Tuesday, February 23, 2010

M22s' Thoughts, Anxiety and Excitement Noted at the COS conference

Before and After

Recently we had our COS (close & continuation of service) conference. Afterwards we got together for a group picture and the other night I realized how much fun it is to compare that picture to the one we took right after the Swearing In Ceremony in 2008.

Where have the time gone? Do you see any differences? Can you tell we've all grown?

So much fun...enjoy!

After Swearing In Ceremony 2008

After COS conference 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Checking In, in Order to Check Out

The M22 (my group) will have COS (close of service) conference tomorrow!! The time has come. I've been waiting for such a long time for this moment. All kinds of emotions are racing right now: excitement, anxiety, anxiousness, eagerness, impatience, hyper thinking and planning, regret, contentment...and the list literally goes on and on. If you are questioning how on earth a person can honestly go through all of those emotions at once, ask a new PC volunteer who had just gotten to their site, or one that is about to leave (Me!).

Among my last days I've been taking inventory of how much I've gained from my experiences.

Did I get to do all that I intended in doing while here? The answer to that is a big fat NO!

Did I end up learning more than I thought? YES!

Did I make true friendships and family connections with the people I've met here, both Moldovan and my fellow volunteers? Big YES, sir!!

Did I enjoy my time here? Some days more than others, for sure.

Do I feel content in my service? Not always, but I have to think of the little impact my presence here has been implicated in my community.

How does one do that, you may ask? Well, I will tell you...

To examine how content my presence has been here in Moldova, I need to take a look into how I've accomplished the goals of my program (COD), in which I'll outline here.

~Identify Community Assets/Interest/Needs

~Implement Community Activities

~Promote Volunteerism

~Improved Organizational Management

~Improve Sustainability of Services

~Improve Use of IT Resources

~Enhance Networking Among Organizations

~Improve Opportunities for Youth

Looking back, I can honestly say I did touch on each of them in one way or another in everything I've done here.

I wish I could have been more of an impact, could have implemented more activities, had more time to figure things out; or actually, I wish I took less time to figure things out, but more time to implement. But truth be told, that is just how it was. But if you were to ask me, if I would want to take it all back, if I could, answer is: A loud, NO!!

I got what I can take from being in Moldova and Moldova was able to give me what it can in the time I was here. Soon I will get on that plane, stuff full still with all of those emotions I came with, but with one more thing added, a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small or big, they are mine alone. That is what I'm proud to take home with me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I knitted these!!

My weekend project. My host mom taught me how to knit slippers and now I can't stop knitting. It has been a great way to distract myself from the snowy weather and from drowning in future career and life anxieties.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Last Critical Period in the Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer

Month 23 -27

I am just at the beginning of this stage, this month being month 23rd.

Trauma of Departure
Concerns about social re-entry
Bridging new and former identity
Redefinition of career
Redefinition of host-country based on relationships

Obsession with planning and scheduling

Check on trends, US popular culture with new trainees
Do Self-analysis: Identify factors of self and work gratification
Work on self-image
Shop for arts, crafts, souvenirs
Write friends, make social plans
Post PC travel plans
Transfer skills and knowledge to trainees
Arrange for gifts for host family

>From my own list:
Job search
Planning COS (Close of Service) Trip

In an attempt to get through this stage, an intervention is in order, in doing a self-analysis in identifying factors of self and work gratification, I present:

2009 Year in Review

(Inspired by my best friend, Punam, who has tremendously and unconditionally supported me throughout everything in my life ).

I spent New Years 2009 in Prague! From that trip, I was able to connect with the girls in my group and allowed me to appreciate life even more for seeing another beautiful country.

I quit Piano lessons. Found out the source of why I felt so unhappy, from not having the right learning environment. Silver lining: I got to learn the keys and one song, and was successful at recognizing the source of my problem and quit at something. All my life, I have a hard time admitting to myself that I can quit something and not be disappointed in myself for not pushing through and succeeding. An example, bad experience in life was a Chemistry course in college. About 3/4 of the class dropped out, but I was determined to push through with a passing grade. My GPA suffered because of that. Quitting Piano proved to me that I know myself and my limits well.

Reached Intermediate High on my Romanian Language Exam! Felt more comfortable in contributing to conversations with my host family and at the office.

Had my Birthday celebration where I celebrated the Moldovan way. Made a ton of food with my host mom and dad's help and served 15 people at the office. Made me realize how much I love how Americans celebrate birthdays, the spoiled way. The greatest part, I learned how to cook Moldovan food.

