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Moldova, Peace Corps

Q & A: That Moldovan Life Pt. 2

The first of this series was published last month and answered some of the questions that a friend and blog follower felt were unanswered. Since then I’ve had a few of you reach out to me with some things you wanted to know and I’ve started to answer a few of them below. As before, if there’s anything you’d like to know about Moldova, Peace Corps, or in general, feel free to shoot me a message (or comment here) and I’ll try my best to address it.

  1. Moldovan Weddings. Compare and Contrast. Did you go to one? Tell us all. 

I did attend one. And only one. It was enough. Moldovan weddings are great, don’t get me wrong, but they are EXHAUSTING. Basically the schedule for a Moldovan wedding involves the bride, groom, their immediate and some other close family members, as well as their best man and best woman, and their mentor couple (will explain later) all going to either the church or the wedding hall to get married.

Then after the couple is officially married they spend the afternoon taking pictures, literally a photo shoot, while driving around town in the nicest cars that they have either rented, or borrowed from friends and family, and they deck the cars out in ribbons and bride and groom bears on the front and honking the horns non-stop.

After the pictures and honking around town, the wedding party heads to the wedding hall, which are basically event halls that are used for weddings and proms and maybe a special birthday. Usually the wedding party will start around 7:00 pm and  will run until 4 or 5 in the morning.

Over the course of the evening their are of course speeches, by parents, by the nanash and by other relatives and friends. (The nanash are another married, usually older, couple that the married couple selects to be their godparents, and to mentor their marriage.) One key difference is that at Moldovan weddings almost everyone gives money and the wedding host (someone hired usually for this role) walks around with a large glass bowl and all the attendees put their money into this bowl. This is usually a production, where the host comes to each table and the men at the table stand up and make a small speech for the couple and then put their envelopes with money (announcing how much they are giving) into the bowl. That’s right – they say how much they’re giving, so you can all admire their generosity and wealth. (A typical guest is expected to give at least 1000 lei ($50) per person, but if you are closer family or wealthier, you would likely give the couple 100 euros or so per person.)

This party, as I mentioned carries on until 4 or 5 in the morning, which means that dancing, eating and drinking continues all night. By several hours in, the floors around the tables look like graveyards for empty bottles (its bad luck to put an empty bottle back onto the table), with still more bottles on the tables. (They don’t generally have bars at these events, instead there are bottles of vodka, cognac, champagne, wine and mixers on every table.) The plates of food are stacked three or four high on top of each other, with everything from meats and cheeses, to meat jello, chicken, pasta, stuffed peppers, salads and every Moldovan food you can imagine being on the table.

At around three in the morning, they cut the cake and then the Bride and Groom sit and friends and family wrap the bride in linens for her house. This is somewhat like an American bridal shower, but they are wrapping the bride in the gifts, for her home. These gifts are given in addition to the money, and are given by women in the brides family and close friends.

The next morning the entire wedding party, friends, family and couple get together and eat a traditional chicken noodle soup. This is the favorite hangover cure, and after drinking till 5 am, this is necessary. Needless to say, the recovery from a Moldovan wedding is difficult.

While this is not even close to being all the traditions of a Moldovan wedding, this gives you a taste for what one is like.

2. Winters in Moldova. What were they like? 

They were cold. Not much worse than in Va, temperature wise, BUT there are some key differences. First key difference is how dark and gray winters in Moldova are. There were weeks there where I feel like I didn’t see the sun once. The roads and sidewalks in Moldova are not good, where they do exist, meaning that when the snow begins to melt, you’ve got at least a month and a half of mud of varying degrees ahead of you.

Also since you walk a lot more in Moldova, not only does the mud and the lack of sunlight affect you more, but you also have more exposure to the elements. When you do have a longer journey and take a bus there isn’t a guarantee that there will be heat. I’ve had two hour bus rides, with no heat, and even in a jacket and layers, they’re hard to warm up from after. Then when you do get home, you hope the heat is strong in your apartment, because they’re often draftier than places in the US.

But the very worst part of winters in Moldova, is the food that isn’t available. Not only is produce 10x the price, but its almost not as nice as in the summer and there’s a lot less variety. But luckily Moldovan winters make you really appreciate spring, in a way I didn’t as much in the US. It also makes you get more creative on social activities during this time.

3. Travel. Where did you go? What were your impressions? Where do you wish you’d gone? 

Where did I go? I went to lots of places, many of which I covered in my blog. I spent some time in Western Europe with my mom, over the holidays, going to Spain and Greece. I also met my father for a trip through Prauge, Bratislava, and Vienna (they’re all quite close and we just flew into and out of Prague and drove to the others). With my boyfriend I traveled to Istanbul and Iasi. I also took a small trip to Brasov Romania (home of Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, or so it’s written). So I think these are the only trips I took during my two years in Moldova, outside of the country, although I did a good amount of travel within Moldova.

When I left the Peace Corps I had 14 days of vacation time unused, which I regret. While I don’t think I could have fit an additional two weeks of travel into my schedule while I was there (what with work and other things) I could have at least taken another week long trip somewhere. If I could do it again, I would spend some time in either Greece, I’ve heard Thesalonoki is amazing and very budget friendly OR I would make a trip to Croatia and the Balkans.

I loved all the places I went actually, but I would love to go on a road trip through Romania or Greece. Both of those places are great.

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