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.

 

What am I doing here?

Since I have extended my Peace Corps service into a third year, I have found I often get the question “Why? What are you doing here?” and then followed up by the response “..you must really love Moldova…”

I know it may be hard to understand, but I do like it here and enjoy what I am doing. I think it makes a huge difference when you love what you are doing and find meaning and purpose in it. Has it been easy? Not at all. But what in life is?

To answer the recurring question “What are you doing?” I’ll share a little overview of what that looks like at this time.

Previously, I have written a lot about the global Technovation Challenge program. It has positively changed things for me working with various teams over the past 2 years. As I was nearing the end of my 2 years of service, it seemed to be an ideal time to make some changes within the Technovation program in Moldova to make it more sustainable. Opportunities continued to line up both locally and globally as my extension was being processed.

In addition to continuing in working with the Technovation program in Moldova, I am also working with an organization that is launching a major project located on the Technical University  of Moldova known as the Tekwill, ICT Center of Excellence.  The project is funded by USAID and the Swedish Embassy. The building is still being constructed and hopefully will be finished in the near future.

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Tekwill will focus on improving Moldova’s global competitiveness in the business and investment environment through developing technology, science, and innovation. The  Excellence Center will be an innovative space that will encourage growth, learning, and development. I’ve been helping at a consultant/advising level assisting with the development of launching their Tekwill Academy program among other activities and assisting with the marketing and branding aspects of the project.

It’s only been a little over a month so far, and I have really enjoyed working with the Tekwill team and watching the Technovation Moldova program gain strength at a local level.

 

 

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!

{Photo Friday}: Cathedral Park View

I’ve moved to the capital city and get to see this view on a regular basis as I pass it at least once or twice a day on my way to the office. The view is through the Triumphal Arch and looks into the center of the park onto the Nativity Cathedral, which is the main Orthodox church in Chisinau.

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A look back at September

I’m not sure where September went, but when I look back over my photos from this month, I realize I have not taken as many photos as I usually do. However, I know for sure it was a full month. I guess it just means I was enjoying being in the moment a whole lot more.

When I returned to Moldova, I had the opportunity to go to First Bell in my training host family’s village…

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First bell in Moldova is September 1. Schools gather in the front of the building to welcome in the new school year complete with music, dancing, singing and tradition. A bell is rung by a 1st grader being carried by a senior signaling the start to the new school year.

…shortly after that, I went to a traditional wedding and celebrated with the family and newlyweds for 2 days. I will be sharing more about that experience in the near future.

 

I moved…

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Most if not all of my belongings all ready to go to be moved to my new home in Chisinau.

I started working with a new organization & program in Chisinau…

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I’m now working with Tekwill, a new ICT Center of Excellence that is still in the process of being built.

I attended various networking and tech-related events…

Then there was that time in September that I experienced my first earthquake. It woke me up at 2 AM and I was all confused as to what to do in response to the concrete building swaying, things rattling and moving around me. I’ve learned since then that the bathtub is not the ideal place to go during an earthquake, but for a tornado (hey, I’ve never experienced either of these things in my life before). Live and learn. Now I know better — if there is an earthquake, it’s best to get out of the building if you can. If not, go to an interior wall or doorway.

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My concrete apartment block where I now live

It was a good month full of meeting lots of new people and experiencing new random adventures. (hovering over the photo will tell you a little bit about each)

 

 

 

Transitions into a third year of Peace Corps service

I’ve taken a bit of an unintended break from writing recently. I didn’t realize how much of an adjustment it would be to transition into a 3rd year, new site, new home, and new schedule.  I’m really glad that I extended for a 3rd year, but I wasn’t quite prepared for it.

When I returned from a month of home leave at the end of August I found things to be different. The cohort of volunteers I had arrived with in 2014 were no longer here and I could surely feel their absence. I was also in the midst of changing sites from Balti, the 2nd largest city, to Chisinau, the largest city and capital of Moldova. But, at the time, I still hadn’t found a place to live yet.

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A great illustration of how I was feeling during these transitions — the sidewalks are currently being renovated and causing all kids of chaos along the streets.

Finding a place to live took about 2 weeks of living out of a bag I carried around with me from place to place. I stayed with various friends and my host family from training all while on the verge of tears. Thankfully, things eventually came together and I was able to look at a place that had previously been rented out by Peace Corps volunteers years ago. Within a few hours, an agreement was made and I was able to move in 2 days later.

When it came to moving into the new place, it took a bit of patience and determination to get everything moved so it would all be in one place. Most of my belongings were still located at my host family’s apartment in Balti, and then I still had a large piece of luggage at my training host family’s place located 30 minutes from Chisinau, and then a few bags at the Peace Corps office. I really don’t know how I have accumulated so much stuff in such a short amount of time. Thanks to my friend, she found someone who would drive me the 2 hour drive from Balti to Chisinau with all of my bags and even pick up the large piece of luggage along the way. The thing was that the driver only spoke Russian. We made it work though, about half of the trip we sat in silence until we figured out we could communicate in a piecemeal of Romanian, Russian, and English. Highly entertaining with lots of laughs involved. After I finally arrived to my new “home” in Chisinau, I had another hurdle as my landlady speaks Russian so our communication is typically limited to numbers, dates, and times. Thankfully a friend came over to help translate things as she explained how EVERYTHING worked in the apartment, including the old motorized clothes-washing apparatus (there will be more on this another time). After a quick walk back and forth from the Peace Corps office to pick up the last of the items to move, I was all settled in by midnight. I had moved all my stuff from one city to another (including 3 different locations), made dinner, and unpacked it all within 10 hours. Not too bad.

Most apartments come furnished here in Moldova, so thankfully I didn’t have to move furniture or need to scavenge for some. It’s still taking some time to get settled in and feeling like it’s ‘home’. Adventures have continued to unfold from trying to get internet installed to meeting my neighbor next door. All scenarios that have me laughing at myself from the randomness mostly due to misunderstandings. Sigh.

More to come soon!