Tuesday, October 6, 2009

An October morning

Breakfast of still warm "Suriki" cheese pancakes topped with homemade apple plum jam. Freshly picked grapes from the garden. Washed down with warm tea and interesting conversation.

Talking with Tanya- Somehow she brings up how people miss Soviet times because life was easier and more affordable back then. She says that when the Soviet Union fell Moldova didn't fight for democracy they kind of fell into it, so still not sure what to do with it… The people don’t “own” it yet. I made a correlation to Iraq being forced into Democracy by the US. They also didn’t fight for it through a revolution either, we “brought it” to them, so can/will they embrace it? How will it fit into their eastern culture?

We also discussed last week's surprise missionary visit to the high school: First off how some of their hygienic gifts are unusual here- people don't know how to use floss... and her teenaged son drank the mouthwash instead of spitting it out. How they shared about their God even though he's the same Jesus they worship here- Orthodox vs Protestant. How they only shared their personal stories and asked if we had questions, but didn't care to ask any questions to the people and showed no interest other than sharing their own experience. She mentioned how they were only trying to export American Christianity. We then laughed and dreamed together about the kind of men we want to marry, and pray to God we'll meet him soon! Single women's talk.

Tanya runs off to school to teach chemistry. I begin walking home in the crisp bright morning light…

If I was a National Geographic photographer I would have been in heaven! Roosters crowing from random houses. Babas wearing multi-colored smocks, head scarfs, aprons, and tights with warm socks on top covered by patterned slippers sweeping the dirt road in front of their homes, others gossiping with each other in Gagauzian, while nearby a man slowly turns the well wheel slowly drawing the bucket of water up higher and higher. Another old man herds adolescent ducks with a long stick to a puddle in the middle of the road so they can drink and enjoy using their webbed feet. Along the puddle are freshly indented cow hoof prints followed by a few cow pies to be avoided. The trees fully dressed in autumn colors- yellows and browns, reds yet to be seen. Young men smoking outside their colorfully painted house gates wearing tilted caps. Children with backpacks half running about to be late for class. Young mothers in high heels walking their bundled up babies in decked out strollers, tough enough for the potholiest of roads. So many dressed to impress. Ivanka, the adorable tiny baba with tanned leather skin, also wearing colorful baba combinations, carries a large plastic container filled with water, walks quickly up to me with a bright smile revealing her decaying teeth and kisses me on the mouth because we're good friends now. She compliments me on my necklace and says she wants one too. I guess this is because I fulfilled my promise of buying her a baba smock after 1.5 years of her asking for one. Walking by the school I hear a classroom of children repeating what the teacher says in unison. By the preschool I hear a teacher yelling at a poor little one on the top of her lungs. Next door a bunch of gated chickens pecking at the pebbles under their feet ignoring pedestrians and trucks zooming by. A loud truck drives too closely to a parked car setting off the alarm, a woman walks out of the beauty salon talking on the cell phone and quickly turns it off with her remote. Further along on the cemented sidewalk on a giant sheet of plastic lay piles of neatly organized clothes, pants piled on top of pants, shirts of top of shirt, sheets piled 2 -3 feet high. Women sorting through clothes, potential customers. The nicest shirts on hangers cleverly hanging on kiosk roofs and nooks in the walls. Babas selling creamy white chefir in recycled water bottles, homemade honey in jars, and fresh eggs while sitting on stools waiting for passerbys. Soon an old man will set up his stall not too far away to slowly sell a bowl full of sunflower seeds. A stray cat darts across the road then stops to lick her shoulder. More men standing around chatting with cigarretes in their mouths. Laundry hanging from 3rd floor apartment balconies on the line from adult size to baby silently swaying with the breeze.

I'm almost home... just another October morning in Ceadir-Lunga, Moldova.

(Baba Ivanka photo-2008)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Integration's English Website & Russian Blog

I recently made an English version of a website for the youth organization Integration that I work with. Check it out!

Integration's website: http://ngo-integration.webs.com. (Unfortunately paypal doesn't work in Moldova yet, so that part is TBD)

We have a long-time running blog in Russian too: http://ngo-integration.blogspot.com

Fun tidbit- on our logo my hand is the blue one! I love this job ;).

Monday, August 31, 2009

One Moldova- One World 2 : Summer Camp

Here is a slideshow of one of my favorite projects I've been able to do here in Moldova as a Peace Corps Volunteer!

