There's Something about Mary

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


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Adventures in Serbia

When I was planning for my trip, I used some information from 2 other volunteers who had traveled through the Balkans last year.  Sadly some of the bus/train information had changed.  Instead of a direct train from Bucharest to Belgrade, Serbia, I had to take a train to Timişoara, Romania (a town pretty close to the Romania/Serbia border), then from there I bought a ticket to Vrsac (a town on the Serbian border).   Vrsac was very intimidating for me since the lady at the ticket counter spoke no English or Romanian, and didn’t accept any debit/credit cards or Euros.  Finally with enough pointing she was able to direct me to the nearest place to exchange money so I could buy my ticket to Belgrade.

When I arrived in Belgrade about 2 hours later I was completely lost, since the train stopped at a station at the edge of town, not the main station.  I got on a bus and hoped it was going in the direction I wanted.  Since I didn’t know how to pay for the bus, or if I was going the correct way, I got off after a few stops when I saw a map of the city.  As I stood and stared at the map trying to figure out my route to the bus station so I could leave my backpack and a go explore, a nice young guy stopped and asked if I needed help.  He then walked me to the bus station and told me about some things I should see in Belgrade.   He also hold me that I should stay longer than just a day because Belgrade has an excellent nightlife.  I promised him I would be back again.

I left my backpack in the luggage room, bought a ticket for the night bus to Ljubljana and then went off to explore.  My first stop was Belgrade Fortress.  The Fortress was large and looks over the connection of the Danube and the Sava Rivers.  After walking around for a bit, I decided to find myself some lunch and also get out of the rain for a bit.  After lunch I walked around some more and found a delicious coffee shop.  About an hour before my bus was scheduled to leave, I decided to walk back towards the bus station.  I got my backpack from the luggage room, made a stop at the bathroom and then went to find the correct platform.  As I was making my way through the gate a security guard stopped me, I showed him my ticket and he proceeded to ask me something in Serbian.   He could tell I was confused, so he asked his coworker to talk to me and another guard asked me in English about a token I needed to go through the gate, he also told me it was given to me when I bought my ticket.  I started searching my pockets and pulling out all the change, and none of the coins were the correct one.  He finally let me through, and today while emptying my backpack I found the token that they wanted.  I guess now I have a souvenir.  🙂

O zi buna!


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Visiting Friends in Romania :)

I got back from my last vacation before COS (Close of Service) about a week ago.  My vacation started in Romania where I visited my friends from college, who are serving as PCVs in Romania.  They came and saw Moldova and where I live last June, so I figured now it was my turn. 😉  I took the night bus from Chisinau to Bucharest and arrived in Bucharest around 6 in the morning, I waited a few hours and then took a train to their site which is about 2 hours away.  There town has a population of 8,000, and even though that is half of what Riscani has, it seemed much more developed.  My friend told me I would know her town by the large cement factory that I would pass on the train.  She was correct.  My friends who excellent hosts, we played Settlers of Catan and ate some delicious home-cooked food.

On the Saturday of my arrival we met up with their Italian friend who lived in the next town over and went to visit Sinaia and Peleș Castle about an hour away.  Peleș Castle is in the Carpathian Mountains and was built in the late 19th century.  We paid for a tour of all 3 levels and I was rather impressed with the interior.  The exterior reminded me of the castle in Beauty and the Beast.  After our tour we walked around Sinaia before catching the bus back to town.  Sunday we had some delicious fajitas and walked around the town.  And on Monday afternoon I caught a bus back to Bucharest so I could catch a night train to Serbia.  (which I found out doesn’t actually exist anymore, that is another story).

To check out more photos, look on Facebook.  O zi buna!


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Lately

Lately, my life seems to be going by really quickly.  In less than 4 short months I will be an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) and on my way to meet my good friend in SE Asia for a trip before traveling back to the US. 

Here is a little bit of what I have been up to lately:

  • Daylight savings- It happened in the US almost 2 weeks ago, but Europe doesn’t switch it clocks until the 31st of March, and since I like my laptop to be on West coast time, I have been realyl confused for couple weeks.  Luckily this confusion will end soon.
  • Eye problems-Last week my contact was giving my some problems, so I switched to my awesome Happy Potter-ish glasses.   I am not entirely sure what the issue is, but I am still wearing the glasses, and today when I talked with the doctor at PC they instructed me to keep wearing them and gave me some eye drops that will hopefully help.  Also she said no mascarea.  😦
  • Consolidation – Tuesday we had a practice consolidation point test.  My consolidation point is in Balti, so not far, but also not fun to have to go to after a 6:15 AM wake-up call.  The consolidation point is used incase there is some sort of emergency in the country, our safety and security officer will contact the staff, then the staff member contacts a designated volunteer (warden) and then the warden contacts the volunteers on his/her list.  Hopefully we won’t ever need a real consolidation!
  • Work- I am currently closing up my project that I won last year, which pretty much just means a lot of paperwork to fill out.  And I am also handing off leadership positions that I held for committees within PC to the M27s to take over for next year. 
  • Vacation – Tonight I leave for vacation.  I am starting in Romania to visit 2 PCV friends I have there and then going to Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia for 2 weeks.  Also I found out yesterday that the day I get back, my host mom leaves for a 3 week trip to Ukraine, so I won’t get to see her for most all of April.  It will be weird not to have her around.  😦

And lastly Go Zags!!  Good luck in the NCAA tournament!


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Making Sarmale

Back in September before my parents were coming to visit I helped my host mom in Ciorescu prepare sarmale.  Sarmale is a tradional Moldovan dish of rice, vegetables and sometimes meat, wrapped in either cabbage or grape leaves.  They are very popular throughout central and eastern Europe, and like many other Moldovan dishes, every family has their own recipe.  I did find out that they are harder to wrap then they look, and I was much slower at it than my host mom.

Also, here is a link to a recipe for sarmale from one of my favorite food blogs: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/02/alexs-moms-stuffed-cabbage/

O zi buna!


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My Best Friend in the Winter

One question that I get asked a lot by people in the US, is how I stay warm in Moldova.  To answer the question of how I stay warm I always answer “my soba” and then I get blank stares or silence because not many people know what a soba is.  It is a stove that  is in almost every Moldovan house.   Some use gas, but most are run on wood and/or coal.  They are built with bricks and some also use ceramic tile.  The heat is radiated from the bricks and it is able to heat the surrounding rooms in a house.  My host mom takes care of the soba for me, she starts it around 4 pm and then keeps adding coal throughout the evening so it is nice and warm throughout most of the night.  So the soba is my best friend all winter because it keeps me nice and warm on the cold winter nights.

Hopefully the soba won’t need to be used much more as tomorrow is the first day of Spring in Moldova!

O zi buna


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Ha

I saw this lovely site on my walk home from work yesterday:

DSC_1518

These 2 men were walking their pig, and the pig did not seem super happy about it.  It was one of those moments where I thought, “Only in Moldova.”

O zi buna!