Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter has approached...

Walking here... walking there.... through the mud... through the snow..... life in Iargara is something I would of never known if Peace Corps hadn't became a part of my life...

Born and raised in the United States of America the reliability I have had on cars is incredible.. Back home it was a way of life and never really crossed my mind on how it would be with out.. Now with walking through the bitter cold every day I begin to grasp the cherished moments with my car..

The steps I take each day remind me of the culture I have immersed myself into.. I look down at my feet and see them covered in mud as I strut my way to my center... Getting many comments from the locals on how I walk so relaxed and appear as if I am in no hurry to get any where.. and most of all don't look stressed out every time I go place to place.. This seems like a new concept for Moldovans.

I questioned the cook at my center on why she mentioned to me on the pace of my steps.. She expressed  "because I walk so quickly and my whole life I have always been in a hurry to get from place to place," as she expressed further that "every day there is so much to do, so little time and so little money, so every  minute of the day I feel like I need to go go go to make use of my time."

Admiration is what I have for alot of people here who work so hard. However, the expressions that many of the locals make including Domana Zina(Cook) is that they "go" so much that soon they wear themselves out and don't have time to think..

An example of this is my current host mom. She is such a hard worker no matter how the weather is. Every day I see her working so hard to take care of her grandchildren, the animals, and her and my home. She is such an admiration to me, but also scares me at the same time. My host mom has had some health problems in which I have great concern for. I have expressed that she needs to go to the doctor for these issues, but her response is that "I have to work Jamie, and I can't take time for myself."

This really hit my heart and also reality for me. Some people live there lives off the idea of work work work and never take care of themselves.. To be honest I can relate to this with having done this in the states. I was always on the go and working 19 hour days and I never had time to think or recognize the lack of sleep I was getting. Something I have learned for myself here is "take care of yourself first and foremost," then move to the next step in life.

With looking at other areas of winter in Moldova I have noticed instances that hurt and bring much aching to my heart... As I go to my center I hear and talk to many children who have no electricity or warmth in their homes. Many of the children will freeze over night and simply have no other options. It really upsets me with feeling like I have so much and they have so little. Lately, I have been taking several items from my house and giving it to my coworkers or to the children knowing they can get more use of the items then I can and need them more!

Here's a run in I had this week:

A young mother of Angela(I am sure if you have kept up on my blogs you will remember this young woman), came into my center expressing the pain that she was having. This woman expressed that she doesn't have any way to keep her warm, no soba, no electricity, no food, simply nothing. As I am sitting in my chair listening to this woman my mind is going 100 miles a minute.. Thinking to myself on how I would feel if my life was like this.. My eyes began to swell with tears as I had to shake them away so she couldn't see my pain.... But all I could think about is how horribly I feel for this family and even more so for Angela... Because the truth is even though they don't have these things in their house this woman still finds time to drink all day long and engage in sexual activities with numerous amounts of men.. She has chosen the live to deceive herself verses helping her child live a healthy life. So as much as it makes me sad, it also makes me angry....

Overall the devastation that I have seen in Moldova during the winter is nothing but pain. I was talking to another Peace Corps volunteer about life in Moldova and this person expressed to me " Moldova is like living in a cloud, nothing is ever clear and it's hard to see. It's like your living in a fog of pain, and never can be yourself, never can feel whole." I truly believe this and I have felt this personally. It is extremely hard to live in this country seeing these devastations, along with the response that we as volunteers get from the local people in terms of helping....

Winter in Moldova brings great reality and understanding to my life.... each day I take another step in this country I recognize the strength one has to have to make it each day...

Take one step at a time, understand who you are, know your limits, and prosper!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Winter with out snow???

As I move into the first week of January here in Moldova I have realized something is missing in my life... SNOW.. Being born and raised in Iowa, snow has always been a part of my life.. Not going to lead you astray and say I like the stuff, but it makes my winters feel whole...