I helped my partner Tanya write a grant, and won, to implement a camp for teenagers from the three political regions of Moldova. It was such a wonderful success! The kids wanted to stay longer, unfortunately we didn't have the money. For the time we did spend together I'm so proud of how well the kids worked together, learned from each other, and inspired all of us involved in the project. One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier between Russian and Romanian speakers- this is a big challenge for this country! Fortunately despite our differences, many learned that we share even more similarities. Moldova definitely has a bright future!

Enjoy the show:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Old New Year

On Orthodox Old New Year (Jan. 13th) I joined a group of volunteers and went caroling and gift-giving to homes of disabled children in town. As you can see, we had a lot of fun.

I got a bit carried away with the costume bit....

My split personality: A drunk Russian man!

Here's a video I made about this caroling event for work to show the activity to sponsors who sent us gifts to give out! Enjoy the show...

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Here are some photos of Istanbul... a very beautiful and historic city!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thanksgiving in Chaddy

Having my own apartment I was fortunate to host a Thanksgiving feast at my place! We had a homegrown Moldovan turkey freshly butchered from a village.. I learned he had his own seat on the bus to my town. We decided to give him an American & Russian name and called him FRED IVANOVICH. He was a tasty little turkey.

A bunch of fellow Peace Corps volunteers came over along with co-worker/partner Tanya and her daughter Lida. We ate a stuffed Fred, green bean casserole, a cuban citrus chicken dish, deviled eggs, Indian fried eggplant, homemade pumpkin pie, apple crisp with ice-cream, fudge and homemade house wine.

We had so much fun dancing around in the kitchen all day, and eating all night! Ibrahim, my boyfriend, even joined us from Istanbul via Skype! We had a very international Thanksgiving in Moldova.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dance party fundraiser - Guboglio Lycea (High School)

Check out photos from a successful Halloween dance party fundraiser! Considering Halloween isn't a holiday celebrated in Moldova I'm surprised how much students really got into dressing up in costumes and make-up! We had lots of fun putting this together. We raised about $28 which will help us buy supplies for the office.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Grape-picking & wine-making

Back in September a neighboring Peace Corps Volunteer invited me to her host family's vineyard in their backyard located in the Bulgarian village of Tvarditza (still in Moldova). We picked grapes, drank freshly squeezed juice, and ate a feast afterwards!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Putin Sighting

Waiting for a girlfriend on Stefan Cel Mare Street, directly across from Stefan the statue himself I stumbled upon an exciting event!

Vladimir Putin, former Russian president and currently Prime Minister was paying a visit to Moldova. I thought it strange that traffic was stopped on the main street in town, assuming a caravan of important delegates would eventually drive by to an embassy or something. Instead I was pleasantly surprised. Directly across the street from where I was standing at the Stefan Cel Mare statue a military band started playing the Russian national anthem while Putin walked out from a fancy black car carrying a flower wreath draped over with the Russian flag. While the band began playing the Moldovan national anthem and media cameras rushed out to capture the quick display of friendship he laid the wreath at the foot of Stefan, the former 15th century king and hero of Moldova.

It was quite a coincidence! For once I was at the right spot at the right time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Once again, I thought my blog would update itself, but alas it did not. So here's a little bit about my summer that flew by!

Work has been very slow going. One of my partners was working in Russia for three months while my other partner said it was too hot to have children in our office for any activities. In the winter it is too cold, and fall and spring not much happens. Hmm... Thank goodness for vacations!

My sister was generous and let me use her NW airline miles so I was able to fly home for two weeks! Thanks Sis!! It was a fast trip, but wonderful! I was able to see almost all of my close friends and family... the highlight was celebrating my Mom's 60th birthday at my sister's house. My Mom isn't usually one to enjoy birthdays, but I'm pretty sure she didn't mind having so many friends and family around her at once. We also ate delicious BBQ's salmon that my brother-in-law, Jeff caught in Alaska. It was amazing!!

This is a slideshow I made for the party about my Mom's life. She's now a photographer so it seems a fitting gift ;)

Here are some photos from my trip

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ialoveni with Luda

Hanging out in a beautiful home with Luda, a former student at the Lycea I work at... It was a fun weekend, even it the swimming pool was empty!

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Transylvania, Romania

My fellow Peace Corps Volunteer & Friend, Neha and I took a wonderful mini-vacation to neighboring Romania. We wandered around Brasov & Sigisoara-- it was breathtaking and a much needed respite!

So much to share...

