Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hub Site Days, Money, and a trip to Americaland

Two very important parts of my Peace Corps training.

I have been in Moldova for the past 3 weeks and have not left my town I live in other than my weekly trip to Chisinau, what Peace Corps calls a hub site day. A day when all the trainees leave their training villages and come together in a central city (this year it happened to be Chisinau, the capital, but usually isn't). Peace Corps has these hub site days so that we can all receive necessary information as a single group. At our training site we usually have language in the morning and tech (in my case English Education) classes in the afternoon. On hub site days the sessions are usually lead by the medical office, the safety office or the country director. Thus far we have covered topics ranging from safe food preparation to diversity and sexuality to the economic outlook of Moldova, today's sessions were about nutrition, dental care, first aid, and safety awareness.

Oh and another common aspect to hub site days is vaccinations. If anyone was worried that I might catch some strange and mysterious disease I can assure you that if my medical kit doesn't have the cure then I probably have received a vaccine for it. So far I have gotten my Rabies, Typhoid, Hepatitis A vaccine while in Moldova and the medical clearance required I receive a Mumps, Measles, and Rubela booster and a Polio booster. (In the past Ive also been vaccinated for Hep B and Meningitis…as uncovered during the lengthy medical review) So Ill keep my fingers crossed just in case as there is still a few diseases we weren't vaccinated for. (Such as Hanson's disease, aka Leprosy, as one volunteer kindly pointed out.)

Lastly, the best part of our hub site visit is that it is pay day. As a volunteer pay day is sort of counter intuitive but the money I receive from the Peace Corps as my allowance is meant to be only enough for walk around expenses and for my host family. The money is broken down so that a lump sum that pays for rent, utilities (heat, electric, and water only) and food is given to my host family each month and I am given for myself about 1000 lei for a month. 1000 lei a month? Sounds pretty good right? Well 1000 lei actually translates to about 85 dollars. Which is meant to cover such things as cosmetic supplies (toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant), snacks (any food not provided as the three meals from your host family, such as a bag of chips or a coke or most importantly a bottle of water) and any "additional" services you would like to pay your host family for, such as internet, washing clothes, or cleaning your room. Once it is written down like this it can seem totally impossible to live off of 1000 lei but not only was I able to do it last month but I actually had about 300 lei left over. This is partly because most products are a lot cheaper here than they are in America, unless they are imported, and because I don't really buy much to begin with. Just for an example on the money value in Moldova a bottle of 1.5 liter water cost 10 lei, a bottle of .5L Coca-Cola cost 9 lei, and a bar of dark chocolate cost 13 lei. I would provide more examples but I'm not really sure because I haven't really bought anything other then those three items…although I buy them quite often.

A few volunteers actually did splurge a little of our money today as we had a one hour break between sessions for lunch so we naturally made a run for the nearest McDonald's…and by near I mean a full mile and more than a 15 minute walk. It was well worth the walk and the money spent…not something I will do a lot since it was pretty expensive compared to my allowance. For a medium coke and a double cheeseburger it was 47 lei, which is basically the cheapest thing I could buy. The price escalated for more refined fare such as a BigMac or a beer…yes a beer. The building it self was very nice and I had heard from numerous Moldovans that McDonald's is viewed as a very nice restaurant…something they actually save their money so they can make a trip to the capital and go to McDonalds. To give you a better idea of what I am talking about the bathrooms had a keypad entry. In order to get in you needed to type the four digit number printed on your receipt. God forbid you lose the receipt on the way to the bathroom or have to go so bad that you can't type in the numbers. BTW if anyone wants to get into the bathrooms at the Chisinau McDonalds for free the numbers for today are 1-9-9-0.

I was quite caught off guard by the amount of people that spoke English and looked suspiciously like Americans. If I would have had more time and didn't have to rush back to the school to be back in time for the next session I would have questioned a few people to find out what in the world they were doing in Moldova.

The rest of the excursion was rather uneventful other than a woman who was handing out flyers that came up to us three Americans and said, "SSSHHHHHH!" I don't think I have ever been shushed as an adult…much less while I was walking around outside on a crowded street with much louder people. Needless to say we were very quiet Americans on our walk back.

Lastly, no trip to the capital would be complete without a ride on the public transportation, basically vans called rutiera or maxitaxi that are filled with as many passengers as possible. Although there are usually seats for about 12 people and the rest have to stand. I keep meaning to count how many people we actually squeeze onto them but every time I either forget or I am surrounded by so many people I really cant see anything at all. Today, however, I was in luck. I had a good position by the door and counted as everyone left. At highest capacity we had 26 people packed in the rutiera including the driver. Pretty impressive.

For my next blog adventure I will be describing the 4th of July festivities in Moldova. You might be surprised.

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