28 February 2012

Friendly people

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop in Albuquerque enjoying the unlimited refills of house coffee, a deliciously healthy blueberry muffin, and free magazines. My body is quickly becoming sore from me taking advantage of my jet lag. Coming from a temperature below freezing in Moldova, trust me when I say 50 degrees feels amazing.. Especially after an intense hot yoga session. As I went to get a refill if my coffee, an old man smiled at me and asked, "aren't you cold?" in reference to me in my cotton shorts and tank top. With a smile I replied that no, I'm not cold.

In my morning yoga class, a kid stopped me after class to ask if I was an alum of a private school here because of my water bottle.

I love how people can be so friendly here.

27 February 2012

Jet lag

Jet lag sucks. I forget about it every time I travel long distances... thinking it's not going to be that bad but as soon as I get to the destination I remember just how much it sucks.

Let's think about the positive thoughts regarding jet lag.
  • I can go to bed early. No, no. That's not good because "early" means 6pm. That won't work
  • I'm a zombie in the afternoon. No, no. That's not good, either, because zombies aren't any fun
  • I can do sunrise yoga. Oh, wait. YES! Sunrise yoga!

This morning I woke up at 4:30 (30 minutes later than yesterday... I'm on a roll here) and decided to get my butt moving and head to a hot yoga class that began at 5:30am. After yesterday's attempt at a spinning class, this is definitely worth it! I feel so stretched out and much better. However, I think it's about time for a nap.

In regards to my dad's recovery... yesterday was a MUCH better day! He was feeling so good, in fact, that he went down the stairs and played some poker while watching the red carpet intro to the Emmy Awards with Connie (I was sleeping). He didn't make it too much past dinner (or even to the start of the show) but it's still great progress! If he keeps up like this, maybe he'll be joining me in my sunrise yoga classes before I leave. Ok, just kidding. But still, this is great news!

25 February 2012

27 hour day

I made it safe and sound to Albuquerque. It was a 27-hour day if I count the time I left the hotel in Chisinau until the time I arrived at the house in New Mexico. The flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta was 10 1/2 hours and I was so thankful to have my own TV set so I could choose which movies to watch- and movie watching I did! The food was probably the best food I can remember having on an airplane and I feel like we were fed more than enough (or at least I was).

It is so weird to be back. When I arrived, it was around 9pm so it was dark outside. I haven't been to Albuquerque since I was 12, and quite frankly, I don't remember it and it has probably changed a lot since then. But I must say, damn, it feels great to be back in the United States. I just couldn't stop looking out the window on the way to the house and I kept thinking how great it is that I know most of these stores and I know where to get things that I need, and there's a coffeeshop I should check out and there's another one, and OH! Starbucks! Target! Mini dealership! Oh man... it just feels good to be back.

In terms of my dad, he is recovering well from his knee-replacement surgery. It's going to be a long and grueling recovery but so far, so good. In just the hour or so I was with him before going to bed last night I could see why it is so important to be here to help him recover. He really cannot do anything for himself, including go up and down the stairs to get ice packs or food. I'm very thankful I can be here to help.

Valentine's Love

Valentine's Day, Schmalentine's Day. When an adult and single, this particular day is awfully overrated (and this post is belated.. ha, I'm a poet and I didn't even know it).

This year, Valentine's Day was just another Tuesday. I received a couple of Valentine's from my students but other than that it was pretty ordinary. However, I told my dad's girlfriend how much I used to love it when my dad gave us heart-shaped boxes of chocolates every year. He also used to buy them for his co-workers which I think is a gesture that shows just how big his heart is... he never wanted anyone to feel left out on this much overrated Hallmark holiday. Well, before going to sleep last night, he told me I needed to look in a box and there I would find my Valentine's day present. Guess what I found:

Yup, that's right. A box of Russell Stover chocolates (excuse the expression... it's not even 6:30am and I'm still un-showered after travelling all day yesterday). When I was little I used to use my teeth (or a knife) to create a small crack in the chocolates that told me what they were filled with but this time, since I'm a grown-up, I decide I should just go for it and take a bite because that is part of the excitement of chocolates, right? Not knowing what's on the inside? Well, my first one was caramel. Heeeeaven!

21 February 2012

Snow baba

Yesterday I made a snowman, so today my host mom made a snowbaba (baba = old woman)

She's so funny!


