Peace Corps Languages Archive

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A fellow RPCV has created an online archive of languages spoken by Peace Corps volunteers. It has excellent resources for language learners. The URL is http://www.livelingua.com/peace-corps-language-courses.php.

Thanks to Ray Blakney for alerting us to this site!

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La Revedere

It’s now been a year since we went to Moldova. Our fellow PCVs (M27s) are celebrating their one-year anniversary and welcoming a new group to the country. Although we keep in touch with them and still care deeply about our Peace Corps service in Moldova, we have decided it’s time to move on. So we will end this blog of our PC experience.

However, wanting to document our activities for ourselves (short memories, don’t-cha know) and our family & interested friends, we’ve started a new blog, “Wandering the West” (http://lczech.wordpress.com/). If you’re so inclined, follow us there. Thanks for sharing our adventures this past year 🙂

Sustainability

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It is always a goal for Peace Corps Volunteers to develop projects with their partners that would be sustainable even after the PCV leaves country. The idea of renewable, sustainable activities is important for the long term.

We were intrigued to discover the same concept here in Washington. The state has a wonderful conservation ethic in many arenas. For example, when we visited the Olympic peninsula recently (wonderful snow-covered mountains; rocky, log-strewn sandy beaches; enormous cedars and other evergreens in the magnificent rain forests), we noticed a great deal of logging. But both the Park Service and private companies care about renewable resources and sustainability. We saw numerous signs like this one that makes us feel better about the amount of logging that takes place in this area.

Forest sign in Olympic National Park

Forest sign in Olympic National Park

Life After Peace Corps

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So what’s life like after Peace Corps? First of all, it’s very difficult to adjust to life in the States where everything is faster and more complex. We had little money in Moldova, so we didn’t buy much, and were just fine. Because we’d planned to be away for two years, we sold our house, our cars, and got rid of appliances. Returning to the States, we found we needed cell phones and a car before we could even begin to function. We’d been living out of two suitcases each since June but found staying in an apartment and trying to function without any of our own “stuff” was very difficult for us in America. We felt like we were living between two worlds: the simple life of a PC volunteer and our regular, more complex life as middle-class Americans.

We moved to Seattle where our son and his family had moved in the summer and found it to be an ideal location for us with the proximity to the mountains (Leslie feels like she’s back home in Colorado) and to the ocean with an abundance of hiking and bicycling trails. People here embrace the outdoors and don’t let little things like clouds and rain dampen their outdoor activities. The housing market is crazy here: not enough houses for the people who want to buy them – and they’re very expensive. We finally found a house, but one that we might never have purchased elsewhere – small lot with the two-car garage the focus of the front. But there are wonderful windows and a nice open floor plan. However, we got a good price because the house was in terrible condition: filthy cabinets, floors, and walls, damaged and broken appliances, with carpets badly stained that a cat had used as a litter box in one room. So since mid-December we’ve been cleaning and painting, buying new appliances, flooring, and carpet. Little by little the house is being improved and we hope will be a great location for us. It’s probably been good for us to keep busy. We think often of Peace Corps and Moldova, and miss it all so very much. It’s been a difficult adjustment for us – can’t imagine what it would have been like after two years! At least then, however, we would have completed our full service, and wouldn’t have the regrets that are with us now.

Our new house with Moldova gift from our host family.

Our new house with Moldova gift from our host family.

When we’ve made our house livable, we hope to begin our retirement life with lots of outdoor activities and volunteer work. Jan hopes to begin working again with Habitat for Humanity, Leslie with the literacy council, and both of us with trail and other outdoor associations that are actively involved in improving the area trails and restoring parks. The opportunities are endless! We are enjoying exploring the area occasionally and have found a number of great places for walking and hiking. The mountains are within a half-an-hour drive and there are trails everywhere.

One of our first hikes in Snoqualmie area.

One of our first hikes in Snoqualmie area.

It’s weird right now trying to re-adjust.  For the first third of the year we were eagerly planning for two years in the Peace Corps, then spent the middle half of the year in Moldova, and now we’re back in the States. We are so sad to have left the Peace Corps, but know that it was best for us. Life certainly has been different, and when you get your head around living a certain way for over two years, and then suddenly change, it’s rather disconcerting and disorienting. But we hope we can adjust to these new changes as we did when we moved to Moldova.

