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.

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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.

 

Going to a Traditional Moldovan Wedding – {part 1}

Upon my return to Moldova, within 3 days I was attending a friends wedding. This was the 2nd time I’ve had the chance to attend a wedding during my time as a volunteer in Moldova. I even had the opportunity to take part in the traditional festivities that happen before the big reception later in the day.

Some fun facts about Moldovan weddings:

  •  Sometimes couples will get married either in the church and/or legally at the mayor’s office and then celebrate with the large reception a year or so later (after saving money to host the party);
  •  It is tradition to have nanasi [nan-ash-i], best described as marriage godparents (or spiritual parents) to help the couple when issues arise in their marriage – the nanasi play a big role during the wedding celebration;
  • There is a wedding “season” in Moldova, typically weddings are not held during post (fasting due to religious holidays) but more so in the fall around wine making season;
  •  When attending a wedding, it is expected to bring flowers (although, a new trend is to bring a book for the couple) along with money and a gift;
  • Moldovan weddings are full of traditions — from the food, to the music, and dancing and beyond..
On the day of the wedding, about mid-day, I made my way to the brides family home where all the ladies were getting their hair and makeup done.
After a few hours, they were ready to go and were waiting on the groom and his friends to arrive. After some honking of horns and yelling, the men had arrived and they had to go through some traditions before finding the bride.
After the groom and his friends completed all the necessary traditional activities the groom was able to see his bride…and we all toasted to the start of the festivities while they took photos.
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Next, all the young people piled into decorated cars to make their way to the nanasi’s home. Once arrived, we made a scene going into their apartment where they hosted us for champagne toasts and treats.
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Next we all piled back into the cars and went to the city center to the casa nunta – wedding house where they signed the papers to make it official by the state that they are married.
After that I went with my friend to the wedding hall where the reception was being held so they could prep for the 100+ people who were coming to the big party.
It was impressive with all the decor, abundance of food, and the fancy setup.
There were many traditions that were new for me so I spent a lot of the time confused throughout the wedding. I’ll share more in the next post on these traditions from the wedding – stay tuned!

What do 30 days of special leave look like? 

Earlier this summer I had shared about 30 things I wanted to do while at home during my special home leave with Peace Corps in August. I spent a good amount of my time going through that list while trying to connect with family and friends. I pretty much was able to get through most if not all of the things my list! I hadn’t been home at all during my 2 years of service with Peace Corps so this was a sweet time that I had anxiously been waiting for.

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I had enjoyed it so much that I hadn’t taken as many photos as I possibly could have, and I’m ok with that. It means I was in the moment enjoying the food, surroundings, and people around me.

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I loved seeing so many friends and family I hadn’t seen in over 2 years! Being back home in the State College  area was comforting, refreshing, and rejuvenating.  I answered a variety of questions from “what is your favorite food in Moldova?” to “how is your heart?”
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… I enjoyed foods I’ve missed…
…I got to hold little ones who were not around when I left 2 years ago…
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…I soaked in the beautiful nature as I walked through parks and around the Penn State campus…
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…I enjoyed learning how to play Pokemon Go thanks to some enthusiastic friends…
30 days of special leave looks like random adventures… reconnecting with people…
sharing stories… laughing… reminiscing… and embracing all the hugs as humanly possible! Now onward to year 3 with Peace Corps in Moldova! I’m looking forward to the year ahead!

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Meet Livia: “I learned that no matter who you are…you can still make an impact.”

1. What was your most favorite part(s) about your participation in the Technovation World Pitch Summit?The best part of it was of course the people, especially the girls like us that came to this summit to show their solutions for the problems they face in their communities. Having the opportunity to meet girls younger than me that already achieved so much, motivated me to continue to persevere in all the aspects of my life.

 

2. What did you think of San Francisco?

San Francisco is an amazing city and having the opportunity to combine the participation in Technovation Summit with sightseeing was incredible.

 

a) What was your favorite part of the city?

Well, several things that made me love San Francisco were the hills and how they combined perfectly with the architecture of the city making it from this point of view unique. The second thing I admired was the Golden Gate Park, considered a huge natural reservation it manages to create a perfect balance between new and old, West and East in such way being considered one of the most beautiful parks in the world. And the last but not the least is the ocean, even if the weather wasn’t one of the best we still had a great time collecting shells and making pictures.

 

3. What did you learn from this experience?

I learned that no matter who you are, teenager or senior, woman or man, a person with experience or not you can still make an impact. All you need to do for this is to have a little self-confidence and a lot of dedication, and by this I mean I a lot of hard work.

 

4. What is something you will take from this experience for your future?

One big lesson I’ve learned is to stay open to new possibilities and opportunities, and when sometimes it seems like all the doors are closed, for sure somewhere there is a window. This lesson I plan to apply in my future and of course in the development of our application.

 

5. Now what?

Now, as we received some feedback on our idea at the summit, we plan to implement some changes in the app, as well as in the business plan. Our aim in doing this is to make our social business as suitable as possible for our country and also or enlarging our market.

A joy-filled July

This past month of July has been quite full of travels and transitions.

On the 4th of July I celebrated the holiday with my host family by making burgers. I had to get creative as it was too hot to use the oven, so I made them on the stovetop. I got the nod of approval, even with the improvisation.

The new Peace Corps trainees finished up their second month of training in July and I got to meet many of them during various trainings I implemented and panels I participated in.


I said more goodbyes to PCV friends as they rang the bell to finish their 2 years of service.


