We left our village on Monday morning to start our 2 week trek back home to the states. It’s such a bitter sweet time in our lives. On one hand, we are so sad to leave the people who have accepted us as one of their own. On the other hand we are so excited to see our families and friends again. As we are officially leaving Moldova today, we just want to record our goodbye thoughts about this beautiful country.

Curt:

I can’t summarize Moldova in one post, but I can share an experience that contains many pieces of my experience here.

One of my favorite memories in Moldova is from last fall during the corn harvest.  Moldovans harvest corn by hand, or more accurately by many hands.  On the day designated as “corn day” by our host family, eight different workers arrived at our house at 7 AM.  Any Moldovan event, especially harvesting, starts with food and drink.  That morning we had pîrjoale (a sort of fried meatball), mashed potatoes, salad (Moldovan style with cabbage, not lettuce), boiled hotdogs, wine and homemade cognac. After a good meal we headed down the hill to the fields.

The first order of business for the day was for everyone to individually tell Curt that he needed to put a long sleeved shirt on because the corn would irritate his skin.  I politely informed them that I had been dressing myself for nearly 30 years (fine probably more like 25 years…), and that day I had done a satisfactory job that day –as usual.  Once we got that out of the way, everyone went to work. We spaced ourselves such that there was one person in every other row of corn.  While walking down the row we pulled the one or two cobs of corn off of each stock and put them in a basket that we carried in front of us.  Once your basket was full, you would dump it into one of the communal piles that had been formed throughout the field.

Being that young competitive chap I am, I thought “I can keep up with these people.  Other than me, they are all over 50.”  Not a chance.  The ladies particularly took me to school in the corn competition, but they also outworked the other three men helping.  After harvesting a couple of rows each, everyone would take a break.  Being the crazy American, I brought a bottle of water to drink.  For the rest of the crew it was house wine.  When lunch time rolled around our host mother brought down a 15 liter bucket full of borş (traditional Moldovan soup with cabbage and pork), mamaliga (boiled corn meal), placinta (fried cheese pie) and more wine of course.

As 6 pm was rolling around we dumped the last basket of corn on the final pile in the field.  All of us were thinking, “Great – we are done for the day, and tomorrow we will come back and collect all the piles.” Nope, L (our host father) had a different idea.  He rolled up in a large flat-bed truck, and we started picking up all the piles a basket at a time and throwing them in the truck.  By 9:30 pm it had been dark for some time, and corn was spilling over the sides of the truck bed.  We still had three piles to go.  What to do?  Of course we rolled down the passenger’s window in the cab and began filling the cab with corn.  Finally at just after 10 we were done and ready to go home.  Out of habit, one of the ladies opened the truck door to hop on in.  Unfortunately for her and us, she was met by an avalanche of corn.

On the ride home we all sat in the truck bed on the mountain of corn.  The two ladies I was sitting by began “discussing” all that they still had to do that night.  One had a cow out in the field that she needed to bring home and milk, the other a goat.  They both had families that would require their attention as well.  However the main tone of the conversation was life for them is hard, and it is inappropriate to expect someone to work from 7 am to 10:30 pm for a mere 100 Lei (about $8).  I agreed with them.

Susan:

When I arrived in Moldova two years ago, I was so excited to learn all about the people, culture, traditions, food, languages, and history. I think it is such a unique country, and being a former Soviet Union country, especially interesting from a historical and political standpoint. Looking back over my last two years living here, I think what I learned the most were lessons about myself. I have had some wonderful times and some not so wonderful times, but I stuck it out, and I sure am glad I did. I worked with 5 incredible Moldovan women who care so much about their community. I lived with a very traditional family who was more than generous with their time and resources. I taught hundreds of very eager students about important mental and physical health topics. I met some amazing people who will be life-long friends. I’m not sure what my impact here was, but Moldova’s impact on me was great. I learned a lot about myself, and my relationship with my best friend grew so much through each of our challenges and accomplishments. Moldova is a small country, but it will always occupy a very large spot in my heart.

La revedere, prietena noastră, Republica Moldova.

One of my teaching partners, M, and I decided to develop and implement a diversity project with our 5th and 6th grade students. For three weeks, the students learned about different parts of the world by studying specific cultures, languages, and traditions. On the last week we learned a little bit about Asia and Africa, and luckily I had two wonderful guest speakers who have each lived in those areas of the world. Our PC Director, J, was coming for a site visit, so he talked a little bit about his time as a PCV in Tanzania. And Curt lived in Taiwan for two years, so he was able to talk about some of their traditions. Plus the kids just wanted to listen to him speak Mandarin.

