Monday, March 28, 2011

Biden visits Moldova!

Opera house decorated for the visit.
I know I’m a little behind on this one, but on March 11, Moldova played host to a very exciting visit from our Vice President, the Honorable Joseph Biden.  In case you missed it (his visit happened the same day as Japan’s earthquake and tsunami), here is the AP story.

The Vice President’s visit marked the highest level visit of a U.S. official to Moldova in its history.  Though he was only on the ground in Moldova for 6 hours, you wouldn’t have known it from the country’s enthrallment in all things Biden for a good solid week before, and many days after as well.

Biden met with the government while Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden toured a wine cellar outside the capital with the Prime Minister’s wife.  The Vice President then gave a speech to a large crowd in front of the opera house (video embedded at the end of the post), which was followed with further meetings, and then a closed door event for U.S. Embassy Staff and Peace Corps Volunteers.  Needless to say, volunteers were more excited than even the Moldovans, and I’m not just talking about your own political junkie of a blogger here.

The only picture I've been able to find that offers proof I met the Vice President.
Where's Zach? Look to the left, in the top row.  It's a little like Where's Waldo...
(click to enlarge)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy 50th Anniversary Peace Corps!

Last Tuesday, March 1, marked 50 years to the day since President John F. Kennedy - less than two months into his presidency - signed the Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps.  It would take Congress an amazingly short additional six months before approving the final legislation on September 22, but the first group of volunteers were already in training by June.  Since that time, over 200,000 American men and women have served their country as Peace Corps Volunteers, working at the grass roots levels in 139 countries.

Those early days were heady times, filled with idealism, learning moments, and a healthy dose of experimentally making things up on the go.  It's hard to remember sometimes in todays globalized world that the notion of volunteering abroad was a radical new idea in 1961.  Today, many (most?) volunteers have already studied abroad in college before beginning their service.  In 2008, over 1 million Americans reported doing some form of volunteering abroad.

Despite the change a half century inevitably brings, however, Peace Corps remains unique in the length, depth, and quality of that service.  We stay for two years, living in our communities, learning the local language, and participating in the events of a daily life, from work to celebrations.  We don't helicopter in and disappear, and we're not paying a travel agency or firm for the opportunity to do our work.  We have host country nationals as bosses and co-workers, and we grind through work with them on a daily basis.  And in the end, well, it's probably still a little too early for me to finish that sentence...

The 50th Anniversary is more than just a one day commemoration, it is a yearlong period of reflection and celebration, both for the organization and those of us here in Moldova.  Check out Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary website, where I particularly recommend the interactive 50 year timeline.

My Health Education poster for the Coffee House event
You can also discover the action closer to home - well, my home - at Peace Corps Moldova's 50th Anniversary website, "365 Days of Peace & Friendship."

Here in Moldova, we kicked off the anniversary year with a round table and coffee house event in Chisinau.  Volunteers from each program were asked to prepare posters at this event, and yours truly was one of the representatives for the Health Education program.  Check out the full story here! (If you just want to see me, mom, scroll to the bottom.)

This is unlikely to be my last reflection on this unique American tradition, but as it is my first, I'll let President Kennedy have the final word.  I find those words to be as relevant today as they were in 1961.