Adventures from Moldova

This is my blog containing all of my adventures as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

(Picture of Budapest from the top of the Citadel)

The Summer in Review

This summer has absolutely flown by. The weather is still hot, the kids will be going back to school in less than two weeks, and all of us in Group 19 are approaching our one year anniversary. It is amazing to think that my service is almost half over, but as we say here “Viaţa merge inainte,” which means life goes on. I wanted to give an update over how my summer months were spent and a little bit about what will happen in the not to distant future.

I took a vacation in June and had the opportunity to see some amazing places that I had never been to before. My friend Becca and I took off on our 2 week journey and first took a bus from Chişinau to Bucharest. It was overnight and we arrived in the city at 4:30 in the morning. We took the 6 am train to Budapest and stayed three days there and took a boat ride on the Danube to visit a small town called Sventendre. We relaxed and took in the sites, climbed to the top of the Citadel fortress, relaxed in the natural hot spring baths that they have, and met some really great people. We then took a night train to Krakow, Poland, and we also were able to take a trip to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. My parents told me that my Grandpa Fellows visited the camp shortly after it’s liberation, so that was special because it is something I didn’t know about him and is something I found out we also share. Krakow was beautiful and we were able to see a dragon cave and a fire breathing dragon (no, it wasn’t real…when Becca and I were planning our trip, it truly never occurred to us that it wasn’t real…yes, intelligent I know!), as well as some amazing churches. After a few days there, we then left on another night train to Prague. I have already been there, and for some reason it was almost like coming home. I 100% recommend Prague if you love to travel because you can find just about anything there. We stayed in Prague for about 5 days and spent time relaxing. We went paddle boating in Howard the Duck (it was this giant paddle boat on the Vltava River) a few days in a row and went back to some of our favorite sites (Becca actually lived in Prague for a month and she was just as excited to go back as I was). We visited a village called Kutna Hora where the entire interior is designed with human bones. During the plague of the 1300s, the cemeteries were overcrowded and starting to smell. There was then a man who decided to design the church using the bones of the dead…40,000 bodies in all. Creepy. I also saw Don Giovanni in a theatre, but using only puppets which made it really enjoyable and funny. Overall it was amazing. On our train rides, we went through some gorgeous countries and saw some amazing sceneries. Romania has some beautiful mountains in the north, Slovakia I only saw during the night and in the twilight but still seemed beautiful, and when we went through Ukraine, it really reminded me of Moldova, but with better roads. It was a great break before GLOW Camp that started in July, and I was rested up and ready to go.

For most of you who read my blog, you know that I was a Camp GLOW Director this past July. GLOW, or Girls Leading Our World, is for girls ages 14-17 who live in the country of Moldova. We had been preparing and planning, and had a very successful event. Around 100 girls from all areas of Moldova came to learn about health, life, and how to become a future leader for their country. Overall, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and hope that the girls learned as much from me as a learned from them. I am so excited to get into planning next year’s camp and want to again thank all of you who gave us support for this spectacular camp.

August has been a good month so far. I have had a few trainings and meetings in Chisinau, so it has helped to mix up my work weeks and get me out on the road. I have a Language In-Service Training (the final one!) in Chisinau and am very excited to get to see everyone. We are all a very tight-knit group in Peace Corps and we have truly become life family to one another. It should be a great time.

That is all for now, and I wanted to leave a recipe for everyone, including other PCVs who read my blog. This one is not Moldovan, but a very simple easy sauce that most anyone can make at home pretty quickly. I dedicate this to all of the volunteers who are sick of eating ketchup on their noodles and miss good old pasta sauce. Here it is:

1 kg Tomatoes (preferably with the skins off and crushed)
1-2 large onions, Minced
3 Cloves Garlic (or more if you like garlic), Minced
1 Carrot, Minced
Bay Leaves
1 Tbs. Butter (optional)

Sauté onion and garlic together until soft (7-10 minutes), adding a little salt to help draw out the moisture and for seasoning purposes. Add carrot and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. When mixture is cooked well, add tomatoes and bay leaves (I use 4 or 5, but it depends on how much you like that flavoring). Add salt and pepper to taste, and put a lid over the top, allowing it to cook for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After this has cooked, taste the sauce. If it seems acidic, add the tablespoon of butter to even the flavoring. If you are lucky enough to have a blender, add the contents into the blender and mix. If not (for example, PCVs), you can eat it as it is. This can be put in the freezer for up to 6 months. Pofta buna!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Language is That?

