This is why I am here

It took me 7 long months, 4 painful moments, and one phone call to finally figure out the reason I am here. I have been beating my head up against the wall trying to “prove” myself to the people of Moldova that I know something, even though I speak at a 2nd grade level on my very best day.

Today I was told that I haven’t taught my teacher partners anything. That I have just been “being the American” by their side. It was a painful moment. I have always known, but never been strong enough to speak it out loud, I need validation. I am a person who seeks approval. Having this trait makes Peace Corps unbearable. I am slowly learning how to find the approval within myself. But back to my point…

After the heart breaking moment of being told that all my work, all the long hours I put in to come up with creative lessons and posters, meant nothing to my partners; that I have shown them nothing… I call my program manager. Which was the smartest thing I have done so far. As I was speaking while bursting into tears, I learned exactly why I am here – in a way only a Moldovan can tell me. “You are not here to show us what you can do, dear Sarah, you are here to show them what they can do“. I was quickly brought back to reality. Quickly brought back to the goal. It’s as uncomplicated us building other people up.

This task will not be an easy one. It is so “un-American” to place the focus onto others and not try to show what I know. I think this is where the challenge lies for me. To put my insecurities aside, be weak when I am weak. To actually say, I don’t know, when I really don’t know – AND IN TURN ask – why? or How? to have others think. I need to pause and not have the answers. It’s simply not my turn. I need to develop others to have the answers. This is why I am here, desigur!


Peace and Friendship

I remember when the Peace Corps Country Director shared the goals of Peace Corps during summer training he said that the summary of the goals is to share peace and friendship with those that we work with in Moldova and in the states with our family and friends. At first that sounded really easy. I kept thinking “how hard can that be?” But then life happened. And it hit me – this peace and friendship thing is tough!

It’s tough to remain calm and understanding when the other person is yelling at you, or when they are saying things that hurt; when all I want to do is react and yell back, in english so the other person won’t understand. It’s hard to take that deep breath and walk away while still offering a smile. It’s extremely hard to speak your mind and stand up for yourself while trying to use the formal verb in Romanian and not offend the other person….. It’s hard to be a real person sometimes in Peace Corps!

All I can do is try. I will continue to be humbled as I learn what it really means to share Peace and Friendship – even in times when it is not wanted.

Learning to Celebrate

A water pipe on our street broke over a week ago, and we have been without running water for about 8 days. We have been going to the local stream with buckets and jars to fill up on water.

Pat and I would stress if there would be enough water for both of us to use the bathroom, brush our teeth and eat. We made it. along the way we learned how to conserve water and to appreciate water more.

The water came back on today. My host screamed for joy and we both did a little dance!

Since I have been in Moldova there have been many things that stress me out everyday. But I have been learning how to celebrate. I have learned that the small things in life, like water, which is not that small to me anymore, are worth having a celebration for. I am learning to throw back fears and ideas of how things “have” to be and in exchange I am learning how to embrase life. I think living in a world were every day is a different challenge has opened my eyes that much more wider

Like a child…

I have been in Moldova working in the schools as a Health Educator. I have been around many strong women during my time here. Many women who have lost their husbands to illnesses that could have been prevented, women who have lost their husbands because they went to another country to find work, and many young women – children, without fathers or mothers, because they have either past away to left the country for other work. Still – the women here are strong – but silenced.

I have noticed that in the classroom, the girls are the ones who speak their minds, they have no fear of what people will say in responds, or no fear of being silenced. But I am observed the women grow to be quite, complacent. They have much to say behind close doors or when men are not around, but once I man comes into a room – we all need to focus and listen to that man.

My dream, my hope, is that women, including myself, don’t loose that drive thats in children; to not loose that voice that was so powerful. To grow up as a women but to be without fear like a child. Here is Moldova I hope to foster children to keep speaking up to keep sharing their voice. And I hope to help older women regain their voice, even when men are around.

