Carla's Peace Corps Adventure

The beggining of my adventures in Peace Corps Moldova: from the very, very, very beginning.(Note:The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

La Arrivedere Moldova!

Yes, I did it. I decided to Early Terminate my service, which only lasted technically about a week. I have many reasons, but the main one, and the most important, has been that I was not happy. By not happy I mean not the person that I usually am, which drove me to think, and think. Then I cried a bit. Spent some days in TDY. And I finally made a decision: to return to Spain. As I'm writing this, i'm on the plane from Vienna to Madrid, and honestly I couldn't be happier right now. On the funny side I have been realizing the curious little things that have changed since I've been in Moldova:

-Now I say “Excusaţi” instead of “Excuse me”
-I expect NO customer service, so when in Austria the security guards, with big smiles, proceeded to empty all my hand lugagge and check everything I owned, I could NOT be mad. I just smiled back. I even helped them. Then they said “Merry Christmas!”. THEY SAID “MERRY FREAKING CHRISTMAS!” TO ME!!!
-And judging by the following conversation, I don't speak Spaniard Spanish anymore:

Azafata/Stewardess: Quiere algo de beber? (Do you want something to drink?)
Yo/Me: Si. Jugo de Anana. (Yes. Pineapple Juice.)

The stewardess then stares at me blankly, which makes me think that maybe I said something in some other language accidentally. And then it hits me. I'm flying Spainair. SHE'S SPANISH! So:

Yo/Me: Eh, ZUMO DE PIÑA. (Eh, Pineapple Juice-Spain style)

Just what I needed. To translate what I say from Spanish to Spanish. Fabulous. I can't wait to land in Madrid.
And... Ahhh... Madrid. The city that never is boring. EVER. So many adventures await me, I know. For now, all that is sure is that I have two job interviews this very week, that I will be living with Leah in the center of Madrid, that I will be seeing all my friends again, that I will be eating tapas and drinking cañas like crazy, that I will be spending my Sundays at Retiro Park, practicing my Rumanian with my new tutor, practicing my Italian with the other tutor I got, that Ania will be coming for the New Year, that I will be applying for Grad School in Europe, that I'm going to be in the same city with the Italian but he doesn't know i'm here but I might run into him, that already another ex has been asking for me, that I will finally shave my legs and wear a dress, maybe even do my make up, and that I will have a crazy life with barely any time but that it will be fabulous. I just know it. And now you know it. Because I will be writing about it. So if you want to read about my new post-PC life, you will have to check out my new blog.

Friday, November 23, 2007

FIRE!!!

To add to my growing list of misfortunes (or adventures, depends how you see it) in Moldova, I had a most special welcome present to my new site from... well, I guess we can say God. A very mean one, that thrives in using irony to torture me. In the form of fire, poop or other such elements.
Yesterday, on Turkey Day, we were sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. We had to wake up very early, sit for a very long time, and by the time my counterpart took me home I was very tired. I was ready to get to my room and nap. Maybe wake up from my nap to eat and then sleep more. I was definitely not aiming to be very productive in my first day ever as an official volunteer. Mostly because I was dead exhausted from being a volunteer-in-training.
So I got to my new home, and I excitedly unpacked everything. Something was going on but I wasn't quite aware of it at the moment. I just hoped it wouldn't interfere with my imminent sleeping plans. My counterpart quickly said goodbye, said she would be busy Friday so I shouldn't bother to go to work (I thought I was here to help her not be so busy... but ok...), and told me to rest and accommodate my things. But, instead of taking my pungas (big soviet shopping bags) to my room, they took them into the kitchen. And then they explained that I was going to sleep in the living room. I was very confused for a few seconds until I understood the words soba and foc (fireplace-type-heating-system and fire)!!!
Eventually, I pieced everything together: Apparently, an hour before I arrived, my host mom decided to make my new room warm and cozy, lit up the fire, and left the house. By the time she got back, my room had caught on fire, I had no bed anymore, as well as no rug, chair or desk, and of course she was worried about the fire catching on to the whole house, so host dad and her turned it off the old-fashioned way (buckets of water) and nervously awaited my arrival. Host dad did so with a burnt nose. And now I know why my counterpart told me not to go into the office, since I have currently enough to do around the house.
Nevertheless, I can't help but to think what a particular welcome I had. Talk about a “sign”. I mean, I can either see it as very good or very bad. I hope it's the first option.
So for now, I will move into the parents' room. I feel kindda bad, since they will be sleeping in the living room just to have me comfortable.

