When you know it is summer in Moldova…

It’s summer in Moldova, which also means SUNFLOWER SEASON! I had the opportunity recently to visit my host family’s home in the village where the sunflowers fields are plentiful.

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All the yellow parts that you see here in this image are fields of sunflowers.

Sunflowers are a major crop in Moldova and are grown for their seeds and the oil they produce. My host family grows sunflowers so they can have sunflower oil to use for cooking.

My host family also has honey bees at their village home and they love the sunflowers. They were working very hard that day that I visited to collect the pollen from the flowers.
My host family also has honey bees at their village home and the bees love the sunflowers. They were working very hard that day that to collect the pollen from the flowers.

This year since there hasn’t been much rain, the sunflowers are not as tall as they were last year. My host dad told me that usually when there is more rain the flowers can grow taller than most people. This year, with the little amount of rain we’ve had in Moldova they are averaging around shoulder height.

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I visited a week later and the sunflowers had changed a lot over that one week time. They're a bit sad since there hasn't been any rain for many weeks.
I visited a week later and the sunflowers had changed a lot over that one week time. They’re now a bit sad since there hasn’t been any rain for many weeks.

Enjoy the photos and the video below to give you an idea of the vast amounts and beauty that surrounds Moldova when the sunflowers are in bloom. If you love sunflowers, this is the best time of year to visit Moldova.

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DSC_0247 DSC_0459 DSC_0480I did a 360 turn in the field for you to get an idea of the magnitude of the sunflowers that surround my host family village home. This also gives you an idea of what it is like as you travel through Moldova in the summer when the sunflowers are in bloom… incredible.

 

Welcome to Summer in Moldova – A Recap from June & July

It’s summertime here and it is HOT. When it gets in the high 90’s and you need to take public transportation to get to your destination 2-3 hours away, it can be the biggest challenge to your day this time of year. You see, most Moldovan’s have a strong aversion to the current, which means that most if not all of the windows in public transportation stay closed, and if they are open they won’t stay open for long. If you’re lucky, maybe one will remain partially open and you’ll be situated in the perfect spot to receive the little breeze that comes your way. A few weeks ago it had to be way over 100 degrees in the rutiera (think big over-sized van) full of people and I’m surprised that I or anyone else didn’t pass out from the 2-3 hour ride. It was like riding in a smelly steamy sauna. Last week I got to experience a mini-bus ride in the village with 50+ people on it in 90+ degree heat. I think that my definition of personal space by the end of my service will look very different.

It was so hot that they had 2 upper windows open here and the doors open as we started to drive away. But... it didn't last very long, the doors closed not long after we moved further down the road and the other overhead window was also forced closed. Too much current.
On this mini-bus it was so hot that they had 2 windows and the doors open. But it didn’t last long… the doors were asked to be closed and one of the windows wouldn’t stay open. Too much current. I liked how one of the windows was being kept open with a full water bottle though. Creative!

This summer has kept me pretty busy over the past two months. In June I traveled to Switzerland and France to visit a friend. I shared photos and some stories from my travels in previous posts.

The view from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
The view from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.

In June, 68 new Peace Corps Moldova volunteers arrived and they have been going through pre-service training, which has brought back all kinds of memories for me from a year ago. (How is it a year ago already?!) I helped with some training sessions for 4 weeks which had me traveling back and forth from site a lot and left me exhausted by the 4th week. Lots of hot 2-hour rutiera rides in those weeks.

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I’m doing a presentation for the trainees and their partners about creating a SWOT analysis for their organizations. (photo by: Cat Richardson)

In Balti, we said goodbye to 3 of our site mates who we spent the last year with. It feels different with them not being here and they are missed.

Now Returned Peace Corps Moldova Volunteers, Paden, Barbara, & Leah from the M28 group!
Now Returned Peace Corps Moldova Volunteers, Paden, Barbara, & Leah from the M28 group!

The kids in our apartment complex area put on a concert for us, especially for Leah and Paden who at that time were leaving and going back to the US in a few days. It was incredibly touching and so sweet. The evening consisted of dance performances, singing songs, reciting poems and skits in a mix of Russian, Romanian, and English.

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All of us together after the concert the kids put on for us.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to play games outside with them in the evenings. We’ve played dominoes and UNO in a mashup between Russian, Romanian, and English. It’s been a lot of fun to get to know these kids and also challenging as we try to communicate between 3 different languages.

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Thanks for leaving the dominoes behind, Leah! They’ve come in handy!

At the end of June, I traveled to a friend’s village to celebrate her birthday with her host family along with a few other volunteer friends. Moldovan’s celebrate well, check out this incredible spread of food!

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So much food was prepared for Eliz’s birthday! I’m so glad I was able to celebrate with her and meet her host family! (photo by: Katie Bennett)

In July, we celebrated America’s Independence Day in Balti with a BBQ at another PCVs apartment complex outdoor area and invited our host families. You can read more about that experience HERE. Of course, I brought bubbles for the kids that would be there and it was a big hit for some of the neighborhood kids, especially this little guy pictured below.

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This adorable neighborhood kid loved the bubbles.

A few days later in July, my primary organization I work with celebrated their 10 year anniversary. We had a big celebration with some of their partners and beneficiaries with a lunch at a really fancy banquet hall complete with speeches, certificates, gifts, and an abundance of delicious food.

