Smiles

Antonina

Good Strawberries Don’t Need Sugar

As the days are winding down (we’re down to single digits of time I have left in Varatic), my host mom and I are getting as many chats in as possible. She likes to come into my room when she needs a break from working to cool down and to talk. Today the topic was cell phones and robots. “Robots can never butcher a goose” she claims, and it’s silly that there are blocks on phones that prevent us from going from one carrier to the next, and one country to the next. I couldn’t agree more.

She then decided we needed to to pick some strawberries, because it is strawberry season! Due to the extreme lack of rain we had this spring, our strawberry selection is rather minimal. She has put 3 different types of strawberries in the ground, though, and really there is only one that has produced strawberries up to this point (and she doesn’t have much hope for the others).


I was getting a nice handful of strawberries going, and, like she did with the cherries, she told me to call it good and leave the rest because they’ll be eve better tomorrow. When I looked back up at her, she didn’t have any strawberries in her hands… because she’d already eaten them all. “They’re better that way” she says. Personally, I prefer less-crunchy strawberries.

After I washed them, I took my first bite. Good strawberries DON’T need sugar. Now I understand why I always loaded my strawberries with sugar growing up… they didn’t have a taste (or much of one).

I have no idea how I’m going to eat food back home without breaking the bank by only buying organic food… but oh my gosh, it tastes so much better!

(Then as I took a nap, she surprised me with a cup of sweet blackberries… which are also incredibly sweet!)

I did it!

The Reward of Goal Setting

I remember my first thoughts as I was coming to visit my village in Moldova for the first time. I was nervous to meet what would be my new host family, to see the village, and anxious to get the whole Peace Corps thing “actually” started. However, when Moldovans in my first village found out I was going to live “in the north”, they gave me a less than favorable preconceived notion of it being poor and dirty. So, needless to say, I was having mixed emotions during the 4 hour journey from the capital. On top of that, the weather was overcast and dark, which means I was not in the best of moods. But then the further north we traveled, the more sunflowers there became (which is my favorite flower, in case you didn’t know). The villages all pretty much looked the same to me… until we turned the corner to enter Varatic.

If I was tired at this point, I don’t remember anymore because every feeling I had was transferred to awe. There is a bridge that goes over a river to enter the village, with tall walls of rocks where the river has made its way through them carving its path. I looked at the Director of our school who was traveling with me and I told her I could not believe this is where I was going to live for the next two years… it is so beautiful.

Little did I know that the beauty in the nature of Varatic would help me get through very difficult times. Now, as I’m wrapping up my time here, it has helped me once again.

You see, I went to a barbeque my first official night with my host family back in August 2010. There were rocks across the river from where we were sitting, and he was searching his brain for the English he remembers to tell me the rocks look like a lizard (we finally settled on alligator… close enough). But when I looked at the back of the alligator, I noticed something that looked like a monument at the very top. He said it was a memorial, and later I found out it is a memorial to go with a legend, and I’ll get to that in a minute. Soon, I had a goal: to get to the monument before I left the village.

When my dad visited in August, we tried to get there. However, before we knew it the sky turned dark and was threatening rain, and I did not want to risk my camera getting soaked, and there was still at least a good 45 minutes till we would arrive there, or a 30 minute walk home. We turned around and went home, which was just in time because then the rain came. So, we were dry and my camera was safe, but we still didn’t see the monument.

Now it’s May, and I have just a few weeks until I am leaving Varatic, and I still haven’t seen the monument. I’ve since learned that is called “the love rock” because the legend says a young couple wanted to get married and their parents didn’t approve, so they jumped off of the rocks to their deaths in the river, so they could be together for eternity. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, but that’s the story. So, walking home with one of my friends the other day I told her about the goal I had set, and she told me she’s never been there either, and we should go together. However, she said she wasn’t going to walk because it will take too long, and she just got her driver’s license so she wants to drive. That didn’t thrill me too much because I felt like it was the easy way out, and I’ve waited two years for this, so instead we compromised on a raft, which would take us across the river and then it was up to us to walk to the top.

When we got to the base of the rocks, I began to ask myself, why in the hell did I decide to do this again? … and then again about halfway up, why in the hell did I decide to to this again?. We were making our own path, falling down at times, getting scratched by thorns, and the hill was very steep. Plus, we forgot water, so we were unprepared (Irina did bring a change of clothes, though, for a photo session. Oh boy). Anyways, I was losing my breath, thirsty, and kind of wishing I’d stayed home where I was feeling cranky, lonely, and missing life in Kansas.

