February 23, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Virgina Bazar's Moldova Peace Corps Blog
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February 23, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Virgina Bazar's Moldova Peace Corps Blog
Virgina Bazar's Moldova Peace Corps Blog
Virgina Bazar's Moldova Peace Corps Blog
I am using this blog for a class of mine: Online Community Development at Georgetown University. It is an experiment to see how people use this type of tool online. I have found that blogging is a really great way for travelers or Peace Corps volunteers to keep in touch with friends and family at home. It's an easy way to keep track of letters. Make sure to keep some copies as well, if you plan on writing a book or something. It's also a great tool for nonprofits or students who might have access.
Otherwise, if you are curious and want some good Moldova stories, you can find in the archived section some old Journal entries of mine when I first arrived in Moldova in June 2000 and an article I wrote on Transportation and Border issues in Moldova.
As you will see, I started out writing only about Moldova, but it evolved a bit to be more about my present day adventures. It has been fun. If you are really ambitious and have an opinion about this tool, let me know what you think: email@example.com
Monday, January 13, 2003
Why is the developing world poor? Why do you think the way you do about your answer? Has your position changed over the years? Why?
How people become poor in the developing world is an extremely complex question, which requires years of knowledge and research. It is also difficult to avoid an ethnocentric perspective and humbly develop opinions around that question. I don’t think I have the space in this journal entry nor the right amount of knowledge in this brain of mine to answer that question, but I can give my opinion based on some of my experience, which I am not claiming to be correct or strongly opinionated. I apologize now if I sound that way.
My background: I studied International Relations and Cultural Anthropology as an undergraduate five years ago; however, I didn’t discover nor have any concept of what it is like to be poor in a developing country until I lived in the Republic of Moldova for two years. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I lived a small town in a Soviet Style Block apartment where I taught English part-time and developed projects for youth part-time. I made enough money to sustain myself.
While I was in Moldova, I asked myself often what makes a country developed and what makes a country developing? We’ve struggled with those words in the study of International development and have arrived at those terms, but I’m still not convinced that developed and developing describe the nature of our world. If a country is developing, it indicates to me that it is improving and changing for the “better” and that the “underdeveloped” country is not as “developed” as other countries. Some countries and individuals might not want to develop into a western concept of developed and why should they?
It is clear that the definition of “poor” and “rich” also need to be defined. If we are “rich” in the United States and Western Europe, then we assume that makes other people in other countries “poor.” As an American, the idea of being “rich” is very different than my experience of how someone in Moldova, for example, would define “rich.” I am not saying that a Moldovan wouldn’t say that I was “rich”, but there are varying levels of “rich” and “poor”. My family has a house, paying jobs, hot water, disposable income, heat, etc. and that makes me “super rich”.
I have also been considered “poor” in the United States as an AmeriCorps volunteer making only 600.00 dollars a month and living on food stamps. I remember buying a CD that year. That wouldn’t exactly be a huge purchase at this point in my life, because I’m living off of loans, with the potential of making more money in the future. Being able to take out loans is a privilege for “rich” people and “developed” countries.
When I think of a developing country versus a developed country, I think initially of infrastructure. The Republic of Moldova is described often as the poorest country in Eastern Europe and is underdeveloped and I’m not so sure if it is developing. In most places in Moldova, there isn’t permanent electricity, running water, plumbing and heat in the winter. The people in Moldova live in a place where it was better when it was a part of the Soviet Union; now its citizens struggle to find a way to develop their infrastructure and organize their politics and economics. The average life expectancy is very low and the health care system is devastating.
On the other hand, as a culture, with a diverse history and people, Moldova is “rich”. My friend, Nadia and Slavic would always say that they are rich because of their wine and the food they eat. Moldovans spend a tremendous amount of time with their family. They value their free time, even though they don’t have much of it. Is that developed or developing? I think, on one level, as Americans we don’t spend enough time with our families, even when there is an opportunity. Lacking a developed way to spiritually interact with our loved ones might be very underdeveloped. On the other hand, the majority of Moldovans have no choice but to leave the country to find work and spend years away from their family. It’s impossible for a Moldovan to make money in their home country. A number of people work for years and never get paid and if they do it’s an average of $20.00 a month, which is not enough for gas or shoes. Most Moldovans live off of their land and grow enough food to survive. Sometimes they sell their produce in a market and make a nominal amount of money. You can buy a kilogram of tomatoes, when they are in season, for 50 cents or a kilogram of grapes for 20 cents. Other than fruits and vegetables, Moldovans raise animals. It’s quite the experience to slotter a pig in a village and eat it for lunch.
