{Photo Friday}: Golden Fall

I had the great opportunity to get out with a friend one weekend to visit one of the many parks located in the capital city. It was an incredible fall day, complete with an idyllic setting and fall weather. I’m glad we stayed long enough to explore and adventure through the park to catch the best sunset I’ve ever experienced in Moldova.

img_8176

Among the many visitors at this particular park, we had the chance to run into some random goats enjoying the fall day as well. It was such a great afternoon that I cannot help but to share more photos.

{Photo Friday}: Cathedral Park View

I’ve moved to the capital city and get to see this view on a regular basis as I pass it at least once or twice a day on my way to the office. The view is through the Triumphal Arch and looks into the center of the park onto the Nativity Cathedral, which is the main Orthodox church in Chisinau.

img_7884

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.

{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.

IMG_6228
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.

Hanging out in Fields of Lavender

The hot summer days of Moldova have defiantly arrived. This past weekend was no exception as I adventured to a lavender festival in a small village surrounded by fields of lavender. I was grateful for the opportunity to get some quality time with some friends as this was one of our last few adventures together before they all leave Moldova over the next couple of weeks and finish their Peace Corps service.

DSC_0370

However, the journey was not without adventure. Since our local friend offered to drive us from my site directly to the festival I was happy to join them on the journey. Unfortunately, the GPS map led us to a field road where we discovered too late that it was not ideal for cars.

IMG_6309

We ended up finding another car ahead of us who was on a similar adventure. By the time we reached them, my friend’s car was smoking and fluid was pouring out from the front. Thankfully the couple in the other car stopped and were kind enough to help us out. After involving various people along with some others from the village, we were eventually able to make it to the festival thanks to the nice couple who took us the rest of the way. Unfortunately, my friend’s car did not make it to the festival.

The lavender fields were breathtakingly beautiful. The dress code for the festival was to wear white, which made it fun to be able to take photos with friends in the fields.

DSC_0425

Even with the unfortunate car-adventure in getting there and amidst the scorching heat, we had a lovely time. I will certainly miss these ladies SO very much!

As I researched about lavender grown in Moldova, I learned that Moldova used to be one of the biggest producers of raw medicinal plants and essential oils in the Soviet Union. It’s rich fertile soil was the reason it used to be such a large producer of essential oils. Since the collapse of the USSR, Moldova is no longer such a large producer of this product. Fields of lavender are still grown today in various parts of the country, but apparently not in comparison to the amount it used to produce.

The vast lavender fields of Moldova are beautiful and calming. I can see why they host an annual festival to celebrate such beauty.

 

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.

13063379_10209628681774279_4958692960557124234_o
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.

DSC_0003

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!

IMG_5581
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).

13048031_10108158602227554_8468941731402711378_o
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). 😉

DSC_0319.JPG
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.

13123145_1069658086455992_2997922921656234550_o
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.

IMG_5785

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.

IMG_4420
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).

photo
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!