30 January 2011


Beginning in 3rd grade I went to church almost every weekend. Then I began questioning my faith and my reasons for going to church (it became more of a social time than a learning time), and once I got to college I stopped going. Then nearing graduation I decided to try it again and I enjoyed what I was hearing but I still wasn't fully believing everything. So, that's that.

Now back to the present.

My host dad really likes to talk to me about God. I mean, really really. It doesn't but me at all and it seems that it usually comes out more on the weekends, which is when he has his meetings with people who are in the same faith as him. So today the topic with me was about friends. He said we don't have many good friends on this Earth, and in truth, everyone is bad, so we don't really have any friends at all (yea, that's exactly what I'm wanting to hear when I'm struggling continuing my service here and I'm wanting to be home...). He said people act like you're friends but then they go and talk about you behind your back. Yes I agree this happens (ironically I watched Mean Girls last night). After a little bit too much repetition of the same thing (it's ok, it happens... especially when I don't understand everything that is said), he got up to go do something. So I turned to my host mom and I said, "I don't even need to go to church. We have church at home!" And she just about died laughing (and coughing), and I joined in. When he came back, she told him what I said and unfortunately he didn't find it as funny as we did. But regardless it made for a good laugh. And I needed that (even if it caused a coughing fit).

Day 5

Day 5 of laying in bed has finally broken the fever but I've developed a nasty cough that has, in turn, given me some super rockin' ab muscles. Unfortunately I'm emotionally and physically drained at the moment and I just want to get better. I'm headed back to Medical tomorrow and hopefully things will start looking up for me in both directions.

You know, Peace Corps has a saying that says, "This is the hardest job you'll ever love". It's the hardest job I've ever had, that's for sure... but it's far from a job that I love. Things need to start changing or I might be home sooner than expected.

I am very thankful, though, to have a host mom that cares a lot about me. Two nights ago, as I was laying in bed with a fever bordering 103ºF, she sat next to me and dapped my face with cold water for about 15 minutes. Due to my lack of appetite, she's also been asking me what I want her to make for every meal and she checks on me every few hours (except during the night) to see if I'm okay.

I could really use some yoga right now, though.

28 January 2011

Kansas loves Moldova

...well, at least this 4th grade class does. This is from the class that writes letters to the students at my school. They're so sweet!

I think the pictures on the wall are the letters that the students have written. LOVE it!

Moldovan at-home medical remedies

There are many more at-home medical remedies than this, but these two were introduced to me today. Poftim! (Here you go!)

1. My host mom told me that when she was little her mom used to rub garlic on the bottom of her feet and then put socks over that and it was supposed to help when you're sick. (And my host dad ate 1/4 a white onion raw and 5 garlic cloves because that also helps so you don't get sick)
2. After I took a bath today I laid down in my host mom's bed and fell asleep. When I woke up (a couple hours later) she felt my head and said I still had a temperature (which I do). Then she said I needed to rub vinegar on my glands and that should bring down the fever. I said no, but she did it anyways. So much for being clean!!

27 January 2011

Sick... again

On Tuesday I got the "ok" to come back to site because I was almost done with my antibiotics and everything seemed to be clearing up just fine. I'd woken up that morning feeling like I'd been hit by a train with all of my joints hurts, but I didn't think too much about it since I'd slept kind of restlessly the two nights before it. Then I went to school yesterday, still feeling like I'd been hit by a train and with a lot of sinus pressure. I had to cancel my after school activities because I just wanted to go home, take some medicine, and get warm (was freezing all day, even standing by the heater!). When I got home I took my temperature: 101.5ºF. Super. I took some medicine and then the fever went down a little bit and I was hoping it would stay down. Nope. Woke up this morning with the same reading. So I've spent all day sleeping and laying in bed. This is so frustrating because I'd just come home, and now I'm sick again, and it's slowing my project and everything else down.

But, on a plus side, I skyped with the 4th grade class in Kansas that writes letters to some of the students at my school here. They were doing a spelling activity and let me watch. It was really cool and it made me realize that I'm pretty sure teaching is still what I want to do... I just need to take the GRE and figure out where I want to go to school and what kind of teaching I want to specialize in!

