Tag Archives: GLOW

GLOW/TOBE

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My last week in Romania was spent at Jeremy’s site in Valea Calgureasca at the last ever PCRO GLOW/TOBE camp and I couldn’t have ended my service on a better note. The camp had an extremely rocky start due to an emergency change of venue about 4 days before the camp was set to start which, in turn, caused many other issues such as communication problems, travel adjustments, and lack of resources. Throughout the week we felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants trying to plan activities and constantly having to re-arrange the schedule.

This year was the first time SPV had a co-ed camp which included GLOW and TOBE together and it proved to be quite an interesting experience. Throughout the camp, we at the girls’ camp had our fair share drama and minor discipline issues that we had to deal with and with the boys being just one floor below the girls, we had a whole other set of issues that we didn’t even think about before hand. Despite the issues, the kids had a great experience and I do think there were more benefits of having the two camps together than withdrawals. And at the end of the day, if they went home with even a few pieces of knowledge and experience that empowered them and made an impact in their lives, that is enough for me and I can call it a success.

I also have to send a shout out to what i consider the best working team that I have been a part of during my service. We had three volunteers come from Moldova (Kim, Matt, Julie) along with having our very own Abby, Jon, Stephen and Jeremy and our HCN from SPV Andreea. The 9 of us formed a fabulous team and I enjoyed working with everyone and loved the passion and creative problem solving that everyone brought to the table.

I’m back in the states now which is just a whirlwind of emotions that I honestly haven’t processed yet. I also would like to announce that I do plan on keeping up with this blog once I head to Ireland at the end of the summer so you all can keep up with my misadventures.

CLICK HERE FOR CAMP PICTURES

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The Republic of Moldova

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Moldova, the country stuck in between communism and democracy, in between East and West, in between Romanian and Russian. I was lucky enough to visit this Peace Corps country these past few days. A friend and fellow volunteer that I met during the TTT conference, Theresa, invited me to Moldova to meet with the GLOW directors there and talk about the successes we have had in Romania with the program.

After my seven hour train ride from Ilva Mica to Iasi I hopped on a maxi-taxi that was headed straight for Chișinau. We entered into the country of Moldova about an hour into our drive and the only thing I noticed that was different was the age of the cars. The first handful of cars I saw after the border looked like they were taken out of the 1970’s and 80’s. During the entire ride toward the capitol, I saw mainly old, but still running cars. A short while after, I found myself in Chișinau, a big-little, not as communist looking as I had expected, city. I met up with Theresa and the first place we headed to was the PC office. It was really cool seeing how their office differs from ours in Romania. Theirs is much larger and has a much larger staff to accommodate over 3 times more volunteers. The set up of the office is pretty cool. All the volunteers have their own little lockers and the building as a whole looks a lot newer than ours but I do still prefer our volunteer lounge over theirs.

After spending a few hours in the capital and having a very tasty Greek lunch with some locally brewed Chisinau beer, we headed to the autogara to catch the bus to Theresa’s village. Shortly after we got on the bus, we were informed by the bus driver that all of the “younger” riders had to get off and wait to be picked up after the bus had left the station. I was really confused by this and Theresa explained that, to make more money in pocket, the bus drivers try to leave the station with as few people as possible because they are charged a per person fee. After picking up the bus on a remote street in the middle of the Chișinau piața, we headed off on a very interesting 1.5 hour bus ride to Fîrlădeni. I’ve always thought the roads in Romania, especially southern Romania were bad but they are amazing compared to what we drove on. The main logistical issue with Moldova is that other than the capitol, there are only two cities which means there really isn’t a need for highways so therefore most of the roads are small country roads that are filled with so many potholes one could easily mix a shake and bake chicken by just placing the bag on the seat. An hour into the ride, we turned off the “main road” and headed onto a gravel/dirt mix road that led us into the quaint town of Fîrlădeni.

Fîrlădeni is a small village with one paved road that is on the border with the rouge state of Transnistria which we unfortunately couldn’t go into unless we wanted to be kicked out of Peace Corps. I did however get a chance to walk to the border and see the crossing with some of the tanks on the Transnistrian side. The remnants of the Russian occupation in Fîrlădeni are still visible in the huge, half built, eye sore at the top of the hill that was supposed to be a high school but was never finished after the Soviet occupation. The town is very quaint and Theresa’s host family is absolutely wonderful. They are a half Moldovan half Russian, young family with 1 boy who is attending high school in Romania and two small girls, 9 and 2 who are both blonde haired and blue eyed just like their mother. I got along very well with Arina, the 2 year old girl, even though it took her a whole day to finally talk to me because she was so shy.