Moldova has the strangest weather during the winter months, but the locals say its far from normal. We have had a lot of sun and stayed in the 40's and 50's, and also some rain off and on which caused nasty mud pits.. The adventure I have had the past few days here in Moldova is going to my host moms house or to the bathroom. Both make me venture outside and down a hill... well needless to say the hill is made of mud!! I fear for my life every time I do this thinking I will fall... Not that I care about being dirty, it's more of the fact I know I won't be able to shower for a couple days and possibly get made fun of by the locals that I fell in a mud hole. :)

This week has been some what joyful. My host brother has been home all week and he keeps me company. It's nice to talk to someone every once in a while :)... The funniest thing he has continued to say his the idea of Moldovan "black snow." This topic came up with Ion asking me if I like Moldova and what are my thoughts of the village. The more interesting thing is he asked me this after he saw me struggling to get across our street because I was sinking in each mud hole! haha... can you imagine?

Other events that have went on this week is "Moldovan Christmas." Here they celebrate Christmas on January 7th. In which this morning we got up early and had our Christmas dinner at 10am. The hardest part for me was drinking wine and champagne that early... Host dad offered me vodka but I refused in the nicest way possible.. He wasn't having that answer, so I told him it makes me vomit and I hate the smell.. that worked....

The Christmas was interesting with meeting my host families relatives. One man said "WHAT! Your American..?? Well, now what do we talk about when there is an American in our house?" Well.. you guessed it-- Barack Obama and alcohol..

The simple conversation about Obama was for me to send my compliments about our wonderful president...

And about the alcohol was about how American people don't know how to drink wine. How this got started is they noticed I was sipping my wine.. And the man asked what I was doing and I said I don't like to drink the whole glass like a shot. He didn't quite understand that. Well in that case I decided to show him what we do in American and how it's proper to taste a sip of wine. He laughed at me and didn't think it was the right way to do it, and in lamens terms I believe he called us pussys. To add on my host mom said "Moldovans don't drink every day they only drink on special occasions. I didn't respond to this fact, but most of us volunteers know that Moldovans drink more then on special occasions, they drink almost every day.. Not every person, but a lot of them.

Really the Christmas was great, and I have to admit this  "I tried the meat jello." I can't believe I did, but I can now mark that off my book. For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, I would gladly explain. Meat Jello is chicken in a yellow substance thats cold. Some say it taste like gravy but in a gelatin form. Not my favorite, but it's a moldovan tradition and a must try.

Another thing I had the pleasure of viewing today was the children singing. A tradition here on Christmas is children will visit peoples houses and sing Christmas songs. I couldn't quite understand them because I haven't learned those words in Romanian yet, but it was quite beautiful. After the children are done singing the parents or guests will give them money. Something I wish I had when I was a child! But to add in I did get some gifts of my own: bananas, oranges and some sweets. These came from my host mom and one of the guests which was my hosts mom's brother.  Was very generous of them.

Now moving onto what has been happening outside these events.. Recently I have had a series of things happen during my service that have made life a little more difficult. As I described in my last blog there was a break-in, assualt, and food poisoning. This week there was a break-in at my center, a drunk man confronted me about talking with the police, and one of our directors passed away here in Peace Corps Moldova.

It's been a hard week when I look at more of the internal aspects of my life. Every night it's very hard to go to sleep and most nights I stay up until 4 or 5am just so I know it will be safer. This isn't a good answer to my problems, but right now this is all I have. Hopeful in time that things will change and this village will become a safer place. But from the reports of the officers, I don't believe that will be happening any time soon.

The drunk man that approached me is our "town drunk." What I mean by that is he is homeless, yet lives in an abandon house with no water, electricity or heating. He begs for money and alcohol every day on the street that I walk on that takes me to my center. I had been noticing that he was watching me for a couple days and on Thursday he decided to approach my work partner and I. He expressed that he didn't appreciate me talking with the cops and telling them that he had tried talking with me. Continued to talk about who I was and where I was from. My partner and I simply walked away from him, he is never up to any good and not worth listening too..