25 January 2011

iTunes on shuffle

Do you ever put your iTunes on shuffle and just feel like it can read your mind and your mood? Well, if not, you should try it. It's happening to me right now and it's awesome. I'm ready to get up and do a happy dance!!

Skyping forward...

Not going to lie... this weekend should have been more productive in the moving forward of the Skype project I'm working on, but unfortunately it didn't happen. There's not point in looking back and regretting it because what's done is done... and today I'm taking a giant step forward!

Originally I was thinking about trying to get the project funded through SPA, which is funding provided through Peace Corps. But instead I'm thinking of taking a different route by asking for donations and contacting actual companies of the products I wish to use (such as Skype and Crayola) to get what I may need. So that has been fun researching what exactly they have to offer, and we'll go from there!

But the other thing I've been busily researching today is the different types of activities I could do with the students to try to motivate them to do better in school and also work on their self discipline, organization, etc. Back when I was in elementary school and my parents divorced, I remembered going to special group meetings with our counselor at school and doing activities related to our feelings and everything associated with the divorce of parents. So I reached out and contacted her to see if she could help to point me in some sort of a direction as to how I can work with these kids, especially since I don't really have any sort of psychological training whatsoever. And she made a very interesting point: even though the students have not lost a parent due to death, they are still grieving the loss of their parent(s) at home. Hm. Interesting. .. and so right. So that has helped point me in a totally different direction for searching for activities and I'm super pumped about everything the internet has to offer.

... and then I remembered Solace House. After my mom died, my dad, sister, and I (and a couple of times my step-sisters and step-mom came along for support) went there for group therapy sessions. I remember that each session began with the lights off, light music playing, and all of us sitting in a circle with a candle and telling everyone who had died. And I remember once making a box for "memories". Now, it wasn't a quality box by any means... but I decorated it with paint and pipe cleaners for things that reminded me of my mom. And you know what? 12 years later, after all of the packing and moving and getting rid of things, I still have that box.

And that's what I hope to accomplish with these kids (along with increased communication between them and their parents, better discipline in school, better relationships with friends, and better grades).

Now I just have to be patient (in the meantime... care packages containing all sorts of art supplies from more paper to stickers to pipe cleaners to glitter to paint to magazines and more would be greatly appreciated!)

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

24 January 2011

A day in a coffee shop

Yesterday began by waking up in the warm and comfortable TDY apartment in Chisinau. I've been here since Friday so Medical could keep an eye on the gunk in my lungs and the progress of the antibiotics. All good things, don't worry.
I ended up meeting with a couple of other Peace Corps friends who are also staying in TDY and they suggested we take a walk in the snow, and used the grocery store as an excuse to do so. When we arrived there, we decided it would be a good idea to grab a coffee (this was around noon). After talking for awhile, one person went back to the apartment to rest and the remaining PCV and I stayed to talk for awhile... you know, girl talk. The whole time we were talking I'd noticed a man that looked so familiar, but it was really bothering me that I couldn't place him. So we went up to him and asked... but failed at finding out the connection. Maybe just a familiar face. But we stayed and chatted with him for awhile and found out he is from the Netherlands and is in Chisinau for a conference to discuss migration, and the possibility of Moldova becoming a part of the EU. It was all quite interesting, but more interesting than that was what he had to say about life. He said that between the ages of 20 and 30 we will go through a tremendous transition... and some friends will be able to follow our journey and some won't. But the friends that do... well, those are our real friends. Good point. Thanks for following :) I know I live a crazy and all over the place life, but it's the life I've chosen to live and I like it. Most of the time.