Was asked to write an article for my village's local high school. I was able to explain my work and about Peace Corps.

Celebrated one year as a Peace Corps Volunteer! At that time, it seemed such an accomplishment.

Had two meetings where I consider to be one of the biggest success in doing what I do, that is to help my community build a stronger network with other organizations. For both meetings. I was able to get my Mayor and others to join and get information for future projects. From one I was able to place my self identification within the community I work with.

Was chosen one of the mentors for new volunteers. Somehow this was a big turning point for me, seeing that I went through so many challenges and had to re-evaluate my presence in Moldova so many times over, to see how my mentally changed to loving what I do.

Completed the Mural! This project allowed me to emerge all my energy into art.

Went to Rome and saw Tyler! My appreciation for life, yet again increased for seeing the world's antiquity and sharing it with my favorite person.

Turned in two grants for the bathroom and plumbing repair for the high school. This project allowed me to truly act as a facilitator within the community to get it together, and I felt fulfilling in doing the job, I was sent to do.

Romania pre-Christmas and Berlin for New Years 2010! Loving the world and its beauty.

Thinking back to 2009 compared to 2008, 2009 kicked 2008 in it's behind. I had far less crying sessions, I enjoyed the complexities of my service much much more, I felt more comfortable in my skin in being a Cambodian American Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova.

I have a lot planned for 2010 and a lot unplanned. I know there is an adventure awaiting me and I know I am going to enjoy every minute of it.

Here is to a happy, healthy, best year ever in our lives!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Transitions and Seeing the Other Side of the Fence

There is no running water again! It's been three days. This irritates me like no other. Not the fact that we don't have access to water, but the fact that no one tells anyone that they are going to turn it off or when we'll get it back, to work on a section of the village or something for example.

Today, I came into work with all intentions of working through my check list of things to do, but as soon as I sat down on my desk, the lights went out and the internet is gone. I have no way to work, and who knows when it'll be turned back on again. IRRITATION! On the bright side, it was a good thing I charged my laptop's battery last night, having had hindsight that things like this could happen.

Ok, ok, to tell you the truth the basis of my frustrations might have something to do with a grant proposal being turned down. When I sat down at my desk this morning, I was able to log onto my email and one of the few emails I got was one from a granter that apologetically declined to grant money for the bathroom and plumbing repair project for the high school.

In an attempt to calm my nerves I have the Most Relaxing mix of classical music running, and have decided to write down my thoughts, and to later work on my Volunteer Report Form, which do not require the use of internet, luckily.

I have 3 more months left!!! The hour glass is running faster now, and of course, it is when I have so many different things on my mind to get done. One of which, is to put together a resource manual for my Mayor's office on project strategic planning, a grant list of all the grants I've come cross and grant researching and writing information. Mostly things I've been working on with them, but this way they have something to refer to when I'm not here. So far I have the information on file, I just need to put it in order and translate some of the documents into Romanian.

The other lurking objective for the next three months is to find a job. My first day of searching for one was yesterday, which did not prove successful. I think I have specific ideas on what I want to do and with which population I want to work with. Maybe I should not be so picky, considering the job market I'll be stepping into. Cross fingers that I'll land something that will get me up in the morning excited to start my day.

Looking back at this blog, it's been a long time since I've updated on my situation here. I'll try to give you some highlights. For the last few months, we've been working on grants for the bathroom repair. We've turned two in so far, one to an organization in Holland and one in America. The one in America was the one I received an email from this morning. The other one we will hopefully hear from by February. For the time being, I should see if there is another grant we can work with.

Great, Classical music is irritating too and my scrolling up and down touch pad is not working on my laptop! Oh Wow, today is really not my day, is it?

Deep breaths!! Deep inhale, exhale!!

Looks like The John Butler Trio will have to do for now.

Another aspect, getting to the brighter side of things, my host parents have been wonderful. We keep finding ourselves planning certain activities and then later realizing that by that time I will be gone. Then there is a period of silence. Time for remembrance and recollection of how close we've become and how comfortable we are to each other. Then the conversation keeps going again.

There is one reoccurring topic that seems to come up lately for me. It concerns comfort zones. How one gets comfortable with how things are and are afraid or unwilling to accept change.

