Our group of 73 Peace Corps trainees arrived in Chisinau on Wednesday, June 3. I was exhausted, excited, stunned, overwhelmed, wide eyed, and eager for what was ahead…
We were warmly greeted by Peace Corps staff and the local news media. You can see a clip from their coverage HERE.
A lot of luggage didn’t make it to our destination, including mine. We believe it was left in Munich and were told it would come within a day or so. That meant some of us got off to a great start with the grand welcome to the Peace Corps experience – learning to roll with it and be flexible. That also meant less luggage for me to have to navigate (whew!).
Once we finally made it out of the airport, we boarded 2 large buses and headed to a local university in Chisinau where we met the Peace Corps staff and mentors in addition to receiving a lot of information. They even had a traditional Moldovan ceremony of bread dipped in salt and served with wine/juice, and it was served kind of like communion. Afterwards, we got setup with our cell phones/sim cards, received some money to help us with transportation and misc. expenses, picked up a kit with a water filter, fire extinguisher, smoke/carbon monoxide alarm, and special treats from my mentor before heading to our host family homes.
Half of our group of Community & Organizational Development trainees boarded a mini-bus and headed toward Magdacesti where our group will be stationed during Pre-service Training. Once we got to the village which is about 30 minutes outside of Chisinau (I think?), the mini-bus started dropping everyone off at their host family homes. I was the last stop.
My host family consists of a mother, father, and 2 girls. When I arrived, my host mother was the only one home.
There was a lot of laughter when my host mom realized I didn’t speak any Romanian other than the 2 words I picked up on the mini-bus from the driver on my way (yes and thank you). I think we may have both been wide eyed with our smiles and our eyes – not sure what to do next. I followed her into the house and she showed me my room. She made a phone call and handed me the phone – on the other end was a young girl’s voice “Hello…Sara? I will be there in 15 minutes!” I told her “not a problem, it’s okay” and handed the phone back to my host mom. I picked up the note that I received in the mini-bus on our way to our host homes and pointed to the girls’ names, thinking it was one of them. My host mom got excited and had me follow her to another room where there were photos and pointed to one that I was talking to on the phone. After much laughter between the two of us, I was led back to my room where she closed the door and left me alone. Assuming I was waiting for my host sister anticipated arrival home, I proceeded to unpack my carry-on luggage to discover what I had to cover me for the next few days until my checked bags arrived. [to note: I didn’t know what I had because I had to quickly repack/unpack my carry-on since it was overweight the allowed limit with the airline we were flying]
Not long after that, one of my host sisters came in and immediately took me on a tour of the home speaking quickly & excitedly…and showed me the way to dinner which was ready to be served. We had to go outside for dinner, the meal was prepared in a separate building (the summer kitchen) and we ate in another small building that resembled a gazebo. The meal was delicious – potatoes, beans, veggies, cabbage salad, and brinza (which reminds me of feta cheese). After dinner, my host sister showed me her mother’s beautiful garden where we picked fresh strawberries to eat after dinner.
Next, I got a bigger tour and directions on how to use the toilet, shower, & outhouse. Zina and I had a good laugh about me needing more directions on the outhouse toilet since we really don’t have anything like that where I was from. “You will figure it out” she said… yes, yes indeed I will.
My first day in Moldova had been a very long and full day – lots of new faces and names to remember, a new language, and hours of traveling. After getting cleaned up and showered, I retired to my new comfortable bed to prepare for another full day tomorrow.
Wow. I cannot believe I’m here in Moldova.
I love it already.