In my apartment here we have a small kitchen. It can comfortably hold four people, if three are seated in the booth. The floor is this thick plastic, almost like wall paper and its coming up a little by the door. The walls have this wallpaper of what you might term country kitchen and the words on the wallpaper they’re all in english.
In the kitchen there is a gas stove. It’s old school, maybe original to the apartment. To light the stove, you have to turn on the gas, then light a match and then turn on the burner while holding the match close to the plate and then hope it catches and you have to do all this while not letting the match or gas burn you when it catches. The oven itself doesn’t work meaning anything I make here is made on the stove or cooked elsewhere.
Let’s just say until recently I was still perfecting my technique, on lighting the stove and it used to take me a few tries and matches to do this. When another PCV saw me doing this, he commented, “I hope you’re buying your host family matches.”
The next week when this friend visited again, he came with a huge packet of matches for me to give my host mom. The day after I gave them to her, my host mom bought a long handled lighter, now I can light the stove in one quick go.
Next to the stove in my kitchen here we have a laundry machine. (I know I’m spoiled – but I am so thankful!) Laundry machines here are usually in english or russian, but thankfully mine is in english and is really easy to use. My host mom here lets me use her washing machine, but I know a lot of people here are reticent to let other people use their machines – some are older or tempermental – almost everyone here only uses certain kinds of detergents – some are supposedly bad for the machines. (I buy the brands my host mom directed me to purchase.) The detergent here is expensive – for a small bottle, one liter, which is about 16 loads, it costs about 70 lei ($6.50 USD) which may not seem like a lot but when you think the average salary here is about 1500 lei a month, (probably a little higher in Balti) you start to see what I mean.
While we do have a beautiful washing machine, we also have a clothes line on our balcony. I have yet to see a dryer in Moldova, but honestly I’ve come to enjoy the process of taking the clothes out of the washer, putting them into my plastic tub, walking them out the blacony, using the clothes pins to hang them, positioning them just so, so that they’ll dry correctly and not wrinkle. I love the way the laundry looks on the line – there’s something about it that always makes me smile.
Another thing that’s different here and that’s somehow become normal over the last few months is never putting toilet paper in the toilet. Every bathroom stall has a small wastebasket and you put used toilet paper into that. When I was reading the coverage on Sochi and the journalists who were shocked by this, I laughed. I’m really lucky in that both my host families have had indoor plumbing meaning that in all my time in Moldova, in the Peace Corps, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to use the toilet outside.