29 June 2010

pros and cons of torrential downpours

Pro: You have a nice neighbor out there somewhere who takes your laundry off the line so it doesn't get wet.
You can actually have a place to walk instead of totally squishing through the mud.

Con: There is not a drainage system, so the paved street turns into a few rivers (question: where does the water go?)
There has to be another con... I guess it would be that you get soaking wet walking home, but thankfully I've learned, so I waited this one out.

28 June 2010

Youtube: PeaceCorps

I was taking a break from writing my first lesson plan tonight and went to youtube for some entertainment. This was on the homepage:

Big Brother is watching?


I have adopted a stray dog and named her Cali (short for California).
While she has become the school mascot (and has walked me home from school 3 times!), I am afraid she is causing trouble in the neighborhood. She is very friendly, which is rare for stray dogs. However, as she was walking me home this afternoon, an old woman across the street started talking to me, and I didn't fully understand her at the time, but as I walked away, I realized she was saying the dog is eating her chickens. I thought she was well-nourished because I would give her some of my lunch, and so would some of the other PCV's. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I hope she turns vegetarian pretty soon or else she's going to be kicked out of the village and I'm going to lose my dog.

27 June 2010

Times like this

It's times like this I wish I knew more Romanian...

The dog was barking its' head off and making my headache even worse, so I went to go yell at him. When I get outside my door, there is a man standing there (late 20's, early 30's). He looks at me and asks if I'm Katie/Cate... And I say yes. Then I don't understand him, and he asks if I teach English. He then asks me something about little kids? Then an American named "Den" (I think he meant Ben?)... my host dad came around the corner and stood there then talked to him (thank goodness!)

This is odd because 1. he opened our gate and came in?? SO not normal.
and 2. I didn't understand nearly enough to actually know what he was asking, but enough to realize he didn't mean me.

For my family and friends (and readers!)- don't freak out. Everything is totally ok. It was just a bizarre situation and I'm ready to learn more Romanian. NOW.


Hey guys! Want to send me up to 5 free texts a day?? Now you can!
Go here.
Then, under TO, choose the option: +37360
Then type: 069712
(+37360069712 is my number... I get free incoming calls... skype is super cheap, if you don't already have an account, you should get one then add money and also me!)
Then you can type your message! I probably won't respond, but if you want me to, I will email you when I get back home, so please leave your email address if I don't already have it. Also, in the FROM, please put your name so I know it's you!



26 June 2010

Razeni vs. Kansas City

Remember the kids from my first photo walk around Razeni? They were 3 years old and walking around on their own... which is a common sight here.

Now check this article out from the Kansas City Star. These parents are being charged with child neglect.

It's such a different world, here and there.

Care Packages

*This will be updated as I realize what other things I'm "missing" from back in the States!*

To my friends, family, and loyal readers (as of right yesterday, in 3 days I've had 250 visits from 9 countries!)
You are by no means obligated to send me anything! But care packages are always wanted an appreciated, even if they do take 2-4 weeks to arrive (so only nonperishable items, please!)
Some of the items are for my personal use, and some of them are for the classroom. Thanks!!

Nalgene bottle (I left mine on the plane... and they only have plastic, carcinogenic bottles here!)
Board/card games (such as Uno... no monopoly)
Ziploc bags
dry erase markers
books of madlibs, horoscopes, word searches, logic puzzles, etc
school supplies
travel brochures
promotional materials on the USA
wool socks (both for summer and winter, size 7)
Secret clinical strength deodorant
Starbucks Instant Coffee
Cute clothes for all seasons (size small, 0, 2.. I've realized I did a great job on packing to be warm/cool, but not on being cute haha!)

Peace Corps Moldova
PCV Mary (Cate) Crandell
#12 Grigore Ureche St
2001 Chisinau, MOLDOVA

Also, send me your address and I'll send you a postcard!!


Taking things for granted

I'm lucky here in Moldova: I have running water, electricity, gas, internet (and an outdoor toilet). Some of my friends in Razeni do not have one more more of the above, and there are places in this country where people do not have any of the above. While I know my host mom has lived here 30 years, I never really sat back to think about this house before all of the utilities were here, nor just how recent they came. She said 1 year ago they got electricity and 6 months ago they got gas. I'm not sure about the water.... but considering there is still a well that is used just outside their gate, I can only assume it was recent, too. In fact, my host dad worked with the Mayor to get these things to their house.
It's hard for me to imagine a life without these things, having grown up in Johnson County. While I wouldn't change where I'm from (it got me here, didn't it??), it's interesting to observe a totally different lifestyle. I guess this is what the PeaceCorps is all about, when I sit and think about it...


YAY! The sun is shining this morning and I'm 3for3 on sleeping through the night.

Life is good!

25 June 2010


I wish one of the people that suggested having winter clothes shipped over here later also suggested brining about half of those clothes with you for the summer. It's pretty cold (and wet!) right now, and I would have loved to have had some more warmer clothes.