Then, just as we got up and got ready go leave, we met an American couple in the same coffee shop who just so happened to be sitting right next to us. They're teaching English and gym at the International School here in Chisinau. They were so nice and had nothing but good things to say about their program. I'm not going to lie when I say it's hard living and working here in Moldova and the oh-so-corrupt school system. It's a contract I plan to complete, but every day it's a struggle to continue because quite often I feel like I'm not here doing what I came here to do... but then I think of my "success stories" such as the girl that has been shunned by other teachers but has actually begun to participate in my class. I guess it's the little things that keep me going... but at the same time it's hard because I wanted to teach and I expected to teach alone, and it's so hard to teach with a partner when you're supposed to be equal! But I'm doing what I can... and enjoying my time sitting in a coffee shop for 5 hours.

22 January 2011


It's been oddly warm here the last 2 weeks which as brought rain, and with the rain came mud up to my knees. Seriously. But today finally cooled down enough where the rain has turned into snow. Unfortunately I don't think it will stick around for long, but it's pretty to watch at the moment.

19 January 2011

Pen Pals

Back home I did a lot of babysitting.... and by a lot, I really mean a lot. In the last couple of years I got really close with a family with 3 children (so close that I actually have their address listed as my "permanent" address since we sold our house before left).

Anyways, one of the first students I met when coming to Varatic was a girl named Olivia. Actually, I first met her grandfather, then I heard about her, then I met her. I thought this was great because one of the kids of this aforementioned family is named Olivia. So I thought I should get them set up as pen-pals... but then decided to take it a step further and get their whole 4th grade class involved with some of the students at my school.

Although it took some time to get it started (miscommunication on the part of the KS teacher and me.. oops!), it finally got started and now the kids are jumping out of their seats waiting for a new letter to come.

Due to the fact that actual letters tend to get lost en route from America to Moldova, we decided to do things another way by taking advantage of the technology we have today. The kids write letters, give them to us (the teachers), we scan them, then e-mail them to the other teacher who then prints them off and passes them out to the corresponding students. It works great, and it's fast, and the kids still get the letter writing experience with a modern twist to it.

So today my host dad was having a tutoring lesson with two of the 6th graders who correspond with letters: Olivia, and another boy. So I emailed the teacher in Kansas to see if they had skype at school and a webcam... and they did. So Olivia and Vadim got to skype with their pen pals for a few minutes, and then the camera was turned on to other students who had questions for them.

It was such a fun cultural exchange, and my heart was basically beating out of my chest in excitement to be able to do this!! Now I just hope to get more kids involved... we just have to figure out the time difference thing.

Stop and smell the roses

After a bit of reflection and too many hours of incredibly deep thoughts, I've come to realize that I really let life get ahead of me too quickly, and I'd forgotten to stay in the NOW.

Being put in a situation where I'm thousands of miles away from my family and friends, new to my job, and the people around me don't speak your mother tongue, I got ahead of myself. I was afraid of the future, so instead of not worrying about it (because, let's face it, no one knows how the future is going to turn out), I couldn't stop thinking about it. But then, I stopped... and I realized that I'd forgotten about the basis of why I'm here and I remembered to laugh. And to joke. And to smile. And then I took a deep breath, and I felt better.

... and if there were roses outside, I would have gone to smell them. Except I don't think I've ever really found a rose that smells, so I'm not sure why we have that saying.

17 January 2011

Happy today

Today started out rough. It was cloudy (again), and there was actually a frost last night (it's been "warm" aka about 40 degrees the last week-ish). So that definitely wasn't helping my dispoziție (mood) to say the least...

Good thing 1: Late morning, the sun popped out. And it stayed. And it's still here (although it's setting because it's that time...)

Good thing 2: I went to the Primaria (Mayor's Office) to talk to them about finding out if they are an NGO or not, and then how I can go about funding my Skype project. They said they aren't a NGO but the școala (school) is, which makes things SO much easier for me to get the funding!

Good thing 3: Our village is soon going to get fiber optic internet... which is SUPER fast and SUPER awesome. The school will also be getting it (as long as I understood correctly) which will also help with the project. They say spring time... but we'll see. Two villages really close to us already have it... so that's encouraging.

Good thing 4: I haven't lost the friend I thought I lost. :)

16 January 2011

Reading in Romanian

Today I asked my host mom if she had any books that were rather easy to read in Romanian. She said she has the Bible that was written for children with illustrations.

