Back in my Sophomore year of college my communications class assigned a persuasive speech and required that we use at least one quote. I gave my speech on persuading others to join the Peace Corps and I ended up using this quote from April Simun, who served in Moldova coincidentally. I recently remembered having given this speech and went desperately searching throughout my room for the Peace Corps brochure from which I had found this quote originally, so I could read the whole article again.
I did end up finding the brochure, because I horde anything I think is of value...which is usually a lot, and after rereading it I was struck by just how great the article was written and how April was able to make you understand not only why Peace Corps was great but also why "you" should take the opportunity to try Peace Corps as well. Because I am still waiting on my medical review packet to arrive in the mail I figured I would share the whole article so that while I "hurry up and wait" with the application process, and have nothing else to post at the moment this will keep my blog alive at least for another week. Inevitably in the future I doubt I will be uploading many more posts on the blog for a while until I get closer to my departure date which is still about a year away. So without further ado I give you April Simun...
It's not every year you get a goat for Valentine's Day. My 73 year-old host mom misunderstood a radio broadcast that meant to relay that Americans often give gifts to their animals to show their love.
And it's not every day that someone stops you on the road and asks if, by the way, you happen to have any of your hair for sale. I chose to take it as a compliment. And I wondered if she
would really want some of my hair if I washed it more often.
But then, this isn't every day. Gifted goats and hair hustlers are the kinds of things that make life in my 2,000-person Moldovan village zany, crazy, and altogether interesting. (And that's not even to mention the fact that I think the majority of people back home don't really know exactly where I am living these two years. They know I'm in the Peace Corps. And most of them know the name of the country begins with an "M"-Morocco? Malaysia? Mongolia, anyone? But the correct name of Moldova, the little former Soviet state tucked in between Ukraine and Romania, may or may not make their Top 10.)
Honestly, I can't say that I grew up my whole life dreaming of someday becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer, andin Moldova, no less. The Peace Corps made me think of places like West Africa or South America. Exotic places with grass huts and sand and excessive heat-even way more humid than in my native South Carolina. But not Moldova. Not a place with unheated, concrete block buildings in the midst of snowy
Still, here I am. And am I glad I came? You bet. Because the truth of it is that I can't really imagine any other experience that could teach me the lessons that Peace Corps/Moldova has.
There are the countless buses that never show up-lessons in patience.
There are the many times I make Romanian mistakes in front of classes of laughing children-lessons in humility.
And there are the scrawny bodies of hungry children who don't have mittens to wear in winter-perhaps the hardest lessons, the ones in gratitude and compassion, that still leave me unable to
answer the question, “why?”
In all these lessons, I'm the student. Yet, according to my job description, I'm supposed to be the teacher. The lines get blurry sometimes. My official job here is to teach English at my village school of 400 students. I teach lessons there five or six days a week to grades 5 to 12. My students are mostly native romanian speakers, who also speak Russian. But they see English as a key to finding better jobs and better futures.
My unofficial job spans far beyond just teaching English. It
in-volves teaching health-giving information about AIDS, and why patients should demand clean needles at hospitals. It involves teaching about the environment-why littering is bad, why clean water is good, and why Moldovans need to protect their large forests. It involves teaching job skills-how to
interview, how to give presentations, and even how to type on our school's old computers on days when the school has electricity.
Yes, the working conditions are tough. The school is old and concrete and not heated. Water is
drawn from wells. Electricity may or may not work on any given day. But with time, you can almost forget all of that. The children are children, after all. And the people are people. Their stories, for the most part, aren't the kind of stories that make headlines, or that make Moldova known back home. Their
stories aren't the stories of revolutions or of loud-mouthed, sign-carrying protests. On the contrary, Moldovans often
laugh at their own hardworking acceptance of tough conditions.
But their stories are the stories of another type of heroism. Stories of quiet, unrelenting battles for survival, testimony to man's ability to keep on keeping on-through wars, famines, deportations, and economic collapses. And from time to time, these people with their hardworking, persistent histories stop me on the road as I walk from home to school and from school to home. They stop me to tell me thanks.
They thank me for being here and for teaching their children.
And I thank them for the lessons they have taught me in return.
April Simun served as a Volunteer in Moldova from 2003–2005, teaching English as a foreign language. Prior to the Peace Corps, April worked as a newspaper reporter. April says among her interests in joining the Peace Corps was the opportunity to learn about another culture by experiencing it firsthand, which in turn would expand her worldview and enhance her reporting skills.
The article can also be found on the Peace Corps website at this URL... http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.whatlike.story&story_id=1950&assign_cat_id=0&cnty_no=261