Hello everyone! I am on my last leg of my journey and it has been amazing. Becca and I took off on the 5th of June and have been traveling all over the eastern part of Europe. Our first stop was Budapest, Hungary, which was a beautiful city. We saw churches, parks, visited a small village outside of the city, and even stuck our feet in the Danube river. We even went to the spas in Budapest (they have tons of natural springs all over the place there) short, amazing! We just left Krakow, Poland where we stayed for about 3 days. We visited Auschwitz and even were fortunate enough to see a, not a live one:). Today we arrived in Prague, the heart of Central Europe, and will be heading to the Castle today and then probably rent a paddle boat to spend some time out on the Vlatava River. Tomorrow we will be heading to Kutna Hora where there is a church made out of human bones...creepy, yet exciting.

The languages here are so interesting and we have had a fun time listening to them. Between Hungarian, Polish, and Czech, we have found ourselves asking "What Language is THAT?" most of the day. That's all for now though. I will post pictures as soon as I can. See ya!

Friday, May 04, 2007

So much has been going on in the world lately. With the Virginia Tech tragedy, the loss of a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, and the recent shooting in Kansas City, one can’t help but think about safety. I want to assure all of you that I am as safe as can be and that the Peace Corps is taking very good care of me. Thank you to each and every one of you who have sent your thoughts and prayers my way. I can always use them!

With that said, I have been planning my vacation for this summer and have decided to go to Hungary, Czech Republic, and Poland. Along the way, I may make a stop in Slovakia or the Ukraine, but who knows! I am very excited about the upcoming journey. I will leave either on the 6th or 7th of June and get back around the 19th or 20th. I think two weeks of play in Eastern and Central Europe will be awesome. I not traveling alone (on request of my parents and yes, I completely agree with them) and will have a travel buddy during my time away from Moldova. Becca is another Peace Corps Moldova Volunteer. She works with the Community and Organizational Development Program and is originally from Virginia. She is awesome and we will have a great time. First, we will be making our way to Budapest in Hungary, maybe Bratislava in Slovakia (if there is time and, of course, money), Prague in Czech Republic, and finally to Krakow in Poland. It should be a great time. On the way back we will probably be coming through Ukraine so I will get to see some of that country as well. I absolutely love traveling and can’t wait to see more of this part of the world. I really enjoy history and this part of the world definitely has an interesting story. I was really too young to understand the Cold War when it was occurring, but now I am beginning to understand what life would have been like under Communism. I am so thankful for all the freedoms and liberties that we are given in America! I hope after this whole experience I will stop taking it all for granted too because I know I did in the past.

Overall, work is going well. GLOW Camp will be in just two months and things are coming together as they should. Work at my organization is coming along as well. I am working on a grant that will hopefully give me the funds necessary to host several seminars in the future about marketing and how to implement it into a business. I am really excited to get that ball rolling.

Basketball season is officially over. My girls went to the national tournament in Chişinau but unfortunately we lost our first game. The team we lost to ended up being the future champions so I don’t feel too bad. It was such a great experience for the girls and I hope that they make it there again next year. We had a really young team (most were in the 10th grade) and they can only get better I think!

Lastly, I would like to include a recipe for all of you to try at home. This is one of my favorite and easy Moldova recipes that I have learned and would like for all of you to try it.


1 Egg
Filling (Cheese, Meat, Fruit, etc.)

All of this will have to be done by eye. Every time I see it done, the quantities are different. Put flour in a bowl and add one egg, and milk. Mix together and add a little bit of water until you have a soft dough (This is basically like making fresh pasta). Roll into a few logs and cut off pieces (large if you want large and small if you want small). Take flour and dust both sides of the pieces. Roll each piece flat into circles. At this point you can add whatever you want. If you choose cheese, make sure to mix an egg with the cheese so that it holds up when you boil it. Place the filling in the middle and pinch close the dough. You can put these in the freezer for later or boil them now. If you boil them fresh, place them into boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. If you boil them from frozen, it will take a little longer. Now, you are able to enjoy! Eat them alone or with your favorite sauces! (We add a little bit of Smîntîna which is like a mix between heavy cream and sour cream…delicious)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Easter Bunny Doesn’t Exist in Moldova

It has been quite a ride here in Moldova during this Easter holiday celebration. The traditions are so very different then that of America, but I am definitely not complaining. This time of year is similar to Christmas because it is a time that has always been very important to me and my family. I will say this…I was definitely more sad this holiday than I was at Christmas because at Christmas I really didn’t have a celebration because of the family I lived with. Now, it is the exact opposite. Every chance we get to celebrate something, we celebrate it 100%. I love that because my family is so full of life and so excited to show me the traditions that they have. They may very well be the perfect host family.

On Easter Sunday, I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to the church at 5. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so excited. We walked there because it is so close and as I got closer I saw that all of the people in Edineţ who came out that morning to celebrate had formed two lines along the sides of the street to the church. It was one large path of luminaries when everyone was waiting to be pleased by the priests. In general, the people who come bring an offering of sweet Easter bread (that is delicious with tea), colored eggs, candy, and sometimes other things such as meat or cookies. When the priests come to bless you, they carry around a bucket of scented water which has been blessed and use a broom like object to fling water into the crowd. The tradition says that you can’t wipe the water from your face when it comes or you are not blessed. When the priest came by my side, I took off my glasses and closed my eyes. I was shocked to receive a full blast of water right in my face. I had was dripping wet which I guess means that I was REALLY blessed. My face was still slightly damp when we started walking home a few minutes later. When we came home around 6 o’clock, we all went back to bed and then woke up to eat Easter brunch. The table was filled with amazing things to eat such as salads, different meats (chicken, fish, pork, lamb, etc.) as well as different desserts. There is a tradition with the colored eggs that was great. You take the egg and with the small end you hit another person’s egg that they have in their end. The person’s egg which does not break is the strongest. I ended up being the victor this year! It was great.

This weekend, one week after Easter, was spent in the cemetery to celebrate those who have passed away. It is similar to our Memorial Day where we bring flowers to those who have died in their memory, but VERY different. We bring food, gifts, wine, and candy to the gravesites and place a tablecloth on the ground where the grave is. We then put the things we brought on top of the grave as an offering to them as a sign of remembrance. Each person then drinks a little wine, with the first drink being poured on the ground for that person. The priests come around to each grave and say a blessing and sing. After that, we eat the food that was brought and have a small masa at the graveyard. It was difficult for me to explain to everyone here that in America we don’t really care to spend more than 20 minutes in a graveyard because it is a little scary. But here in Moldova, they celebrate their dead and want to remember their life every year. So for me to spend about 3 hours in a graveyard was a very interesting experience, but one I truly enjoyed. No, the Easter Bunny does not come to Moldova, but that’s just fine with me.

One more thing... My girls are heading to the national basketball tournament this next weekend for the finals! I am very proud of them and can’t wait. Win or lose, I hope they learned a lot with this experience. Oh, and Adam, you may want to check ESPN 2 or one of the ESPN alternate channels for the tournament.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Well, it’s almost the end of March and it seems unreal that I have been in Moldova almost 6 ½ months. Some days it feels like I have been here my whole life and other days it seems as though I just arrived yesterday. I think the reason that everything seems great right now is the fact that I now have the most amazing host family. They are so giving and keep on surprising me with their generosity. Just last night I was eating dinner with them and they told me they had a surprise for me. They had just hooked up DSL Internet in the house and downloaded a program that would allow me to call anywhere I wanted to for free. They wanted me to have the first call, so I called home to the States. It was such a good feeling because I know how expensive it is to call from America. When I asked them how much I owed them, they told me not to worry about it and to use it whenever I want to. Did I get a great family or what? My host grandma thinks that it was my destiny to live there with them and I am inclined to agree.

I just sent out a mass email to everyone that I could find email addresses for, so if you did not get it, then send me an email and let me know. It was my first mass email since arriving in Moldova almost 7 months ago. I have been very busy lately which has helped make the time pass by really fast. We have a basketball tournament on Saturday, which if we win will allow us to go on to the National Championship in Chişinau. I guess you could call it our very own “March Madness in Moldova.” They kids are really great but sometimes have trouble showing up for practice. Scott and I (Scott is another Volunteer who works at my site) always joke around about how if the kids would only attend a basketball practice in the States, then they wouldn’t ever complain about what they have to do in practice. But, they work hard and have good attitudes, so that makes us pretty lucky! After Scott leaves, I have to make the decision on whether or not I keep the team going. It will be a tough decision to make and will all depend on how busy I am next year.