... I guess that's a good place to start. Might as well work on my Faith as I'm learning a language!

14 January 2011

Good person

Unfortunately I can't take credit for this huge project I hope to be starting here any day... and I don't really want to put too much information until it is more figured out. But it basically has to do with helping some of the kids in my school who have both parents abroad communicate more frequently with them, which will ideally help their progress in school, and so on and so forth (with a whole bunch of minute details in-between).

So, when I got ready to pitch the idea to my Director (aka Principal, aka Boss outside of Peace Corps), I got really nervous. For some reason my Romanian gets worse when I'm around her (I think it's that authority thing)... but the problem is that she doesn't know English, so I can't exactly resort back to that if I can't figure out what I want to say. So, because of this unnecessary nervousness, I asked one of my students in the 10th grade to help me out with the translation if I got stuck. As I told her the details of the project in English before talking with the Director she said, 'You're a good person, Miss Cate."

I am happy to be back with my students... I think I left my thoughts get the best of me before, and I got too wrapped up in being somewhere else.

Sometimes I believe it's best to remember where you are, and to put your whole heart into that place, because if not, you'll forget why you're there.

(but a getaway vacation is sometimes very necessary)


Today I brought my iPad to school to show the kids pictures from my trip, along with the souvenirs that I bought. I cannot tell you how surprised I was that the kids, especially the 4th graders, sat through all of the pictures. It was funny because everyone was waiting for the photos from Egypt... which came after Italy and Greece. Unfortunately once they saw the pictures from Egypt they were done, so they didn't see my my favorite place (Messina), but that's ok. After I showed the photos I pulled out the souvenirs and told them a little bit about the history of the glass from Italy, the shell ring from Pompeii, and the headdress from Egypt. Surprisingly the 4th and 8th graders looked at them very carefully and then gave them back to me. But the 10th graders (my favorite class) tried on the ring and then the headdress. Here are some pictures of them showing you my purchases from the trip. Poftim!

... I think they copied Ross and me

Last weekend Ross and I decided to break out a board game that was given to us by our new friends on the cruise. He said he always wins at every board game he plays.... and I didn't believe him so we decided to play and see (since on the cruise he was, in fact, the first person to win when we played this with our friends). Well, first round: he won. And the pictures below show the results... by the time he had all 4 pieces in his HOME spot, he'd kicked all of mine back to START.

Result: I think he cheated.

Wife lick his face?

Every once in awhile, especially when I post a link to my blog on facebook, I like to look at Google Analytics to see how many people came to my blog (it shows me this on a day-to-day basis). Another cool thing about this website is that it also can show me the traffic... meaning how people are getting to my site (are they typing the address directly into the search bar? Are they following a link from facebook? Or another blog? Or what are they typing in google that leads them to it?). This last one is one got my attention: Google Searches.

The top things people searched for in Google (all 3 people) involved the title of my blog or the link. But the 4th most searched for phrase? "Wife like his face". At first I was completely confused as to where this was coming from... until I remembered my cruise recap. And then I had to laugh. And write this down.

*Oh, yea... so I just looked at the full report. It's there twice. (click to make bigger)

13 January 2011

I like your boobs?

Today I didn't have a class during the 6th period so I hung out near a heater in my partner teacher's room as she was teaching her 9th grade class. There were only 8 students and only 2 of them were boys. The subject of the class was self-image, and she had asked the students first to go around the room and say some things they like and don't like about themselves and their body. Then she asked the girls to look at the boys and say what they liked about them. They said they like that the boys are strong, they have good hands and nails, and they have a good smile. Then it was the boys' turn to talk about the girls. The boys are pretty weak in their English abilities and seem to be rather shy, so I stopped in and tried to tell one of the boys to say, "They have good hair" but he said, "Nu. Eu vreau să spun altceva" (Translation... No, I want to say something else). You know what it was?

Ele au tîțe frumoase.

Any idea what that means?

Ok, I'll tell you. They have beautiful boobs.