My director who passed away... My deepest regards goes out to her family. Margaret was back in the US visiting her family over the holidays when it was said she complained of a headache. She passed away due to a brain aneursym. She will be greatly missed here in Peace Corps Moldova.


Graduate School

On January 3, 2012 was the beginning of my masters in Criminal Justice. This first week was an experience in itself. Never did I expect the amount of reading that I received, but I feel like I more then excelled at it. Haven't received any of my grades back yet on my first 2 discussion questions and 2 papers, but I am confident that I have done well. It really feels great to be at school and advancing my education. I have many hopes and dreams in my life and I am more than determined to achieve each and every one of them.

Hopes for the future is to obtained my masters by December 10, 2012. After that I hope to get a teaching job along side my counseling/probation career. Life is good

Happy New Years in Moldova..

Bringing in the New Year with friends and a great family in Moldova. Each year my normal tradition is to spend time with my friends back in the states, head to a bar, dance the night away and end our evening around 2pm.....

Moldova........ Well is a whole other story. My evening on the 31st of December started at 4:30 pm with another volunteer Brandon McKeel, we enjoyed a beer at the underground bar near Peace Corps. This volunteer is someone I will greatly miss when he leaves. He has been a great friend and a good listener over the past 7 months..

After heading back from the bar to Peace Corps I proceeded to moldovanize myself for the evening.. High heels, and a short black dress with gray tights... It was very important on this night to look good 1. Because we were going to a oscar party, 2. New Years Eve. Then around six Alex came to pick me up to head over to his families house to enjoy festivities. In Moldova it's a tradition to bring in the New Year with your family and afterwards go out to the bars.

How we spent the evening at Alex's families was loads and loads of food, champagne, wine and presents. The other tradition in Moldova is they receive presents on New Years Eve verses Christmas. This was a new experience for me. I received a bottle of wine and some green tea. :)

Me, Dasha and Alex

At 10:00 pm we celebrated the old Russian New Years with toasts and the traditional cheek kisses. And again at 12:00 am we toasted to our New Year. While discussing the bad and good things of the past year, and our hopes for the future.

12:30am finally came around and we took off for Eli Pili. This is a bar that our friend owns. Ruslan had an amazing set up and we had our own private room. There was MORE food, champagne, wine, whiskey, vodka, hookah... really anything you can imagine. The night was spent dancing, signing karaoke, watching the entertainment. It was pretty awesome to see one of the most popular Moldovan Pop Singers at the bar as well!! :)
Alex and Tanya

The famous moldovan singer..


Our night ended at 7am...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I will not be home for Christmas....

Beloved Barcelona!!

Think about the most joyful times in your life.. Then think about who those joyful times were with.. For me  the best times of my life have either been traveling with my friend Amanda, Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, and my birthday with all my closest friends...


Being away for the holidays was a different experience for me. Here are some details describing my trip. Christmas eve: spent the day walking around the beautiful city of Madrid, stuffing ourselves with chinese food and embracing every moment. On the way back from chinese we saw up an alley radiant blue lights. This immediately caught our attention and we had to check the place out. Well turns out it was a huka bar.... At first we weren't going to go in, then I convinced Michael it would be fun. He soon agreed.. We ordered up some apple huka, a beer and some green tea. Several hours had passed as we talked, laughed, and took in the experience of the Turkuito bar.

Trying to figure out how to do this right.. haha

December 25, 2011 is the year that I woke up in Madrid Spain on Christmas day. Waking up on with the excitement in my heart of not knowing what to expect. Back in the US I always knew a few things for sure. I would see family, get lots of hugs and kisses, and be smothered in amazingly good food..  Having to wake up in a hostel with out all of these things I can say was the weirdest feeling. In all honesty it didn't even feel like a holiday.. Rolling out of bed around 9am, heading down to the hostel kitchen for some cornflakes and toast was the start of my beloved holiday.  Admitting that I sat there eating my breakfast alone I begin to have some tears in my eyes.. but also much joy in my heart knowing that I would be skyping with my family later on in the day. I was so excited because alot of my family has went out of their way to get skype and it would be the first to see many of them in seven months.

