Saturday, April 07, 2007

Lunch Time

This is Pat and Jerry during one of our in service trainings. We stayed in this hotel for about a week, and we ate the same thing every lunch break: bread, sweet chili sauce, mustard, wine and most importantly rotisserie chicken... we were eating two chickens a day by the end of the week.... mi e dor mancare din America....

Working Hard

Here is a group of us burning the midnight oil while discussing the role of capitalism in the former communist block. (I had been a bit bored earlier that week so I read the instruction manual for my camera and figured out the black and white function... pretty cool huh?)

Winter Wonderland

Here are some pictures of my neighborhood after a snow storm.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Here is Peace Corps Moldova group 19. We arrive with 32 people and 29 of us were sworn in. The US Ambassador attended the ceremony, as well as several Moldova Ministers. There was also a lot of press in attendance. (The first day in my village I had a little boy came up to me and said that he saw me on TV.) The ceremony wasn't all it was built up to be but it was still satisfying to be able to call yourself a Volunteer instead of a Trainee.

Quarter of a Century+1

On October 16 of last year I was visiting my then future home of two years. I could barely speak a lick of Romanian then. I could say things like: I like water, Where's the outhouse, Hello and Goodbye, and the most important of all, I don't understand. One of the few thing I did know how to was that it was my birthday, so my counterpart surprised me with a birthday masa at our then future office. She invited the other two Americans in the area. That's Heidi on the left, Elizabeth in the middle and Tatiana - Heidi's host sister - next to me. Most of the food on the table was from my dinner the night before.


For Halloween the children at the elementary school in my first host village of Milestii Micii put together a presentation about Halloween for us Americans. We were invited to dress up and listen to them present what they have learn in English. They actually knew more about the holiday's origins than I did. Afterwards, we were ushered into a candle light room, because the electricity decided not to work, for a masa. During the course of the masa the English teacher turned to me and pointed to two other female teachers and bluntly said, "Chris, these two ladies are not married, perhaps you would like to talk with them." But me being me, I was distracted by something else and not paying the least bit attention to what was said. Luckily one of my friends saved face by saying that I was married or I had a girl friend back home or something to the effect. (I have found that the three most common questions people have asked when they first meet me, in order, are: what is your name, how old are you, are you married.) Other than that the rest of the night was a blast. We drank homemade wine until the candles burnt away.

From left to right: Drea the Hippie, Vanny the Hula Girl, Renell the Witch, Becca as Lady Liberty, Sharon as Super Sharon, Angela as the Skeleton, and me as the Mummy.


Here are two pictures of me working in the garden with my first host family. In the top picture we were breaking up, or overturning the dirt for the winter. In the bottom picture we are burning all of the dead plants from the garden, along with all of the garbage from the house. This is a very common pratice in Moldova and somedays the whole village is cover in smoke from stuff burning.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Lord of the Dance (Moldavan Style)

So half way through training our cultural manager asked us if we wanted to learn some traditional dances. Most of the girls said yes, therefore most of the guys did too. We began to pratice Tuesdays and Thursdays after our training sessions. Some of us were actually pretty good at dancing. Me, I'm the kind of person who keeps a beat by claping on the ones and threes, so I wasn't very good at dancing. But I stuck with it. Eventually we learned about a five minute routine using different types of traditional Moldovan dance steps, set to the acordion. About two weeks before the swearing in cermony our cultural mangers tells us that we will be dancing in the cermony. We were shocked because we were led to believe that we were dancing for fun. Some of us refuse to do it because of stage fright. I didn't want to do it because I was one of the weaker links in the chain. They calm all our fears and won our support with a bribe: we could were the traditional costumes. We were sold. The dance was a crowd pleaser.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Office

Over the summer I had an internship at the Transportation Security Administration. I worked in the Chief Financial Officer's office on the top floor of a skyscraper in Arlington, VA. When I wasn't in my cubicle I had a view of the Pentagon and Potomac River, and I could also see the Washington Monument off in the distance. Now I work for Agenda Locala 21 in Mîndreşti, Moldova. My office building is located across one of the only paved streets in village from the high school. My desk is the one on the left. It doesn't have an Internet connection. It didn't even have a mouse when I first got here. When I would have to use a program to type something up, I would have to guess through trial and error at what combinations of buttons did what. This was not easy, and it rarely gave the desired output. Needless to say I bought a mouse for myself. Now all we need is an extension cord to plug in the heater. We had one but someone is borrowing it to plug in their refrigerator...or at least that is what I understand happened to the cord... despite it all I am glad to be here and wouldn't trade places with anyone for all the amenities in the world.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Learning Romanian

This is a picture of what learning Romanian looks like. I sat in this room about six days a week, for four hours a day, for two months. I passed my Romanian test at the end of the two month training session, that is to say I place in the intermediate mid range according to some international standard for second languages. Still, passing this test and speaking to teachers is a world's of difference than communicating with people in everyday life. Some people talk clearer and slower than others, some people are more patient with me than others when I am searching for the right conjugation of a verb, and others just simply can not understand what I am saying because of my accent. But for the most part I find people glad and willing to listen to me butcher their language simply because I am trying to speak their language. Recall that Moldova was part of the USSR for close to 50 years and during that time Russian was spoken, so today speaking Romanian is a point of national pride to most people.

