ET

No, this is not a reference to the Spielberg movie.  In Peace Corps, “ET” stands for “early termination.”  And sadly, that’s what a few friends have decided to do this month.

There are many things about this experience that are hard.  One of them is watching other volunteers leave early.  There are so many reasons for this…health issues, work barriers, issues at site, plans for the future, people left at home, or some combination of all of those factors.  It happens.  And it’s not failure.  It’s just that person deciding what is right for them at the given moment.  And that’s okay.  Things change.  We start to see life differently.  Unexpected hardships come up.  That said, it’s not always easy to watch your friends go.

Over time, we’ve built close relationships with our fellow Peace Corps Volunteers.  We are each other’s support system.  All of us, on some level, understand what the others are going through.  We know Moldova in a way that most people in the world do not.  We know the challenges of being a volunteer, the joys, the casual way in which we openly discuss our bowel movements, and the secret Peace Corps lingo comprised of enough acronyms to fill a few wine barrels.  We’ve lived this life together for more than a year now, through the ups and downs that Peace Corps service inevitably brings.

So that’s what’s on my mind today.  The people I have to say goodbye to earlier than expected.  Oh how I will miss them.

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We have a puppy

Yes, we finally caved.

My roommate came home this week with a furry friend in his hand.  Can we keep it?

How could I say no to that little face?

He found him wandering around the road as was afraid he was going to walk into traffic.  So we’re going to try this whole “pet” thing out.  My roommate took him to the vet, got him some food, and now we’re working on the fun stuff.  Potty training.  Oh, and we need a name.  There are a few in the running…

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On a related note, one of the neighborhood dogs had a litter of puppies recently.  They’re pretty cute, too.

My host niece turns “șapte”

“Șapte” is the word for “seven.”

Last Thursday I stopped by my host family’s house for a visit.  It was my host niece’s 7th (Viviana) birthday.  It had been awhile since I had seen them, and we had many stories to exchange.

As I walked up the dirt road to their gate, my younger host niece (Sorina) spotted me, froze, and then dashed in my direction saying “Jenn-EE-furrrr!”  I kneeled down for a big hug.  Those two girls that I lived with, Viviana and Sorina, have the biggest, most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.  Adorable.  Their younger cousin, Ionel, has the same big eyes.  He, too, was standing outside waiting for us to begin our feast for Viviana’s birthday.

I stayed and chatted, we ate lots of food, drank champagne and cognac, toasted and gave gifts to Viviana, and ended with a beautiful cake and a happy birthday song.  They had Viviana blow her candles out, and then she sat on a chair as they hoisted her up in the air seven times, one for each year.  It was a good time.

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First Bell

It feels like just yesterday I was writing about a ceremony called “Last Bell” which marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summer across Moldova.

Well, summer is over folks, and today we headed over to the local school to be part of the “First Bell” ceremony.  School is back in session!

The ceremony was great.  There was a procession of incoming first graders, the district president spoke, the mayor of the town spoke and presented the school director with a new rug for her office, the school director said a few words, and the first graders recited some poems they had memorized (check out the video below).  Everyone was dressed in their best – the boys wore suits and the girls styled their hair and wore their best dresses.  It was almost like going to a homecoming dance.  And I loved the big, white bows that the first grade girls had in their hair!

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But this ceremony stood out a little more for us as Peace Corps volunteers, because our new site mate, Tim will be working with the school’s English department for the next two years.  The school asked him to prepare a few words to share during the ceremony…which I was able to catch on video also.

The ceremony ended when the older high school boys lifted a few of the first graders up on their shoulders and walked them around as they rang the “first bells.”

And then there were three

Just a few weeks ago, we were joined in our village by a third Peace Corps volunteer, Tim.  Now, just to be fair, he’s not the traditional 20-something volunteer you might be picturing.  He actually has his master’s in English language and was an English teacher for some years back in the States (among many, many other accomplishments).  It’s been great to get to know him better, and his unmatched enthusiasm for work here is infectious.

We had the pleasure of celebrating his birthday with him on Friday, along with his Moldovan friends that he has already made in just two weeks of being here (that’s some stellar volunteer work).  We went to a couple of different restaurant/bars in our town, one that has just been renovated and has this great balcony seating area now.  We had a great time communicating in English and Romanian with this group of Moldovans, a really great time.

I guess the one interesting aspect of the night is that I was the only woman in attendance.  This seems to be something that is maybe more typical in Moldova.  Though sometimes I see families out together, it’s less often that I see mixed groups of men and women.  Or maybe it’s that, at my ripe old age, very few people in Moldova are still single.

Over the course of the night, we started talking about age and marriage.  Our new site mate has never been married and does not have children, and this news somewhat shocked the Moldovans at the table.  “You can find a wife here!” they told him.  “Moldovan women are great.”  I started talking about age with one of the single men at the table who is 26.  He was telling me that he wants a wife, he wants to be married, and he wants to have children.  He told me he’s getting old, and that all of his friends are married and are starting families.  I told him not to worry, I’m 26 too, and that in the States, we tend to get married later, it’s more the norm.  People do it.  He warned me that women should really have children before they’re 30, that things during the pregnancy are likely to go wrong after that age.  Naw, I insisted with a smile, there’s still plenty of time after 30!  My mom started to have children at the age of 30.  (Just in case you’re trying to do the math, my mom’s not a day older than 25.)  But it was interesting to hear that perspective, and it’s one that I’m finding is quite common in Moldova.  And it’s funny how different our perspective is in the States, where the trend is now for people to get married later in life and have children later in life.  In the 1950s and 60s, the median age of marriage was 23 for men and 20 for women.  Now it’s 28 for men, and 26 for women (and those numbers are apparently on the rise).  That said, it made for great conversation.  I always enjoy hearing different perspectives.

Here’s to our new site mate, a great birthday, and a great evening with new local friends!