I then wrote it on the board because let's face it... This was really funny. This boy immediately said, "Am nevoie să scriu acest" (Translation... I need to write this) and he did.

And I guarantee if he doesn't learn anything else this semester, he'll probably remember this one his whole life.

Boys will be boys no matter what country you're in. Lesson learned.

11th form dialogues

We asked our 11th form to create dialogues today with their desk partner about a conflict. The conflict could be real or made up, but regardless, the conversation had to be about a conflict. This was my favorite dialogue, written by 2 boys. One has the best English out of all of the boys in the class (which actually doesn't say too much... but he really tries, so it's the thought that counts) and the other one doesn't have a clue but is absolutely hilarious and needs to be in theater. Seriously.

Student 1: Why do you cry to my brother?
Student 2: Because I want! (Side note: this was said as if he was a 16 year old girl, but as a boy... if that makes sense)
Student 1: How are you to be so cool.
Student 2: My father, are policeman.
Student 1: Oh, and if your father are policeman, you are land to fight
Student 2: Yes, father is a boss police.
Student 1: I don't know hy is your father, and now apologized or I'm gonna fight you.
2. Sorry (said with honest sincerity)

1: Why did you hit my brother?
2: Because I wanted to!
1: Who are you to be so cool.
2. My father is a policeman.
1. Oh, and if your father is a policeman, you are allowed to fight?
2. Yes, my father is the Chief of Police.
1. I don't know who your father is, so apologize now or I'm gonna fight you.
2. Sorry.

Maybe you had to be there, but up until I had this class, it had been a ridiculously long "welcome back to school after 1 month of being away" day.

12 January 2011


First night back in my village and I think the rooster is welcoming me home. At 9pm. Better try to fall asleep now, because I assume he'll also welcome me home at 10pm, and 11pm, and midnight...


I'm currently on a rutiera on my way home (yay!) chatting with my sister on skype. It's almost 6pm and very dark outside due to the cloud cover and extreme fog. So, while on my computer, I'm a current glow. But it's ok. It's important to talk to my sister!

But a little boy, probably around 5 or 6, just got on the rutiera with a woman whom I assume is his mother. When he got by me, he stopped. His mom tried to get him to go into the open seat across the aisle from me but he wouldn't- he wanted her to go first so he could look at my computer.

You see, if I were on a 4 hour bus ride in America and I pulled out a laptop it wouldn't be surprising to anyone... but to Moldovan's, especially the children who may be lucky to have computers in their school, are absolutely mesmerized by it.

11 January 2011


I've spent the last 2 days in Medical TDY in Chisinau. I originally came here due to an odd abundance of phlegm coming from my lungs, but then yesterday afternoon I developed what the doctors now seem to think is food poisoning. This is good, because she was at first worried it was appendicitis, but has now ruled that out. Thank goodness. If all goes well, I should be sent back to site tomorrow- my first time back since Christmas.

The interesting thing about our doctor here is when she switches from English to Romanian mid-sentence. I really don't think she realizes when she is doing this, but it sure gets my brain working!

10 January 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

^ See that last picture? Does something look different weird?

If you said only one of those shoes has heels, you're right. During dinner on New Year's Eve I went to the bathroom and on the way back a heel broke. Before midnight. And those were the only "nice" shoes I had... and I paid 250 Moldovan lei (less than 25 USD) for them a couple days before I left for the cruise, expecting them to hold out at for at least the rest of my service (I mean, it's not like I have to dress up a lot, especially not in the winter). FAIL. But it's ok, we called it an early night. I think it was due to the heel breaking. Just kidding.

08 January 2011

Winter vacation recap

Ok, I took awhile to post this because I wanted to post pictures. I took over 1700 pictures over the trip, and I wanted to narrow it down to the top 2 or so from each day. By the time I was done, I still had 200. Ekk. Pics will come later. Or you can look on facebook, because they're all there.

