Tag Archives: North Carolina

North Carolina’s Partner

Kate Hughey usually teaches fourth graders in Charlotte, N.C., but on Monday she taught a crowded room of English teachers in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. She described her collaborations with fellow teachers on student projects that blend multiple subjects and demonstrated how to make videos easily with homemade “green screens.”

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“We don’t do cross-disciplinary projects in Moldova, so this is really interesting for us. It’s a model we can adapt for our situation,” said Daniela Munca-Aftenev, president of the Academy for Innovation and Change through Education (top photo, left), which hosted the talk at Biblioteca Hasdeu along the city’s main boulevard.

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It was Kate’s first day in a week of activities in Moldova and the latest in a partnership that has linked North Carolina and this East European nation since 1999.

IMG_3709I was invited because I recently assisted the partnership as it prepared to ship hundreds of English-language books to Moldova with two NGOs. I worked with Bob Gingrich, Peace Corps Moldova’s director of management and operations and a fellow North Carolinian (left in photo), who will soon distribute the books among PCVs to share with their host communities.

IMG_3827I ate lunch with Kate before her talk so she could tell me more about the partnership and I could answer some of her questions about Moldova, which she is visiting for the first time, thanks to a grant from World Affairs Council of Charlotte. Kate, who teaches at Charlotte Latin School, is among the pioneers of a school-to-school program that connects teachers and students in Moldova and North Carolina. Her students recently collected 50 boxes of reading books for schools here.

IMG_3778Also arriving here this past weekend was Willow Stone, a student from Clayton High School who will live with a Moldovan host family and study Russian.

Elaine Marshall, North Carolina’s secretary of state, has guided the partnership as it has expanded beyond its initial collaboration between the N.C. National Guard and the Defense Forces of Moldova to include private firms, civic organizations, non-profit agencies and individuals, with planning committees in both North Carolina and Moldova.

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Its projects have ranged from education to medicine, culture and the economy. The Greensboro Jewish Federation assisted a Moldovan Jewish community. Officers of the U.S. Armed Forces helped build a playground for the children of Moldovan military families. The University of North Carolina School of Dentistry sent teams to assist an orphanage. My former colleagues at Duke University and others have sent medical supplies. When I tried to help someone here find information for the local wine industry, an expert from North Carolina State University responded to help us.

The exchanges have gone in the other direction as well, with Moldovans spending time at schools, universities, companies and other institutions in North Carolina.

Kate will be giving several presentations this week, visiting the Ministry of Education and touring some of Moldova’s touristic sites. IMG_3784The Moldovans who attended on Monday picked up not only new teaching ideas but also armloads of free books to bring back to their schools. Some of them have also interacted over the years with Peace Corps Moldova’s English Education program, in which Champa has served.

The two of us have only a week left in Peace Corps Moldova, where we’ve served alongside volunteers from Asheville, Charlotte, Boone, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Gastonia, Rocky Mount and other parts of our state. We look forward to working with the partnership ourselves after we return to our home in Durham.

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Mulling What’s Next

If you’re an older American looking to continue pursuing a life of service and adventure after spending two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you can find lots of helpful resources online.

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I know because I’ve been searching through them myself as Champa and I enter the final lap of our time in Moldova. Just like our younger colleagues, we’re thinking about what we’ll do after ringing the traditional farewell bell here this summer. While many of them have been checking out graduate schools or possible jobs, though, we’ve been looking for ideas that better fit our stage of life.

Let me share some of what I’ve found:Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.31.05 PM

Senior Nomads, a blog by retired Seattle couple Debbie and Michael Campbell, chronicles their full-time travels since 2013, staying in Airbnbs while visiting more than 68 countries. As Debbie noted in a recent post, they now spend money on airfares, Airbnbs and travel insurance instead of a home. They’ve been able to spend lots of time every year with their children and grandchildren and to keep in touch with friends while pursuing a life that, at least to me, feels a lot more interesting than playing golf every day.Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.31.28 PM

Lynne Martin has been pursuing similar adventures with her husband Tim, which she describes  on her website, Home Free Adventures. Lynne’s book, Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World, inspired us several years ago when we were contemplating leaving the conventional workplace to become “not exactly retired” ourselves

There are numerous websites devoted to “senior travel,” each with its own niche. TripAdvisor compiled some of the best in its article 20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millenials. (Their title, not mine.) If you’re looking for practical tips, also check out Rick Steves’ article about Savvy Senior Travelers. If you’re dreaming of becoming a travel writer yourself, you’ll find lots of advice online.

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Other sites offers leads about short- or longer-term employment overseas. Transitions Abroad is a good one for English teachers. Modern-Day Nomads highlights “top travel jobs & inspiration for globetrekking, creative professionals.” (It hasn’t been updated recently but its listings for November included one for a seasonal sous chef at Denali National Park.)

Champa and I want to continue providing service after Peace Corps. I’ve been finding new inspiration for this at Encore.org, which promotes “second acts for the greater good.” I’m thinking now about how I can best apply my own skills to make a similar impact, whether back home in Durham or more broadly. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.33.37 PMMy niece, Juliana, will be enrolling this fall at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, with a special interest in social entrepreneurship; I may need to borrow some of her course materials.

Good online resources exist to help older Americans find volunteer opportunities. HandsOn Triangle serves our North Carolina community. Similar sites exist elsewhere. AARP’s Create the Good serves older volunteers nationwide. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.34.56 PMThere are also excellent organizations and websites aimed at older volunteers, such as the Executive Service Corps and Reserve. Most seek to match older Americans with positions that make good use of their particular skills.

