As soon as I decided to accept my Peace Corps nomination, my mom made it clear she wanted to take a trip before I left; we debated Vegas, Florida and a few other locales, but decided on New York. It seemed like fate that as we began to plan I discovered the only Moldovan restaurant in the US (I could be wrong – this is just what Google has told me) is located in Brooklyn. So we embarked on a weekend of hitting an enormous number of tourist spots around the city (see pictures above) and I got a chance to see my birthright roommates, both of whom live in the city. I could give you the itineraries of our days there, my thoughts and impressions of all the places we went and things we did, but while seeing the city was great, that wasn’t the heart of the trip.
The energy of New York is almost overwhelming, it’s energizing – you truly feel not only like you’re in the city that never sleeps, but that maybe you don’t need to either. My mom made the point that there was something that felt dehumanizing about being in the constant crush of people in NYC, and while I didn’t feel that in our four days there, I understood what she meant. This idea of community, it’s something that began to hit home in college. Going to a smaller school, I realized I loved the feeling of being within a bubble of shared experiences, and by talking to friends at larger schools I realized how hard they had to fight to create that community. After I graduated, I went home and had to work to create a new community of friends in Washington; outside of high school and college friends. The thing about a community is, I think wherever you go, if you want to create a community, you can.
In my planning for this trip I knew that clocking quality time with my roommates was key and since the Moldovan restaurant was close to one of their house’s, I invited her to join my mother and me for dinner there. We navigated the subway ride to Brooklyn and made it to the restaurant. It was pretty empty when we got there, but gradually started to fill up. We were the only table not speaking Russian and when we told the waiter that I was heading to Moldova, he lit up. He told us about the two Peace Corps volunteers who had stayed with his family when he was a child there, put on a slide show playing pictures from Moldova and answered all of our questions.
The waiter even told my mom that Transnistria wasn’t as unsafe as the wild west she’d been reading about and that she’d forbidden me to visit. The conversation regarding me going or not going to Transnistria prompted the greatest quote of the weekend from my mom; “Leah, your dad may think he’s Liam Neeson but he’s not.” (A great Taken movie reference — nice pull mom.)
Overall the dinner was great, not just how friendly, welcoming and educational the owner was about his country of birth, but also the food was great. (Fears assuaged.)
The best part of the weekend was the chance to spend time with my mom, to share this experience with her. I know a lot of my fears about leaving are based in worst case scenarios, but regardless of any of these I’m not going to get to spend much time physically with my family over those 27 months so these moments are even more precious to me. So, let me close this post with a thank you to my mother – a thank you for this trip to New York, a thank you for dealing with my crankiness, my attitude, for listening to my incessant rambling, for offering advice, insight and laughter, for being the voice of reason I so often need, for reminding me to take a deep breath and for a million other things she does on a daily basis – I love you so much Mom.