Day 1: Chisinau to Rome
Flight was delayed over an hour, sat on a bus waiting to go to Rome from the airport for an hour, made it into the city just after the sun set, ran into our friends who were kind enough to let us stay with them on the street just as we had a make a decision as to which way to turn to go to the apartment (good timing), ate Chef Boyardee pasta at a restaurant that also had a carafe of the best house wine I've ever had and it was only 3 euros, left my camera at home as we went on a walk and saw the Colosseum, Parthenon, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Trevi Fountain. The best par (other than the awesome wine, being in a 1st World country, and the nice walk at night) was being able to drink water from the tap.

Day 2: Few hours in Rome, then to Civitavecchia
Got an early start, walked around forever to try to find a wifi cafe (fail), made it to the train station, dropped off our bags, checked out times for the train to Civitaveccia, then hopped on a bus to the Vatican (which was the only place I hadn't been both times I visited Rome, and it was where Ross wanted to go back to the most... he did say, after all, that the Vatican is Disney World for Catholics). Then, on the way back, we were trying to catch the same bus that we took from the train station to get back to the train station. We saw the bus, but weren't able to get to a stop in time to get on it, so we went in the same direction that we saw it turn. But there wasn't a stop where we were waiting, so we looked at the list of the stops of the other busses. When a bus is approaching you, you can see the number of the bus and then it's written, on the front. where it's final stop is. So me, getting a little to tired of waiting, thought the bus had the train station written on it, even though it wasn't listed on the sign. We hopped on. 40 minutes later, and well into the residential area of Rome, we decided to get off the bus to catch another one in the right direction. At this point we still had time so spare, so it was fine. An hour of waiting later, we realized the bus wasn't coming. We then realized we were going to miss our train but thankfully, due to Ross not liking to be late (aka SUPER early in my book), we actually had plenty of time to spare. So we tried to catch a taxi. But the driver was off, but he told us to catch the next bus (the bus of which we'd probably seen 10 times in that hour) to the subway that was 2 stops away, then hop on the subway to the train station. Oh boy. We caught a train 30 minutes later (missing the other one by mere minutes), and made it with plenty of time to spare for the cruise.

Day 3: Genoa, Italy
It was cold, overcast, and small. We went to the Ferrari Plaza, but there wasn't much to it other than a fountain. We walked around for a couple hours then got back on the boat. It was prettier from the outside.

Day 4: Naples, Italy
We took our first excursion, which we later found out we could have easily gotten there by ourselves. When we chose Pompeii we thought we'd see all of the people as they were when they were covered in ash by the volcano. Well, no. We just saw the ruins of the city, which was interesting, for about the first 30 minutes, then it all looked the same. So, if you decide to take this cruise, either get to Pompeii yourself (with the train, it's easy) or go see Vesuvius.

Day 5: At sea
We were disappointed with the activities on the cruise, or the lack thereof, especially for an entire day at sea. There were a couple of exercise programs in the morning, Bingo once during the day, and then a show at night before (or after) dinner... then some NYE festivities, but if you had the late dinner (like we did), we finished at 11:30, just in time to find a place, get that midnight kiss, then go to bed. But we did attempt the hot tub during the day...which did lead to some entertainment considering the tub was lukewarm but felt super awesome after a quick jump into the freezing (literally) cold pool water, then watching a man swim in the pool for a good 20 minutes and then watch his wife lick his face. And toes. Like a cat. Seriously.
... but it was fun for our first formal night!

Day 6: Heraklion, Greece
Everything was closed due to the fact that it was New Year's Day, but it was nice to have such quiet streets, with the only real sound of locals being the people up in their houses cooking food for their family and friends. We did stop in a coffee shop shortly upon arrival (one of the only that was open) and were given a shot of Uzo (the local drink), and a pastry by one of the men there... when Ross took the whole shot at once, the man looked at him like he was loco and then said, "slowly! slowly!"... so I got to sip on the super strong (and to me not so tasty) alcohol. But the pastry was good, and it was kind of fun to be the only female in the whole place full of old men playing backgammon and poker. The server didn't seem to enjoy us there, but the patrons didn't seem to mind. After that we walked around until we found a park, and then found ourselves in a residential area (again). It was still really pretty.

