Exactly one year ago, I walked away from a great job to explore a new life of adventure and service. On Thursday, Champa and I marked this anniversary with a big ceremony, although it wasn’t just for us. Rather, we and the other Peace Corps trainees were all taken to a parking lot, blindfolded and guided one by one to spots on a giant chalk map of Moldova.
We were then handed envelopes and told to remove our blindfolds and look at the name of the village or city on our envelope, which corresponded to where we stood on the map.
The name on the envelopes for Champa and me was Ialoveni (pronounced Yah-lo-ven). It’s a big town close to Chisinau, not far from our training sites. After Champa and I finish our training and swear in on July 29, it’s where we’ll be living.
We and the other trainees had been wondering for weeks where we’d be posted. Now we know. Champa and I couldn’t be happier at both our location and job assignments. We’ll be traveling to Ialoveni this weekend to meet our host family and respective work partners before returning to our current villages for a month to finish our training.
Thursday’s announcement was the culmination of an extraordinary year for us. This past July, just a week after I left Duke University, Champa and I took an 11,000-mile road trip around the United States. We saw up close what an amazing country we have, from the badlands of South Dakota to the bayous of Louisiana. After that, we spent nearly two months in Nepal, visiting our family there and welcoming ten members of our American family for an unforgettable group trip in the Himalayas. (See my earlier posts for the details.)
Now, for the past month, we’ve been immersed in our most challenging and rewarding trip of all, our pending service as Peace Corps volunteers in Moldova.
At my group’s tech class on Tuesday, we discussed how Moldovans and Americans differ. One of the charts we filled out, shown in the photo, compared each culture’s tolerance for risk. The green tags represent Moldovans; the red tags represent Americans. As you can see, our group saw Americans as being more willing to take chances in life.
That’s been true for Champa and me this past year. I wouldn’t exactly use the photo’s words, “risk tolerance,” to describe our adventure. Rather, we’ve learned to let go of our old life with growing faith that the world will reward us if we open our eyes and hearts to new experiences. It’s been a life-changing journey, one that’s exceeded our greatest hopes.
The two years we expect to live in Ialoveni will be twice as long as our initial year of being “not exactly retired.” Based on what’s happened so far, and on how much we already love Moldova, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead.