The Road to Anywhere

When you don’t know where you’re headed, any road will take you there. – Lewis Carroll

This thought has been spinning round in my mind all day. More to come…..

International Day of Women – Moldovan style

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Friday, March 8, was International Women’s Day.  In the United States, I can’t remember this holiday making much of a bang. (Perhaps it was noted on my desk calendar, but with the advent of Outlook, smart phones, and virtual reminders, who looks at those anymore?)

As Americans, we tend toward holidays that commemorate war, politicians (or other male figureheads,) or successful conquest.  We cede women Mother’s Day (isn’t every woman a mother?) and Valentine’s – neither of which are days of rest from work, I should point out (Mother’s Day being officially confined to a Sunday in the US.)  Both these holidays have a very specific focus and audience – thanks mom for bearing/raising/putting up with me and come on honey, give me give me some love…

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Forest light

In Moldova, conversely, International Women’s Day is a BIG deal with a wide open vista of possibilities.  Everyone gets the day off – women, men, children, politicians and bankers.  Women are feted, toasted, and gifted, by their husbands, their co-workers, their neighbors, and each other.  Coming just a week after Marțișor – the beginning of spring – there is a general feeling of sunshine and fecundity impregnating the air.  It not just women in particular but the female principle in general – the yin, if you will – Hera, Athena, Hestia, and Artemis all rolled into one.  So what better way to  celebrate than spending the day in the forest dancing midst the trees with wine, women, and song?

All week long the mayor’s office had been abuzz with preparations for the pending  party.  My partner kept assuring me that I was in for a genuine cultural experience, Moldovan style.  And the weather itself toed the line, dawning clear and brilliant, topaz sun ablaze in sapphire skies.

Arriving at work at a leisurely 10am, I found out I had missed the morning champagne toast (?!!) and the 100_2066presentation of flowers to all the women. But never fear! Within minutes, I was ushered into the mayor’s office and presented with a flowering plant, decorative salad dishes, and a genuine crystal vase made in the Czech Republic. These were accompanied by ornate speeches from two of my male co-workers, who then repeatedly kissed me on alternating cheeks so Doamna Valentina could properly capture the moment on camera for the historic record.  (Apparently, as both an American and a mature female, I am accorded an inordinate degree of respect.  American males – take note!)

By 1:00 all the women from the office were piling into a hired rutiera for the ride up into the forest just outside the city limits.  Up, up, up (past the city dump, deserving of its own blog post at some point in the future) to a 10-12 acre plot of trees on a secluded hill.  And there were all the men, fires burning under huge metal discs sprouting spindly legs, skewers of meat and buckets of potatoes, onions and carrots readied for the flames. 100_2041 Jugs of wine squat and mellow lined up on wooden tables. Vagabond dogs, still sporting the bristling, dense coats of winter, lingering at the periphery, anticipating the feast to come.  Air clear and mild, the sun a thin blanket of warmth over the crisp chill of glittering frost.  It was almost medieval in its raw, unadorned simplicity.

100_1999The first order of business began with the photographs –meticulously posed group and individual shots that are de rigueur for Moldovans whenever they gather for celebrations.  No matter how old, wrinkled, tired, messy, fat, windblown, or unattractive one might be feeling, there is no reason a Moldovan could fathom for not wanting your portrait captured in any given circumstance where someone is wielding a camera.   I am generally considered a slightly daft anomaly in these situations – not only for my unwillingness to continually stand and smile for up to 35 pictures in a row, but even more so for my propensity to wander about snapping unlikely shots of buildings, trees, food and fire with no apparent concern for lining up people in my cross hairs.  What in the world could that be about?  I have quit trying to offer any explanation beyond an inexplicable infatuation with the captivating Moldovan countryside.  That seems to mollify them a bit.

After that, the games.  All those not actively involved in the preparation of the food enthusiastically joined100_2062 rousing games of badminton or volleyball.  And I mean everybody.  A few women, arms linked, drifted off to pick violets and craft cunning little bouquets of tender new greenery, but there was none of that cracking open a beer and parking your butt in a lawn chair that Americans have perfected to an art form.  Apparently, enough sitting on one’s behind is accomplished at the office; picnics are about shaking things loose and getting one’s blood pumping again.