After breakfast I went and took a hot shower, and man this was a great start to the day.. I will always and forever love my hot showers. This is one thing Moldova has made me appreciate, due to not having a bathroom in my village.  After the shower Michael and I headed to the market area to see what Christmas day had brought us in Madrid. We came across this Market of St. Miquel. Can I say I fell in LOVE... Surrounded me was mounds and mounds of seafood, and my mouth couldn't stop watering for all of it.
Enjoying our Christmas!! Cheers!

Crab with Fish Eggs!

Octopus and Tuna


The idea of this market was tapas style. Therefore almost everything in the place was 2 euro for a plate of your choice. Michael and I tried at least 10 different tapas for lunch, and we both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, while accenting it with a glass of red wine.

After basking in amazingness, we continued our way down to Plaza Mayor which is a famous place in Madrid. Taking in each site, smell, smiles, and laughter, I began to think to myself- this Christmas day isn't so bad after all. I am a little ashamed to say that I ate a kebab for my Christmas dinner however, along with my Chinese for Christmas eve. Sometimes you have to take what you are given... :)

Merry Christmas!

Plaza Mayor

That evening we were heading back to the hotel and to my surprise all 8 computers didn't work, and I wasn't able to skype with my family. Man was this heart aching. It felt like someone had shoved a knife in my stomach and I wasn't able to breath. The excitement that I expressed in the morning was now gone, diminished and not even a trace could be found...

After dinner we decided to go back to the huka bar. That evening we sat and conversed with them and smoked a little more huka. It's always nice to get around a new culture, and see the differences in people, food, personalities and scenery. It's such a breath of fresh air to see everyone of all different statures, and even more for them to be accepted for the way that they are. Something personally it was nice to be noticed again as a woman. The men in Moldova tend to be more turned away from me because I am not a normal Moldovan 100 pound woman. However Spanish/Moroccan men complimented me quite often and it really helped bring my spirits up.

Turned out to be quite the Christmas eve/ Christmas extravaganza.

Personally I liked Barcelona better then Madrid. Due to the feeling I got when walking around. Barcelona was very comfortable to me and utterly beautiful. The people, bars, food joints, everything in between was so full of excitement, happiness and smiles. As Michael and I said it was so nice to see people happy again, and to hear someone whistle.

Paella with Seafood!! Amazing!

Gaudi's Cascada! 

Not knowing how much the depression of people can way on you until you are around people who are cheerful, excited and energetic about life in general. Spain has always been a dream of mine to visit, and just having the opportunity was truly a gift. Spain is a place I was able to feel myself and smile and most of all just take in the culture as a whole. Guadi's work all across Barcelona amazed me again and again. I was able to see the following of his work: Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Parc Guell, Torres Mapfre, Sagrada Familia, Cascada and Palau Guell. Each one of these places literally took my breath away and I kept
wanting more. I saw some of them several times and for me it was exciting each time. Gaudi not only has a talent, but he allows human nature to come into his work and really allow the human mind to connect with him. Using animals, plants and gravity to all come together. Each one of his pieces you really need to look at to understand, its easy to miss some of what he has included if your not focusing. Something that is a trade mark of Gaudi's was his snail like stair case in several of his homes.. Just a unique touch that he also included in Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia.

On top of Casa Mila piece by Gaudi!

Highest point at Parc Guell-another piece by Gaudi.

Entrance to Parc Guell.
While in Barcelona we stayed at the Itaca hostel. This was a quiet and small place, but in the perfect location. We were in the heart of Barcelona and everything was available to us within 15-20 minutes. I enjoyed my time at this hostel, the people, the atmosphere and the amenities. Also during my stay we met Ben Kanner from New York. We were staying in a 8 person dorm, which allowed us to socialize with others. Therefore with Ben's company we were able to enjoy a great night out on the town for tapas, paella and sangria. After words Michael
went to bed, and Ben and I decided to hit up the Apolo night club. The club was at least 30-40 minutes walking distance, which seemed to take us an hour since we had no idea where we were going. That evening we enjoyed the 70 degree weather, walking on the beach and buying random beer form the sellers on bikes.. Was a very entertaining and amusing night. Ben was quite interesting to talk to, he had visited around 30 countries, and was currently at the beginning of his one month tour to Spain, Morocco and South Africa.