Meanwhile, today I have tried helping around the burnt house, I have talked to my family, I have petted the furry white-but-soot-covered cat, I have enjoyed a hot shower (yeih for running water!) and I am planning to go walk around the town, see where everything is, and maybe smoke a cigarette somewhere were nobody can see me. This is the real thing now, I can't go around ruining my reputation just yet.
As for my family, they're awesome! I have a very sweet host mom, a cool host dad that talks to me in Romanian and switches to Italian when I don't understand something, a young host sister that follows me around, and a talkative young host-brother. I just hope he doesn't eat my nutella (without permission) like the last one. The house is very comfortable, even though it's weird to get used to Moldovan architecture: two houses, the casa mare, or big house, where the 3 rooms (including the burnt one) and the living room are. And the casa mica, or small house, where the kitchen, bathroom (with toilet, just for peeing and only for emergencies where you can't run outside to the outhouse. Ah, and flushable with a bucket of water) and another living room are. Nevertheless, it's pretty comfortable, and I have amenities such as a fridge, washing machine and an oven that sometimes lets out this funny gas smell. As for animals, we got a whole petting zoo down back, including chickens, pigs, rabbits and cows. And two cats. Including the formerly white cat, that now is a gray cat. Food is great, well balanced and all, plus they don't force me to eat everything, and they already asked what I like and what I don't, so they know what to cook and what not to cook ever again (on the NO list I just mentioned animals' intestines and other organs, in additions to chicken jelly). We have cable TV, so I have channels from all over Europe. The wine is bottled, which is a great improvement from house-made wine. My dearest friend Ania (from Poland!) just sent me a coffee maker and real coffee. And I have dial-up internet. Oh, and I live right in front of the school, which is where my NGO works. How perfect is that! If only I had a non-burnt room. Oh well, I guess I can't have everything. Or maybe I can. Now that the room is burnt I can help re-do it and maybe convince them to paint it fuchsia. Then, I would have everything!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sneaky Moldovans

Today we had our goodbye American masa (meal/table full of food). Meaning that each American in town cooked something typical from their region and shared it with our host families. I decided to make Texas Chili for everybody, and it seemingly went down well. I'm still waiting for the reports after everybody's particular outhouse experience.
Making Texas Chili wasn't as easy as I thought; through the whole preparation process at home, my host mom would let out a loud gasp each time I would shake the chili seasoning jar on top of my concoction. I laughed evilly, and told her: “This is going to be an AMERICAN masa, not a Moldovan one!”, and then I threw in some hot dried Mexican peppers, and maybe cackled.
In any case, during the masa everything was going well, until a local realized that there was no alcohol included in our masa plans. To Moldovan standards, that is unthinkable, so he readily went across the street to the store and brought back some fizzy-red-teeth-staining wine. Then he proceeded to make sure we all drank it. He said it was medicine, but he couldn't fool us! Yet, to prevail in his evil plan, he used the following tactics:

The Health Reasoning
“Wine is good for your blood. It helps it flow.”

The Scare Tactic
“If you don't drink wine often, your intestines will rust and fall apart.”

Peer Pressure
“What? You don't drink wine? Everybody does. Do you have a sissy stomach?” (this is a tactful way of indirectly calling you a sissy)

Force

In the case of a particular male volunteer that refused to drink more, he just grabbed a cup, put it to his lips, tilted his head back and forced him to drink.

So yes, Moldovans don't take “No, thanks” for an answer. And they have sneaky tactics to use against you in case you decide to try to escape their offers for drink or more food. Beware.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What (are the men in)/(is) the world coming to?

I can't help it. I have to bash men. Why? Well, as a result of some recent conversations. Let's start with an SMS one I had today:

Me- It's so cold here! I'm wearing a fur coat and I'm still freezing!
Friend in Houston- I'll warm you up, ha.

REALLY? I mean, REALLY? C'mon. How old are we? I love the fact that for some reason men have hope that the lines that never have worked in the history of humanity, will one day work. They keep this hope alive, and just throw them out in the most random moments.

Conversation on phone yesterday:

Me- Hey! How are you? Wait, it's like 2 pm here, it's like 6 am there... what are you doing awake?
Friend 2 in Houston- Well, I was just sitting here by myself, and i'm on my second bottle of wine...

Why do men think it's cool to drunk call? TO MOLDOVA? When it's like 2 pm here anyways. I mean, if I was home I wouldn't have even picked up the phone, because I would have known. Now they drunk call and trick you into listening to their ramblings. Smart.

Now, the next one was interesting. This was an online conversation, yesterday after the drunk call, with a friend in Argentina who one day turned Mormon and decided to go preach the word of God somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and still has some hope for my conversion to Mormonism. Or whatever you want to call it:

Friend in Argentina- So, you see, you aren't really baptized until you are baptized in the true Church, because...
Me- If you were here I'd kick you in the balls, right about NOW
Friend in Argentina- Would you rub them afterwards?

C'mon! You are a self proclaimed Mormon attempting to convert me. Try harder. And given your obvious need for any sort of physical contact, do you think becoming a Mormon attracts me in any way?

Then another online conversation:

Friend in Spain- Dude, it's like 9 am here, I just got back home from partying all night
Me- Well, i'm kindda jealous
Friend in Spain- Hey, i'm trying to call you right now, pick up your phone!
Me- Oh my gosh... Lay off of whatever you're on. Where were you this whole year when I told you I was leaving Spain and moving to Moldova?

Yeah, if women needed more proof of the fact that men never listen to what we say, here it was.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I love my guy friends. There's other reasons why I still talk to them (because sometimes they still act as rational human beings). But this week was just one after another.

On the other side, the men here are not behaving any more attractive than the rest. The Moldavians think that stalking and harassing you until you explode in anger is a cool way to pick up chicks, and the Americans... well, let's just say that right now most of them decided to grow out copious amounts of facial hair, because they thought it'd be cool to do so. Enough said.
And of course, the universe has some sort of law on irony, because the only guy that I really want to call me, isn't doing so.
Then the women in Moldova ask me why I don't have a boyfriend or prieten. If I only had enough Romanian to explain...

In any case, next week we (finally!) swear in as Peace Corps volunteers. Today I signed a paper promising to defend America from the enemies of the Constitution. I'm still a bit perplexed about that.


