Today was my last working day in Moldova. We had seven young people in attendance at the Centre as well as my supervisor who had, very kindly, broken her vacation week to be there for my last day. This actions exemplifies my experience of being a volunteer here – I have felt so valued every step of the way.
Our first activity was making a crafty name card for each person as we were planning a ‘gourmet sandwich making session’ in the afternoon and wanted a way to mark up each sandwich. This was an interesting one for me as my supervisor was absent at this point and as it wasn’t ‘my’ activity I was getting my instructions from another member of staff. She knew a few more English words than I do Romanian and with a combination of the two I got my instructions to help run the task. It gave me an insight as to what it may have been like to be a participant in the tasks I ran. After this we spent some time outside playing party games to celebrate (but in a very sad way, I was assured) my leaving.
After lunch we had a ‘reflective session’ where we viewed all the photos I’d taken at the Centre to a backing of our Latin Dance music. I think everyone enjoyed seeing all we’d done and it really did emphasise just how many experiences we’d had this Summer. I also felt quite sad seeing photos of the clients who were absent this week due to the lack of alternative travel options during the bus driver’s holiday.
Then it was time for our Gourmet Sandwich session. We had some ‘recipes’ from magazines and each person selected the one they wanted to make. The available staff provided some assistance and it was then I really got thinking about one of the cultural differences I’ve noticed here….
I’ve been attending some Zumba classes while I’ve been in Moldova and been very aware of a different approach to the class. In the classes I take in the UK an instructor may highlight a particular piece of footwork before each song but essentially the aim of the session is to get moving and keep moving. Working hard an having fun are key, if you get the steps right it’s a bonus. In the classes I’ve attended here the instructor runs through each track without music, breaking down the steps and showing good technique. If anyone makes a mistake in this marking stage, the instructor repeats the step. To me it has felt a little frustrating. While I am a dancer, I do not consider Zumba a dance class; I just want to dance about for an hour, get my heart rate up and I’ll figure the steps out as we do it. I do admire such attention to detail though and it fits with some of the Soviet style approaches I’ve observed. Anyway, back to my point. I also have experienced this approach on placement. When I’ve been working with the young people, as is normal for me, I’ve been getting to do as much of the task as they are able to do independently and help as little as is needed. Some of the other staff help those they are working with a lot more. As I result their finished products are neat and ‘perfect’, whereas the ones belonging to the clients I’ve worked with are often a little wonky or not so neat. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest – I want to see my clients produce their work, not mine, but I do wonder if the other staff have had any feelings about me allowing such ‘imperfection’.
During this task the manager of the centre came to present me with a report on my placement and the most touching thank you gift; a beautiful framed quotation surrounded by paper flowers. It was so special and meaningful, and feels quite strange to feel so valued during such a short placement, especially as the Centre has numerous volunteers (many of whom are Occupational Therapy students) throughout the year.
The party vibe continued with a late afternoon snack of the sandwiches and chocolates I’d bought. Moldova certainly has good chocolate products that I will miss! When the young adults went home the staff and I shared some freshly baked pizzas. It was lovely to sit together and have time to say goodbye and thank you properly. Usually, when I’ve been on placement in the UK, service demands mean that endings are a bit rushed and unplanned. This is totally understandable and not a big problem but it definitely made me appreciate how lucky I was to have a whole leaving day.
We then locked up and went our separate ways. Definitely the saddest ending to a placement. Going through the photos reminded me of just how much I’ve enjoyed working with each client in the Centre. The staff team were also brilliant, and unlike when I leave a UK placement, I know it’s unlikely our paths will cross in the future. Although, maybe I’ll come back to Moldova to spend some more time and at least we have the wonders of Facebook and email to keep in touch.
I also had a phonecall from the director of the company that organises the placements here thanking me for all my hard work. He said he felt I was one of the best volunteers they’d had at the Centre. Quite a compliment given all the good things I’ve heard about other volunteers. I told him it wasn’t hard work at all, but simply a pleasure and privilege to get to spend my days with the clients and staff here and that he and his team had made it so easy to be here and immerse myself into life at the Centre and in Chișinău.
It feels quite unbelievable that I’ve ‘only’ been here for four weeks. I suspect the range and nature of experiences, as well as the amount of personal growth that has happened, is why it feels much longer. When I first had the idea to arrange something like this I initially dismissed it as ‘that’s the type of thing other people do’. I wonder if that means I’m another person now, or perhaps that I already was that person but didn’t have the confidence in myself.
I have a full day in Chișinău tomorrow as I leave for the airport at 7.30pm. I’m hoping to spend the afternoon with my host and will use the morning to capture a couple of photos I’ve been meaning to take all month. I’ve just packed up my stuff and I have a lot more space as the majority of my baggage consisted of items for placement and toiletries. I have a few more blog pieces in mind, based on this trip, so I will aim to write them in the next week.
But for now, la revedere!