So, if you're reading this and will be coming to Moldova as a PCV, here is what I recommend to you:
Pack to the weight limit. You are really babied with your luggage in transportation. Really, pack to the LIMIT. You won't be sorry later.
Also, bring everything you possibly can the first time around.
Don't forget waterproof hiking boots!! BEST BUY.
Sign up for those prodeals early! They are awesome and will save you a lot of money.

Ok, that's all I have for now.

Rain rain rain rain rain

It has been raining and raining these last few days, and I'm not really appreciating this much. Current volunteers were not kidding when they said the dirt roads turn to mud. The last minute purchase of the hiking boots were probably the best purchase I've made- besides the convertible pants (3 lengths!) from Northface. My feet are dry, and I don't have a problem getting them dirty because they clean really easily and they're meant to get dirty. However, something interesting to point out is how immaculate the shoes are of the locals here. They could have walked 10 miles through only the muddy streets and they would still have shiny shoes. I think they walk on water- that has to be it!

Today we had a cultural day in Ialovin, though. It was great because we were able to reunite with all of the other M25's, and we learned about the cultural history in Moldova, and the people that comprise it. The primary heritages in Moldova are Russia, Romania, Roma (once referred to as "gypsy" but that is not longer a politically correct term!), Bulgaria, and Ukraine. They danced, sang, got us involved in the dance, told us all about the history, and then provided incredible traditional food. The rice wrapped in grape leaves is probably my favorite dish I have yet to eat here. So simple, yet SO delicious!

Yesterday was culture day where we discussed the differences in the cultures regarding the interaction and roles of men and women, and alcohol use. It was fascinating to find out that when you go to a store and buy, for example, a bottle of Chisinau Blond (beer), it may not actually be that brand of beer. A local could have put their own beer in those bottles then sold it to the stores. So, you never really know if it's real or not, nor exactly what percentage of alcohol you are drinking. So, Peace Corps highly recommends we do not drink alcohol (because it also leads to bad decisions). Good recommendation. Really, I'm not being sarcastic here.
The roles of men and women are so different from that of the US. At home, you see women in workplace, and men at home with the children. Everyone cooks, everyone cleans, it's a join affair. But in Moldova, the tendency is for men to do all of the work outside the home and for women to do all of the work inside the home. That even means if there is a party... men let the women do all of the work (cooking, cleaning, setting everything up, etc), and then they help when it comes time to pour the drinks. My family seems to be different in the fact that everyone is always helping everyone, and both my MG and TG (tata gazda) work outside of the home.

Speaking of my host family, I really couldn't be happier. My host mom refers to me as her 4th daughter, and she is so wonderful. I feel so comfortable here, she is a great cook, and I really am treated like family. A few other people had made an observation about Moldovan culture (and my dad pointed out it is also common in America!) that Moldovan husbands and wives really do not show any affection (although the kids are not afraid to show it in public.. but that's another story). My MG and TG are so cute together when they are together, they're always communicating, and I really feel like they are still in love (after 30 years of marriage). It's a beautiful thing, and I can see why they whole family is really close. The parents have worked hard to keep it that way. Having so much happiness in the home really does make a difference. I hope to make the right decision the first time around when I get married ;) (NOTE: ONE DAY!!! lol)

Another note about something I learned at the culture day yesterday- it's possible for me to work in an orphanage. I met another volunteer who was an EE and is now a COD (community development) and her focus is working with the children in orphanages. She lives just outside of Chisinau. I would give up having children in the family of my permanent host site if I can live in a city that gives me the opportunity to work with children in an orphanage. The best I can do at this point is request it, but boy-oh-boy would that be an incredible opportunity to get involved with children and the community, and have a project outside of the classroom....

Ok, off to get work done.

I love my life (but would appreciate more sun!!!)

23 June 2010

We lost one

We lost one of our PVC's today. He decided this experience wasn't for him, so he went home. I know I wasn't the only one that cried when he came to our classrooms this morning and said goodbye. No one was expecting it, and we truly do feel like we've lost a member of our family. When you spend all day-every day- together, you form a bond that just leaves you speechless. There are some people you get along with better than others, but that's just life. When you lose one, even when it has not even been 2 weeks yet, you just feel like a part of you is missing.

Making Placinta

This is a video of my MG (mama gazda = host mom in Romanian) making placinta! (Ignore the "da"'s on my part!)

Skin Color in Moldova

When reading the information on Moldova prior to arriving, we were informed that the African American population is slim to none. If you have a skin color of anything other than caucasian or super tan (typically gypsies), then you may be looked at as even more strange (as if we aren't already for being American) just merely out of curiosity.
However, I basically forgot about this upon arrival to Moldova. Until, that is, we had our TeamBuilding activities with all of the M25's.
We had our group of over 70 (prob closer to 80) English speaking individuals, and then next to us at the campsite area was a group of Moldovans. I never did figure out what they were celebrating- but there were people dressed as flight attendants, soldiers, and a bunch of other "characters". They were drinking, singing, dancing, performing skits, and having a good time. We were doing the same, and eventually the flight attendants came over to check out exactly what was going on. Before we knew it, two of our friends were pulled out of the group by them and were asked if they could get pictures taken. They were confused, but said sure. Then they realized they were pulled out because they are African American, so they said "wait! we have one more!" and then pulled another African American friend over for the photos. In no way were the people discriminatory or disrespectful, other than making it obvious why no one else could be in the photo. In fact, my friends seemed to think it was pretty fascinating because in America, at least to me, I feel like we are constantly drilled WE ARE ALL EQUAL, so to us, being pulled aside like that is not considered ok. But, in reality, the Moldovans are just fascinated with the color of the skin.

