Last week, my sight mate Robyn and I, decided to take a walk over to Green Hills, a grocery store on the outskirts of town, that we’d never been to before. When we found Brie cheese and delicious looking garlic bread we immediately decided to have a late afternoon picnic. We took our goodies and sat on a bench at the end of the tree-lined promenade by the market.
After a few minutes sitting there, it became obvious that the children across the way were watching us and debating whether or not to come speak to us. Eventually, one of the girls, ventured closer and I spoke to her in Romanian, she responded in english. We spent the better part of the next hour speaking to the three girls and the friends they called over to meet us. The girls understood some Romanian, but none spoke it and their english seemed to be limited to a few basic greetings, so that left the majority of the conversation to Robyn, who speaks Russian.
This language gap between me and them also lead to a few funny moments, since they didn’t seem to grasp that I couldn’t understand Russian. When they asked us (in Russian) if we liked Balti, Robyn was responding and I failed to, the lead girl turned to the others and said “that one doesn’t.” Overall the girls were friendly, inviting us to their school’s classes the following day, telling us about their hobbies and how they hoped to move out of Balti.
Talking with these girls is the perfect example of the language challenges that exist in Moldova. You have several children, all around ten, in a wealthier area of the second largest city in the country, who speak less Romanian than english. The girls also being so open about their desire to leave Moldova, is not an uncommon sentiment here.
Beyond this moment highlighting these things about Moldova, it is a perfect example of the PCVs role as mini-diplomats. In the act that established the Peace Corps, the program’s purpose is defined as follows:
To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.
As Peace Corps Volunteers our mission is to spread peace, friendship and to provide technical assistance. While most of our trainings and projects we discuss involve our technical skills and work, I am enjoying embracing the little moments of spreading peace and friendship and promoting a better understanding of Americans.