My new friend Ben!

Enjoying our Paella night! :)

As the time ended in Barcelona it really made me sad, but Madrid was truly amazing as well. Like I said prior I enjoyed the food I ate in Madrid. To enjoy all the seafood and atmosphere was great. My favorite part of Madrid was the different Plazas all over the city. Each one of them had there own look and feel. There wasn't anything extravagant to see in Madrid, however it is popular for its museums. I did visit a couple of them: Thyssen and and Regina Sofia. The others were closed due to the holidays.

Casa Mila- Guadi-Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia- Guadi- Barcelona

One of the two houses that were developed by Gaudi for his new city. However was unable to be completed due to his death. The city then turned it into a park.

View of Parc Guell and the two houses that were completed.

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Each country I visit I grow as a person in culture, awareness and spirit. Spain is a place I would love to return to some day. It's a place to feel like yourself, feel free, and enjoy the moment of life... Just remember to have your pocket book full because it is a spendy place!

Tapas! Barcelona

Over view on top of the Casa Mila :)

Royal Palace in Madrid!

A center in Madrid.

Getting attacked by a street performer!!

Streets in Madrid.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The middle of December....

Each day that I spend in Moldova my life has changed with each step I take. This month I have had many struggles within myself and with this country. Anyone that ever told you it was easy to pick your life up and place it in a third world country was easy... well they are wrong....

The first couple weeks of December I felt like Moldova was challenging me in every way possible. From getting harrassed by two men on the street of Iargara, having food poisoning, and having an attempted break in to my home. These three things brought so much emotions up in my mind I didn´t know what to do with myself.

Starting with the harrassment. I was walking home from my center on a Monday evening. I noticed that a car was broken down and another man was assisting him. These two men didn´t notice I was American at the time, due to no street lights. However, they did notice that I was carrying a flash light and wanted to use it to fix the car. When I begun to speak they noticed my accent in the romanian language. Right away they wanted to touch me, kiss me and wouldn´t let me go. The men just kept saying to stay with them and that they wanted to talk with me. I expressed continously that someone was waiting for me and that I needed to go.. Finally after twenty minutes the men decided to let go of me and let me walk away. This was a scary day for me, because I felt violated, and scared out of my mind of what would happen next. I am very lucky that these two men didn´t do anything further then put their hands on me and try to kiss me. But in reality, this should of never happened. I can say some days I hate living in Moldova due to these types of things. Getting noticed all the time is very difficult, more so because when people find out I or we are Americans they are 100 percent more interested and often do things that aren´t right...I´m not sure why this happened to me this evening, and not sure I will ever know. Sometimes people say things happen to make us stronger, well some shit should never happen!!

Food poisoning.... well this on the other hand was my own fault. One day at my center we were celebrating St. Andrei´s day. Specifically, because the cook that works there her sons name is Andrei. The ladies had brought several little items to eat on this day, one including raw fish. Peace Corps has warned us about not eating the fish due to high levels of bacteria. Yet that is mostly from the lake fish and not the ocean. I had asked this day where it was from. The ladies claimed to not know. That should of been my first clue.... I took 2 small bites of the fish for respect. Because in Moldova it is very rude to turn down food and people often get offended. I went forward and tried the fish... Was fine all that evening, but as I woke up the next morning with the worst gut ache I have ever had and was puking my guts out.... Never again... never again... never again will I eat village fish!!