It just means more photo-ops for my friends :)

Mama Katya learns English

22 June 2010

Sunday: Photo walk in Razeni

Here are photos that I took on my 4 hour walk around Razeni on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Rainy afternoon

When I woke up this morning it was beautiful: not too warm, not too cold, and just a few scattered clouds.

By lunch time, some dark clouds started rolling in.

When I left class 15 minutes ago, it started pouring.

What have I learned from this experience?
1. Always make sure I have a memory card in my camera
2. It was always rain on days I am wearing cotton clothes and flip flops because I did go out of my way to research (and purchase) water resistant/proof shoes and clothing
3. weather.com does not give a forecast for Razeni... only Chisinau
4. This will be a very productive blog update day/study day because I cannot play outside.

21 June 2010

I need sleep

I think part of the problem today was that my brain is just fried and it needs some time to relax. So, I apologize, but I'm leaving you empty-handed again today so I can actually get to bed at a decent time. (I'm uploading pics of my photo walk yesterday to facebook, so if you're my friend, you can look at them there! I should be able to post them here tomorrow with more of an explanation).


First break

Today was my first breakdown (I know, you didn't want to hear it, but it's true!). I think it was mostly because there was a lot of change. My host sister is in Chisinau for exams, my host mom left yesterday morning for Chisinau to work, my host dad was here but I hardly saw him. When I got up this morning, no one was around, then when I got to school, we were put with new teachers and new classmates. Then, while sitting in class, I felt like I wasn't retaining any of the information that was presented (all 4.5 hours of new information).

Thankfully my host mom was home when I got back from lunch. I saw her and broke down.

I know I don't have a "home" back in the States, but I do have lots of friends and family. Friends and family (aka "home")- I miss you.

...although I do love Moldova and my life here.

Update coming much later. I still have 3 hours of "tech" and then lots of studying to do to make up for today.


20 June 2010

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day, and I was finally able to chat with daddyo on skype- it's been a few days! Here is a video I put together of images my cousin helped us take right before I left for Moldova.

Happy Father's Day, daddyo! I love you!

(I will have a lot more to post tomorrow. Now it's time for bed.)

19 June 2010

Fo pas (because I've already forgotten my French)

This is a video explaining my Moldovan "fo pas" when it comes to interacting with children. The reason I spelled this "fo pas" is because I was sitting at my computer last night trying as hard as I could to think how that is spelled, and I could not for the life of me come to a conclusion. So, I spelled it the best that I could. It wasn't until one of my friends commented and said, "It's FAUX PAS, Cate. It's FRENCH." Oh boy. You'd think I'd never learned French. I guess these Romanian classes are working well!

*PS- You're going to need to turn the volume WAY up! I was away from my computer and apparently I speak quietly.

17 June 2010


When walking home from school today I noticed females don't carry a purse. Nor does anyone walk their dog, yet there are PLENTY of them around here. Trust me. They bark all night long.

Morning Rain

I woke up this morning (after 12 hours of sleep!) to much lower temperatures than the previous days, and what looked like a fresh rain. This type of cool rain tends to relax me and give me such a sense of calm.

So, what was the first thing I did?

Took photos! (look- we have a scarecrow!) (PS- Click on the images to make them bigger, go to my facebook, or to go picasaweb.google.com/wherescate)


Photo Walk in Razeni

Yesterday was absolutely perfect. I was wearing my moisture wick dress from Patagonia with the expectation of a scorcher like the previous days. Thankfully I was wrong- and I could have been wearing "normal" clothes. But no, I'm not complaining!

I was not hungry when I arrived home from school, so after walking through the garden with Mamă Katya and eating fresh berries of all sorts (a few of which I have no idea what they were), I decided to take a plimbare with my camera.

Some of my friends had been talking about the "back roads" and up until my walk, I'd assumed the roads were more like... well, branches? Meaning there is the main road. Then off of the main road streets branch off it it- but in a perpendicular façon without looping around and creating more roads. Why did I assume this? Well, I'm not so sure. But I did, and now I know the difference. So, to begin, I took one of these "new" roads, just in front of my house.

The walk continued for about an hour. In the process I saw different types of water wells (some of which seemed to be a place for worship?), neat textures, different ways the Moldovans build their homes, a church being built, a horse drawn wagon, people in the back of a truck, little kiddos playing outside (they tried speaking to me but I didn't understand... they were cute, though!), the beautiful green countryside, bright colored flowers, dirt roads, ducks in the road, and more. Check out the video to see it all!

