One thing that has changed since I arrived in Moldova two years ago are my expectations and how I think about expectations in general, if at all.
Anyone who comes to Peace Corps and tells you they had ‘no expectations’ is lying, maybe to you or maybe to themselves, or maybe they’re thinking expectations in a fixed, concrete sense, like maybe they didn’t have expectations about their new home or their new language or the new food; but everyone has expectations about something.
I thought I came in with no expectations – tabula rosa- in terms of Moldova and Peace Corps in general, but if I’m being honest, I expected Peace Corps Volunteers to be mainly straight out of college, mostly hippies and all coming to Peace Corps with idealistic dreams of changing the world.
I didn’t know much about Moldova, but I certainly expected to live on a farm, likely without an indoor bathroom, in a community where I would make lifelong friends using my new language, because well, I didn’t think there would be so many English speakers.
I wish that I had written more, either publicly or privately about what my goals and expectations were for work, before I came here, so that now I wouldn’t have to theorize what I might have written. I think that likely had I written professional goals for my time here, there wouldn’t have been many, maybe I would have written about my interest in getting involved in Energy Policy here or working with local government, but other than these kind of abstract interests, I don’t think there would have been much in terms of professional goals.
In the personal category, I would have certainly said I desired to grow as an individual, to learn how to be really on my own, away from family, friends, away from a common language, away from all the comforts – to push myself into a situation that would compel me into personal growth, hopefully in a positive direction (although I don’t know that I ever considered, prior to coming here, that growth could be negative).
My life here over two years has not met almost any of my expectations and I couldn’t be happier about that. I am glad that some of the other Peace Corps Volunteers are Conservatives, most are not fresh graduates and that some of them also left well paid, ‘good’ jobs to come here. I am glad that I live in a city with lots of interested youth, waiting to be engaged – many of whom speak English, with lots of active organizations and open-minded people.
I am glad that I ended up paired with an NGO that helps the elderly, in a Russian area of the country; in a poetic kind of way I feel as if I have the chance to honor my ethnically Russian Grandmom with this work. I could never have imagined that I would start a youth volunteering project that would eventually turn into a National Movement; mostly because before I came here I don’t know that I ever thought BIG enough.
I am glad that I did grow – in confidence and perspective. And I am glad that in the future I know to take my expectations about any new situation for just what they are, ideas based in my wishes for certain results, in a situation I don’t know very much about.