In the grand scheme of things, I have sort of been a nomad all of my life. I grew up in the small town of Viroqua, Wisconsin and consider it my hometown, yet I’ve lived in multiple places (cities, states and even another country prior to Moldova), went to multiple schools in my childhood, and met a multitude of people. No matter what, though, I am a Wisconsin girl at heart. Moldova is surprisingly similar to Wisconsin in scenery, climate and in some ways even lifestyle. I have to admit, this does make me miss home more often than not. Currently, I live and work in a town called Orhei, which is about an hour north of the country’s capital, Chisinau. I am a Community and Organizational Development volunteer working with a local youth center.
1. How did you end up here? In this moment, in this time, in this place?
Since college I had always been interested in doing some sort of volunteer work abroad. It was always a plan put on hold, though, as I was never sure as to exactly where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to accomplish. Nor was I courageous enough, I think. The couple of years prior to making the decision to apply to Peace Corps had been some challenging ones, and knowing that I wasn’t completely happy with what I was doing I felt the time was right to think about and make the decision. So I applied, I went through the process, I asked myself lots of tough personal questions, and feeling satisfied with it all, I said “Yes” when the time came to book that ticket to Moldova.2. What’s your favorite thing about Moldova?
The Moldovan youth that I’ve been able to meet and work with have definitely been the high point of my time in Moldova. They are so open, enthusiastic, and intelligent. They are the ones that will grow and develop Moldova, they just need someone to encourage them and to discuss their ideas with. I also have loved the people who just want to smile and have a conversation with you, no agenda, no expectations… they just want to chat even though you may not ever see them again. Those have been some of the best moments in Moldova. Also, I love a good sarmale and I’ve become a huge fan of potato placinte. I will miss both of those later on, I know. Thankfully, I will take with me a general knowledge of how to make them so I can give them a try at home. Recipes? We don’t need no stinkin’ recipes. 😉
3. What’s your least favorite thing about Moldova?
Depending on the perspective, this can usually change weekly – or at least vacillate between a few different things. Most days, though, I do wish transportation schedules were more regular and easily accessible. That is something I certainly took for granted back home. And rutieras certainly aren’t the most comfortable of transportation options, either.4. A story or lesson from your service?
The most important personal lesson from my service is that I need to be as patient with myself as I usually am with others. Coming in to Peace Corps, you learn quickly that whatever expectations you may have had about where you will be, what you will be doing, and what you will be accomplishing changes. Sometimes pretty drastically. It is sometimes easier to change those specific expectations than it is to change the expectations you have of yourself. Those days will come along (they really will) where you don’t meet those personal expectations and it makes the difficult days even more difficult. I had to learn to let some of that go, both for health reasons and general happiness reasons as it all becomes a cycle that feeds on itself. And some days, that’s still a lesson I’m learning.5. What do you miss most about “home” wherever that may be?
I miss my family and friends the most. I miss having that familiarity, that knowledge that someone “knows” me, how I operate and what I’m capable of doing. On the amenities side of that, I also miss regular, hot, stand-up showers. They are something that usually signaled the start to my day and helped to improve my mood when needed – so not having that here has been a huge transition mentally. I knew that was something I was going to miss greatly before leaving for Peace Corps, but even that prior preparation didn’t prepare me properly. As stated before, I also miss regular transportation and its general ease of use. Granted, I am seriously spoiled living in Orhei where transport into the capital is pretty much every 20 minutes. But to be able to go other places can be difficult and in need of serious planning. And as I’m sure it’s been said a multitude of times, I do miss spicy food. It’s just not something they do here (yet?)…6. Knowing what you know now, would you do it all over again?
If I could do this all over again, I would. But I would certainly like to be armed with the knowledge that I have now. I think I could have made the first few months, if not first year, a lot more productive if I’d been prepared for some of the hurdles and challenges (both personal and professional) that I hadn’t quite expected. Would this be something I would do again after I complete these two years of service? I can’t say that I would. For as eye-opening and enriching as it has been, I feel like I can do the same, if not more, in another capacity.7. Quote or song or picture that sums up your service?
I think there may be too many quotes, songs and pictures that could sum up my service. But for now, the most appropriate for me would be a quote by the author Neil Gaiman: “If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.” It’s something that I have to remind myself of every day.