Officially an RPCV

After three years of Peace Corps service in Moldova, I’m overjoyed that I am now able to join many others in the returned Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV) community. The last month of my service was full of highs and lows and bittersweet feelings. I am sure that I will still be reflecting on the past three years for a long while, fondly remembering great memories and laughing at funny and awkward stories while continuing to learn more about myself.

July was a month full of saying farewells, see you laters, and anticipating what the future holds for so many people I have gotten to know over this short (or long depending who you ask) amount of time. I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit Moldova and my host families and friends in the near future, but we will see how things unfold and what life holds. So many of them are wanting to leave Moldova to work or study abroad for the chance at better opportunities for their future.

Before leaving, I had the chance to meet up with so many great people to say farewell/see you later…

 

On Friday, July 28 I finished my Peace Corps Service by “ringing the bell” which symbolically represents the close of one’s service. Or as we call it, COS (close of service) with all the fancy acronyms we use in Peace Corps.

 

It didn’t feel real as I was also trying to complete all the final tasks and paperwork needed that same day and I still had a few days left to move out of my apartment and say some more goodbyes/see you laters before leaving and officially finishing my service on Monday, July 31.

Later the same day I rang the bell, the organization I have been working with this past year, Tekwill hosted a sweet goodbye party at the office. We had a nice evening of connecting and enjoying some traditional food and local wine as we were able to squeeze in some photos to document the memories and friendships.

 

In the last blog update, I had stated that I wasn’t going to travel home for a long while since I would be studying in Sweden for a Master’s program beginning in August. However, I decided last minute to travel home for a whirlwind quick 2-week visit. It was a wonderful time to be home, gather hugs from family and friends, and to have a chance to take a much-needed breather before heading into the next adventure.

We’ll see if I’ll be able to keep up with the blog and share updates as I begin this new chapter.

Advertisements

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.

fullsizeoutput_226f

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.

 

 

An Update from April & May

Summer has arrived! The change of seasons from spring to summer this year also brings a lot of life changes during my third and final year as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova. A lot has happened over these past 2 months as time has been flying by rapidly. If I were to share the highlight reel from these past 2 months, this is what it would include:

Vacationing on an Island

In April, instead of staying in Moldova for the Easter holiday, a few friends and I went away for a week-long vacation to the island of Cyprus. It was an incredible time and an amazing place to explore. I would highly recommend traveling there and would love to return some day.

To note: while we were away, Moldova experienced a crazy unexpected spring snowstorm that dropped many inches of snow on the capital city. It crippled the city for 2 days and shut down public transportation. Over 3,000 trees were destroyed in this storm and when we returned from vacation we were greeted with a number of areas still trying to clean up the debris and downed power lines from the storm.

 

Team Building in the Mountains

Once I returned sun-kissed from vacation in Cyprus, the following weekend I found myself backpacking through the Carpathian mountains with my colleagues from Tekwill. We ventured through the rain, fog, and snow as we got to know one another better and learned what it takes when you take 20+ people together through the mountains with a variety of different hiking skill levels.

 

Technovation Moldova Finishes the 2017 Season

This was my third year to participate as a mentor and part of the organizing team with Technovation Challenge Moldova. Technovation is a global competition that encourages young girls to learn and develop entrepreneurial and technical skills by creating a business plan and mobile app that solves a problem in their community. At the beginning of May, we held the Official National Pitch Event where 9 teams from all over Moldova pitched their projects and one team was selected to go onto the semi-final virtual judging round. I started out mentoring 2 teams this year, one junior team and one senior team. The senior team successfully completed their project by the deadline and was able to compete at the pitch event. My host sister from pre-service training 2 years ago was a part of this team and it was a great honor to be able to mentor her team for this year as we all learned so much together.

 

Rails Girls launches 3rd edition

I was super excited to play a behind the scenes role in seeing the 3rd edition of Rails Girls Chisinau happen in Moldova. It was such a great honor and opportunity to see my friend Alisa as the new coordinator take on this role and see things come together so that more girls could learn basics of the Ruby on Rails framework.

18527206_812014415634653_3774950202181079906_o
Nineteen girls successfully completed the 3rd edition of Rails Girls Chișinău! Many of these girls were introduced to the Ruby on Rails framework for the very first time and created websites by the end of the three weekends of workshops.

 

When a Friend Visits Moldova

 

My friend, Anne-Lise from France whom I had met about 7-8 years ago while she was studying/working at Penn State came to visit me for a week here in Moldova. Although I had to work on different projects during this time, we still were able to get in some fun during her stay. I am happy to report that she survived the public transportation, last minute adventures and changes in plans, and experienced the ins and outs of life as a PCV in Moldova.

