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!

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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!

An End of Year Wrap Up [November & December 2016]

Farewell 2016, it’s been real. Let’s finish it off with a recap from November & December. It’s been a whirlwind couple of months full of memorable moments and adventures.

I did some exploring around the city and saw an incredible sunset,  we celebrated my host nephew’s 2nd birthday and gathered together with friends to celebrate and share traditions of Thanksgiving.

The main organization I’m working with hosted both Startup Week and Startup Weekend  all in one long week and I got the opportunity to participate in a few sessions and meet some new people.

Then December rolled around and once again, I participated in Dressember. This being the 4th year I’ve participated, I tried something new this year and did it by alternating between two different dresses for the whole month.

Early in December, I was able to travel with some friends to visit Iasi, Romania for an overnight trip. It was a great little adventure away to change up the routine and scenery. Then, shortly after that trip I celebrated my 34th birthday.

 

December also brought a fun and festive spirit as the city center was decorated with an abundance of holiday lights.

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I also had a great opportunity to do a workshop about Mobile Apps in a nearby village. Later that day a friend and I did some fun exploring in that community.

 

A quick visit to Balti was in order before the holidays to visit my host family and some friends as we celebrated the holiday season a little early with an incredible meal along with good hospitable company.

To wrap it all up, as I had shared in my previous post, I made a surprise visit home to celebrate Christmas and New Years with family and friends.

Cheers to the 2017 new year ahead!

Celebrating with balloons, bubbles, and babies

During my 2 years of Peace Corps service in Balti, I lived with a host family during that whole time. I got to know them pretty well to the point that it feels as though I have become part of the family. Which sometimes is hard to wrap my head around because our common language is Romanian since they don’t speak English. I recently visited them for a weekend  to celebrate my host nephew’s 2nd birthday. I’ve had the privilege to see this little guy grow up before my eyes.

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It was a full weekend of celebrating — I helped prepare some traditional foods for the occasion.

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And then on Sunday, there was a big party at a local children’s restaurant complete with a play-area, bright colors, and a kid-friendly atmosphere (and screaming children). My host nephew was beyond himself happy with all the fun surrounding him.

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Mickey and Minnie also showed up for the special occasion complete with games and activities for the kids.

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My favorite part of the celebration was when Mickey pulled out the bubbles and the kids and even the adults were mesmerized by the human sized ones.

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It certainly captured the attention of my host nephew…

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The table was generously spread out full of food and drinks for all the guests.

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Then since the little guy loves cars, the afternoon was wrapped up with a car-themed cake and some random life-sized characters.

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Happy birthday, little guy!

{Photo Friday}: Golden Fall

I had the great opportunity to get out with a friend one weekend to visit one of the many parks located in the capital city. It was an incredible fall day, complete with an idyllic setting and fall weather. I’m glad we stayed long enough to explore and adventure through the park to catch the best sunset I’ve ever experienced in Moldova.

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Among the many visitors at this particular park, we had the chance to run into some random goats enjoying the fall day as well. It was such a great afternoon that I cannot help but to share more photos.

An Eventful October

The month of October was full of various events and celebrations. To start it all off, we celebrated with Moldova’s big wine celebration that is the first weekend of October each year. On Saturday, I met up with some friends in the center as we enjoyed the festivities and sampling different Moldova wines. This year I didn’t get any photos as I was too busy having fun.

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Photo credit: Wine of Moldova

On Sunday, a few friends and I went to a local winery not far from Chisinau. We had a fabulous time enjoying the surroundings at Asconi Winery and trying their wines. Again, not many photos except from this fabulous traditional meal we enjoyed outside on their terrace. It was a perfect day for such an adventure.

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Our meal from Asconi Winery outside on the terrace.

A few weeks later the capital city of Chisinau celebrated it’s city day, known as hram. Most people have off from work as the city center main street is shut down and festivities stretch from one end to the other. Big and small stages were scattered along the main street as food vendors and merchandise vendors lined both sides of the street. There were so many people who came out for this celebration it was hard to make it through the streets.

Also, throughout the month I had attended a number of local events that related to the tech industry in Moldova and English learning opportunities for local Moldovans.

As Peace Corps Volunteers we were invited to a luncheon at the US Ambassador’s home this past month. It was a nice afternoon where we were treated to some foods many of us have been missing and a great opportunity to reconnect with one another outside of projects and the Peace Corps lounge.

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The US Ambassador (center front) with most of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Moldova and some staff members.

I was also able to make it for a quick weekend visit to Balti and see my host family and some friends. It had felt like I hadn’t been there in a year but it was only about a month since the last time I was there.

Then, to round out the month of October, I celebrated Halloween with some friends at a local restaurant/bar. A friend and I made matching last minute costumes within a few hours of the party. We went as winter (which is scary in October, right?)  but then realized there was a winter/Christmas character that many locals identified us as, which I think they referred to as Snegurochka. Fun times.

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Winter is coming…

October was quite eventful and November is looking to be just as full as well. It’s hard to believe the end of 2016 is around the corner. It’s going to be an interesting next couple of weeks as both the US and Moldova select their next president.

Going to a Traditional Moldovan Wedding – {part 2}

As I had shared in a post a few weeks ago, I had just returned to Moldova in August and within 3 days I was attending a friends wedding. The wedding celebrations stretched into two days full of traditions, family and friends.

After the room was setup, guests arrived and the festivities began with a long traditional series of welcomes. People were arranged and grouped by friends and then family of the bride and then family of the groom. Guests formed lines accordingly and each family unit and friends group were announced by the host and then welcomed by the newlyweds. This is when family and friends showered the couple with flowers, well-wishes and hugs and then photos were taken to document the special occasion (and every guest had their photo professionally taken with the bride & groom). It took us awhile to understand what was happening. We waited until all 100 guests went through the line and were welcomed by the couple. Even if guests were late, things were stopped and the guests were announced and welcomed.

There was a lot of dancing, eating, drinking, dancing, eating, drinking, dancing… you get the idea. Festivities went on until the wee hours of the next morning. I think we left around 4:30 AM.

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Guests dancing the traditional Moldovan dance, the hora to start things off. 

Included below are more photos from the celebratory evening. Captions are included for more details…

After we cleaned up the leftover foods and took down the decor, we finally left at the wee morning hours. We collapsed into bed and didn’t wake up until mid-day. However, the festivities continued on! We then went to the bride’s parents’ home for soup and more food.

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Friends and family came throughout the day to take part in this Moldovan tradition of having soup and eating some of the leftover food from the wedding celebration the night before. The music and merriment continued well into the evening hours.

It took me a few more days to recover from the wedding with the addition of having jet lag and all the changes that were happening at the time. It was a great celebration and I was so grateful to have been able to take part in these special days.