“We had more fun here than in a whole week of school.”
– “A whole week? A whole year!”
That exchange between two high school students followed our first workshop in Chișinău, Moldova. We found ourselves in Chișinău on Thursday, April 27th, after riding a night train from Cluj-Napoca to Iași and, with some help from AEGEE-Iași, taking a minibus the rest of the way.
The aforementioned workshop was not only our first in Chișinău, but also our first workshop for high school students. We had no idea what to expect. Would they be receptive to our exercises? Would they care about civic education? Would they be able to follow our English?
We soon discovered the answer to all three was a resounding yes. Many of the students were volunteers in their communities, actively thinking about and trying to shape the future of their country. A few even mentioned that a petition they had started concerning education made it all the way to Moldovan parliament. Throughout our 2+ hours with them, the students talked frankly and openly about their experiences with civic education both in and out of school, as well as possibilities for the future. These were not your ordinary high schoolers….
Indeed, they reflected their city. Chișinău, which only Pawel had visited prior, turned out to be a bustling and friendly place with lots of history and fun diversions. Our first day we were treated to a city tour, a great dinner, and a fun night out with our new friends from AEGEE-Chișinău.
The following day brought that great workshop, as well as some sightseeing. Our wonderful organizer Ana had planned a short bus ride out to Ourhelweig Viche, an old mountain village complete with a monastery cut out of a cave. Next to the monastery stood a stone cross on which we were supposed to make a wish. We then circled the cross three times to make sure our wish came true. We may or may not have wished for a successful rest of our Europe on Track journey…
On the way back from Ourhelweig Viche, where we learned about Moldovan history, we learned also about Moldovan music. Our minibus driver was kind enough to play whatever music we wanted, and our hosts had plenty to show us. I don’t think any of us had truly appreciated the power of the Moldovan hora. Later that night, we drove out to the woods outside Chișinău for a pasta party. How our fellow AEGEEans were able to cook such perfect pasta over a campfire we may never know… but we bet they learned in AEGEE.
Our final day in Chișinău was, like the others, unique. In the morning, Brett and Pawel participated in Run4Health, a race that Ana had organized as part of her AEGEE committee Health4Youth. Though the snowstorm that had hit the city a week earlier made it slow going for the runners, all of them managed to finish eventually, with Pawel taking first place. As a reward, we partook in a wine-tasting at a local vineyard. Moldova has become known for its wines, and those we tried did not disappoint. We really can’t thank AEGEE-Chișinău enough for the incredible hospitality.
After the tasting (which was just a tasting, we promise), we gave another workshop to some AEGEE-Chișinău members and locals. We had a good turnout at the Youth Council of Moldova, and those in attendance spoke frankly about their desires for civic education in the country. One exercise asked attendees to compare their ideas about civic engagement with their actions, leading to some great discussion.
Following our workshop, Ana gave us all an informative Health4Youth workshop of her own, after which we were able to do some interviews. One interviewee talked about the Moldovan government’s unwillingness to help cyclists in Chișinău, either by fixing the roads or installing bike lanes. It was a wonderful reminder that each city is different and that the topic of civic education can lead to some very interesting conversations.
We hope to have many more of those conversations in our next stop: Ploiesti!
Written by Brett Aresco, Photos by Paweł Lenarczyk