Tag Archives: Peace Corps

Two Talks in Durham

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Champa and I are coming home for a short vacation with our family. While we’re in Durham, we will be giving two presentations about our Peace Corps experience:

  • A private talk for Duke University friends at 4 p.m., July 10, Office of News and Communications. RSVP (required) to Sakiya Lockett.
  • A public talk  at 4 p.m. July 11 at the East Durham Regional Library, together with Chris Cardona, a returned volunteer (China) who is the local Peace Corps recruiter. See the poster below for details.

Earlier during our visit we will be joining returned volunteers from the Philadelphia area in marching in that city’s Fourth of July parade. If you’re watching in front of Independence Hall, check out who’s carrying the flags for Moldova and Nepal.

Please come join us if you are in the area!

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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.

 

 

Navigating Transitions

Champa and I are among the people featured in a new article from journalist Kim Painter about how Americans are navigating the second half of their lives. There are many possible transitions, she writes, but the “big one” is usually leaving one’s life’s work for whatever comes next. Painter also interviewed my sister Nancy Collamer. Her article for Vested appears below and is online here.

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Peace Corps Stories

Many of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers in Moldova have inspiring stories to share.

Katrina Broughman and Bartosz Gawarecki, for instance, guided young people to organize recycling projects and reduce trash, an effort that has begun spreading nationwide.

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Anne Read, a former dancer and choreographer from Harlem, launched an African dance class at her local library, leading to other worthwhile projects in her community.

Chrystal Wilson joined with other volunteers to bring young people and others together to talk about sexual assault and harassment, calling attention to the problem of “blaming the victim” when women suffer abuse.

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Their stories and others have appeared recently on Peace Corps Stories, which highlights the experiences of volunteers worldwide, from an innovative malaria project in Rwanda to an older American who followed in her daughter’s footsteps and became a volunteer herself as an English teacher in Indonesia. I’ve been helping some of my colleagues here to put their stories into words.

For many years, the Peace Corps communications office in Wahington took the lead in reviewing and editing all of these articles, which volunteers submit from more than 60 countries. Volunteers in Moldova have been among the contributors. “HQ” recently arranged for individual country programs to edit and post articles on their own, to appear on their sections of the site — “Moldova Stories,” “Nepal Stories” and so forth. HQ still edits some articles directly but now also oversees the “local articles” and picks some of the best to feature internationally.

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 3.09.49 PMMy country director asked me earlier this year whether I might want to assist with this editing and other communications initiatives for Peace Corps Moldova, as a secondary project to complement my primary job. I’ve been happy to help, working most closely with Liuba Chitaev on the staff, pictured here.

img_2593Together we helped launch a new Peace Corps Moldova Instagram site and Super Moldovans on Facebook. Earlier this month, Liuba and I gave the first-ever presentation on communications for the newest group of trainees.

Volunteers here are doing other kinds of outreach as well, from blogs and videos to projects such as Jessica Randall describing in 100 Instagram posts and on Peace Corps Stories what she likes about Moldova. Clary Estes has been documenting the stories of Moldovans deported during the Stalinist era. Mark Gilchrist has produced a series of newsletters in English, Romanian and Russian.

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Our new projects complement these and other communications efforts, advancing the Peace Corps goals of sharing our American culture with others and expanding understanding among Americans about life in other parts of the world.

I’ve written some “Peace Corps Stories” myself but, just like back home, I enjoy editing as much as writing, especially when I’m working with someone who has a great story but just needs a little nudge, tweak or feedback. There are many more volunteers here with great stories of their own. I hope we’re just getting started.

Body Language

Do you know that person who comes to your staff meetings, pretends to participate but keeps checking his or her smartphone?

Or the two people who whisper to each other during meetings? Or the curmudgeon who rolls his eyes when someone makes a comment?

We have those people in Moldova, too, although they are generally more discreet than back home, at least in the meetings I’ve attended.

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As someone who attended several meetings a day for many years, with a reputation for keeping my own meetings short and sweet, I’m a connoisseur of meeting behavior. I’ve continued taking mental notes since I came to Moldova, at meetings I’ve attended in Ialoveni, Chișinău and elsewhere.

Even though I can’t understand everything people say in Romanian, some of their body language is familiar, although generally more formal and polite. In both countries, a meeting may include someone bemused (or irritated)  by everything. One person may speak with a rhetorical flourish, while another mumbles or reads in a monotone from a notebook and never looks up. Some people address the entire room while others speak only to the person leading the meeting.