It took us 7 hours to get out of Moldova at customs as officials tore apart the bus we were traveling on with power drills. Literally they tore it apart. After a looooong wait another bus was finally sent for us. In the meantime I saw custom officials pulling out all kinds of boxes from within the bus. I wonder what they were trying to smuggle in? On the positive side, the customs officials actually did their job and didn't take a bribe! At least it seemed that way...

We met hitchhikers and vacationers from all over the world-- mostly Europe. The interesting ones must travel through Romania! We had some good times in the evenings at the hostel. Scot from Scotland and his Irish friend Greihm taught us some Scottish slang... He's neckin the puss of yer beak! He also taught me that I, and all women have "jebs".

Most of the time Neha and I wandered around the medieval town of Brasov looking at beautiful buildings, perusing museums, climbing a small Carpathian mountain (secretly hoping to run into a bear on the way), and eating delicious non-traditional(non-Moldovan/Romanian) food! We actually ate at the "China Restaurant" and in other restaurants devoured bowls filled with pasta. My favorite was eating a bowl full of salad with lettuce!!! Such a treat!

It's evident that Romania is part of the EU... it seems put together! The roads are nice, food is surprisingly cheaper, street lights work, and people in general tend to be.... happy! Amazing! I was impressed with Transylvania and how much forest surrounds quaint medieval villages and towns. Absolutely an amazing place to visit. I'd love to go back one day.

Neha and I mustered all the Romanian words we could... as Russian, and sometimes English weren't understood. Once again I became talented at gesturing like a madwoman. Good times. Good times.

We met an angel on the way leaving Romania. She told us what a wonderful thing it was to be in the Peace Corps, something volunteers (including myself) often question during service. She really encouraged us, and as a woman who has lived throughout the world, travels alone, and works with children with behavioral issues- she really is an angel!

Overall, this trip really refreshed me... Maybe I can even cry? I haven't shed a tear since coming to Moldova, which is strange since it's been almost a year since I've been here. I feel almost inhuman at times when I know I should/would have cried. Interestingly, I learned Neha feels the same way. We've become NUMB. Moldova has a lot to offer... cell phones, internet service, delicious fruit... but emotionally it is a draining place to live if you're not used to the post-Soviet mentality. I feel so much more relaxed from this trip soaking in beauty and happiness. I still haven't shed a tear, but I'm hoping I CAN one day soon! Sounds silly, but I really want to!

Here are some photos of Romania!

Click here for Romania photos: Brasov, Castles, Sigisoara- Birthplace of "Dracula" - or watch the slideshow.

Monday, June 23, 2008


This month I told my host parents I'm interested in looking for an apartment of my own. Being 30 years old, it's about time I take care of myself and live by my own rules. And to be honest I'm REALLY excited about cooking for myself!!! Thinking I was being courteous and telling my host family in advance has become more dramatic than I ever anticipated.

At first my host mother was very understanding and realized my decision has little to do with them (mostly). She also knew I had visitors coming from America the end of June since I've been talking about it for months.

It turned out she also had important visitors arriving, her daughter's new in-laws visiting for the first time from Israel the same exact day my guests arrived. She told me I needed to find an apartment in 10 days so that her guests could stay in my room. That really put a lot of pressure on me and my partner who did her best to start looking. We were hopeful because the Bulgarian dance teacher was returning home the same week I was asked to move out. Unfortunately, his landlady didn't want to rent out to anyone!! So I'm still looking. :(

Janet & John Yoder arrived in Ceadir-Lunga which was an adventure in itself- listening to cooks and waitors fighting in the kitchen over what we presumed were lamb kabobs; eating freshly purchased melted ice-cream; and Lenin statue photo opts. I ended up spending the night at my partner, Tanya's house which turned out to be a special treat. Her sister was visiting from Odessa and we sat outside under the grape arbor and ate freshly picked cherries, drank wine, recited poetry, and talked well into the night.

The next day I brought John and Janet over to her house. They gave us a tour of their garden, showed us the well, we ate delicious cherry cake, and once again heard Lida and Lova recite poetry. We all really enjoyed this visit. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful and kind coworker!!

I'm still technically homeless. All my things are still in my room at my host family's house, but I'm not able to spend the night there even though I've paid June rent. Gotta love it.

Instead I'm now playing guide to the Yoders, who keep complimenting me on how well my Russian is... a much needed encouragement! Even though I've lived here almost a year I've been able to be a tourist in Chisinau for the first time! It was great!

