Being from USA a lot of times people are inevitably comparing, or asking me to compare, my country with Moldova. I often get questions, or assumptions like something is “mai rău decît voi, da?” Something being worse than you all right? I often have to let them people know that America is not perfect. The easiest things I can explain is that, “we have problems, just different problems than you have here.”
In case I have not mentioned it in other blogs posts, Moldovans right now have a situation which forces, if not tempts them to live abroad because salaries are small and jobs are not available here. With an unstable political situation many Moldovans do not jump at the idea of investing in anything other than the construction of their own homes. To generalize, but not so far off, Moldovans work abroad to survive a lot of the time. This I have observed from living in my village and visiting others.
My host father has been working abroad for the last 10 years. He is home now, and has been for just over a month, probably one of the biggest stays he has had in his own home for these 10 years. Due to the point that Moldovans are constantly searching for work abroad, they often are comparing prices and talking of exchange rates. In Chişinău you can find somewhere to exchange currencies on every block.
Since this situation with Moldovans exists, where it's citizens are so hungry to immigrate to other countries for a better salary there are a lot of restrictions on immigration. I believe it is quite difficult to get the paperwork straight to leave to other countries if you are Moldovan. Moldovans in some ways are trapped here. Though they can go to Ukraine and Russia freely (if I have understood correctly), but other than that I believe they need visas. Visas are in high demand, therefore the situation is difficult.
All of this leads me to a frustration am forced to explain. Moldovans, since they are so concerned on getting to other countries to make money for their home here, where 11 lei equals 1 dollar US, they often ask me how much things cost. In training we have discussed that you can just deny these sorts of things, and often I do, but sometimes I just feel like that is not solving anything. Last night for instance at dinner my host father was asking me while pointing to a loaf of bread “Chris, how much does this cost in America?” This is not an unusual situation. I sighed, and said, “three dollars.” For Moldovans they think “wow, you're so rich, here that is only 3 lei.” Or maybe they just think I'm crazy because I'm spending 33 lei on bread?
Because many Moldovans are centered upon moving to make money back home they are only concerned on how much another country's currency can do for them here in Moldova. In this situation I just mentioned with the bread I had to go on to explain, “listen, this is not crazy, the price of living in America is more expensive, and salaries are bigger there, but that doesn't mean I'm rich.” Well that is what I tried to explain, or attempted to with my language. I final response when the conversation got more complicated was direct: “Americans aren't living in Moldova.” I was not saying it in a degrading way, I just think I had to figure out a way to shift their minds away from how much a salary abroad would do for them here.
At times living here it is difficult to exchange responses with a Moldovan. Each of us volunteers have these situations everyday, and each of us has some kind of calculated and constructed responses for such situations. It is a sticky situation to be asked “hey, your country is better than ours right?” or “This is better in America right?” and when you have a complex response to explain in another language it is tough. I often finding myself explaining that I like it here more, because in some ways I honestly do. People live simply here and they know it, it is what they love. These people value family and food, and spending time with both around a table. These people have culture and traditions to follow. In many ways I wish I had such back home.
Moldova has found itself in a complicated situation right now. It is fighting its way through a lot of things both politically and economically. I believe people will continue to work abroad for some time, and stay concerned upon this until their situation begins to resolve itself. The resolution is complex, and will take some trust within their country to invest. Moldovans are a hard working people. Yes many may work abroad, and many more quite likely will, but I believe with Moldova's traditions people have something to hold onto in their country. They are a proud people. Some do stay abroad, but many also do return to live their lives here because of their traditions and family. Moldova is developing, and as it develops more returning Moldovans will have incentive to invest in businesses, organizations, and other institutions here. This all happens with trust and time.