Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Tale and Other Stuff

A good story of me using Romanian well was an excursion my host mom sent me on last week. I got home from a long day and my host mom explained by drawing a map that I needed to find a neighbor because there they have a pear tree and she wanted a sack full of pears. The map my mom drew and the landmarks were rediclious. She would explain go past a well, there is a chair, and then there is a house with a blue truck that is huge for industrial purposes. I was pumped and ready to set off. Little did she know that there are two houses with these old industrial trucks. Also she told me that the woman's house had a green gate - everybody in Moldova has a green gate.

When I thought I got to the area my treasure map indicated I went to the door and knocked. The woman I talked to was confused that there was an American with a bag. We struggled through conversation with the Moldovan security system going crazy (two dogs) in the background. This process continued for me, one house to the next until on the third I believed I was in the right place - or what one of the neighbors said was the right place. Sadly this pear woman was not home. I was bummed because I really wanted to succeed in my quest. After I went back home the pear lady called my host mom. I was off again. When I arrived there the woman felt bad, but I was in a great mood. There we picked pears and talked for about a half an hour or more. After this we sat in her kitchen and she poured me some lemonade soda.

In her kitchen we talked for a long time and we actually understood one another. This was a great breakthrough for me because I was pretty bummed early in the week about how difficult the language was. Also after I left I ran into a couple of guys my age on the street and had a conversation with them both and we understood each other. I even think I was conjigating verbs correctly - yipee. After awhile the father of these two guys wanted to get me to go and drink a bottle of wine with them - a very common offering in Moldova. I told them that I couldn't this time, but maybe another time. It is best to avoid these offerings from time to time in Moldova, because as soon as you have one taste of the wine they won't let you go until you have drank too much. You can say no, but it is a battle after they have been drinking, and for them it is likely I am the first American they have seen.

Anyway, this week was a good one. I spoke and carried a legitimate conversation. Yesterday I went to an amazing masa (huge meal with tons of food). There I tried congac for the first time, and hung around with my host mom's daughter (it was her birthday). Also this week I went to the biggest underground wine cellar in the world Milisti Mici. Underground there are barrells the size of houses and thousands and thousands of bottles. The wine was delicious and I bought a couple of bottles. On a different front my host dad is in the hospital right now, but we visited him and he seems to be doing pretty good. It is a bummer though because he has been in the hospital for three weeks (half the time I have been here). I think he will come back before I leave for my new village and be impressed with how much better I can speak Romanian. Anyway, for now I am just trying to stay positive and have as much fun as I can with the other volunteers who are near, because after we get to our real site we will not be so accessable to each other.

Oh and another big thing is the elections are Wednesday this week. I urge you to try to follow the news of what happens with it. Last time there was rioting so keep on eye on the news.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Things Done Changed"

Hey, I never get internet, but I got to an internet cafe today finally and took my jumpdrive so I could finally make a post.

Well a lot has happened since my arrival in Moldova. Upon arrival I spent two days in the capital city, Chisinau, at a hotel with the other volunteers of my group. It was all surreal in the beginning, and even more so when I arrived at a strangers home who I couldn't communicate with. I have been with my host family for three weeks or probably a little bit more by now. When I was dropped off at my host parents house I was easily the most nervous I have ever been.

Imagine me with a ton of bags in a tiny village approaching my new host parents. I happened to get assigned to an older couple, ages 69 and 66. As I carried my bags through a neighbors yard and a bunch of chickens I handed my host mother a bouquet of flowers (standard tradition in Moldova). At this point I had only had about 6 hours of language and had basically forgot any tiny pieces I had learned. As the van left I found myself stress-sweating in my new home, wondering what I had really done. My parents directed me to my new room, which is basically the fancy pants living room of the house and helped me set up my bed. My bed is basically a pull out couch futon thing. It is not the best but I really can't complain.

While we were in my new room they sat me down at a table to talk, but all I could really do was laugh nervously. I had no idea what to say and my host parents were just laughing at me and saying things in another language that I didn't understand – probably that I was blushing. I laughed with them and proceeded to the tour of my new home. My house, like almost every house in Moldova, has an extensive fruit and vegetable garden. The first couple of weeks here I spent a lot of time picking and munching on three types of cherries. They are delicious. They also make a drink called “suc” or “compot” which is boiled cherries, blueberries, or strawberries. It is like juice because after they boil the fruit (with sugar) it is really sweet and I honestly don't like it much, but I drink it anyway. My host parents have tons in their fridge and insist I drink it instead of water – it is an everyday battle to let me drink water instead.

