I suppose this has been a long time coming.

A sweet friend and fellow Peace Corps Moldova volunteer has put into words what often times is so hard to explain. I too nod my head in agreement in a resounding “Yes, me too!” Olivia, thank you for writing these thoughtful and honest words.

(P.S. – Listen to it with the music in the background. So good!)

calling me home.

[Soundtrack: Lose It – Oh Wonder.  Listen here.]

I haven’t written for nearly a year.  I have more unpublished drafts than I care to admit, but when it came to actually posting these posts, I kept getting hung up.  Nothing felt quite right.  Which is silly since this is a blog to merely update people on my life and experiences serving in the Peace Corps. But the posts felt somehow dishonest. Incomplete. Insincere.

At first I didn’t know why I was having such a hard time writing these posts.  As time progressed it became clear that I was having a hard time with the disconnect between the stories I wished I could share, and the stories I actually could.

The stories I want to be able tell you are ones of success and inspiration and happy endings.  But things here just aren’t that simple.

I want to write the story…

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Have you seen this yet?

This seems to have been floating around a lot lately, especially with many Peace Corps volunteers as we can relate to this song, especially during the holidays. Don’t blame me if it gets stuck in your head, it’s catchy and will make you laugh (well, it made me laugh).  Enjoy – poftim!

How do you celebrate a birthday in Moldova?

I just celebrated my 32nd birthday and it has been the best birthday-celebration in Moldova so far! Here’s to a new year in a new place with new adventures every day.

Many friends and family asked how people celebrate birthdays in Moldova and were curious as to how I was celebrated here in my new home.

From my experience so far, when someone celebrates their birthday in Moldova, they prepare all the food for a celebratory masa (table) with their family and/or friends — or they may treat their friends and family with a meal out at a restaurant. Then, the birthday celebrator may receive gifts like flowers, a bottle of wine or cognac, or chocolates, or perfume.

However, my birthday this year included some of the typical Moldovan celebratory-traditions along with some traditions I am used to from home. Since my actual birthday fell on a Saturday this year, it meant a weekend full of celebrations.

Starting on Friday, after a little concert at the local art gallery — one of the students I know and her mother who is a friend of mine, had a sweet little surprise for me. They played a Christmas song for my birthday – daughter on the guitar and her mother singing along at various parts. Here’s just a little sample of the song for you – and it’s in English.

Dinner that evening consisted of one of my favorite meals, breakfast for dinner. Some of my site mates and nearby volunteer friends prepared pancakes, fried potatoes, apple sauce, apple cake, and leftover pumpkin pie from thanksgiving. Some local friends came over for dinner and hung out as we watched a little bit of one of my favorite British TV comedies, IT Crowd and we also enjoyed the movie Despicable Me 2 as well.
All the cooks in the kitchen prepping dinner.
Love these lovely ladies!
And pumpkin pie for dessert!
Then, for my actual birthday on Saturday I had to head to Chisinau for some meetings. It was a full day and I got an opportunity to see many other volunteers at the PC office, the first meeting even included a cake and some songs.
A view of Chisinau from the apartment we rented for the weekend.
A view of Chisinau from the apartment we rented for the weekend.
Since I enjoy Greek food, we went to a Greek restaurant in Chisinau. We had about 16 volunteers packed into the back of the restaurant. Just as our food was arriving, the music increased and the lights decreased — and the party lights came on. Before we knew it, we could no longer see our food or hear one another very well. Someone started singing karaoke in the corner. A door to a private room opened and people came out to dance in the center of the restaurant, which was also right next to our table.  So, why not join them in dancing?
Embracing the moment and enjoying the randomness of the night with a little dancing.
Embracing the moment and enjoying the randomness of the night with a little dancing.
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With a fun crew of fellow volunteers and friends during the dance-party-dinner.
 After dinner a few of us went back to the apartment we rented for the night to watch one of my favorite holiday movies, Elf — it wouldn’t be complete without the tradition of watching this movie at some point around my birthday.
On Sunday a few of us made our way to check out one of the churches (in English!) that we heard about from some other volunteers. And then I made my way back to site to celebrate with my host family. My host mom prepared a masa to celebrate both my host sister and I since we both celebrate a birthday in the same week – just one year and 2 days apart!
My host sister and I celebrating our birthdays together.
My host sister and I celebrating our birthdays together.
 Then, on Monday my work partner and co-workers surprised me with some cake, treats and tea! Such a fun Monday!
Birthday cake from my co-workers.
It was quite a joy-filled weekend with lots of new friends, little surprises (like gifts and treats left in my newly decorated Peace Corps locker), texts, videos and songs from friends from home, and many of the things that I so enjoy.
Would you believe that many of my new friends (and even my work colleagues) have picked up on my love for scarves? I do believe that my scarf collection in Moldova has now doubled — thank you oh, so much!
Truly, though — thank you to so many for the birthday wishes from near and far — thank you for the sweet treats, chocolates, wine, cakes… for the funny videos and hilarious songs — for the lovely new scarves — phone calls, emails and snapchats — and most of all for your friendship and love. I have so much to be grateful for as I reflect upon this past year and look forward to the new one ahead.
For those of you at home, who want to know the answers to THE birthday questions – check back later this week where I’ll share them then. 😉

Friday Music Day: Acasa with Smiley

I have heard this song more times than I can count since I have been here for the past 3+ months. The artist, Smiley is quite popular here and I believe this song is also the name of the latest album he released. So enjoy “Acasă” by Smiley, a song all in Romanian. [This is NOT how I sound quite yet when speaking Romanian…give me a few more months ;)]

When you translate the chorus into English this is what you get. I like it!

I want to play, dream and laugh
Do not forget to play sometimes.
And when I go in the world,
Do not forget to go back home.

Friday Music Day: Hora din Moldova

Here’s another “Friday Music Day” music video for the end of your week viewing and listening pleasure. This one is from the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest by Nelly Ciobanu. It’s about dancing a traditional Moldovan dance called the hora. I had the honor to try it during PST from my host mama and host sister in the kitchen one evening. It is a fun dance and there seem to be many variations. I look forward to learning more about this popular and traditional dance during my time in Moldova these next 2 years! You’ll even get a few glimpses of life in Moldova from her music video –  Enjoy!



Friday Music Day: Moldovenii s-au născut

It’s Friday and it’s a great excuse to share a little bit of Moldova with you through music. Thanks to my friend and fellow PCV, Kelsey – who found this wonderful gem. This group apparently has been around since the 90’s and are quite popular here. It’s a fun video and incorporates a lot of the culture that we have experienced in our short time here (approx. 2.5 months)!

Here’s a bit from their website: Since mid 90s “Zdob si Zdub combines the hardcore and Moldovan folklore in a unique and elegant way, offering a spectacular live show… call them ethno-rockers, if you wish. Add some hip-hop, drum’n’bass, jungle, punk… an original music crossover, the meeting point of urban intensity and rural spirit. This charismatic band leaves deep traces in Moldova’s music history, however feeling at home in front of any audience it reaches.”  [more info…]

I hope you enJOY it as much as I have!