The break in....
Thursday the 15th a person from the village of Iargara Moldova tried to break into my house. This instance was beyond startling for me. It awoke me from my sleep, an had me terrified for my life. I have no clue what the persons intention was that night.. Whether they wanted me, my stuff, money... No idea. The only thing I know is I must of scared them off when I turned the light on, called my friend Michael and began discussing with him what to do. He advised me to call my host mom. Therefore, are 4am I sat there talking with my host mom on the phone, trying to decipher which words to use in romanian so she could understand what I was trying to tell her. I can say when romanian is not my native languae it is very had to speak when you are terrified and crying... however, I was able to use the right words, and she was at my house in a instant. That evening we weren´t able to identify anything or anyone. Yet, in the morning we discovered the lock had been broken and would need replaced. We called the cops and they came to investigate. We would of call them when the instance happened, however in my village the police don´t work in the evening(big shocker). The police didn´t say much beyong there are alot of criminals in the village, and that it´s very dangerous... Didn´t make me feel much better. They did give me all there cell phone numbers so if anything happens in the future they would come help....  Overall it made me do alot of thinking about my safety, service, and life in Moldova. My instant thought was to pack my things and leave, and even more so as I was bawling my eyes out to my father and friends.... After this, I took some time to tihnk and decided my service isn´t over as of yet, and I need to stick it out even for a few months longer. I have no idea what I will feel when I return to my village and what will happen, but I need to try one more time. Recognizing how hard it would be to leave, or to move to another village and have to readjust to another partner, work place, and village as a whole. It´s one of the hardest things I have ever done, and don´t believe I have it within me at this point to try another village.

There are so many things that happen to people all over the world every day. Most days I think it will never happen to me, but this has proven to me that sometimes the odds are against me and I will have to fight back. Peace Corps Moldova has been a struggle, but when you overcome the challenges it makes you feel tens times better. I don´t believe there is a time limit that should be set on anyones service such as 1 month or 2 years. I feel it´s when you as a person have decided you have accomplished all that you can. As for me I havne´t done that yet, and need to stay.

Beyond these scary instances my life in Moldova has been quite boring, it´s the same routine every day. Get up, go to work, sports club, shower, go home.. Day after day. My vacations are what keep me sane. Germany in November, Spain in December. Also looking to go to Scotland, Ireland and England in April with my two great friends Kory and Jessie. Looking forward to such adventures keeps me going every day and allows me to get out of bed. Because working 4 hours a day in a center where we accomplish nothing besides drinking coffee and playing volleyball isn´t anyones or at least not my idea of success. I keep telling myself that success will come in time. Seven months is rapidly approaching and I am hoping to see if that happens...

I feel as if I am missing out on a bunch back home.. My friends engagements, pregnancies, life, adventures, fun and laughter.... This is difficult to see and hear about, but also makes me appreciate them more, while knowing when I do go home it will truly be wonderful.  In my life I always seek for adventure, sometimes I don´t think before I act.. which is quite stupid of me... However, I believe each adventure I take such in Peace Corps will make me a better and more knowledgeable person. A person with the integrity to do great things and to be able to say that I have seen the world and understand how to live and integrate into a different culture. I hope that these quailties will bring me great happiness in my future with life, family, a husband etc...

Take each moment for whats it´s worth. Never think to yourself that this day, this minute, this second that you´re not learning anything. Each day is special and worth something, be adventurous enough to go out and find what it is.. This is how I think daily, hard most, but fulfilling after....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Everything I do, can be a teaching opportunity...

I remember my freshman year in college... Wanting to be a marine biologist... Struggling day to day with the chemistry aspect of this major.. Which soon the tables had taken a turn when I decided to ask my family for advice and ask the simple question on what they believed I would be best at in life. The answer was clean and clear... That answer was to help others. But more specifically help others with what I know best, alcohol and drugs.. 

When I decided to become a sociology and criminal justice major, a part of me had changed as well. Every class, every learning opportunity, every job I have ever had....I have always wanted to get the word out on how to help others in their times of need.

