In Ialoveni, I work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. So I enjoy having the free time on the weekends to explore the community more. And this is how I spent this weekend:
Friday, it actually rained in Ialoveni, which I loved. I don’t know if it’s the novelty of it after having lived in Arizona for so long, but I do love the rain. After work, I went for a quick run, which always helps put my mind at ease, and then I chatted with my host mom over tea for a bit about the Soviet area. That’s a post for another time.
Per my new norm, I started off Saturday with a long run. I remember in Arizona, while training for the PF Chang’s marathon, running along these long stretches of road and easily getting in 13, 15, or 17 miles. Now, it’s a bit more challenging to get the distance. I run along the main road through the town, which is about 1 1/2 miles. At the end of that road, there are four streets. One leads back to my house, two lead through other neighborhoods, and the fourth leads to another village. If I run to the other village and back, I can get about 7 miles in. Down the other streets, I can’t quite get that amount of distance. But Saturday I ran up and down a couple of roads and managed to get in about 6 miles. Some of the volunteers are training to run the Athens marathon, so I started to pick their brain about how they get the distance in. Most run to other villages or in circles around their village.
After my run, I bathed (beginning to appreciate that more now that I only do it once or twice a week!), and then I made my first attempt at cutting my own hair. I actually bought hair cutting scissors and brought them with me from the States, figuring that cutting my own hair is more economical on a Volunteer budget. So, I gave it a go, and it turned out pretty well. I stuck to just trimming the front…the back I think I’m going to need some help with. But it was a small accomplishment.
Next, I made the trip into the capital to meet up with another volunteer. (I take a minibus to the outskirts of the city, where I switch to another minibus. I learned this route the hard way when my site mate and I tried to go in to the city center and got dropped off on the outskirts of the city. Luckily, someone was kind enough to direct us to the microbus we should get on to go to the city center.) Back to this past weekend…after meeting up with my fellow volunteer Andrea in the city, we ordered burritos from a stand along one of the main streets, and they were delicious. They weren’t your typical American burritos…they chicken, tomatoes with what I think was mayo, cabbage, carrots, cheese, and french fries (yes, IN the burrito). We were also offered ketchup, but we declined. Regardless, it tasted pretty good after three months without any kind of Mexican food (boy, do I miss guacamole!). Afterwards, we walked through some of the city parks, got some delicious ice cream at a ritzy stand in the park, and then continued on to the piața centrala (or central market). There, I picked up some bananas – in the States, I used to have one every morning for breakfast, but those aren’t grown in gardens here, so I’ve been missing my morning fruit!
The weather outside was perfect. Coming from 115-degree summers, this day was cool and breezy, and we had a wonderful, leisurely stroll.
We also chatted a bit about plans for Christmas. This is probably one of the harder topics for me, as I LOVE spending Christmas with my family, and, for the first time ever, I won’t be doing that this year (I think it would be hard to come home having only finished 6 months of service and still having 18 months ahead). I remember we spent a day in language class talking about holidays, practicing our “holiday” vocabulary, talking about what we usually do at home, and I actually teared up in class. Granted, those two months of training were tough, and we were all tired and worn out, but thinking about not being with my family at Christmas made me sad. But, onward…
After our day, I boarded the bus back to my site, bananas in hand, and then strolled around my town in the nice weather after arriving. I even sat down by a WWII memorial outside the mayor’s office to sit and read Shantaram (my favorite book ever) for about an hour. It was great.
Sunday I finally got the chance to try our local Baptist church. Here, the primary denominations are Orthodox, Catholic and Baptist. Seeing as I fall under the “Protestant” umbrella, I thought I’d try out the Baptist church. I heard about it from a volunteer who was previously stationed in Ialoveni, and I’ve really been missing my church community at home, so I found out where it was, what time the service started, and headed over. It felt great to sit through a Sunday church service after not having been for a good 3 to 4 months now. And I met several young couples in the community, along with the pastor and his wife, who I hope to continue to get to know over the next few years. They have a Bible study during the week and an event for youth every Friday, so I hope to be able to explore some of those as well. Later in the evening, I actually ran into a couple from the church, and let me tell you…it feels SO good to recognize someone in a town where you’re new, and still sort of a stranger. I stopped and said hello, and explained that I was going to meet the other American volunteer. It was great.
My site mate, Luma, has actually started going to a gym in town where all the guys go to lift weights and work out. It’s been fantastic for integration, because now, every time we take a walk around the town (several evenings a week), so many of the guys stop him to shake his hand and say hello. He was out having a drink with a few of the guys he’s met around town, and so, walking around Sunday evening, I got to meet a lot of his gym buddies and some of the high school students in the town. I do feel pretty old here – there are few single people my age in the area. Most are studying at universities abroad, working abroad, or married. So most of the guys and girls we talked to are 17, 18, 19 and 20. It’s funny, I never thought I’d feel so old at age 25! But age hardly matters – it was nice to be able to chat with some of the young people around town. I hope we get to do it more often.
And that was my weekend!