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.
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.
Another year older and hopefully another year wiser. I recently celebrated my 34th birthday in Moldova this month. This being my 3rd time to celebrate while living in Moldova. This year I kept it low-key and more to myself. However, it certainly exceeded my expectations.
I had been hoping to get away the weekend before my birthday and had the opportunity to take an overnight trip to a nearby city in Romania right over the border. It worked out amazingly well to meet up with some friends who were already there. We got to see the holiday lights and Christmas market in the center along with the recently renovated Palace and of course the popular large shopping mall that is one of the better shopping malls I have been to.
Walking through the center at night
The downtown area with the palace in the distance
The great view from our window in Iasi, Romania
The Three Hierarchs Monastery Iasi, Romania
All of us at the palace
On my actual birthday, I was celebrated well by my work colleagues and dear friends. I made cupcakes for my office, of course complete with sprinkles. Started the day with sprinkles and ended the day with bubbles (champagne toast for all).
And ate a lot of cake! My office brought in 2 cakes and then later in the evening there was more cake too! It was most certainly a sweet day!
Since my birthday fell on a Tuesday, I had celebrated in the evening with a group of friends and people that I typically see on a weekly basis for English Conversation at a local friends’ restaurant/bar. It was fun to celebrate with such an international crew.
It was a great day and I felt well celebrated leading up to and even afterward by so many near and far. I also took some time to reflect a bit in order to answer the annual “birthday questions”…
What are some of your highlights from this past year?
What are you looking forward to this year?
In honor of turning 34, I picked 4 highlights from this past year:
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.
It was a full weekend of celebrating — I helped prepare some traditional foods for the occasion.
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.
Mickey and Minnie also showed up for the special occasion complete with games and activities for the kids.
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.
It certainly captured the attention of my host nephew…
The table was generously spread out full of food and drinks for all the guests.
Then since the little guy loves cars, the afternoon was wrapped up with a car-themed cake and some random life-sized characters.
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.
Included below are more photos from the celebratory evening. Captions are included for more details…
There was an amazing electric violin player that played a few songs and danced at the wedding celebration.
The wedding couple danced a special choreographed dance together complete with a smoke machine for special effect.
There were professional dancers that came out at various points throughout the evening and in different costumes. We were highly entertained all evening long.
The bride and groom pull on either side of a circular bread to see who will be the head of the household. Whoever received the most amount of bread in their hand was deemed the “head of household”. The bride won in this instance.
At the end of the evening the nanasi take off parts of the bride and groom and dress them in “normal-life” items like an apron and headscarf.
Then guests come and literally shower the newlyweds with gifts, wrapping them in the blankets and surrounding them with all the gifts. Each person shows the couple the item, places it either on or near them and then sticks some cash into the headscarf of the bride.
After the bride and groom are changed and showered with gifts they cut the cake along with the nanasi. Guests are then served the cake and the evening came to an end.
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.
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.
More music and singing on the second day of wedding celebrations
So many dishes are needed to be able to serve all the people who come for soup and eating more food.
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.
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.
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.
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!
September 1st marks the first day of school all across Moldova. Every school starts out the day with some sort of special celebration complete with welcoming the new 1st grade students to their first day of school and acknowledging the seniors as they begin their last year of school.
The celebrations are typically complete with special music, dancing, singing, and/or reciting poetry. I had the opportunity to go to the first bell with my host sister from pre-service training (PST) and see her start her 10th year in school. This was all shortly after I had arrived back in Moldova and was grateful I could join in this tradition as it also marked beginning my 3rd year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova.
You could sense the anticipation of the school year from all the various ages, including the parents. I had learned that many of the children are not even from this village as they are transported in from other nearby villages so they can attend school for the year.
At the end of the first bell ceremony, the tradition is that a senior boy carries a 1st grade girl on his shoulders as she rings the bell… literally ringing in the start of the school year.
Here’s to a bright school year ahead for all the students and teachers! Noroc!
One of the traditions that Peace Corps holds is when a volunteer successfully completes his/her service they get to ring “the bell”.
Ironically, in Moldova it is tradition for the school year to start and end with a ringing of the bell. The ceremonies are even translate to “First Bell” which starts the school year and “Last Bell” which finishes the school year. I like that this tradition seems to parallel with our Peace Corps tradition as we ring the “last bell” which symbolizes the completion of our time as volunteers in Moldova.
I’ve had the honor to see a few of my colleagues and friends ring the bell recently. It was a nice tradition to be part of especially after knowing some of the challenges and hardships that some of them had been through.
Usually a few words are said by staff and friends, and then the volunteer shares a bit with those who are gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion.
My friend, Miki was the first one of our program group to leave and ring the bell in completion of her service. Although, I’m sad to see her leave I’m thrilled for all that is ahead of her as she returns to the US.
Next within our program group, Olivia and Ellen rang the bell and departed Moldova soon after to head home to the US. I will surely miss working with them as I’ve had the privilege to work with both of them on separate projects. It’s going to be strange not having them around and in the same timezone. I’m going to miss them terribly.
The latest and largest bell ringing I had the opportunity to attend was with all of these newly appointed RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers).
Adam and Jeff rang the bell on Friday marking the end of their Peace Corps service.
One of my site mates, Jeff even dressed in a traditional Moldovan shirt for the occasion.
Each day as my friends and colleagues “ring the bell” and depart Moldova it reminds me of the transition we all are currently facing and how short the time frame of 2 years is.
Only 400+ some days left until I too get to ring the bell to COS! Here’s to all that is ahead as we embrace “now” and beyond! xoxo