August 18, 2002 - Maryville Daily Forum: RPCV Rob Brown taught secondary English for the Peace Corps in Moldova

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Moldova: Peace Corps Moldova : The Peace Corps in Moldova: August 18, 2002 - Maryville Daily Forum: RPCV Rob Brown taught secondary English for the Peace Corps in Moldova

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, October 20, 2002 - 1:05 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Rob Brown taught secondary English for the Peace Corps in Moldova

Read and comment on this story from the Maryville Daily Forum on recently returned PCV Rob Brown who taught secondary English for the Peace Corps in Moldova at:

A World Away*

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A World Away

Local man brings back life lessons from afar

By CHRISTY CHESNUT-Forum Staff Writer

For most people, the idea of traveling halfway across the globe to devote two years of service to a little-known country, is a scary, if not impossible suggestion. But for Maryville native Rob Brown, journeying to the tiny Eastern European country of Muldova to teach secondary English for the Peace Corps was a no-brainer. Rob, who graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 2000 with a journalism degree and broadcasting minor, has always been fascinated with traveling to far-off places and learning about different cultures. While growing up, Rob and his family traveled to several interesting places since his mom, Bridget Brown, was a travel agent.

Following a college internship in London for NBC, Rob had the opportunity to tour 17 countries in Europe in a span of about two months.

"That was my first experience in Eastern Europe, and although I enjoyed Western Europe and all of the luxuries and tourist attractions it has, Eastern Europe's people and culture were really interesting for me," he explained.

The area made such an impact on him he requested to be placed there when he signed up for the Peace Corps during his senior year in college. Not sure of his next step after college, Rob decided to fill out the Peace Corps application papers. After about six months, Rob received word that he had been accepted.

"They called and said we have an opportunity for you to be a secondary English teacher in Muldova," he recalled. "My first question was, 'Where's that?' and then I heard a little bit about it, and I said 'sure.'"

Muldova is a small country, about the size of Maryland, that was formed 11 years ago following the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is bordered by the Ukraine on its east and Romania on its west. Formerly a part of Romania, Muldova was under Soviet power for nearly 50 years. The Russians brought their culture and language to the area and modernized it with things like universities, libraries and stadiums. In 1991, Muldova gained independence and many of the Russians, along with their money, vanished.

In June of 2000, Rob met a group of 40 other Americans in Chicago and embarked on the long journey to Muldova. Once in Muldova, Rob and the other Peace Corps members spent two days in the country's capitol city to recover from their jet lag.

"I was in my hotel room the first night looking out on an alley with trash and dirty dogs running around," he recalled. "I just kept thinking 'I'm going to the village in two days. What is the village going to be like if this is the big city?' and I was a little bit nervous for that."

However, once Rob traveled to the village where he would go through over two months of intensive training, his mind was instantly put at ease.

"Once we got there, the people were great," he said. "And that was really the difference-maker for me in the whole experience. They were amazing, unique people who opened their hearts to me and many of the Americans there."

Peace Corps members spent long days in the village learning about the country's culture and traditions, as well as mastering Romanian, its official language. Rob also learned how to teach in a Muldovian classroom, which he would do for the next two years in a town called Cinslia.

A town of about 17,000, Cinslia is located in the heart of "wine country" in Muldova's poorer southern region. Rob taught grades 8, 10, 11 and 12 in a school of about 1,500 children in Cinslia. He also served as the school's newspaper adviser, helped students with debate competitions and coached baseball. Since the children already knew how to speak rudimentary English, Rob was able to introduce critical thinking discussions into his classroom, including discussions on government, democracy, cultures of the world and Muldova itself.

"It was disappointing to me at first, because as an English teacher, I was maybe helping them to get out of the country," he said. "That was really hard for me because, obviously, I want Muldova to grow, and if the top, brightest people leave, it's just going to be left behind."

Rob explained that half of his students had at least one or both parents working in other countries and sending money back to their families in Muldova. With an average monthly wage of just $30, the opportunities for intelligent, educated people are practically non-existent.

"The hardest thing for me in the whole experience was to see how little of an opportunity the young people have there," Rob revealed. "It's really sad because I was working with these great kids that would just amaze me every day with their fresh ideas and their clarity, but looking at the end of the rainbow, that pot of gold is not waiting for them."

While in Cinslia, Rob lived with a host family for the first year before moving into his own apartment. He stayed in contact with his family in America through phone calls and the Internet, and his mother and sister both visited him at different times. He never felt too homesick to stay, and once he was living on his own, Rob was able to get out into the community and meet many people.

"I met thousands and thousands of people, and most of the time, I was the first American they had every met and maybe would ever meet, so I always remembered to be a great ambassador for the United States," he explained. "They listen to you and they weigh on every syllable of what you're saying, so it's a very powerful position to be in."

On the flip side, the people of Muldova taught him important lessons about the world and life in general. He said he now has a better understanding of why people travel to America and work to support their families in other countries.

"I'm very grateful that I had this opportunity," he said. "It has helped me grow so much as a person, and I've matured by leaps and bounds. I'm not a completely different person, but I see everything with all new eyes, and I appreciate things more than I did before. I will, for the rest of my life, be an advocate for teaching Americans that we are some of the luckiest people in the world."

Rob said the experience also taught him to focus on the core things in life like family, friends and health and not to worry about the little, day-to-day things many Americans get wrapped up in.

"I tell people now that it was like two years of therapy," he said. "I know who I am now. I was pushed to the limits of being tough, most of it mentally tough, and I came out with a wonderful, amazing experience."

Just last month, Rob completed his mission, said good-bye to the many friends he made in Muldova and returned to the United States. When he flew into Chicago, he suffered culture shock with the many signs, lights and actions in the city. He also had a little trouble adjusting to the American vocabulary, as he had been speaking rudimentary English with his students for two years. However, once he returned to Maryville, he instantly felt at home.

"In Maryville, it was really easy for me to grow accustomed again," he said. "I really parallel it a lot to Cinslia, my hometown in Muldova. I would tell people there quite a bit, 'I live in Maryville, Muldova' because it felt so much like it."

With the life-changing experience behind him, Rob looks toward a future career of helping others. He plans to spend some time in Maryville to decide what his next step will be. In the meantime, Rob plans to share the lessons he learned while in Muldova with anyone who might be interested.

"There are three goals of the Peace Corps, and the third one is to continue your service through telling people about your experience and helping them grow through what you saw," he explained. "I have been fortunate enough to speak to a couple of groups here in town, and I also look forward to speaking to more school children, different clubs and civic organizations and any sort of groups throughout the area."

Anyone interested in learning more about Rob's experience may contact him at 582-3234.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; PCV's in the field; COS - Moldova



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