Towards the end of my service I finally made some friends in my neighborhood. It was about four months before I left when they first spoke to me. I would see them for months, as soon as it wasn’t so cold outside, sitting at the picnic table, as I walked home from work, in the courtyard in front of my building.
One day, they spoke to me. They said, Hello, in english and I responded, and we talked. They didn’t speak much English, but we spoke in the little they did and the little Russian I did. Then one day, there was a note in my door. It was written in poor english, but it was for me. And then a few days later there was a present and another note. And then again. And finally one day I was asked to play cards with them at their table. Uno.
At first it was just a few of them. Then as time went on, there were more and more. It seemed as if every time I came by their table, their area there was someone new for me to meet. And we met almost every night for the next three months or so. It was the most active social life I had in all of my time in Moldova. I felt guilty when I wasn’t home in time to meet them. They were the bright spot in the bad days and the icing on the good ones.
Paden nicknamed them the ‘sandbox crew’ because their table was next to the sandbox, not because they ever played in the sandbox. Not that I saw at least. There were so many of them, with such unique personalities. It was nice having a little army of friends in the neighborhood to come home to.
Someone excited to see me, everyday. Always ready to spend some time together; who would knock on my door or shout in the windows if they were open about when I would be free. For a little while I was part of a group of neighborhood friends in Moldova. I was part of their lives, their trials, their joys – all of it. And it didn’t matter that we weren’t really able to speak the same language (with them not speaking much romanian or english and me not speaking russian) or that we has different interests or that I was moving away.
It didn’t matter that I was 26 and they were between 6 and 12. I taught them freeze tag and they nicknamed it Zamarozka, a russian word for ice. Paden taught them duck, duck goose and we learned the Russian word for duck. And I learned their games.
They knew I was leaving, but I don’t know that any of them knew what that meant, although I imagine some of the older ones did. Regardless, they decided to make a concert for us before we left. They scheduled a concert months in advance for us. They invited their parents, the whole neighborhood.
This group of 30, mostly girls, below 12, organized a concert for us. They organized a concert in the center of the courtyard for us, to celebrate our friendship, of four months. Below is a video of the concert.