Food Friday: Ardei Umpluț

IMG_1284Baked sweet peppers, stuffed with a wonderfully-seasoned mixture of rice and meat, these particular Ardei Umpluț (“are-day oom-ploot”) have a special feature.  The cook (my future host mom at my permanent site) and her daughter put a tiny sarmale (cabbage roll) in the top of each one where they had removed the stem.  I enjoyed them very much!

Posted in Language, Peace Corps

Word Wednesday: Împușcă-mă acum!

Împușcă-mă acum! (“eum-poosh-cuh muh ah-coom”)* means “Shoot me now!” So far, this Peace Corps experience has many awesome moments, including occasional take-your-breath-away events and many moments of quiet satisfaction.  And then there’s that moment when they trot out a really difficult grammar point, and your fellow trainee sums up everyone’s feelings when he asks the teacher for the translation of “Shoot me now!”

*Pronunciation approximate

Posted in Food, Life & Such, Peace Corps, Reflections

Fruit Stories

IMG_0824Looking back… It was my second week in Moldova; week two of language classes. Our teacher was introducing the Romanian words for fruits. As she displayed each hand-drawn picture, my mind filled with little tales. How had I crossed paths with each of these fruits in my short time in Moldova?

caiseCaise (apricots)

My host mom is trying to explain the different things that are growing in front of our house. I understand tomatoes and cucumbers (mostly because I recognize the plants), and now she’s trying to explain the little green balls that are growing on the tree out front. Zarzare! She exclaims, growing frustrated. Fructe! Zarzare! None of my three electronic dictionaries recognize the word. Finally I ask her to write it down (a complicated process which involves searching for her glasses and a pen), so I can show it to my language teachers later. Turns out it’s a slang word in the local dialect for — you guessed it – apricots

Vișine (sour cherries) visine

So, after two-plus years of working in the afternoon and sleeping late every morning, I was feeling pretty good about adjusting to the training schedule, getting up early and being awake and in class by 8AM. That is, until one morning  about 6:45 on my way back around the house from the bathroom, I ran into my host dad with a 5-gallon paint bucket full of sour cherries. I’d been up long enough to brush my teeth, but my 70-something host dad had already picked an entire bucket of cherries!

prunePrune (plums) 

At lunch time we go out to the courtyard in front of the school and eat the lunches our host moms have packed. So I’m sitting on a bench in the shade, with my classmates, eating lunch, when suddenly I feel this tremendous blow to the top of my head! Shocked, I search for the culprit, only to discover that one of the unripe plums from the tree above me has bounced off my head and rolled across the courtyard!

Struguri (grapes) struguri

I went to study with a fellow trainee, and was thrilled when her host family invited me to eat with them!  The meal was wonderful, and the family was very friendly, asking all kinds of questions and waiting patiently while we struggled to answer.  Along with the delicious food, we had to sample the homemade wine, and her host dad kept using a strange word: poame.  After the meal, he insisted on showing us around his garden, pointing out the chickens, the tom turkey, and his many food plants.  I recognized dill, and was taught the word for it, and managed to understand that the unseasonable snow they had here in April (!!) ruined one of his apple trees, but not the other.  Finally, he showed us what were clearly grape vines, and used the word for wine, and again that strange word poame.  I pointed to the vines and asked Struguri?  Da, he replied, Yes! struguri.  Poame. 

capsuniCapșune (strawberries) – saved the last one

On the table in the kitchen is a little bowl with strawberries in it.  All of the strawberries except one are about the size of a nickel.  One is more than twice that big (think of the biggest strawberry in the supermarket strawberry basket).  My host mom tells me that that one is for me.  “There were three big ones,” she says, “I ate one, my husband ate one, and we saved the last one for you, because you are part of our family.”

Posted in Life & Such, Photo, Reflections

Backcountry Roads

“While traveling onward, on a backcountry road, I came on the village where first I grew.  I stopped to climb up the hills once again, looking back down on the gray slate roofs”

These words from the song Timeless Skies by Al Stewart frequently wander through my mind as I make my way around the village of Costești.  I find myself stopping frequently to notice the everyday beauty of these “backcountry roads”. (click to enjoy larger images)



I am intrigued my the contrasts.  Powerlines by ancient wells.  Satellite dishes side by side with traditional tinwork.  And I hear the ending of the same song:

“I left the village behind in the night, to fade like a sail on the darkening sea.  The shifts and changes in the patterns of life, will weather it more than the centuries.”