I have found that learning a second language to be the most challenging, exciting and frustrating aspect of my PC experience so far. Some days I can talk clearly and efficiently and others I struggle to tell someone some thing as simple as 'I like water'. Most of the time conversations are a guessing game for me; I can pick words out here and there and then I have to place it in context and then I have to translate it into English in my head, then think of a response - in Romanian- and then hope what comes out of my mouth is at least close to being correct, or at least intelligible. The language barrier leads to some very interesting, strange and surreal moments which keeps these long cold winter days interesting. Soon, I hope, language won't be a barrier at all...

Stefan Cel Mare

Stefen the Great, need I say more?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Beci Drinking

Every house in one of Moldova's many villages has a 'beci', which translates as cellar. It is a place that is cool an dry and it is used for the most part to store food. The walls of the beci (pronounced loosely like the word for a female dog) are lined with jars full of preserved fruits and vegatables. The Moldovans will pickle anything... let me tell you nothing opens up the sinuses like watermelon and has soaked in salt and vinger for several months.

The other fixture in the Moldovan is at least one large wooden barrel of homemade wine. I think I explained in an earlier posting that Moldovan tradition holds that the sun's energy is captured in grapes and therefore is present in wine. Indeed the homemade wine can be a bit on the strong side, and it's not made for sipping. There is a small round wine glass that is fill to the top which is given to the drinker who proposes a toast such as Noroc, which means luck, or Fi Sanatos which means be healthy. Then he or she shoots the whole glass and then it's some one else's turn. These pictures are taken in the beci of a friend in the village of Milestii Mici. The first picture is of me siphoning the wine from the barrel from a rubber hose. You suck until the wine reaches your lips and then it flows automatically. You don't have to siphon the wine every time, expecially if your party is drinking fast; but once the drunk talks begins it's all down hill from there.... For those of you who cringe at the tought of germs that must be passed by such a method, the glass that we were drinking out of that night was sitting upside down on a pole and was 'cleaned' out with a rain soaked rag... hence the expression be healthy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Preservice Traning Blues

(first I was over there, but now I'm over here, why I don't know blues.)

I wake up in the morning because that rooster wants to crow
I rub my eyes and I wonder if he knows
I was drinking wine in the beci late the night before
I’ve woken in Moldova - I guess I joined the Peace Corps.

It’s early in the morning and I’m frozen to the bone
I look for my breakfast and I find I’m all alone
I’m late for language class and I can’t find any clean underwear
I’ve woken in Moldova and I’m wondering why the hell I’m here.

I see a man in a cart, drawn by a horse
So I flag him down to ask “where’s the golf course?”
Well he comes down from his pile of corn and gets all up in my face
Through his bad breath and golden teeth he says “Nu Engleza”

Well the rutiera, rolls on down the street
It smells like cigarettes and sausage, armpits and feet
It’s the only place I know where you can go to get to know your neighbor
And when you think it’s full, there’s always room for one more.

So I take it from week to week and I learn of a new disease
That I might catch when I hear someone sneeze
Don’t drink the water and go swiming only if you dare
But don't you worry about me 'cause I’m gonna be here for two more years.

DIACLAIMER: The views represented in this posting are of the author only and do not reflect the views of Peace Corps Moldova. This song describes fictional situations, not to be confused with generalizations.

Let There be Vin

One of the advantages of the Peace Corps placing me in Moldova is that the country is known for its wine. Back in Soviet times, Moldova was one of the leading wine producing regions in the USSR. Today, the wine industry is as bumpy as Moldova’s economy in general. But the shaky export market does not stop the people from cultivating grapes. Indeed, Moldavians and their wine is a relationship that is as old as the culture itself. There is a belief that the energy of the sun is captured in the grapes and therefore is available for consumption year round. This picture was taken in front of the largest wine cellar in the world. This cellar is located in my first host village of Mileştii Mici. I was feeling a little sluggish that day so I figured I would reach for nature’s energy drink...

Since just about every one of our host families new some one who worked in the winery, we got a half price tour. The cellar is an old granite quarry which produced much of the stone that built the capital city Chisinau. For the most part we toured the cellar in a car. Driving through the dimly lit, cool and damp caverns I couldn’t help but feel that we were touring a Moldovan version of Charlie’s chocolate factory, only with wine instead of chocolate, and that most of us would not return because of one vice or another. Luckily this did not happen and the tour ended with a wine tasting. Noroc!

Michelle tries to aviod the temptation of her dream come true!