Peace Corps volunteer: You should be happy with what you have and not worry about what you don’t have
Peace Corps is a program designed to share with the world America’s people by means of community work. The United States established its Peace Corps office to Moldova in 1993. This year there are more than 100 American volunteers within the country.
Ross Talbot, 27, is one of the Peace Corps volunteers which do community work in the Republic of Moldova. He comes from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has been residing in Moldova for almost two years. The man teaches English at the American Corner from Balti and also works with some local non-governmental organizations throughout the city.
Ross agreed to give an interview exclusively to Moldova.ORG ahead of the 20th anniversary of US-Moldova diplomatic relations. Below you can find out how his experience in Moldova looks like.
Moldova.ORG: When you have heard that you’ll be spending two years of your life in Moldova, what did you know about this country at that time?
Ross Talbot: I had never heard of Moldova until I was told I was coming to Eastern Europe. I did some research on the area before later finding out that I was assigned to Moldova. I honestly did not know much about Moldova until I got here.
Moldova.ORG: It isn’t that easy to adjust to a new culture. How difficult was it to learn Romanian and to what extent do you speak it now?
Ross Talbot: Adjusting to a new culture was not that hard for me. I have traveled a good bit. So I am used to different cultures. I do stick out though. I think everyone in Balti knows that I am an American. All Peace Corps volunteers spend their first 2-3 months in country learning either Russian or Romanian. For me it was hard to learn a new language but I feel most other volunteers picked it up pretty fast. I used to live in a village so there I spoke Romanian but now that I live in Balti I rarely speak Romanian. All the organizations I work with now have a good amount of English speaking employees. They enjoy having a native English speaker to talk to.
Moldova.ORG: Describe me please the most difficult situations you dealt with while residing in Moldova?
Ross Talbot: There are quite a few I would rather not talk about but as for as one I can talk about. I have been approached by quite a few girls and been asked to marry them and take them back with me to America. These have been some of the most awkward conversations of my life. Some girls are persistent and will not take no for an answer.
Moldova.ORG: What inspired you to do community work? What do you think you’ll gain as a result of this experience?
Ross Talbot: I decided I wanted to join Peace Corps when I was in 10th grade. I spent the summer in Honduras working with a Catholic relief organization. That started my desire to help people. I went on to spend two more summers in Honduras, spent my winter holidays one year at an Native American Indian reservation volunteering and another summer in Ghana. Every volunteering trip I have been on, I have gained something new. There are, however, a few things that are always common. For example you are always reminded that you should be happy with what you have and not worry about what you don’t have. Now specific to Moldova, I have learned how to work with people of varied backgrounds. I have learned how to better deal with cultural differences in a work environment.
Moldova.ORG: How does Moldova benefit from your activity and how do you benefit from it?
Ross Talbot: Well I have worked with numerous organizations and helped out in many roles. My current main function is to teach English for free outside of the school setting. In addition to my current English classes I mix in information about American culture. I try to stress the similarities between the two countries.
What Moldovans benefit from my service here is the technical knowledge of the English language, which may help them get better grades, get a better job or get into a better university. They also gain a better understanding of the United States, its people and its culture. What I gain from it is a better understanding how people in a different part of the world live.
Moldova.ORG: What are the most memorable moments of your experience in Moldova?
Ross Talbot: The most memorable moment was the first time I went to my village. I took a rutiera but the village does not have a direct rutiera so you have to know where to get off. I had only been in the country a little over a month and my Romanian skills were very poor at the time. I told the driver that I wanted to get off at the mayor’s office but he did not know where it was. After a few tense minutes we figured it out. I got off the rutiera and called my assigned work partner. In Romanian I told him I was here. I was not sure what his response was at the time but I though he told me to wait there and he would be there in 30 minutes. I will never forget standing on the side of the road in a new place and having no clue what was going on. That wait seemed like forever.
Moldova.ORG: How would you characterize the Moldovan peoples? What makes it different from the American society?
Ross Talbot: I get asked this question all the time and it is a hard question to answer. America is such a large country that it is hard to generalize everyone. People differ by region, race, religion, income level, etc. I feel here in Moldova it is the same. It is very hard to name specific characteristics. I do feel though that Americans and Moldovans have a lot in common. I feel that both in America and in Moldova you see the same positive attributes in people but also the same problems. If I had to characterize the average Moldovan I would characterize them the same way I would characterize the average American; hard working, honest and someone who wants the best life possible for their family.
Moldova.ORG: Any other comments you’d like to make?
Ross Talbot: I love Moldova in summertime. I cannot wait for the fresh fruits and vegetables again.