Why is Moldova poor? There are many answers to that question, but to begin, the public policies and government do not have the resources to support the people. In the post-soviet world, the economy has not stabilized. In 2000, the people of Moldova reelected a Communist Parliament; most people in Moldova would agree that life was better when the Soviet government was in charge. The separation of the collective farms and no advancement of technology have left Moldovans without the resources to compete internationally and locally. As a former soviet country, they have struggled to become a capitalistic culture.
Internal conflict in the country also prevents Moldova from developing. The country is spit into two virtually different cultures with their own currency and borders. Moldova’s borders are closed to the world and most people aren’t begging to come in. However, most Moldovans would do almost anything to leave the country for better opportunities-run through the woods, offer to pay huge sums of money for corruption and bribes, as small examples. Unfortunately, Moldovans have also the highest amount of women being trafficked into other countries. I had a good friend who cried for months because she couldn’t get a visa to Israel during the heart of the conflict.
With poverty, most people in Moldova have turned to corruption and Mafia runs so much of the country. Most of the teachers, as a small example, accept bribes for grades. If you want an A, you must pay. Moldovans would benefit from more initial AID from developing countries and help to organize their institutions. Reorganizing a country to become capitalistic is not an easy change and maybe not the best option for Moldovans. Especially, since most people I talked to prefered a Soviet run government.
My views have changed a great deal over the years. I have seen how people work in Moldova and how much they want change and create a bright future for their country, but without the infrastructure and the help they can’t change. I also thought that communism was the root of all evil, but have found that maybe it isn’t as bad as we have been taught.
- Virginia Bazar, Monday, January 13, 2003
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
If anyone is interested you can see my web site with some interesting digital art. My Online Digital Art
- Virginia Bazar, Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Thursday, December 12, 2002
This is going to be my last blog for a few days. I have a huge paper to write and I need to focus on that work.....
- Virginia Bazar, Thursday, December 12, 2002
Monday, December 09, 2002
I noticed that most of the Moldovans I encountered did not like Roma people at all. Actually, they truly didn't like them any where near them at all. My host mother, for example, yelled at me once for giving food to some kids that came to my door asking for food. The slang used in Moldovan also reiterates prejudice. For example, there is a verb that means to gypsy, which is used to brutally insult someone. Most of the students at my school called each other gypsy when they didn't like what they were doing.
One time I was in Romania with a friend of mine at a restaurant. We were talking to each other and having a coffee on the outside terrace. While we were relaxing, a Roma woman came up to us trying to get us to buy a shell that she had painted. They were very nice and we were curious about her and her life, so we started up a conversation with her. Before we could do anything, however, the waiter of the restaurant came over to her and kicked her as hard as he could from behind. It was absolutely uncalled for, but we couldn't do anything about what he had done. We immediately got up and left the restaurant quite upset with his behavior.
This is just one story that filled my heart with sadness and gave me gratitude on some level for having a value system set in tolerance and love for others. I wish that were the case for everyone in this world. Of course, there were some Moldovans and Romanians that did not participate in this discrimination, but they are hard to find.
- Virginia Bazar, Monday, December 09, 2002
Monday, December 02, 2002
Since most of my thoughts these days are about Roma people. I thought I would give a few examples of where I really noticed descrimination in Moldova and Romania. I'll write more later.
- Virginia Bazar, Monday, December 02, 2002
I haven't written in a week, but I thought that I would say hello to the world, because this blog is now being linked to from my friend Chad's website, which gets much more traffic than this little blog.
In general, this blog thing is a really great way for travelers or Peace Corps volunteers to keep in touch with friends and family at home. It's an easy way to keep track of letters. Make sure to keep some copies as well, if you plan on writing a book or something. It's also a great tool for nonprofits or students who might have access. I am using this blog for a class of mine: Online Community Development at Georgetown University. It is an experiment to see how people use this type of tool online. Otherwise, if you are curious and want some good Moldova stories, you can find in the archived section some old Journal entries of mine when I first arrived in Moldova and an article I wrote on Transportation and Border issues in Moldova.
As you will see, I started out writing only about Moldova, but it evolved a bit to be more about my present day adventures. It’s been fun. If you are really ambitious and have an opinion about this tool, let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Virginia Bazar, Monday, December 02, 2002
Monday, November 25, 2002
I'm back at home. I got back last night at 3:00 and slept for 10 hours. It was an adventure to cross the Macedonian border and to travel such a great distance. I think the entire trip took 20 hours. I am still very tired and I'm truly looking forward to this weekend for some rest at my mother's house. Well, that's about it for now....I'm off to do work before class.
