Tag Archives: criuleni

Durham in Moldova


Duke Chapel, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the American Tobacco Campus are among the destinations I’ll be featuring today.

Wait, you’re thinking, isn’t this blog about our experiences as “not exactly retired” Peace Corps volunteers in Eastern Europe?

Yes, exactly. On Thursday, we handed out souvenir postcards of Durham, N.C., as prizes for students competing in geography quizzes we held during two presentations we gave in the town of Criuleni. Watching them react to the Durham bull and other landmarks from back home was an experience we won’t forget.

Who wants to answer the geography question and win a postcard from Durham, N.C.?

My friends at the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau gave me the cards before Champa and I left to join the Peace Corps last spring. Thanks anew to Shelly Green (@DCVBPrez) and her colleagues for helping us show off our home town with people we’ve met in Moldova. (Durham! Fresh Daily with great restaurants, arts and entertainment!)

As I’ve written before, North Carolina has a special relationship with Moldova. Just in my group, we have volunteers from Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh and, of course, Durham.

Champa and I went to Criuleni to help commemorate Peace Corps Week, the annual celebration of  President Kennedy’s founding of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. We joined other volunteers and country director Tracey Hébert-Seck in speaking at a week-long series of events organized by volunteers Chris Flowers and Rebecca Lehman. Further to the south, in Causeni, volunteer Anne Reed and her colleagues are planning a big event on Saturday to celebrate Peace Corps Week and International Women’s Month.

img_2938In our two presentations, Champa and I highlighted Peace Corps activities around the world. Our quizzes challenged the students to match photographs of Peace Corps volunteers with the countries where they served. In the middle photo of the three-photo strip above, for example, the boy is guessing which Peace Corps photos came from Albania, China or Swaziland. We also showed a video of our 2015 trip to Nepal and this video featuring people from 156 countries joining together to sing “All You Need Is Love.”

I don’t know whether Moldovan tourists will now start arriving in droves in the Bull City. But if they do, I’m sure they’ll enjoy themselves, whether they watch a show at DPAC, an exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art, the Hayti Heritage Center, the weekly farmers’ market or a local beer at Fullsteam. After all, I have the postcards to prove it.


My New Laptop Bag


How do you like my new Toorbinka laptop bag?

I bought it from the guy standing next to me in the photo, at his small factory. The bag has a padded compartment, zippered pockets and a carrying strap. I bought it for 350 Moldovan lei — less than $18.

img_0474Dumitru Guzun and his partner opened the factory last year above a market in the town of Criuleni. My Peace Corps group stopped by for a look on Monday afternoon.

The company’s main business is denim jeans, sold under the brand name DAOS. Several of my fellow volunteers bought a pair, for the sales price of about $13 each. I wanted a pair, too, but they were out of my size.

img_0479As Dumitru showed us around, his eight employees barely looked up from their sewing machines and other duties. They were racing to fill an order. The company is doing well but, as Moldova’s first jeans brand, it faces intense global competition. It recently turned to a new Moldovan crowd-funding site to try to raise capital for new equipment and products. Dumitru also hopes to open a retail shop in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, 27 miles away.


I hope he succeeds. As I’ve written previously, it’s tough to be an entrepreneur in Moldova, but people like Dumitru and his team are giving it a shot. They’re creating new jobs and showing it’s possible for companies to succeed here.

If people ask about my new bag when I return from two weeks of language training to my job on Monday, they’ll probably be surprised when I tell them it was manufactured not in China, not in America, but in Moldova. And when Dumitru and his team open a shop in Chisinau, I plan to be among their first customers. I still want those jeans.