Since Monday, I have spent over nineteen hours folded into the cramped seat of an airplane, shuttle or bus and more than sixteen hours hanging out (mostly on the floor) in various airports. I’ve had less than five hours sleep in the past thirty-six and only two of those were consecutive. Yet at this moment – 4:30am on Friday morning, June 8 – I am the most energized and clear headed I’ve been in many months. I made it: I’m finally in Moldova!
Last night we debarked the two shuttles that brought us from the airport at 11:30pm to a cheering mob of current Peace Corps Volunteers: our program mentors, training and safety coordinators, the country director, and various other Moldovan Peace Corps staff. It was just like the Lakers returning to Los Angeles after a stupendous playoff sweep; we were every bit the victorious team lifted up by adulatory fans. After the grueling travel itinerary of the past couple of days, I could easily have burst into sobs of exhausted elation (I didn’t, thank god – not wanting to be labeled the emotive freakazoid the very first hour of my arrival, but a couple of other trainees said they felt exactly the same way.)
After a celebratory greeting, a very brief safety summary and assurances that we would cover – ad nauseum – all of our raging questions today, we were sent to bed with the admonishment to snatch what sleep we might before beginning our 8-10 weeks (depending on one’s assigned program area) of training this morning. There will be no rest for the weary, it seems. Assimilation begins in four hours.
Apparently, I have ended up in one of – if not the –safest countries the Peace Corps operates in. There is very little danger – apparently roving packs of (maybe rabid) dogs, easily dissuaded with sticks and stones – pose the largest threat. Not counting our incoming group of 67 trainees, there are currently 102 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Moldova. It being a relatively small country, no one is posted more than five hours from Chisinau and Peace Corps headquarters, or more than an hour or so from a fellow volunteer. Everyone sees each other a lot; no worries about being isolated or lonely. According to everything we’ve heard so far, it is a verdant, beautiful environment populated with welcoming, friendly people. And, much to my surprise and delight, just about a third of our trainee group is older than me. I am the youngest of the “seniors,” so I do get to feel (comparatively) young again!
Today’s agenda includes another safety briefing, a health briefing, administrative paperwork and immunizations, distribution of cell phones and other equipment and our first language class. At 6:00 this evening we travel by ‘maxi-van’ with our training groups (6-8 people) to our respective training sites in the surrounding suburbs of Chisinau, where each of us will meet our individual host families with whom we will reside for the next 8-10 weeks. Tomorrow, more training. Sunday, thank the lord, a day of rest.
I can’t convey how astounding it feels to finally be here, to have this long-awaited goal finally materialize into a place and people and activities to fill up my brain and my day. I feel absolutely at home in this experience and couldn’t be more confident in my ability to navigate the road ahead. Wow. Gee whiz. I’ve actually seen one of my longest-held dreams come true. Amazing!!!
Stay tuned – wonderful things to come…