Conclusions:

-Bad lines are so never leading you anywhere
-Drunk Calling is fun for you, but not so much for the one on the other side of the phone.
-Attempting to convert someone to your religion and then asking them for a ball-rubbing will only make the person even more antagonistic towards joining you in your quest for the one true God.
-Not EVER listening to anything women say, especially when we're telling you that we're moving to another country, only proves to women that you are no useful type of man-material.
-Stalking/Harassing is not attractive. Especially if you're wearing sweat pants and you haven't showered in days. And I can smell it.
-Growing lots of facial hair can sound like a cool idea, but it's not if you want to appeal to the opposite sex. If you feel a need to grow hair, do it somewhere hidden, like us. Most girls in PC stopped shaving their legs long ago, but you don't know that. Well, maybe now you do.
-Not reading my mind when I want you to be calling me sucks. That only proves to me that you're stupid. How dare you not be able to read my mind?
-Who exactly are the enemies of the Constitution? Do they have a name? Like the unconstitutionals? How will I know when I meet them? And what will I do? Do I get weapons?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jamming in Moldova

In rutieras, sometimes you have no option but to jam. Today found me sitting in a rather empty rutiera, with my Ipod on, and in a happy mood that was set by Jack Johnson playing in my ears. Suddenly, it started. First a few people got on. I'm still comfortable, sitting in my seat. But suddenly, the rutiera stops again, and the minivan becomes a clown car, fitting way more people than should actually be in there, or that most normal people would think that can fit in there. Sometimes I am tempted to place bets on how many people can actually fit in a rutiera. Or how many Moldovans can make themselves fit in there, because even when there is no space they still find enough for one more. In any case, I am pushed against a window, my earphones fall out, and suddenly the rutiera's radio starts playing “Gangster's Paradise”. I was literally jamming, with somebody's butt in my face, which by now is as far against the window as it can get, and with the “Gangster's Paradise” being sung in my head.
It totally killed my Jack Johnson induced mood though.

Banana Pancakes


versus Gangster's Paradise

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Outhouse Fishing

Saturday was a great day. It started with Romanian class at 9 am, continued by an insightful discussion about the differences between American and Moldovan values. We all went home for lunch, but the day was continued with an enjoyable sightseeing trip to Orhei Vecci were all my town's volunteers took some great pictures and indulged in a private field trip. The mood was good, and we decided to finish the day by meeting up at my house (since his host parents were at a nunta or wedding in another town) and have hot tea and watch movies.
The meeting time was 8 pm, and one by one all the volunteers braved the rain and the cold to make it to my warm casa. We started discussing the weeks' gossip, which ranged from one volunteer having gotten the much feared giardia (which is when your body decides to start squirting liquids our of your ass in a constant matter for many days) and another volunteer having dropped their cellphone into the outhouse, which kept on calling people and all they could hear was a squishy suctioning sound of human feces. We all laughed and commented on how silly these volunteers were, and proceeded to start watching Indiana Jones. By then, the mate (Argentenean tea) had gotten to me, and I had to make a stop at the outhouse before comfortably sitting in my warm house and enjoying all the great one liners from Indiana Jones, such as Indian's repetitive “This belongs in a Museum!” and the German woman's “How dare you kiss me!” followed by her throwing herself at Indiana.
So I go to the outhouse, do my thing, and when I stand up to end the procedure... my cell phone decides to commit suicide by jumping into a small, but deep, hole full of poop! I pulled up my pants cussing, and ran into my house. All the volunteers were happily chit-chatting away, but I interrupted by announcing my infelicitous (sorry, I love my thesaurus) misfortune:

“GUYS! YOU CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO ME!!!!!... my phone... just... fell into the outhouse” I exclaimed, feeling quite stupid given the fact that we were just laughing at somebody else that had gone through the same literally shitty situation. My announcement was answered by many laughs and poop related puns:

“HA! That is so shitty! Literally!”
“You're in deep SHIT! HA!”

And the normal comments:

“But... how?”
“You're an idiot Carla”

My host sister was curious about this sudden outburst of English followed by many laughs, so I explained to her the situation in lame Romanian (I didn't know the verbs “to fall” or “to commit suicide” or the noun “poop”), so basically I said: “My phone. IN outhouse.” To which she replied “Ah, that happened to my friend once. Forget about your phone, you'll never get it back.”
And that was the exact moment the Americans kicked into McGiver mode. One said “We're going to get that phone out!”, another said “Yes, we must, let's show Moldovans how it's done!”, and yet another said “I need an 8 foot long pole, a plastic bag and some dental floss.” Our imaginations started running wild with ideas involving McGiver-style solutions. We settled on duct tape, a long pole, a long branch, an empty plastic bottle and a knife. Which gave us a giant sized scooper. Excitedly, we all ran into the rainy and dark Moldovan night, equipped with flash-lights, head-lamps and cameras to document the experience.
So the process to rescue my phone's shit-covered cadaver, to at least give its little SIM card heart another chance, had began. We tried many processes, and positions, given that an outhouse is only made for one person and not for eight. Finally, it was all between me and another volunteer. He lowered the giant scooper into the shit-hole. But, alas!, it was trapped. The poop sucked at it and it was hard to hold it in an adequate position to push my phone into the scooping part. Also, we didn't know how long the duct tape would hold our improvised artifact together. Nevertheless, I bent down in the outhouse, showed my crack, and lowered the branch to try to push my phone into the safe area. The lighting was a problem too, given that every time one person would move (usually to take pictures) the phone would go out of view. Yet, 15 minutes later, we had finally managed to get the phone in the safe scooper area. All we had to do now was to pull up the scooper without the excrement suctioning it all into the shit hole. Carefully, one of the boys brought the whole thing out and... my phone was back! Dead, but at least I could rescue its SIM card heart. I ran back into the house and announced to my host sister “WE DID IT!” and I said “HA! WE SHOWED YOU” but to myself. Talk about team building.
After the whole event, we all went back inside. The two of us that were involved with direct contact with poop pretty much covered all our body parts that had had contact with it in disinfectant, luckily provided by the PC Medical Kit. I wonder if when they think about what to put in it, they consider these situations. Even though according to the medical book they give us to go along with the kit, the disinfectant is imperative when helping a mother give birth. I think I prefer to use the disinfectant after recovering phones out of my outhouse rather than to help somebody pop out a baby. But that's just me.

