Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Products in Moldova

So I never really thought when I signed up for the Peace Corps I would have high speed DSL installed in my room, a cell phone, and a blog like this updated whenever wanted. I'm not complaining because there are plenty of other challenges outside of conditions, but I do bring it up because of the impressions I had before writing an application to the Peace Corps. I thought I would be in a tent somewhere without a bath. Within the application process they ask what kinds of conditions you would be comfortable in where and I said "I am open to any conditions," giving me the feeling I would be somewhere really rural. Wait a second, I am somewhere rural! This leads me to an odd observation I make daily about Moldova with all of its products available.

Moldova has almost everything commercially available to it that other countries have, yet the salaries here do not match the available products. It is kind of an odd combination. I think it forces Moldovans to strive to a level they shouldn't. Almost everyone, even in villages have cell phones. Companies like Orange have got their fingers in almost every community, and I can buy more prepaid minutes for my cell in any village store. But cell phones is not where it gets complicated. This gets more complicated with larger more expensive items like a fridge, car, or TV. These items are often priced in Euros, while people here use the Lei as currency. If it is priced in Lei, it is very high compared to the average annual salary.

I think the availability of commercial products complicates the level of development Moldova is in, and forces a Moldovan to strive beyond their means. I think all of the available products are in the faces of Moldovans daily, plus Russian television pollutes the Moldovan mind as they think that ‘this’ is the level that they need to be living at, yet the prices are so high that it is nearly impossible for a Moldovan to afford many products if they are living on a Moldovan salary without remittances from family members. I say this because in order for any Moldovan to buy this they have to have a family member work abroad to afford it. I think that with this complication it may even force some to work abroad as they feel they belong on that level, with 'those' products.

Some of the luckiest Moldovans I have seen have an extra apartment that they rent out, making money off of the rent it brings. If it is in the capital city they can normally live off of the money this brings, but this is a more uncommon situation.

I think many of these things I notice because I am an outsider coming into Moldova's culture. Especially living in a village where I see the true level that Moldovans are living at. When I come into the capital city Chisinau I am bombarded by all sorts of products available that the average villager would never be able to afford, but maybe because it is available and around them they strive to. When the only real means for making money is work abroad, I think this could almost force people into work abroad. I feel that many see all the available products surrounding them, and they feel a sense of belonging in 'that' life so urge themselves to make money in order to live on the best level they see available to them. The problem with this is that the price often comes with many sacrificing themselves to work abroad, while not investing their time, energy, and knowledge here in there own country. As a simple observer it makes me nervous. This issue gets even more complicated when you considering the level that Moldovans were living under during Soviet rule for 50 years. If that does not give them a sense of belonging on a higher standard of living, and now dropping back some I don't know what would.