And when it came time to dine, there was no thought of sequestering off into little cliques of age-, gender- or interest-mates:  the women were set at one long table, jugs of wine, buckets of meat and platters of fire-roasted root veggies set before us, while the men stood in a ring behind eating on their feet, ready to replenish the fixings should any particular dish get low.

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Chicken stomachs – they taste fine but have the consistency of rubber

Of course, after one eats until the stomach is ready to burst, it is them time to dance the hora to combat the stultifying effects of all that food.  And dance the hora we did – old, young, male, female, mayor, driver, attorney, secretary, janitor, and volunteer.  There was no acceptable reason beyond keeling over and dying right there in the fallen leaves to not dance the hora.

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Cartofi și markovi

 

 

 

It is quite refreshing to see that there is no inhibition on anyone’s part to get up and dance.  Some of the males in this video are barely 20 years old….an age cohort that would most likely not know the first step of a waltz in the USA, much less being caught on the dance floor partaking.  And they all dance well – it must be the natural result of being included in every dance on every occasion since you could walk.

And this is one particular cultural quirk of Moldovans to which it has been most challenging for me to acquiesce – the impermissibility of playing wallflower.  One cannot float on the periphery and merely observe; there is no motive they can comprehend for not participating – fully, joyfully, and energetically – with all forms of active celebration.  If you are there, you participate; “no” is not heard, accepted, or tolerated.  They will wear you down.  You will dance.  And dance. And dance. And dance. (And actually end up enjoying it in spite of yourself.)

And if you get tired of dancing, if your feet are about to trip over themselves in a stupor and your knees are weak and cracking with the effort of propelling your leaden legs into the air, then you are permitted a wee break to embrace a tree and re-energize.  What?  Yeah, that’s what I said.100_2009

As the evening sun began to slip into the naked branches proffered arms, bathing them in a golden glow, I caught glimpses of shadowy forms engaged in locked embrace with some of the more substantial members of our little forest.  Arms and legs wrapped around trunks, leaning in with head lying flat against bark, it seemed as if they were listening carefully for the thrum of a heartbeat, or perhaps the pulsing of sap coursing up through the roots to bring sunlight and energy to the higher branches, and the human partner so lovingly appended.

There was nothing “weird” about this – neither drugs nor excessive alcohol was to blame.  Tree hugging, apparently, is not so much an environmental catch phrase here as it is a reverent commentary on the relationship that Moldovans still actively hold with nature and the land, especially after hours of dancing leaves one spent and limp and in need of jolt of energy.  I was charmed, and humbled.  And  I refrained from taking pictures, as it was a too solemn, personal and seemingly sacred activity to demean by turning it into a voyeuristic photo opportunity.  (If Moldovans aren’t taken pictures, you know it must be anathema…)

My first celebration with my new partners was definitely a mind-expanding journey, though.  I was welcomed and integrated into the proceedings with no hesitancy or awkwardness.  After so many weeks of solitary confinement in a small bedroom, it felt good to be dancing.

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New violets and a quirky fungi
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Me – posed Moldovan style

And now for something totally unrelated (or is it?)

The Yellow Cup

(Last Night’s Dream – in Technicolor, Dolby sensaround sound….)

Yellow coffee cup

I am sitting in a large and airy coffee establishment – Starbucks, Peet’s – something modern and well-designed.  I have been drinking coffee from a large yellow cup, the soup bowl type with a handle.  I am with two friends and we are finished with our coffee but lingering over conversation.  Three young men walk by, young, urban-hip; one of them notices my coffee cup and stops to pick it up and admire it.  He asks if he can borrow it to drink his coffee from as he doesn’t want to use a paper cup.  Flattered that he likes my cup and seems to be a kindred soul, I say yes.  He has tousled blond hair and sharp blue eyes and my friends perk up a bit, taking note.  He takes the cup and sits at a table over my shoulder, where I cannot see him but my friends, facing me, can.

