Have you seen the series Outlander? Or maybe read the books? They feature an English nurse at the end of World War 2 who is unexpectedly transported to 1740s Scotland. On the bus coming home from Chişinău I watched an episode in which our nurse is traveling with a group of Scots. She is surrounded by people from the place where she currently lives, but is not from. They understand the way things work in that world in a way that she, the outlander, does not. Most of the time they are friendly towards her, but sometimes they are suspicious, since the two countries (England and Scotland) have not always been friends. They are bilingual, and she understands only one of the languages they speak. They frequently joke among themselves in the other language. And I feel a great kindred for this character, as I realize, there on my bus, that all of these statements apply to me and my fellow travelers, as well!
In the summer, I was astonished at how quickly things dried. Wet sidewalks, laundry on the line, puddles, all dried much more quickly than in the humid Gulf Coast city where I grew up. This fall, I walked to school on roads of baked, dried earth. Then the winter rainy season hit, and now those streets are covered in glod (“glode”*). Mud. Walking to school has become a little more complicated! And this morning some of the mud puddles were covered in a glassy layer of ice. Winter is making its presence felt! Maybe next Wednesday’s word will be gheață (ice)!
“It’s snowing!” I crowed joyfully to one of my advanced English students. “Mmm-hmm,” she replied, already bored with the subject. Clearly snow is more of a big deal for a girl from south Alabama (where it last snowed about 20 years ago) than for someone who has spent every winter of her life in Moldova!
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
So, three weeks ago I tripped over a doorway. No big deal, right? Wrong. Three weeks later the swelling in my gleznă (ankle) hasn’t gone down. So this week I got to experience the awesomeness of the Peace Corps medical office. Peace Corps takes very good care of its people, and after a couple of attempts to solve the problem with medication alone, I was whisked away to a lovely modern medical facility here in Chișinău. The Peace Corps doctor accompanied me to get X-rays taken and made sure I understood everything that was said (you really understand the importance of a translator when someone tells you to roll over and you have to ask them to repeat it more slowly!). In the physical therapy department she consulted extensively with the therapist and went to great lengths to make sure I understood and was comfortable with everything that took place. State-of-the-art ultrasound, TENS and magneto therapy were all available. All in all, I’ve been tremendously impressed with the level and quality of care. I’m sure my gleznă (“glez-nuh”*) will be 100% again as soon as humanly possible!
Like many people I know, I recently saw the new Justice League movie. Unlike most of them, I was in a movie theater in a small Post-Soviet republic in Eastern Europe. Like them, I entered the theater, bought tickets and popcorn, and put on a pair of 3D glasses. Unlike them, I was treated to previews (and possibly advertisements, who knows?) in Russian, with Cyrillic characters. As I enjoyed the movie, I pondered more subtle ways in which my experience probably differed from theirs.
You see, in this movie there’s a sub-plot where we discover a family in peril in a small Russian village. When this family spoke to each other in Russian, most of my American acquaintances probably heard something very exotic, outside their common experience; I had just heard Russian-language movie previews. The person at my side and everyone behind me understood what was being said; in America they probably had subtitles.
A little further into the movie, during a pitched battle in the same area of Russia (spoiler alert!) Superman threw a huge building at the forces of evil. He threw what looked to me like a Cold-War era Soviet apartment building. In fact it looked a lot like the building where I had slept the night before. I wonder what it looked like to my friends back home?
Putting on 3D glasses results in a completely different experience. Without them the images on the screen are doubled, distorted, and flat. Don the glasses and suddenly everything jumps into a sharp, surprising, very different perspective. Experience is like that. What I saw, filtered through the lens of my own recent experiences, couldn’t help but be different from what was seen by others with different sets of experiences; different lenses. Noticing the differences, trying to understand from both points of view, is kind of what the Peace Corps experience is all about. Developing… double vision.
Last Tuesday our town celebrated Hram. What is hram? Well it tends to be translated as “Village Day”, “Town Day”, or “City Day”. Once a year, each town or village takes a day to celebrate its existence! The date for each place coincides with the saint’s day for the patron saint of the town’s largest church. (Our church is named for the archangels Michael and Gabriel). Here is a glimpse of this year’s Hramului Cahul.
Click for larger pictures, or mouse-over to see (lovely informative) captions.
Bonus! Here’s a 28-second snippet from the ceremony blessing the town: