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.

img_7574
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.

img_7684

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.

 

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…

DSC_0442
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…

img_7736
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…

img_7815
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.

img_7877
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)

 

 

 

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.

DSC_0404
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.

DSC_0428
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.

DSC_0418
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.

DSC_0442

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

What do 30 days of special leave look like? 

Earlier this summer I had shared about 30 things I wanted to do while at home during my special home leave with Peace Corps in August. I spent a good amount of my time going through that list while trying to connect with family and friends. I pretty much was able to get through most if not all of the things my list! I hadn’t been home at all during my 2 years of service with Peace Corps so this was a sweet time that I had anxiously been waiting for.

IMG_7202

I had enjoyed it so much that I hadn’t taken as many photos as I possibly could have, and I’m ok with that. It means I was in the moment enjoying the food, surroundings, and people around me.

IMG_7262

I loved seeing so many friends and family I hadn’t seen in over 2 years! Being back home in the State College  area was comforting, refreshing, and rejuvenating.  I answered a variety of questions from “what is your favorite food in Moldova?” to “how is your heart?”
IMG_6948
… I enjoyed foods I’ve missed…
…I got to hold little ones who were not around when I left 2 years ago…
IMG_7195
…I soaked in the beautiful nature as I walked through parks and around the Penn State campus…
IMG_7001
…I enjoyed learning how to play Pokemon Go thanks to some enthusiastic friends…
30 days of special leave looks like random adventures… reconnecting with people…
sharing stories… laughing… reminiscing… and embracing all the hugs as humanly possible! Now onward to year 3 with Peace Corps in Moldova! I’m looking forward to the year ahead!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

109
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…

074
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 (!)…

154
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…

188
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…

409
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.

DSC_0332
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.

IMG_6714
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.

IMG_6597
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.

IMG_6637
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.

IMG_20160714_205303901
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.

DSC_0235
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.

DSC09420
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.

13719450_1772030753034725_4401444671871329508_o
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! 

A Journey through June

June was full of a lot of events and was just the beginning of many goodbyes. A season of change but not without making memorable memories.

This month  was the beginning of fresh fruits and the ever popular delicious cherry season!

IMG_6148
These cherries were from my host family’s village house.

I got to attend my first wedding where my local friend and work partner along with a returned Peace Corps Volunteer celebrated their marriage in Moldova. It was a beautiful celebration, full of traditions and great people! They looked wonderful in their traditional Moldovan clothing and the setting was absolutely beautiful!

13396662_1058384084255759_2076601679_o

There was even a special RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer) guest that came back to visit Moldova especially for the wedding! It was great getting to spend some quality time with her and to catch up on life.

13444088_1058384074255760_487384924_n

Not long after that, a few friends and I found ourselves in fields of lavender.

DSC_0465

One afternoon between running errands, we stumbled upon some new, creative art in the capital city. I’ll need to keep my eyes peeled for more. Chisinau is getting creative!

IMG_6259

I also got the final answer on being able to extend for a third year and was finally able to share the news with family and friends!

IMG_6156

My host family added a new addition to our apartment. Meet my new-found crazy cat friend who goes from attacking me to loving me in a matter of 2 seconds. I’ve personally somehow come to the conclusion that his name is Mr. Whiskey.

IMG_6302

The farewells began in June as I along with 2 other site mates began to say “see you later” to Balti and the youth we’ve gotten to know during our 2 years. We celebrated in the park on a hot day with some ice cream and fun photos.

One evening I found myself hanging out with 2 other volunteers playing Settlers of Catan. We had a blast and I realized it has been waaaay too long since I’ve played this game.

IMG_6339

Our M29 Community & Organizational Development (COD) program sector had a nice evening where we all got together and took out our program manager and assistant manager for a nice dinner and time together.

13494761_10157122475665055_1462146106129266068_n

The farewells continued through the end of the month and into July as colleagues rang the bell to complete their Peace Corps service.

IMG_6369
Miki was the first to ring the bell from our program group!

Next… I’ll share more about the bell ringing tradition that come when volunteers successfully complete their Peace Corps service, or as we call COS (close of service).