Our group got back together this past week.
Champa and I came to Moldova in June 2016 with about 60 other Americans. We shared the rigors of Peace Corps training for two months before swearing in as volunteers and moving to our individual posts across the country.
That was the last time we were all together until Peace Corps reassembled us on Monday for a three-day “mid-service” conference at a hotel in Vadul liu Voda, near the Nistru River.
It was great to see everyone, albeit without some who left during the past year. We compared experiences, swapped stories and spent time with friends who understand personally how transformative this past year has been. Our four program groups had met separately during the year and we’d seen colleagues around town, but not all together.
We feel a bond with everyone despite the differences in our ages, backgrounds and job assignments. Champa and I are living as an older married couple in a small city near the capital, while some other volunteers are fresh out of college and living alone in villages. Members of our group, M31, work with teachers or are assigned to libraries, mayor’s offices, business incubators or other settings.
As we were reminded at the conference, though, we share our mission of service and international friendship. We’ve all taken a break from our American lives to interact every day with our Moldovan host families, work partners, neighbors, students and friends.
Our conference included sessions on community development, helping people with disabilities, service learning, teaching life skills and other topics. We discussed our journeys as volunteers and how to stay healthy and resilient during the year ahead. We had a session on Moldova’s history. Since most of us learned to speak Romanian, we also got a crash course in how to say a few expressions in Russian, which is widely spoken here.
The most inspiring moment for me came during our final session, when the members of my community development group took turns describing their plans for the coming year. They spoke about dance programs, journalism clubs, robotics teams, English clubs, youth projects, women’s groups and much more. Their lists were so long, in fact, that the session ran well past its deadline. I was humbled to be part of such an amazing group of people, whose dedication is reflected in our three other groups as well.
The next time we assemble will be for our “completion of service,” or COS, conference shortly before we return home. In the meantime, we’ll continue interacting on projects, sharing news on our Facebook page and getting to know the volunteers in the group behind us, who just started their own assignments.
It’s an adventure we’re all experiencing together, even when we are apart.