Good-bye Moldova

Perhaps, hopefully, we can say “Pe curand” (which means “see you later”). Unfortunately and sadly, we’ve had to end our Peace Corps service and return to America. We had not mentioned it before, but Leslie has had ongoing health problems beginning with giardia in the summer (although that cleared up with some proper diet and medication).  However, she continued to have stomach problems – some pain and occasional diarrhea – which made it very hard to function.  We both lost a fair amount of weight and aren’t sure why. Two weeks ago she had another night of frequent visits down the stairs to the outhouse with severe diarrhea, after which we decided we needed to go home.

We met with our program director and the PC physician again, Leslie had a number of tests, and one potential solution was for us to move out of our host home and into an apartment in Cahul, stop eating at our host home – or other food locally prepared, and cook for ourselves.  All of this runs counter to what we wanted or what we felt was essential for our service and integration, especially since we really love our family.  We finally came to the conclusion that we couldn’t stay under these circumstances. We very much didn’t want to take this step and are quite sad to have left.  The PC staff have been wonderful – they are extremely supportive of such decisions, understanding that this sort of thing happens, don’t want us to feel guilty or sorry, etc. but, of course, we do.

So last week, after a whirlwind of PC paperwork, we flew to Seattle where Aaron and Adrienne now live.  We’ll stay with them while we look for an apartment after which time we will search for a house.
Finally, we are extremely happy and proud that we did this, and that even in a short time we had an impact, at the least with our partners and family – they all were very sorry to see us go.  This is a photo from our last evening with family and friends in our village.
It’s weird right now trying to re-adjust.  Life certainly has been different, and when you get your head around living a certain way for over two years, and then suddenly change, it’s rather disconcerting and disorienting. But we hope we can adjust to these new changes as we did when we moved to Moldova.
Finally, we don’t want to cut our ties to Moldova. We hope to communicate with our Peace Corps friends and our Moldovan families and, perhaps, one day, can return to visit.
Goodbye Victor and Lavinia.  One of the smartest and most amicable young men we’ve ever met, and the wonderful, ebullient, “obraznic” little girl who made us smile regularly.
Goodbye to friends and partners who helped us adjust and integrate into our community — ever patient and helpful!
Perhaps most of all, goodbye to our family.  From L. to R. Victor, Vasilisa, Tanya, Petru, and Lavinia. They nurtured and assisted us, helped with language, prepared wonderful living quarters, built a stunning toilet, and shared their lives willingly and graciously with these two strangers from abroad!
Goodbye Moldova!
We hope we made a difference even though with you only a short time.
We know that you changed us.

Images of Cahul

Cahul town is the center or capital for Cahul Raion (pron. as in “rayon”), a raion in Moldova being something like a district, essentially one level below national government.  Probably the closest equivalent in the US would be a state.  There are 32 raions in Moldova.  We’ve enjoyed going to the larger town of Cahul, ca. a 15-20 minute bus ride from our village.  Jan works with an NGO there and we shop and go for entertainment. As with most towns that serve as centers of a particular region, Cahul is a very active and busy place. Here are some of our best photos that show what a neat town it is.

Near the town center is a rather large open area. The building straight ahead is the mayor’s and city offices.  The Building to the right is the State University or Universitatea de Stat din Cahul.

Not far from the municipal offices is the Cahul Raion Center Building – offices for the district officials and services.

Following are just some select images of the town and environs.  The piazza central is active almost every day (except Monday) with a vast variety of goods and fresh food.  The streets are tree-lined, the traffic heavy and noisy, but an interesting and lively place!!

The main street through Cahul city center – though unusually light traffic!!

Numerous fresh fish sellers on the sidewalk — tough smell walking past!!

BIG CARP!!! Seriously, carp are quite a favorite fish in Moldova.

A couple of images here of fruit and veg sellers on the street, outside the actual environs of the piazza. The street is closed to traffic 6 days a week!

One supposedly can haggle with the vendors over price, though not something we ever did.

Russian is spoken as much as Romanian in this area, perhaps even more. So signs often are either in one language or the other — or in both!

Many “shops” in the piazza are like small general stores, just about anything you could want. It pays to ask, since sometimes the item you want is buried in the back somewhere!!

Awnings are everywhere, protecting against the sun. The passages in the piazza are crowded and narrow, and very much a rabbit warren — sometimes easy to get lost!!

Another view. The smiling lady in the left-center is a friend of our family that we met at the birthday party in early August. Despite what people say and think, Moldovans DO smile, and beautifully!

Many more images of Cahul are possible but this provides a taste of the city.  Several good restaurants, a couple of very good theatres, performances at the Palace of Culture — not a bad place overall to visit – only ca. 3-1/2 to 4 hour bus ride from Chisinau.