Thirty minutes or so passes and my friends and I are ready to go.  One of them reminds me about my coffee cup, nudging me to go retrieve it.  However, I know somehow that this friend, being younger and single, is a more appropriate fetch so I ask her to go get it. She darts up from her chair and scoots over so quickly I know that she was waiting for this opportunity.  Within a few seconds I hear the young men laughing and my friend returns with a cup, but it is much smaller and of a different color than the one I gave him.  That’s not my cup, I say to her.  She looks abashed.  I didn’t think so, she tells me, but they kept assuring me it was and I felt like a fool.  Suddenly, my two friends are anxiously pointing – They’re leaving, they’re leaving with your cup, go get it!

Inside I am half aware that this is not a good course of action but not wanting to seem like a patsy I get up and go after them.  They have left the building by this time and soon I am running to keep up with them. It’s almost like they’re baiting me to chase them.

They board a sort of trolley car that looks as if it is a boat on tracks with a couple of decks and really nice, art deco décor.  I am wandering through the rooms and up and down the stairs before I finally find them and ask for the cup from the tousled blond that took it. He smiles mischievously.  I don’t have your cup, he says, I gave it to your friend.  I hold up the cup – this is not my cup.  Mine was large, yellow, and bowl-shaped.  Oh, he says, eyes twinkling, my mistake.  Let me go get your cup.  He disappears for a minute or so and then returns with another cup, small, delicate, with a pointed cap – more like a little urn than a cup.

That’s not it either, I said.  Come on –give me my cup.  By this time I notice that the trolley has been traveling, rather quickly, up and down streets I don’t recognize.  I think that we must be in Long Beach as this is the only city I know that has trolley cars, but I don’t see anything that looks familiar and I realize I didn’t bring my purse or phone.  A slight panic arises in me.

Just give me my cup, okay?  Therein ensues what seems to be 30 or 40 minutes of cat-and-mouse game playing on this young man’s part while his friends lounge nearby whispering to each other and laughing.  He shows me my cup through a locked glass door, taunting me to retrieve it, but when I break the door open to access it the cup has disappeared.  He tells me my cup is in his bag and hands it to me to plumb.  I keep pulling out cups but none of them is mine.  He then leaves the room, promising to retrieve it and I am chasing him again through the rooms and hallways of this fabulous trolley car.  I somehow become aware through this process that he is a rich, spoiled brat, that he owns the trolley car, and this little game is a passing amusement for him and his friends.

When I finally find him again I begin to plead with him, hoping he will see my anguish and relent.  By this time I realize that I am miles from my friends, I have no idea where I am or how to return to the coffee shop, I have no money and no phone and no coat and it appears to be snowing lightly outside.  I tell him I am completely vulnerable, describing my situation, appealing to his sense of humanity, asking for him to please empathize and quit playing stupid games with me. I ask this repeatedly, five, six, or seven times.  It seems at this point to have become about much more than obtaining the cup, but I can’t quite grasp what I am trying to convey to him other than to reach out to him as fellow human being.

His eyes continue to twinkle and he smiles as he reaches into a cupboard and pulls out yet another permutation of the cup-that-isn’t-my-cup and proffers it.  Here you go, he says.  At this point my frustration and perceived vulnerability are now combining into a frothing rage. I am appalled that somebody would treat a person this way, that they could remain impervious to my plight. His friends, meanwhile, continue observe our interactions and chuckle.

Suddenly, I have jumped on the young man, overpowered him and I am beating his head against the floor – not with all the force I could muster, but lightly as if to put on a show of what my anger and frustration could lead to if he didn’t listen to me.  He does not respond or try to escape – just allows me to do it while remaining unresponsive through the pathetic beating I administer.

Meanwhile, the trolley trundles on and the snow is falling faster and I know that I am traveling further and further from my friends and will need to rely on help from strangers or passersby to find my way back again. I don’t know whether I am in America or a foreign country, whether I will know the language once I disembark, or how I will contact my friends with no money and no idea, I now realize, what the name or location of the coffee shop actually is.