16 June 2010

Families: Near and far

Today would have been my mom's 55th birthday. It's weird to think of her being that age considering the last time I saw her was when she was 42. When my dad messaged me today, he made a good point when he said, "we get to remember her as young and beautiful, and not old and wrinkly like the rest of us." While I beg to differ on the "old and wrinkly" part of that statement, I absolutely agree with the young and beautiful part, because that's exactly what my mom was.
It's weird to think what my life would be like if she was still here. I can assume I would be in Europe right now because she'd always said how much she wanted to wait until we graduated college to take us to Europe (although that probably meant more of Western Europe, but you know, minor details). Would I be just as in to photography? Traveling? Peace Corps? While this is something I'll never know, it is still an interesting thought...

Ironically enough we covered the topic of families today in class. We went over the basics (mother, father, brother...) and then got even more complicated (brother in law, nephew- which is the same as grandson) and my personal favorite (lover). When learning a new language that part is always hard for me, especially when I'm trying to kind of break away from the person that I used to be. What I mean by that is I don't want to be known as "the girl who doesn't have a mom because she died when she was little". While I'm sure I'm the only one that puts this label on myself, it still has a tendency to strike up a topic of conversation about my past that I just don't always want to get into. Obviously this is an important subject to learn, but it's never fun, especially when it falls on days like this.

Sticking with the topic of learning new languages, numbers are so hard for me with Romanian! I can count in English (duh), French, Spanish, and now Romanian. But it's always a challenge with Romanian because I really have to sit and think of the translation and as to which language I'm speaking. OH complications!

Well, that's all I have for now. It has been another beautiful day (except overcast)... I think I'm going to go for a photo walk.



6am run in Razeni

Wow, talk about a difference going from the city to the "suburbs"! Actually, I seem to think this is more like a small town that a suburb, but Nadea is trying to convince me otherwise :)

I woke up this morning and finally got out of bed to go for a run (I hadn't done this since I arrived- still trying to catch up on sleep). I began by going down my street to the main street which took about a minute. There were a couple of neighbors out but not many. Then I starting running toward the school and continued on the main road (does it even have a name?). More people kept popping up as I got further, a couple of horse drawn wagons (no joke) rode by, and people would all of a sudden turn the corner and join me on the main road with anywhere from 1-15 cows ahead of them. I'm curious where they were taking them because I have noticed our neighbors bring them back every night. There were also people waiting on the street to be picked up to go to work, people at the well collecting water, and women doing their daily morning chores.

I'm totally not in Chisinau anymore! So much for a quiet morning run... now I see why everyone suggests running in the evening- that's when everyone is at home eating and working around the house.

My routine is going to change a bit. Maybe I'll just stick to the jumprope.

... off to get cleaned up, fed, and then more classes!

15 June 2010

I did it!

Flying in an airplane tends to take away the feeling of just exactly how far away one is from home. I know I'm in Moldova, and I know it's 7-9 hours earlier at home, but I don't think it has really set in yet. Maybe it's because I lucked out and got such a fantastic host family.

Today was day 3 of Romanian language lessons. When class began today I could hardly differentiate between good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. But when we had an hour break for lunch I received a huge confidence boost. Let's just say the dictionary is my new best friends. My host mom and I were able to have a conversation the whole time (yes, broken, and yes with the dictionary), but she actually said she understood me. It was such a great feeling an an incredible accomplishment to see how quickly I've learned! Obviously I am lacking huge amounts of vocabulary and knowledge of verb conjugations (I only know "a fi" which is "to be") but it was enough for understanding. My host mom also is anxiously to learn English, so words we looked up or things she was curious about, she'd ask. I think we have "red wine" and "cheers" down. :)

Romanian lessons hare rock! They're so productive, and it's so great to go back to my host family and practice what I've learned.

I love my life!

Kansas City Fitness

This is an email from my cousin, Lesley:

ey gang-

I posted about this on my facebook but thought I would send out this message as well...Kansas City Fitness Magazine is having a competition kind of like a "biggest loser" thing where the participants work out with personal trainers/etc. and try to lose weight. You don't really "win" anything, but thought it would be a good opportunity to get into good post-baby shape! :)

Anyway, their contest opens tomorrow at 8 am (IT CLOSES TUESDAY NIGHT!!!)where you have to go on their Facebook fan page and vote for me against a bunch of other participants to go on to the next round. If you guys could round up any friends/family you have to vote for me, I would appreciate it! :) Here is the link to their facebook fan page, http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Kansas-City-Fitness-Magazine/183360774833?ref=ts

If the above link doesn't work you can also just log into facebook and search for their magazine name and you will find it as well. Not sure exactly what it will look like and facebook is blocked for me at work, but they said it would have a picture and you would just have to click "like" by my picture to vote. :) The voting stops Tuesday at 5 pm.

Anyway, have a great week and thanks in advance for helping me out!

PLEASE VOTE FOR HER! She's the best... here's here baby!!

Thanks for your support! The Heizman family appreciates it!

14 June 2010

Life on a farm

Life on a farm is unlike anything I have every really experienced before. Above is a photo of my host sister, and now really good friend, Nadea. Her English is great, and she's helping me a lot with my Romanian (although I do feel, at times, it hinders me because she does speak English so well). It's good that she does live in the capital, though, because then I get to speak with her parents who do not know any English.