So, conclusions:

-It takes 8 Americans to get a cell phone out of an outhouse in Moldova.
-Moldovans are so negative. And I realized that my two years here will be spent showing them that not only is it possible to get cell phones out of an outhouse, but it's also possible to do pretty much anything you set your mind to.
-Team Work is awesome. I've always been the type of person to try to do things by myself. But I realized that without the rest of my PST sitemates, getting my phone back would have been impossible.
-For when it's our turn to run the team building activities, this will soooo be one of the things the newbies will have to figure out.
-DO NOT GO INTO THE OUTHOUSE WITH YOUR CELLPHONE! STUPID!
-McGiver rocks.

Step 1: Gather 8 Americans and random pieces of trash.


Step 2: Start gettin' dirty


Step 3: SUCCESS! And some shit to go along with it, too.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Super Woman

Today's adventure was a bit mundane, but I learned a lesson nevertheless: Don't forget your key, stupid.
After a long day of class and hub-site, I took a lonely rutiera (bus/van) back home at 5 pm. It's winter now, so by that time it's pitch black outside. In addition to very freaking cold. So I get home, ready to go up to my room, make some chai (tea) and cuddle in my room with my new book. If I'm lucky, maybe I even get to take a bath. It's been 4 days since the last one. Maybe that was way too much information. In any case, so I get to the house, and there's no lights on. But that's no problem, because it's a small-town norm to never lock your doors anyways. So I head to the main door, try to open it, and... it's locked. So I try the back door. Locked too. Oops.
No worries though, tata gazda (host dad) always leaves a key hidden in a shoe outside the door. I look around, but then I get distracted because real dad called. So I sat outside talking on my phone for half an hour, and when we hung up I resumed my search. Now I'm starting to get a bit nervous, mostly because I'm getting colder. So I look and look, using my phone as a flashlight because I also didn't bring a flashlight, and finally I find the spare key!!! I'm saved! Oh, but wait. I have to go ahead and screw it up by trying to open the back door with my super strength and breaking the key. I amazed myself a bit, but then, I fell into despair. What to do? I text my sora gazda (host sister) but I receive no answer.
Now I'm frustrated and a bit pissed. Mostly at myself. And the stupid crappy key that had to go ahead and break. So I start texting my neighboring PC volunteers to see if I can crash at their place for the time being, but... wait, I'm saved! Tata and mama gazda arrive!They are a bit confused, because I show them half of their key (I bet now they're scared of my super strength!). But mama gazda just goes in to the garage, and... surprise, that's another way into the house, and there's no key. It's wide open. See, I always wondered why the main hallway was so cold. And then the laughing at me started. Yet again. I bet I'm super amusing, with my exploding bottles of fermented wine and breaking of keys while I think I'm locked outside of my house but I'm really not. I bet that PC ads to recruit host families go something like this: Get your own American/personal clown. Non-stop amusement guaranteed.

I thought everybody out there might start wondering what to get me for Christmas. I mean, besides from common sense. You could always just donate to my travel funds (ask me how!). But I also made a list to help you out! I will be updating periodically, so keep up with it: My Amazon.com Wish List Click here. Ah, as for books on the list, I don't mind used ones. Actually, I prefer used ones: they have more personality. You can always just send me your own used books if you'd like, they don't have to be on the list. As for CD's and movies, I don't mind copies either.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

If my feet could talk...

This week has been pretty eventfull. It started with Hram at my village last Saturday. Hram is a big party in which the village celebrates that they are a village by eating a lot, drinking even more, and dancing crazy hora music until the wee hours of the morning. This is fun, as long as your house is not in front of the Casa de Cultura (where the drinking and dancing part of the celebration takes place). Like this one, that I stole from YouTube:



Just imagine it happening in a very small town, and with way drunker people.
The highlights of that evening suprisingly were not the cominc outbursts of those that had a bit too much to drink. It was the 10 year old beer-chugging and cigarette-smoking boy that was trying to dance with the americancas in our group. It was funny in a very sad way.

Another highlight of my week was when the lady at the magazin (kiosco) started giving us candy instead of change. I hadn't gotten that for a while.

I'll have a lap top by next week though. That's awesome! I can finally stay connected to the world!

One of the lows though, to my opinion, has been women in general that I talked to this week. Of all nationalities. They all seem to have the idea that being a woman doesn't let you do certain things, because... god knows who says so. Realizing this certainly pissed me off, since they are just corroborating the same stereotypes that other women have been trying to fight off for a very long time. They passively support them and in doing so they will never let change happen.

