I recently had the opportunity to travel to my good friend, Stephany’s village, Taraclia. This weekend was a special weekend, as she had other volunteers at her house as part of their Travel Club. Travel Club is a wonderful after school activity created by Moldovan Peace Corps Volunteers (Group 16, of course) to give students in Moldova a chance to travel around the country making new friendships and learning about their land. Even though this country is quite small, most of the students here have rarely ventured out of their village. They are very excited to be taken away somewhere for the weekend. They have a chance to meet other students, play games, team build, and learn new hobbies. So that is Travel Club. I do not have a Travel Club, but joined in on the fun and came to help Stephanie.
I arrive on Friday afternoon and we have a great time playing basketball and this unknown game known as “The Belt Game.” It involves chasing people around and whacking them with a belt. Children at school play these games. It isn’t nearly as deadly as it sounds, but instead is extremely funny. We enjoyed fried potatoes with cheese for dinner and called it a night.
The next day there were several activities for the students at the school. Steph taught hip-hop and the boys played basketball, table tennis, and volleyball. Later that afternoon we were to reconvene at the school where we would leave for a camp located outside of the village to spend the night. At the appointed time (rather 45 or so minutes later) we left the village for a camp. The camp has not been in use for about 10-15 years. Our plans…to cook chicken over the fire, play games and sleep in old cabins. We arrive after walking through an overgrown trail in the woods, with 20 students, and are greeted by an old wrinkly man and his two dogs. We immediately acknowledge his creepiness and make a mental note to avoid all interaction.
The afternoon progresses with yet another round of The Belt Game and once it starts getting dark we begin the fire to grill the chicken. The students take over the grilling process so I appoint myself to cutting several loaves of bread. After dinner us volunteers are tired and while the students wander around the campfire we take the moment to escape to our cabin to sleep for the night.
Now is the point of my story where I describe the cabins. Like I said, they have not been in use for 10-15 years. There are no glass in the windows, the walls are now comprised of cracked cement, the ceiling, when present, is worn. But, we were lucky to pick one that had all of its flooring. So that mean we got to sleep on 10-15 years worth of weathered dusty floor. But we were lucky to have the floor. We spread out our various sleeping devices, some with sleeping bags, others with plastic and blankets. One of the volunteers is terrified of someone coming into the cabin at night and killing us. It isn’t highly unlikely as we found out, through a student, about the past life of the man staying at the place. The words from the student go like this…The man was in a bar one night drunk and a fight broke out over a bottle of water. The man got mad and stabbed the other person, which happened to be his sister-in-law. I decided to not let the rest of the volunteers know, but by the end of the night it had already reached their ears. The children did not seem to be frightened so I was a little bit at ease. With a knife secured under Ryan’s pillow and Stephany clutching her flashlight, we attempted to sleep. I got about an hour of sleep that night until we all had to rise at 5.20 to pack up and meet the driver who would take us back to the village.
We all arrive back in the village unharmed and unslept. Upon returning, we discuss our evening with Steph’s family and find out some interesting news. Apparently, the entire town knows about the killer that lives at the camp. Their word is that he didn’t kill just one person, but three…his wife, his brother, and his sister-in-law. They don’t seem concerned that we slept under the supervision of a killer but gave the excuse that he served his time in prison so he is ok now. But not okay enough to have a job around people, so they placed him out in the woods to look over deserted cabins.
The message to this story…when camping, make sure you know the people around you because it will be unlikely that anyone will hear your screams should you come into danger. And if you decide to grill, you can never have too much bread or packets of mayonnaise.