But today we were sitting outside on the porch, just after a perfect evening rain. There was thunder for about 30 minutes before the rain actually started, just before the sun set for the night. All of the people went inside, and the animals hid themselves so as not to get wet. I couldn't believe just how quiet it was.
As we were sitting there, we were talking about life. Everything about it! Mostly about how relationships work in Moldova vs how they work in the States. It seems like girls here tend to "settle" when they get to be in their early 20's because they are expected to get married and love seems to be confused with lust, and they really aren't happy (sounds like Kansas?). Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but that seems to be the general case. While I am no expert, I did try to give her advice (also as she was plucking my eyebrows). Hopefully she takes it in to consideration, but I also have to remind myself that I am not in America and people do things very differently here. The way I know how to do things is not necessarily the correct way, especially when it comes to a cultural tradition.
The conversations was finally beginning to change to another subject when all of a sudden we saw Zizu with one of her kittens!

We figured she brought the kitten to use to tell us they needed food, so we went and fed them. Then, before we knew it, all FOUR were OUT of the box visiting us. Up until yesterday, they were still in there. In fact, apparently they were still there up through today, but it's time to venture out and see what else there is in this world besides a cardboard box. We continued to talk, and I continued to observe the animals. Had I been back home I think I would have freaked out and immediately put them inside a bigger box. Then again, they would have been inside in the first place, so I wouldn't have worried about anything. Since they were outside, though, I got nervous. Then I saw Zizu and how she treated them. They would follow her around, and if one of them got too far away, she'd get up and direct them to a "safe" place (which happened to be under the table where Nadea and I were chatting). Then she'd lay down, and a couple of the kittens would snuggle with her. Then she'd get up and walk a little bit, and even led them through the closed gate at one point. It was just a sight to see! I'd never observed something like that before.

We also have chickens:

And ducks!
Ok, now it's time for bed. Nadea has some friends over and I'd like to listen to them speaking to see what words I can pick up...


**PS! Sidenote!
Moldovans don't touch frogs or toads. Growing up with my mom, that is such a foreign concept to me!

13 June 2010


Bună seara! (Good evening!)

The food here in Moldova is quite different from anything I've eaten before, but I really can't complain about it at all! When we all met up together for a Welcome Ceremony at the school, all of the host moms were talking about who can and can't eat what. It was pretty funny. They totally don't understand why I can't eat dairy, and vegetarians just confuse them to pieces!

My first introduction to Moldovan food was placinta, a common Moldovan fast food itemwhich is basically a form of fried bread with various things inside, such as cabbage, cheese, or potatoes. From my understanding, there can be a lot of different things there, too, such as meats and other veggies. Then I came to my host family and was introduced to more things! While they didn't have an actual meal prepared for me, they had plenty of what I assume were leftovers. There was egg salad (with corn! yum!), and potato salad, some sort of soup (with anchovies- my first time ever eating them!), a cucumber salad, and I think that was about it. What's interesting is they eat HOT soup any day of the year, no matter what the temperature. We then sat down as a family (me, the mom, the dad- who just received a haircut, 2 daughters, grandson, and in-laws). We drank wine, they talked, the daughter translated, and then the men went to the store to get more things. One of which was something like beef jerky- only fish, raw salmon from a package, and bbq potato chips. I tried the fish jerky but steered away from the others. It was, fishy. :) The best part, though, was the tangy sweetness of the lemons+sugar! They cut very thin slices of lemons (peel and all) and then covered them in sugar. Wowza, I was in heaven!

Then this morning it was time for more food. Bread, leftover egg salad, and compote, which is a stewed hot fruit drink. Delicious! I'm in love with it! This morning it was made with cherries, and tonight it was cherries and apples. I can't wait to learn how to make it.

Dinner consisted of these incredible grilled castravetelui (cucumbers), fresh tomatoes, fresh zucchini, and then a cabbage soup...with more compote!

She also brought out a 2 liter bottle of what I thought was beer, but it turned out to be their homemade vinul rosu (red wine). It was pretty strong, but definitely something to write home about.

That's all of the food for now...

Video of my new home

Buna seara! (Good evening!) Check out the toilet- for which I have an awesome story.

When I first arrived, my host sister, Nadea, was giving me a tour of the house. She speaks English incredibly well, so it has made my adjustment that much better. I had been told time and time again that the chances of having an outhouse were pretty high. In fact, it would be odd if the home where I was staying did not have one. So, I'd like to say I was mentally prepared when she said, "the toilet is outside". Unfortunately, though, I did not have to use the restroom until it was dark outside, so when I went to try to remember which gate lead to the outhouse, I forgot. Along comes Nadea with a flashlight (thank goodness!) to show me the way. She helps me open the gate, then shines the flashlight in the direction of the toilet (a hole between 2 boards. literally). My thought was she was then going to walk out and wait for me, but no, she says, "Don't worry, I won't look" as she is shining the flashlight on me. Ok, that's great, I don't want to fall in. As we were leaving she says, "You have great legs!"

Welcome to Moldova- where privacy doesn't exist.

... now that's a story for the storybooks.

12 June 2010


(side note: A post about yesterday, today, and tomorrow will come tomorrow!)

