Tag Archives: Ialoveni

100 Seconds (Video)

More than two years of memories in 100 seconds. Moldova, we will never forget you. Click below for the video; also available on YouTube.

 

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The Long Farewell

So little time left, so many goodbyes.

The past two weeks have been a blur of ceremonies, dinners and get-togethers as we say farewell to our Moldovan and American friends before we depart on Wednesday.

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On Tuesday morning, Ialoveni’s mayor, Sergiu Armașu, joined my colleagues at the library to present Champa and me with certificates and gifts and to thank us on behalf of the city we’ve called home as Peace Corps Volunteers. He and library director Valentina Plamadeala were generous in their remarks, and I was especially moved when two boys from our robotics team (shown above) rose to speak as well. Even though it was shortly after 10 a.m. we toasted the moment with champagne and cake (yet another reason we’ll miss Moldova).

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I’ve already posted on Facebook the amazing portrait our host family gave us at a farewell dinner we held a few days earlier. In addition, our bunica, or grandmother, gave us a gorgeous handmade Moldovan carpet. During the past several days we’ve received other beautiful gifts as well, all of which we are bringing home to remind us of our time here.

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We met with the members of my English conversation class and their families for a farewell party at Casa della Pizza, Ialoveni’s popular pizza restaurant. Champa also met there with her language tutor and then with some of the English teachers from her school. It’s also where we had lunch yesterday with a Peace Corps friend and are meeting tomorrow with several others. After all, Casa della Pizza does serve the best pizza in Moldova.

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We sipped beers and ate mamaliga and friptura on the outdoor verandah of another local restaurant when we said goodbye to “Mr. Tim,” a former Peace Corps Volunteer who stayed in Ialoveni to teach English (shown above). He introduced us to it shortly after we arrived and we became friends. With members of Champa’s Peace Corps group, our farewell party was at The Uptown Cafe, a restaurant in the capital.

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We’ve also been saying goodbye over home-cooked meals, such as one we shared with the family of dna Liuba, the Peace Corps Moldova staff member whom I’ve assisted with communications projects, and the Nepali meal we served the family of dna Ana, the teacher who worked closely with Champa on their memorable project to create costumes for the school’s drama program.

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We’re still not done and, amid all of these celebrations, I’ve also been exchanging goodbye messages with my former Diamond Challenge students, promoting North Carolina’s partnership with Moldova and delivering two presentations to the newest members of Peace Corps Moldova’s “community and organizational development” group, who began their training a few weeks ago. Champa and I have been packing, too.

Each goodbye has been emotional and, collectively, they’ve been draining, not to mention fattening, but they have helped us absorb the reality that we’re leaving this place in which we’ve invested so much of ourselves over the past two years. We’ve taken to heart the advice we heard at our COS conference several weeks ago, to embrace this process of saying goodbye rather than letting our final moments drift away. We’re glad we listened.

Nonetheless, as soon as we get home, we’re going to the gym.

Our Moldovan Mother

The most memorable person we have met in Moldova, and the person we will miss the most after we return home this summer, is the 87-year-old grandmother, or bunica, of our host family.

Nadejda Ciornea inspires us.

a9dce809-8824-46d5-98c1-00ccd229775eShe travels almost every day from our house in Ialoveni to downtown Chișinău, where she sells handicrafts in the outdoor market in the Arts Square. She walks up a steep hill to the bus stop, then boards an overcrowded vehicle before finally arriving near the market. There she sits outdoors on a folding chair, in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. Only rain or a snow storm keep her home.

IMG_7145Watching this small woman shuffle on the road with her cane, or greet customers in the market, never ceases to amaze us. When we ask why she continues to work at her age, she smiles and wags her finger, saying la lucru! (the work). In fact, she says this to us almost every day, teasing us that we need to work as hard as she does.

IMG_2301Every evening I ask her how business went that day. Often she says she earned nimic, or nothing, usually followed by some choice words about Moldova’s faltering economy. Sometimes she smiles and points to the small ledger she carries, where she records her sales. Occasionally she’ll share photos or letters from customers she’s met over the years who befriended her and sent her greetings.

In the evening, we sometimes share a glass of wine and a piece of cake, preceded by her toasting our good health and success. She asks about our family back home and what we did that day, always with a twinkle in her eye and a quick laugh.

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Bunica’s daughter, Nina, is officially our “host mother,” and we’ve become very close to her, her husband Mihai and the rest of the Bordei family. Since we are a few years older than Nina, however, it’s Bunica who has felt like a mother while we’ve been in Moldova. Champa and I both lost our own mothers years ago. We never expected to find another here on this side of the world.

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In the years ahead, whenever we feel like complaining about getting old, we will remember Bunica wagging her finger and saying la lucru!  She has shown us how to age gracefully, embracing every day with what Moldovans call a suflet mare — a big soul.

Bunica said to me the other day that she will miss the two of us a lot after we depart in July. We will miss her even more.

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Racing to the Finish

I’m running at full speed as we approach the finish line for our Peace Corps service in Moldova.

