What are borders, after all, but checkpoints letting you know that you’ve reached a new stage in your adventure? Eliminate the borders, avoid the expectations, and what do you have? – An open mind. I wish I had those statements stirring through my mind three weeks ago. I believed I was mentally ready for my new adventure; Join the Peace Corps, live amongst strangers in a third world country, and enjoy the challenges that are positioned ahead.
I realized soon into this journey that it was next to impossible to evade forming expectations and that I was prepared tangibly but far from mentally ready. I’m taking each day in stride. Everywhere I walk (and I walk a lot), I am constantly looked at and sometimes interrogated. The concept of joining a non-traditional government agency that promotes peace worldwide via cross cultural integration and volunteer work is so beyond far fetched in these countries that no matter how fluent I become in Romanian, I could spend a decade trying to explain it. The strange thing about it… that’s the most fun part.
While I work to conquer basic grammar and vocabulary and struggle to explain that I, in fact, do want to help pick fruits and vegetables from the fields, it is the little things that have caught me most off guard. I’ve had the pleasure of learning a few Moldovan superstitions the hard way. Unable to break my habit, I often get snapped at for whistling indoors as I have found out that it is this very act that calls in the evil spirits. I have been served pasta and “meatballs” for breakfast and porridge for dinner. A glass half full, instead of serving as a motivational speech, is a glass that is way too full and better be finished quickly so more of the homemade wine can be served for another round of toasts. Perhaps my favorite change of them all is the stigma surround clothing. Moldovans do not own a large wardrobe. In fact, wearing the same outfit or shirt for two or three days in a row is not only common, but rather just short of expected. Dress is not a reflection of wealth, as it seems to often be in the States, but still the wonderful people here will make sure to put on their “Sunday best” if the special occasion presents itself.
The first week of my PC adventure, I would look into the sky and wonder why I wasn’t on that plane flying overhead and returning home. I spent my walks to school with my ears filled with my iPod headphones and my eyes directed towards the ground in front of me. Now, with the newly possessed knowledge concerning my role in developing a better lifestyle for the Moldovan youth, I take notice of the budding sunflower fields, the mother’s sweeping the driveway after a long morning of tending to her garden, and the barefoot kids displaying delicate curiosity about the seven new north-face wearing strangers walking around in their world. This is the only world they know.