- Virginia Bazar, Monday, November 25, 2002
Saturday, November 23, 2002
I have more to write about my story below, but for now, I wanted to just say that my week is over. I'm so tired. It's been a lot of work, but its also been very fascinating. It's been also a lot of fun to go out dancing in Pristina. I've got to make this more of a habit in the States. I think I'm going to miss being here. Well, that's about it for now. I'll recollect my thoughts when I get home. I'm leaving at three in the morning in a cab with four other people to catch a plane in Macedonia. I hear that the border is a little difficult. I'm also tavelling with three Roma people and they said they had trouble last time at the border. We are also carrying a few laptops, which might cause some problems. I'm not too worried, but crossing borders especially in a post conflict environment can be troubling.
What else can I say....I've got to get some sleep.
- Virginia Bazar, Saturday, November 23, 2002
Friday, September 13, 2002
You experience in Modova, as you know, will affect the rest of your life. Unlike many, who trod through the ordinariness of life, you have chosen to step out and take a differnt path. My personal belief is that life is an adventure, and not to live it, whether good or bad, happy or said, is a waste. You must take the paths that draw your passion. They will not let you down.
- Dorine Andrews, Friday, September 13, 2002
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Today is September 12th, the day after a year after the attacks in the United States of America. Yesterday was the first time I saw any coverage on television, other than the initial crash into the world trade center buildings a year ago and a few photos in News Week International. It was quite a moment for me yesterday. I learned a few things that I had no idea about or blocked out of my mind. I can’t recall which one came first. For example, I didn't know that buildings other than the twin towers fell down or that people were shipped out to New Jersey by boats. The special I saw on the History Channel made me, for the first time or second time ( I can’t remember), realize what Americans, living in America must have felt. To be inundated by images of people suffering every day for months, couldn't have been nothing but traumatic. I cried. I couldn't stop.
It’s not that I didn't feel sad or upset or sad or upset when it first happened, I just wasn't in the States. Actually, I was far from home. I was living in the Republic of Moldova as a Peace Corps volunteer in a community of 20,000 people. I was the only American and the only foreigner living there. Of course there is TV in Eastern Europe; it's probably the favorite past-time for most Eastern Europeans, but I didn’t have one in my apartment. When I found out about the attacks I was sitting in my little kitchen with a student of mine making oatmeal raison cookies and discussing American food or something, when I heard a knock on my door. My neighbors, who were like family to me at the time, pulled me into their apartment and had me watch, on Russian TV, the images of the planes crashing into the towers. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying. At that point, I went back into my apartment and received a call from Peace Corps telling me what happened. They told me not to leave my town until further notice. At the point I had learned about what happened, two hours had passed since the towers had collapsed. It just seemed like a cartoon to me. I was watching something, somewhere I was not going back to for at least nine months. I went to sleep.
The next day, I woke up, had some coffee, and went to school like I did everyday. When I got there, it was like going to a funeral of a distant friend. Everyone at my school said they were sorry and kind of gave me, on some level, sympathy. It was an odd feeling. Actually, as I recall, I felt as if I was accepted by my community on a strange level for the first time. They no longer saw me as a rich American coming into their lives and trying to stir up things, but as a human being who suffers like they do. I didn't know what to say; however, I was asked to say a lot. Actually, I spoke in front of my whole school of 200 people and a few community members, in Romanian, about the state of the world and how I felt. It was not an easy task. I think I said, everything is terrible and my family is fine.
Fortunately, we had email (which I could only use occasionally with special permission) at my school and I spent much of the morning reading my emails to find out that no one I knew was harmed in the attacks. Later that day, I went home and I can't really remember what happened. People asked me if I had called home and I remember feeling like it would cost too much money and if something happened to my family they would call me. My parents weren’t very good at calling. I think I received two calls from them over the two years I spent in Moldova. So, I waited for a few more days and I called home to talk to my best friend, Ally, and my parents. At that point, Ally was extremely devastated and my mother said that it was sad, but we had to continue and move past the tragedy. My mother is a fairly serious woman.
I believe it had been a day or two before I had talked to any other American. I guess I was in denial. I honestly feel like I had been in denial for an entire year. It's not that I wasn't interested, or hurt by what happened, I just think I couldn’t have survived in Moldova without being upbeat and happy on some level, because it was so easy to fall into depression and isolation. It was a survival tool. I just didn't, and probably won't ever, know how it felt to be here in America, not knowing if the end was in sight. Life was a struggle in the small town called Calarasi I lived in. Everything was a struggle. In retrospect, I attributed the events on September 11th not necessarily as something that had occurred in my back yard, maybe because it didn't. I guess I have a lot to learn and realize about what happened. I have to readjust, as they say, to life in America and experience what they call reverse culture shock.
In this journal, I want to share with you how I feel and how I felt in Moldova. I will share with you my experience in reverse and publish material from my written journal and post pictures of my little life, in a little country, that is so foreign to everyone. In case you were wondering, Moldova is a tiny land-locked country between Romania and Ukraine. Well, that's about it....until next time.
