am plecat/I’m out

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This morning I rang the ceremonial COS (Close of Service) bell at PC headquarters, indicating that I have completed my two year commitment to Peace Corps. Tomorrow I take a bus to Brashov Romania where I will spend a few days before flying to Nepal. After a week there I will head to Singapore for a few days of training then I start my new job as an English Teacher in Indonesia.

I’ll keep blogging, but here instead:

hollylivesabroad.wordpress.com

pe curind

valise/bags

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I left my site. Living in the capital until I leave and taking care of administrative paperwork and meetings. Making one last pot of borsht tonight, and trying to reduce the size of my luggage, which is already pretty small but not easy to lug around. Mostly I’m sick of all my clothes and don’t want to schlep my backpack through several countries with things I don’t even want. Anything that has a hole in it is going to Loot me or trash. Three more days.

fac curetenie/cleaning

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My roommate COSed a few days ago, so I’m alone in the apartment now. Its definitely weird being here without her. However, I’m keeping busy cleaning the apartment and figuring out what items I can get rid of so my backpack will close all the way. The big news in my life is that I’m about to sign a contract for a two year teaching  position in Jakarta, Indonesia. I’ll be doing after school private tutorial type classes for Indonesian students, ages 4-12. I’m very excited about this opportunity and will continue reporting my adventures through a different blog.

As for introspection on my last two years as a volunteer…that might have to come later. I tend to process things after the fact, and I’m trying not to think about any of the sad things too much. To summarize my understanding of things after serving in a developing country with other like minded people: relationships are the most important part of any service. Projects fail or peter out, any kind of development can be important but never as much as the ties between volunteers and the people they encounter abroad.

 

pregatesc sa plec (getting ready to leave)

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Last week I attended two graduation “balls” for the graduating seniors at my lyceum. The way they celebrate graduations is a bit different here, and its even different in Cahul than from a smaller village. Because my school is so large, there are three sections of the 12th grade, split into 12A,12B and 12C. In my school, the “A” lyceum classes are the “real” classes which means that they study more science and math. The “B” and “C” classes are “human” (=humanities) so they take an additional foreign language and have more literature and history classes. I taught 12A this year and last, and they’ve generally been my favorite class despite some discipline problems with the boys and a giant gap between levels. Overall they were the most respectful class that I had, and they are the reason I think that I like teaching. I also taught 12B last year, but they took English as a Second Foreign Language, meaning that they’d had French for 9 years and then started taking basic English starting in the 10th grade. They were a lot of fun, but unfortunately they didn’t fit into my schedule this year.

The graduation balls are a combination of prom and graduation. Each section of the class books what is basically a wedding hall for a night. Students dress in ball gowns and suits while parents and teachers dress up in wedding attire. We eat a giant meal, then listen to some speeches by administration, homeroom teachers and parents. Then, we dance. Imagine prom with dinner, parents and teachers present. Oh, also a lot of cognac. The dances end when the sun comes up, so I managed to get myself out of there around 3am on Friday and 2am on Sunday. Nothing like walking home alone at 2am in a fancy dress. It’s funny because I refuse to take a taxi for three blocks, but none of the other teachers would walk home. They were amazed that I wasn’t afraid, but I’ve walked home alone in Brooklyn in the middle of the night. Cahul is only scary during Easter week.

Now that the graduation ceremonies are done, I don’t have much to do. We’ve been slowly sorting through our apartment and trying to get rid of things. Its amazing how much crap we’ve collected over two years. The package I sent home made it, intact (the postal worker was very concerned that the souvenir vase I’d packed would shatter–the exact convo went, “You should not send this, what if it breaks?” –”Then it breaks”). I’ve finished writing all of my reports for PC and am waiting on a job opportunity to play out before I finalize my travel plans. I have a flight booked from Bucaresti to Nepal, but that’s it. I can’t book anything due to the job, because if I get it I’ll have to go straight there from Kathmandu. Will disclose description and location once its finalized.

A funny little side story:

About two weeks ago, my partner sent me an email saying that she’d left her phone in a classroom, but she wanted me to come to the village to stay with her in-laws (who I love) the next day. This was a Tuesday night. On Thursday morning at 6am, I had a skype job interview lined up, and had to be in Chisinau later that afternoon. When she called me on Wednesday morning, I told her all of my problems with staying over Wednesday night in a village, and she provided solutions to all of them and basically told me to get ready and meet her in center. So I got ready–which meant packing a bag for a week, since I had to go to Chisinau directly from the village to take care of my COS medical exam and a couple of exit interviews–and met her and her husband at the bus. We ate shashlik which is Moldovan BBQ–the most genius thing I’ve discovered here. They dig a hole, stick two pieces of wood on the outside to balance skewers or other things, and put a wire mesh basket of meat over hot coals. I mean, its not a new idea, but coming from SoCal and NYC, no one would just dig a hole in the backyard to grill and I was very impressed. While I was in Valeni, it hailed which no one liked, but then it thunder stormed, which I love.

We had a big dinner with her in-laws (mother, father, sister/husband/kids) and talked about life and the school system and her sister-in-law had an economic view of the country which made total sense to me (basically people here take their remittances and build houses which is a one time investment and does almost nothing to help the economy). She wanted people to build businesses and make money off of that to build their houses. She worked in Romania for a few years and they bought a tractor with that money so that they could make their farming more efficient. I was amazed by her, but that’s kind of a side point.

