Very few times in life a person will be able to stop in their tracks and say, well… damn I am going to remember this forever. In the future, people will ask about my summer of 2012, when I went through the infamous Pre-Service Training of Peace Corps; I can already foresee my response. For the last two and a half months I lived my life in a slightly different way. I snacked on tomatoes as if they were apples, boiled and filtered my water daily, took bucket baths, and sat through more hours of “group therapy” sessions than those being utilized for sleeping. However, this information will only uncover itself with a little digging. Instead, I will remember the 140+ hours of language training, the locals who spent hours just trying to understand me, and the overwhelming amount of questions I faced regarding my reasons for coming to the poor, boring Moldova.
Because we live in a world that is constantly changing, it is to our advantage to learn how to adapt and enjoy the different. The real accomplishment here is that we completed Practice School with our heads still intact. In the final days of our summer, we clung to each other fully knowing we were about to be stripped of our only American comfort. This week continued with a large array of wrap-up activities sure to be included in any reflection period. We timidly took our final language exam that was tape recorded so it can be graded and put on to our government file; we had final progress interviews and feedback sessions; we had possibly too many celebratory drinks. “Cel mai bun” – the best – of it all was the American party (or “masa”) we put together to make sure that our summer families knew how appreciative we were. Just like a good ‘ol BBQ, we served chili, cornbread, watermelon, coleslaw, and of course the universal supply of booze. Each volunteer took turns reading thank you cards that we wrote, with a little help, in Romanian for our first host family followed by a shaky presentation of a traditional Moldovan dance that we practiced during a make-shift language class. Of course, I was the lucky one to be voted to wear the old school regional outfit.
We were told to be ready, with all of our bags packed, at 8 am. That I was, but when the bus rolled up to my house I became flooded with emotions. With everything I have to my name here in Eastern Europe packed behind me, I had to say goodbye to the wonderful Castravet family who made my transition so smooth, and then move on with my journey. We arrived at the school in Chisinau, unpacked all of our cargo and moved upstairs where we discovered an empty auditorium. Before anyone arrived to witness the ceremony, our Country Director, Jeffery Goveia, swore us in under oath using the same oath that President Obama and his predecessors took before taking office. Pretty cool, eh? After the U.S. Ambassador, the Minister of Education, and the Peace Corps officials gave their eclectic speeches we were announced one-by-one as official Peace Corps Volunteers. I was given a certificate, an authentic Peace Corps identification badge, and a great deal of congratulatory handshakes.
That’s when the second round of sweeping sentiment sat in. The ceremony we have been working towards all summer has come and gone, and now it was time for another encompassing of goodbyes. We were given some grub, and told to pack up and ship off to our permanent sites with a rapid gathering of photos and hugs. This leaves me to where I am now, 50 kilometers southwest of the capital in the 6,000 person village of Lăpuşna, Hînceşti. It’s about that time to make lesson plans, mingle with the locals, and throw myself head first into an entirely new culture and analyze the assorted reactions. While it’s so easy to lose yourself in a mindset of loneliness and isolation, this presents itself as a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity that must be seized for all it has to offer, despite the overwhelming amount of obstacles that come along with it. I have my training, I have my support (and thank you so much for that), and now it’s time to get to work. As a PCV, the program representative, and a United States peace ambassador, I am officially on the clock.