For an example, yesterday at the local store I found out that they ran out of Colgate tooth paste. For all my time here, that is the only brand I've been using, solely because it is a brand I'm familiar with. The lady offered another brand with a weird logo and name, and for several seconds, I stood there undecided whether or not I really want to venture into buying it. You never know if it'll taste like feet, or whether or not has the right amout of mint or fluoride necessary for clean teeth. The women became impatient with me and even said, "It's only 6 lei (vs. Colgate for 12 lei) and forced me to say, "Ok, I'll try it."

That night, you guessed it, I did not enjoy brushing my teeth with the odd taste and lack of freshness. I looked at the back of the tube and it says the paste was made in Bulgaria. Then I got excited that for one, I learned something new, that now I know Bulgaria makes green colored tooth paste called Orbel, and another I learned something about me. The truth of it is, I like to try new things. (Don't laugh) I do. I just need a little push and shove.

Good news: The John Butler Trio is doing the trick, feeling better already.

For New Years I went to Berlin, and before that I was in Romania. About 3 weeks I was gone, I got used to life away from Moldova, eating all different type of food, showering when I want to, even having hot water at all times. That was hard to leave behind and come back to Moldova. The transition was very rough, but once I walked into my house and saw my host parents and slept on my own bed, I was home and everything was ok again.

The toughest thing in life are the transitions, I feel like. That part I don't think I can ever get used to. Does the act of putting yourself through series of transitions help one to be more immune to its effect? I wonder, because I have always been a person who have had many transitions in life presented to her, and every time I push through it, but never fully enjoying it. Question for the day, what type of person does it take to enjoy fully the transitions in life? For I want to be that person.

Now to another subject all together. As you know, my time here is limited. I am being forced to imagine life after Moldova. You can call that seeing the other side of the fence. When thinking about that, a thought occurred to me, "When was it that I jumped onto this side of the fence?"

If you read my blog, you will bond to notice that for the longest time I struggled to find acceptance to this side of the fence. To become an insider. I guess Peace Corps will call that cultural/community integration. I tried to think back to when I can say that I am in. Not just mentally thinking, but emotionally in.

After rereading some old emails I think I came across that period in time documented by me. I am going to include an excerpt from the email written at the time to my boyfriend, Tyler, who has been outstandingly supportive of my adventure, for I want this blog to come to its full circle and to truly represent my service.

Dated October 27, 2009

(A little background, this was titled "The Meeting Update", referring to a meeting my Mayor and I had with an international organization, in which we hoped would grant our bathroom and plumbing repair project)

It turned out the organization does not work outside of two or three districts outside of Chisinau and our district is too far and our village is too big for them. They are not able to come and work with us, but recommended us to wait and see if the US Army, a branch specifically from North Carolina, who wants to implement the same type of projects, around 15 or so new Eco toilets in Moldova, would want to come work in our village. We just don't know when they will start the implementation, however we registered our project with this organization for them to pass our name along to the US Army!

I bet you are thinking, the US Army??? What? Why? I asked the same thing, believe me. They told me they don't know. I'm a little skeptical of the whole thing, but whatever. If the US Army wants to work with humanitarian aid and bring Eco toilets to Moldova, poftim (which means, bring it on in Romanian).

About the translation worries I had. I didn't even need to do much translating for there was an Moldovan guy who works at the org who did a lot of the translation. Though at times I took him as being inconsiderate of my Mayor. Actually all three of the men there were very rude.

The person who translated was making jokes with the leader of the project from Switzerland in English that, "of course the sewerage system doesn't work, Do you have to ask that question?" and went on and on laughing while my Mayor was in the process of explaining how our village takes care of the sewerage. And when he asked if we have safe drinking water my Mayor said, "It's ok", and they laughed, "Well it must be, because you both are still alive (meaning me and my Mayor), hahaha," How rude!

Then when my Mayor heard about the Army, he said to me to translate that he wants to turn the abandoned old school into a cadet schools for unmotivated young boys who dropped out of school, that are left behind from working abroad parents to discipline them. Then the translator interrupted us and did the translating for me, and then the other ppl in the room quickly told my Mayor it's a nice dream to have. My Mayor quickly said that he is just saying it would be nice to do, he's not asking if they would help make it happen.

I don't know what it was, but I felt for my Mayor then. I can't place my emotions exactly, but I understood where he is coming from. These people don't know how it is in our village. I mean they don't even want to venture into a project with us, because, we are "too big". It'll be too much work. But yet, they are so quick to shut down his wishes and dreams for his village.

I do admit that when he told me his idea for the cadet school before, I was skeptical of it, of how he would find funding and what the use of it is, but from his point of view, I now can understand his urgency to implement changes, to strive for developments, to provide his people with a better place to live, a place where they can be proud to call home.