During this three week period we painted a world map on a large wall next to our school library. First we washed the wall, and then we painted 6 coats of primer. After that we projected the world map onto the wall and students from older classes traced the whole thing and color-coded each country. Then we started painting the countries and the ocean. We did up to three coats using acrylic paints. Then I painted the border, PC logo, Moldovan map, and finished it up by painting the title and its translation in several different languages. The students did a gerat job, and overall we had about 30 students help us out, some on several occasions. I don’t know how many times students came up to me, asked where Moldova was located on the map, and then ask me why I drew it so small. Younger kids, especially, were curious as to why Russia looked so much bigger than Moldova.

During the fourth week of the project the students presented in front of the world map on a specific country that they had researched. They did a great job. My favorite comment was from a 5th grade girl who presented on North Korea and said, “North Korea is the best country in the world. I hope to live there someday.” Hmmm… 

One thing I have learned in Moldova is that we, Americans, cannot possibly imagine what the average person in a former Soviet nation has been through.  One day, a little over 20 years ago, our host family here in Moldova had their lives turned upside down by the destruction of the Soviet Union –something that most in the U.S. laud as a great victory.  At the time our hosts were about 40 years old and working in public service positions.  Suddenly the Rubles they had been putting away in the bank for 20 years were worthless.  They didn’t get paid for over six months.  They along with their newly sovereign nation were thrown into a market economy that they didn’t understand.

Today in the villages, most people still don’t understand the market economy or business, nor do they understand or trust banks.  The school director and I decided to plan and implement a project to address the lack of practical business education in our local school and hopefully improve the situation that Moldova was left in 20 years ago.

With that dramatic introduction, throughout this project we created a business club for high school students and built a greenhouse for them to operate as a business.  The business club gave students a chance to learn how to start a business and then create a business plan.  They then used that business plan to operate the greenhouse as a real business.  The greenhouse further served a second educational purpose in that is has given “technology” students a chance to actually see and practice proper agricultural techniques.

To my disappointment, the business club was only comprised of boys, but I still hope that some girls will get involved in the fall.  The club met each week and learned about various different parts of a business plan, then prepared their own business.  As part of the grant we won for the project, we were able to buy a computer for the students to use as they researched and prepared their plan.  While the business club was doing their thing, the school principal was directing the construction of our greenhouse.

We planned and built 200 meter² greenhouse on school property.  The greenhouse is located next to the school’s boiler room for ease of tapping into the school’s heating system.  This will allow earlier and later harvests.  We also installed a large water tank to feed the greenhouse’s drip irrigation system.  Because we decided to construct the greenhouse ourselves, the process was much slower than I wanted it to be.  However, the end result is great.  We have a quality greenhouse that will last for many years.

Unfortunately we will not be here to see the full harvest, but currently peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers are doing incredibly well.  I am confident that they will have a good harvest and be profitable this spring.  Finally, one great part about this project is that it is very sustainable.  The school and business club will continue to operate the greenhouse and use profits from it to sustain the business and improve the school.  I am hopeful that students can learn business skills for years to come.

I’ll start with this: Words cannot describe how happy I am to be done with this project.

Now I’ll start from the beginning. In May of 2011, my nurse partners O and M, and I started the process of writing a grant to get running water, sewer, and an indoor bathroom for the village medical center. There are several reasons why this hadn’t been done yet, but it basically boils down to money and priorities. During the planning stages of the project we met with the regional director of all the family medical offices to make sure their budget could support maintenance costs (cleaning the septic tank) and the likely increase in water bills. She approved our plans and we started on our way. The medical center operates on the second floor of the building, but water only comes into the first floor, and there is not outgoing plumbing installed whatsoever, so the custodian (a small woman in her 60’s) had to manually carry the water up and down the stairs in buckets several times a day. The outhouse was dangerous, disgusting, and not useable, so the closest toilet facilities were 100 meters down the road.

First we wrote a grant (with a lot of help from Curt) in the hopes of working with LDS Charities. Two humanitarian missionaries came out to look at the center and to discuss plans. These missionaries were leaving in August, so we had to finish the project by then. No problem, right? Unfortunately we ran into several issues, mostly because key members of our team did not do what they said they would do, and we were not able to make that deadline. So we lost $4000 in funding.

Then during the fall we wrote a grant to the Norwegian Embassy which was quite a stretch because they were requesting civil society grants. Needless to say, we were not accepted.

During the winter 2012 we wrote a grant to the Small Project Assistance program funded by USAID, and after some minor issues we received funding! We also received funding from LDS Charities, the regional Family medical office in Nisporeni, and the local mayor’s office!

Work began at the end of March.

They first started by installing all the outgoing plumbing in the walls and under the floors, all leading to the septic tank they dug out and cemented in the front of the center. Then they installed the hot and cold water pipes. Then they tiled the bathroom, repaired the electricity, installed the boiler, five sinks and one toilet. And finally the fence was put up.

