There's Something about Mary

Stories and thoughts about my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova


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20 Facts About Moldova

Mary O:

Some fun facts about Moldova :)

Originally posted on TripMoldova:

You might be curious to know that:12084_384351468317680_1260469216_n

  1. Moldova is placed the 12th among the top world wine exporters.
  2. Vine growing and wine making in Moldova counts for almost 5,000 years.
  3. The largest underground wine cellar in the world, Cricova, is “hidden” in this country.
  4. The Milestii Mici’s wine collection of 1.5 million bottles has been included in the Guinness World Records at the category The Largest Quality Wine Collection in the World.
  5. Strong Drinks Museum, in Tirnauca village, is the largest building in the world in the shape of a bottle (28m).
  6. There are 30 monasteries (some of them dating back to 15th century) and wood churches.
  7. The second official language of Gagauzia, situated in the south of Moldova, is a dying out language, with only 200000 speakers.
  8. Russia still has 2,500 troops and 22,000 tons of ammunition in Transnistria.
  9. The Cave “Emil Racovita”, in Criva, is the 8th greatest…

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Close of Service

Today I officially became a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV).  To commemorate closing your service, PCVs in Moldova ring the bell outside the building, and today was finally my turn.  The last 2 years have gone by incredibly fast, but I am excited to see where my life will take me now.  I have met some amazing people, both other PCVs and locals in the community.  The locals will always hold a special place in my heart and as I told my host mom the other day as I was leaving Riscani, she will always be my 2nd mom.  I am a part of their family now, and that means the world to me.

Good luck to all my fellow COSing volunteers and also to the volunteers who are continuing their service.  It has been a pleasure getting to know each and everyone of you and working along side you.

To my family and friends in the US, I am thrilled to be able to catch up with you all again soon.  Next stop Bangkok!

O zi buna!  It has real Moldova!


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Sunflower Season

One of my favorite parts about being in Moldova is how beautiful the countryside is.  Moldova had lots of rain the first 2 weeks of June and it has made everything very green and wonderful to look at while taking buses from my site to Chisinau.  This past week I was also able to see the start of sunflower season, where in some instances you can see sunflowers for miles.  Sunflowers make me happy and in the future will always remind me of Moldova.  Last week while I was walking across Moldova with a group of Peace Corps volunteers we spotted a few sunflower fields and then had a photo shoot.

O zi buna.


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Chateau Vartely

Back in September my parents came to visit me in Moldova.   Along with visting my host families and seeing where I live and work, we visited 2 wineries.  The first was Cricova, one of the largest wine cellars in the world, and the second was Chateau Vartely.  Chateau Vartely is about an hour north of Chisinau in a town called Orhei.  I had seen signs for it, and heard wonderful things about their tastings.  So on our last morning in Moldova my host parents offered to drive us to Orhei since they were driving past the town for their work day.  We got out at the sign and started walking.  We realized later that it wasn’t the most effective way to walk and after 2 hours we finally made it to the winery.  They gave us a great tour right away and then we tasted 6 of their wines.  And one of the best parts about the tasting is that you get to keep the bottle after it is opened for your tasting.  So we had 6 bottles that we walked away with.  After our wine tasting we had lunch in their restaurant and drank 2 of the white wines we had just tried.  We then made our way to the bus station so we could catch a ride to Chisinau and then catch our train to Bucharest.  I highly recommend Chateau Vartely, their wine is delicious and the service great too

O zi buna!


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Close of Service (COS) Conference

During the last week of April, I attended my final conference as a PCV.  It was the first time that our group (M26, the 26th group in Moldova) had all been together since February 2012.  We all met at the Peace Corps office in Chisinau, and then were bussed to Vada Lui Voda, a resort area along the Dniester River.  During the 2-day conference we learned about what was required of us before we leave Moldova and head back home.  Some of statistics we learned were 64 people were invited to Moldova, 55 actually came to Moldova in June 2011, 52 officially swore-in as volunteers, 34 were attending the COS conference and 4 will be extending for a third year.  In my specific business development group, 12 volunteers swore-in and currently we have 9 volunteers, 6 of us will be COSing in July and 3 will be extending.

It was great to see everyone together, we were blessed with great weather and in two short months we will all be going our separate ways.

O zi buna!


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Last Stop-Croatia

The last stop of my trip was Croatia.  I started in the capital, Zagreb, and arrived around 9 PM.  I then followed the poorly written directions to my hostel.  I finally arrived at the hostel around 10:30, tired and frustrated because of the poor directions.  All I wanted at this point was to shower and sleep, but that was not in the cards for me. The owner told me that they didn’t have space for me and I should have made my reservation sooner, I made my reservation before I left Slovenia while I was waiting for my train, thinking that I wouldn’t have a problem since they still had space available on hostelworld.  Instead the owner told me that there was no space and it was my fault since I didn’t book enough in advance. (Note: Funk House Hostel has awful customer service) Eventually after complaining enough she called another hostel and paid for a taxi for me to get there.  The hostel I ended up staying in, wasn’t bad, just pretty far away from the center of Zagreb, I did get a room all to myself though.  The next day I spent the day in Zagreb exploring.  It wasn’t an amazing city, but parts were really pretty and I would have enjoyed myself more if it hadn’t been raining all day.

