Last Saturday, June 15th, Turul Moldovei participants showed up in Soroca (north) and Taraclia (south) to begin 150 mile treks across Moldova that will land them in the capital of Chișinău (just about dead center of the country) on Sunday, June 30th. For me, this is the culmination of 9 months of planning fraught with all the usual suspects: headaches, fretting, fighting, second-guessing, over-preparation, under-preparation, wasted hours, jam-packed meetings, and long hours spent staring at a computer screen.
And every single moment was absolutely worth it.
What began as an off-hand remark made over a beer on a sweltering afternoon in the middle of PST morphed into a three-headed beast with a gaping maw that required seemingly endless permutations of tact, diplomacy, patience, willpower, and plain-old pig-headedness to tame. Sue may (or may not) have tossed off the flippant observation that “Moldova is so small we could probably walk across it” and Yvette may (or may not) have seized on this bon mot as a brilliant kernel with dynamic potential and we may (or may not) have co-opted Tori into subsuming the Heath Education PCVs’ fuzzily conceived bike trip into our vision; all I know is this particular narrative has now become the stuff of PC Moldova lore.
(20 years from now they will be telling some version of this story as they pack up the banners and toss the old posters when closing this site down….I do know that Sue and Tori will have completely different memories – as they should – of what this project brought to their Peace Corps service, so I do not attempt to relate their viewpoints here. )
Attempting to plan an event or activity with Moldovans is a little like trying get a kindergartner to anticipate her high school graduation: sure it’s something that (theoretically) may occur at some point in the distant future but at this moment in time is so far beyond the horizon that it bears no serious consideration. Really? You want me to think about June when it’s only April? You can’t be serious.
Former admin executive-cum-complusive organizer-cum control freak (some would say) that I am, this inability to engage in proper project-and time-management activities caused my brain to fritz and fry. I was on permanent melt-down status from January through April until I finally came to terms with the reality that things would either work out or not regardless of how many hours I spent worrying about my inability to anticipate and direct outcomes.
It has been a great exercise in letting go, mostly because I had no choice. The tighter I held on the greater the tension I created between me and my co-planners and the more I fantasized about plunging fiery paper clips into their eyes as we glared across the table at each other through every meeting that failed to elicit crossed-off agenda items to clear the slate for the next meeting.
Nothing was ever done to satisfaction. Nothing was ever completed at all. Walkers started the journey one day after we eliminated a village on the southern route, not sure where the walkers would go on day 12 of the trek. The donated water was not delivered until five days after the Tour began. We had to ship 175 one-and-a-half liter bottles by rutiera and trust that the driver would deliver it to a person standing by the side of the highway. Events in some of the villages have still not been formulated. We’re not sure that there is a vehicle at every site to transport luggage, water, and equipment to the next site. And you know what? It will all be fine.
Because I have fielded tens of calls and received a ton of emails and read ecstatic FB postings about the amazing experience that the walkers have had in just a short amount of time on the road. Peopl e who had registered for one or two days are now signing up for as many more days as they can find open. Others who had not registered at all are spontaneously showing up to the village sites by bus to join in the celebrations.
The walkers have been feted and applauded and put to back breaking labor. They have slept in comfy beds and on the wet grass adjacent to the Nistru River. They have had to buy and prepare their own meals and been wined and dined in a fancy restaurant, gratis. In the space of 120 hours they have walked almost 50 miles and met at least a hundred new people. They have not only shown a whole host of Moldovans what spreading peace and friendship means, they themselves have been the recipients of an abundance of curiosity, hospitality, and good will.
Four teenaged Moldovan students of a English English Education PCV are accompanying her on the entire southern route. Apparently, they have been among our best ambassadors. There are myriad pictures of them in their bright yellow Turul Moldovei t-shirts, playing with kids, dancing with other girls, shoveling dirt, picking up trash. A particularly poignant photo was taken of one of them seated next to an older Moldovan gentleman, both of them resting on a curb, deep in animated conversation. We liked it so much we posted it to the Turul webpage. When she saw it, I heard that she started to cry. She said that never in her life had she imagined she could undertake such a journey, have such an amazing experience; never in her life did she imagine her picture would be featured on a web page. She said that she will remember this walk for the rest of her life and maybe nothing could ever make her this happy again. (Of course, I freaking cried.)
This project is succeeding far beyond our wildest dreams. After all the pain and frustration and headaches, the result has been a fantastic, life-altering (for some) experience, and the most perfect way to embody the ups and downs of the Peace Corps journey.
Poftim Moldova. Drum Bun!
*****************************************************************************************************************************To all of my blog followers, friends and family who donated to this project – a huge hug and a shower of love and appreciation. I wish I could share with you what a unique story you have helped write, what a difference you have made to so many people. You have helped to create a treasured experience that will live on in peoples’ spirits, uniting particular Moldovans and American through many years and distances and which – hopefully – will contribute to a new knowledge of what an amazing experience volunteering can be for both of our nations’ citizens.
To follow the daily progress of Turul Moldovei 2013, visit our our official website.