Doamna Elena, my partner’s mother-in-law, made up a bed for me and made sure I had a place to plug in my computer. Aliona left her laptop and internet stick in my room just in case mine didn’t work. They both woke me up at 5am and Elena brought me coffee and fluffed my hair. After my hour + interview, she saw me outside drinking water. She thought I had gone back to bed after a 20 minute interview, and was amazed that I had spent the whole time talking to someone. When she asked how I felt, I told her I felt as though I had spent the last hour doing sports, that’s how fast my heart was beating. She looked at me and said, “well, you don’t need water for that. I have something better for you”, led me into the kitchen, and poured us some moonshine made from quince (the best rakiu I’ve had here). She may be one of my favorite people in Moldova. She then fed me stuffed grape leaves, homemade sour cream and we talked about life in the village. She even told me that talking to me was interesting because she had to simplify her vocabulary and speak slowly, which I appreciated to no end. I speak clean Romanian, so I can have problems in a village where they speak dialect. When I told her I needed to leave, she took me by the hand and got me a ride back to Cahul with a friend of hers that was driving by. I’m going to try to visit her again before I leave.

Poshta (post office)

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Today was frustrating. I had to ship some things using various methods here and had to muddle through bureaucracy at every turn. Out of three packages, one was sent to the US after they unpacked it, weighed every item separately, made me fill out a form listing every single thing in the package and its weight, then questioned me on the choice of what I was sending, then finally rewrapped it. My second package was denied totally (had to lug that back to my apartment). Apparently you can’t ship wine out of this country. I mean, I get it, but there are no institutions that will ship it for you. How am I supposed to share this country’s most celebrated export? I think I have to go to a winery and have them do it, but who has time for that? The third package, the easiest, was a package that my friend Monika shipped to me in December (I got it in April) and finally got around to getting the contact information I needed to get it to her previous village. The most common form of courier service they have in Moldova is to put a package on a bus and pay the driver about 10 lei, get his name, eta and the description of the  bus–then you give all this info to whomever is picking it up so they can wait on the side of the road and flag the driver down when it reaches the village. Luckily Monika’s village is pretty small, so when I asked the people waiting on the bus where the driver was, they immediately asked if I was the new PCV heading to their site. They knew Monika, so I was able to leave the package with one of her former students who knew the girl that was supposed to get it. I can only hope it got there. Oh, and all of this was happening in the middle of a thunderstorm. Speaking to one of my friends today, we came to conclusion that things we’ve become accustomed to in our two years are becoming annoying because we’re ready to leave. 

Tomorrow I’m heading up to Chisinau for the day to train the M27′s in the art of Haiducii — team building activities. Sunday my Moldovan friends are coming over to watch Star Wars in English for the first time and Natasha is bringing home made sour cream and doughnuts. My social calendar hasn’t been this busy in a long time. I’m still slowly weeding through my clothes and personal objects, trying to get rid of whatever won’t fit in my backpack.

Now I have to go drink two bottles of wine/one bottle of cognac that I can’t ship to America. Sigh.

Orheiul Vechi

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On Sunday I was given an amazing opportunity to visit the most famous tourist site in Moldova for very little cost. I haven’t been before because it is difficult to get to by public transportation and would take most of the weekend without a private car. However, my friend Lindsay was hosting an American speaker on domestic violence and as a part of their grant, had a tour set up with a private car and some extra space for me. I left Cahul on the 6:30am rutiera and made it to Chisinau with perfect timing. We got a real tour of Chisinau and I learned more in twenty minutes than I had known in two years.
Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei) is a monastery located on the top of a hill, with caves cut into the side where the monks would sleep and meditate. It was pretty impressive, and I’m glad I got to see it. DSCN4476
After visiting the monastery, we went to a nearby village and had a glorious lunch. The owner let us help make the placinta and sarmale and then we sat and ate for a few hours. The weather was perfect and the company was ideal.
So of course, on my way back to Cahul that night, our van broke down and I had to hitch a ride off the side of the highway with thunder and lightning over the horizon. Still made it home in under 4 hours and it didn’t start raining until I was already inside and showered. That may have been my most successful day in Moldova.

inca doua luni (two more months)

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I’ve passed the two month countdown, I realized today. The calendar hanging on my wall is filled with reminders of visitors and promises I’ve made to participate in whatever activity is going on somewhere in Moldova. Today was another purge of my room, ending with a lot of paper in the dumpster and unwanted clothes being packed into a Moldovan punga (sturdy plastic bag with zipper and painful handles). Luckily as volunteers we have our own version of a goodwill called Loot Me, where we can leave functional items that we no longer want. Loot me tends to be overflowing this time of year, when volunteers start sorting their things. I’ve been making Loot-Me deposits for a few months now, since I live so far from the capital I am dreading the day I drag all my luggage to a Moldovan van and hope it will all fit in the two square feet allotted for bags. I will probably have to buy a second ticket for all my stuff, but that’s still about two months away. Luckily some of the things in our apartment are on loan from my Moldovan counterpart, so those things, like our mamaliga pot and my comforter, will return to their rightful owner.

Most of my projects are done or wrapping up. All the grades are counted for my classes, even though we’re not technically done until the end of May. My third form classes will be done on Friday because the elementary levels do their own thing the last week of school. Ninth form will stop coming to class because we’ve given them grades. Twelfth form will show up twice more, for extra reviews before their big tests (although one will be a short lesson). I promised them a comprehensive tense review in English, so I’ll prepare that this weekend. I still don’t know how I feel about the Baccalaureate system here, where they have an exit exam/SAT/final in one big sitdown test that is created by the Ministry of Education. Looking at the questions for the English BAC test, I see why students cheat. Honestly I’m ready to be done as a teacher here. I like a lot of my students and my partner teachers have been great friends, but I can’t work easily within the established system. That’s what PC comes down to in the end. The attachments we make are with people, and that is what is sustainable, not the grant project or classroom improvements.

Hoping for another thunderstorm tonight. As my partner told me today, “the soil is thirsty” and I’ve become integrated enough here to worry about the crops along with the farmers.