My birthday was March 19 and it was great. I was a little indifferent about turning 23 because it is just one of those times in your life that nothing really exciting happen. What I mean by that is that when you turn 16 you can drive, when you turn 18 you can vote, and when you turn 21 you can drink. But, when you turn 23, all that means is that you are another year older. Well, I guess it makes me another year closer to 25 and lower car insurance! (We should always look at the positive!). Anyway, for my birthday I had a great time. My host family picked me up from basketball on the 17th to go visit their relatives in Ungheni. It is a city that borders Romania and is absolutely beautiful from what I could tell. I got to see my host uncle, aunt, and cousin again, and met my other cousin as well. We ate BBQ and drank some amazing house wine. They even gave me a gift of perfume for my birthday which I did not expect at all. Moldovans are so hospitable and make you feel very welcome in their houses. On my birthday, we had another party for me at my home here in my town. It was just my host family and me, but was really great. They gave me a new purse which is really awesome, and we ate until none of us could move. Overall, it was a birthday that I won’t forget. Furthermore, if my birthday was any indication to how my 23rd year will go, then 23 will be a fantastic time in my life.

I posted a picture of the Stephan Cel Mare Monument in Chisinau. Hope you enjoy it! Well, that's all for now. Until next time!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Well, it is official…winter has finally decided to show up in Moldova. The past few days have been cold with a mix of rain, ice, and now snow. I am not complaining yet though because it has been a mild winter thus far and had started missing the snow that I was use to while studying at Iowa State (Go Cyclones!).

I am slowly adapting to the culture here. It is very different than what I grew up with but is at times refreshing to be in a place where I never know what to expect. It has definitely kept me on my toes and making me a stronger person all at the same time. For example, it is a tradition for men to not shake hands with women. This is not true for all men because many men I work with and meet for the first time do shake my hand. But it is very commonplace in Moldova and one that I have had to get use to. I have always prided myself on having one heck of a good handshake and have used this as a way to demonstrate to others that I am very capable (despite, in some situations, my young age). It was really hard to get adjusted to, but now I find myself always ready to shake hands but I don’t automatically stick my hand out as I use to. It’s slightly embarrassing to find yourself with your hand outstretched and overlooked.

The food here is also very different, but quite tasty. Borş (in English, Borsch) which is a delicious, slightly sour soup with vegetables and sometimes meat, has become a staple in my diet. I also eat a lot of Colsonaş is kind of like ravioli with either a cheese or meat filling. They are absolutely delicious and really easy to make. All you need is an egg, flour, milk, and water for the outside part. I will probably make this a lot when I get back to the States. I also adore Mamaliga which is basically like Polenta (for all of you who have been in Italy) which is basically just boiled corn meal and is then formed into a loaf. It is delicious with a little Smîntina (sour cream) and brînză (cheese). Lastly, one thing that is common to find is Placinta (pronounced plachenta) which is stuffed pastries. You can find them with cheese (my favorite), cabbage, potatoes, and sometimes sweetened pumpkin. The Moldovan cuisine is really good and I have not had trouble adjusting to this at all. If you are at all curious about how to make any of these delicious dishes, don’t hesitate to ask!

Well, now that I have talked all about food, I am slightly hungry. Therefore, I am off for my lunch break right now. I hope all of you who are reading this are warm, healthy, and happy. Take care and I will write again soon!

Monday, January 29, 2007

As some of you may already know from reading my blog, one of the projects I've been working on in Moldova is leading a few teams of high school basketball players in my village. In March and April, they'll be playing a five-week season against other teams in their part of the country, and they might go on to the championship in Chisinau. It's an important project because kids here don't have a chance to play organized sports like we do in America, so they miss an opportunity to learn.

In order for us to play our season, though, we need your help. Through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, we have written a grant for the league through which you can help finance the league's transportation cost. The total project costs over $9,000, so we need all the help we can get. Your tax-deductible donation will pay for the transportation costs for over 30 teams; Moldovans have paid for every other necessity, including equipment costs, referee salaries, gym usage and other expenses, by themselves. Moldovans have already contributed over $3,000 to the project, and we hope that you can help them, and specifically my team, by contributing anything you have today by clicking on the link below:\u003dresources.donors.projdetail&projdesc\u003d261-151&region\u003deurope

You can also call the Peace Corps' Washington office and donate at(800) 424-8580 ext 2170. Tell them that you want to donate to the Moldovan National Basketball League, project 261-151.

