This video is one that has been floating around the Facebook pages lately. Watch it before reading on please. The rest of this will make a lot more sense.
For you, the most interesting thing is probably all of these things sound strange, exotic,and even a little romantic. For me, it’s interesting to hear what Peace Corps volunteers are experiencing in any PCV country and what exactly is so unique about my Moldovan experience.
So here are the things that apply to me.
- Yes, I don’t fit it. Moldovans say even if we dressed like them and wore the same expression, we would still be different. We exude Americana. It might be how we walk.
- Yes, lots of new foods. Chicken jello. Enough said, but also some of our new favorites like coltunasi, a kind of ravioli that can be filled with chicken, potatoes, or goat cheese.
- Yes to diarrhea, weird rashes, and random fevers. Tim is looking forward to when we leave because we find out exactly what parasites we’ve acquired along the way.
- Yes, I have pooped in a hole. Not regularly like some of my village comrades, but I would say the number of times has to be in the double digits.
- Yes, we look homeless sometimes. Especially to Moldovans, who are ultra frumosi (beautiful). One of my most integrated moments was when I looked down one day and said “My boots are covered in dust!” I took a wet wipe out and cleaned them off. But mostly, we just look homeless.
- Yes, we’re a long way from home. You might think we would skim over Thanksgiving here because it’s just another Thursday, but it’s still hard. My dad is coming to see me over Christmas break, and we are really really really excited/happy about that!
- Yes, sometimes it’s too hot and too cold. Mostly cold.
- Yes, air conditioning is a real novelty except when we go to Peace Corps headquarters. But I don’t think Tim and I ever run away to Chisinau, because when our projects fall apart or we have a really bad day, we have each other. We’re lucky like that. The closest we get is that we need to be our nerdy selves with other nerdy people, so we go to play dungeons and dragons with our PC friends. But mostly they come here.
- Yes, we Skype a lot. It helps us feel connected to family, and evenings are pretty dull with no restaurants or entertainment except the discotheque. That’s not really our scene. So we end up reading a lot, watching movies, writing projects, painting, drawing.
- Yes/no to friends who say you’re living. I think Americans have some romantic feelings about Peace Corps. When you come here, you lose some of that romance. It’s still amazing, and it’s still difficult, it’s just amazing and difficult in different ways than you expected. Sometimes, I feel like my life is the same as it would be if I were in America. Go to work, come home, eat dinner, clean, talk to family, paint, go to bed. Other times, someone pulls out a glass of wine at work or I stare at a field of sunflowers, and I think I really am out here living.
- Yes, our Thanksgiving will be turkey-less this year. But that’s because we’re having a tofurkey on the Saturday after Thanksgiving with our close PC friends, some people from my work, and our close Moldovan friends. We love sharing American holidays with them. So, it’s not the turkey we miss. It’s the family.
- Yes, I’m losing weight. I’m not really sure why. Fewer trips to Chipotle? I don’t really think it’s a fair trade off. Tim, of course, is the same weight as always.
- YES YES YES children stare at me wherever I go. They are not subtle. My favorite is when they pass you and then turn to walk backward so they can continue staring at you. Haha.
- Yes, some days are like “What the hell? I’m being really nice, because I left my family and my Chipotle, and my dog. And now you’re brushing me off?” but other days are like “I might stay another year so I can see what happens with this project.”
- Yes, a little money here goes a long way. Things are cheaper depending on what you buy, and 12 lei here is worth about $1. A small bottle of water probably costs you 5 lei.
- Yes, I haven’t driven in a year and a half. It’s a worldwide policy. Honestly, I don’t miss it. It’s less stressful, and I can read on my way to work. We won’t buy a car when we get home. The buses are usually crowded. I’ve never ridden in the back of a truck here.
- Yes, like I said, we read a lot. A lot.
- Yes, I say to myself sometimes “I made it through the day.” But, I think we all do that. America, Moldova. Whatever.
Here are the things that do not.apply to us.
- No, we haven’t learned just a few phrases. I would say Tim is fluent in Romanian, and I’m getting there. In fact, when he heard the video he looked up from his (Romanian) novel and said “Just a few phrases?”
- No, we don’t dream about ice cream and soda. We can get those at the grocery store a hundred yards from our apartment. We dream about nachos.
- No, I’ve never had a swollen head. The closest I come to that is spider bites. Eh.
- No, I don’t feel dirty. But that’s because you get used to it after awhile. I’m so embarrassed when I think that I used to shower every day. Now it’s every two or three days, max.
- No, I don’t need ten signatures to get paid. I have a bank card and an ATM with direct deposit.
- No, they don’t want to marry me. But that might be because I’m already married. I don’t know any Moldovans who are looking for Americans to marry.
- No, people don’t really comment on the frequency of my care packages here. It’s probably because they come through Peace Corps. If anything, PCVs talk about who’s getting what packages more than anyone else does.
- No, I don’t mark the calendar.
- No, I don’t find comfort in the fact that I get to go back to the USA. There are a lot of problems here, and it’s just random that I get to live in a country as resource-wasting as the U.S. I don’t take pleasure in that. I actually find it really sad when I talk about problems with Moldovans and they say “Well, at least you get to leave in two years.”
- No, I don’t purge on Skype when I go into Chisinau. We actually have ridiculously fast internet, and sometimes I think that spending so much time in front of a computer was not one of the reasons I wanted to join Peace Corps. But we’re really lucky to keep in such good touch with family.
Well, that was a good song. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Tim and I watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles tonight. Definitely missing family after that one, but it was fun to have a good laugh and kind of weird to think that it came out the year I was born.