And then, my teacher asked me, in Rumanian, what would my feet say if they could speak. That certainly gave me some food for thought.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Explosions and Nudity

That title is really attractive, isn't it? The human mind is so eagerly attracted to any mention of dramatic or abnormal circumstances. But don't worry, I'm not trying to trick you, the title IS TRUE!
I learned a very important lesson today: Don't accidentally try to make your own wine in a used Sprite bottle. This story begins some two weeks ago, when my host mom gave me some fresh sweet grape juice as part of my lunch pack to take to Hub Site day (day all volunteers-in-training meet for technical training in another town). I didn't drink it, so when I got home I just left it on my desk. And two weeks passed by in which I was too lazy to take it down stairs to be consumed by others. So it sat there, and fermented. And then, this morning at 5 am, the situation literally EXPLODED in my face. Well, not really in my face, but all around me. Now I know the horrible feeling that Sari tried to explain to me about his childhood and waking up to the sound of bombs. The bottle exploded on my desk with such a loud noise that I woke up in panic. I had thought that maybe something gas related had exploded. But then I smelled it, realized it was probably that bottle of fermented juice, and I was too scared and lazy (very interesting combination) to get up and clean it. For some reason though, my family didn't wake up or bother to come check on me. So I just layed in bed until my alarm went of at 6:30 am (didn't sleep though) and it was time to do homework and go to class. Then I saw it: my room looked like a fermented grape juice massacre. This sticky stuff was over the walls, spattered and dripping all the way down to the carpet. It was all over my covers. My desk. My clothes that I attempting to dry in my room. EVERYWHERE! I was in a hurry though, so I just took out my sheets, ran downstairs for my first cup of Nescafe (if you're used to the real stuff it takes some 4 cups of that to get you semi-going) and dropped the stuff in the laundry. When I came back after class my family was laughing very hard. And it was at me, obviously. After i'm done here I have to go back and clean everything else. Not looking forward to it.
As for the nudity part, that was an adventure before I went to bed. See, here we go to sleep early. So around 10 pm last night, I felt like going to visit the outhouse one last time before bed. So I grabbed my head-lamp, went outside, changed my inside shoes for my outside shoes, turned on the head lamp and directed my vision to the area of the outhouse. And there it was. My host father but naked with the door wide open and obviously doing what guys need to sit down (or in this case, squat) for. He was like "Oh, hey, Carla". I just said "EXCUSE ME!!!" and ran back in to the house with my longing for an outhouse gone. So today i'm buying a bucket so I have to avoid the night time excusions. If you know what I mean.
Besides all this, week 6 of training has been a bit rough. Like these little adventures didn't help, but whatever. It's been rainning for a week straight, and everybody's moods are going crazy. They asked us to draw how we felt this week in class (no, no aliens this time), and my class produced the following drawings: one with a crying face, one with a screaming face and mine with an angry face with under-eye circles and rain falling. On the good side, hram is this weekend. Which is like our town's day for eating and celebrating... that they are a town, I guess. It's like the official town holiday, and they take it very seriously here. My family has been cooking for two days straight, and they think that it's almost sacrilegious that I have class that morning. Nevertheless, there will be much dancing, eating, and of course, drinking on this day. So if I have any hopes of going to sleep early, it will be impossible, given that my house is right in front of where the major celebration will be. I'm sure I will have a lot of interesting adventures after this holiday. So, dear reader, don't miss the upcoming edition of MY BLOG!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rainyness

It's week 6 of PST. Today there was major breakdowns in class. Stress is getting to all of us. The rainy weather isn't helping anybody.
Not much else to say.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fotos!

Crazy Cat Ladies, Bag Ladies and the Numa Numa song

Ah, back to normal life. Intensive Rumanian lessons, administration telling us what we should and shouldn't do, stepping on cow poop on my way home, phone lines not working, and overall aisolation from the world.
I lost my cat! Yes, incredible. And it just disappeared while I went to site visit, I didn't actually scare it away. I guess it got mad I left for a few days... But don't fall into dispair! There is hope: The crazy cat lady. Yes, you read it right: The crazy cat lady. Just like any other country, Moldova has an actual crazy cat lady. She stands on the main street of Chisinau, by the McDonald's, with little furry persian-looking kittens crawling all over her, and tries to sell them to you for 50 lei each. That's like 5 dollars. I wanted to take a picture of her today, for she's kindda like a Chisinau sight-seeing stop, like the Stefan Cel Mare monument, but, I guess she takes Sunday's off. In any case, I think I would be the coolest cat owner in Moldova if I can say I bought my kitten from the crazy cat lady.
Talking about ladies, I now work for the Bag Lady. Yes, we like nicknames. When I told her that with PC volunteers she's known as the Bag Lady she laughed a lot. I guess I'm glad we amuse her. In any case, after swearing in Nov. 22nd I will move to Clisova Noua and work for her and the community for 2 wonderful years, in which I will do Community and Organizational Development. And that means, pretty much anything. Still, I get free bags, so it's all worth it! Soon I'll be learning to weave my own, I hope. As well as knit, crochet and all those things that I never learned before. Like playing the guitar. And going months without going out at night or smoking cigarettes.
It's getting cold here, and the fact that I would have to buy a winter jacket when I have like 5 in Madrid made me mad. So I called Veronica (my suitcase-keeper and friend in MAD), and we managed to find out that they have buses going back and forth from Madrid to Chisinau pretty often, so, my suitcase should arrive soon. As well as my painting supplies, some books and whatever she managed to stuff in that suitcase. I asked for yerba and alfajores. But her boyfriend called me to ask for some info and accidentally told me that she managed to put a bottle of something in there. I don't know why, since I can't drink here without it being severly frowned upon, but oh well. In any case, getting my suitcase of 40 kilos sent here is cheaper than actually buying a coat, so i'm excited about the upcoming feeling of warmth. Not like PC doesn't colaborate too: Thursday they came by in a big van and dropped off a heater and yak tracks at my house. Apparently I'll need both very soon. That was a bit scary.
Language is coming along good. Yesterday we drew aliens in class! Yes, that's right! We were learning body parts so the teacher would tell us: 4 legs, 7 toes, 3 eyes, etc. and we would draw the alien. Mine was called Xig. And then we had to give it a little dialogue bubble. Xig said: daţ-mi placintă său mort! In English: Give me placinta or die! So yes, my Rumanian is coming along well! Ah, and don't be scared, after that fun activity we learned how to conjugate some 40 new verbs in Rumanian, some that were impossible to pronounce and others that were irregular so there is no option but to memorize them. It's not all fun in games in Rumanian class, FOR REAL!
For more crazy Moldova stories, let me tell you what happened in my town this week. So there is like 4 little shops in town that sell the basic necessities here, like cigarettes and alcohol and all those things that you cannot grow on your own. So I went in to buy a pack of cigarettes, something I don't usually do in town just to keep a low profile since I am a woman and all that, and here that's such a huge deal. I mean, I technically should be married by now. In any case, I went in to the old lady's shop. I usually never go there. So I go in as normal:

