My Last 30 Days in Peace Corps

Yes, it’s true, I have 30 days left in my Peace Corps service in Moldova. I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around winding things down. By the time I finish my Peace Corps service in Moldova I will have been in the country for a little over 3 years. That means a total of 39 months or break it down further to 1,154 days.

I am happy to share that I will officially finish my Peace Corps service on July 31st.

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As for what I will be doing after Peace Corps (a question that has come up a lot over this past year), I will once again pack up my life into a few suitcases and then make a slow move to Sweden.

photo source: http://www.operationworld.org/swed

I made the decision to continue my education at Blekinge Institute of Technology with a Master’s in Strategic Leadership toward Sustainability. I will be taking part in an intensive 10-month study program along with a number of individuals from around the world. Classes will start mid-August and I will finish in June 2018.

Given the quick turnaround time, once I finish my service I will not be able to make it home to the US anytime soon. However, I hope it will work out to make it home over the holidays.

As I reflect on these three years in Peace Corps, it feels like it went by so fast. Yet, I know that much has changed in and around me through the steady pace of time.  Some days felt like they were forever long and some passed by in a blink of an eye. I know it will take time to fully process these three years and I hope that these next 30 days will be full of much joy as I wrap things up.

Looking back… photos from the first month in Peace Corps three years ago…
 ….and now, recent photos from the past couple of months.

 

 

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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!

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.