 

I’ll be sharing more soon especially answering the “what is next?” question that has been coming up a lot over this past year. Details are still getting worked out — more to come soon!

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 .

img_8712

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.

img_8736

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.

Celebrating another year…

Another year older and hopefully another year wiser. I recently celebrated my 34th birthday in Moldova this month. This being my 3rd time to celebrate while living in Moldova. This year I kept it low-key and more to myself. However, it certainly exceeded my expectations.

img_8542
Lots of flowers from dear friends here in Moldova.

I had been hoping to get away the weekend before my birthday and had the opportunity to take an overnight trip to a nearby city in Romania right over the border. It worked out amazingly well to meet up with some friends who were already there. We got to see the holiday lights and Christmas market in the center along with the recently renovated Palace and of course the popular large shopping mall that is one of the better shopping malls I have been to.

On my actual birthday, I was celebrated well by my work colleagues and dear friends. I made cupcakes for my office, of course complete with sprinkles. Started the day with sprinkles and ended the day with bubbles (champagne toast for all).

img_8543

And ate a lot of cake! My office brought in 2 cakes and then later in the evening there was more cake too! It was most certainly a sweet day!

Since my birthday fell on a Tuesday, I had celebrated in the evening with a group of friends and people that I typically see on a weekly basis for English Conversation at a local friends’ restaurant/bar. It was fun to celebrate with such an international crew.

fullsizeoutput_10ce

It was a great day and I felt well celebrated leading up to and even afterward by so many near and far. I also took some time to reflect a bit in order to answer the annual “birthday questions”

  1. What are some of your highlights from this past year? 
  2. What are you looking forward to this year? 

In honor of turning 34, I picked 4 highlights from this past year:

  1. Going home for home leave in August
  2. Traveling to San Francisco for the Technovation Master Educator program training
  3. Extending my Peace Corps service for a 3rd year
  4. Traveling to Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Nice, Rome, Prague, and Istanbul with various friends

As for what I am looking forward to in the year ahead:

  1. Traveling more!
  2. Determining next steps that answer the ever so popular question: “what are you doing after Peace Corps?”
  3. Seeing the projects I’m working on in Moldova continue to develop and hopefully flourish
  4. Continue to develop deep friendships with new and old friends near and far

Cheers to another year ahead! I’m hopeful for new adventures, much laughter, an abundance of love, and to see more bright colorful sunrises & sunsets. xoxo

An Eventful October

The month of October was full of various events and celebrations. To start it all off, we celebrated with Moldova’s big wine celebration that is the first weekend of October each year. On Saturday, I met up with some friends in the center as we enjoyed the festivities and sampling different Moldova wines. This year I didn’t get any photos as I was too busy having fun.

14753471_570526823157691_6555151527123995699_o
Photo credit: Wine of Moldova

On Sunday, a few friends and I went to a local winery not far from Chisinau. We had a fabulous time enjoying the surroundings at Asconi Winery and trying their wines. Again, not many photos except from this fabulous traditional meal we enjoyed outside on their terrace. It was a perfect day for such an adventure.

img_7874
Our meal from Asconi Winery outside on the terrace.

A few weeks later the capital city of Chisinau celebrated it’s city day, known as hram. Most people have off from work as the city center main street is shut down and festivities stretch from one end to the other. Big and small stages were scattered along the main street as food vendors and merchandise vendors lined both sides of the street. There were so many people who came out for this celebration it was hard to make it through the streets.

Also, throughout the month I had attended a number of local events that related to the tech industry in Moldova and English learning opportunities for local Moldovans.

As Peace Corps Volunteers we were invited to a luncheon at the US Ambassador’s home this past month. It was a nice afternoon where we were treated to some foods many of us have been missing and a great opportunity to reconnect with one another outside of projects and the Peace Corps lounge.

6
The US Ambassador (center front) with most of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Moldova and some staff members.

I was also able to make it for a quick weekend visit to Balti and see my host family and some friends. It had felt like I hadn’t been there in a year but it was only about a month since the last time I was there.

Then, to round out the month of October, I celebrated Halloween with some friends at a local restaurant/bar. A friend and I made matching last minute costumes within a few hours of the party. We went as winter (which is scary in October, right?)  but then realized there was a winter/Christmas character that many locals identified us as, which I think they referred to as Snegurochka. Fun times.

img_8051
Winter is coming…

October was quite eventful and November is looking to be just as full as well. It’s hard to believe the end of 2016 is around the corner. It’s going to be an interesting next couple of weeks as both the US and Moldova select their next president.

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.