Current note:

I LOVE my host family! I'm so not going to be happy to leave here! I have a 21 year old "sister" (who speaks English just fine, is blonde, and has blue eyes!), and then 2 other sisters (1 is studying abroad and one lives in the Capital with her husband, 11 year old son, and soon-to-be baby!). They are so much fun and so welcoming of me! I can't wait to get to know them more and to learn the language... I'll post photos of the trip thus far tomorrow!

Now, it's bed time. We FINALLY have a day off! YAY!

First full day in Moldova

As I was walking to the school yesterday morning, I walked by a park that had grass that was overgrown. I mentioned to one of the M24's (The PCV's who arrived last year) that I was curious if they were ever going to cut the grass. She said probably not, and what's funny about statement is she was walking by a yard the other day and wodnered to herself when the family was going to let the cow out to "mow" the grass. It's interesting how one's mind adapts to a new area... But at the same time it is also interesting to see the things that we, the M25's, see that the M24's now take for granted (like the architecture in the area, the people staring at us as we walk by because we stand out like sore thumbs, all of the dogs roaming the streets...)!

Which, speaking of the streets, I love how many people are out walking around during the day. I was told it is a lot less "congested" in the villages, but I'm curious as to what exactly that means. I could be wrong, but I think it is partly due to the climate here. Yesterday was really nice, especially in the morning. It was not overwhelmingly hot, and felt incredible in the shade. I'm no meteorologist, but I would venture to guess it was about 75 degrees. People say there isn't air conditioning in most places around here, but it doesn't seem too necessary. We did have AC in the school yesterday (in most rooms) and also in the lobby at the hotel. Feels great!

When we arrived at the Russian school to begin our training, there were students outside (I'd venture to guess they were in high school). They were dressed in all black and white and I felt like we were in a game of Red Rover. They were looking at us, we were looking at them, but we were throwing a frisbee back and forth between the "groups". However, they seemed really nice and I wish I knew Russian so I could have talked tot hem, but at that point I didn't even know a word of Romanian, so attempting a conversation would have been impossible.

Something I've began to love is not having a cell phone. It's quite a liberating feeling! I like not being able to be contacted by email, texting, phone calls, or Facebook at every second of every day. It has also made me aware of just how much I do rely on my phone daily, whether I am looking something up on the Internet, texting friends, checking email, or just messing with it when I am bored. So it will be nice to no longer have my iPhone and to break away from the habit!

Yesterday we had a welcome ceremony which included a visit from the US Embassy, lectures on health, personal safety, and we also had a traditional greeting of bread and "wine" (in our case it was "Peace Corps Wine" which was grape and orange juice). Safety informed us that we are on a fault line and that earthquakes happen a dozen times a year. The last big one was in 1986. While this is something we should be aware of, it is not something we should be afraid of because every structure in Moldova has been built to the toughest standards in all of Europe. That's encouraging!

He also told us that crime basically does not exist here. There are not guns, and abductions just don't happen. Nor do murders. Moldova is a very safe country and we should not have to worry, but of course that doesn't mean we shouldn't be aware of our surroundings while here. The best part about the Embassy coming to visit was when he said he has an indoor pool where he lives in Moldova, so we should not compare our living standards to his. WOW!

Last thought.. ROSES! They are absolutely everywhere! I've been told that I will give and receive more flowers during my stay here than ever before! I can't wait, because I feel like every boyfriend I've had forgets how much I love to receive flowers, and not just when he messes up. If I had fresh flowers in my room every day life would be great! They are very refreshing and so full of life. There are also little steps everywhere! They are not more than a couple of inches high at most and they come out of nowhere, so we are always catching ourselves falling... I'm sure we're a site to see!

... off to a full day of language classes...

6am run in Chisinau

I have received conflicting instructions on what to do as a female if I choose to run, ranging from never run to it's ok to run alone, to only run at night. I decided to stick to the middle ground on this one because I'm looking forward to having a healthy routine while I'm here.

Let's start at the beginning:

I wake up. Look at my clock: it's still dark outside, so I think, "Man! It takes a long time to get sunny!" I then see that it's 6:15, so I decide since I'm up 15 mins earlier than I need to, I might as well go for a quick jog. I then get dressed and all ready to go, and then I look at my clock again. 2:15. I've been asleep for ONE hour. Oh boy. So I went back to sleep.

Then I woke back up at 6am and started the routine all over again (this time it was sunny outside).

I went outside: no one was on the streets. Great! That's a huge difference to how it was yesterday when we were walking to class at 9am and there were people everywhere! I get a couple blocks up and see 6 officers walking. They all stop and stare at me as I run past. So I turn the corner, then another one, and a taxi cab slows down as if he thought I was running from something and needed a ride (for safety?). I then keep going, run past an older woman, say hello (in Romanian!), and eventually turn around.

What did I learn from this?

No one runs here. Especially not women. But it's ok, and when I learn to say "It's for my health" in Romanian I will be just fine!

Now I'm off to get breakfast, then having a full day of class, then this evening all of the groups are breaking up and going to meet our host families who will host us for the remainder of the summer!