Day 7: Rhodes, Greece
Again, nothing was open, but this time it's because it was Sunday. We took a walk around the outside of the city along the ocean until we got to the beach, where we found beautiful rocks, clean waters, and a diving platform. I wanted to go diving, but then remembered 1. it was super cold 2. I didn't have my swimsuit and 3. I never liked the platform anyways (I'm more of a springboard type of gal). When we walked by a store with beautiful mosaic lamps, I couldn't help myself so we went in to check it out. The man told me his wife made the mosaics and painted the beautiful ceramic plates I bought. After eating gyros at one of the only open restaurants (it was in a tourist spot, but owned by locals, and locals were eating/playing cards there... so we decided it was okay), we finally happened upon the tourist spot (the old part of the village) where I found those beautiful mosaic lamps and plates again. Either his wife owns that market, or he lied. I'm going to guess he lied, but I fell for it so I can't say too much ;) We then found a totally vacant street in the midst of the incredibly packed tourist area that was full of cats. Seriously, i think there were 15 or 20. That was probably the best part about this place- if you went just ONE street away from the main one, you didn't see a single soul. It was really relaxing and beautiful.

Day 8: Cairo, Egypt
This was our second and last excursion of the trip, and TOTALLY worth it. As soon as we got off the boat (after waiting in line forever, only to find out if we would have gone to the main lobby first we could have been out in a couple minutes versus over an hour), we hopped on a bus to take us from the port in Alexandria to Cairo. We had a guide who spoke enough English to talk the entire 3 hours, but it was pretty interesting. Our first stop was the 2nd pyramid (in the famous group of 3), where we were hassled by locals trying to get us to ride their camel or buy their knock-off goods. One man even went so far as to put 4 beads from a broken necklace into our new friend's pocket, saying it was a gift, and then demanded money when we walked away. Finally, the only way to get him to leave, was to give him money. Although there was so much more I wanted to see there, after our 15 minutes was up, I was ready to get back on the bus to drive the 2 minutes to the Sphinx. It was still full of locals, but it wasn't as bad as it was up the road. Ross and I bought some "traditional hats" to go along with our pictures from our Christmas card, and talked the man down from 11 euros for 1, to 4 for 2. While I"ll never wear it as a hat again, it will make for a scarf later on. Then we entered area surrounding the Sphinx, and our new friend, Lance, proposed to his girlfriend, Kristi. It was so wonderful to be there for that moment and to photograph it for them! I think the best part was the MSC cruise photographer that got RIGHT in their face (literally), and the woman that thought she'd love to treasure their private moment forever by getting in their faces, too, and taking pictures. I totally think she's going to frame that (um, no). Then we got back on the bus and headed to a safari (aka super awesome 10 minute ride in a jeep through the desert) and a camel ride, followed by a super delicious buffet. I have no idea what i was eating, but it was really tasty!

Day 9: At sea
We took a 4 hour nap because there were so many great activities to go during the day. lol

Day 9: Messina, Italy
Last stop, and one of the best!! We walked all over the city, visited some churches, and had the best pizza we've ever eaten in our lives at one of the only open restaurants (re-occuring theme???). But it was delicious. And the city was absolutely beautiful. I definitely want to go back.

Day 10: Back to Rome
We couldn't have ended the trip without another adventure. When we were finally let off the boat, we went straight to the train station to get tickets back to Rome/the Airport. Instead of buying tickets to Rome, then to the airport (we had a lot of time to spare), we bought them together. We waited almost 2 hours for the train (it was a holiday and so there were fewer trains than normal and not one taxi was on the road), we finally ended up back in Rome. Lance and Kristi had a plane to catch that they almost missed, and our other new friends from Canada invited us to lunch while we waiting for our train. We ate at a little restaurant and I had incredible gnocchi, but the house wine was probably the worst wine I've ever had in my life. Then we got on our train to head to the airport. Now, in the 3 other trains that we rode, theoretically we didn't even need a ticket because no one ever checked it. But of course we always bought a ticket just in case, and of course someone checked it on our last train before leaving the country. Now, this would have been fine... except the tickets we bought at the port didn't actually take us directly to Rome- we were supposed to get off of the train at another stop and then catch one to the airport from there instead of the main station in Rome. So that cost us an additional 6 euros, plus the 8 euro fine for having the wrong ticket. Thankfully the ticket man was having an ok day, I guess, and only charged us for 1, instead of the 2. Oh well, leave it to us to have more problems :P

