Officially an RPCV

After three years of Peace Corps service in Moldova, I’m overjoyed that I am now able to join many others in the returned Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV) community. The last month of my service was full of highs and lows and bittersweet feelings. I am sure that I will still be reflecting on the past three years for a long while, fondly remembering great memories and laughing at funny and awkward stories while continuing to learn more about myself.

July was a month full of saying farewells, see you laters, and anticipating what the future holds for so many people I have gotten to know over this short (or long depending who you ask) amount of time. I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit Moldova and my host families and friends in the near future, but we will see how things unfold and what life holds. So many of them are wanting to leave Moldova to work or study abroad for the chance at better opportunities for their future.

Before leaving, I had the chance to meet up with so many great people to say farewell/see you later…

 

On Friday, July 28 I finished my Peace Corps Service by “ringing the bell” which symbolically represents the close of one’s service. Or as we call it, COS (close of service) with all the fancy acronyms we use in Peace Corps.

 

It didn’t feel real as I was also trying to complete all the final tasks and paperwork needed that same day and I still had a few days left to move out of my apartment and say some more goodbyes/see you laters before leaving and officially finishing my service on Monday, July 31.

Later the same day I rang the bell, the organization I have been working with this past year, Tekwill hosted a sweet goodbye party at the office. We had a nice evening of connecting and enjoying some traditional food and local wine as we were able to squeeze in some photos to document the memories and friendships.

 

In the last blog update, I had stated that I wasn’t going to travel home for a long while since I would be studying in Sweden for a Master’s program beginning in August. However, I decided last minute to travel home for a whirlwind quick 2-week visit. It was a wonderful time to be home, gather hugs from family and friends, and to have a chance to take a much-needed breather before heading into the next adventure.

We’ll see if I’ll be able to keep up with the blog and share updates as I begin this new chapter.

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My Last 30 Days in Peace Corps

Yes, it’s true, I have 30 days left in my Peace Corps service in Moldova. I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around winding things down. By the time I finish my Peace Corps service in Moldova I will have been in the country for a little over 3 years. That means a total of 39 months or break it down further to 1,154 days.

I am happy to share that I will officially finish my Peace Corps service on July 31st.

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As for what I will be doing after Peace Corps (a question that has come up a lot over this past year), I will once again pack up my life into a few suitcases and then make a slow move to Sweden.

photo source: http://www.operationworld.org/swed

I made the decision to continue my education at Blekinge Institute of Technology with a Master’s in Strategic Leadership toward Sustainability. I will be taking part in an intensive 10-month study program along with a number of individuals from around the world. Classes will start mid-August and I will finish in June 2018.

Given the quick turnaround time, once I finish my service I will not be able to make it home to the US anytime soon. However, I hope it will work out to make it home over the holidays.

As I reflect on these three years in Peace Corps, it feels like it went by so fast. Yet, I know that much has changed in and around me through the steady pace of time.  Some days felt like they were forever long and some passed by in a blink of an eye. I know it will take time to fully process these three years and I hope that these next 30 days will be full of much joy as I wrap things up.

Looking back… photos from the first month in Peace Corps three years ago…
 ….and now, recent photos from the past couple of months.

 

 

A look back 3 years ago: Arrival to Moldova – Day #1

It’s crazy to look back on my journey that started three years ago when I arrived in Moldova as a Peace Corps volunteer. It was fun to look back on this post that I had shared on that first day.

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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.

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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…

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An Update from April & May

Summer has arrived! The change of seasons from spring to summer this year also brings a lot of life changes during my third and final year as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova. A lot has happened over these past 2 months as time has been flying by rapidly. If I were to share the highlight reel from these past 2 months, this is what it would include:

Vacationing on an Island

In April, instead of staying in Moldova for the Easter holiday, a few friends and I went away for a week-long vacation to the island of Cyprus. It was an incredible time and an amazing place to explore. I would highly recommend traveling there and would love to return some day.

To note: while we were away, Moldova experienced a crazy unexpected spring snowstorm that dropped many inches of snow on the capital city. It crippled the city for 2 days and shut down public transportation. Over 3,000 trees were destroyed in this storm and when we returned from vacation we were greeted with a number of areas still trying to clean up the debris and downed power lines from the storm.

 

Team Building in the Mountains

Once I returned sun-kissed from vacation in Cyprus, the following weekend I found myself backpacking through the Carpathian mountains with my colleagues from Tekwill. We ventured through the rain, fog, and snow as we got to know one another better and learned what it takes when you take 20+ people together through the mountains with a variety of different hiking skill levels.

 

Technovation Moldova Finishes the 2017 Season

This was my third year to participate as a mentor and part of the organizing team with Technovation Challenge Moldova. Technovation is a global competition that encourages young girls to learn and develop entrepreneurial and technical skills by creating a business plan and mobile app that solves a problem in their community. At the beginning of May, we held the Official National Pitch Event where 9 teams from all over Moldova pitched their projects and one team was selected to go onto the semi-final virtual judging round. I started out mentoring 2 teams this year, one junior team and one senior team. The senior team successfully completed their project by the deadline and was able to compete at the pitch event. My host sister from pre-service training 2 years ago was a part of this team and it was a great honor to be able to mentor her team for this year as we all learned so much together.

 

Rails Girls launches 3rd edition

I was super excited to play a behind the scenes role in seeing the 3rd edition of Rails Girls Chisinau happen in Moldova. It was such a great honor and opportunity to see my friend Alisa as the new coordinator take on this role and see things come together so that more girls could learn basics of the Ruby on Rails framework.

