Moving Beyond the Checklist

Take your time.

That’s what Peace Corps staff told us during training: Learn about your community, form relationships, win trust. If you do that, your projects and work agenda will emerge naturally.

They were right, of course. But I’ve had trouble letting go of old habits. I keep checking my cell phone for messages. I don’t go home until I’ve completed every item on my mental “to do” list.

Checking the time on Thursday morning before entering my office, in the building behind me.

Back when I was at the university, I used to advise new communications employees to meet people and get the lay of the land before they rushed off to produce their articles and websites. You’ll be busy soon enough, I told them. Soon enough, they were.

During our training here, we were told essentially the same thing. You’d think I would have internalized the message. Yet, although I’ve been actively meeting people, attending events and learning about my new surroundings, I can’t get the checklist out of my head.

Champa finds this amusing. “I thought you were ‘not exactly retired,’ ” she told me.

She’s right, too, of course. My new life is not as hectic as my old one, but it’s rich and productive, like those of so many of the other volunteers here. On Wednesday, I had a great chat with the president of the raion council, or county government, where I work. He’s an impressive and thoughtful man, working long hours for little pay to serve his community. After I got back to my office, a colleague dropped by to tell me about a local archaeological project that needs support, leading me to spend time online exploring possible funding sources.

In my inbox was a message from a North Carolina State University expert on grapes and wine production. I’d written her to ask if she might have any training materials to share with a colleague here. It turns out she visited Moldova not long ago and has an entire website.

Here’s my desk. Well, actually it’s my colleague’s desk. I’ve been using it while he’s been on vacation.

I got another message from the communications director of Dreamups, the local entrepreneurial hub I wrote about in my last post, setting up a follow-up discussion for us to share ideas about how they might reach out to the international news media.

A Peace Corps colleague contacted me, too, to answer some questions I had about an upcoming “Let Girls Learn” conference.

On my way home, I went to the local telephone store to upgrade my wifi account and to the grocery story to buy food for dinner. Champa and I splurged by buying several flaky  placintas — cherry-filled for breakfast, cheese-filled for lunch. The store has a plate for each kind, including one whose name we didn’t recognize. I asked the clerk whether she knew the word in English. “Halloween,” she said, which we eventually understood to mean “pumpkin.”

When you add it up, it was a rewarding day, even before I studied Romanian after dinner.

Starting on Monday, I’ll reunite with my training group for two more weeks. I’m expecting the staff to remind us anew to be patient and have faith in the process.

Once again, they’ll be right. This time, I plan to pay closer attention. Really. I may even put a reminder in my electronic calendar.


3 thoughts on “Moving Beyond the Checklist”

  1. David I was very touched by your latest post…so personal and so insightful and, for me, quite uplifting. It’s that damn wristwatch and ceaseless demands of the “to do” list which I wish I could more successfully shake. I’m much too old for that kind of life. I have reduced the “to do” amount on my list, but I still want to accomplish more than I can comfortably handle…given that everything takes so much longer to do. What I found so uplifting were the satisfactions you experienced in the people you connected with (as well as the pastries) inside as well as outside Moldova. You and Champa are so wonderful and so admirable. Marv and I love you. Charlotte

    Liked by 1 person

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