But then I saw the monument peeking over the last bump, and I turned around and saw where we’d come from: the village that has been my home for two years. My breath that was gone from not being in shape was back all of a sudden, but I was speechless. That goal that I set to reach the monument was finally reached.

My two years here feels like it was summed up pretty damn well with that one little 30 minute hike. I’ve learned to compromise and be patient when it comes to decision making and setting goals. The journey has for sure had it’s hard times and I’ve often lost my breath and thought to myself, why in the hell did I decide to do this again, and I’ve wanted to turn around and go back to where I am in my comfort zone, no matter how I feel or what I’d leave behind. I’ve fallen down, I’ve been scratched, bruised, hurt, and unprepared. I’ve learned not to judge people on first impressions, and I’ve learned to love. I’ve made my own path.

But in the end, the feeling… the reward… of reaching a goal I’ve waited so long for, and worked so hard for, reminds me once again why.

You need to do it for yourself to truly feel it.

 

 

Smile with your eyes

Smile

As the days in Moldova are winding down, I’m doing my best to spend time with the people I have learned to love here. Maria is the one who made me love Varatic… and as happy, beautiful, and photogenic as she is, she doesn’t like to smile in photographs because it says smiling makes her look old.

So I told her to smile with her eyes… but it took some time to get there 🙂

… but she finally did it!

Tudorita

The little things

Yesterday I had coffeetime chat with Tim McDonald, a man I met on Twitter who loves not only connecting with people, but also connecting people (if you missed the chat, you can find it here).

One of the questions he asked me is what are the biggest things I’ve learned since being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova. In all honesty, I could probably write a trilogy on this topic, given I won the superlative “Most Changed’ at our close of service conference last week. Because of course I had to narrow it down, I told him “time heals everything,” “first impressions don’t always matter,” and “kids are kids around the world”. Later on he reminded me something he’s learned: it’s the little things that make the experience.

And you know, he’s right (I forgot about that… because again… trilogy… hard to narrow it down). Today was a little reminder.

I came to school to teach the second lesson, taught it, then went to a room that is supposed to be the Teacher’s Room (but it is rarely occupied so I like to call it Cate’s Quiet Space) so I could read during my lesson off. Once the bell rang to let the students out of the 3rd lesson, I went back upstairs to get ready for the second graders. The door was locked and all of the students were waiting outside, and I was almost tackled by each and every one of those 22 kids (not joking. EVERY one) as they yelled, “MISS CATE! HOW ARE YOU??!!”. Then, because my key was locked on the inside so I was waiting for my partner, I stood with the kids who continued to switch off, wrapping their little arms around my waist and my arms and holding my hands. They are just so cute and oh man, I’m really going to miss them.

Here is a video they helped me put together to apply for a job (that I didn’t get but it’s ok because I have found an amazing internship in digital marketing in Kansas City that I begin as soon as I get home in August!!!!)

When my lessons for the day finished, one of my neighbor girls, Tudorita (who I now call Dora). She asked if she could come over this afternoon after she ate, and I couldn’t say no. She loves playing with my iPad and this time we whipped out Hangman so we could practice spelling words in English (I love mixing technology and education). Hopefully the spelling mistakes she made will help her remember how to spell the words in the future.

At peace

What season is it?

High: 85 degrees F
Weather: Sunny
Season: Spring?

It sure feels like summer today and I am not complaining one bit! The transition from the cold, dark, days of winter to the bright, warm, and sunny days of spring makes spring my favorite season. However, I love the heat of summer… so this is perfect! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and we are on yet anothermini-vacation.

To take advantage of this gorgeous weather on my day off, I bought a hammock. When I was in high school, I fell in love with hammocks. As a graduation present to myself, I bought one and spent hours and nights sitting in it with one of my best friends. On warm summer nights a hammock was the perfect solution to relaxation, and relax is what we did! Then today, I did it again… enjoying the sounds of the birds and the bees (and the moon up above?) and the prehistoric looking insects.

I also enjoyed reading about the New Rules of Marketing and PR on my awesome Kindle.

And I couldn’t help it… the light was too pretty not to take some self snapshots.

MMmmmmhmmm: happiness.

 

Families

(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!