Instead of slowing down and starting to pack, I’ve been tackling projects related to my expertise back home that I’ve wanted to pursue since before we arrived here two years ago. 

Bow at News-Writing Class

On Saturday, I’ll teach the second of two classes at the American Language Center in Buiucani, Chișinău. I opened the first one, on news writing, this past Saturday with a dramatic staged “fight” and “heart attack,” followed by asking the students to write a short news story about what they just witnessed. (See the video below.) It was a fun way to introduce them to journalistic concepts such as “the 5 W’s” and the “inverted pyramid” approach of opening a news story with the most essential information.

My second class at the center will be about how to write an opinion article that can touch people’s hearts and change their minds.

IMG_3148In a couple of weeks, I’ll teach a workshop at Moldova State University, discussing with some of their top faculty researchers how they might better explain their work to the public and attract the interest of journalists.

I’ve taught versions of all three sessions many times before and online, training academics and others in the United States how to reach out to citizens and journalists. In recent years, I modified the training to emphasize the importance of using social media to reach audiences directly.

I’m looking forward to discussing all of this here in Moldova, where “research communications” barely exists and “opinion writing” occurs in a very different context.

Simultaneously, I’ve been spending lots of time helping Peace Corps Moldova prepare a big celebration for its 25th anniversary. I’m working with Liuba Chitaev and others on the staff to write scripts, edit videos and pull together a memorable program.

IMG_3186I’ve also worked recently on Orașul Meu, the music video about our host city, Ialoveni, that local singer Laura Bodorin and I produced and released earlier this month. The video has now been viewed more than 7,500 times and shared by more than 200 people on Facebook. Laura and I were recently interviewed by television reporter Cătălina Russu, whose story about the video should air soon. (That’s Laura in the middle of the photo, Cătălina on the right.)

Meanwhile, Champa and I are wading through a long “to do” list for our departure, everything from arranging to reactivate our cell phones and homeowners insurance back home to receiving our final medical and dental checkups here, which we’ll do on Monday. We both need to fill out multiple reports and forms before Peace Corps Moldova will let us ring the bell that symbolizes successful completion of service.

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All of this is in addition to my usual activities at the Ialoveni library, such as working with our “Book Worms” robotics group, shown here in their new team shirts. Two of them, Mihai and Victor, recently spoke about the group at a regional conference for Moldovan youth leaders, shown below.

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I’m not complaining. I view every remaining day of my Peace Corps service as precious, so I want to do as much as possible before we leave. I’ve probably taken on too much, but there will be time to rest later. No matter how fast or slow I run, the finish line keeps getting closer.

 

Laminated Memories

I got my latest certificate on Friday, an especially nice one from our city’s mayor, Sergiu Armașu. He gave it to me during an event honoring library projects, librarians and volunteers from across the district. Our library in Ialoveni, the district capital, hosted the program.

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IMG_8995Certificates and diplomas are a big deal here in Moldova. They are awarded at sporting competitions, school ceremonies and other events. A certificate typically includes the official stamp of the organization and may be laminated.

Moldovans start collecting certificates as students. By the time they graduate from high school, they often have a thick folder of them, which they may proudly show to you.

This seemed strange to me at first. During our Peace Corps training, the local librarian arranged for us to meet some kids in our village. She asked one of the girls, a talented artist, to show us her certificates from painting competitions. The girl explained the certificates one by one.

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As I thought about her later that evening, I recalled the many trophies and medals my two sons accumulated from their sports teams, science fairs and other activities. Their trophies filled two large boxes when we cleaned out our house before joining the Peace Corps. I also had my own stash of certificates, diplomas and congratulatory letters.

IMG_1276In other words, as the walls of many American doctors’ offices make clear, our traditions are similar in many ways. Here in Moldova, though, certificates are way more popular, not to mention cheaper, than sports trophies. Kids here sometimes also receive medals, like the boys on our robotics team shown below.IMG_0968

Last month, before Champa’s school held its big celebration of its new drama costumes, we needed to produce nearly 30 certificates to give to the teachers, students and parents who assisted the project. We also needed certificates for my partners in our library’s Bebeteca project. I was able to laminate all of these certificates with a machine at the Peace Corps office, which has undoubtedly been put to good use over the years.

img_1392.jpgCertificate ceremonies in Moldova are usually filled with pride and appreciation. The speeches are heartfelt, the smiles are genuine and the certificates themselves are lovely. The moment is always captured with a poza — a pose for the camera.IMG_7617

After they receive a certificate, Moldovans may use it to prove their eligibility to receive a job promotion or a raise in salary, or to apply for a new position. More often, they hold onto it as a souvenir of a memorable activity.

When I told a Moldovan friend what I planned to write in this article, she laughed and said, “I don’t want a certificate. Give me some cash.” She had a point, just as one might reasonably ask whether Moldova’s teachers would be better off receiving fewer flowers and bigger paychecks. As a foreign visitor, these questions are not for me to answer. I can only say I have come to enjoy these certificate ceremonies as a distinctive part of Moldova’s culture.

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Champa and I now have our own folder of certificates, which we look forward to bringing home to America with us. They’ll be laminated memories of our time here.

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