I regularly find interesting articles on Next Avenue and from journalists such as Richard Eisenberg and Kerry Hannon who cover retirement issues. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.35.33 PMMy favorite writer covering this field is Nancy Collamer (my sister), whose “My Lifestyle Career” site and recent 100 Great Second-Act Career Resources cover many of the issues I’ve discussed here, as well as “flexible gigs,” online courses for seniors and resources for everyone from foodies to pet lovers.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 9.36.14 PMFor the next five months, Champa and I will remain focused on the rest of our Peace Corps service. Here, too, plentiful online resources exist to motivate us. Not long ago, one RPCV group selected the 8 Best Blogs to Follow About Peace Corps, a list that included the blog you’re reading now. IMG_2013(Thanks, Friends & RPCVs of Guyana!)

Champa and I are most looking forward to taking a break and spending time with our family and friends after being away for so long. We really miss them, as you can tell from these photos we took during our trip home last summer. Simultaneously, we know we will eventually catch our breath and get serious about “what’s next?”

If anyone reading this has suggestions or wants to share something from their own lives, we’ll read your comments with interest — and perhaps others will, too.

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My Two Homes

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On Monday, the library where I work in Ialoveni, Moldova unveiled an exhibit about North Carolina — the home state of “Domnul David” and “Doamna Champa.”

The exhibit features brochures about the Wright Brothers monument in Kitty Hawk, the Biltmore mansion in Asheville, the NASCAR museum in Charlotte and attractions across the Triangle. It also offers information about where to taste wine, go fishing or ride a hot-air balloon in North Carolina.

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Before we came to Moldova with the Peace Corps, I gathered these brochures at the North Carolina tourism office on Route 85, just south of the Virginia border. I brought them with me and now finally put them to good use. As I described in an earlier post, Champa and I have also shared souvenir postcards about Durham.

My library colleague, Doamna Stella, and her daughter did a great job of arranging the new exhibit, which is in the center of the library. It’s the latest example of the close ties between Moldova and Carolina du Nord, two places I’m proud to call home.

 

 

Durham in Moldova

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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.

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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.

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Carolina du Nord

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Duke and UNC will compete again on Thursday evening in college basketball’s greatest rivalry, so it’s a good day to share my answer to anyone in Moldova who asks where Champa and I live in the United States: “Carolina du Nord” (Cair-o-LEE-na du nord).

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-7-51-52-amFive other members of my Peace Corps group also call North Carolina home. As you can see in the top photo, we hail from Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Durham and Raleigh. From the left, we’re Tim Crowley, Alex Bostian, Tom Harvey, Reggie Gravely, myself, Champa and Jim Fletcher. The six of us are now working as volunteers across Moldova.

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To give you a sense of scale, North Carolina (one of 50 U.S. states) is four times larger than Moldova, with roughly three times as many people.

North Carolina is famous for its barbecue; Moldova is known for its wine; North Carolina had Andy Griffith. Moldova has Andy’s Pizza. North Carolina produced the basketball star Stephen Curry;  Moldova’s national hero is Stephan cel Mare. On and on it goes.

It’s no wonder Moldovans and Tarheels have formed close ties. For more than 20 years, the N.C. Army National Guard has been helping to modernize Moldova’s military and police, screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-10-10-13-amproviding training in anti-terrorism, cyber defense, emergency medicine and other areas. In 1999, North Carolina established an official partnership with Moldova, which now includes the efforts of numerous private firms, civic organizations and nonprofit agencies. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who oversees the partnership, has visited Moldova at least 10 times.

North Carolinians have built playgrounds and a medical clinic, trained medical personnel and provided computers in Moldova. They’ve hosted more than 250 Moldovan farmers and hundreds of students at Southeastern Community College. UNC-Chapel Hill offers online education assistance. NC State pairs grade-school classrooms with Moldovan counterparts.

A personal story: When I contacted the NC State agricultural extension service  to see if they had any information that might help wine growers in my district, they responded by telling me about one of their professors who had just returned from Moldova to provide workshops on the subject.

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North Carolina members of our Peace Corps Moldova group gathered at our swearing-in ceremony last summer. From left, Tom Harvey (Charlotte), Alex Bostian (Boone), Tim Crowley (Asheville), Reggie Gravely (Winston-Salem), Champa Jarmul (Durham), Jim Fletcher (Raleigh) and David Jarmul (Durham)

North Carolina’s most visible presence in Moldova is its Peace Corps volunteers, who are teaching in schools, working with local governments and libraries and promoting small business efforts. screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-7-57-52-amOur ranks also include Mark Gilchrist, left, a volunteer in the group ahead of us. An article by Mark, who previously worked for the News Reporter in Columbus County, describes the collaboration in greater detail. Mark also produces an excellent blog and newsletter.

Another fellow volunteer and blogger, Rebecca Lehman, recently hosted a program that featured the many ties between North Carolina and Moldova. She produced the chart at the top of this post. Curiously, Rebecca herself came to Moldova from Cincinnati. She’s a remarkably nice person for someone who hails from a state with the audacity to call itself the birthplace of aviation just because the Wright Brothers came from Dayton.

The true home of aviation, of course, is Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers first rose into the sky. Here in Moldova, regardless of which team we’re cheering for tonight, and despite all of the political turmoil of the past couple of years, we’re proud to call it our home, too.

#NCSecState

#NCNationalGuard