I decide I need to get off the trolley at this point but I am so angry and frustrated that I grab the young man by his coat sleeve and begin dragging him along with me, vaguely thinking of finding a policeman or some sympathetic stranger who will convince him to relinquish my cup.  He bumps along beside me, face down, up stairs and down halls and is otherwise unmoving.  A vague sense of unease begins to creep up in me, as if I might have inadvertently hurt him; yet I am still so angry and scared and single-minded in my need to get help that I continue on.

We finally board an escalator and reach the top, me dragging him still by the sleeve only he catches at the top and goes under the rim of the escalator while I am still holding his arm and part of me thinks I should pull him out but instead I let go and he is sucked in and down as the escalator stairs fold (yes, I know this is physically impossible, but it’s a dream remember.) One of his friends is now walking beside me and he winces, grins, and says: that hurt.  And I picture the tousled-hair man falling into the hidden mysterious mechanisms of the escalator and getting flattened by the gears and I don’t feel a bit of remorse.

Only then it dawns on me that I may have committed MURDER, I may have actually killed this person, this stranger who began the afternoon walking by my table and admiring my cup and that his two friends witnessed the whole thing and that I had no excuse other than he stole it from me as a twisted prank and kept taunting me despite my pleas to stop. And I had this horrible, mind-numbing sinking knowledge of how a person must feel when they get so caught up in an emotion that their reason and humanity disappear and they act blindly, stupidly, and end up killing another person without ever meaning to.  I knew that I done something in an instant that would change my life forever and I had no recollection of how I had arrived at that action or what compelled me to act that way.   And I also knew that there was nothing I could do to take it back or make it not have happened.

And then I woke up. (And I was SO damn glad I could’ve cried because my situation had seemed so bleak mere moments before.)

Every nuance of this dream stayed crystal clear throughout the hours of the morning until I finally had to write it down.

The yellow coffee cup is exactly the one from which I drink my coffee every morning.

I have no idea who the young man, his friends, or my friends were or where I was.

I feel very disoriented still with a lingering sense of unease and am left pondering the message of this dream.

Striving for magical…

It is a fact of Peace Corps service that your mood will swing widely, especially during the first year.  It seems that if one can make it through those first 12-13 months, then the end flickers into being and each moment becomes more precious and fleeting.  Plus you have the ability to converse with more alacrity and understanding; you have completed some significant work; have experienced a range of celebrations and seasons;  and probably have traveled a bit.  You’re settled in and beginning to think about what comes next.

For me, six months in with winter approaching and no meaningful work even embarked upon, some days can be a bit challenging.  I feel like I am retracing the year of stasis I endured after I had lost my job and was sitting at home waiting for something to happen.  Only now the something that I made happen is happening …

And yet.  Yesterday, after posting my latest blog, I received a series of a beautiful haikus from my husband and one from a talented poet that I once knew in my youth who found me again through my blog.  Her words of wisdom:

The worst has happened
a thousand times before, yet
here we are, in love

It brought me right back to the light inside [that] is the steady keel” as she put it in her comment.  I am in love with my life and my experience, each and every day, no matter how dreary or depressing or difficult some of them might be.  In the timeless words of Victor Frankl “What is to give light must endure burning.”  This is a time of burning and scrubbing clean the waste of expectation and desire, it is a time to be open and vulnerable to what the world brings to me, to listen without preconceptions or notions of how things should be.  The worst has happened a thousand times before and yet still it never has; there is always a blessing to be found in the embers, somewhere.

And then my husband, who is making his own, separate journey, living alone after 16 years of marriage:

Love, stay faraway.
Life still ordinary here.
Strive for magical.

We sold our home, gave away most of our belongings and said goodbye to an existence that was replete with all the things one is supposed to strive for in life, at least according to our current cultural paradigm.  But the magical is not often found in the predictable, the safe, the comfortable and ordinary.  It comes alongside the burning, or in the embers,  or in the light inside that still flickers strongly, despite the darkness outside.

I am blessed, in love, and still striving for magical….