I love it here!!

11 June 2010

Going to Moldova: Song

I made it!

After nearly 30 hours of traveling, all 70 of us finally made it to Moldova yesterday evening. Only one of us misplaced a wallet which included all of his money and passport, but, you know, no worries! ... and only one bag got misplaced at the airport when it was accidentally picked up by a Moldovan who thought it was his own, but no worries, it got returned safely.

We all met in Philadelphia, had 5 hours of training, and then drove to NYC to catch our flight to Frankfurt. The best part was the turbulence hit just as we had all received our food and wine. Quite a mess! I was very thankful to have my iPad because there were only a few TVs in the plane, so I was able to have my own personal screen.

Once we arrived in Frankfurt we had a 9 1/2 hour layover. A lot of people showered (there were showers in the airport!) and we all paid $5 for bottles of water because the water here in Moldova is not drinkable.

The plane on MoldovaAir was much larger than I expected, and we had a delicious chicken and veggie meal on the 2 hour flight! (The USA has a lot to learn as to how to treat the patrons... just kidding).

Then we all arrived safe and sound- with all of our luggage- in Moldova! The countryside is absolutely beautiful. There are a lot more hills than I thought, and the city is huge! Well, maybe it's not really, but it sure seems like it is!

It's been really great to have this huge support system the entire journey here. I remember when I was on my way to France to study abroad last year, I was terrified. Looking back, and comparing it to these travels, I think it is due to the fact that I was alone, and this time we had 70 people in the exact same boat- on all of the flights together (except for the one from KC to Philly- but I was lucky and had a fellow KS PVC with me). Because we have each other, it's a lot harder to get scared or get too deep into our thoughts because we are so busy mingling and getting to know each other...

Which, speaking of the other volunteers, everyone is absolutely fantastic. Before coming here, I thought there might be discrepancies between people (like we had in France). But someone made a good point when they said it takes a certain type of person to join the Peace Corps... and they were right. Our minds work in a very similar way and we are all pretty outgoing for the most part.


09 June 2010

Philly: Pre-pre staging

I made it to Philly for th pre-staging! All I have to say is 5 hours of training went super fast and I am so pumped about this experience! Everyone seems to get along really well!

Off to bonding time with the crew!

02 June 2010

27 months AGO

(photos will hopefully come later)


June 2010
Home base: (basically Moldova)
Trip: Went to Colorado to move my sister back to Kansas
Departed for the Peace Corps

May 2010
Home base: None
Trip: Visited San Francisco for the first time
Returned to Kansas City for 3 days
Got a job in San Francisco photographing graduation ceremonies
Experienced Bay to Breakers in San Francisco
Officially graduated from the University of Kansas
Went to Janesville, WI for photography
Sold my car- I’m car-less!
Cut 5 inches off my hair

April 2010
Home base: Kansas City
Trip: Had a flight booked for Paris, but due to the volcano in Iceland, I got to spend a few days in Chicago
Salem visited Kansas City from New Jersey
Officially invited to be a Peace Corps Volunteer as an English teacher in Moldova

March 2010
Home base: Fort Myers, FL; Kansas City, MO
Trip: Traveled back and forth between KC and FL 3 times
Returned to Kansas City after 3 months in Fort Myers, Florida
Officially sold and moved out of our house in 4 weeks (while having an estate sale)- I’m homeless!

February 2010
Home base: Fort Myers, FL
Trip to: Kansas City to photograph a wedding
Official nomination to a program in the Peace Corps

Home base: Fort Myers, FL
Trip to: Las Vegas, NV for a friends wedding, and to spend some time with dad
Took tour on a Hummer in the desert and the canyons around Vegas

Home base: Kansas City
Trip to: NOWHERE!
BUT photographed Brittan’s wedding (friends since we were 4!), and finished up my last semester at KU (finals galore!)

Home base: Kansas City
Trip to: Hermann, Missouri
Amelia, Jenny, Kim, and I packed in the car and headed to the wineries of the Midwest for a long weekend

Home base: Kansas City
Trip to: Bedford, Pennsylvania
Visited my moms friend, Bette, on her 260-acre farm in Pennsylvania
Officially applied for the Peace Corps

Home base: Kansas City
Trip to: New York City
Just needed a weekend getaway
Trip to: Littleton, CO
Visited my sister and had a photoshoot
Turned 22!

Home base: Europe and Kansas City
Trip to: Lisbon, Portugal; Antibes, France; Paris, France; New York City
Grandma died
Returned back to the States after 8 months abroad

Home base: none
Trip to: Athens, Greece; Folegandros, Greece; Rome, Italy; Florence, Italy; Orvieto, Italy; Paris, France; Antibes, France; Nice, France; Cannes, France
Linda met me at the airport in Germany and we then headed to Greece and finished in Italy
I got incredibly sunburned, but had a blast with the fields upon fields of sunflowers!

