Well, I must apologize for the spoiler alert in the title, but more on that in a little bit. Week 4 of Pre-Service Training is a much anticipated and action packed week, and I sure did start it off with a bang. During our lovely Sunday rest day, I blew off studying and relaxing for a surprise trip to Ialoveni with my host parents. Not knowing where I was really going or what we were doing, I packed a bag and naively hopped in the backseat of their neighbor’s car. This was an experience of itself as I couldn’t understand a word sitting between two screaming Moldovan women, nor did I have any idea what to expect. We eventually pulled off the highway, drove down a dirt path, and found ourselves at the side of a lake. In Moldova, instead of parking on the street and walking to the beach, you drive on a small patch of some sand-dirt combo and park directly next to the “tide”. We sat directly in front of the car, used it as shade, and set up camp. On this very Sunday I broke every medical rule PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Office) told us to follow in just a matter of hours: I swam in the toxic-sludge they call a lake, I drank copious amounts of alcohol before 3pm with strangers, and I consumed both raw fish and what I later found out was half juice-half tap water. And yet, I’m still alive.
The week continued and amidst more language classes and training sessions, we were inching towards to the hyped-up Site Announcement day. On this day, the volunteers are awarded the last piece of the mysterious timeline puzzle: we find out our permanent village, host family, and available work partners. Now every volunteer knows that during the summer we have a structured daily program, and while it feels eerily similar to boot camp, we bear arms with a group of other Americans living just down the road. Our “permanent site” will be our home for the next two years with just the surrounding volunteers, resources, and locations as our only sanity. Therefore, this information is absolutely crucial. After a prolonged lunch break in Chisinau, we all gathered outside of our school where the staff members had drawn out a massive outline of the country in sidewalk chalk. We were each called one by one – Price is Right style – given an envelope containing all the basic information we needed and were led to stand in the place of our new home on the map. After all was said and done, I was standing on the west side of the country, about a half-step or 20 real minutes from the Romania border, holding an envelope that read Lapusna, Hincesti (Lap-oosh-nah, Hin-chesht). Within 30 minutes of me are a fellow Health Education Volunteer, an Agro-Business volunteer, and an English Education volunteer.
Lapusna is a relatively large village (approx. population of 6,200) about 1 hour west and a lick south of the capital. It used to be its own Raion center/district but has since been acquired by the larger Hincesti. However, because of this fact, it actually appears to be quite diverse for Moldovan standards, being inhabited by Romanians, Russians, Ukranians, Gypsys, Bulgarians, Italians, and yes – even some fellow Jews (I know, Momma, I’m happy too). Yes, I will be the only American in the village, but there have been two other PC Volunteers who have served this village prior to my stint. I will be teaching grades: 4a,b, 5a,b, 6b, 7a,b, 8a. In addition, I will be running a club for 5th and 6th graders (which I earnestly hope will be a creative version of the organization I ran at Elon, CHAMPS Health Mentoring Program). I wish I could share more with you, but that is about all I know.
This weekend is our infamous first Site Visit. After a rowdy night in which all members of Peace Corps Moldova are invited to the U.S. Embassy building to party regarding ‘Muricas independence, we meet our future School Director and ride with them to our permanent site. Being armed with just a less-than-impressive Romanian vocabulary and a over-filled backpack, I will be spending Sunday-Tuesday at Lapusna, while residing in the home of my future host family. If you think that is a forced awkward situation, add the fact that the entire village knows a new American is coming and that meetings have already been prepared for me (all of them taking place entirely in Romanian and including one with the Mayor) and we have ourselves a foreign comedy flick. Since I will only be teaching 8 hours a week, I will be on the relentless look out for future budding projects, developing NGO’s, and other sorts of exhilarating activities I can get my hands dirty with. Just as I start getting comfortable in my home now, I am being whisked away to another foreign piece of land that is by now anticipating my arrival and the possible funding that obviously comes with me. Here’s to hoping I find an indoor bathroom, a source of heat for the winter, and welcoming civilians! Noapte Buna, friends.