Since I have been in Moldova, my counseling abilities have been put to rest. Not by my own choice, but by the Peace Corps order in which states I am not allowed to counsel any one person directly. I can only provide advice to my colleagues and then they can provide information to the children or persons that want/need to be helped.

This is something I struggled with at first, because I am so passionate about what I do for living, and also very confident in my abilities to provide such information. 

In my mind I had to figure out what was the best way to provide information to people, while still following all the correct policies of Peace Corps. The way in which I did this was by asking the young women in my English Club on what they would like to learn about. These young women gave me a variety of topics: hair, sports, health, drugs/alcohol, USA, rights, self-esteem, etc.

With this information from the women, I took this opportunity as my way in with the community. My turn to provide these women with any knowledge I can that will help them practice their english, but more so talk about their feelings and daily life.

Today's topic in my English Club was "self-esteem." Honestly the feedback I got from the women on this topic blew me away. Each of them had their own opinions on self-esteem and where that comes from. Some of the women had been made fun of most of their life, others had a perfectly normal childhood. It really gave the women a chance to hear about others experiences and brain storm about their feelings, and how this has affected their daily lives. 

With this topic we talked about how self-esteem is developed. How parents, kids, men/women, television and magazines play a role in our thought process. Also the women discussed different things that had been said to them during their childhood or currently as a teenager. I took the opportunity to talk about America and my childhood. Simply, nothing is different between America and Moldova. Women struggle with themselves everywhere, whether if thats with fashion, weight, poverty, etc. Very powerful, and as we stand today I believe the women understand me on a different level as well.

I also included anorexia and bulimia in the conversation. The women expressed that these two things didn't exist in Moldova. With my viewpoint, I expressed that I think that it does exist, sometimes it's a little more hidden then other things. Learning about these two areas, really brought many questions from the ladies, and also a better understanding of health I believe. 

Day to day I hear of women "not eating," because they don't want to get fat or they are trying to maintain their perfect figure. This is something I feel that Moldova struggles with alot. The majority of the population you see walking down the streets are around 115 pounds, no more, no less. When coming to this country, this was one of the bigger shocks to me, since America has many people of all shapes and sizes. And as a whole we except each other for these things. However the most shocking instance of my day was when one of the girls asked, "how do you become this way." It was almost like she wanted to be anorexic. After explaining in depth about the consequences and the health problems that can occur, I believe she was a little more timid. However, that immediate response/mentality of looking for a way to be thinner was mind boggling. 

As I said there is such a demand to be skinny in the world today, and not only that but to be perfect. The one thing I want to bring to my club is not only the opportunity to learn, but the opportunity to advance within their minds, self-esteem, and knowledge about general health. I believe these things are neglected to much in today's society and the opportunity to learn about these areas is just not available in Moldova. I hope with all that I am, that I can make this happen while I am here. 

Life is about accepting oneself and being happy with who you are.. fat, skinny, tall, short, smart, challenged, or whatever comes your way... Take time to examine....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

To spend half of a year in another country....

As I sit here today basking in the peer presence of the six months that has crept up on me... I begin to wonder, to recognize and to feel everything that has changed in my life. Some may think that six months isn't a long time, but in a new country and culture it's an eternity.

I have experienced so many things in the past six months, and have grown so much with in myself. Some of what I had recognized during the Thanksgiving party that was held in Cahul, Moldova. As I found myself introducing the idea of Thanksgiving to my friend Dana(Moldovan). I soon recognized how little I knew about other cultures, and how much more I wanted to know. Myself as an American I can say I have always felt "cultured," with having visited 21 countries. However, there is nothing like experiencing a culture and also living in it. It's a whole new adventure and challenge.

Looking back at the 21 countries I have been too, excluding Moldova. I have always felt proud, recognized, si foarte desept despre ei(smart about them). Acum eu am un noau experience care este se lociesc in Moldova, eu stiu este foarte different apoi alta tara si alta experience eu am avut in trecut. (Now, I have one new experience which is living in Moldova, I know it is very different then the other countries and other experiences I have had in the past.