The day we spent in the village was packed with a very busy schedule. On October 5th, the country celebrates Ziua Profesorului “Teacher’s Day” and naturally, there were no “real” classes. Theresa’s village celebrated it in a big fashion. First thing in the morning we headed to the primary school where grades 1-4 are located and the 4th graders put on a wonderful musical program for the entire school. To add to this day, the graduating seniors also came to the primary school to relieve the teachers of their classes and taught the classes instead. I was told this was quite hilarious and the older students left the classroom with much more respect for what their teachers have to go through every day. After the event at the primary school, all the teachers headed over to the “high school” which houses grades 5-12. Since high schools in Moldova do not have specific profiles, a small village like this one is able to have a high school and, like I said earlier, since there aren’t many cities in the country, almost all villages do in fact have high schools with just one or maybe two classes in each grade.  The high school seniors and 5th graders also put on an event for all of the teachers of the town and then we were all invited to a masa (meal) in one of the classrooms to continue the celebration of teacher’s day. At the meal I not only got to know some of Theresa’s colleagues, but also got to see the typical Moldovan spread for a meal. It was so interesting to see an equal mix of Romanian and Russian food. There were stuffed peppers, smoked meats and cheeses, chicken, potatoes, various salads, crab, fish, caviar, and flaky cheese strudel pastries similar to Serbian pitas that tasted amazing.

Later on in the day, we headed for a walk around the village and ended up at Theresa’s host aunt/old counterpart’s house for yet another masa. It was very fun getting to know Oxana. She is a wonderful woman who is a nurse at the primary school. I got to know more about her and her life and she told us some hysterical stories about growing up in the village as well as life in the rouge state. Since there really aren’t any businesses in Fîrlădeni, most of its inhabitants head into Transnistria to buy/sell things or even to work. She told us how it is a very beautiful and peaceful area and suggested that we go across the border one day when we won’t have our jobs at stake. A few glasses of beer later, we bid Oxana adieu and headed back to the house to get ready for our 5am wakeup that was to start our trip back towards the capitol.

We set the alarm to go off at 5:15 so we could have plenty of time to catch the 6am bus headed towards the capitol. Lucky for me, I got drunk dialed by a friend from my town at 5:30 which woke us up since our alarm did not go off. We quickly got ready and then hustled over to the shabby hole in the wall bus station. Our bus rumbled to the station and we hurriedly got on to escape the cold. The ride was fairly standard except for about an hour in, I open my eyes and see two little puppies running around the floor of the bus and slipping and sliding in their own feces. The bus driver quickly pulled over, pulled out a bucket and wet rag out of some unbeknown place to me and made the rider, who is one of Theresa’s students, clean up his dogs’ droppings and take them outside to finish their business.

We spent the late morning in the PC office hanging out and talking GLOW. My original purpose of going to Moldova was to attend the GLOW Directors’ meeting that was to take place that day. We did get a lot of work done and the Moldova GLOW girls are really amped on getting their program back up off the ground. After the meeting and getting to know what felt like a million PCVs that were in town that weekend, we decided to head over to wine fest for the day. The national celebration of wine was held the weekend of the 5th-7th of October. If you are not aware, Moldovans LOVE their wine and most of them make it at home. Wine fest was held at the expo center and was a very large piece of land lined with at least 30 booths on each side of a grand walkway. The booths were grouped by region and in the middle of it all was a very large food tent with vendors and a performance stage. We got to sample many of the different wines and have an overall great time together.

Sunday morning, after waking up before dawn, I headed on my way back to Iasi. I finally arrived home after a 10 hour trip that actually took 16 due to some missed trains and buses not wanting to leave on time because I was the only passenger. Exhausted and starving, I passed out as soon as I got home, not wanting to start the next school week since I hadn’t prepared anything for Monday.

Money

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As many of you know, I’ve been working very hard with a fellow volunteer and some host country nationals to create a training of the trainers conference for future GLOW/TOBE camp facilitators. We are also working on putting on our own GLOW and TOBE camps this summer and could really use your help. Due to economic constraints everywhere, grant funds are very limited to us and we are reaching out to all of our US contacts to help us raise funds to put on these amazing camps. I would really appreciate your help and contribution to make these camps a success. They really do leave a great lasting impression on the participants.

Here is a little background info/history about the camps. Remember GLOW stands for Girls Leading our World and TOBE stands for Together Our Boys Excel. They are the same principle of camp only geared toward a specific sex.

The GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camps were initially started by female Peace Corps volunteers serving in Romania in 1995. Since then, the GLOW camp model has spread across the entire Peace Corps world and has been adapted by volunteers to meet the needs of their specific countries. They have become the main camps within the Peace Corps community that are run by women, for women.

GLOW camps take place during the summers and bring together young women throughout the entire country that want to create a social change within their communities. The goal of GLOW camps is to develop leadership and communication skills within young Romanian women to become more productive citizens. This goal is accomplished through a weeklong camp that is specifically designed to teach the beneficiaries about community project development and implementation, self-awareness, activism, and career and life development. In addition, the camps strive to build beneficiaries’ self esteem and confidence, increase their assertiveness, and to encourage them to live healthier lives through personal health and STI/AIDS prevention sessions along with physical health and sport sessions as well.

Every participant is required to complete his or her own project after leaving the camp and we have seen some great ideas spring from our camps. The current NGO that we work with was actually co-founded by a GLOW graduate who is now the main organizer of GLOW and TOBE camps.

Please follow this link below and donate! Your help would be immensely appreciated!

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=403-140

 

Back to Civilization

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So here I am, sitting at my kitchen table listening to Prince, and waiting for my pasta to boil in the apartment where I will spend the next two years of my life. Looking back on since the last time I posted, so many amazing things have happened! I left off telling you all about swear in and how fun that whole event was.  I returned to Targoviste Friday afternoon hung out, napped, and packed. I treated my host family to a goodbye and thank you dinner that night. I let them pick where they wanted to go and we went to a restaurant called Panorama which is up on very large hill that overlooks the entire city. The view was phenomenal and I felt like a local when I ran into Jeremy’s host sister who is a waitress there. When we got back, they  came into my room and gave me a goodbye present and that is when the waterworks started flowing. To think, three months ago, a family took a random American stranger into their house in hopes that she will somehow benefit their country.  During my time with the Ionescu family, I have experienced a great deal within the city and southern region of Romania. They have taught me so much and I consider them my Romanian family.

 

My host parents, Ion and Mariana dropped me off at the train station at 4am and I, along with Ester, Nick, and Jessica set out on our train ride to Ploiesti.  After about a 2 hour train ride, Ester and I got off at Ploiesti sud and there we waiting for our train that was going to take us to the GLOW camp. We had a blast riding the various trains that were constructed most likely during the 60s or 70s. After a total of 11 hours of traveling, we finally made it to Simbrea where we had Miha, one of the amazing host country nationals that organized this camp along with Gretchen, a 26er pick us up.

 

The next week was spent with some of the most amazing girls I have ever gotten the privilege to meet and work with. The girls came from all over the country and it was so refreshing to see such energy and potential in all of them. Throughout the week we worked on things one would work on in a leadership camp; girl power, communication, leadership skills, sex education, teamwork, and project development.  Sheila, our Country Director, and Libby, the U.S. Ambassador’s wife joined us for two days to work on our community project (mosaic in front of the local high school and sprucing up the main hall) and teach the girls about project development and how to implement what they have learned. By the time Friday night came around, and the girls were having to say bye to each other, everyone was sad to go, including the counselors. I am so glad to have met Gretchen and Chelsea, the group 26ers which are on their way out and wish we could have been able to work together more. I did get to know Miha, and her friend Ale which are both very creative and are the backbone of the GLOW camp. I hope to work with them so we can have a repeat next summer.

 

After another 11 hour train ride, I arrived in Ilva Mica at 4:09am where my community counterpart’s husband picked me up. As soon as my made it through my apartment door I crashed. When I woke up I started to unpack and take care of some housekeeping. I learned that I did not have a gas tank for my stove yet, and only had water in the kitchen sink. I finally found the valve for the bathroom water and as i turned it on, i heard a loud ::whoosh:: and got soaked. Apparently, the random little faucet that sticks out of the wall that was used for the previous tenants’ washing machine does not close all the way and not only did I get a surprise shower, my entire bathroom, floor to ceiling, and part of my hallway did too.  After 3 days, I finally got it fixed so i was able to take a proper shower yesterday which was the most glorious thing I have experienced in the past 2 weeks. Today I finally got someone to help me with hooking up the butane tank to my stove and I was able to cook my first real meal! No more bread and zacusca (ajvar for you serbs) for me!

 

My First Real Meal

 

I am slowly but surely starting to move get aquainted with my town. Tonight, if the rain lets up, my community counterpart, Loredana, and I have a date to take a walk around the town away from the 2 main streets that I have already learned. Below you’ll find some pictures from swear in and camp.

 

Until next time,

Va Pup!!!!

 

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