What’s it Like to Be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova?

What's it Like to Be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova?

The Republic of Moldova, located between Romania and Ukraine, declared its independence in 1991 following the break up of the Soviet Union.  Like any new country coming of age, there are still multiple aspects of the past, which are deeply rooted within Moldovan culture.

Applying for the Peace Corps was a no brainer. The prospects of a new challenge and the opportunity to re-learn what it is like to really appreciate daily life were exciting. However, I did not anticipate that I would encounter these expectations prior to my departure date.

On December, 13th, 2011, a mere five months before I packed my life into two suitcases, my younger brother experienced sudden cardiac arrest during a recreational run. Due to a series of miraculous events, he joined the 3-5% statistical survival rate of victims. I had been slapped with the realization that life is fragile. Now, the challenge I faced was whether to leave my family behind or put my life on hold to be the overprotective big sister. My brother assured me that no one has control over this rare heart disease he was born with. After all, for 22 years it had gone unnoticed. He told me not to give up on my dream and the hard work that had been put into the application process over the past year.

Women here are taught to embody the role of the nurturer, cook, and tend to household chores.

I could not argue and picked up where I left off in pursuit of my upcoming adventure.

One can say that Moldova teeters on the edge of Western civilization, but remnants of its Soviet-ruled past are still visible in daily activities. One issue, which is particularly relevant to my service, is the role of females. Yes, there is a gender-based discrimination present in daily life. However, not everyone acts in favor or embraces this mentality. Women here are taught to embody the role of the nurturer, cook, and tend to household chores. Consequently, when I shared my love for sports or awkwardly forced men to shake my hand, it puzzled some locals.

football game in moldova
Lindsey at a football game in Moldova

What’s it Like to Be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova?

Two takeaways I naturally embraced from my brother’s experience were: appreciation for simplicity and to have more patience, “don’t dwell on the little things.” With these two concepts in mind, I have been able to accept the culture, respectfully share my personal philosophies, and proudly display my abilities to live outside the cookie-cutter beliefs.

One of the most memorable opportunities I had to show-off my ‘girl power’ was during a charity soccer tournament, where I attempted to harness the skills from playing during my collegiate years. To my surprise, I was able to bring back some of those skills, but, more importantly, I gained respect from my opponents. It is a fact that soccer is a male dominated sport in Moldova. So, when a female takes the position as a goal keeper, matches the skill ability of players on the field (while refusing to stop playing despite having bloody knees–I hate Astroturf), the gender barrier can be demolished. I was unable to participate in the charity tournament this past fall, but I was told by the Peace Corps country director that many people inquired about the “tall female goalkeeper.” One point for the ladies!

It is a fact that soccer is a male dominated sport in Moldova.

Unfortunately, not everyone will easily give me or other female PCVs the respect that is deserved. This is where I am faced with “the challenge” and cultural exchange I had initially prepared myself to experience. There was one instance, when I was on the brink of tears due to a local man and his actions towards me. In reality, the culprit was not necessarily the reason for me fighting to keep my composure calm and controlled.

The bigger issue, which radiated my frustration, resulted because another PCV and I were at a public bus stop and we were clearly aggravated by this man’s relentless harassment. However, when we asked strangers for help, they simply shrugged their shoulders while stepping away from the situation. I thought to myself, “Wow, is this actually happening? These people are turning their heads in the other direction and accepting this guy’s actions towards us?” Eventually, a local female stepped in to ease the situation and now we have a new Moldovan friend from a nearby village.

I know that I will not move mountains or cause a miraculous change during my two years in Moldova. However, I do feel that my biggest impact can be made through personal demeanor and sharing my experiences with others. The reality is that stereotypes, discrimination, and unwanted events are a part of life. On the flip side, it is how I have utilized and learned from these situations, which has helped me to achieve the goal of having a stronger appreciation for my daily life.

These are solely the views and opinons expressed by the author and do not reflect that of Peace Corps, The Republic of Moldova, or the US Government. Top photo by Marco Fieber (Creative Commons) / What’s it Like to Be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova?

2 thoughts on “What’s it Like to Be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova?

  1. mike
    August 9, 2017
    Reply

    TLDR; Moldova isn’t over run with feminism

    Sounds like a place I need to go

  2. Carla
    January 22, 2014
    Reply

    Go Lindsey! I have a lot of respect for what you are doing. Can’t wait to hear all the stories in September!

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