I never have been very good at asking for money, but this is such a great reason to do so. Thank you in advance for helping me, my team of kids and the basketballin' country of Moldova.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Today has been a beautiful day. Everywhere in the world it seems like it is snowing except for here in Moldova. It is about 50 degrees farenheit and very sunny. I really am enjoying this weather, but know that it is not going to last because they are predicting snow on Saturday. It is funny, but I actually kind of miss snow. After being in Iowa for college for four years, it is really weird not having any at all.
The picture that I posted is of some of my basketball team here in my town. They are very talented and I cannot wait to start playing other towns. They show me no mercy out on the court and I like that they aren't scared to hustle after the ball. I will definitely keep you posted when our season begins.
As of February 1st, I will be moving in with a new host family. I am really excited because they have a "casa mica" and a "casa mare" which translates to small house and big house. I will be sharing the casa mica with my bunica gazda (host grandmother) and have a huge room with a large bed, desk, cupboard, etc. and have an adjoining room where there are bunkbeds for guests to stay. There is also a kitchen, bathroom, and a room where my grandmother sleeps. The large house has 3 bedrooms, a salon, large kitchen, and bathroom so I am not going to be doing "without." It is about the same distance from work as my other house, so it is going to allow me some good exercise everyday.
Well, that is all to report for now. I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

This past week was great because we had our final week of PST in Chisinau. We had language lessons every day, different sessions with speakers for our Technical Training, as well as more Administrative sessions (safety, security, etc.). I think the best part was getting see everyone and hearing their stories about their villages. It sounds as though everyone is doing great. There was a large snow fall in the southern part of Moldova and some people were without power for an extended period of time. It did a lot of damage to some of the electrical lines and so it has been difficult getting everything put back together. I just talked with my mom on the phone on Sunday and it sounds as though the same thing is happening back home in Missouri. People have been without power for days because of all the ice, snow, and sleet.

So far, I have enjoyed being at my site. The picture that I posted is of Ştefan Cel Mare or "Steven the Great" in English. He was Moldova's great savior from the 14th century I believe. I can't specifically remember the dates, but if you are interested, you can always look him up. There is a statue of him in many villages and towns in Moldova, and mine is no different! Anyway, I really enjoy everyone in my office and getting to know what everyone is doing. I am unable to help out a lot right now because my business vocabulary isn't very strong, but I am working on it everyday. It will soon be at the level that I want it to be. Also at my site, I am playing basketball with the high school students in my town twice a week. It's a great way to get to know more people and is great exercise as well. It has been a lot of fun and is actually helping my improve my Romanian as well.
I also found out that I am going to be one of the co-directors for GLOW Camp, which stands for "Girls Leadering Our World." It is a leadership camp that teaches teenage girls about life, health, and many other subject. I am incredibly excited for it and can't wait to get started. It is going to be a challenge because everything is done in Romanian and Russian, and there is no English involved. But I believe that it is a challenge that will help me improve in many ways and is also a challenge that I am looking forward to.
Well, that is all I have for now. Please make comments on my blog or send me an email so that I know what you would like to hear about. Thanks!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Well, this is going to be my first entry since I have been in Moldova. I have been so busy with the learning language and about the culture that I haven't had much time to sleep let alone update my blog. This picture I took in October when I was helping with the grape harvest in my families garden. It was such a neat experience. My family that I stayed with during PST (Pre-Service Training) were great people. I learned how to make Compot, can meat for the winter, harvest grapes and make wine, as well as other things.

During PST, I had language classes about 6 times a week and would also go into Ialoveni which was our Hub Site, for technical training. All of Group 19 were positioned in villages outside Ialoveni to learn the language and have culture classes where we discuss the differences between Moldovan and American cultures as well as learn about the history of the country. It was a really great experience but I am glad to be at my permanent site.

Now, I am working in the finance sector. I am not quite sure what I will be doing because I have only been here a short time and don't have the language skills necessary for work. The vocabular that I need with take some time to learn, but I know I will get it! I just had my first Romanian lesson today with my new teacher, Angela, and it went well. She doesn't speak English which is a challange, but I think that in the long run, it will help me learn quicker. My host mother speaks fluent English, so if there is something I am uncertain about, I can always ask her!

Well, that is all I am going to write about for now. I will promise to be a little more detailed in my upcoming entries! La revedere!!