This will not be easy, but I plan to use the strongest voices out there – those of the young women who seek more for their future!

Please visit this site for voices from other women:


Foreign Birthday

This last Tuesday I had my first birthday in Moldova. The day started with my host mom leaving notes all around the house wishing me many years in Romanian. It reminded me of what my parents did for me when I was little – which was nice.
My walk to school is about 30 minutes each way, for some reason this day I was running late. So I was basically running to school. I show up completely gross from sweating, I open the door for my classroom and all the kids are there to surprise me. They scream “Mulț ani” which means many years and through balloons at me while giving me flowers and chocolate. I was completely overwhelmed in a good way. The director then came in and gave me a vase from Moldova, which has hand carvings of village homes and strings with the Moldovan colors. He presented it to me, then took my hand and kissed it. It was a little weird, but I learned later that it is to shoe deep respect. That night my host mom gave me a large masa, large meal, and had many people come over. The whole day was a surprise, and I was reminded how wonderful the people are here in Moldova!

First day of teaching

Yesterday I taught my first health lesson to four different classes. One of my biggest fears was not being able to speak to language correctly, and the kids not understanding me. My fear came true in the first 5 minutes of class. I was trying to introduce myself and explain about Peace Corps (which is something I was trained to do in one of my first language classes) I started hearing kids say “we don’t understand”. My heart started beating faster, I was sweating like crazy, and I am pretty sure my language got worse. My partner then told the kids that they need to be patient with me, and really listen when I talk. She explained that I am new to Moldova and didn’t know the language before I came. She went on to explain that she would not be repeating information I say, and that they needed to ask questions if they don’t understand me….. I was so amazed by my partner. It was the first time she showed confidence in me and I felt fully supported by her. I took a deep breath and started teaching kids about life lines. After I shared my life line as an example for the kids, with big smiles, they said we understood you! They then started clapping for me! It was such a weird moment, but one that I will treasure. It was great to know my partner has faith in me and it was amazing to know the kids want to learn from me so much that they took to heart the need to really try and listen to me and my new language. After that there were of course classroom management problems, and needing to re-explain myself over and over…. but I held on to knowing that teaching in Moldova will work because the kids are interested and my partner showed her confidence in me.


Getting By

I can’t believe that I have been in Moldova for almost 3 months. The days go by a little slow, but overall time is zooming by. I have been in Ungheni, my home for two years, for a week. Everyday its hard to get up and put myself out there. But once I am in the middle of a conversation or working on plans, I feel proud of myself and am looking forward to whats next.

I am not sure how many people know this about me, but I am very shy at heart. I can get a panic attack from just thinking about meeting new people or needing to do something that is out of my zone. Needless to say, since being in Moldova and even in Ungheni, I have had many nervous breakdowns, and a couple of panic attacks. But I make it through them and find ways to push/challenge myself everyday. And the nervous breakdowns/panic attacks will happen less and less.

Its also been hard to get a lot done, because of language and cultural barriers, but I have been trying to hold on the small sucesses I achieve with my partners each day. For example – I have been trying to meet with the school director almost everyday this past week. I drop by his office once a day and ask if he is there or when he will be there. I have learned that the idea of scheduling or having a schedule is not common, at least in Ungheni. Today I went to a teachers conferance for the ragion, and he was there. He came over to me, very happy to see me, and asked about my work and what I have been doing. I also was greeted by my partner from the clinic that I have also had a hard time getting a hold of. I was able to express myself, and the work that I have been doing to both. They felt assured and seemed pleased. I was also able to meet a couple teachers at my school. So over all, my day was a success.

I just have to hold on to being aware of when there are successes, even if they seem tiny do me.

Not so bad after all!

I have been dreading practice school since I first heard about it. But now that it is over, I realized that showing up is really half the battle and being open to learning/sharing ideas was the other half.

The first part of practice school is now done, and I am in amazement that it happened successfully, and I am so thankful that its over.