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Nineteen girls successfully completed the 3rd edition of Rails Girls Chișinău! Many of these girls were introduced to the Ruby on Rails framework for the very first time and created websites by the end of the three weekends of workshops.

 

When a Friend Visits Moldova

 

My friend, Anne-Lise from France whom I had met about 7-8 years ago while she was studying/working at Penn State came to visit me for a week here in Moldova. Although I had to work on different projects during this time, we still were able to get in some fun during her stay. I am happy to report that she survived the public transportation, last minute adventures and changes in plans, and experienced the ins and outs of life as a PCV in Moldova.

 

I’ll be sharing more soon especially answering the “what is next?” question that has been coming up a lot over this past year. Details are still getting worked out — more to come soon!

More for Entrepreneurs

To see a little glimpse of what I have been up to within this third year of Peace Corps service, check out what fellow volunteer, David Jarmul has recently shared on his blog Not Exactly Retired. Thank you, David, it was good to see you and Champa at the Maker Faire this past weekend at Tekwill!

"Not Exactly Retired" in Peace Corps Moldova and Back Home

Moldova’s entrepreneurship scene keeps getting bigger.

I’ve written previously about the Dreamups Innovation Campus and the Diamond Challenge competition for high school students, in which the team I mentored claimed one of the top prizes this year.

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On Sunday, Champa and I visited Tekwill, a center that opened in March in northern Chișinău. It’s an educational and entrepreneurial hub with coworking spaces, a pre-acceleration program, startup competitions, events and resources ranging from 3D printers to international guest speakers.

Tekwill is among a growing list of local entrepreneurial and startup resources here that now includes iHUB, Generator Hub, Dreamups, 404 Moldova and GEN Moldova.

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“Moldova’s capital, Chișinău, is among many cities around the world that aspire to develop a startup scene of their own,” Sergiu Matei, one of the founders of Dreamups, wrote recently on Startup Grind. “To be sure, no one will mistake it yet…

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Hey, 2017… an overdue update! [Jan-Feb-March]

Low and behold, this 2017 new year and my third year with Peace Corps has been quickly surpassing my ability to keep up. Here it is already April and so much has happened over the past three months. In order not to ramble too much, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things that have happened since the beginning of the year…

10. I made it through another Eastern European winter. It was cold. There were a few “real feel” days that made me want to hibernate for the rest of the winter. I’m glad we’re on the other side and full swing into spring now.

9. The 4th edition of Technovation Moldova was officially launched in January.

8. I’ve been working with two Technovation teams, one junior team of girls and one senior team of girls outside of the city. Plus, one group of 10-year-old boys who have been coming to the library during one of the weekly meetings so that they can learn about Technovation too.

7. I had the great opportunity to take part in the first edition of the “What is an American?” series as a moderator with the local Fulbright crew and English Language Fellow. It was fun to hear from each of their perspectives and to see this series begin.

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6. I did a presentation/workshop for some local youth about mobile apps and using AppInventor. Unfortunately, due to technology issues and a few other factors, it didn’t go all that well. Lessons learned on my part.

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5. I traveled to Kiev, Ukraine to meet with the national Technovation organizing team there as they have been preparing for launching their first season this year. I was thankfully able to travel with some friends for part of it as they were there for some work related things as well.

4. In the middle of March, we celebrated the Grand Opening of Tekwill! This is one of the projects I have been working on in my third year of Peace Corps. I will be sharing more in depth about Tekwill in the near future (stay tuned).

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3. I try to make it to Balti about once a month. It’s been great being able to visit my host family from my first two years at site and to spend some time with them and get to hang out and laugh with this guy (included in the photo).  It’s hard to believe I’ve watched him grow from the time he was born.

 

 

2. At the end of March, the Moldova ICT Summit was held at Tekwill which included a full day of tech-related speakers about the ICT industry in Moldova and beyond.

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1. I’ve been getting to know lots of amazing people. It has been fabulous to get to know so many wonderful people over the past couple of months either through the startup & tech community or through different programs. It has been such a blessing to be able to spend quality time with so many of them in a variety of ways.

That about sums up the past three months in a nutshell. More to come… soon!

Sharing American culture through a unique Central PA food

Peace Corps has three main goals that support their mission to promote world peace and friendship. The second goal is “to promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served”. I had the great opportunity to share some Central PA food culture with some of my co-workers.

This came up from a conversation I recently had with my co-workers over lunch one day when they asked if Americans use as many red beets as Moldovans do. After thinking about it for a moment, it made me think of red beet eggs or as some call them pickled eggs. I tried to explain this type of food both in Romanian and English, in which they questioned me and gave me looks of confusion. Here in Moldova, it is common to pickle and preserve foods such as tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and watermelons, but they never heard of such a combination of red beets and hard boiled eggs.

 

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The result of my first time making pickled eggs ever.
I set out to gather the ingredients to make this Central PA specialty and within a few days, I had the final result to take into the office to share with my colleagues. They had never seen such a kind of food and were intrigued. During lunch, we gathered around the conference room table and they gave them a try.

 


It was a success! They liked them and even tried more than one and asked for the recipe. 🙂 It was a fun way to share a food I had grown up with and to spread some Peace Corps second goal love.

However, when I had asked some of my American friends here in Moldova who are from other parts of the US if they had heard of such a bright combination, in which they were confused and never tried them either. This made me realize how much of a Central PA food item it really was. From what I could find, it comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish parts in our state. I shared them with some these friends, and they too found them to be delicious. It looks like I’ll be making these again soon.

 

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Nathan trying pickled eggs and red beets for the first time. 
Peace Corps second goal success accomplished!

 

 

Included below are all three goals of the Peace Corps as we promote world peace and friendship: 

  1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.