Posted in Life & Such, Peace Corps, People, Photo

“I am a Peace Corps Volunteer”

So, I’ve been here in Cahul (in the South of Moldova) for just about 2 weeks.  It’s already starting to seem familiar.  Strange to realize that just a short time ago I lived in a different town with different people, had different everyday activities, was surrounded by many more people who were on the same Peace Corps journey as I was, and was still focused forward toward the time when my service would actually start.  Then came Swearing In Day, August 16th, which marked the moment when I stopped being a trainee and became a volunteer.  That evening I shared the photos below on Facebook, with the commentary you see below it.  (I’m re-posting them here for those of you who don’t do FB. Mouse over the images to see captions, or click on them for a larger version.)

Wow, what a day! I began my morning bright and early (van comes at 7:00, be at the gate with your luggage!) as a Peace Corps Trainee in the village of Costești, and am about to end my day as a Peace Corps Volunteer (wow!) three hours further south, in the town of Cahul. In between, I danced, ate, swore the same oath that the president swears on taking office, got interviewed by Radio Free Europe, said goodbye-for-now to some incredible people (miss you already), hugged a lot of necks, spent a long time in a minibus, and was warmly welcomed to my new home with a ton of food. I am stunned by the number of experiences packed into the last 17 hours. And I am thrilled to pieces that I can finally say (after many years of considering, and more than a year of working towards it) “I am a Peace Corps Volunteer!”

Bonus! Video of the first dance we performed at Swearing In!

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Posted in Culture, Life & Such, Peace Corps, People, Photo

Ziua Independenței!

Today Moldova celebrated 26 years of independence!  Today is Ziua Independenței (“zee-wah in-deh-pen-den-tsay”*), Independence Day.  Here in Cahul, there has been a parade, dancing, singing, poetry, speeches from local, national and international dignitaries as well as local schoolchildren, handicrafts, and more dancing.  Still to come: music and fireworks (So watch for updates!).  Here are some of the highlights (mouse over the pictures for captions, or click for larger versions):

 

Food Friday: “Coteț de Găini”

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Rolling the dough; adding the filling.

At the dining-room table, Elena and Sașa are preparing something.  Elena has rolled the dough into spiral logs, then sliced them.  Now she is carefully rolling the resulting nuggets into circles of dough.  Sașa generously fills each with a spoonful of something, and pinches the sides to make a triangular pie.  At first I think she is adding fruit filling, but on closer inspection and questioning, it turns out to be raw chicken bits and chopped onions, with a little pepper and salt.

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In the oven, the tartlets turn a delicious golden brown

My friends direct me to the kitchen, where previous batches are already  baking.  They smell wonderful, and the dough is turning a rich, flaky golden brown.

When I ask the name of these delicious little chicken-pie thingies, my host mom gets a puzzled look on her face.

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The finished product

After consulting with her friend, she tells me they don’t really have a name.  That evening, the nameless but scrumptious tartlets are served at a family meal and I ask the name again. Nobody can say.  Sașa’s sister jokingly names them Coteț de Găini (coh-tets day guh-ee-nee”)*  which means “chicken coop”.

 

 

 

 

 

*Pronunciation approximate

Posted in Language, Places

Word Wednesday: Școală

Școală (“shkwah-luh”*) means school.  The first day of the school year in Moldova is next Friday, September 1st, so this week, teachers are busy getting ready.  I will be working at a school that includes grades 1-12, helping in the English classes for grades 3,4,6,8,9, and 12 (this sounds like a lot, but most grades only have English two days a week).  Here is one of the English classrooms, early last Monday morning, as all the preparations were just beginning.

img_2156 *pronunciation approximate

Posted in Culture, Food, Life & Such, Peace Corps, People

Ziua Mea de Nastere (My Birthday!)

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Cake and “champagne” in my shopping basket 

A scant four days after moving here to my permanent site, yesterday was my birthday!  Having read up on Moldovan customs and consulted with a nearby PCV, I knew I was supposed to provide treats for my family, so I set off some time after breakfast in search of cake and champagne.  I discovered that 1) the market area in downtown Cahul is really hopping on Sundays!  2) there is a really fancy and expensive bakery and 3) there are not-so-fancy but perfectly nice cakes at the grocery store across the street.  Which also sells champagne (okay, it was made in Moldova, so technically it’s sparkling wine, but everyone calls it champagne).

When I brought out my grocery-store cake and fake champagne, there was a huge bustle to find the appropriate lovely china plates and beautiful cut-glass wineglasses.  I opened a “champagne” bottle for the first time in my life, and my health and success were toasted.  Then it transpired that my host family (who had known me for 3.5 days) had gifts!   I was serenaded with La Mulți Ani (the Moldovan birthday song), and we all enjoyed the cake.  I am touched by the kindness of these people and their efforts to make my birthday memorable.

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Enjoying birthday treats (note the awesome china and glassware).

But that’s not all… as we were eating dinner that night, suddenly about six new people arrived, who all turned out to be relatives (I never did really get straight who was who).  More chairs and tables appeared, as well as a lot more food: fried fish, pickled fish, chicken-pie thingies, tomatoes, apple placinte, vegetables, brânză, two kinds of wine, mamaliga, beef, bread, baked peppers, etc.  It turned out to be a farewell party for the granddaughter, Anastasia, who was leaving in the morning to return to her university in Moscow.

So, ten people at the table, speaking very fast Romanian mixed liberally with Russian, talking on top of each other.  I try hard but I can’t follow a lot of what’s being said.  At least once Anastasia looks at me, smiles and shakes her head, knowing I can’t unscramble the mix of languages flowing around me.  A couple of times someone (usually the nice dark-haired lady. Angela? Angelica?) asks me a question and everyone stops to listen to my fumbling answers.  Yes, I have family in the states.  Of course I miss them, but I’m excited for the new experiences here.  I’ve only studied Romanian for 10 weeks. I’m here for two years, helping with English at the school. There are 51 other volunteers all over Moldova. I don’t really know what the COD volunteers do, but here are a few examples. Yes, I’ll stay here in the summer, when the school is closed.

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My birthday gifts.  (The plaque with the dancers because we volunteers danced at swearing-in.)

One of the guests passes around her cell phone with pictures of her new black cat, whose name is Obama.  Everyone looks at me out of the corner of their eyes to see how I take this little joke.  As people start to pick at the food, chocolates are brought out, and coffee is offered.  People drift away from the table, and I am surprised by how tiring it has been to listen attentively to strangers in a language I barely know.  A truly amazing birthday from start to finish.

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

The life of everyday…