And today is my sister's birthday...she was magical
And today is my sister’s birthday…she was magical.         You’ll always be a part of me Sissy.

Where to begin?

Vila Verde Hotel

 

 

No matter what version of life in Moldova I may have concocted prior to arriving here, it cannot match up to its unfolding around me in brilliant, multi-dimensional actuality.  It is difficult – from what I have experienced thus far – to incorporate the notion that these people are poor, or reside in a developing country, with the richness of the reality surrounding me.  So far, minus the language difference and the refreshing absence of corporate retail and fast food establishments, Chisinau and Stauceni (the suburb/village where I am living) look like a slightly fuzzy version of LA and its environs, circa 1940 or so.  Only the main roads are paved – and are liberally peppered with potholes – but the sidewalks are swept, the buildings seem maintained, the people appear nourished and well-groomed, and life is bustling – if not at a frenetic, American pace – definitely at one that evidences a reach for prosperity and productivity.  It is definitely not Guatemala or Peru.

This is Nina’s (my “mama gazda”) house in Stauceni

I. Where I am:  I have been assigned to live with a host mother – “mama gazda” – during my eight weeks of training in the village of Stauceni (I am not spelling this accurately, as I have yet to download the extra five letters of the Romanian alphabet to my computer.  I do not have internet at this point in my home, so I have to wait until I travel into Chisinau next Wednesday to send this post, answer any emails, and generally get my virtual life fix.)  Nina is sixty-one but looks my age or younger.  She is a widow and a retired administrator with two daughters and three grandchildren who live elsewhere; where, I am not able to ascertain at this point due to the absence of a shared language. (More on this in a minute – it’s hard, folks.)  She has a very nice house, two story – kitchen and dining room on the first story – and two bedrooms, a sitting room, and bathroom (!!!!) upstairs.  One must take (very steep) external stairs to go from floor to floor.

This is Nina working in her garden

The most wonderful aspect of her home, I think, is the bounteous garden adjacent to it.  Nina grows almost everything she’s fed me so far.  I’ve had cherries, strawberries, dill, parsley, green onions, cabbage, several types of salad greens, luscious tomatoes, and crisp cucumbers.  She makes her own juice, jam, and wine.  Today, I sat and watched her make placinta (again, not the right letters) or pie as we know it, from scratch.  She actually throws the crust up into the air to twirl and stretch it.  She made three different kinds: cherry, green onion/cheese/dill, and cabbage, my favorite!  Other than a carton of yoghurt I had at the hotel the first morning I was here, I haven’t consumed one bit of processed food since arrival.  It’s amazing.

House in Nina’s neighborhood

Stauceni is quite upscale.  Some of the houses (not Nina’s) are as big and nice as those in Turtle Rock or Northwood.  The neighborhood is plush with towering trees, flowers, abundant gardens, wrought iron filigreed gates and fences, stained glass windows, and tiled porches.  All of us in the Peace Corps van were agape as they dropped us off one by one at these veritable villas.  One of the volunteers is staying in a four story house, where she shares an entire floor with the two daughters and the shower is as big as her entire bathroom back home.

Truth in advertising: I did freak out a bit the first night.  To be left at someone’s doorstep whom you’ve never met, who doesn’t speak your language, and watch the only familiar faces that connect you to your country drive away does cause a bit of anxiety.  I’ll admit that the creeping poison of “WTF am I doing here????” did flood my brain a bit. But Nina is extraordinarily warm and did everything possible to put me at ease.  She showed me around the house, fed me, and then took me for a short walk through the neighborhood to another house she owns.  Apparently, the woman who rents it from her, Lizbet, is in Germany.  We picked a monster bowl of cherries and strawberries there and then returned home and went to bed.