The opportunity to live in another country, to immerse my whole body and self into the culture, learn another language and be understood in 6 months, and to gain new positive friendships along the way, I can truly say is an adventure of a lifetime.

As the days pass, some slower then others, I learn something new each day. Whether that is playing basketball with the girls in my sports club, teaching english to my 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders, or simply walking to the center every day. I look around me, see things I hate, things I love, things that are new to me, and something things I simply will never understand. With each of these experiences I try to grow from them, and to teach new ways as well.

Today on December 7, 2011, I had the opportunity to teach and share new knowledge. I was standing outside my center watching the kids play volleyball. A few young girls in the 5th grade came to join the volleyball game. Myself and my colleagues noticed something strange about these young women. That something strange was that they had been drinking at a local bar in town. Their cheeks were quite red, and they were being really loud. This hurt my heart to no end.  Dana (which is a girl who volunteers at my center) was telling me about the first time she ever had experience drinking, which was at the age of three. She expressed to me that she had drank so much wine at the age of three, that she ended up throwing up. This story really blew my mind and I felt was the best time to introduce some of my knowledge to her. I asked Dana to come to the computer with me. We sat there for the next 30 minutes looking at different brain scans of people whom have abused alcohol and drugs. Needless to say she was quite interested in learning this new information. It felt great to be able to provide something new to her life. I have never once been worried about Dana personally, but I felt with her being a volunteer at my center it would be good for her to know some new knowledge that she could pass onto the younger children. This is her culture, and she will have a better way at approaching this act and be able to carry this information on after I leave Moldova. It was one moment in my service that I truly felt proud of myself.

As I was saying, every day is a new day for me. Which this week has been quite difficult at my center due to everyone being worried about the future. Most recently we have found out that my center will not be receiving the money from our local Raion center, or from the mayor. This is quite discouraging and really leaves the center in a tough position. This simply means that we have three months to find 20,000 dollars. This may not sound like a lot of money for businesses back home, but for Moldova this is an extreme amount of money, that is almost impossible to find.  At this point, I have no idea where my service will go from here, but I have to be patient each day to figure out the next step.

However, I can say that my center has taught me many things in the past six months. Some from the children, but a lot is from the ladies that I work with on a daily basis. Someone I admire the most is the woman who works in the kitchen. Her name is Zina. She is in her late 50's, early 60's.  This woman always is in the best of spirits, and the most heartfelt person. Every day Zina will have a conversation with me and always make me feel good about myself. Simply she will either compliment me on the way I look, my romanian, or simply about what I am doing in the center or in the village.  She is very interesting to talk to and she also has a very energetic side to her. Today a ball was coming at her and she didn't even flinch, she just joined in with the kids in soccer. It was great to see and brought a huge smile to my face. Another thing I have am thankful about with Zina is every Mon-Wed-Fri I go to my center to take a shower after my sports club. Zina knows that I don't like to eat before going to sports club, so she will always save me a dish of food and a cup of tea and place it on the counter for me. As I come to the center each evening, the food and tea is waiting for me. The small things such as that mean the world to me. Zina is a very caring woman and the small efforts that she makes has really bettered my service and brought joy to my heart.

Another person that I need to thank is my friend Michael Houdyshell. This wonderful man is a current volunteer in Moldova in the M26 group. We have known each other since the first day of staging in Philly. We didn't get close that day, however with being in the same group in Philly, the same village in Stauceni, and making travel plans to Spain, him and I have become a lot closer. Michael is like a big brother to me and is always watching out for me. Sometimes I tell him to leave me alone and he doesn't need to watch over me. But in reality it's comforting and I always know that I have someone to turn to while I am here in Moldova, and for many years after my service. Just a nice shout out to him :)

Six months.. things in my life have changed.... my heart... my mind... my culture... Yet, there are things that will always stay the way they are... which are... my family... my friends... my passion... and my drive to always do bigger and better things in the future!

Thank you Moldova for the good, bad and ugly...