Speaking of fridge I will touch quickly upon my amenities. I am one of the luckier ones in my village since my house has running water with a shower, and a washing machine for clothes. I do not have a toilet inside though, it is an outhouse which I'm getting used to. It is not like the ones in America though, just picture a hole in the ground.

There are twelve other volunteers in my village. Most are pretty lucky as far as amenities go like myself, but there are a few who have to bathe out of a bucket. This is very common, I think that the Peace Corps set most of us up with the richer of our village. The other volunteers in my village are really cool and we all get along great. They are of all ages. In all there are about 60 that came to Moldova at the same time as me, but we are all spread out to different villages during out Pre Service Training (PST).

PST is really exhausting. I have language class about four – five hours a day, six days a week. On the same days we have other classes related to Community Organizational Development. Longer days are pretty hard. Two days a week we travel to a bigger “HUB” city for other trainings, these days tend to be longer and more exhausting. It is in this city that I can get access to internet, diet coke, and hang out with other colleagues who are stationed in other villages. The language training is my main concern, and it is the main thing that I think about. Each day that I have studied I am pretty drained, and then I come home to my host parents who speak Romanian and Russian. My host mother is great because she used to teach Romanian so she can help me out with homework quite often. I find that the language is coming slowly, but I pick up a lot of what people are saying in discussion. The a few nights ago I talked to my parents and I found myself almost saying Romanian words.

My life is drastically different here. First of all beers are cheap (about eighty cents) for a half liter. Some days I get a couple with volunteers in my village and we talk about our day. Poverty is prevalent in my village, as it is all over in Moldova. People have been fairly welcoming. When I walk down my street I say hello to any passerby. This can go a few ways: they look at me like I'm are crazy since I'm an American in Moldova, are friendly, or barely say “good day” under their breath back. Some of us joke that we are celebrities of our village since everybody laughs and smiles at us (they are probably just making fun of us). A lot of people drink a lot of alcohol in Moldova. Men drink a lot of wine, and take pride in the wine that they have made. And the wine is good, but they do not drink wine like people drink wine in other countries. Culturally they drink wine very quickly, and continue to.

My host family serves me wine at dinner if I want it, but they are not big drinkers. My host dad will have a glass while we watch the Russian and Moldovan news during dinner. The first week I was here I was very nervous because I was not comfortable in my home, but I realize the last week I have shattered that barrier. My host dad does not wear a shirt ever, and my host mom continued to tell me to take of my shirt since it is really hot here (about 90 degrees everyday). She would explain not to be ashamed and that I needed to tan, so I finally just decided to loose the shirt at dinner and it is pretty sweet. On top of this I find myself wandering around in my underwear as if they are shorts (these things are not weird in Moldova, or at least in my house). The food here is amazing, more particularly my mom cooks up a storm every meal. When I say good I mean greasy and everything is carbs. My biggest problem that I always complain about is that my host mom feeds me too much. I know that sounds crazy but this woman will not give me a break. EVERY meal she give me more and more on my plate and I am only now figuring out how to make her stop. The first couple of weeks I would just laugh, but it is getting pretty serious, I think I'm going to come back from the Peace Corps 20 pounds heavier or something.

I find that each day I have very funny stories to tell. Just last week I was chasing one of my neighbors chickens down the dirt road in my shorts trying to explain to neighbors what was going on and if they had seen this chicken. I find that I do not have time to worry, or get anxiety about anything but learning the language. I expected that after I arrived it would be likely that I would get consumed with thoughts like “is this what I really want” but my days are so scheduled that I only am worried that I will miss a Romanian language concept.

On the Fourth of July front we had a large party in the capital city. All the PC volunteers of Moldova rented out a mini golf course and had a huge BBQ. I had a hamburger that was actually REALLY good. This party was awesome enough, but there isn't anything better than what we did afterwards. In our village we have a “House of Culture” which is now just a discotec. It was pretty crazy. There is huge dance floor playing Eastern Europe's finest music. Downstairs there are a ton of pool tables. Mostly the girls were really young so it was kind of weird, but we hung out on a balcony and with a fellow volunteer's host brother and sister who showed us the ropes.

I think it is important to share that I did catch my neighbor's run-away chicken. Times are going by quickly. Tomorrow I will find out the city/village I will spend two years in. I am pretty excited and nervous. One thing I am getting used to realizing is that as of late “things done changed.”