Life as a bowl of cherries

The time zone difference is causing me the greatest difficulty so far.  From Wednesday when I departed the USA up until last night (Saturday) I had not more than seven hours sleep total.  My body wants to be awake when it’s daytime in California and sleep when it’s night there.  Since this is almost the exact opposite of the time here, I find myself literally snoring in language class and inexplicably wide-eyed and energetic at 3:00am.  I have never experienced this degree of sleepiness before, where I am absolutely unable to keep my eyes open and continually catch myself asleep in class.  The Language Training Instructors (LTIs), Diana and Rodica, are both Moldovan and very understanding.  But they are told to keep pushing us without let up, as we only have eight weeks to master conversational Romanian before being sent out to our respective projects.  ) We are starting with the alphabet and “to be” verbs and my head is already filled up and pounding.  This is exacerbated, I realize, by lack of sleep.  Last night I slept fifteen hours, the longest I believe I may have ever slept continuously in my life.  And I think I could sleep another fifteen tonight, only I have to resume classes tomorrow.  Hopefully, this diurnal craziness will fade with the passing days.

So, let me say, actually listening to Nina spew forth Romanian at a rate equal to Rhiannon’s freeway driving pace is world’s away from listening to Pimsleur language lessons on an iPod.  I had allowed myself to think that I was going to be able to pick this up effortlessly.  Not so much.  I have to sit with a dictionary in my hands as Nina and I try to converse and this obviously limits our range of topics. After ten or twenty minutes of this snail’s pace she gets impatient and resumes the eighty mile an hour rate again and I fall back to nodding my head, smiling and repeating “Dah, dah. Bine.”  (Yes, yes. Good.)

II. What I’m doing: I am fully immersed in Pre-Service Training (or PST.  The Peace Corps, like all government agencies, it seems, LOVES its acronyms.  We actually have a class on acronyms.)  Here is a partial listing of classes from my Calendar of Training Events (COTE):

–          Food and Water Preparation

–          Local Public Administration in Moldova

–          Introduction to Community Organizational Development (COD)

–          Expectations Session

–          Small Development Area (SDA) Community Mapping

–          NGO Sector in Moldova

This is just the first of eight weeks and does not include the morning language classes.  We’re in class from 8:30 – 5:00pm Monday through Friday and 8:30 – 12:30 on Saturdays.

 

Our group cluster site – an elementary school in Stauceni

A group of nine of us COD trainees spend five days at what’s called our cluster site – an elementary school in Stauceni – then take public transportation (rutieras, more on this in a minute) into our hub site in Chisinau on Thursdays for training with the entire PCT group.  The composition of my group: a married couple in their seventies who have lived and worked all over the world; three single women in their mid-twenties to early thirties who have variously graduated from law school, lived and worked at an orphanage in Mozambique,and obtained a MA in International Development; a man in his sixties who retired from public service work; two men in their late twenties, one of them born in Paraguay, the other also having worked/schooled in Africa already.  It’s quite a cosmopolitan group; I’m probably the most vanilla member.

Riding public transportation was an abrupt introduction to the other side of Moldovan life.  The saying is” “You can always fit two more people into any rutiera.”  So far, I’ve ridden up and back to Chisinau; both legs of the journey I was standing in the aisle pressed up against my immediate neighbor and hanging on to the overhead pole for dear life.  There are seats for ten people; the other twenty or thirty, along with their various bags, bicycles, or babies, must somehow fit into approximately twelve square feet of aisle space. I’m not kidding.  (Actually, when someone has a baby they pass it over to a seated stranger to hold on his or her lap.) When the rutiera stops, one has about eight seconds to push one’s way from the back of the bus, between the limbs and breasts of a packed hoard of sandwiched bodies, before the driver is off again at fifty miles an hour, a relatively mild rate in the states which may not convey the danger this represents when the road is filled with potholes and you can’t really feel the feet that are holding you up anymore. Did I mention that the windows don’t open and that it’s the temperature of a Bikram yoga session inside?  Sweat literally pours off your face and onto the shoulder of the person crammed next to you.  And vice versa.  We’re all very close here.

The weird thing is the degree of honesty and trust that is demanded by this form of transport. Or maybe it’s just Moldovans – I don’t know.  Anyway, if you don’t have time to pay as you enter the bus due to pressure of people boarding behind you, then you wait to find a good handhold and pass your money up to the driver.  It goes from hand to hand along with a notation of how many are being paid for (one, two, etc.) then the accurate change is passed back through a line of six or seven people to find its way back to you.  Could you see this happening in LA?  But yet, we’re told to be wary of pickpockets on public transportation here.  I guess they only steal the money from your pockets or bag, but won’t take it if it’s out in the open.  Go figure.

