My Dad visited me two weeks ago, (June 3rd through 7th) for a brief but busy three days. I’m so grateful he made the long trip to experience some of my life in Moldova. He braved many things PCVs deal with routinely here: walking around town during the hottest part of the day, dealing with the sidewalks and roads here and all their potholes, uncomfortable rutiera rides and he also got to see a lot of the perks of the job – meeting lots of my fellow PCVs and some of my Moldovan friends.
Below we have a guest blog post written by my father. Here is his take on the trip…
The four of us – Leah, her brother Max, my friend Louise, and me (Dad ) – arrived on Czech Air through Bucharest from Prague. Before leaving Moldova Leah’s foot had been injured on PC duty playing too hard with younger kids. After seeking PC medical authorization and seeing a doctor in Prague, the foot was recuperating. Leah had devised a new shopping therapy apparently demanded by Prague’s plenitude of available stuff. It was already the evening hour on 3 June so the Rutiera we got on at the airport wasn’t filled with chickens, goats, pungent spices, vegetables, sweat or crowds of passengers. The ride to the apartment that Paden (Leah’s boyfriend) had recently rented was comfortable and smooth. Walking on the rough, craggy sidewalks to the apartment was anything but that. It was obvious why Leah had asked me to bring 3 pair of new walking and running shoes to replace her tattered pairs.
The apartment we stayed in was near the top of a crumbling, former soviet style cinder block multi storied building that reminded me of my stay in Bulgaria during the Cold War. (Quite likely the buildings there and here were built around the same time and with the same designer.) It happened that Leah had recently obtained her own apartment in Balti in a similar aging block building (but with a much better kept interior ).
The first night we arrived, Leah arranged a dinner with a number of other PCVs who had come into Chisinau to receive and meet the new group of incoming volunteers. The camaraderie and warmth at the table was noticeable. It was similar at the next place where a group had assembled for a surprise birthday party for Tommy (another PCV). After some conversation and catching up with Max (a PCV) whom I had met in Philadelphia when Leah’s cohort was processed for travel to Moldova, it was time for the older folks to find sleep. Leah lead us back and returned to lead Max (her brother) further into the dark. When Louise and I awoke the next morning, Leah, Paden , and Max were still in deep sleep, where they remained until time to go to the reception at PC HQ.
The Chisinau PC office was crowded with seasoned mentors preparing to receive and begin developing the newcomers. There was an atmosphere of constructive energy and impending activity as Leah introduced again to those whom we had met the night before and other members of her volunteer cohort group. Leah guided us to lunch and great coffee at Tucano, easily a match for any similar place in the US or Europe. Through the rest of that day with Leah and Max out front, Paden courteously assumed rear guard and fielded all sorts of questions as Louise and I set the real pace over the rough, feet racking sidewalk terrain. On our second full day, after strolling earlier through the market and park we met Leah and Paden at the University (ASEM) where the incoming members began their briefings and matching. We watched, contemplated and even speculated about the expectations, disappointments and satisfactions of this quite varied in every category – gender, ethnicity, age, physicality, etc – bunch of men and women. Maybe when we visit Leah again we can learn what happened after arrival, during that following year of molding, building and changing.
On the afternoon of our third day, June 5th, a private car took us to Balti. Nothing Leah had said could have adequately described the similarity of the potholed, cratered major national road to the Chisinau sidewalks or comparatively to the back streets of Washington D.C. before they fixed their worst 9,000 holes. However, the road in the more affluent and wine area outside Chisinau was as well maintained as any we had driven in Western Europe.
Leah’s apartment was surprisingly, nice and Max may be envious given his living accommodations in NY. That evening in Balti, we met Leah’s friends and site mates David and Matt, for dinner at a traditional Moldovan restaurant; where we ate fried fish with, Mamaliga which was served with sour cream, homemade cheese (brinza) and garlic in oil (mosdei).
Matt and David are finishing their duty as PCVs but staying in Moldova, to begin an entrepreneurial enterprise that entailed negotiating and altering the minefield of typical Moldovan business development. They generously answered a slew of those questions for which there were answers. It seemed apparent that they understood and prepared for their undertaking and brought necessary and sufficient personal capital to their venture. Success seemed quite likely to follow despite the booby traps and mines.
The following day, we saw Leah’s Offices, met her counterparts, ate some candy and had long conversations with a number of her Moldovan friends. By far the most rewarding and enjoyable part of the trip , whether Worms, Prague, Bratislava, Chisinau or Dubrovnik, was the time in Balti learning of and about Leah’s friends and companion volunteers. Everyone who Leah met on the street, hurried, bashful, anxious about language or not, took a moment to greet us and dwell few moments with Leah. We left Balti to sleep in Chisinau before departure.
Early on 7 Jun Air Serbia took us towards Dubrovnik. As the vibrant green planted fields passed beneath the plane, I was reminded that a nation’s true wealth is in its people. The trip to Moldova showed me our nation’s rich capital asset in its PCVs employed in the hopeful task of developing the future richness of Moldova’s obviously quite ready, willing and able young men and women.