As soon as I found out I was able to fly back to New Mexico to be with my dad as he recovers from his knee replacement surgery, I knew there was one thing I had to buy: a computer. This computer is not for me, though. It's for my host family. For the first time ever via a video chat on Skype, I connected them to their daughter and her children who permanently live in Cambodia (then later connected 5 generations). They spoke on the phone every once in awhile, but never over video. Now both my host parents and their daughter ask to Skype all the time. I don't blame them. It's a wonderful tool to see loved ones who are far away (trust me... I use it all the time!). We should be getting fast internet installed in the village soon (yes, we were promised it would be installed last October, but, you know... it's a lot of work) so the connection should be much better... and so I figured this would be a great way to say thank you for everything they've done for me over these past (almost) 2 years. However, my host dad isn't big on receiving gifts so I wasn't sure how to go about telling them I was getting them a computer and they couldn't say no... except for by the element of surprise. But just my luck, my host mom mentioned that my host dad was going to buy a computer! This is good news because I know they'll appreciate it, but bad news because I didn't want to bring one back and find out they already bought one (and overpaid, at that, because electronics are ridiculously expensive here!!). I decided I had to tell them... but now. I tried to convince their daughter to bring it up first, but she didn't want it to sound like she had asked me to buy it for them (which she didn't). So then I tried to tell my host mom, hoping she would say OK! and then, while I was gone, try to convince my host dad to wait until he buys one... and then I show up with it. But... she said, "No. Absolutely not." Well, shit. Now what? No clue. It was then time for their Skype session with their daughter and my host dad brought up the computer purchase topic to her just as the battery was about to die on my laptop and I was nervous so I ended up not saying anything. Then as we closed the session, somehow the topic continued and I tried to beat around the bush saying "what if I got you one" while half joking with him and him half being serious and half joking back so I had no idea what the final decision was! But then, about a minute later into our conversation, the problem was solved: they'll let me bring them back a laptop.

Now, you see, my host dad knows a little bit about computers. He was somehow assigned to be the computer teacher a few years ago and he had absolutely not idea how to use a computer (and obviously didn't have one at home) so he learned how to use the computer as he taught the kids. So he knows a little bit. But my host mom is absolutely clueless because until I came around, she'd never had a reason to see or even use a computer. But now she's ready to learn- and just in time if you ask me! So this evening she came into my room and picked up my iPod touch and asked me how to turn it on. And then how to take a picture. And then how to look through the pictures. She's learning!

Here is her first self portrait:

I am so thankful I have been able to connect my host family with their daughter and her family abroad... and now that I'll be able to help them continue the visual communication (with her and hopefully me, too!) even after I leave.

20 February 2012

Snow men

Over the last couple of weeks we have had an incredible amount of snow. Had it fallen in the mountains, I'm sure it would have been perfect for skiing because it was very powdery. That's cool and all, but in all honesty I've been waiting for it to become wetter because I wanted to build a snowman! Finally today I got my chance! And some kiddos stopped to help me... it was a lot of fun but I will say this: it's not a fun surprise when coming upon yellow snow. Snowmen are supposed to be WHITE- not yellow. ew. At least I had waterproof gloves on! When I got home I told my host mom I found "my man"... she thought it was funny :)

Then, when heading home, I noticed how the leaves had landed on the snow and sunk down an inch... leaving a beautiful imprint!

... and when the kids saw these icicles hanging off of the house, they couldn't resist but to stop and get one!

... and I couldn't say no for a photo, either.

Some people we met on the way home...

Something I love seeing is people pulling their little ones on sleds everywhere. It makes so much sense... sometimes the snow is too high for the kids to walk through, and they take forever... so it makes the trip much faster!

I must say, I'm quite impressed with these iPod photos! They're not print quality by any means, but they work!

16 February 2012

Taking risks

The last few days have been rather mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. When I was younger, I used to explode when I got angry at someone whether it was a friend, my parents, or a significant other, because I would let the little things build and build and build until I couldn't take it anymore. Fortunately for me (and them!) I have learned how to communicate better and I've realized that yelling really doesn't solve problems. However, I think this is what happened with my thoughts. I have no idea where they all came from but all of a sudden they were all there and unstoppable and accounted for a near sleepless night causing a ridiculously irritating day after. The thoughts included just about everything in regards to my ideal future schools project (locations, contacts, funding, equipment, shots, thank you's) and the in-between (where, funding, exhibits, work), what to do after the project, what to do if the project isn't successful or even if I should do it at all, how I've changed since coming to Moldova, relationships, and the possibility of grad school (online or on campus? why or why not?). Oh my gosh. Just typing it seems like a lot... imagine having these thoughts for HOURS upon HOURS. #headache.

While all of these thoughts are still there, I can officially say that thanks to a couple of friends letting me spill it and writing it all out, I feel much better about everything.

And then I saw a Facebook status update of one of my college psychology professors:

Dear students, grad school isn't the only path to success. In fact, its a weak and tortuous path. Be creative, examine your options. That is all.

22 comments later she said this:

i was thinking about the millionaire who owns the *two* houses next to us on Flathead Lake, in addition to his ranch in Whitefish (for hobby only) who made his money in the fruit/vegetable transport business. Business BA + open mind + risk = WIN that will last several generations.

