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!

Ringing in the Year Ahead

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.

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The seniors walked in to the first bell ceremony holding the hands of the 1st graders and walked them around the circle. 

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.

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Young girls presented a traditional bread on a traditional hand-stitched cloth to the director of the school.

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.

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Genuine excitement for the 1st graders since they got their first books for school during the ceremony. 

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.

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Here’s to a bright school year ahead for all the students and teachers! Noroc!

Exploring San Francisco through a different perspective

Part 2: This is the second part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco for the Technovation World Pitch Summit. The previous and first part was shared earlier this week. Now we’ll get into details of exploring San Francisco through the perspective of the Moldovan girls during their free time before and after the Summit.

Since the girls had a little free time they got to meet some returned Peace Corps volunteers who had previously served in Moldova. They graciously took them around the city for a tour and had them try some different foods than they’re used to.

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Dinner with some returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) from Moldova. Which kind of pizza did the girls like better, NY Style pizza or Chicago Style Pizza?

A ride through San Francisco on the cable car was a must-do and fun highlight thanks to the wonderful RPCV guides…

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Photo from the cable car of another cable car and the Bay. Photo by Ana Efros

The girls visited the beach, which for some of them it was the very first time seeing the ocean (!)…

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Technovation Moldova goes to the beach along the Pacific ocean. Photo by Ana Efros

It was a beautiful day to explore the beautiful parks that San Francisco has to offer…

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The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Photo by Ana Efros

There was a lot of walking throughout the city as the fog rolled in at various points of the day and evening…

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The view from one of the hills in the city with the fog rolling in. Photo by Ana Efros

On our departure day we had some time before needing to go to the airport to start our return trip home to Moldova, so we visited the California Academy of Sciences. The girls were amazed as it was their first time seeing such a place. It included a planetarium, aquarium, rain forest, and interactive exhibits which they thoroughly enjoyed. It was a great way to end the journey as they explored the exhibits.

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Being awed by the aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences.

They even had an opportunity to meet a Moldovan woman who lives near San Francisco who heard they were visiting and connected with them right before leaving for the airport.

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Connecting in San Francisco and being able to speak Romanian.

It was an amazingly incredible experience to see so many things through the girls’ perspectives – many firsts, thoughtful insights, and shifts in understanding. They saw new things, tasted new foods, experienced new ways of transport, and met new people.

This would not have been possible without the many partners, organizations, businesses, individuals, and RPCVs who made this happen especially Girls Go IT, Sun Communications, Tekwill and the Technovation organizing core team from Moldova. Also, of course thanks to the Technovation team for coordinating all the details and making the World Pitch Summit an amazing educational and inspirational event for all!

In the next post we will share more about the fascinating things and opportunities the girls had the chance to participate in and experience at the Technovation World Pitch Summit. It’s pretty interesting, so don’t miss it!

 

A Whirlwind Visit to San Francisco with Moldovan Girls

I recently returned from a week-long trip in San Francisco along with 4 Moldovan girls and their amazing mentor. This is will be the first part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco from Moldova. There is so much to share and it would have been a really long blog post, so I’ll be sharing it in a few parts along with some follow-up interviews with some of the girls later.

For some of them this was their first time flying on an airplane, as well as their first time being in the US. So I had the opportunity to see so many things through their eyes for the first time.

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First time flying on an airplane…

Although we were all there for Technovation, it was a bit different schedule for all of us throughout the week.

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All of us at the final pitch event at Intuit in Mountain View, CA.

Moldova had a visiting team attending the Technovation World Pitch Summit they got to connect with the competition finalist teams as well as 5 other visiting teams from around the globe. The finalist teams were from USA, Canada, Mexico, Kenya, India, Kazakhstan, and Cameroon while the visiting teams included Uganda, Australia, Tunisia, and of course Moldova. The girls made new friends and learned a lot of new things about the cultural differences and similarities between them.

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Diana with some of the girls from Tunisia. (photo from Diana Marusic)

There was also an 18 year old student ambassador representing Moldova who was able to connect with 14 other student ambassadors from around the world. Their goal is to continue to develop and promote the Technovation program in their communities and gather more girls interest.

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First time flying on an airplane…

As for me, I was attending as part of the new Technovation Master Educator program along with 30 other educators from around the world. We went through a great collaborative training that helped set us up for the next 2 years of expanding Technovation within our communities. I enjoyed getting to know the other educators representing various parts of the world including Uganda, Bolivia, Mexico, Palestine, Turkey, Peru, Canada, Tunisia, Cameroon, Australia, Nigeria, Spain, India, South Africa, Rwanda, UK, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Morocco, Rep. of Georgia, Moldova and USA. I wish we would have had more time to spend together in person as it was a valuable resource to discuss similarities and differences of working with teams in our communities.

