HAVERFORD GRAD FINDS SECOND HOME THROUGH PEACE CORPS
Note: Julia de la Torre '98 is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Moldova, and will share her experiences as part of an occasional series for News@Haverford.
“Why would you leave your life for two years to move so far away?” This was the question that my friends and family asked me before I left for the Peace Corps in June 2003. When I boarded the plane for Moldova—a small, former Soviet republic between Romania and Ukraine—I knew I was in search of a challenge. I wanted to see where my teaching skills could be used, and if I could ‘make it’ in a developing country. But my overriding reason for joining the Peace Corps was to contribute to something bigger than myself.
My primary job here in Moldova is to serve as a university-level English teacher, as well as a teacher trainer. My week is split between teaching American culture and conversation classes to my students and offering seminars on teaching methods to secondary school teachers. My site is Cahul, a town of about 50,000 people in the south of Moldova, 5km from the Romanian border. Since arriving here, my projects have multiplied to include starting an English resource center for students, putting on a local English Week celebration, and creating a newsletter for teachers.
Moldova has provided me with many challenges, as I learn more about its culture and people. It is a recently independent country (as of 1992) which constantly experiences the ‘growing pains’ associated with standing on one’s own. Moldova is a country still deeply rooted in soviet ways, yet it works hard to preserve the language, tradition, and culture of its past. My community speaks half Romanian and half Russian, the language split being the most obvious manifestation of the division of interests here. But stronger than the conflict that may exist is a feeling of warmth and friendship that Moldovans have for each other and for visitors. Their gates swing open to offer you a glass of their house wine or a handful of fresh fruit from their gardens. They will dance the hora until the late hours with you, sharing not only their music, but their zest for life and for their land.
Ten weeks into my time here, I was washing my clothes by hand, chatting with my host mother as we watched the storm clouds rolls in (always my luck). My Romanian was limited, but my gestures and acting ability seemed to be just as effective as words. She apologized for the conditions of her house and of her village, lamenting the fact that I had to fetch well water in order to bathe. I tried to communicate back just how wonderful her village was for me and how, aside from my own family, I had never felt so at home. It was at that moment that I realized just what I needed to be happy—a warm home and a “family” that provided me with the support necessary to live in my new country.
So when I think back to my friends asking why I would ‘leave my life’ for two years, I realize that here in Moldova, I am still living. In fact, each situation I face here reminds me of how my life is evolving, and how I got the very challenge I was originally seeking.