Although I could be wrong, I think she was mainly referring to psychology students in the original post although it can be applicable to multiple outlets (obviously or it wouldn't have struck home to me). While grad school is still a possibility and not a definitive option, I'm not speaking just about that. What I am focusing on is the RISK. All of these thoughts of mine are really centering around the risk I'd be taking. The risk of failing. But I also run the risk of succeeding in ways I never even dreamed imaginable and that is a risk worth going after at least just to see what would happen... and that thought makes me feel a whole lot better about everything.

Now if money just grew on trees...

15 February 2012


It sure is pretty... but man-oh-man I'm tired of this snow. We had about another 6 inches after I took this photo and we have more in the forecast for the next few days.

Is it summer yet?

07 February 2012

The moon

There is something about a rising moon on a perfectly clear evening that takes my breath away. Tonight I stepped outside to go buy some water and I saw the moon just barely peeking over the horizon. It was almost transparent and a light shade of pink; blending in with the light shade of purple that was the sky. It was so beautiful that I just stood there for a minute... watching it rise. As I walked the 2 minutes to the store I forgot about it (short term memory loss, ADD, the cold, I don't know...) and when I came out, it caught my eye again: this time as a bright orange ball. The snow of the last 4 days and the sun of today brought such fresh air to our village and clear skies that I felt I could see every nook and cranny on this full moon. Again, I stood there for a minute... looking quite silly, I'm sure, to the men standing in the street. But I didn't care. It was beautiful... so beautiful, that I looked back over my shoulder every couple of steps to catch another glimpse on my way home.

Photographing the moon is something I have not been able to do properly. I think it is because I need a different lens, but this is the best I got for tonight... just know it does NOT do it justice!!

05 February 2012


In high school I had a group of friends that were all very intelligent and they knew exactly what they wanted to go to college for, and they did just that. Me, on the other hand? Well, I was all over the board. I wanted to be a teacher, then a photojournalist, then a photographer. I hadn’t a clue. But they voted me as “the one the most likely to get married first”. Considering I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life I guess that made sense (plus, I supposed I always talked about it. Oh, wait. That hasn’t really changed). At that time I never thought much about traveling and exactly what my future might hold, until I was asked by teachers in the art department of my school to join them and other students on a trip to Paris. That 6 day trip (in which I lost my passport so then spent 2 of those days in the Embassy and 2 more traveling) forever changed me. While many of my classmates are now married (or not married) and have babies on the way or a couple in diapers, I’ve chosen a different path. A different destiny, if you will. Unlike my friends who all knew they wanted to be in the medical field and classmates who chose to settle and raise a family, I’ve chosen to travel. But that doesn’t ever seem to really stop me from asking “what if”.

Grey’s Anatomy is a television show that these same friends got me hooked on watching. As any Grey’s fan would say, “the first couple of seasons were great. They should have stopped while they were ahead,” however, that doesn’t keep me from watching it. Today I tuned in to a new episode after watching the newest episode of Glee. My dad sent me a quote a few days ago from Susan L. Taylor: Thoughts are energy, and you can make your world or break your world by your thinking. Well, maybe my thoughts told me I needed to download these shows and watch them in the order that I did today because it just, well, clicked. I’ll begin with Grey’s since that is how I began this. If you haven’t watched an episode before I’ll key you in to this: it’s just drama, drama, drama. But that’s what we all love, right? So anyways, in this episode, it begins with Meredith, the main character, holding her adopted baby from Africa. As with every episode, we see one thing happening and we hear her voice speaking over what is going on. Whatever she begins with saying is a prelude to what the episode is going to be about (usually rather deep thoughts) and then the episode ends with her concluding thoughts. Today it was this: The baby you have is the baby you were destined to have. It was meant to be. That’s what all of the adoption people tell you. Anyways I like to think it’s true. But everything else in the world seems so completely random. What if one little thing I said or did could have made it all fall apart. What if I’d chosen another life for myself. Or another person. We might have never found each other. What if I’d been raised differently? What if my mother had never been sick? What if I’d actually had a good father. What if. What if. What if.

Hm. Wow. Just think about that for a minute. Done thinking? Yea, I’m not either but I’m going on anyways. The rest of the episode plays out as if things had been different; if her mother hadn’t had that disease that makes you forget things and died, if her father hadn’t been absent, if her current husband had stuck with his ex wife, if her current best friend was her enemy, etc. It was all of the stories put together of how the relationships between the characters on the show were presented- which of course, because it’s about drama, didn’t even come close to ending that way. For the first 20 or so minutes, everything looks perfect. The people that we thought were supposed to be together were together, pregnant or with kids already, and happy. Everyone was happy and everything looked great. But then the truth was revealed that the baby Shepard is pregnant with is really not her husband’s kid, but instead that of his best friend… and this, that, and the other. In the end of the episode, it seemed that the flaws we now know of with these people were still their flaws; even though they had made different life decisions. And when these flaws came out, the “destiny” of the person ended up being the same as we know it is today. One of the doctors says this which I think sums it all up: Some things are going to work out as if they were destined to happen; and some as if they were just meant to be.