Living in a multi-lingual country

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It seems that everyone in Moldova speaks both Romanian and Russian. At a restaurant last weekend the servers spoke only Russian and a bit of English, so we were ok. But we encounter that everywhere. In the stores goods have labels in Russian and Romanian (occasionally in English) and here in the south many signs are in Russian.

Where I’m finding it a curious, but challenging situation, is dealing with the computers at the library where I work. Much of the software is in Russian. I have a cheat sheet for MS Word, so I can figure out some of the commands there. But I’m currently working to compile data from a survey. At first we didn’t think Excel was loaded on the computer I use, so I worked in Google Drive (sorry Aaron) planning to upload the spreadsheet into Excel at home and finish the project using the better program. But all day I kept encountering Romanian and Russian on different applications on my and my partner’s computer. Maybe I need to spend some time trying to figure out Russian! I did finally learn that Excel is on the computer, but in Russian, and I don’t have a cheat sheet for that program!

And the school kids study both Russian and Romanian plus one other language of their choice, either French or English. We are planning to start an English Club at the library with some kids who’ve studied that language. But what a remarkable country that has selected Romanian as its official language but continues the tradition of teaching Russian because so many people still speak it, especially in villages.

The best, of course, was the charming 20-ish woman who was giving a presentation to some 40 Americans about an e-governance project of the Moldovan government of which she is a developer. She apologized at the beginning by saying, “I apologize for my English, but it’s my third language.” She was serious, and her English was very good.  Such is life in a multi-lingual country!

Moldovan Hospitality

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(Leslie here). I had a most wonderful Moldovan experience last night that I have to share. Around 9:30pm I went down to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. Our host mother, Vasilisa, was sitting at the table with two of her friends, and I was invited to join them. Of course, I had to — wanting to get to know other Moldovans – and to be sociable.

What a group! Vasilisa is warm, friendly, and relaxed at the end of the day around friends, with good food and drink on the table. Her friends (nearby neighbors, I think) are equally charming. One is Vasalia’s high school Biology and Chemistry teacher – one of those beautiful old women who has so many lines in her face, that you can’t see one patch of smooth skin. She has grey hair pulled back at her neck and dark, bright eyes. The other woman is a school friend of Vasalia’s who has a charming, round, full face with plump cheeks, short dark hair, and a friendly smile. We drank and gave toasts: Noroc! (Cheers), Sanatate/Sanatos (Your health), Multi ani (Long life), and many others I didn’t know. We talked and laughed, and then Vasilisa asked if they could come a see our rooms. Of course I said yes. So we trooped up the stairs, Vasilisa with a pitcher of wine and a glass, and the younger friend with a plate of fried fish, sausage, and bread. I think it was some sort of “welcome to my house” activity. Jan was asked to turn on the computer and show his photos – they were charmed. Then we stood in a circle in our entry room, drinking shots of wine from the glass and giving toasts. Then the three of them started singing a lively song about “my girls” and dancing and hugging us and kissing us.

I think we’ve been invited to visit them on Saturday. What a delightful way to end the weekend!

Potatoes

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We’ve decided that Moldova must take the prize for frequency and types of potatoes for meals over Ireland. We remember meals in Ireland when we were served both boiled potatoes and French fries at the same meal. However in Moldova we may get mashed potatoes for breakfast, potatoes in soup (of whatever variety) for lunch, then fried potatoes for dinner. It’s a good thing we really like potatoes!

At home in Moldova

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Thought we’d post some photos of our home south of Cahul in Moldova, close to Romania on the west and the Ukraine on the south. The new photo at the top of our blog is the view from our window over the lake with the hills of Romania in the distance. There’s often wonderful views from here!

Our four rooms (elegant for PCVs!) are up the stairs and on the right. Our host family lives on the ground floor where the kitchen, indoor bathroom, etc. are located.

On the other side are the pens for geese and ducks and the huge hog that just arrived along with the summer kitchen and part of the garden.

Our sitting room with computer table, sofa, and west-facing windows.

Bedroom with sofa that makes into a double bed–cozy! The other two rooms are an entry room with a table for studying and a storage room for clothes, suitcases, etc.

“Dining room” — end of table on the bottom right and indoor kitchen in the rear.

Typical road in the village with Orthodox Church visible on the left.

A typical village traffic jam — on village roads or even on major highway. It could be geese, sheep, or cattle.

Almost next door: Baptist Church (that’s actually a lovely lemon yellow), green tractor, and one of the many cows that graze along the highway.

And finally — another typical village house painted in what we call “Moldovan blue” because the color appears everywhere: on houses, gates, cruce (crosses) along the road and in the cemetery. It often matches the color of the sky.