Me- Marlboro Lights please
Her- Sure, 13 lei
Me- Thank you

And then she's about to hand me the change. But she doesn't.

Her- What is your name?
Me- Agh.... (PANIC!!!! She wants to KNOW MY NAME! OMG! She's going to go and tell everybody I smoke! That I'm bad! Maybe I should tell her the cigarettes are for my host dad, he smokes anyways. WHAT DO I DO? Maybe I should give her one of the other american girls' names! Or maybe, JUST MAYBE, she's a SPY!!!! A SPY!! No, they probably think that I'M the spy... WHAT TO DO WHAT TO DO?!?!?!) Carla.

And I grabbed my change and left. Yes, all that for a pack of cigarettes. It's not easy being a girl here. And cigarettes are minor. I cannot imagine what would happen if any girl would go and try to buy condoms or, what's worse, tampons, in the towns. That would surely call for deportation.
Last but not least for today's post, I have a little suprise. See, most people don't know where Moldova is, what it is about, much less what language they speak and whether it is or isn't part o the EU. All those things aside, Moldova is defintely famous for this:




If you have been to a night club in the last 4 years, you know. If you haven't, well, now you know what the rest of us were dancing to!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

After Site Visit

I'm alive and made back to Chisinau in one piece! It was a long weekend, but overall I have to say I am happy with my town and excited about my job. There seems like there is a lot to do and learn, and I cannot wait. I had two great host families, so great that I'm still deciding which one to choose. I think I'm going to go for the option that gives me more connections in the village and more people to meet and socialize with.
So my weekend was long and eventfull. I got to see some of the wine festival in Chisinau (like Fiesta de la Vendimia in Argentina!), and got some great pictures. The rest of the day I spent playing chess and checkers with a pair of 7 year old twins, that constantly corrected my lame Rumanian. At least their parents spoke English.
I got to my village and was introduced to my first possible host family. They were awesome and super hospitable. And I helped milk the cow. The next one was the same, but there was no cow milking. Just playing cards and watching the Fashion Network on satellite TV with their 9 year old. Later we read my Romanian book and she offered to do my homework. I felt super tempted to take her up on the offer, but... it wouldn't set a good example. Ah, and the dad spoke Italian, so we had a great Italian-Rumanian conversation.
During the weekend I also got to hang out with my counterpart, a.k.a "The Bag Lady". She runs a place where they make handmade things, mostly woven stuff, and mainly bags. I even got a cool free bag. For marketing purposes of course! In any case, she's awesome and I think that there is a lot of things to be done. She said something about maybe setting up an internet business and trying to get some marketing going on for the enterprise, so it is very interesting. Can't wait!
And today, finally... relaxation. I need it. Only Rumanian (and Italo-Rumanian) for 4 days is about to make my head explode.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Site Assignment

I got my site assignement this week! I must admit I'm feeling much better since I know what my future beholds for me. I'll be in Clisova Noua, a small town 17 km north from Orhei, and about 50-something km from Chisinau. It's a great site location-wise. As for my job, I'll be working with "rural" women that run an artisan workshop. They weave carpets and purses and other things from scratch. What they make is amazing. They even put up their own website: www.rusticart.md , and have some great things on it. I'll be working with Ecaterina, but i'm not sure what i'll be doing yet. It seems like promoting their endeavors and maybe trying to get some agro-turism developed. I'm very excited! And today, the same day of the Chisinau wine festival (hmm... strange, isn't it?) , we have our site visits. I'm with my counterpart right now in Chisinau, because she has a stand going on for the festival, exhibiting their handicrafts. I'm taking lots of pictures too, which one day, I hope, will make it online. As soon as I solve my technical problems.
As for adventures this week, I have a great one at the store. I was trying to buy a notebook and some envelopes. I forgot the word for envelopes, so:

Me- Ehm... Avet... ? ehmm... F*$#!
Local- Nu, nu avem F*$#! (and he laugs at me of course)

