Take a quick 5 minute trip to Moldova

Bine ati venit în Moldova! [Welcome to Moldova!] I am so glad you have taken 5 minutes of your time to take a “quick visit” and see the TOP 5 PLACES TO VISIT IN MOLDOVA.

First of all, to start things off you will be welcomed with a warm greeting at the airport in (somewhat) traditional clothing…

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Since this is such a quick tour, we will immediately leave the airport and do a “drive-by” tour of…

 1. Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova

Next stop takes us to a nearby monastery where we’ll have to hike up a bit of a rocky pathway to see it all and take in the amazing scenery. Oh, and of course we’ll go underground to see the older part of the original monastery as well.

2. Orhei Vechi (Old Orhei)

Next, we’ll need to continue our way rather quickly to the northern part of Moldova to see the recently renovated…

3. Fortress in Soroca

The fortress sits along the Nistru river and has recently been renovated. It originally had been rebuilt in stone as a perfect circle with 5 bastions in the 1500’s. During the Great Turkish War, their forces successfully defended the fortress against the Ottomans.

While we’re in Soroca we will hike up a great length and number of stairs to see the “Thanksgiving Candle” that I believe sits at the highest point of Moldova and check out the amazing view of Soroca and the Nistru river.

 

As we finish out the grand tour of all the great places to see, a trip to see my site is a necessary stop…

4. City of Balti

Balti is the second largest city in Moldova. Most of the photos above are from the center part of town, with the exception of the lake, which is a little bit of a walk from the center. The pedestrian street within the center is my favorite part because there is so much going on – this is where the action is in Balti.

A visit to Moldova wouldn’t be finished unless you visited my host family and had a proper Moldovan masa.

5. Visit the host family!

In all honesty, I personally think spending time with a hospitable host family trumps any tourist attraction. They have an incredible art of hospitality and making one feel at home. In addition to the delicious, freshly prepared meals, laughter is a common theme at the dinner table when spending time getting to know your host.

So, there you have it, your quick 5 minute tour of the TOP 5 PLACES TO VISIT IN MOLDOVA (obviously, I’m a little biased). Come again soon, maybe next time we’ll do a food tour!

Drum bun!

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My 3 favorite (& funny) phrases in Romanian

I’ve been in Moldova for around 21 months… and I still have so much to learn about speaking and reading Romanian. I can get by though,  as some days are better than others. These 3 phrases are my favorites, and often bring lots of laughter when I use them, especially with my host family.

“Castravete mort.”

Disclaimer: this is one that I accidentally created… It should have been “Castravete murat” which translates to “picked cucumber”… but I said “dead cucumber”. We now refer to pickles in my host family home as “dead cucumbers/castravete mort”.

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It’s a baby cucumber! Photo was taken during a visit to a farm in the north of Moldova.

“Eu sunt plin.” 

Again, this is one that I had “created”, but this time it’s because we use this phrase in English. We really do have some interesting phrases that are confusing to non-native English speakers. But anyway, this phrase translates to “I am full”.  I use this phrase when my host mom offers me more food, “no thank you, I am full…” in which case she’ll bursts into laughter. Apparently it doesn’t quite translate well and doesn’t make any sense. I have now taught them how to say it in English and I still use it in Romanian… and it continues to bring lots of laughs each time.

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The serving sizes I am given to eat are bigger than what I am used to… I can eat a lot now.

“Trage un poi de somn.”

This one translates to “having a chicken sleep” or “having a baby chicken nap”. I love using it with my host family, which as you can see from this theme, it brings lots of laughter. First time I used this phrase was early on in my service and they were shocked that I knew it — many thanks to pre-service language training! 😉

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One of the many chickens from my host family’s friend’s home.

 

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Traveling the roads of Moldova

Is this a road or a small body of water? What do you think?

