International agreements are often excruciating — look at how long they’ve been trying in the Middle East — so I’m pleased how smoothly my Moldovan partner and I came to terms on Wednesday.
We started discussions on Tuesday and reached an understanding before noon the next day, just in time to join our fellow Peace Corps trainees and partners for a pizza party.
Peace Corps brought all of us all together in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, to align our plans and expectations over the next two years. After reviewing the history of the Peace Corps and its activities in Moldova, the conference leaders reminded our partners that we are volunteers with a special role: We’ve come to share our skills and perspective, empowering our colleagues and others to blaze their own paths after we leave.
It also reminded the trainees that we need to listen to and learn from our communities. We are here to serve, and our success depends on mutual trust and respect.
These ideals were fundamental to the Peace Corps when I served four decades ago, and they remain so today. My service in Moldova differs in so many ways from what I experienced in Nepal, from the local food to the speed of communications, but the mission is unchanged, still reflecting the original vision of President Kennedy.
My partner at the meeting was Igor Condrea, shown in the top photo with the Romanian version of our agreement. He will be my primary liaison at the Rayon Council, or county government, in Ialoveni, the town near Chisinau where Champa and I will be living. Even though my Romanian language skills are not yet good enough to communicate easily with him, we’ve already begin to form a close relationship. He’s a talented and thoughtful person.
The other trainees in my “community and organizational development” group came to the conference with their partners from across Moldova — mayors, village librarians, NGO leaders and others. Each pair worked together to clarify how the volunteer will learn about his or her post, develop a work schedule and deal with inevitable disappointments.
Together, we discussed how we might use tools such as community mapping, surveys and SWOT analyses to focus on which problems most concern our neighbors. We taped some of our findings on the wall, much as in a U.S. management seminar.
It was a good meeting. I felt like Igor and I came to know each other, laying the groundwork for a successful collaboration. I will now return to my final month of training with even greater motivation, which was already substantial.
In other words, I’ll be busier than ever. If anyone wants to recruit us to help out with the Middle East, though, just post a comment here and I’ll be happy to get back to you.