My host mom laughed at me when I took this picture. She doesn’t think it really counts as cooking, since all she did was cut up a pumpkin (from her garden!) and put it in the oven, with maybe a little vegetable oil. Bostan din Cuptor (“Bost-ahn deen coop-tor”)* just means “pumpkin from the oven.” But it sure tastes good!
Doesn’t this key look like it ought to open a pirate treasure chest? Or a secret room in a spooky old mansion? Or the final clue to solve some deep ancient mystery? Actually it’s just the key to the office where I keep my things at school (although I secretly think of it as my Harry Potter key). Using this cheie (“kay-ee-ay”*) — this key — almost always makes me smile.
Random Cool Thing about Moldova (#2): Stores that sell all different kinds of candy (mostly chocolate!!) by weight. Yummmmmmm! (And one of the many reasons I won’t be going home any slimmer than I arrived).
My host mom loves to try out different treats on me. When she brought these out she said “these are cookies made with corn flour.” Biscuits de Porumb(beess-cu-eats day pour-oomb”*) just means cookies from corn. I was curious to try them, and I like them very much. In my head I call them “cornbread cookies” because they taste kind of like sweet (Jiffy) cornbread only even sweeter, with a denser texture, almost like butter cookies.
P.S. Yeah, I know it’s Saturday. Life happens. Deal. 🙂
Some of the sixth grade English students had to memorize this little poem. When I first heard it I wondered why yellow was the color they had chosen for Autumn (my experience includes Autumns with red, green, yellow, orange, and mixed-color leaves). Now I’m seeing the reason. Check out Toamnă (“Twahm-nuh”*) — Autumn, in Moldova:
This picture and the next one were taken 5 days apart.
Look how many leaves have fallen in just 5 days!
Girls from my school enjoying the beautiful leaves!
(Note that the top middle two pictures are the same place, only 5 days apart. In the second one looooottttss of leaves are now on the ground!)
The text in one of the 4th grade lessons has a student pretending to be the teacher. So to start the class, we got this volunteer to be the “teacher” and review the previous lesson’s vocabulary with the class. As you can see, it was a big hit!
I know two words in Romanian for “cheese”. The yellow kind from the store is called cașcaval (“cahsh-cah-vahl”*) but this more common, locally produced cheese is called brânză (“broon-zuh”**). Wikipedia says it’s from sheep milk, but I’ve been told there is brânză from cow and goat milk as well. It’s somewhat reminiscent of feta cheese, but with a sharper taste, a little bit like ricotta and a little bit like roquefort. It’s used very commonly here in all kinds of food, from crumbling it on top of fried eggs to baking it inside of pastries, to name just two. Since the taste is sharp, tangy and salty, most Volunteers report that they either love it or hate it.
**Pronunciation even more approximate than usual. The â really doesn’t exist in English. It sounds kind of like the French eu in “fleur” but not quite.
Trandafir (“trahn-dah-feer”)* means rose. I’m so impressed with the roses in Moldova. There were roses blooming when we arrived in early June, and there are roses blooming now, in mid-October. The weather has gone from blisteringly hot to wear-your-hat-and-scarf cold; vegetables have matured, been harvested, and the remains plowed under; other varieties of flowers have come and gone, and still the roses bloom on and on. No wonder I see them planted everywhere! The rose in this picture is one of my favorite varieties, with petals that are orangey on the edges and brilliant yellow in the center. Absolutely no filters were used on this photo, honest! The flower is really that color!
What did you do this Saturday? I got to accompany a 9th grade class and their teacher on a trip from Cahul (in the far south of Moldova) to the Fortress of Soroca (in the far north). Along the way we visited several other interesting places and saw a lot of the gorgeous Moldovan countryside.
The adventure began at 5:00 AM sharp, when the bus pulled out of Cahul. Although it was dark, cold and drizzling rain, the bus was full of excitement. Kids had brought blankets and pillows. Someone passed the bus driver a flash drive full of music, and everyone settled in for a long ride.