III. What I’m feeling:  As I said previously, the first night in Stauceni was the hardest so far.  I felt very, very far from home and everything I’ve known in life.  Although Guatemala and Peru and Ecuador were undoubtedly more foreign, the reality that I have signed up to live here for at least two years caused me to have a minor mental melt down as I lay awake from 3:00am on.  This anxiety has since faded, luckily, though I am assured by the Peace Corps staff and the more seasoned volunteers that it will return, time and again, to haunt me for at least the next few months.

And that’s the most reassuring part of this Peace Corps experience.  There is a big Peace Corps building in Chisinau, behind locked gates, set among verdant trees and green grass, where one can find a bevy of volunteers congregated at any hour of the day or night.  (Some sleep here when they travel in from distant sites.)  It was a little intimidating to find a whole group of them staring down at us from the third floor balcony the first time we entered, but at the ensuing picnic they all proved to be gratifyingly approachable, talkative, and encouraging.  Mostly, they reassured all of us newbies that the stage fright we’re experiencing is normal, that a year from now we will return to our host families and laugh about the initial days of our stay, chattering with them in Romanian about how nervous and awkward we both felt at our first meeting.  All the volunteers I’ve met so far seem enormously satisfied with their experience and appear to be fully at home here in Moldova. They can navigate the teeming markets and warren of unmarked streets and tangled skein of public transportation routes like natives.  (Funny aside: when one of the PC mentors boarded the bus conveying us from the hotel to Chisinau the first day, she began talking with the driver in rapid Romanian.  I thought for sure she was Moldovan, until she turned to us and began speaking with a pronounced mid-Western twang.)  It makes me very hopeful that I will adapt to this land and people and language, too.  It is incredible to me now, feeling so very naïve and obviously American, to think that perhaps only a year from now I could be mistaken for a Moldovan.  It is my greatest aspiration at the moment.

Hub site in Chisinau

The other thing that has all of us jonesing is the absence of Internet access.  It is THE question at every open session: it is obvious that we are a new generation of PCTs who expect to have instant connection with family and friends back home.  While Nina has WiFi in her home, she doesn’t seem to know what the “security key” is that I need to log on to the network.  She handed me her laptop to see if I could figure it out; unfortunately her operating system is Russian to me. Literally, it’s written in Russian.  It makes it twice as frustrating to know that the capability is right at my fingertips, but might as well be a thousand kilometers away for all the good it does me.  So, given the state of things at the moment, I will be able to write daily but only post once a week, either on Wednesday or Thursday, depending which day we go to  hub site.  Though I realize that none of you is waiting on the edge of your seat for my next post (okay – maybe my grandma and mom are,) I did hope to receive an email or comment a couple of times a week.  It’s okay to keep sending them, I just won’t reply right away. (UPDATE:  I now have internet at my home!!!  Will be posting as much as possible, given my homework and mandatory socializing activities.)

Know that I am counting on you to keep me connected to my former life…

Greek Orthodox Church in our Stauceni neighborhood

 

When we escape…

“When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego, and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality and get into the forests again, we shall shiver with cold and fright but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in, and passion will make our bodies taut with power, we shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down, we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.”   

―      D.H. Lawrence

I don’t know why, but this reminds me of the way I have felt for the last eighteen months, waiting.  Waiting. Waiting.  Waiting to escape the glass bottle of my ego, the wire fences of my relationships that keep me spinning in the same circles.  There are places in this world where I am not known, where I don’t know myself.  Because we do take our cues from our surroundings, our fellow actors, the lighting, the circumstances, the part for which we auditioned (so intentionally or accidentally) and got.  The forest is vast and foreign and filled with noises.  I am about to be a Stranger in a Strange Land and I shall laugh and the old things will fall down and the stalwart scaffolding of who I am will scatter like burnt curls of paper.