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Moldova, Peace Corps

Q & A: That Moldovan Life

This post is for one of my loyal readers, who had some questions about Moldova she didn’t feel I had answered over the last two years. I took some time to put together answers for these questions, which were surprising difficult and fun to answer!

If any other readers want to know more about Moldova, my experience there or Peace Corps, feel free to submit questions. Her questions and my answers are below:

 

  1. Where was the favorite place of living and why? ie landscape, things nearby, people you stayed with, etc. 

Wow – tough one. I spent a while thinking about this and I am going to have to say BOTH. As those of you have been following know, I lived in Stauceni, near Chisinau for the first 8 weeks I was in Moldova and then in Balti for the following two years.

I know, I know, some of you may say that this is a cop-out but really its not because I did LOVE both of them. Differently and for different reasons, but equally.

Stauceni was where I landed in Moldova and for that it will always feel like a homecoming, every time I arrive at my host family’s house there. The streets of Stauceni and the fields above the town that stretch for as far as the eye can see, and that were filled with sunflowers during my first summer in Moldova, will always evoke the feeling of Moldova for me; these were the places where I fell in love with my new home, that inspired some of my best writing and running, they were where I picked corn with my amazing host family, where my best friend and host sister Anastasia and I practiced romanian for hours, during PST.

And then after eight magical weeks in Stauceni, it was time to move on, to my new home, for the next two years, Balti. Balti was not what I expected as my home in Peace Corps, but nonetheless it quickly became my home. I was greeted there by amazing site mates and amazing Moldovans who would become my best friends. I began to have work and work successes there.

To be honest, while I loved both the places I lived, Stauceni will always be my favorite, even though they both hold amazing memories for me.

2. FOOD! What was delicious? What was not so good? Differences in cooking/eating out while abroad in Moldova. 

Well my absolute favorite Moldovan food, was placinta with brinza (salted cow’s cheese) and dill. Honestly, I wish I’d loved this less, because this is almost certainly responsible for many of the pounds I gained in Moldova. Another favorite of mine, were the salads in the summer. First of all the produce in Moldova in the summer, is amazing. The freshest and most tasty I’ve ever had; and I used to work at a locally sourced produce stand in southern Virginia. Second the salads they make are really simple and light and amazing. One favorite was the cabbage and dill salad – with just those ingredients, tossed with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

As to what was not so great, there were a few that were inedible; not to say I didn’t try them, but just I didn’t try them a second time. The first was racitori, which is basically meat jello. Yes, its slightly solidified (think jello) meat fat, with parts of the chicken cooked and placed into it. It’s considered a delicacy and is served at all holidays and special occasions. The second was salina, which is uncooked port fat, usually still attached to the skin, that is cut off the pig and then put into a jar with salt and garlic and is ‘cooked’ in the salt until you eat it. Yes, you eat it without cooking it. You sort of chew on it, usually while drinking beer or other alcholic beverages. The third, in the list of can not eats in Moldova, were homemade sausages. To make these you take the intestines of a pig and boil them, to remove any worms and then stuff them with ground meat/animal parts.

As to differences between Moldova and America, one large one is greens! There are hardly any fresh, leafy greens in Moldova. I didn’t see fresh spinach in Moldova, anywhere in the two years I was there and fresh lettuce was rare and usually expensive. Fresh broccoli was occasional, as were most green vegetables. In general people in Moldova eat more carbs then in the US, but an exponential amount.

3. The people. What are the differences that stood out to you in Moldovan and American people? Was there anything surprising that we have in common?

Same question for your fellow volunteers?

The people in Moldova are nothing short of amazing. I was constantly impressed by how many Moldovans went out of their way to help me, with anything and everything, how many of them invited me into their homes, their lives and more. I was impressed by how these people, with so little material things, especially by American standards, embodied one of their favorite expressions.

Moldova might be a poor country, but they are rich in heart.

I could fill a book with stories about my Moldovan friends, but to focus on more external differences, a really large one is people smiling/not-smiling. I have actually noticed this is something I’ve brought back with me to America – the whole not smiling thing. That is not to say that Moldovans don’t smile. They do of course. They just aren’t walking around with a resting smiling face. They aren’t smiling at their neighbors as they pass them in the hall. They aren’t smiling at someone who walks into their office/resturant/gym.

One thing that my Moldovan friends would comment on frequently, is the ‘American sense of humor.’ Apparently Americans in general tend to be (by Moldovan standards) funny or at least have a good sense of humor. This is a theme that’s been repeated to me, many times, by many different Moldovans.

Surprising things we have in common? This is one I hadn’t thought about. Maybe our mutual love for Oreos or Grilled Meats or Family? I don’t actually have a good answer to this, but overall Moldovans, once you get past them not smiling, or their differing cultural norms, and language, Moldovans (well some anyways) have lots in common with us. They want the same things out of life, generally, health, wealth, happiness, family, etc.

As to my fellow volunteers, I was surprised by their ages. I was worried when I embarked on this adventure that I would be there with a bunch of fresh graduates, but instead almost everyone in my program was over 30 when they started. I was also positively surprised by the wealth of experience and work that the other volunteers in my program brought to their experience.

Surprisingly or not, I did not have THAT much in common outside of Moldova and the general American/Peace Corps experience with most of them. There were a few with whom I shared political ideologies with, a few who were from the Northern Virginia area, but most of what we had in common was based in our shared experience of Moldova, as Peace Corps Volunteers and being Americans together in Moldova.  There were a lot of other things that surprised me, about the other volunteers, but lets chat about that in person, if you’d like to continue that discussion further.

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About I think about that every day

I guess this blog will be a really long answer to the generic 'about me' question.

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