A couple of hours later we stopped for a “five minute” restroom break. Then the students discovered that they could buy coffees to go. They bought so many cups of cappuccino, latte, etc. that the employee had to refill the machine twice! After a few more hours of travel we stopped to eat some of the food we had packed. Everyone shared what they had brought, and there was a holiday atmosphere and lots of kidding around. Finally, around noon, we reached Soroca Fortress, on the bank of the Nistru River. (Click the pictures & check out the captions)
Soroca fortress was originally built by the famous Ștefan cel Mare in 1499
The original wooden fortress was rebuilt in stone in the 1540s.
The Nistru river. The fort originally provided defense against river attacks
Intresting juxtaposition of ancient architecture and cutting edge technology.
The village of Soroca, traditional and modern
Park next to the fortress
Tiny, deep-set windows provided better defense
Interesting house down the street
In the town of Soroca, we visited the so-called “Gypsy Hill” famous for its Roma residents and their distinctive architecture (see here for more information)
Next we headed out into the countryside to the village of Cosăuți and its monastery. We didn’t enter the monastery itself, since none of the girls had on skirts, and most had nothing to cover their head with, but we did walk around the grounds and visit a springhouse (I think?) with gorgeous metalwork on the roof. (Click for captions)
In the village of Cosăuți
Cosăuți, or nearby.
That’s Ukraine in the background!
Next up on the itinerary was the Lumânarea Recunoştinţei or Thanksgiving Candle monument, which sits on a hill overlooking the Nistru River. Looking out over the river from the base of the monument (after climbing 657 steps!), there are gorgeous views into Ukraine. The monument was erected in 2004, and is a remembrance of all the anonymous heroes of Moldova, who have helped to preserve its traditions. Shaped like a candle, it is lit up at night and can be seen far to the north and south. (Click for captions)
The Thanksgiving Candle sits high on a hill.
Over the door of the monument.
The Nistru River. That’s Ukraine on the right.
Back on the bus, we spent quite some time travelling south before stopping for another packed meal. I learned that the Moldovan countryside is truly beautiful, and that even though I don’t speak any Russian at all, I can mostly understand what’s going on in Russian-language movies (I think I saw four, total, in the course of the day). One final stop was at a small zoo, on the outskirts of Chișinau, the capital. At this point it was raining and starting to get dark, but that didn’t dim the students’ enthusiasm. (click for captions)
The sign says not to feed them, but they sure act like they expect to be fed!
Is that a yak?
They have a donkey named “Shrek”!
Finally we climbed back on the bus to enjoy more Russian movies on the way home. We arrived back in Cahul about 9:45 PM, tired but happy from a long, full, very interesting day!
How could we make teachers feel even more appreciated than the awesomeness of Thursday? (See this post) What if we put them on a bus, take them to a camp in the woods, give them an excellent meal and lots of music, singing, and dancing, with some poetry and toasts thrown in for variety?
Well, probably those weren’t the words used by the Teachers’ Syndicate when they planned our Friday afternoon event, but that’s pretty much the way it turned out! Click the pictures and read the captions to find out all the details!
A chartered bus took us to this campsite. Music played as we entered.
Faculty members were already there, grilling (these look like sausage but taste like hamburger).
Stirring the stewed lamb meat.
Tasting the stew.
They insisted I taste it too!
This fellow was full of life and joy! Here he’s parading around with the giant spoon, accompanied on the tin bowl by another faculty member.
All this is the food to eat BEFORE the main food is finished cooking!
Administration sat at the head table. The principal is about to offer a toast
I’m told this is “new wine” pressed this season.
New wine, made at home, and considered to be better and fresher than “that factory-made stuff”.
There were many toasts to the teachers!
Teachers dancing the hora. This was spontaneous, but everyone knew the steps. Wish I did!! Lots and lots of dancing went on, all afternoon and evening.
This dance involves choosing a partner by putting the handkerchief around their neck.
After a brief dance together, they must kneel on the handkerchief and give you a hug (or kiss) then it’s their turn to choose a partner.
The afternoon also included singing, both by individuals and (as here) the whole group singing along.
One of our directors recites poetry praising the teachers
What a wonderful celebration! I love that when Moldovans celebrate, they do it with tremendous joy and enthusiasm. I am so fortunate to have shared in the festivities!