When the construction crew finally finished (after much needed encouragement on my part), the nurses all got to work on painting and refinishing everything to make it look like new. I don’t know how many times I tried to help, but for some reason they just would let me. I managed to grab a scraper and work for an hour before I was kicked out. They said they felt uncomfortable with me doing that kind of work.

And finally on Monday, May 28 we had our Reopening with a ribbon cutting ceremony and everything! (Yes, a very short ribbon, but I didn’t have anything else) At least one representative from each of our collaborators came to celebrate. We prepared a celebratory lunch so we could eat and drink to our health.

Receiving/Triage Room

Gynecological Room. I didn’t get a picture of it, but there is a sink there now.

Procedure Room

Pofta Bună!

Before and After

The education piece of this project was conducted by my nurse school partner A and myself. We did a nutrition and sanitation health campaign at the school that followed the same format as our anti-smoking campaign last year. The students learned about the topics by participating in lessons and school-wide weekly competitions. Students earned tickets for their participation that could be used at the project-end carnival on May 4. A special thank you to:

  • Kesli and Ry-dog for donating some awesome prizes for the carnival
  • Elder and Sister McGovern for all your help with this project
  • Zacharia for being my advocate on the SPA committee
  • All the school staff for their participation in lessons, time spent judging competitions, and willingness to work carnival booths
  • Matt and Brynn, Sam and Brittany, Sarah and Travis, and Matt and Cristy and Zach for coming out to run the carnival booths
  • Shannon for donating 288 toothbrushes
  • Curt for always being on my side and for being a perfect husband. Loves.

Checkpoint Charlie

“Checkpoint Charlie was the most well-known border crossing between East and West Germany. Again and again, [it] was the scene of demonstrations [such as] escape [that]attempts were either successful or a failure. On August 17, 1962 Peter Fechter bled to death at Checkpoint Charlie before the eyes of the world.” – Checkpoint Charlie Museum

Holocaust Memorial

Brandenburg Gate

Berliner Dome

Picture by KA

German Resistance Memorial

The German Resistance Memorial commemorates those members of the German Army who tried to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Particular attention is given to military resistance figures such as Stauffenberg, Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben, Günther von Kluge, Erich Hoepner, Hans Oster, and Friedrich Olbricht.

Jewish Museum

Berlin Wall Memorial

A controversial Allied bombing towards the end of World War II killed thousands of civilians and destroyed the entire city center. Apparently the impact of the bombing and 40 years of urban development during the East German communist era considerably changed the face of the city, but some recent restoration work has helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city.

Jewish Quarter

Christmas Market

Photo by KA

Prague Library

Dinner at U Stare Pani

Prague Castle

St Vitus’s Cathedral

Old Royal Palace

Basilica of St. George

Golden Lane

Photo by RA

Photo by RA

Little Quarter

Charles Bridge

New Town

Memorial to Václav Havel

Václav Havel was a playwright, essayist, poet, politician. He was the ninth and last president of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and the first president of the Czech Republic (1993-2003). He died October 6, 2011.

Making rock candy

I absolutely loved Prague. It was definitely my favorite city we visited on this trip.

Probably one of Vienna’s most recognizable symbols, St. Stephan’s Cathedral is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture situated in the heart of Vienna. The initial cathedral was built in 1137, although this initial house of worship has been transformed and renovated many times throughout the years before becoming the building that it is today.

The Vienna state opera is one of the world’s leading opera houses, known especially for performances of works by Richard Wagner, Mozart, and Richard Strauss. The original theater was built in 1869, but wartime bombings destroyed the building in 1945. What we see today is the reconstructed building completed in 1955.

Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence for some of the Hapsburgs of Germany from the early 18th century until the early 20th century. As the grounds were once called Katterburg, they were used as hunting grounds with a hunting lodge for several centuries. It wasn’t until1782 when Charles VI acquired the palace and eventually gifted it to his daughter, Maria Theresa. It was Maria Theresa who transformed the palace into what it is today, a 1,441 room palace that played a central role in court and political life for the Hapsburgs. It would be nice to see the grounds in the spring and summer, as they are said to be spectacularly manicured and colorful.

Hofburg Palace is located in the center of Vienna and historically housed Austria’s dignitaries throughout the different empires that have occupied the country. Presently it is famously known for being the Hapsburg’s winter residence. In this palace we visited the imperial apartments, the Sissi museum, and the treasury. The imperial apartments were very similar to what we saw at Schönbrunn. The Sissi museum was ok. And the treasury was cool but hard to really understand everything because the majority of descriptions were only written in German. I would suggest an audio-guide in the future.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.