Similarly, if a meeting drags on too long, people may start staring ahead, flipping through papers or glancing at their watches, regardless of whether the conversation is in English or Romanian.

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If someone’s cell phone begins ringing, especially if it has a distinctive ring tone, others in the room will quietly chuckle.  The phone’s owner will probably look chagrined and race to turn it off, although sometimes only after whispering “I’m in a meeting” to whoever is calling.

img_0106One big difference in Moldova, though, is that everyone is addressed as “Domnul” or “Doamna” — Sir or Madam. And when it comes time to schedule the next meeting, they’re more likely to check their paper daybooks instead of the electronic calendar on their smartphone.

Here’s one of the best things about meetings in Moldova: There are far fewer Powerpoint presentations. That alone is a good reason to leave America and come here.

Oh, and if you’re reading this on Facebook, rest assured they sneak peeks at that, too. Every meeting I’ve attended has also included an American guy from North Carolina who glances frequently at the Google Translate app on his iPhone. Discreetly, of course.

Children’s Day

Love. Happiness. Fun. Health.

Those are some of the things people wrote on Thursday when Champa asked them to describe in one word the meaning of International Children’s Day, which people celebrated in Ialoveni and across Moldova. The mayor, Sergiu Armașu, in the shirt and tie, helped her gather responses in front of the Casa de Cultură.

Click on the photo of the chart to see all of the responses. American readers may especially enjoy two in the top-right of the photo: “Best Friend Forever” and “iPhone 7.”

More for Entrepreneurs

Moldova’s entrepreneurship scene keeps getting bigger.

I’ve written previously about the Dreamups Innovation Campus and the Diamond Challenge competition for high school students, in which the team I mentored claimed one of the top prizes this year.

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On Sunday, Champa and I visited Tekwill, a center that opened in March in northern Chișinău. It’s an educational and entrepreneurial hub with coworking spaces, a pre-acceleration program, startup competitions, events and resources ranging from 3D printers to international guest speakers.

Tekwill is among a growing list of local entrepreneurial and startup resources here that now includes iHUB, Generator Hub, Dreamups, 404 Moldova and GEN Moldova.

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“Moldova’s capital, Chișinău, is among many cities around the world that aspire to develop a startup scene of their own,” Sergiu Matei, one of the founders of Dreamups, wrote recently on Startup Grind. “To be sure, no one will mistake it yet for Silicon Valley, much less Boston, Paris or Shanghai. Yet its entrepreneurial scene has quietly begun to emerge over the past couple of years, and it’s been exciting to watch.”

Sergiu concluded: “It’s not a fantasy to believe some of the world’s great new startups can and will emerge from Moldova, especially with such a strong entrepreneurial support system now starting up and growing every day.”

Tekwill is an important new component in that system. Located on the campus of the  Technical University of Moldova, it launched with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Government of Sweden (through the Swedish International Development Agency), within the Moldova ICT Excellence Center Project.

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Sara Hoy, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, has been assisting Tekwill and other technology-based programs, with a special interest in attracting girls to the field. You can see Sara here, between two Moldovan friends, at Moldova’s first-ever Mini Maker Faire organized by Atelier 99 and held at Tekwill on Sunday.

Maker Faire organizes gatherings around the world, often in the Bay Area and other high-tech hot spots. It’s a modern mashup of science fairs, craft festivals and tech enthusiasts. The photos in this post are all from the fair, where Champa and I watched a virtual reality demonstration, listened to talks on starting a business, spoke with inventors and checked out gifts ranging from educational games to jewelry made from computer chips.

IMG_5183Tekwill focuses on information technology, working with students, professors and others who need help transforming a good idea into a successful business. With its educational programs, modern facilities, mentoring and international connections, it seeks to create high-quality jobs to deter so many Moldovans from leaving the country to pursue their dreams.

The entrepreneurs I met at Tekwill, like Moldova’s other entrepreneurs and innovators in civil society and diverse other sectors, represent the best in a country where one too often encounters despair about the economy, politics, corruption and other problems. For me, at least, their spirit is a booster shot of optimism, a reminder that change really is possible. As their entrepreneurial scene continues to grow, so does hope for Moldova’s future.