Day 10: Romania
When you enter Romania and Moldova, you can guarantee you'll be getting a stamp in your passport in both directions. In most of the other countries I've been in, I only sometimes got a stamp, but usually I didn't. So when we got to Romania they held on to my passport for awhile, and I was getting nervous, especially because I wasn't using my Peace Corps passport since I didn't have my proof saying I was working in the country (which is fine... my normal passport just looks like I'm a tourist. It's ok.) Then the woman asks me if I had lost my passport. I thought she meant the identification card, so I pulled up the email with the proff on my iPad, and pulled out my other passport. Then she said she just asked if it had been lost. Which it hadn't, so I still don't know what the problem was. But no worries- I then got it stamped and we were good to go.
We left the airport and needed a taxi to get to the hotel. The driver tried to tell us it would be 40 euros. Absolutely not, and we didn't even have Euros on us anyways since we were in Romania, where they take Romanain Lei, not euros. We couldn't get him to go down, so I called the hotel and asked them how much it should cost. She didn't know, but said that was outrageous. Finally we talked him into 50 Romanian lei, which was still overpriced because 2 minutes after leaving the airport we were at the hotel. No joke. We could have WALKED. But the driver told me if he knew I spoke Romanian he would have given it to us for the 50 lei from the beginning. Uh, huh. Sure. Next time we're walking. But the hotel was nice, warm, clean, and comfortable, and situated close to both of the airports in Bucharest.

Day 11: Romania to Chisinau
We made it back to Chisinau over an hour later than planned due to the de-icing of the smallest plane I've ever been on in my entire life. It could probably hold at most 20 people, there were 12 passengers, and 1 flight attendant. But we got a meal for the hour long flight. American airlines can learn something from Moldovan airlines... the drinks were free, too! Then when we arrived in Chisinau, the driver tried to charge us 100 Moldovan lei to get to the train station. It cost us 50 to get to the airport. Now, I understand it was the Orthodox Christmas, but seriously!! We finally talked him down to 60 lei, but it was still frustrating.But we made it back to Moldova, all in one piece.

Overall the trip was nice. It was great to get away and to be on an airplane again. Plus, it was nice to not have the internet much. If I go on another cruise, I think it will be a summer or fall one because it will be warmer so there will be more activities at the pool and we can be out on deck when we're at sea. Plus, things won't be closed for the holidays. I was thankful to only have gone to Egypt for the day- I don't think I would have wanted to spend the night there. I definitely want to go back to Messina and Rhodes. I think a cruise is a good way to test out places you might want to go back to, or to go to places you want to see, but don't want to spend much time there (aka Egypt).

It's nice to be back "home", but I will be honest and say I'm not necessarily looking forward to going back to teaching. I'd adjusted to this lifestyle, and stepping out of it and coming back made it seem even harder than it was before I left. But I have to remember that it's the little things that make a difference... and I came here wanting to make a difference. So we'll see...

02 January 2011


I'm currently in Rhodes, Greece enjoying a nice cup of unfortunately overpriced Greek coffee. But it tastes good, as do the cookies that came with the order, and the weather is nice so we are sitting outside. This is our favorite stop thus far on the cruise, and unfortunately it's the shortest! We have found out that everything sic,owed in Greece on Mew Years, except for small coffeeshop/bars full of men playing board and card games... And everything is also closed on Sunday. So it's nice because the streets are pretty quiet and if you stray off the beaten path you will hear the families and friends preparing food, talking, laughing, and living life. Then, as soon as you get to a tourist spot... bAM! It's busting with open"tourist" shops and overpriced food. But that's ok. We will be back :)

Egypt tomorrow!