Sunday, April 28, 2013

COS Conference

No matter how much you enjoy your Peace Corps service every volunteer is always looking forward to their COS conference. COS stands for Close-of-Service and essentially is a three day retreat at a Moldovan hotel near the Nistru River to be informed of all the information related to preparing to leave Moldova, including the readjustment allowance, health insurance, deciding on whether to have Peace Corps plan my trip home or to take Cash-in-Lieu, getting a job and resume writing help, and most importantly how to handle the onslaught of paperwork that will need to be completed along with signatures in order to actually get out of the country. We also had our LPI, or Language Proficiency Interview (Peace Corps, and in general all government agencies, love their acronyms) and according to my results I now speak Romanian at an Advanced-Low level, which is only two steps away from the highest designation of Superior!

As much as I have grown accustomed to Moldova and acclimated to the culture it still feels like such a relief to know that I made it to the finish line, a sense of accomplishment to be finishing the full two years of my service. And of course along with that accomplishment came the added benefit of getting out of work for a few days and spending time with a group of Americans I have spent a turbulent 2 years with.

Peace Corps Moldova 26
Which reminds me. The director of Peace Corps Moldova reminded us of some interesting figures. Of the initial 64 people to be invited only 55 arrived in Moldova, 52 made it through training to swear in as an official volunteer and 34 volunteers made it the COS conference 2 years later. There are also 4 volunteers who are extending for a third year.

English Education Volunteers and our Program Managers
Even though we lost more than a third of the volunteers we started out with no one from my training village has left early.

Actually getting to the capital to catch the bus to the hotel was a odyssey in and of itself. Recently the train that runs from Chisinau to my village has stopped running and has been replaced with a new express train that only stops at bigger towns and not smaller villages. As I needed to be in the capital by 11 to get on the bus the only thing that could get me there in time was the new express train. But in order to get to the next town over in order to catch it I needed to ride one of the older trains that still stop at my village but only run between Balti and Ungheni in order to get to my Raion center Falesti. I had to get up at 5 in order to get on the train by 5:50 traveled in the opposite direction of Chisinau to my raion, got there at 6:10 and had to wait till 7 for the new train to finally pick me up and take me right past my village again at 7:20. But the train was well worth the hassle. It was built in Germany and must have cost quite a pretty penny since it had LED lights and signs, along with LCD TVs and automatic push-to-open doors. And even though the train didn't stop at the smaller villages it still announced them as we went past and it felt so weird to be watching TV while the disembodied voice tells me we are now passing the village of Scumpia.

I needed to be in Chisinau to catch the bus because the hotel we were staying at was not actually in the capital it was a little bit on the outside in a small town called Vadul Lui Voda which is situated along the Nistru River. On the other side of the Nistru River is actually the breakaway region of Moldova called Transnistria that is not recognised by Moldova or most other countries in the world but operates its own government. Because America does not have diplomatic ties to Transnistria, volunteers are prohibited from traveling there and disobeying that rule can land you a quick ticket back to the USA. So it was quite a forbidden pleasure to suck up the sun along the Nistru a few meters away from a place  where Soviet era tanks still stand at the border ready for action. I even dipped my feet in the water though I regretted that choice not long after as I walked back up the river bank my feet literally caked in mud.

Map of Moldova with the places mentioned highlighted. Transnistria is also shown as the gray area on the right side of the map. 
Now that my COS conference is out of the way I am starting to run out of things to look forward to other then my COS date which is only 80 days away. I still have a solid month of teaching, a week of Easter vacation, English Week, and the arrival of the next group of volunteers in June.

I also have an album of all the pictures from the conference on Facebook.

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