house has a brick fence separating the yard from the street. Which is a good thing, because we don't want our chickens roaming all over the village! (Though if they did, I'm fully sure they'd come right back at night.. They're pretty good at that.) 

So what do we have behind ours?

Behind the gates and behind the house, we've got a fence in our backyard too. This separates the garden from the house. It's much brighter than this picture, as my host mom and I repainted before the winter came. Behind the house, we've got a small garden, an outdoor shower (on left in this picture), and fields. We've also got a "casa veche" right by the house, which means "old house." Sometimes these are called "casa mica," which is "little house." They might include bedrooms, kitchens, or storage rooms. They could be literally a little house and include almost everything. When I first moved in, we would eat in the casa veche, but now that we have a kitchen in the big house, I personally don't use it for much. One part of it is where we keep potatoes and 300 huge sacks of flour for baking (slight exaggeration). 

In the main house, we have a kitchen (this is new-ish, we didn't have one when I arrived. My host mom would cook on hot plates, usually outside. Now we have a stove and cabinets and a warm, colorful place to eat and entertain.), a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a few rooms that aren't used for much. Occasionally we will entertain in one of them, but mostly they are empty. Moldovan houses sometimes have a room where they keep their nice things, and that room might be used for big get-togethers. 

One of my favorite things about some Moldovan houses is the metalwork on them. This is right in front of our front door, and the detail is just so cool! I first started noticing these works of art while in my training village, and I was really happy to see that my house at my permanent site had a great big one - it felt like a sign. 

A real bed tends to be rare for PCVs in Moldova. A lot of us have pull-out couches to sleep on. Luckily, mine is very comfortable. I usually leave it as a bed, but sometimes make it a couch for yoga or dancing or other fun things! (Okay, it's one of the two. The only other thing I can think of is maybe a large craft project, but those are rare.) 

"I can see Ukraine from my house!" But seriously.

One of my favorite weekend activities is to bring a glass of wine or mug of coffee out to our back balcony and sit there to read, looking out at the valley. Some nights there are a million stars, some afternoons there are people working in the fields, and some mornings everything is covered with a fresh blanket of snow. 

Though I called it one, it's not technically a valley that I'm looking out at. In the village (and in Moldova in general), we call anything that's above us in elevation "the hill." Anything below us is "the valley." This river separates our fields from the valley. My host dad built this bridge once the family realized I like going for walks or jogs in the valley. I'll usually pass a few cows, and occasionally a horse or two. 

My host family doesn't have too many animals. I've been told that they used to have cows, but now all we have are chickens and a few dogs. In the summer and fall we'll have geese, but they'll all be killed and canned before winter comes. When the weather is nice, the birds sometimes get to roam free, but they never escape the gates. 

We have two wells, which are usually where I get my drinking water from, but we have running water in the house, too, so I often use that as well - after boiling and filtering it. As far as conveniences go, we are fortunately equipped with a shower, indoor toilet, and even wifi - my host mom likes to Skype with her son in America almost every day, and I also might enjoy the use of the Internet. We're currently heating our house with wood and charcoal in a soba, or stove that heats the whole house. 

My house is very comfortable, so I'm fortunate in that respect, as many other Moldova PCVs don't have all those luxuries. I enjoy my little space in the house. You can either find me in my room, the kitchen, or outside on the balcony when the weather is nice (or if my host mom isn't home to scold, when it isn't nice! Sitting outside under the cover of the balcony is lovely during a rainstorm, or even when it's cold, as long as I bundle up!). We've got a lot behind our red gates! 

This is part of the #BloggingAbroad Blog Challenge!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

#BloggingAbroad: Why?

Are you surprised to hear from me again so soon?! Get ready for even more, because I've decided to participate in the Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge! They're sending me two prompts per week, so I'll get to share more about Moldova and you'll get to learn more! Since 2016 is the year I move back to the US, it'll be fun to do a few weeks of posts about my life here before things get really crazy and I start potentially slacking (what?! like I would do that!). 
Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015
Our first prompt is: Why? Essentially, why am I here? This tends to come up a lot, and I tend to not usually have a very good answer. It feels like it's as big a question as: Why are we here? On this earth, even. I'll give something vague and just rely on the fact that Romanian is not my first language - oh, I don't know how to explain. 

Wearing traditional Moldovan clothing

A lot of things went into my decision to join the Peace Corps. I recently graduated from college in 2013, and had decided that academic year that I wanted to join (so that at our commencement, I got a shoutout from the president - when she was talking about our future plans, she mentioned that one of us was waiting for a Peace Corps assignment - oh hey, that's me!). 

One of my closest friends at home is very passionate about seemingly everything. He's always going to do something amazing, and he always tells me about it and I'm always excited for him. Some of these things, he really does, and some of them he just talks about. One of the latter was Peace Corps, but the summer before our senior year of college, he was really into the idea. I was not, but I listened to him talk to an RPCV that we had just met, and I decided I should figure out if I could be into it, too. Turns out I was, so I applied, and the October after I graduated, I got my invitation to Moldova. And that friend has supported me this whole time - I think of him as the reason I'm here.

That's us when I went home for a visit!

Though I guess it's more complicated than that, exactly. He didn't tell me to do it or even really suggest it to me. I just love watching him get excited about things and this was something that I could get a little excited about, too. I'm not saying I wanted to save the world, and I don't think I'm going to be in line for sainthood anytime soon or anything, but after I graduated (and before), I didn't know what to do. Or what I wanted to do. And if you don't know what you want to do, unless you won the lottery or have a lot of rich ancestors or something, you can't just do nothing. So I thought it'd be a better use of my time to see if I could help someone else. If it could be in another country and I could learn a new language, experience a new culture, and meet a bunch of cool, new people.. Even better. That seemed a lot more legitimate than adopting a cat and living in my mother's basement. (But let's at least consider the cat thing, right?) 

I've been in Moldova for 19 months, and most days I love it here. So I'm excited to join this blogging challenge to share a little bit of my life here with everyone! 

Making wine with my mayor and his brother!