There was a send off party hosted by UN Women for the girls who attended the Technovation World Pitch Summit in San Francisco before they left.


Then there was the quick trip to San Francisco for the Technovation training for the new Master Educator program training during the World pitch summit.


When I returned to Moldova, I had 2 weeks to say more goodbyes to volunteers, do a few more trainings, and to pack up all my stuff from my host family’s home. But before all the “packing-up-my-life” chaos began I went to the village house with my host family to relax and take a break before things got too crazy.


It took me about 2-3 days to go through everything from the past 2 years and to prepare it for the move to the capital city. Plus I had to prepare my bag for going home as well. It’s amazing to see how easy it is to accumulate so much stuff in a short amount of time.


On my final evening in Balti with my host family we had a little celebration with some of my favorite foods and my host dad pulled out the accordion and sang a song about me leaving.


My heart is full as I am incredibly grateful for the past 2 years with my host family in Balti. We experienced a lot of ups and downs and life as it is…full of messiness and complicated situations. We’ve seen one another at our best and worst and I wouldn’t trade them. They’ve taught me a lot about life and have become some of my biggest encouragers and part of my support system here in Moldova. My Peace Corps service would not be the same without them.

I’ve left for special home leave where I’ll be gone for 30 days to spend time with family and friends in PA. You won’t be hearing from me much in August as I’ll be taking a needed break. I’ll be returning to Moldova in September where I will continue my Peace Corps service for a 3rd year but with a new primary organization and location. I’ll share more then, but until then enjoy the rest of your summer!

La revedere!

Inspirational Experiences from the Technovation World Pitch Summit

Part 3: This is the third part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco for the 2016 Technovation World Pitch Summit. The first and second parts of this series were shared earlier this week.

From Moldova we had 3 different programs going on during the Technovation World Pitch Summit. I was attending training for the new Master Educator program while another girl was attending a similar and new training but for Student Ambassadors. We met with others from around the globe and discussed how we can grow the programs in our respective countries and learn from one another. In addition, we had a group of girls from Moldova attending as a visiting team, they had won the regional pitch event and as the grand prize they advanced to the semi-final round and had the opportunity to attend the Technovation World Pitch event along with their mentor. All of this was possible thanks to local generous sponsors Girls Go IT, Sun Communications, Tekwill and the many individuals who supported the Indiegogo campaign. You can read more about their app idea here from a previous post. We’ll be sharing more in detail about all the “cool” things the girls from the visiting team had the opportunity to see and experience.

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All of us sporting the new Technovation Moldova t-shirts before departing for San Francisco.

The first part of the World Pitch Summit started with a tour of the city for the girls from the visiting team. They visited the Golden Gate Bridge, the De Young Museum, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Crookedest street. Time during which the girls had the chance to interact with all the other visiting teams and the Technovation staff.

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All of the girls and mentors between the visiting teams and finalist teams from all over the world.

The first day ended with a panel discussion at Twitter where 6 successful women from project managers to programmers and engineers shared their professional paths that got them to Twitter. Most importantly, they advised the girls on future steps to take in order to build stronger CVs.

The second day of the Conference was all about Silicon Valley and inspiration. The girls started with a trip to Intuitive Surgical, a company that designs and produces surgical robots. They got to try using a robot and to see how it is produced giving them more insights into operation processes.

The day continued with a programming workshop at Intel.

Next in line were a couple of workshops at Yahoo, where the girls got useful insights about their app’s design and accessibility.

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The girls are having their app tested and were given feedback on ways to improve it for useability

In the evening, the girls attended the World Pitch Conference where they met the finalists and had the chance to talk with them about their apps and business ideas they developed.

But the learning didn’t stop here. The following day, the girls attended 2 workshops of their own preference. They had a list of choices including a Women in Tech Panel; Enabling Voice Driven Smart Home Experiences with Amazon Alexa; How to Tell a Visual Story; Imagination in Virtual Reality; Technovation Alumni Panel; Data Science: Finding Hidden Treasures in Piles of Messy, Chaotic Data; Python and the Twitter API; and Meaningful User Journeys.

One of the girls, Sanda shared with us about one of the workshops she attended; the panel of Women in Tech. During this panel she met some amazing women whose careers were connected to technology or entrepreneurship and they gave advice and shared their stories. Some of the things she had learned and taken from this unique panel of women included “Life is a journey and every moment in life is teachable.” Also that “Failure is a part of success.”

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The conference ended with leading to the evening of the World Pitch Event that was open to the public. The girls from the visiting teams along with the finalists teams had the chance to showcase their app ideas during a table-top exhibit. The girls did an amazing job with their table-top presentation and interacting with all the people that came by to learn more about their idea.

The World Pitch Summit ended with an extraordinary breakfast at Autodesk, where besides saying goodbye to all the participants the girls had the opportunity to discover more technologies and innovations in different industries, sports, medicine, constructions, cars, physics and many more.

On the last day before leaving for Moldova the girls were able to make a quick visit to the California Academy of Sciences. The girls saw a planetarium and an aquarium for the first time. They found the experience to be very enlightening.

The girls are grateful for the opportunity to have been able to meet others in the tech industry and see places and experience things they dreamed of. They are eager to continue to learn and further develop the Technovation community in Moldova. We look forward to the year ahead as they inspire others to continue to learn and grow and look at things in a new way.

Coming up over the next couple of weeks – interviews from the girls and their mentor!

Special thanks to Ana Efros, the girls’ mentor for helping to write this post.