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This is a road! I pass by this street almost every day. The first time I realized it was an actual road was when my host dad gave me a ride to work one day when it was raining. As he turned to go down this street, I began to exclaim “No, wait!” and he drove right through the deep muddy water. I was a bit stunned, I didn’t think cars drove down this road. (I wasn’t 100% sure it was even a road!) I’ve now seen many more vehicles trek through the muddy adventurous waters of this street.

That street isn’t the only one that looks like that. Talk about pot holes…

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It certainly puts things into perspective, these streets are located the second largest city of Moldova. When it’s muddy and wet outside I am grateful if I can make it through to the end of the day with warm dry feet.

I share these things as I find them all interesting and different than what I have been used to. As people travel these roads they are a part of daily life here, and can be a challenge day in and day out for all who navigate them – whether it be by car, rutiera, or by foot. I’ve had the opportunity to travel some other roads, especially within the northern part of Moldova. Not all of them look like the above images.

Some roads look like a storybook adventure…

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This road led to a farmers field we visited one day.

While other roads lead to adventures…

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We traveled the back roads one day to Soroca from my host family’s village house.

You never know who you will meet along the way.

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And eventually…

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…wherever that may be. For me, it’s currently through the adventurous roads of Moldova.

 

To note: There are so many more roads that could be shared in this post, but I just gave a little taste of what I experience most days. For example, there is a new road that has been built by the Millennium Project as people like to call it the “American road” – check out this VIDEO to see more (it shares a lot more details in the video and gives the viewer a better overall view of driving the roads in Moldova).

 

This post is part of the latest blog challenge #9 from Blogging Abroad. Check out some of the other latest blog posts from other Peace Corps volunteers and others living and working abroad! 

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It’s all in the details… at HOME.

Since the last post, The price is… what? was so popular I decided to introduce this one as a game as well. I missed the “Home” blog challenge deadline a few weeks ago, so I’m going to combine this one into two challenges… The details of my “home” in Moldova.

Below are zoomed-in images of some aspect of a room in my host family home. See if you can figure out which photo belongs to which room listed:

A) Apartment Stairwell; B) Kitchen; C) Bathroom;  D) My host sister and nephew’s room; E) The living room/host parents room; and F) My room

I have lived with the same host family since I moved to my permanent site in Balti a year and a half ago. Before I left for Moldova I had learned volunteers lived with host family’s for at least their first 6 months in country. At that time, I thought for sure I would move out if/when I had the chance. Now looking back, I cannot imagine my service without my host family. I feel as though I have become a part of the family and enjoy my time with them. I am so glad I have been placed in their home and am grateful for the experience to learn about life in Moldova through them.

Welcome to my host family home in Balti, Moldova! We live in a soviet-style block apartment not far from the center of the city. It’s a 3 bedroom apartment, complete with a kitchen, bathroom (with a washing machine), and toilet. Let’s see how well you did at figuring out which photo above goes to which room in the apartment…

A) The Apartment stairwell

Oftentimes as I get home I am greeted by a dark stairwell leading up to the apartment door. I have gotten better at not needing a light as I climb the concrete stairs. I count it a success when I can make it without pulling out my phone for a light — integration points, absolutely. It’s all the little things…

Something to make note of as you enter a home in Moldova. You must take off your shoes at the doorway. Why? Well, those shoes are dirty, muddy, and maybe wet… see my heavy-duty winter boots below in the first photo (the all-black ones next to the pumpkin)? They’re not so nice looking (and dirty)… BUT they do keep my feet warm and dry and that’s all that matters to me in the winter when having to walk all over the city in the wintery-slush.

The second photo above is what you see once you enter the apartment and take off your shoes. Lots of doors!

B) The Kitchen

This is the room where we all mostly spend our time with one another. We gather around the table in the kitchen and eat dinner together most evenings. I enjoy this time with my host family as this is when we get to catch up and talk about life and all that’s going on… all in Romanian of course. If I don’t have Skype meetings or work to do after dinner often times we’ll sit at the table and continue to talk, sometimes for hours.

