Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Water Project

We recently wrote a water project for the village school to make the water safer for drinking. You can read about it by clicking here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vice President Biden in Moldova

Vice President Biden made a visit to Moldova this week and spoke about the current situation of Moldova's slow, but progressive, transition to a democratic nation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This was the first visit to Moldova by an American president or vice-president. You can partially see my head below the "M" in Moldova in the picture above. The main street in the capital city was lined with Moldovan and American flags to welcome in Biden. All of the Peace Corps volunteers in Moldova were invited to stand behind him on stage as he spoke to a large crowd of Moldovans in the capital city. Afterwards, VP Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden invited the Peace Corps Volunteers and embassy employees to a private meet-and-greet. After he, his wife, and the ambassador had spoken, one of his secretaries asked all the Peace Corps Volunteers to stand in a group so that he could get a quick picture with us. When he came over, he asked to get in the middle of our huddle and he spoke to us for about 10 minutes -this was cool. I enjoyed him asking us questions about our experience in Moldova and telling us his opinions on the political state of our host country. He spoke a good bit about the importance of empowering women so that human trafficking could be eliminated in Moldova. He also said that Moldova may drop to a "Tier 3" country on the United States' three-tier system of evaluating countries for foreign aid. As of now, Moldova is a Tier 2 country, but is on the borderline of falling to a Tier 3 - if Moldova becomes a Tier 3 country then the United States will cut off all financial aid. VP Biden said that there are three things that the United States won't tolerate and will drop a country to the lower tier: 1) slavery (aka human trafficking), 2) institutional corruption, 3) lack of freedom of the press.

I believe and hope that Moldova will continue to evolve productively and the citizens will continue to have more of their rights respected and legal system improved.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Update

I have now been living in Moldova for over 1.5 years. Wow. It seems like yesterday when I started up this blog in my nice little living room in my old, rented mill house in Columbia, SC. I had no idea what my Peace Corps experience would be like, but I knew I was ready for a new adventure, a new country, a new language, and lots of potatoes.

I could write about how much I've personally changed over the past 1.5 years, but I wouldn't know where to begin. My outlook on most things in life has changed in one way or another. My mind has been stretched on a daily basis, and my patience and open-mindedness tested frequently. I had no idea I would be wearing this much fur. This has been a humbling and educating experience, and I hope I can build on it.

I knew I loved traveling before I came to Peace Corps, but I didn't know how much I would enjoy learning Romanian and seeing a culture from the inside; in other words, not stopping through the capital city for a few days as a tourist. Don't misunderstand me, I love taking a few days vacation to visit cool places, but there is something more gratifying about speaking the language and having locals take pride in the fact that you are really trying to understand their culture. With that said, I am beginning to study Spanish. When I return from Moldova in early August, I plan to live in southern Mexico for 3-4 months with a Spanish-speaking host family on an organic farm. I am contacting farms through WWOOF - World Wide Organization of Organic Farms - which is an online community of farms that offer to host volunteers to work in exchange for free room and board.

If everything goes as planned, I'll soon be having to refuse excessive amounts of Mexican tequila instead of Russian vodka! Paz mis amigos!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Proiectul nostru de baschet

After a lot of hard work from the community, we finally finished our sports court project. The village school now has an outdoor court to play basketball, volleyball, and other activities like jump-rope during PE classes. Being that alcoholism and smoking are two of the biggest health problems in the village, this project was a big step for the community to take to promote a healthier and happier lifestyle to the youth. Check out my facebook page for an entire photo album of the project, from day one to the finished court.

Here's the sports court before our project.

Here's the finished court. Over 200 students, teachers, and participated in our opening ceremony. The mayor, school director, NGO president, and I all gave speeches thanking the community for working together to implement the project. This was my first chance to speak to a large crowd in the village, so I thanked everyone for accepting me into the community and for having the patience enough to help me learn their language and culture.

One of Moldova's national news programs did a short clip about our project and aired it on tv. Check out the video here:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hramul Zguritei

This week our village celebrated "Ziua Satului", the Day of the Village. Each village has its own celebration, but different villages have different dates throughout the year. Each family prepares lots of traditional dishes and invites friends and family to come in for a few days to eat, drink, and celebrate. A former Peace Corps volunteer that served in my village three years ago flew in from the US to visit Zgurita for the first time since he left. He also lived with my host family, so it was a big celebration for them to welcome in their old friend. It was a lot of fun sitting with another American who knows everything about my family, my village, and most of the experience that I am going through. He had not forgotten any of his Romanian, so we were all able to sit around the table for a few days, eat, and tell some good stories with our host family about our shared American experience in Moldova.

My work partner/host mom to the left wearing red, making "galushi" with some of her friends.

Galush, also known as sarmale, are cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, carrots, onions, meat, and pepper. These take a long time to prepare, but they are a Moldovan favorite.

I'm putting a pot of the "galushi" into a traditonal wood-fired oven. We were able to fit five pots in the oven at the same time to cook for a few hours.

After a few days of prepping food, we're finally at the dinner table. Here are my host family (minus my old host dad), two current PC volunteers, and the former PC volunteer who came to visit.

My host sister, Lenutsa. I speak to her with a mixture of Romanian and English, her mom and dad speak to her in Russian, and her grandparents speak to her using a strong Moldovan dialect of Romanian. She probably thinks we've lost our minds.

Neal, Derick, and I took a hike out of my village to see the countryside. We ran into an 83 year-old lady who was coming back from gathering some nuts, and like most "baba's" in the village, she was not shy about stopping us in the field and asking who we were and what we were doing there. She then proceeded to hand us all kinds of food and said, "Why are you young boys walking to the forest without food? This old lady has a bag full of food, but you boys don't have anything. Here, take this food and eat! Be healthy!" Two minutes before we didn't know this lady, and two minutes later she's forcing her hospitality upon us. Gotta love Moldova.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Strengthening sports in the community

Two months ago the East European foundation, a subdivision of Eurasia foundation, partnered with the Moldovan Parliament to launch a grant competition called "Parteneriatul pentru copii", or the Partnership for Children. Both groups recognized that Moldova's youth was severely lacking in development opportunities and the childrens' free time was not be supported through community efforts. This is especially true in rural areas of Moldova, so their grant competition focused on improving recreational facilities in rural areas.

When I first arrived in Zgurita, one of the first thing I noticed was the lack of activities available for kids. I saw a lot of bars around, but no gymnasium, auditorium, cultural center, etc. There were two old basketball goals that were 30 years old left over from the Soviet days, but they were both leaning and broken. When you look at the basketball goal today, you can see the ground around the goal beaten down to only dirt, so it's obvious that the kids are trying to play and are interested. One of the first projects that my partner proposed we do in the village was to build a sports gymnasium at the school. Finding the resources to fund a huge project like that is really difficult, but we knew starting with a cheaper, outdoor court would be more feasible for us. This grant competition,"Parteneriatul pentru copii", was asking for applications to compete for grants up to $4,500, which was perfect for what we wanted to do.

My partner and I wrote a great grant to build a multi-purpose basketball and volleyball court at the school, and we were awarded the $2,900 assistance that we applied for. This Wednesday we will begin phase one by forming a group of volunteers from the school to cut the grass and weeds on the future site of our court and we should be able to start construction in about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

YouTube video

Check out a video we made in the village to help raise money for our amphitheater project: