Having returned (and survived) six days of training, intensive language study, and meetings in Chișinău, I thought I would catch up those of you who care here instead of writing emails explaining my protracted online absence (sorry Mom!)
PDM – Project Design Management
(or, how to get your partner to finally believe what you’ve been saying all along)
Though many PCVs will complain about having to sit through trainings, in the end this one proved to be one of the more helpful ones we’ve endured. Although I am currently without a partner, I did attend and sat in on discussions between a couple of my friends and their partners. All of the volunteers I spoke with commented on experiencing that hit-yourself-on-the-head moment when they witnessed their Moldovan counterpart nodding in sage agreement to something that the trainer had said, usually a basic bit of standard accounting practice or how to properly state objectives or putting outcome measurements in place that were just not accepted or valued when articulated by the volunteer at site. (Of course, most of us have trouble articulating anything more profound than inquiring after someone’s family or refusing a third cup of wine, so perhaps it was all lost in translation.)
PC Moldova staff seems to understand and appreciate the basic cultural chasms that threaten to engulf all one’s good intentions and resolute cheer and hence schedule training at strategic points throughout one’s service in anticipation. This one definitely hit the mark. While it was somewhat disappointing to be there stag, it was good to be part of the general positivity and energy in the room for the two and half days of the training.
The nights are another matter altogether….
Because our times together as a group are dwindling, volunteers took full advantage of the opportunity to “be American” and hang out together in the big city. My preference for smaller groups and more intimate gatherings kept me generally out of the loop; the one night I did join in – Friday – I suffered the casualty of discovering my iPhone swimming in a puddle of red wine on a table where I had left it unattended for a span of minutes. The screen is now obstinately silver gray and I can only see the icons by holding it to a bright light and tilting it at an angle. Sigh.
(or, stepping up to the broader conversation topics just beyond a third grader’s reach)
Although I am fortunate to have the services of a superior language teacher at site, many volunteers live so far out that they have no access to regular, quality language instruction. So Peace Corps provides this last little bit of help to launch us beyond subject-verb clauses into more meaty discussions containing direct/indirect objects, subjunctive phrases and maybe an adverb or two. Poftim.
What I enjoyed most about this two day session was the opportunity to speak at length with the instructor without having to remain on a third grade level. She helped us formulate our thoughts and clarify our responses to queries ranging from family dynamics (“Who should be responsible for finances in a family, husband or wife?”) to personal goals and objectives (“Is it important to strive for a good professional position?”) to the political arena (“Do you think Moldova would benefit from joining the European Union?”) It is wicked good to be able to converse with a host country national in their native language on topics beyond daily schedules and sustenance. Because I often times have trouble following the rapid speaking styles of most people here, I just can’t maintain my end of the conversation in these areas in most instances.
Sunday, through several hours of unhurried conversation, I discovered our instructor to be thoughtful, sensitive, hopeful, and a huge fan of Americans. She commented at length on how becoming a Language Teaching Instructor (LTI) for Peace Corps Moldova has changed her way of being in the world. When she was first hired, she went through a series of trainings that taught her about how Americans typically behave and perceive others, and it made her consider the manner in which she usually reciprocated – not only to Americans but even relative to other Moldovans. Now she understands and appreciates the value of exchanging smiles with people walking on the street, or cultivating relationships with the checker at the market, or being more empathetic with the fifth-level students at her school who chafe at rules and recitations. The Second Goal of the Peace Corps – helping to promote a better understanding of Americans in the people served – has an impact even within the context of Moldovan’s relationships with each other and not just for those who might conceivably travel or live in the United States at some point. This intelligent and inquisitive woman has gained a broader perspective of what it means to be human and I was very proud realizing that America had a piece in her learning.
Turul Moldovei 2013
(Or, the announcement you’ve all been waiting for…)
I am aware that every time I’ve happened to mention Turul Moldovei in this blog I’ve followed it with “more about that later.” Well, ‘later’ has arrived as I think it’s just now hit home to me and my fellow organizers that June is going to be on us in the blink of an eye. (Which is very strange to acknowledge as June will mean I’ve hit the half way mark of my service.)
One of my very good friends here, Sue, was sitting at the bar with all of us during PST – way back in July or August, so very long ago – and tossed out the observation that since this country was so very small compared to others where we could’ve been placed, we should just get together and walk through the damn thing, border to border – just for the heck of it! Because we’re Americans and that’s what we American’s do!
Well, we all thought this was a jolly good idea (beers having been consumed, after all) but instead of just letting it die in the puddles on the table, we’ve nudged it along through the ensuing months and actually gave it some legs during our last training in September, when we held an interest group session to communicate the idea to the other volunteers, until now it has suddenly become bold enough to star as one of two main events recognizing the 20th Anniversary of Peace Corps Moldova. Whew!
In a nutshell, two groups of volunteers – and, hopefully, lots of Moldovans – will be walking either a northern or southern route from June 15 – 30, meeting in Chisinau on the final day. We will be holding events at each stop along the way to highlight the accomplishments of Peace Corps Moldova, to create visibility and excitement for volunteering in general, and to celebrate an active and healthy lifestyle. We will be sleeping under trees, on school room floors, in community centers (or with the pigs, cows, and chickens, for all we know,) as we are relying on the villages to put us up at night and provide us food after the day’s event. It is in an excellent opportunity to broaden America’s visibility to those Moldovans who might not ever leave the intimate world of their small town and for us to get to know those who have been so hospitable and kind to Americans throughout our service here. I am really excited about this (though I am not sure my diva knee will let me walk the entire 200-260 kilometers!)
I am collaborating with Sue and a Health Education PCV to steer the work on this project and have just volunteered to write the proposal for a PCPP grant. Peace Corps Partnership Proposals allow volunteers to seek funding from organizations and individuals in America, on a tax-deductible basis, for projects that build capacity or transfer skills to host country nationals. Though I am not yet entirely sure if our project will meet the strict guidelines, I do hope that if it comes through many of you will consider making even a token contribution. It is a way to create and sustain a bridge between my two lives and for all of you to collaborate with me in making a lasting impact here that will resonate long after I am gone…