C) The Bathroom

Yes, we have a shower curtain (it even has dolphins on it). From what I have gathered from other volunteers in Moldova, having a shower curtain is rare. As you can see, the bathroom is a tight space, as I am standing in the doorway. It’s simple — a sink, tub, and washing machine. The toilet is located in a closet-sized room next to the bathroom.

D) Host sister and nephew’s room

Toys, toys, toys. What 1 year old wouldn’t have toys all throughout their room? My host sister and her son share a room which is next to mine. Usually after a full day of play he has a lot of his toys scattered throughout the room which are all cleaned up by evening then to be repeated the next day.

E) The living room/host parents room

This is the room where guests would be entertained. Sometimes for special occasions, we bring in the kitchen table and eat in this room, especially when there are not enough of us to fit around the table in the kitchen. This room is also where my host parents watch TV, sleep, and spend their time when they’re not in the kitchen or with my host sister and nephew in their room. The sofa pulls out into a bed, which they do each evening and then push it back into a sofa in the morning.

F) My room

And lastly, my room — where I spend most of my time when I’m at “home”. The balloons which are left from my birthday over a month ago, have added some cheerful color to this dreary winter. The purple blanket has become one of my favorite purchases I had done early-on in my service at the local market as it’s super soft and a fun color. What you can’t see from this angle though is the dresser where I have taped up a number of photos of friends from home and fun quotes/notes friends and family have sent during my time here (one of my favorite aspects of my room).

There you have it — a quick, zoomed-in detailed tour of where I have lived and called home for the past year and a half. Poftim!

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The price is… what?

Let’s play a little guessing game. Below are a dozen photos of some random items from here in Moldova. Can you guess how much it costs in USD (approximately)? Let’s see how many you get correct. To find out the answer, either click on the photo or hover over it to see how much it costs.

Right now $1 USD is equivalent to around 20 Moldovan lei. (please note the prices below are rough estimates as it depends on where you go to find these prices…)

How well did you do? What surprised you? Share it in the comments below!

A lot of these prices may seem pretty low to you if you live in the US, but keep in mind that people are paid around $200 a month (average salary) and as Peace Corps volunteers we are not paid a salary, but are given a living stipend. Since I live with a host family, most of my stipend goes to them for housing, utilities, food, etc… I have a small remaining amount that I use toward travel within Moldova (ex: to the capital city, Chisinau when needed) and personal toiletry items.

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A Day in My Life: Old New Year

No day is ever the same. So it’s hard to explain what a typical day looks like here as a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Moldova. To start things off, I picked a random day to share with you, and hope to share more “A Day in My Life” series as my short time in Moldova continues.

Last week many people in Moldova celebrated “old” New Year on January 14. Although we didn’t celebrate quite like many volunteers did in the village, like this:

Thanks to Rosemary Mitchell for letting me share her video. On this day people throw corn, rice, or grain while they yell well wishes at you, then in return you give them candy or money. Fun, huh?

…but my host family and I did celebrate later in the evening with a very different cultural tradition, something I had learned later is actually not a Moldovan tradition.

8:30 AM – I woke up, got ready for the day, ate breakfast.

10:00 AM – I walked to work. (It snowed awhile ago, this was the icy slush that remained)

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10:20 AM – I got to the office of my primary partner organization. On this day, I prepared for the Tech Club later in the day, sent emails, and worked on the final report for a grant project.

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1:45 PM – I left the office to walk across the city to get to the Tech Club at a local high school.

2:15-3:30 PM – 2 students show up and we continue with the agenda for the day anyway.

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Steve, one of my Peace Corps site mates in Balti explaining something about web site design/format to the girls during our weekly Tech Club.

3:33 PM – We take a selfie with our Tech Club students.

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3:35 PM – I walk home.

