Monday, June 28, 2010

Anecdotes from Settling In

Cultural integration is a lot of fun, occasionally terrifying, and often hilarious.  As promised, sketches of integration:

Move it like it’s 1985
Riding back with my host family from a welcome celebration on my first day at site in Bardar, I had a spontaneous moment of loving Moldova, sparked by nothing other than our vintage Lada.  Yup, straight out of the USSR.  Now, this is no small feet, as the roads here are generally constructed of mud, large potholes, and rocks.  How this antique has held up, I don’t know, but here’s a tip for conserving fuel: turn your car off when going downhill.  Living on the side of a hill has meant that about half my time in the family Lada has just involved coasting.  This fete is aided by my host father Gheorghe’s incredible sense of timing for turning the car back on.  Somewhere in the midst of my spontaneous Lada bliss, the car ran out of gas.  Not losing a beat, Gheorghe got a gas can out of the trunk, started a siphon with his mouth, and added enough fuel to get us back up the hill.  Ladas are pretty normal here; word is still out on how typical the mouth siphon is.

“Err…I’m allergic to raw eggs.  Oh, thank you for opening it for me.”
Being the polite Peace Corps volunteer that I am, I generally say hello to everyone I pass in the village.  On one fateful occasion, this involved a neighbor.  Showering me with Moldovan politeness in return, he naturally asked me in for a glass of wine.  Most families make there own wine, and it is an strong point of pride.  It was the end of the day, and I was done with homework, but out of an American sense of caution, I declined.  So he decided to simply show me around his garden instead.  Which happened to lead us to his cellar.  Which happened to be where his wine is kept.  After drinking his own glass (wine is taken in large shot form here), he filled one up for me.  Now, walking down into the cellar of a stranger is something we would never do in the States in the first place; that’s how 20/20 specials start.  Being an ambassador of sorts, however, made it incredibly hard to say no to such a polite and persistent offer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It Just Got Real

** I forgot to mention when originally posting that this is a backdated post written after my first day with my host family; dates been changed and there should be a new real time post tomorrow!
Well, I’m here.  In Moldova…the Republic of.  And it just got real….REALLY real. 

Backing up:
In the short amount of time since returning from the meditation retreat – a very distant seeming month ago – life has included:
  • 2 weeks of packing up the Chicago apartment.
  • A one week roadtrip from Chicago to Denver, including such stops as Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower, and a sidetrip through the Springs.
  • A week and a half of craziness in Denver during which I packed, launched Vitality In Action Foundation’s website, and said all my goodbyes.

On point two, I’ll hopefully get to make a back-dated post of this incredible fun.  On point three, visit VIA’s website! (It definitely kept me working till my last moment in the States…)

Then, my new life started.  Last Monday, a week ago today, I stopped packing, stopped preparing, stopped waving goodbye, and started living Peace Corps.  A brief synopsis of my past week:
  • Monday: flew to Philadelphia.
  • Tuesday: Staging for Peace Corps.
  • Wednesday: Headed to JFK Airport and started a trip that would ultimately bring me to Moldova.
  • Thursday:  Made a side-trek into Frankfurt during an excruciatingly long layover. Finally arrived in Chisinau, Moldova.
  • Friday: Orientation day 1 for Pre Service Training (PST), in Chisinau.
  • Saturday: Orientation day 2 for PST.  Left Chisinau for Bardar to meet my PST host family.
  • Sunday: Welcoming reception for all volunteers in our town.  Dawning appreciation for the realness of my new life.

There is a lot I could write here; just the past two days are enough for a very long post.  I’ll try to confine my comments to a few key details, which I hope to illustrate with an anecdote from today in my next post.

The overwhelming feelings: I’m glad to be here.  Peace Corps has involved a year worth of preparation.  During this time, it’s become a significant part of my life, even thought I wasn’t “doing it” yet.  I talked about it a lot, thought about it a lot, did paperwork for it a lot, etc.  So it was a strange feeling last Tuesday when PC transitioned from a significant but distant part of my life to the alpha and omega of my daily experience.

I wrote a post, but...

But my internet situation has been pretty terrible.  I'm in a basement "World of Warcraft" club with a lot of Russians playing the aforementioned game, and no functioning USB port.  Hopefully will get that post up soon.

In the meantime, I'm in the country.

Life is good.