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All of the Master Educators (promoting Morocco’s eSTEM program) [photo from Ayoub Rahmouni]
It was an incredible experience. Visiting San Francisco and even California was a first for me and I LOVED it. It was an amazing opportunity as it opened the girls’ minds even further into the field of technology. They got to meet women working in Silicon Valley who shared their stories about their journey within the tech industry. They had the chance to attend hands-on workshops and to discuss their app idea with other teams and professionals in the industry.

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The girls at Yahoo discussing their app with other girls. (photo from Ana Efros)

These impressions will last a lifetime and I can see first-hand the impact it has had on them and how they will be able to take this and share it with so many other girls and their peers to inspire them in their futures as well.

I will be sharing more details over the next couple of days/weeks about this experience and the insights shared by the girls about their experience. Stay tuned, more to come soon!

A huge THANK YOU to the Technovation and Iridescent staff and all the sponsors who made this all possible in addition to the local partners Girls Go IT, Tekwill, and Sun Communications along with all the Indiegogo campaign funders who made it possible for the girls from Moldova to attend! 

My Peace Corps Service in 1 Minute

Last week I had received an incredibly sweet “thank you” video from one of the students I’ve had the opportunity to work with in Technovation Challenge my first year. It’s worth sharing as the video captures a bit of an overall glimpse of my Peace Corps service from the perspective of a student here in Moldova all in one minute. I got a little emotional after watching it. Check it out!

I’ll be leaving my site, the place I have called home for 2 years in about a month. I’ve been saying farewells and see-you-later’s to a lot of the youth, organizations, and schools I’ve gotten to know over this time. I won’t be going too far in the year ahead since I’m extending for one more year and I hope to be able to visit a few times. However, I know one thing is for sure — I am definitely going to miss this place and the people who have made me feel welcome here.

{Photo Friday}: Wedding Dance

I recently had the honor to go to my first traditional Moldovan wedding celebration. My friend, and also work partner had married a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Moldova before me. They recently just celebrated their marriage in Moldova with a full on traditional Moldovan wedding.

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The hora, a traditional dance in Moldova, is usually danced at all celebrations. At this wedding, guests danced the hora around the couple and traditional dancers in the center. This particular hora was quite fast as you can tell by the blurriness in the photo.

Hey, April & May!

I like to do these monthly recaps, mostly for myself so I can reflect back on what happened each month for me. Time seems to move at a fast-paced warped speed for me lately. I find it difficult to wrap my head around that summer is finally here and it’s about time to say goodbye to some PCV friends very soon.

As I look back to the calendar in April, it was full of Technovation Challenge meetings along with the weekly tech club meetings that I had been working on with a site mate.

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Some of the girls working on their project along with their mentor/coach and teacher.

I even took a last minute vacation to Prague and got some time to recharge and explore a new city with a friend and fellow volunteer.

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One weekend I got to hang out with a lovely group of ladies for a retreat getaway. Hooray for the most ideal location near the gelato place!

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We’ll take a selfie, except I won’t include myself.

Our M29 PCV group had our Close of Service (COS) Conference for a few days which was a great chance to have a last hurrah where we were all together one last time. And of course, to learn all about the COS stuff we need to do before becoming officially Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV).

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Those of us M29s remaining at COS conference.

At the end of April, we had a big event for Technovation Challenge where teams from all over Moldova came to pitch their ideas and apps. It was a lot of work to pull this together and there was no way it could have been done without an incredible team (who even sometimes joined me in my late-night working sessions). 😉

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Presenting the award to the girls who won the local event in Moldova.

 

 

A few days later I then attended the Moldova ICT Summit where I even participated in a panel sharing about the Technovation Challenge program along with some amazing ladies who shared their experience.

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On stage with the team I worked with this year along with 2 girls from the Girls Go IT summer camp.

Whew…. April. Wow. 

May started out right away with the Easter holiday on May 1 where I got to spend some time with my host family taking part in the cultural traditions.

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Then the day after that I picked up my 2 friends from the US who came to visit for a few days. You can read more about this time from some previous posts and even get a taste for what it would be like if/when you visit.

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At one of the popular Moldovan wineries where you go underground to explore the winery and taste the wine. 

In the midst of many meetings and sharing at a Let Girls Learn training, May was also a busy month that continued with Balti hram, a big muddy concert to see a popular local music group (Carla’s Dreams), and a PCV kick-ball tournament (in which I cheered from the sidelines).

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Thousands of people at the outdoor concert for Carla’s Dreams.

May is looking to be a bit slower as things are finalized for my next steps and wrapping things up with Technovation Challenge for this year. It’s been a busy, but good last couple of months. Onward! Haidem mai departe!