It really amazes me that my partner and I planned 4 lessons together and they worked – the kids understood, learned and enjoyed the lessons.

Trying to communicate in my broken, far from fluent Romianian, was not the only challenge. I was faced, along with the other health volunteers, on how to communicate and explain ideas while trying to work with (not against) Moldovan culture. From my limited experience, I have notices that Moldovians are wonderful people in many ways, but are ‘stuck’ in their box of thinking. I do notice that they want to think differently and in a new way, but just don’t really know how, yet. It was challenging to realize this and find ways, while speaking a foreign language, on how to teach creatively with new ideas. It was also difficult to teach that its okay to fail – both my partner and to the children. All in all, I am happy about how this week turned out, and very proud of my partner! I respect her patience with me as a try to communicate. I know I have my work cut out for me, and so does my partner. But I am looking forward to seeing the work that comes from it! I just need to remember that showing up is half the battle!

Looking up

When I was backpacking the back country of Canada and was in the thick of the bushes, it was very hard to see what was a head both literally and figuratively. Bushwhacking became an important skills to learn and use. I remember one day, I was bushwhacking and trying to cut through the valley to get to a point where things were visible. In this moment I wanted to give up. I had scratches all over me, mosquitos were attacking me, and I had know idea what I was doing or how to do it. I looked back and thought about heading back to where I started, but the path wasn’t clear. All I could do was go forward. When I made it out of the valley and on top of the saddle, the bush didn’t seem that bad, and the view/rest the saddle provided was amazing.

I am trying to remember this as I am now in the thick bush of PST. I have no idea where I am going, if things are going to clear up soon or how the view is when I am out. I have thought about giving up, but when I look back and try to think about what life would be like, its unclear and also in the thickness of a mess. So I have decided to move forward.

This past Wednesday I was having a really bad day. I hit some sort of wall and felt hopeless, out of control and useless. As I was walking home I was thinking about leaving Moldova.. all of the sudden I hear chirps. I looked up and saw about twenty baby chicks running in the street. It was amazing. I had never seen something like this in my life, and being a part of it, instead of observing it in a zoo or on TV, was unreal. I felt like a kid experiencing something new and wonderful. It hit me. I would never see this if I went back to the states. I would not experience random joys. The next day something similar happened. I was walking home from romanian language class, and I simply looked up. I saw the outline of my village in a new clarity. It was breath-taking. I am not sure if I have been looking down this whole time, but this view was new to me.

I realized that simply looking up and outward is the key to me staying here in Moldova and with the Peace Corps. I can not focus on the ground, the bad, the hard days. I need to focus on the amazingness of all this experience has to offer. And some times I know I will have to look for it – but its there.

Since I have gained this perspective I have found myself falling in love with Moldova!

I must be out of my mind….

“Why am I doing this to myself?”

I must have asked myself this questions over a 1,000 times since I have been in Moldova – and I wish I was over exaggerating. This is tuff, honestly. Even Though I am not in the rural, even though I have an indoor toliet and running water, this experiance is tuff!!! I have almost given up during the past couple of weeks to just go back to the states to live they way I have been for the past 26 years. But then I remember that I CHOSE THIS! I actually FOUGHT for this experance! It took Pat and I almost two years to get here in Moldova! I can hold on for the next two years – its worth it – it has to be!

I worked with clay once in high school. I remember preparing the clay to be used by smashing it onto the table, as to loosen it up so it is perfect to shape. This is how I have been feeling! I am the clay and the potter at the same time. I am continuelly asking myself to change, to mold to take form so I can be useful. And hopefully I will be molded/created into someone who will be able to help the community and people of Ungheni.

I keep being resistant to change, just like clay in the begining, but I know that once I loosen up and allow life to happen, I will take shape and things/life here in Moldova will be a little bit more at ease.

I fought to be here, and I will continue to fight to stay! Its worth it! The relationships I have build with my host family, fellow peace corps volunteers/staff/trainees tells me its worth it!