It was interesting to see how my emotions have changed at the meeting. Does this mean that I now identify myself as one of the villagers? Does it mean that I now understand the hardship? I don't know, because even through all of those identifications, I still know that I will one day leave this place. That I no longer have to think or worry about not having hot water, or about the quality of the water. Or think of the kids having to go outside to use the outhouse at school during winter months, and that there were 15 reported cases in 2008-2009 of children at the school who were sick with Pyelonephritis, because they prolong their urge to go to the bathroom all the time which then resulted in an UTI, then it gets untreated and then it reaches their pelvis and kidneys.

I looked it up, and found that in a annually report around 12-13 cases is the norm among 10,0000 people. There are 5,000 people in my village and around 780 children at the school. Is this ok? This is not to mention the cases of illness from not having a proper place to wash hands.

I find people are too quick to judge, too quick to make assumptions about how people live, about them as human beings in general, and this makes me sick, even worst, I was too, at one point in time, one of them who did the same thing. The thing about this is, it really does take 2 years to finally see the other side of the fence. I'm just glad that I was able to finally see over to the other side. Question is, will I be able to cross that fence, and not just claim to have seen it?

I feel re-motivated lately. I honestly think it's all the things I just told you. The things that made me identify with the people I live with everyday. I see how they truly live. I see the honest hardship in their everyday trivial ways of living that makes me feel more motivated to fight for their right to have the things you and I take for granted each day.

So the next time you go wash your face and turn on the faucet and hot water runs out with joy, think of me, who had to boil water the other day to take a bath (our hot water boiler is broken and my host family does not have money to fix it) (or like the past three days when it mysteriously gets turned off). I had to bathe with only one pot of hot water. I gave up half way and said, "Screw it, I'm rinsing off with jaw clenching cold water". I made it happen and did I mention that was after one whole week of not bathing.

I know that sounds bad, but there are people in my village who don't even have running water, hot or cold and have to walk to get their water from a well.

Stuff like this makes me appreciate life, appreciate our ways of living and somehow even amongst the sadness of seeing how people live, I am happy. Happy to have been blessed.

To making things happen! I'm devoted from now on!

To Devotions in promoting CHANGE!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Autumn Breeze

Here we are already close to the middle of October. Autumn is definitely here. Moldova is so beautiful right now, the hills are covered with such a colorfully woven carpet of the inevitable change of the season. I love it! It's almost like Moldova came alive.

The last few months, I've come to the realization of how much at home I feel here. It involved taking time to being away on vacation for me to come back and feel the difference at how I adjusted to being back, to being accepted once again to my community, to how comfortable I became to the daily routines of every day encounters again.

It is funny how it took all this time to get where I am, and then once I'm here I have to think and prepare myself to leaving in just a few more months (6 months).

Change is very much a requirement for the functionality of Peace Corps' life.

Lately I've been looking at things here with a new pair of lens. To fully enjoying it as much as I can. The knowledge of leaving one day has made me appreciate the very littlest things. Mostly, the relationships I have with everything and everyone.

Another reason for this too, could be that I no longer possess a camera, for it is in the process of getting replaced. Just the mere act of having to write every experience to memory have changed how I experience things. I am able to enjoy it so much more.

When it comes to work progress, I can't say that I have much more activities than I had before, but the importances of every task has an added weight than it did before. Maybe it's because I know how it works, the inner workings of time and improvements, maybe I've finally gotten to the stage of acceptance of reality. Whatever it is, I feel like my everyday efforts add to the massive.

Like today for example, one hour of sitting with my grant writing partners to go through planning of activities for this project to repair the bathrooms at the high school was such a major success for my time here.

Today I was also invited to go present myself and about Peace Corps to the 6th graders. Through my awesome and improved language skills, I was fearless, and loved every minute of it. I love doing this stuff. Yes, I completed goal number 2 today!

With that said, I want to bring up something that a newer volunteer shared with me. Recently I was told that during another volunteer's research into coming to Peace Corps Moldova, my blog scared them into joining. My reply to that was, "I'm glad that you still decided to come, and as you can see I'm still here."

For those who are at that place within your decision to leap into the amazing journey that is Peace Corps, I just want to say, that yes, Peace Corps is hard, you will face many challenges, in which, you might never ever dream of encountering. However, Peace Corps is one opportunity in your life to break through to people's heart by immersing oneself into another country, it's culture and traditions and live as they do. It'll be your chance to do something for your country, to represent all that is great and not so great in America. To build a bridge of unity within human beings. To learn more about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and most of all, how far you can go.

