Impressions from my short visit to the US after 2 years

I have SO much to share from my latest journey to the US. I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for about a week to participate in a new educator program with Technovation. I also had a number of young Moldovan girls traveling with me as well since they were there for similar events but for different trainings.

I will be sharing much more about these various aspects of the trip soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of my first impressions after not being in the US for 2 years. I’m currently back in Moldova now, but am writing this at a crazy hour since I’m not tired thanks to the 10 hour time change and jet-lag.

Here’s some of my impressions of changes and things that really stood out to me upon my short return to US soil (in no particular order):

 1. I heard English everywhere! I often found myself startled as I could understand pretty much all conversations around me EVERYWHERE. On the street, in public transport, and on the TV and radio. It was refreshing, but also a noticeable abrupt change for me.

I liked the little specialized shops at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

2. The US flag was everywhere! I don’t know if this is something that was like this before or if it’s a recent change (or just me), but it seemed like the US flag was every where I turned. The times I just caught myself staring was when I would see a number of them clustered together in a parking lot of a business. It may have been a bit of shock of not actually realizing where I really was until I saw the flags waving in the wind. Who knows… but this one caught me by surprise.

3. Uber is amazing! When I had left for Moldova, Uber was something that was just starting to take off in big cities. I used it for the first time in San Francisco and found it to be my preferred way to travel when it was difficult to connect between the places I needed to get to and from. It was easy, didn’t take long for a car to show up and sometimes was cheaper and quicker to transport a group of us from location to another. Every time I used it I wanted to hug each driver (but I didn’t), they were so helpful and nice and plus I didn’t have to deal with cash. Thanks, Uber.

I was able to save even more by taking an UberPool, which means you share the car with someone else who is going to the same area. This had to have been one of the cleanest and best smelling cars I have been in a long time, or ever.

4. Pokemon Go? The news seemed to hit about this new phenomenon the same week we were in San Francisco. I saw A LOT of people using it while walking along the sidewalks. I still don’t know what I think about it, but it was really strange for me to see so many people using their phones as guides along the streets of San Francisco. Pikachu, I see you?

5. The Peace Corps volunteer network is amazing! This was a constant theme through our whole trip. From a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from Moldova taking the girls on a tour throughout the city on their free day; being able to stay and visit with former RPCV site mates from Moldova; to meeting up for dinner with a few other RPCVs from Moldova along with a RPCV friend I went to University with; to connecting with a Moldovan woman who had married an RPCV who heard the girls would be in town… and then running into currently serving volunteers from Moldova at the airport! It’s a small world after all. 🙂  [not all RPCVs are pictured below]

I’m grateful we made it back to Moldova with smooth travels and am glad to be back to wrap up a few things before heading home to Pennsylvania for home leave soon. I still have yet to find a place to live in my new site, in addition to doing a few more trainings with the new volunteers, and one last visit to my host family’s village house before summer ends. I’ll be back on a plane in less than two weeks experiencing jet-lag once again, but it will be worth it all.

More to come soon!

Reflecting on 2 Years of Peace Corps Service

Since I had recently shared I would be extending for one more year with Peace Corps, it’s been a bit of a transitional time lately. Between thinking about wrapping things up here with my current site and host family, to looking for a place to live at my next site, and also thinking ahead to special home leave, it reminds me what an incredible grand adventure I’ve been in since filling out my Peace Corps application in 2013.

As I look back over the past 2 years, it’s really hard to put it into words and to choose a few images of the thousands of photos I have taken over this time to even begin to describe how I feel about it all. I understand that this is a process that will take some time, years even for it to all unfold.

As I take time to reflect and think about these past 2 years, I find myself reflecting even further back to before I submitted my acceptance letter. I was sitting in my boss’s office almost in tears explaining to her that I was most likely leaving because I applied to the Peace Corps and was accepted to serve in a country I had never heard of. I remember how my stomach felt all tied up in knots, thinking about all the “what-ifs” and explaining what I knew so far, which wasn’t much. I clearly remember stating that if I didn’t do this, I would regret it later in life. And here I am, on the other side of 2 years. I made it. No regrets. And I’m signing up for 1 more.

There’s no going back, no undo button, no rewind. Things have changed. My family & friends have changed. I’ve changed. I’m so much better at playing charades now. I laugh at myself a lot more especially in awkward or challenging scenarios I find myself in. It doesn’t phase me anymore to get in front of a large group of people to speak or to conduct a training. I talk about complex things in a language I never spoke before (or at least I try). My views have been challenged and my perspective widened. And the list goes on… full of many ‘changes’. Typically I’m not very good at embracing change, but if that’s one thing that I continue to learn on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times, is that change is going to happen whether I like it or not. It’s all in how I handle it and approach the changes that are thrown my way.

So now, as I look ahead at the unknown which I am sure is full of many more surprises, challenges, and changes, I cannot but help to look back and reflect on all the stories, laughter, challenges, and tears that these two years have held. They have been difficult, they have been strange, they have been awkward, they have been challenging, they have been sweet, and they have been adventurous. But most of all, they have been good.

As I make this next transition, I hope that I don’t wish the time away to move swiftly onto the “next thing” and really take the time to enjoy the people I am with in the moment at that time wherever I may be. I realize this is just the beginning as I reflect upon these past 2 year, and in another year I’ll have 3 years to look back on as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It is well. Until then, numai bine.