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My coworkers about to cut the cake in celebration of ProCoRe’s 10 year anniversary.

We have a children’s park in our city with old soviet style amusement park rides. One Saturday in July a friend and I decided to go for a ride on the ferris wheel as we were passing through on the way home… because, why not?

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Fun fact: the ferris wheel doesn’t stop and you have to literally hop on and off to ride it (it does go really slow though). It was a beautiful day to see the view of the city from the top!

I met up with some the girls from my Technovation Challenge team to see one of them sing in a choral concert. I enjoyed the concert and spending time with them afterward hearing about what they have been up to this summer.

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Lots of laughs with the girls after the concert trying to take photos.

Later in July, we had a fun get-together/meeting at another volunteers site. He just moved into a new apartment and we made pizza cake and ate amazing food all day because he’s quite the talented cook. I thought they were joking when they said we were going to make a pizza cake for dinner… no joke, it happened. Best meeting ever!

Pizza cake?! I have to admit, this is something I thought only lived on pinterest and couldn't be replicated... I have been proven wrong.
Pizza cake?! I have to admit, this is something I thought only lived on Pinterest and couldn’t be replicated well, especially in Moldova… I have been proven wrong.

A few times between June & July, I went to my host family’s village house and enjoyed learning more about their honey bees, helped collect the fruit from the trees and potatoes from the ground, assisted my host mom on some home decorating, and saw a bit of the process that goes to making homemade rachiu with fruit (more on all that another time).

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We collected potatoes from the field one Saturday morning. My host dad was sad because there hasn’t been much rain and didn’t allow them to grow bigger than expected or produce a large amount. When we work in the garden, I’m not allowed to help without wearing a hat or proper work slippers. My mother would approve.

August is going to be a busy month with a friend’s visit from the US, beginning the work for a grant project for two communities in the North of Moldova, and helping out with a summer camp focusing on IT skills for young girls. I’m really looking forward to the next month ahead! PLUS… I recently received fun news that my blog has been selected as one of the finalists in the Peace Corps Third Goal “Blog It Home” contest! Voting on Facebook will happen August 3-10. I will share more details soon as I receive them. Stay tuned!

Photo Friday: When Sunflowers Go Against the Crowd

This post continues a new series on Fridays as I share an image from my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova.

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I went with my host family to the village house last weekend and the sunflowers are in full bloom. While all the other sunflowers are pointing to where the sun rises, this one was facing where the sun set. Guess this flower is not one for early mornings. There’s always gotta be at least one in every group who goes against the crowd. 🙂 I promise there will be a post coming up in the near future sharing all the amazingness of these beauties — such joy.

The New Protector of the Cherry Tree

A few weekends ago I was able to join my host family at their village house (which they call the villa) for some much needed rest. They told me I needed a break from the computer and the meetings and projects that have filled up my time over the past year. So before I knew it, I was whisked off to the villa with a few books and a few clothes I could wear in the garden.

We went on a little excursion to see the part of the village where my host dad grew up.
We went on a little excursion to see the part of the village where my host dad grew up.

The water pump for the entire village had been broken so there was no running water and the house was still getting reorganized from the winter… it felt like camping and I loved it!

When we got there my host dad immediately could tell something was amiss with the cherry trees he had left guarded by stick-replicas of my host mom and host sister – who were supposed to guard and scare away the birds who liked to dine on the sweet cherries. I followed him out to assess the damage of the trees and he told me it was a tragedy… they ate about 90% of all the cherries. Next thing I know he was doing this…

He then declared “war with the birds”… please know that no birds were harmed or will be harmed, he did this to scare them away from the fruit trees.

As we ate dinner my host mom and dad were joking that my job the next day would be to guard the tree and keep the birds away. I happily agreed, as it seemed anything I tried to help with took extra patience for all of us and I seemed to do things at a slower pace than expected. I learned some new vocabulary that’s for sure.

This is just a quarter of the garden area that they have. There are watermelons, peppers, and peas growing here in this area.
This is just a quarter of the garden area that they have. There are watermelons, peppers, and peas growing here in this area.

The next morning after I ate breakfast and offered to help with things in the garden, they told me to relax and read my books. I found a nice sunny spot in the front of the villa near the cherry trees and started reading… and sure enough, those pesky birds were out in the tree again. I tried to scare them away by waving my arms and yelling in Romanian, but they didn’t move. Next, I tried yelling in English… and the traditional “SHOO-SHOO!” which seemed to kinda work.

One of the books I finished that weekend while sitting in the garden.
One of the books I finished that weekend while sitting in the garden. Good stuff.

My host mom heard all the commotion in the front of the house and then hands me an old tin can and a big stick. She shows me how to bang on the can properly to scare the birds. So there I was on a sunny Saturday afternoon reading a book and banging on an old rusted tin can with a large awkward stick to scare away the birds when they perched themselves in the cherry tree. Memories in the making.

My host family found it incredibly entertaining that I agreed to do this and we are all still laughing about it all. So who knows what my next task will be next time I make a visit to the villa house.

The flowers at the villa house are beautiful right now. My host dad made me pose in the "perfect" spot for a photo in the garden.
The flowers at the villa house are beautiful right now. My host dad made me pose in the “perfect” spot for a photo in the garden.