Here are some photos of our adventures together: visiting Moldova

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Boxing in Comrat

In the Comrat, the capital of the Semi-Autonomous Region of Gagauzia (the region where I currently live) I had a rare opportunity to visit a sports school. I randomly met the boxing teacher (originally from Uzbekistan) on a bus and he invited me to hang out at his school one day. The students study regular classes, and then spend morning and afternoons training in either boxing, wrestling, soccer, and other sports. Not surprisingly, it's a boys' school!

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Odessa Photos

Finally, adventures in Odessa, Ukraine are available for your viewing pleasure! It took a while to find all the photos and put them together, but I did it!

Here you go!

The following are clips from the April Fool's Day celebration- complete with exotic animals, playboy dog, parade with hari krishna followers, and the West-Side Massive boys.


There are tarantulas in Moldova!

Boys lure them out of their holes around town by putting a putty-like ball on a string and dipping it into their lair until they grab hold.

They are HUGE!

Some boys thought it a good idea to bring a few of these hairy spiders inside the school for English Club. They got the reaction they were looking for- lots of screaming girls running for the doorway!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memorial Day

May 9, 2008 was Moldova's memorial day.

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Imagine.... a new update! Must write more, lots more later. In the meantime, enjoy the video!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stay Tuned...

Unfortunately my laptop has been inundated by hackers and now refuses to turn on. Sadly, this means that any new photos and videos will be few and far between until I can get my computer fixed. Send positive thoughts for its full (and inexpensive) recovery!

Stories to come:

Mexican Feast for new Ukrainian friends: I invited a few of my new border guard friends over for fajitas and tequila! It was a hit! Of course, I spent way too much money throwing it together, but it was sooo worth it just to make friends! I'm now to the point where I'm desperate for friends that live close to me- even if that means we can barely understand each other! So now instead of just learning Russian, I'm now being encouraged to speak Ukrainian... this'll be interesting! On a positive note, they offered to smuggle me across the border if I ever get stuck again. Hopefully this won't happen a second time, but it's nice to have friends with connections.

Trip to Odessa, Ukraine - April Fool's Day Festival; frolicking alone by the Black Sea; getting asked if my teeth are real; an evening stuck at the Ukrainian border with a Peace Corps rescue & my new Eastern European crush!

Too Much Wine at Work - When a birthday lunch gets giggly

Persistent Peter - somehow the guy that gave me a lift in his horsecart thinks I want to go on a date with him and keeps stopping by my house(fortunately I haven't been home when he's been there). He's begun to follow me around town streets only to trot away as I stop and talk to friends. Soon I'll need to confront him... only how to do it in my broken Russian? This will be another interesting story.

Until next time...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ranger Danger?!

EXCLUSIVE: We Called It the 'Ranger Danger'

So apparently the ship my brother was on that sank was in need of many repairs. It sounds like a lawsuit is in the works... so the Alaska saga continues for my little bro!

I also read that the boat sank in 15 minutes, and rescuers didn't make it there until 2 1/2 ours later! What a nightmare!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Farewell to Garlic

What a bizarre day! I was shocked and relieved to hear about my brother's rescue in the Bering Sea... and soon after posting the following blog my host father in Moldova comes into my room to let me know the family dog has been shot. Yes, SHOT!

Apparently every spring and autumn the Town Hall coordinates a death to dogs day. A posse goes around town and shoots every dog it sees on the street. Garlic, our host family's dog, was one of the few dogs that was not permanently chained to a gate- one of the reasons I chose to live with this family. Ultimately, this freedom led to his death.

I get so angry the more I learn how animals are treated here! I understand stray dogs are a major problem and they reproduce every year... but why the massacre? I know why- because animals are very rarely considered pets here. They're either food, or put to work guarding a house by being chained by a gate for life, or made to pull heavy carts. Anything else is garbage. Besides, its cheaper to kill them than to deal with them in a humane way!

Probably some of the adorable dogs I've been feeding on the streets had their last scraps of food early this morning. The murderers came out in force around 6am. Can you imagine doing that?

Aaaaaaaaah! Since coming here I've thought about doing a documentary on stray dogs.. hearing about Garlic's slaughter makes me want to do it all the more.

On the flipside I know many Americans back home spoil their animals. Some dogs eat only grand gourmet meals, and get better health care than most people! Then there are so many other countries, like Moldova, where dogs on the street are considered dirty, disease-infested nuisances. But aren't we the ones responsible for making them that way?

Grrrrrr.... This post goes out to those dogs that were slaughtered this morning.

May you enjoy Doggy Heaven, eat whatever tasty morsels you didn't get on the streets of Ceadir-Lunga, and (if reincarnation exists) may you be reborn and raised by a rich dog-lover.