This weekend I went on a visit to my future site, where I will be living and working starting in August. Sunday morning I left Stauceni, to meet my future site mate Barbara to brave the trip together. We met at a bus stop outside Chisinau to head to the station (Gard de Nord) where the Rutiera (mini-bus) to Balti leaves from. We had no problem finding the bus or buying a ticket, but as soon as we got on the bus we saw it was packed. We grabbed the last two seats, Barbara at the front, right by the door and me at the back in between three teenage boys, who had head phones in and seemed not to notice me, other than looking curiously over at my notebook as I spent the ride studying Romanian phrases and questions for the meetings with my new co-workers and host family.
The trip was smooth, in the sense that I arrived in Balti just fine and in just over two hours – even with lots of stops to take on new passengers and let off others along the way – but I got a chance to experience the state of the highways here and let’s just say it’s a good thing I don’t get car sick (it was a bit of a bumpy ride).
I was met at the train station by my future co-worker Anna and someone from the NGO we share an office with, named Caterina, both of whom were not only welcoming but also spoke english! We went immediately to see the offices and put my bags down, before beginning our mini-tour of Balti. I could (and I’m sure will over the my two years living in Balti) devote several posts to just the downtown area of Balti, but for now let me give you the highlights of the tour that first day.
The downtown area, which is where I will be living is a walking section of the city divided by a beautiful tree-lined promenade and a large square. Next to the square on one side is a park and on the other is the Primeria (mayor’s office) and the largest statue of Stefan Cel Mare (I know I owe you all a post soon explaining his significance here) in Moldova.
There is also a WWII tank, set up on pedestal, facing the square, with the number 720 on it. Caterina and Anna both made a point to tell me I needed to know that number because I would get asked it and today someone did ask and was impressed that I knew it – it seems a way of showing you are a true resident of Balti. We also toured the local University, which is where my host mom’s office is and then headed over to my house for a mini-masa (large celebratory dinner).
After dinner that night I went to meet with the other volunteers who will be my future site mates in Balti – Robyn who will be teaching English at a local Russian high school, Barbara who will be working with a group promoting women in business and David and Matt who are both PCV’s currently living in Balti (they’ve been here for the last year).
My host mom insisted on taking me to get wine and cheese at a really pretty little french place near our house – Le Bistro de Paris – which was great not just because the wine and cheese were good (I’ve missed brie) but also because we talked for almost two hours which is impressive because she knows even less English than I do Romanian.
The next day I met my partner, Natalia, the Director of the NGO, CasMed, discussed what my role would be in the organization, developed a three-month plan and shadowed her on a visit to a neighboring Raion. The visit to Balti’s was so much better than anything I could have hoped for and I feel so positive about living and working there.