I am within weeks from pompously pronouncing „I made it out alive from my first Eastern European winter!” which should actually be classified as an era. My morning and afternoon walking commute now incorporates glimpses of people working in the gardens, moving things outside that have since been shielded from daylight, and a faint precursor of what I believe will develop into real smiles (some lacking teeth, but beggers can’t be choosers). I have even joined in our garden as a trainee and planted our first round of summer vegetables.
A lot has happened in the last few weeks – as March skidded by without much dawdle. The inflexible concentration I had set on finishing my grant, carrying out my tasks within Peace Corps, and teaching my classes took a backseat to culture amalgamation. I chose this style of volunteering for the distinctive experience it offers and snub the possibility of wasting that. You see, the big holiday – the sun of the Eastern Orthodox religious solar system – Easter, is approaching. The Moldovan two-month long salutation to it makes the White House Easter Egg Hunt look like a McDonald’s attempt at a diet menu. Admirable, but c’mon man. From the starting line of late March until the actual holiday itself in early May, our lifestyles are altered to confirm our allegiance. A strict, bodering on vegan, diet is embraced while the items we are permited to use as well as the times we are permitted to use them has shriveled to a stern but odd timetable. Yep, you read that correctly, I have been vegan – save a makeshift and succulent PCV Passover seder – as well as fortified my minimalist living for a serious fraction of a month. Which makes me think… detecting my gradual changes, while wearing my new eco-friendly watch and digesting my protein-less diet; if you’re starting to picture a beadered man sporting a faded Kellogs t-shirt leisurely attending to the garden with his „pet” pigs, you are sadly not too far off.
Regardless of my futile attempt at Moldovan-life assimilation, my work has never been so booming. I am proud to exclaim that after nearly 2 months of wearisome labor, scores of setbacks, numerous forced modifications, and what I thought was a botched presentation – we won our grant and will be receiving a lofty sum of money to build our courtyard!! While we must make some changes, ramp up the community involvement, and remain serene with the governments’ embryonic process, the fact is that we have our funding and my original vision that consisted of a recycled piece of printer paper and a washed out marker will come to substantial fruition in my village. Interlaced with this project, I was also able to make progress on my HIV/AIDS summer camp plans and bring an M16 (a former Moldova volunteer) to my village to demonstrate a trendy style of karate – Brazilian Ju Jitsu. We even got two girls to show up. Two!
As Robert, the returned volunteer, so suitably put it: there is no sugar coating this job. Not a few weeks of language progression or a single computer program will make simple tasks easier to achieve. Out of the 792 days that I will hold this job title, I can’t expect more than 9 to be without their liabilities. I will leave this life episode fearless, merely viewing problems as challenges while never overlooking the importance of taking the time to listen as much as I choose to speak. Satirically, I ascribe this realization to my Mother’s ancient Nokia brick phone that took a seemingly 5 hours to turn on only to stop and display her block-styled scerensaver: „Don’t sweat the small stuff”. As a kid, all I wanted to do was play Snake while she was driving, but always got a lengthy visual life lesson instead. Okay, Mom, okay, you were right for the billionth time, and as sarcastically ironic as it is – my phone now is a Nokia brick phone and that lesson is now an expression I employ daily. But you should see my Snake high score now!
With that imminent and enormous 1 year mark perplexingly in sight, the thought that the whole Peace Corps thing might not just be an awesome conversation starter (and by that, yes, fine, I mean pick up line…) at social gatherings is beggining to materialize. I’ve merrily adopted the foolish philosophy of just do it, ask questions later and harnessed it with every action I undertake. While it may not always be the shrewd tactic, it sure does yield some damn enjoyable returns. Things like teaching 2 fellow teachers, without preparation, how to correctly and efficiently use a modern laptop is like watching two fresh-water fish circling a big rusty hook. Tentative, a bit curious and hopeful, but otherwise hilariously blasé. I even think I have shed the American volunteer label and transpired into just the health teacher. The secret (I think): it’s all about a compromise and relocating from the life I know. Anyway, I must officially be a teacher seeing as how I arrive home with more crushed white powder fused into my clothing than a cocaine manufacturer, but hell, a bland profile must insinuate the fast track to Moldovan acceptance.