I went from Tuesday morning to late Wednesday before realizing we had no electricity at my school or community center. I situated myself outside the church in below freezing conditions for over two hours to congregate with the community and observe the ultra-orthodox funeral of a very important man I was never aware of. I witnessed a student bringing in a butcher’s knife onto school grounds for a potential fight, another student toting explosives in his back pocket, and heard of stories that centered around 8th graders getting married. This is my bona fide life. No, seriously. Yet I would be at remiss if I didn’t mention I have authentic moments where I feel I could perpetually remain here. Granted, these moments are more rare than an STD testing center in a red light district, but still they exist nevertheless.
I have now lived to tell the tale of two week-long training sessions as well as two site visits from none other than my program managers. From here on, I am past the PC hand-holding stage and am riding solo. What was once known as the dreaded, frigid February has morphed into a hell of a lucrative and pleasant string of weeks, despite still being pretty fucking cold. My grant to build a calm courtyard/destressing park in my community is making headway – thanks to Sveta, an incredible partner and friend – and my summer HIV/AIDS soccer camp is moving along approximately as fast as an asmethic sloth. I have English books in transit, a basketball uniform project in the works, and a newfound sense of delusional motivation. Even the familia gazda (host family) has taken a turn for the better, as the communication has upped itself a notch and the emotions are begginning to loosely resemble endearment. The credit can be given to my boss’ stern chat regarding host situations, but their benevolance towards me is now so apparent and more in your face than a night time birds eye view of the Vegas strip. Sometimes its at level overload to include me in family activities and persuade me that I should stay, but hey, I will gallantly accept their compensation for six months of distant conduct.
Now that I am closing in on the 9 month mark, it is my belief that my Moldovan counterparts are at last beginning to open up to me. Maybe they guarded themselves in case I came and went, not unlike the last volunteer placed in the village of Lăpușna, but even the citizens who have never given me the time of day are openly presenting assistance with my projects. This Jew now understands that 6-year-old reaction on Christmas morning; To receive a heart-felt accolade from a normally aloof local causes „Brett, you’re very ambitious” to sound like „Master Brett, you might as well be the President”. Fine, fine, maybe not, but a gain is a gain. With the opening of arms, comes a much more ajar comfort level. For example, as they are no longer looking to win over my impression of Moldova, I have seen and been offered raw pigfat to act as a bread topping. This, a sight only classifiable as a 2nd degree assault on the eyeballs and stomach, is my graceful and not abnormal acquiescence. I’m even beginning to collect the native treatment proposals. As some of you know, I have a torn meniscus in my knee, and I have refused the solo option of returning to America for surgery, as it would just be a surplus sum of time away. Not to worry, the conventional wisdom is to heat up some rachiu (moonshine) and directly rub it on the joint. Case closed.
I am finding that while my lessons are a hit – and trust me 30 clapping, smiling kiddos poorly executing secret handshakes that were never a mutual creation when you walk in a room is the ego boost of a lifetime – I feel that I am not going in depth enough on each subject. Next year, I plan to have several lessons focused around, let’s say, eating disorders and depression rather than just one 45 minute surface breach. I also plan on being able to speak without the use of remedial grammar. Now, just making a difference and being remembered is not enough. Shit… I’m starting to develop a passion for youth development. Thanks a lot, Mother.
As part of my attention turns to my new job of transitioning the 58 new volunteers who will be arriving in Moldova come June, juggling my other position as Health program representative, preparing for / teaching my 8 hours of class, and proceeding with my side projects, has my planner looking like a graffiti wall and my bloodpressure a shifting puzzle of numbers. Life is anything but boring, but I’m doing things I always thought to be impossible such as learning Russain via Romanian. A third language through a second language? Unreal. Some days, such as my Dad’s recent birthday and the anouncement of a close friend’s engagement make the distance and time implausibly difficult, but I realize now that I have invested a lot of pride in every stop along my career path, and I can only hope that prolongs well into the future. One thing that for sure will carry to yet to come is my college-adapted life motto: work hard, play harder. I won’t be able to write for a little while as I will soon be venturing out on my second cross-country trip: I will be backpacking through the tiny country of Cyprus and the Southern point of Turkey while crashing on local’s couches and only eating the peoples’ recommendations. Living without luxury has turned out to be absurdly rewarding and eye opening, so why not conquer my number one objective, to see the world, the exact same way?