That is right, you are in the midst of a champion (via the internet albeit). Old news though right? Ha, kidding. But let me explain…
Volleyball is an extremely popular sport here, second only to soccer (or futbol, which you must be careful in pronouncing so as not to say a dirty word). Both boys and girls play with fervor. It is so universally enjoyed, that my school decided to form a teacher’s team, of which I was invited to play. The first few practices were not quite so traditional in uniform or style, with teachers playing in skirts, high heels, and when unable to reach the ball deploying the “lovi cu picior” method, otherwise know as kicking it. After a few practices, mainly teachers vs. students, we started to find a rhythm, tennis shoes started to be packed along to school, and I learned that the rules do indeed allow for the use of feet, as well as the head. A month or so of practice trekked on by when I was informed that we will be travelling to a near by village to test our skills out against two other schools.
All 11 of us piled into a single car, and off we went. Upon arriving we had a surprisingly official opening ceremony, and the games began. Our team’s coach (the gym teacher, and one of 3 male teachers at the school) strategically placed me as the first server. We won the first two matches 0-25, with me as the only server…. all under-hand. We were headed to the raion (county) championships.
A couple of weeks worth of practice later, we head to our raion (county) capitol, where again we have an even more official opening ceremony. These matches however are closer, with us winning the first and third game, the latter by a mere two points! Exciting stuff.
This time around we weren’t there only for volleyball though, our men’s team also had a tug-of-war tournament (which we were the proud winners). The women also competed in a standing long jump, which I took second place in. A couple of weeks earlier when we were in the other village, while we waited for the men to finish playing I was asked to play a round of chess. I gladly accepted, being a game, of any sort. I got murdered, they take their chess extremely seriously here. I was only able to capture one pawn from my opponent. At the time I laughed it off, thanked them for the game, and thought nothing of it. However, at the raion championships I was again told I had to play, turns out me accepting that first game made me our team’s official chess player, and what more, it was actually part of the country wide tournament! So, once again I go to play chess, grudgingly, knowing that I am about to once again have my tail used as a mop. I enter the little room, notice only men, and shortly there after find out that because I am the only woman that knows how to play, I automatically win. Meaning, not only are we the raion volleyball champions, I am also the women’s raion chess champion! It even came with a certificate (which they spelled my name “chim”) and a little prize money!
*Money was used to purchase communal supplies for the teachers*
Our success was even announced over the radio! Making our whole team famous for bringing pride to the village! My host dad even told me that my wicked under-hand has been topic of conversation, and that he gets pats on the back for “his American.”
Without avail however, I have been practicing my chess against my computer, because not only does our volleyball team move on to the regional championships, but I too must compete in the regional chess championships…. which has quite literally got me shake’n in my boots.
In other news, Vice President Joe Biden came to visit Moldova for a solid 7 hours. It was awesome though, I happened to be in the capitol for a training, so I, with the thousands and thousands others, went to hear him speak with the Moldovan Prime Minster. All the streets near by were barricaded, and American flags hung side by side with Moldovan flags up and down the streets, and on every corner. I had never been so happy to see Old Glory in, well, all her glory. After the speeches, U.S. Embassy employees and all of Peace Corps were invited for a private meet and greet with the US Ambassador, the VP, AND Jill Biden herself. My spot was about 10 feet from the podium as all three of them gave speeches (with the secret service looming all around of course). Afterwards Joe came to speak with all the volunteers separately, we took pictures, shook hands, and were given about 15 minutes of solid face to face conversation time. It was rad. I had to hold myself back from telling Joe that I miss seeing him sit next to Pelosi behind the President though, I figured it wasn’t the right moment… It was however one of those moments that lets you in to the political world, lets you see them (those who are usually only accessible through a television screen) as people. And as cynical as we/I can be about politicians, reminds you that they too got involved for change, that they too have good intentions.
Last but not least, I had the remarkable privilege to be invited to a meeting at the United Nations. I have recently began working with a group called R.I.S.E. (Roma Integration, Support, and Education), and through them was invited to a meeting to discuss the topic. This roundtable style meeting at the UN was organized by the UNDP, and included representatives from the UNFPA, UNESCO, and other national and international NGO’s. Overall, lots of big wigs. I did at one point pluck up the courage to speak out, but I basically had to sit on my hands to keep them from shaking. Rewarded, my speaking up was actually rewarded though! After the meeting I was approached by the UNDP representative and asked to write a formal letter outlining my ideas and suggestions. Success. A dream of mine has been to work for the UN, either as the next Kofi Annan or Ban Ki-moon. Really either would do, I prefer the first, though am not quite sure how to get around the not having been born in Africa part… No matter, the way I see it, step one has been accomplished. Entering the building, check. Next step, finding myself one of those Hillary Clintonesque woman suits.