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.

Another key factor in this whole equation is the lack of sleep: until Saturday night, I didn’t have an 8 hour night, and there were several nights when I got less than 4 hours.  This has infused the whole first week with a blurriness that was only heightened by over 24 hours of continuous travel on Wednesday/Thursday.  Our Peace Corps mentors had used a Matrix/Alice in Wonderland “red pill/blue pill” metaphor to describe our upcoming experience.  In hindsight, it wasn’t cheesy at all; turns out it was completely accurate.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with an enormous amount of enthusiasm from the entire PC Moldova (PC/M) group.  Then we were oriented briefly (painful but necessary), and then we were taken out (yes, directly, without sleep, even though it was late and we had programming the following morning).  In all honesty, this was my roughest night and only real “low point” of the past week (besides the immediate pain of the goodbye in Denver airport).  In the moment when I first entered my hotel room – my first real moment alone in 36 hours, and my first moment alone in Moldova – I questioned the entire decision.  I wanted nothing other than an American shower, wireless internet, and the company of one particular friend.  Still, I pulled myself together and chalked it up to travel fatigue.

Sure enough, the next morning, my positive outlook was restored (despite the sleep being minimal).  We had our first language classes that day, and once again Moldova looked like a grand adventure.

Saturday we left the relative modernity of Chisinau for our PST sites.  We were also split up.  From the 70 or so M-25s (the volunteers in entrance group), I am with a group of 8 for the three months of PST.  We are all Health Education Volunteers, and the remaining Health Volunteers are in the next village over. (Health Education is the smallest of Moldova’s four programs).

Meeting the host families went well.  By well, I mean entirely awkward, but that’s to be expected.  With just two days of language class, my Romanian was exhausted pretty quickly; it has been followed by lots of gesturing and dictionary work.

This morning we were officially welcomed with a “masa” (celebration meal).  The first grade class performed traditional song and dance for us, which was followed by a meal and several toasts and songs.  The Moldovans sang a few for us, and we sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame and the Star Spangled Banner for them.

All around, it’s been incredibly comforting to settle in at site.  This morning I awoke to quacking ducks and clucking chickens, stepped outside into the beautiful garden, and took in an incredible breath of beauty.  Our village is set on two hills facing one another, with the village center in the valley between.  The hills are covered with gardens, vineyards, and crowned with forests.  Out beyond are larger fields, stretching out to the next grape-vine blanketed hillside.  I’ve survived the outhouse as well as my first bucket shower, and have yet to get sick! (Knock on wood…)  Indeed, as things stand now, with the exception of the terrible heat, it’s looking like this will be an excellent summer!

La revedere!

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