I took a night train to Split, and arrived in Split around 6 AM. I wasn’t sure what to do at first, but was so pleased with the beautiful weather.  I had some time to kill before I could check into my hostel, so I stored my backpack, grabbed a coffee and started walking.   It was so peaceful since almost nothing was open and there was not a lot of people around.  I found a bench along the water and read my Kindle for a few hours.  Sitting there reading was where my vacation became exactly what I thought it was going to be.  Around noon I collected my backpack and checked in to my hostel.  The Tchaikovsky Hostel was probably one of my favorite hostels I have ever stayed in.  It was really clean, had super comfortable beds and the owner was fantastic.  Since I forgot that Easter was the next day a few hours after I checked in I added an extra day to my stay since I heard that nothing was going to be open Sunday.  That night I met some interesting people, a couple of Americans, a guy from Britain, one from Mexico and one from France, we all went out and had a few beers.  The guy from Britain was my favorite, he was killing time in Croatia before he went down to work in a nudist colony in Montenegro.  Easter Sunday was pretty relaxing, in the morning it rained and later in the afternoon I went for a walk around town, met a couple of guys from my hometown who went to WSU and had some homemade wine with the owner of the hostel.

Monday morning I made my way to the bus station to catch the bus to Dubrovnik.  I had made reservations at a hostel in the old walled city.  They had amazing directions to their place and when I arrived I was welcomed with a shot of homemade alcohol.  It was delicious and had a nice nutty flavor.  One of the other people on my bus showed up a few minutes later and we decided to go out and find some seafood.  We went to a place recommended by our hostel and I got a pan full of little fish, while she had some fresh mussels.  The hostel also did a happy-hour at 7 so you could meet some of the other travelers.   I ended up going out to a nearby Irish Pub with a few.  The next day the weather was awful so I spent most of my time inside, but did get out to have some excellent Bosnian food.  I then went back to the hostel to dry off since my shoes were soaked from all the rain and I was cold.  From there I learned how to make a balloon dog and watched one of the other travelers make all sorts of flowers and hats with balloons.  Later that evening it finally stopped raining so I went out for dinner with 2 people.  We got a seafood platter with shrimp, squid, mussels and octopus.  The next day I made my way back to Zagreb so that I could catch a flight to Chisinau.  I felt blessed to see some amazing places, meet some great people and eat some great food.

To see photos from Croatia, check my Facebook album

O zi buna!


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Slovenia

I left Belgrade at around 9 PM on a bus headed for Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Along the way we cut through Croatia and got to stop at 4 different border crossings.  Two weren’t so bad, but the other 2 everyone had to get out of the bus, show your passport and open your bags, they wouldn’t have been bad except the bus was so warm, and outside it was not.  The first time we had to get out was when we were entering Croatia.  As the passengers were inside the border patrol was inspecting the bus and they were doing a thorough job.  The assistant to the bus driver got caught trying to bring about 30 cartons of cigarettes (I am not sure the rule for Croatia, butin the European Union you are only allowed 2 unopened cartons per person).  He had them hidden under the bus seats in the back row of the bus.  The border patrol took his cigarettes and fined him before the bus was allowed to continue on.  We also had to exit the bus again at the Slovenian border (which is an EU country) and the 2 ladies behind me did not have proper visas to get in so we drove the bus back into Croatia and left them at a gas station.

The bus arrived in Ljubljana around 7 AM and from there I bought a train ticket out to Bled.  While I waited for my train to leave I had a delicious Egg McMuffin from McDonalds (I never ate McDonalds in the US, but something about it here tastes delicious :)).  When I arrived at my stop I didn’t realize the train didn’t actually to the town of Bled, but a town about 4 KM away, so since I didn’t want to pay for a taxi I started walking to my destination.  I made it to Bled, grabbed something quick to eat and then went to find my hostel.  The hostel was pretty easy to find and one of the owners checked me in, she was so sweet and friendly and gave me lots of options of things to do and also gave me a cheaper price on my room since it was the off season.  After settling into the hostel I went for a walk around the town and then up to the Bled castle. My original plan for the day was to ride one of the bikes free for use  at the hostel to a waterfall that the hostel owner had told me about.  I ended up changing my plans though when I realized I was not tall enough for the bikes :(  Instead I took a nice walk around the lake and also got really excited when I saw a bar advertising IPA and stout beers.  I made my way back to that bar later in the evening and talked to the bartender for a few hours about Slovenia and how it was changed since its independence from Yugoslavia.  Bled was an amazing beautiful place, I wish I had more time to explore it, I also want to see it in the summer and really be able to enjoy all the outdoor activities it has to offer.

The next afternoon I took a bus back to Ljubljana.  The weather in Ljubljana was beautiful and sunny, which was a change from what I had been seeing.  I walked around not having much of plan, stopped for a delicious lunch and then headed up the the castle area. After the castle, I continued to walk around and see what I could before I caught a late train to Zagreb, Croatia.

To see more photos from my trip check out Facebook.

O zi buna!

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