- Virginia Bazar, Thursday, September 12, 2002
Monday, September 09, 2002
This is my first post
- Virginia Bazar, Monday, September 09, 2002
You are operational!
- Dorine Andrews, Monday, September 09, 2002
hursday, September 19, 2002
Most people would spend a few months packing, but I actually did it two nights before I left. I stuffed all I could into two bags. My friend, Ally, helped me neatly lie out all of my clothes and wrap them in duck tape for a better fit. I seemed to be ready enough. It was hard to decide what was important to bring, but what I realized was it wasn’t important at all. It was more important that I brought with me patience, good humor and some art paraphernalia. Two days before I left, my sister through a going away party for me, which was a great little gathering at my parents’ house. I was filled with love from everyone.
Of course, well not of course, I quit my job a few months before I left to ensure that I could have enough time to visit my family and friends in Canada and the States. I traveled quite a bit. It was a great time in my life. I was following my dreams and I was spending all my time telling my friends and family how much I loved them, because at the time two years seemed like a life time. I thought, on some level, that I would never return. I guess on some level I never did. A huge part of my life and my soul was left behind with my friends and host families in Moldova. I am not the same person that left two and a half years ago.
After I finally packed up, I laid down in bed trying to recall how people sleep in their bed for the last time. I felt relatively peaceful and unbelievably anxious. I just wanted to get there. On a lot of levels, my emotional state in Moldova was always filled with conflicting and opposite emotions. I was happy, yet sad, enthusiastic and optimistic, yet jaded.
Anyway, the next morning, I jumped out of bed. My friend, Tom, took me to the airport with my other good friend, Heather. I thought it would be too hard to go with my family. I can still remember clearly as I left my parents driveway watching my sister who was 8 and half months pregnant, my sister-in-law, my niece and my father standing, red eyed, waving me good bye. I was emotional to say the least, but I didn't cry. I arrived at National Airport with all my bags. My friend Heather was waiting for me at the airport. I sat down to wait for my plane to leave for Chicago with them. Finally after fifteen minutes that dragged on for four months, they called my flight. I grabbed my bags and walked away. I gave my friends a kiss and a hug and found myself running to the plane. I walked away from them sobbing. I sat down in my chair crying as if I was a child. It was so hard to tear myself away from my life at that time. It took me so much to leave my family and friends behind. You know, in most places in the world, people just don't do that. It's unheard of.
I wrote in my diary on the plane trying to capture in words what I was feeling. I'll share that with you next time. I think that it might express more of what I was feeling than I can at the moment.
- Virginia Bazar, Thursday, September 19, 2002
Sunday, September 15, 2002
So, more about Moldova. I think I'll start out this week by putting a few links on the page for anyone who would like to learn more about Moldova. Here are a few good ones:
World Fact Book
United Nations in Moldova
A Peace Corps Volunteer's Website
Anyway, these links can help you find some general demographic information about Moldova and international issues. You can also find some great photos of Peace Corps volunteers on the last link; you can even find a picture of me on the homepage.
Where to begin? What an adventure it was in Moldova. There are so many emotions surrounding my experience and so many things that happened, it's hard to figure out where to start. Some people might think, the beginning. What would categorize the beginning? Would it be the moment I said goodbye to my mother, or would it be when I first left American soil and landed in Moldova. Or would it be the first time I was notified of my assignment by the Peace Corps. Honestly, I had no clue where Moldova was when I learned about my assignment. I knew when I applied it would be somewhere in Eastern Europe, but that was it. Before I made any rash decisions about going to Moldova, I got onto my handy computer and searched for information on Moldova. Of course, the small amount of information that you could find on the internet at that time painted quit a lurid picture of Moldova. I felt a bit aprehensive because I heard that other Peace Corps volunteers went to exotic places like Tailand and Figi, not that volunteers aren't needed there, but it's not freezing and there are beautiful things to see. I decided that it was my destiny that I would be going to a country that very, very few people knew about. Besides, half of my family was from Romania and Ukraine. I called the Peace Corps and told them that I would be happy to accept the assignment.
So, that was February of 2000. It was four months before I flew out of Washington, DC. It was four months to practice saying in my head and outloud that I was going to Moldova, a small country smashed between Romania and Ukraine.
- Virginia Bazar, Sunday, September 15, 2002
I would agree without a doubt that life is an adventure and the best and most fulfilled life is one that gives you passion. I do my best to try to take a step away from the ordinary moments, the ordinary thoughts and the ordinary numbness and experience and feel this slightly odd existence in my own way.
- Virginia Bazar, Sunday, September 15, 2002
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