Friday, December 24, 2010

And I'm out!

The semester is done.  Six months + in Moldova done.  Goals completed, more work added.  Probably a good time for reflection.  But a better time for vacation!

So with that, I scurried around my site for the past two days, saying goodbyes and reviewing where we'll start up again after the holidays are over and I return.  I've gotten very good at saying Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in Romanian over the past 48 hours.

Now, dear friends, I am off for my first vacation in 6.5 months.  I'm not taking my computer, so don't be surprised if you don't hear from me.  If there's time, I'll sneak in a blog or too of my travels.

The Plan

  • 12/24 - to Chisinau
  • 12/25 - to Balti
  • 12/26 - to Budapest via Iasi and Cluj, Romania
    • Chilling with Bill and haunting my old haunts
  • 12/29 - to Brasov, Romania
    • New Years, friends, Couch Surfing, and skiing!  (What more could I want?)
  • 1/5 - Depart for Chisinau, arrive in the wee hours
  • 1/6 - First bus back to site, in time for Orthodox Christmas on 1/7
That, plus the schedule for 1 of my trains is about as much as I have planned.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Double Feature! Guest blogger pens rejoinder on "What I Do"

My friend and colleague Melissa visited my site last week, braving the first Moldovan blizzard we've had down here in the South in order to facilitate a youth experience exchange between my youth club and a neighboring village.  Melissa is a COD (Community Organization and Development) volunteer, so she has a bit of an outside perspective on my job.  Not being me, she also has the amazing ability to take photos of yours truly while he works.

So, for those wanting some pictures ranging from work to a surprise masa, head on over to Melissa's blog and check out her post on her visit to Carahasani!

p.s. - the youth exchange comes with a (not so) surprising ending.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My job, pt. III: A view of my desk is a day in my [work] life

This is the final part of a three post series introducing the work component of my life as a Health Education Specialist in Peace Corps Moldova.  The series has moved from the broad to the specific, so Part III will conclude by a look at what my work actually involves on a daily basis.  Part I is a general introduction to the public health situation in Moldova, and Part II examines my different projects at the general level.

When I started writing this series at the end of October – yeah, it’s been a long time in the making – I had just passed the point where I had been at site longer than in training, and it was really starting to show in my work life.

The soaring towers of paper accumulating on my desk are only the most visual sign that this work life is finding traction.  Those who have lived around me know me to be a crowded desk person.  Some say “crowded” is just a euphemism for “messy”, but in my opinion the difference is that there is a logic to my system.  That’s probably in the eyes of the beholder…my dad claims the same thing.  My desk hasn’t yet reached the state of his fire hazard, but then I also don’t have many bills to pay.

In what may have been an indication of concern, my host family recently put a second desk in my room.  This was one of the happiest days of my life, though they didn’t seem to understand the natural logic of the law of desk space: desk piles will expand to occupy the space available.  (On the other hand, my host family probably considered it a victory simply that these piles moved out of my bed and off the floor…)  What might concern them more is the fact that what’s going on in my head at any given moment tends to resemble my desks…  It also, however, provides a glimpse at my daily work life.

Starting our tour a desk #1, we find the computer in the dominant position. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My job, pt. II: So what do you actually DO?

This is Part II of a three post series introducing the work component of my life as a PCV, in which we’ll look at my program’s objectives and major projects at the general level.   The series is moving from the broad to the specific; Part I is a general introduction to the public health situation in Moldova and Part III will conclude by a look at what my work involves on a daily basis.

Every Peace Corps Volunteer worldwide works in a program; here in Moldova, I work in the Health Education in Schools and Communities (HESC) program.  My formal title is Health Education Specialist – yes, even as a volunteer one gets a snappy title.  In PC Moldova parlance, I’m referred to as a “Healthy.”

As a HESC PCV my primary work focuses on building local capacity for the educative aspects of a public health program.  As I explained in my previous post, Moldova has one of the highest health care provider ratios in the world, but the concept of public and preventative health is still taking root here.  It also has a decent public education system, considering the local resources available.  But again, health education is still struggling to be integrated in an intentional and coherent manner.  The local providers, in short, aren’t yet accustomed to being educators, and the local educators aren’t yet accustomed to the specifics of health education.  I’m here to facilitate that step.

That step is broken down into two overarching goals and seven objectives:
  • Goal 1: Improved Health for Youth
    • Objective 1.1: Develop School Health Educators (i.e., teachers)
    • Objective 1.2: Improve Students’ Learning
    • Objective 1.3: Promote Peer Education in Extra-curricular Activities
    • Objective 1.4: Increase Parental Involvement in Schools
  • Goal 2: Improved Community Health
    • Objective 2.1: Develop Community Health Educators (i.e., medical staff)
    • Objective 2.2: Enhance Community Involvement in Community Activities
    • Objective 2.3: Improve Use of ICT to Support Community Health and Education

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving Thanks in Moldova

So we all know how much Zachariah loves Thanksgiving.  It’s basically an entire day spent with loved ones doing one of my favorite activities: cooking.  A LOT of cooking.  Not the whipping up dinner kind, but cooking imbued with the meaning of three other themes dear to my heart.

Orange Basil turkey comes out of the oven.
Note it does not entirely fit in the pan.
  1. Loved ones.
  2. Coordinating entire meals, the one thing better than cooking, and the kind of complex logistical task generally left to militaries, which I nevertheless prefer to meet with at least a little improvisation.
  3. Food as cultural process worthy of great respect and eating as a political act, because eating locally in today’s world inherently is an act of dissention from a powerful political economic system. In such a world, Thanksgiving is a radically ecological holiday.  It’s food is seasonal, and it is one of the few days left when many American families cook, and are thankful, for having plenty to eat.
It says something that even during my years of vegetarianism, Thanksgiving was always an exception.

This year's lesson: removing that extra something, or,
"Whoa, that's a lot of neck."
Okay, so I love Thanksgiving, digression done.  I also, however, happen to have chosen an international lifestyle, meaning I often find myself outside the States, and certainly away from home, at the holidays.  Ask any expat and this is often one of the hardest parts of the job.  Once one embraces it, however, it can also be an incredible opportunity for holidays that, if not orthodox, are certainly memorable.  I’ll never forget my first Thanksgiving abroad, crowded onto the floor of a small flat in Budapest, or learning how to finish de-feathering a turkey by hand on the spot that Christmas in Spain with Hunter and Yeshe (and then brining it in an unused wastebasket…)

The turkey team
This Thanksgiving was no less memorable.  In Moldova, volunteers come together in Chisinau to execute a giant cross-cultural Thanksgiving.  We invite the Moldovan staff, and turnout averages between 70-90 people.  This year, that required four turkeys, four kitchens, and somewhere around 15 cooks divided into four teams.  In a moment of either extreme folly or hubris, yours truly volunteered to lead the turkey team.  Yes, that turkey.  As in, that one thing you can’t screw up on Thanksgiving.  Or in this case, those four things.  Luckily, I was cooking with two incredibly talented and experienced co-chefs.

Normally, one doesn’t get to experiment much with the turkey, but since we had four, I wanted to try something a little wacky.  So we did two normal turkeys, and on the other two we used an Orange Basil rub from The Splendid Table (recipes at end of post).