Home base: none
Trip to: All over France (+Monaco, Italy, Switzerland) Germany, Austria
Dad met me in France and we rented a car and drove all over France, with stops in Monaco, Italy, and Switzerland. I then went to Germany and reconnected with my nanny whom I had not seen in 10 years, and saw an incredible show of fires in Austria
Finished classes in Angers, France

Home base: Angers, France
Trip to: Besançon, France; Paris, France; Madrid, Spain
Visited Pauline and Julien in Bes, celebrated Rodrigo’s 30th birthday in Paris, and visited Sarah in Madrid
I found out the importance of knowing other languages when I was able to communicate with the maid of the family I stayed with in Madrid because she lived in France for a few years!

April 2009
Home base: Angers, France
Trip to: Rome, Florence, Verona, Siena, Venice, Italy; Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Liverpool, England; Dublin, Galway, Ireland; Rennes, France
Traveled to 3 counties with Piper and Kayleigh 16 days for spring break. The highlight of the trip was probably when we arrived in Stratford, London instead of Stratford-upon-Avon and made it within mere minutes to see the Shakespeare play (and changed in to nice clothes on a very dirty train)

March 2009
Home base: Angers, France
Trip to: Munich, Germany

February 2009
Home base: Angers, France
Trip to: Besançon, France
Visited Pauline and Julien for the first time in their hometown of Besançon

Home base: Kansas City
Trip to: New York City, official move to France for studying abroad
Was supposed to have an internship in NYC but it fell through
Ended relationship with "N"

Celebrated New Years at Henrys in an incredible black, sequined dress

Trip to: Omaha, Nebraska to watch my cousin play hockey
Started dating "N"
Witnessed the live birth of a baby

Got official acceptance to study abroad in the spring (therefore decided against dropping out of school)

Turned 21! Celebrated one night at home, one night in a limo, and for a weekend in NYC
Found internship with RW2 Studios in Kansas City
Was photographed for the University of Kansas’ “Sex on the Hill” issue of the newspaper
My goddaughter, Olivia, was born
(I no longer have anything in my calendar—so the rest of the 27 months is pretty unclear… now I know why keeping a journal is so important!!)
Began my 3rd year of college

Went to NYC for 2 weeks to hang out with Salem
Met Jason Hackenwerth at his awesome studio 5Pointz over the 4th of July

Moved into my first house in Lawrence with 4 other girls
Ended relationship with “A”

Finished my second year of college
Went to Cancun, Mexico with Linda
Visited Cristina in New York City
Finally ended the school year of being a RA (Resident Assistant) in Ellsworth Hall at the University of Kansas
Became official with “A”

April 2008
Started dating “A”
Spent Easter with Gnar’s family because she was in France

March 2008
Wanted to drop out of college to become a photographer full-time and attend photography seminars
Ended relationship with “S”
Trip to NYC to promote High School Confidential: was on the Tyra Show and Good Morning America

In sum (in NO particular order whatsoever!):
In the last 27 months, I have said I’ve wanted to live in 12 countries (13 counting the USA) and 13 States (more if you count where I’ve had layovers!). I studied abroad, GRADUATED COLLEGE only after wanting to drop out many times, threatening to do so, and changing my major twice, had 3 heartbreaks, owned a business, worked for 2 people other than myself, taken hundreds upon thousands of photographs, deleted all of my study abroad photos (but thankfully rescued most of them), became more organized, met people from all over the world, traveled to 4 countries and 3 states with my dad, missed a flight, got vouchers for free flights, said a huge word too soon, learned the consequences of gossiping, become homeless, become car-less, learned to travel light, lived in the dorms 2 years, discovered the power of couchsurfing, had strep throat, been exposed to H1N1, witnessed friends having babies, friends getting married, friends getting engaged, reconnected with long-lost friends, developed an addiction to facebook, turned 21, become closer than ever with my dad and sister, got my first A in college, moved to 2 new States, learned what to do when someone verbally abuses you through your professional website, battled with my body image, babysat for hundreds of hours, learned from many mistakes, got accepted to the Peace Corps, began to collect magnets, realized why I love Apple products so much, studied abroad, been terrified about making changes and then looked back and wondered why I was so terrified of making those changes.

The reason for doing this is to look back and see how much has happened in the last 27 months of my life in order to prepare for the next 27 months of my life. I’m going in to this new adventure with (hopefully) 2 suitcases, and without any expectations. Ok, this is a lie because I have many expectations- the most important being that all of my expectations will be wrong. Going to the poorest country in Europe (Moldova) is a huge step in my life. I’m leaving all of my friends and family at home and going to this foreign country without really knowing anyone (facebook doesn’t count). I don’t even know the official date/time of departure from Philidelphia, nor where I will be staying once I actually arrive in Moldova. Am I terrified? Excited? Nervous? Anxious? Scared? Pumped? YOU BET! Name an emotion and I bet I will say I’ve felt it for at least a few minutes at least once in the last week or so.

Overall, I can’t wait for this experience and to be able to re-cap on the next 27 months when I’m done to see just how much has happened in my journey and how much I’ve changed. Eight months in Western Europe brought me back to the States as a completely different person- I can’t imagine what this has to hold for me. What will happen to my friends while I’m gone? Who will be married? Where will my love life be? Where will my dad be living? Do I still want to go to Grad school? If so, for what? And where?

I love the life I live.