That was embarassing. I forgot that the F word is quite international.
Hmm... counterpart calling. Must go. I wonder how we communicate in my sucky Rumanian. I'm glad that she corrects me a lot though. It's helping me!
More soon, I promise!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Yes, I'm Still Here

Today was my first day as a free person. Or as free as I'll ever be in Moldova. I went to Chisinau. I took some pictures. I went shopping. And I was happy.
Then I went to the Peace Corps office and loaded up on books for a while since I won't be back around these parts anytime soon, it seems. Next weekend I have site visits. And before that, on Tuesday, I find out my permanent site!
As for the pictures, you will have to wait. I stil haven't figured out how to tell a Moldovan (in Rumanian) that I want to make a picture CD. I will eventually I guess.
I will be out of reach for a while, at least online. You can still call me.
So what did I do this week? I avoided lumps of poop and mud, as well as watery puddles. I waited out for a cow-traffic-jam at 8 am in my town. I survived hours of Rumanian class, and more hours of nothing-to-do-boredom. I cut my own hair. Such excitement!
As for now, I have to go. It's getting dark, and I can't get home before dark. Ugh!

The Lost Blog Entry

I wrote this last week and meant to post it, but I had techincal difficulties... so here it goes:

Ah, finally, the peace of pre writing my blog at home without having to worry about people hurrying me up or forgetting to write about things I was meaning to write about. But, since I’m in Moldova, the privilege of having a laptop to myself for a few hours was not a feat easy to accomplish. First, I needed somebody awesome and super generous that lived in my town, had a laptop and spoke my language. That was easy, in a second I called Eric. I managed to get to his house on the other side of the village (4 blocks away), after avoiding many possible cow collisions. Since I haven’t socialized much, when I got there I just had to hang out for a bit and enjoy the brief contact with another human being that speaks my language for an hour. The problems came after that hour, after it got dark. See, it was time for me to get home and I had never attempted to walk around my village at night. I realized that, not only do they not have street signs, they don’t have street lights either. So armed with my Ipod in one hand, and my cell phone on the other (for lighting purposes), I managed to avoid stepping on most of the cow shit that was on my way home. And I didn’t fall into any holes either. These little successes are what we like to celebrate here in Moldova PC PST (Peace Corps Pre Service Training). And I am celebrating by drinking a much deserved coca cola and typing on a laptop. Talk about small steps.
So yesterday I was in Chisinau, as you can see from my previous blog posting. It was a quick trip, mostly just to communicate with the real world for a few precious hours. I also learned some of the reasons of why Moldova is not in the EU. I mean, they are obvious enough, but I didn’t catch them. Apparently the older more conservative people are the ones that vote and they prefer the more old fashioned political parties. Young people are mostly working abroad and do not vote, so that leaves it pretty obvious. They are considered a not economically stable economy, but then, I think Rumania and Bulgaria were too and they’re still in. There is a lot interesting perspectives in this argument, especially since Moldova is such a small country, they always have the option of rejoining Rumania as part of that country (they used to be part of the Soviet Union, but before, Rumania), but that is something that they obviously don’t want to do, no even if it gets them in the EU. So yeah, it was a learning trip after all.
More news: I have adopted a kitty, like I said I would. A real Moldovan kitty! So since I have Rumanian class, I noticed that my teacher has two kittens. I wanted to steal one of them, but she wouldn’t let me. But two days ago, a new kitten decided to move in. And it’s the sweetest, cutest and most flea-ridden of the three. Still, it’s mine. My teacher said I could have it. Yeih! So I can’t wait to find out where I’ll be living so I can program the move. And eventual de-fleaing. Ah, and neutering. By the way, her name is Clara. Actually, in Moldova my name always ends up being Clara. Carla is too strange to say, and Clara is a Moldovan name so I get called that. Now kitty does too.
So I have a lot of free time here. And I have not planned accordingly. There is only so much educational reading I can take at a time, I need breaks too. So I grabbed the last Harry Potter book. And I finished it three days later. Peace Corps supplies Newsweek Magazines. I’m done with those too. So if you pity me you can send me all those books you don’t want to:

Carla Avenia
Peace Corps Moldova
Str. Grigore Ureche 12
Chisinau, 2001
Republica Moldova

You know what else has saved me? All that music I stole from Deimian’s computer (thanks Damian!) and Sari’s music collection (thanks to you too babe!). So if you want to invest in my musical education, send me all that music you think I might like. You know what? Here’s a small list of things I need:

-Books
-Music
-Photos
-Winter Coats, scarves, hats, etc. (or money to go get the winter clothes I left in Madrid)
-Italian coffee maker
-Good ground coffee
-DULCE DE LECHE
-YERBA
-UN MATE
-ALFAJORES
-Fernet
-Cilantro and Avocado seeds
-Yarn and knitting essentials
-Sudoku or crosswords
-Maybe a guitar
-Letters, written by you dear reader
-Postcards too
-Calls (011 373 68254344)

I cannot emphasize enough how much I would appreciate the Argentine food.