Before I came to Moldova, throughout my research I didn't come across information that I now can say exposed me to the trueness of Peace Corps, and I know one experiences Peace Corps differently, but the challenges and struggles that volunteers go through was not elaborately expressed. Because of that, I believed I was not able to properly prepare myself for all that I would be facing.

I do hope that future readers of my experiences will not be discouraged to pursue Peace Corps. Better yet, I challenge you to make it your own, to get the most out of it, for there are so much there to absorb, to learn and to love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

To Golden Leaves and an Empty Office

I realized I haven't written in awhile, so much time has passed, and yet not so many new interesting dealings to report, or has it, maybe it's that I am so used those abnormal happenings that I'd forgotten that the me a year ago would completely appreciate such an experience. Thus today I am attempting to get back on this writing wagon and tune the rest of the world in what has been happening.

As I am typing this I am sitting outside on our wonderful electric green couch that looks like it traveled in time from the 60s that has a very classic Moldovan pink and maroon blanket covering it, with Julia, my cat sitting right by me.

Earlier I saw Julia bring Markisa, our kitten, a baby rat. I was in the middle of sweeping our front porch as she came up all proud that she had found such a prize winner for her baby. As Markisa head over to the rat and gnaw at it, I was standing there in place just observing her excitement in my own excitement at such a sight.

Now Markisa has given up on tossing the poor rat around and is asleep in her little bed and the rat is abondaned a few inches away from my feet by the couch. My host dad said that it is Markisa's and we will leave it there for her. For how long, I don't know, I just know that I am not bothered at this awkward feeling of disgust at a dead rat by my feet.

With all that has been going on, I would like to express my gratitude for summer. For fruit, and vegetables and even more than that, longer days and me, with a much happier deposition to keep on learning and busting it. July was just like how the Moldovans call it, like being in an oven. It was so hot, some days, just walking to work, which is just a few feet away from my house, would make me sweat. On the other hand, having longer days allowed me to have activities going on after work and allowed me to work on the mural and help out around the house on canning veggies and making compot for winter. As the summer is narrowing down, I am not sure how my feelings are on winter, however I do have a trip (to Rome) coming up that will take my mind away form the most depressive time of the year.

* * *

Here I am weeks later staring at this update. I am currently sitting in my now empty office, with bare walls and my social assistant missing. She has left on her 3 years maternity leave, thus has cleaned out all her belongings. What does this mean? It means that my days are very quiet. No longer filled with funny stories of newly wed life (she just got married) and baby awaiting stories. I do miss that.

As of now we still don't know who will be in her place. I surely hope that the next person will be as cool as she was and will be enthusiastic with helping me write up some grants or start some sort of project. Our current project to repair the high school's bathrooms is currently at a turning point, whether it's for the better or not, I'm not sure. My partners are busy with the school year starting up again and of course, the fact that I will be on vacation has helped bury that issue a bit. I am, however, looking forward to a new start once I get back.

For now, I am enjoying my time traveling around Moldova and hope to continue to visit other volunteers in the future to get a more comprehensive picture of the country.

On Saturday I caught a bus to Comrat, the capital of Gagauzia, which is an autonomous sourthern region of Moldova about an hour south of my village. People in Gagauzia are descendants of Turkey and Bulgaria and even have their own language, Gaguzian tho everyone speak Russian. Romanian is much understood there but very few actually know how to speak. It was such an experience, the moment I entered the city, all the signs and establishment are in Russian, and I felt as if though I'd left Moldova.

The reason for my visit was to visit one of my mentees, who has been there for one month in site, and is still settling down, though has been great learning Russian and finding work within her youth organization. I am so proud of her. She showed me the city, which is beautifully laid with paved roads and restaurants and big government buildings with a huge church and park with trash cans etc. I was blown away at how Western European the feel of the city was compared to what I am used to seeing in rest of the Moldova.

My mentee and I sat and talked for most of the days I was there and she ended up doing such a great job translating our conversations with her host mom who speaks no Romanian. I talked to her in romanian and some words she was able to make out, but she would reply in Russian. The history of how Moldova came to be is so interesting in how it divided up the people into these regions of separate identities of one's own culture and language.

There are only 4 more days until I get to be in the eternal city of Rome! I can't barely wait.

Signing out.