Meet Zachariah

A native of the mid and Rocky Mountain West, I’m happiest in three places: 1) discovering a new culture, 2) on a ski slope, and 3) making food.

I grew up in Iowa, where my mom’s family is from.  Then, with the wild calling, I moved to Colorado, where my dad’s family has deep roots.  Today, I consider each equally to be home.

I went to Colorado College for my undergrad, and there, began finding many explanations for how the world works Political Economy classes.  It was also during this time that I had my first extended stay abroad: a half year in Lüneburg, Germany, studying German language and culture during the spring of 2006.  I was hooked.

It was after this study abroad that I developed what many of my friends eventually came to consider my quirky penchant for the post-communist countries.  The focus began as an academic choice: Eastern Europe is a natural laboratory to examine the links between markets and democracy, a very political economy topic.  Then there was also a career consideration involved: I was interested in eventually pursuing development, and while Germany is fascinating, it’s need for development assistance is rather minimal.  Thus began a long-term fascination with this corner of the world.

So, after graduating from CC in 2008, I packed my bags and headed east.  I spent the summer in Berlin with Humanity in Action, and then went to Budapest to study International Relations and European Studies at Central European University.  Interspersed was a lot of travel, sometimes professional, sometimes personal, but normally a little of both.

In the summer of 2009, I finished at CEU and headed back to the States.  I had originally been aiming to buckle down and start a career in development, but a colleague at CEU had convinced me to join the Peace Corps instead.  Ultimately, what convinced me to pursue Peace Corps as the first step of a career was the ability to see development work up close, pixilated and grainy, the better to someday understand the full picture.

It turned out to be the perfect decision, allowing me the freedom to pursue an eclectic range of projects in Chicago.  It was one of those years filled with all the things one wants to learn about, but are difficult to fit in alongside grad school or a new job.  So I spent my mornings practicing yoga and my evenings in the kitchen, learning to compost, grow herbs, and make yogurt, jam, bread, and delicious meals.  In between the mornings and evenings, I studied French, read, helped launch Vitality In Action Foundation, and worked as a research assistant.  I discovered amazing communities of people, brought together by peer learning potlucks and community organizing, and wrote a novella worth of paperwork for Peace Corps.  And I fell in love.

Finally, in June 2010, Peace Corps whisked me off on a new adventure as a Health Education Specialist in Moldova.  On paper, my job is to teach community health providers how to become public health educators in a rural Moldovan village.  This involves co-teaching health classes at the school, leading a health club for children, and facilitating various projects at the local medical clinic.  But really, this is just one snapshot in the daily album of my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

My first goal (discovering new cultures) brought me to Moldova.  The second led me to bring my skis (considered unnecessary by most of my colleagues).  And the third (food) explains most of my free time activities.

When not at school or the clinic, I am most likely learning something incredible from a Moldovan.  It might be plucking a chicken, cultivating a garden that can support a family, or making wine, but it is bound to be interesting.

When left to my own devices, I am most likely to be found curled up with a book or my computer.  If it’s the latter, it’s probably a project I couldn’t turn down even though I should have.

When in Chisinau, I’m probably to be found discussing politics and society, or ensconced in a theater.

And when not in Moldova, I am most likely traipsing through the outdoors via bike, backpack, skis or SCUBA.

If you can make it to Moldova, can I make you dinner?