Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why I adore my host mom…

A few weeks ago I helped my host mom pick cherries.  We had done this the week before too, so there wasn't much low hanging fruit.  Now, I assumed the natural course of action would be to use a ladder.  Right?  Wrong.  I'm in Moldova.

Instead, we pulled the branches down, far past a point I would consider safe for the tree, and then picked the newly accessible fruit.  Twice during this process we heard significant branches breaking, and had to quickly let go.  Each time, my host mom looked surprised.  Both times, I asked myself how, if this is the normal way of picking cherries, this could surprise her.  Then I asked myself why after 58 years of this nonsense they hadn't bought a ladder.  Then I thought maybe they had a ladder and it's broken or on loan to a neighbor.  Then I looked at the poor tree, remembered I was in Moldova, and decided "no, they probably just break branches every year."

Then we went to go get a hoe.  A garden hoe.  An implement of destruction.  NOT harvesting. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Debrief: Site Team Conference and Visit to Future Site

I returned from my first visit to my future home (“site”) about a week ago.  As I mentioned last time, my village is way off in the southeast, closer to the beaches of Ukraine than Moldova’s capital Chisinau.  It’s a little warmer there, which was a relief, because otherwise sitting in the sun during a bumpy 3 hour bus ride on a 95 degree day would have been just too pleasant a material experience for Peace Corps life.  (And no, they don’t open windows in Moldova, as any resulting “current” is well known to be the leading factor causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to death).

With the exception of a failed attempt at phone communication with the director of the school, I pretty much linguistically handled myself with my 5 weeks of Romanian during the visit (no sarcasm there).  The phone call went something like this:

While enjoying light conversation with host family on first evening, cell phone rings.
I answer: “Hello?”
Romanian Romanian Romanian
Me (in Romanian): “I’m sorry, what?”
Romanian Romanian Romanian
Me (still not understanding a word): “Ah, something about me you say?”
Romanian Romanian Romanian
Me: “Yes, I DO think you have the wrong number.” (Unclear whether this had been suggested.)
Romanian Romanian Romanian
Me: “Yes. My number is…hold on a minute, yes, it’s etc. etc.”
Romanian Romanian Romanian
Me: “You don’t have the wrong number? Well that just can’t be…”
Awkward silence
Me: “Okay then, well, have a good evening!”

After I hung up, the house phone rang.  My host mom told me it was the director of the school, and relayed instructions for the following day to me.  I thought, “Ah, good.  I was wondering about that, and was afraid what a phone call might be a bit tricky.”  I did not draw the connection till the next day, when my director explained that “Romanian Romanian Romanian” was actually being spoken by her, in an attempt to communicate important scheduling info to me.

Phones are hard.  I’m going to give it another month before I attempt anything beyond in-person communication.

Otherwise, it didn’t take long to fall in love with just about everything in my town.

Church Bells at my Future Site (VIDEO)

This goes along with the post above about my site visit last week.  Yup, they were that happy to see me!

Look close, and you can actually see people moving around, ringing the bells in the tower.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Site Announcements!

Tuesday was a very exciting day for PC Trainees in Moldova; after being here almost a month, we were given our permanent site assignments!

After swearing in as an official volunteer on August 18, I’ll be headed to Stefan Voda Raion.  (A raion, pronounced rayon, is the administrative level above a municipality; it is like a county or state in the U.S.)

Stefan Voda is in the very east part of the country, in the southern part of that “leg,” and is bordered by Ukraine on three sides.  (If you look at the shape of Moldova, it kind of has two legs; Stefan Voda is in the eastern leg).  The region is warm and sunny, renowned for its wine.  And this is a country renowned for its wine, so this is kind of the Bordeaux of Moldova. The region is only separated from the Black Sea by a sliver of Ukraine (that used to belong to Moldova before Stalin rearranged things).

In any case, I am spitting distance from Ukraine; in fact, I could easily hike to Ukraine and back in a day.  My village has about 3,000 people, probably a little smaller given that a lot of Moldovans work abroad.  It’s primary industry is agriculture; a farm coop employs about 500 people producing dried fruits, tobacco, and other products, and a winery employs about 300 people.  These are VERY big business ventures in Moldovan terms.