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Ice for days…

4:00ish PM – I arrive home. Then go back outside with my host sister and her son to go for a quick walk to the store to pick up some food items for dinner.

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My host sister and I go for a walk with her son. You’ve got to bundle up in this cold weather.

5:00ish PM – We return and I help prep food in the kitchen.

5:30ish PM – We eat! We had a special meal in honor of the “old” New Year holiday as well as it being St. Vasile Day.

After asking a few other volunteers if they had experienced the “frozen fish pieces” and no one had any idea what I was asking about I had to inquire my host family to find out more. Turns out, this is a tradition that they added special to their family from when they lived in Siberia (in a part really close to Alaska). I did some research and discovered it’s called Stronganina, a traditional cold dish in Yakutia. You dip it in salt and pepper and eat it before it thaws. It wasn’t bad and was a fun tradition to learn from my host family.

7:30 PM – We finish, wash dishes, and clean up the kitchen.

8:00 PM – Family time with my host nephew.

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This little guy loves his grandfather.

8:30 PM – I head to my room and work on some work-things.

12:00-1:00 AM – Somewhere in this time range I finally go to sleep. I’ve turned into a night owl here.

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Why did I join the Peace Corps and move to Moldova? 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

This question seems to come up a lot but I haven’t shared it here before. 

Why Peace Corps?

Why not? But really, this answer is part of a long story that spreads out over about 7-8 years. In short, I reached a point in my life, career, and heart where I was restless but also quite comfortable in where I was, and I knew that it was time to step out of my comfort zone and take a leap of faith. I had always imagined that at this point in my life I would be married, have children, work at a job within the arts, and own a home where I would host family and friends for holidays and celebrations. That was not quite my reality. 

After much thought and prayer, I decided to make a big change in my career. As I was exploring my options I came across information about Peace Corps. I realized that their core mission and goals lined right up with where my heart and passions are. So I applied, taking a huge leap beyond my comfort zone and trusting that the outcome would be better than anything I could ever imagine, and not even sure that I would even be accepted. 

“Our more than 220,000 current and returned Volunteers know that the Peace Corps changes lives—both their own and the lives of people in communities around the world. They learn about leadership, ingenuity, self-reliance, and relationship building and become global citizens.”

Peace Corps mission…

To promote world peace and friendship by

  • Helping the people of interested countries in meetings their need for trained men and women
  • Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
  • Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

Never did I think I would work or live abroad. It took about a year for the whole application process, from the time of applying to my departure date. For me I needed that time to prepare not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. I decided to sell or give away most of my belongings, car, furniture…pretty much everything. I was starting over, a fresh clean slate. In the moment it was emotionally overwhelming, but now looking back I am so glad I did it. I don’t miss all that stuff and I feel incredibly free and enjoy the simplicity. 

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At the airport in Philly as we were waiting in line to check our bags for our flight to Moldova

Why Moldova? 

When I had applied and interviewed for the Peace Corps I said I was willing to go anywhere in the world. How did I know what would be a best fit for me if I’ve only been to 3 countries? I liked the idea of living in a tropical place but was willing to trust that wherever I went would be a good fit, knowing that Peace Corps does their best to line up matching the volunteers skills to placement. 

In January 2014 I received my invitation to Moldova and I had to learn all about it before my departure date of June 2014. I accepted the invitation and now looking back I cannot imagine my life without the people and this place I call home right now. 

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With my Balti host family and my mom and brother from their visit to Moldova.

Reflections
Each day brings new adventures, experiences, and challenges. I have learned a new language… increased the number of members in my family… made new friends… continue to learn the art of patience and flexibility… and I have a greater love and appreciation for travel. I am glad that my reality looks different than the one that I imagined decades ago. Little did I know that all the little and big steps I took over that 7-8 year period would lead me here to this place, to new horizons and a changed heart. No regrets. 

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This post kicks off the blogging challenge I have jumped into to start off the new year. Read more about this challenge here: Challenge Accepted.