On another note, if you want to send me free text messages (which I usually get on the spot!), you can do it through www.orange.md . You’ll see a box on the right side of the page I think, and there you just enter my number (0682-54344) and you tell me whatever you want (I hope it’s nice). Please, no drunk calls. Keep in mind when you call me at midnite US Central time, it is 8 am here and I am headed to class. Receiving a drunk call at that time kindda ruins my day, especially since you’re having fun and I’m not. Yes, it’s just a question of jealousy. Be nice, please (don’t want to mention any specific names… EHEM!)
Ah, so as part of the project we’re working on during PST, we walked around the village a lot. We discovered a lake. Yes, there was a lake behind Ratus. I just had no idea it was there. Even though it’s two blocks away from my house. But whatever. In any case, the lake seemed very nice. Then I realized that I was the only girl hanging out there. Only men were there, fishing away. Then I looked uphill behind me. And on the hill that descends straight into that lake, guess what there is. Yes, a trash dump. A gianormous one. So following the laws of physics, it is safe to assume that every time it rains (or even when it doesn’t), the trash just drains into the lake. From which men are fishing. And I’m guessing it’s not sport fishing. Now I know why PC told us not to eat the local fish. This is one reason. The others have to do with contaminated water in general. It also explains a bit why we shouldn’t eat the mushrooms either, I mean, they grow by absorbing water. Even though the official don’t-eat-mushrooms policy says that we shouldn’t eat them because the people that handpick them don’t always know how to distinguish the good ones from the poisonous ones, so there are lots of cases of mushroom poisoning. Or just upset stomaches and maybe some vomiting.
So in that walk, that’s not all I saw. I noticed that a bit past that lake there was this big house that seems abandoned, and that happened to be where I went out “clubbing” the first Saturday I was in Ratus. I put clubbing in between quotation marks because… well, it reminded me of going out in Lobos (Buenos Aires). For those of you who know, I’ll just leave it there. Anyways, I found out that this seemingly abandoned building is a temporary night club and the future mayor’s office. Nice combo.
Another mentionable event was the Team Building like a week and some days ago. Team Building day sounds awfully boring and stilly, but it was actually a lot of fun. I think it’s mostly because of the awesome volunteers that were arranging it, and because the staff was a blast to have on our teams. In any case, we learned to ask for help, to work as a team, and how to make lava boots. And yes, the lava boots were definitely the best part. Hmm… maybe the great dinner that PC treated us to afterwards… I’m split 50-50!
As for living adjustments, there is a lot of things that have changed. Nevertheless, by now I’m used to them and not bothered too much by them. Yes, I have an outhouse. And to learn how to use it without peeing on yourself is an acquired skill. Something that I might even consider putting on my resume. So doing that is easy, but doing the other thing is different. Still, since we have class 6 days a week, I think most of the people in the village take advantage of the fact that our teacher has a toilet and we hold it in until we have class. I know, it’s kindda mean, but… learning how to conjugate 20 new different verbs in one day is too!!
Then there is the bathing situation. I like to bathe everyday, at the very least, every other day. Here, every other day is strange. Since heating the water is a process of: cutting wood, burning the wood in the oven-heater thing, waiting for that to heat the water, and then being able to bathe, we don’t get to do that as often as I’d like at least. The good thing is that since nobody else gets to bathe that often anyways, we all pretty much smell the same and we can’t say anything about each other. So I don’t feel bad about not showering for 48 hours. Sometimes.
Last but not least, we have the food. The food is great, mostly organic. Some of the plates get repetitive though (like soup or guiso). And they don’t carry nearly enough spices. Some things are just plain weird, like chicken jelly. Not kidding. Or spaghetti with the sauce composed by chicken fat. This last one doesn’t taste bad, but of course, it can’t be good for my butt. In any case, to their standards I eat very little. What weirds them out the most is the fact that I don’t eat breakfast, and that I drink an awful lot of coffee (because it’s Nescafe, and I am used to espresso).And then there is the Vincenzo story. For all of those who are interested, yes, we still talk. Once a week. I had the call on Friday night. We also text each other, and when I’m online I let him know and we meet up and chat. I miss him, but I feel the distance growing. I just hope we can still manage to stay in touch over these few months. I’ve asked him to come over during the winter holidays, and I do hope with all my heart that he does. But, I am hoping yet I do know that he might not, so I’m prepared for either.
If I think overall; it was a busy week. There was the walk about town adventure, going to Magdacesti (our neighboring town) for more education and a beer afterwards. That same day we had our first incident of harassment, and the girls dealed with it as best as they could. Ah, and we walked home from our neighboring village. What used to be a 2 minute bus ride turned into a 30 minute cow shit avoidance marathon. The next day we had a special part of the class dedicated to phrases on how to tell people to leave us alone in case this harassment happened again. And the next day we had a field trip to a small town where we learned about Moldovan handicrafts and had a nice snack. And the next day, we went to Perescecina (I think it’s spelled like that) for our weekly vaccines and training. Friday we had class and then the church field trip. The weekend was spent mostly in Chisinau. It just seems that I had a lot free time anyways. So Mom, please still send me the Sodoku and the yarn to start making my scarves. Who knows, if worse comes to worse I’ll exchange my handmade scarves for books.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Technology Blows

Well, today was our official field trip to Chisinau with our very special volunteer mentors. I got the bestest one, Amy. I've been reading her blog for almost a year before getting here, and then I arrived and I found out that... SHE WAS MY MENTOR! So, since she's sooo cool, she tooks us shopping at the piazza, out for coffee, showed me where the best stores (for shopping) are, and then took us to have a Mexican lunch. Yeih! Best mentor ever! Of course we talked about many things during the walk around Chisinau, and I am way lucky to have some of her kickass advice on many things.
As for the reason of why technology blows, well, I typed up 4 pages worth of blog last nite, and I thought I passed it into a flash drive. Then I got here and realized I didn't. So this is why my post sucks today.