You see, we all want things in our lives. We want happiness, we want this spouse, we want this car, we want this job, we want to live in this place, etc. But if anyone else there is like me (and I’m sure you are), we wonder “what if”. In my life in particular, I often wonder what my life would have been like if my mom hadn’t died. What if she was still alive… would I have found my love for photography, traveled to France in high school, gone to KU, had the friends that I had, and then come to Moldova or would I still be living in the suburbs of Kansas City, married, and working in an office? What if I had been accepted to Teach for America… would I still have filled out the application for the Peace Corps… just to see? What if I cut ties back when I was first questioning things… would I have the relationship with my host family that I do now? What if. What if. What if.

While I can’t stop all of these thoughts (and the thousands more that came with that) from happening, I can try to control them. Wondering “what if” really isn’t going to do anyone any good because, as they later said in the show, “we make our own destiny”. And, I strongly agree with this although we don’t necessarily realize it at the time it is happening. One never knows what is waiting around the corner… so why not go and find it out for himself. While I may not necessarily choose who I meet and when I meet them or when opportunities are going to arise, I can begin by making good decisions. Because I can’t go back and change things there is not a point in wondering “what if”. Some things are going to work out because they were meant to be, and others because they’re destiny. But I’ll never know which is which and, well, it is what it is. It’s up to me to move forward and focus on now instead of wondering “what if”.

Which brings me quickly to Glee. The quote that got my head racing: you can't change your past but you can let go and start your future.

I’m really not going to comment on that because I feel like it speaks for itself.

At the end of the day, all I can say is this. Five years ago and I had no idea how many changes I was going to go through that year, let alone proceeding 5. Heck, I didn’t even know Moldova existed and I thought Spain was north of France. I do not know what my future holds for me (even though a couple of Roma fortune-telling women seem to think otherwise). I cannot tell you (or myself) why I’ve made some of the decisions I’ve made in my life or why things happen the way they do. But, regardless, they do. The last 20 months of living in Moldova has changed me in ways that I didn’t even know possible, and quite frankly, I didn’t even know needed changed. It doesn’t matter what got me here; what matters is I’m here and I’m happy I’m here. Something about my being here was meant to be so it could shape my destiny- whatever that may be. And you know what? I’m 100% (ok, 99%) all right with that… at least right now.

Also, I wanted to end this post with a photo of the snow from today but I just looked at them and it doesn't even do close to justice for the amount of snow that is now on the ground. Unbelievable.

01 February 2012

Laughing till she cries

If you've been reading my blog since sometime around August 2010 and March 2011, you probably know how hard it was for me to adjust to my host family. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm glad because now it is a completely different story. As much as I can't wait for June, trust me when I say leaving my host family is going to be the hardest part of these two years in Moldova. Ok, moving on because I'm already teary-eyed; which is not what I meant by the title of this post. Well, not really.

The daily knock on my window around 6pm meant it was time for dinner. I walked the 7 seconds to the casa mica where my host family lives and cooks, and when I entered, my host dad was sleeping so I tried to be quiet. My host mom didn't care that he was sleeping because it was time to eat- and the mamaliga was going to get cold (and it's not good when it's cold) so he needed to get up anyways... so she broke the ice and asked if I was cold. "Yes, yes I am" I said, because it's freaking cold out there! As my host dad started to get up, he was "ouf, ouf, ouuuufffff" ing because apparently his leg is really hurting him today (I didn't know this was a problem). When he made it the 2 steps from the bed to the table, he had a hard time sitting down. Once he sat, he had a hard time sitting. So then he stood up (with my host mom laughing at him this whole time). At one point when he was standing up, he bent down to pick up some mamaliga and cheese crumbs that had fallen to the floor. As he did this, it looked like he was a ballerina so I asked him if he was one (yes, I do bring jokes. Sometimes. And really, I think only my host mom appreciates them because she's the only one that ever laughs. No one else seems to get them- in English or Romanian). This then caused him to laugh (once he got it) but my host mom was way ahead of him- so far ahead, in fact, that it almost brought her to tears. My host dad then added to the humor in sticking his leg back as if he was dancing, and then when he came back in from stepping outside for a couple of minutes, he stood next to the soba and did a table-top bend/move/dance-thing-whatever-the-technical-term-is-I-don't-know. He's a funny one!

Tonight we laughed till we cried. Yea, I'm going to miss this. Ouf, ouf, ouuuffff.