Home for the Holidays

I made a sneaky trip home to Pennsylvania to surprise my family and some friends during this holidays season. I decided back when I had been home in August that I would try to make it home for the holidays this year. Many thanks to my amazing brother, we were able to make it possible.

It’s been great to be able to catch up face-to-face with family and spend some quality time together. I’m thankful for the time to be able to come home and fully enjoy this season since it’s been a few years .


I was also able to make a few surprise appearances for some friends too since very few people knew.

I even made a familiar megabus quick trip to Harrisburg to surprise my college roommate. I’m a fan of the megabus and think nothing now of a 2 hour trip with comfortable seating, a bathroom on board, and free wifi. I’ll take this public transport over the public transport in Moldova any day.


Thanks to the ninja-planning skills of my friend’s sister, we were able to spend some short, but great quality time together pampering ourselves and catching up on life. Texting every couple of days on what’s going on is great, but being able to catch up in person is much, much better. I was also able to meet up with two friends I hadn’t seen since I had left in 2013. I feel so full of happiness since I’ve been able to visit with all of these friends although for a short time, but incredibly sweet.

It’s been a good, low-key time of being home and fully enjoying being able to spend it with loved ones. I’m thankful for last minute Starbucks dates, baking with mom, playing board games, and puppy snuggles.

Next up, bringing in the 2017 new year this weekend with friends before making my way back to Moldova.

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.


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.


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?”
… I enjoyed foods I’ve missed…
…I got to hold little ones who were not around when I left 2 years ago…
…I soaked in the beautiful nature as I walked through parks and around the Penn State campus…
…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!

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Top 30 Things To Do… In 30 Days!

Today marks 30 days until I will be home for special home leave for a month! I will get to spend quality time with friends and family before I return to complete a 3rd year with Peace Corps in Moldova. In honor of this occasion, I have made a list of the top 30 things I want to do while I am home for 30 days.

Naturally, the #1 thing I want to do while I am home is to spend time with loved ones. That goes without listing it in this list. However, if you’re not from the State College, PA area, a lot of these things may not make much sense to you.

So here goes, the top 30 things (in no particular order) that I want to do while I am back home in Central PA for a month… who wants to join me!?

  1. Attend a Calvary service (preferably more than once)
  2. Visit Harvest Fields during sunset or sunrise
  3. Make waffles and eat them with friends!
  4. Eat at all the local restaurants I miss (yes, there is a list)
  5. Visit the crew at the Central PA Visitors Center (where I used to work)
  6. Get my drivers license renewed
  7. Go to the Arboretum at Penn State and play in the new children’s garden
  8. Visit one of the many local farmer’s markets
  9. Eat ice cream from the PSU Creamery
  10. Walk around downtown State College and drink bubble tea
  11. Start running again
  12. Game night at a friends house
  13. Go for a hike at Mt. Nittany or Shingletown
  14. Get a haircut (Recommendations? My favorite hair stylist is booked already)
  15. Have a cookout/BBQ with friends and/or family
  16. Roadtrip!
  17. Share Moldovan wine with local cheese with friends and/or family
  18. Journal and do some writing while at a local coffee shop
  19. Listen to live music
  20. Sit around a campfire with friends and/or family
  21. Attend a local community event
  22. Do some shopping
  23. Read while enjoying the outdoors (even better if in a porch swing or in a hammock)
  24. Go on a picnic at the University duck pond
  25. Surprise someone (or multiple people)
  26. Eat ice cream from Meyer Dairy
  27. Take a lot of photos
  28. Run errands with a friend or two
  29. Play outside in the rain
  30. Prepare Moldovan food and share the culture with friends and family

I’m anxious to see how many of these things can be accomplished while visiting with family and friends. Until then, I have a bit of a whirlwind month of July ahead. More to come on that soon!

It’s all in the details… at HOME.

Since the last post, The price is… what? was so popular I decided to introduce this one as a game as well. I missed the “Home” blog challenge deadline a few weeks ago, so I’m going to combine this one into two challenges… The details of my “home” in Moldova.

Below are zoomed-in images of some aspect of a room in my host family home. See if you can figure out which photo belongs to which room listed:

A) Apartment Stairwell; B) Kitchen; C) Bathroom;  D) My host sister and nephew’s room; E) The living room/host parents room; and F) My room

I have lived with the same host family since I moved to my permanent site in Balti a year and a half ago. Before I left for Moldova I had learned volunteers lived with host family’s for at least their first 6 months in country. At that time, I thought for sure I would move out if/when I had the chance. Now looking back, I cannot imagine my service without my host family. I feel as though I have become a part of the family and enjoy my time with them. I am so glad I have been placed in their home and am grateful for the experience to learn about life in Moldova through them.

Welcome to my host family home in Balti, Moldova! We live in a soviet-style block apartment not far from the center of the city. It’s a 3 bedroom apartment, complete with a kitchen, bathroom (with a washing machine), and toilet. Let’s see how well you did at figuring out which photo above goes to which room in the apartment…

A) The Apartment stairwell

Oftentimes as I get home I am greeted by a dark stairwell leading up to the apartment door. I have gotten better at not needing a light as I climb the concrete stairs. I count it a success when I can make it without pulling out my phone for a light — integration points, absolutely. It’s all the little things…

Something to make note of as you enter a home in Moldova. You must take off your shoes at the doorway. Why? Well, those shoes are dirty, muddy, and maybe wet… see my heavy-duty winter boots below in the first photo (the all-black ones next to the pumpkin)? They’re not so nice looking (and dirty)… BUT they do keep my feet warm and dry and that’s all that matters to me in the winter when having to walk all over the city in the wintery-slush.

The second photo above is what you see once you enter the apartment and take off your shoes. Lots of doors!

B) The Kitchen

This is the room where we all mostly spend our time with one another. We gather around the table in the kitchen and eat dinner together most evenings. I enjoy this time with my host family as this is when we get to catch up and talk about life and all that’s going on… all in Romanian of course. If I don’t have Skype meetings or work to do after dinner often times we’ll sit at the table and continue to talk, sometimes for hours.

C) The Bathroom

Yes, we have a shower curtain (it even has dolphins on it). From what I have gathered from other volunteers in Moldova, having a shower curtain is rare. As you can see, the bathroom is a tight space, as I am standing in the doorway. It’s simple — a sink, tub, and washing machine. The toilet is located in a closet-sized room next to the bathroom.

D) Host sister and nephew’s room

Toys, toys, toys. What 1 year old wouldn’t have toys all throughout their room? My host sister and her son share a room which is next to mine. Usually after a full day of play he has a lot of his toys scattered throughout the room which are all cleaned up by evening then to be repeated the next day.

E) The living room/host parents room

This is the room where guests would be entertained. Sometimes for special occasions, we bring in the kitchen table and eat in this room, especially when there are not enough of us to fit around the table in the kitchen. This room is also where my host parents watch TV, sleep, and spend their time when they’re not in the kitchen or with my host sister and nephew in their room. The sofa pulls out into a bed, which they do each evening and then push it back into a sofa in the morning.

F) My room

And lastly, my room — where I spend most of my time when I’m at “home”. The balloons which are left from my birthday over a month ago, have added some cheerful color to this dreary winter. The purple blanket has become one of my favorite purchases I had done early-on in my service at the local market as it’s super soft and a fun color. What you can’t see from this angle though is the dresser where I have taped up a number of photos of friends from home and fun quotes/notes friends and family have sent during my time here (one of my favorite aspects of my room).

There you have it — a quick, zoomed-in detailed tour of where I have lived and called home for the past year and a half. Poftim!