Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Site

So I was officially sworn in as a PCV on November 16th. I wasn't sure I would see that day come to fruition - well with me being included anyway. Its something I worried about from the beginning. Would I be able to learn the language? That was probably my biggest fear. While I sat in the auditorium during the ceremony - it finally hit me - here I am...this is it! The ambassador was there, as well as dignitaries from the Moldovan government and the Moldovan press. Thirty-four of us made it to swearing in. Three others left during PST for one reason or another. Immediately after the ceremony, we met with our partners. They loaded our baggage in their cars and took us to our new sites. So I sat in the car on the way to move in with a family I had only met once before...and for only 30 Min's at that. The stream of emotions that I had experienced a little over 2 months ago while moving in with my first family where all being replayed now as I prepared for this next sure-to-be-awkward meeting. So with the language skills of a child I met my new family. I'm living with a couple in their mid-fifties I assume. They have two boys who are both living and studying in Romania's capital Bucuresti. Maria and Vosile, both speak 3 languages: Russian, Romanian, and French. I've taken over the bedroom once occupied by their children. At first, they were a little overwhelming - following me around and saying stuff I didn't understand. But now they seem to have toned down a bit and leave me alone.
The week following swearing-in we had a all-volunteer conference in the capital. Just so happens that this conference falls on Thanksgiving. Its the only time during the year that all the volunteers are together. Its tradition here that the volunteers take over the kitchen of the hotel we stay at and prepare a Thanksgiving feast for everyone in Peace Corps as well as the Americans from the Embassy here. So there were about 300 of us trying to make as much out of Thanksgiving as we could. I had the grand idea that we should dress as Indians and Pilgrims to give the street folk something to talk about. So myself and some other volunteers set off to find props to make our wardrobe. After walking the streets of Chisinau for hours all we found was a hand full of feathers and a platinum blond wig with pinkish orange highlights. So the grand scheme didn't come off as planned - of course I had imagined a room full of scantily clad Pocahontas like girls teamed with their Pilgrim counter-parts. I helped fashion a head-dress with the feathers - which was a big hit by the way. And the pink wig developed a personality of its own, being worn by a PST site mate of mine. Anyway, a good time was had by all even though it wasn't at all like being home with family. Although, it beats what I did last year - I worked all day Thanksgiving and through the night getting ready for Black Friday. After Thanksgiving we continued with the conferences: Security and safety, discussion with the ambassador, and a very interesting Avian bird flu seminar.
Now I'm back in my village and back to the situation at hand: what exactly am I supposed to be doing? So today I sat in my office for the third day in a row.....alone. My partner randomly leaves the office and sometimes never returns. I'm trying to be the good volunteer and do as they tell us "Go to work everyday from 8 - 5 and show them that you are professional". But so far I'm not so sure anyone cares if I'm professional. I've decided to try to be proactive in resolving my boredom. Last night asked my family to help me find a tutor so that my language doesn't go down the drain. The PC provides 40 lei/hr to volunteers so that we can find tutors in our villages. That equals about $3/hr. Not bad considering the pay here. To my surprise my mama gazda picked up the phone and called the English teacher at the school. After a short discussion she handed me the phone and I spoke with her in English about tutoring me. While I had her on the phone I mentioned to her that I would like to help her teach her English classes. She seemed very excited and so we will meet later in the week to discuss the details. Almost all of the volunteers here teach English at some point. One of the other volunteers working in community development said I would soon have my own little cult of Moldovan children running around speaking with a Georgia accent.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mincare Moldovaneasca

My take on Moldovan food:
First of all I have to express my geniune interest with the ever-present salom (sausage). Its everywhere you go....and it comes with a free-gift-with-purchase...the smell. It smells interesting and the ones who eat it take on the smell, which is extremely pleasant when riding on a reutira.(bus sorta thing with people crowded in like clowns in a circus car) By the way my host mom packs salom in my lunch everyday, and everyday I have to dispose of it simply because of the smell.
Traditional Masa: (food)
I had the pleasure to attend my 2nd masa on Sunday. Masa's are a huge feast where the women prepare food and people come by in groups and sit at the table to eat. On Sunday I counted 57 small platers of food. All of the platters are small and when one becomes empty they quickly replace it with a new dish. Its very different than a family gathering in the states. The food is very interesting, for example:
Chicken jello complete with a whole rooster head - including the little spiky red thing on top of the head
Whole raw fish - complete with the eyes, smell, and garnished with something green
Fried mystery meat - just bad enough to make you want some sort of condiment to pour all over it
All of this comes complimentary with flies. This is the good part - there are no serving spoons. Everyone eats out of the main dish even though everyone has been given a small saucer to eat off of. So at any given point in the meal there are arms reaching over and around you with their fork But the best part is that they serve wine with everything! There were 12 of us at the table and they had ONE glass that was passed around to each person. After you drank the wine you have to pass it back to the person with the wine and the refilled the galss and gave it to the next person.
Needles to say I expereinced a little culture shock and I had to leave and go buy a bottle of water. During the entire meal they kept telling me eat, EAT! I guess my face must have had a confused look on it?
During the meal they kept asking me about how rich americans are and how much money I made in America, and how much a house, apartment cost. I feel bad for them and lie often trying to not make the situation worse. They have no problems asking personal questions. They are blown away by the fact that I do not get paid for my time as a volunteer....they aren't able to comprehend the idea.
Sorry if there are tons of mistakes in my typing I typed this really fast.

here i go again

Okay, so I'm going to tryt he Blog thing again! I really wish I was better at expressing all that is happening here. There are so many things that are so different its hard to pick something to talk about. But today I'll tell you how Moldovans wash clothes.
So I hadn't washed my clothes since I got here. And you can imagine that my pile was getting larger everyday. While in Chisinau (the city) I went to the market (piata - see the pictures in my slide show) and actually found TIDE laundry detergent. Lemon scent and all - i was very excited to get home and take care of my growing laundry problem. So the next day I told my mama gazda (host mother) that I wanted her to show me how to wash my clothes. When she sent me to the neighbors house to get some water I was really confused but she obviously knew what she was talking about. So I returned with a pale of water and she looked at me with a "are you crazy look" on her face. She sat the pale of water down and then walked me back to the neighbors house and took me over near the outhouse where they have a large tank that collects the rain water from the roof of the house. For a moment it all made since! Then she lifted the pale out of the tank. Just for a moment imagine the ..most interesting pool water you have ever seen. Yeah thats it - green, slimy, and full of mosquito larve. Okay, so then she looked up at me with a happy face assuming that now it was clear to me. I'm not sure exactly what my body language was saying to her - but rest assured i wasn't as happy as she was. I tried to make it clear that i wanted to w a s h my clothes. Probaly just saying the same phrase only louder and slower, as if that would help her understand.
Well we returned home and she poured the water through a t-shirt to remove the larve. Then she poured in some laundry powder and made suds in the water - showing me that now the water was good to use. So the lemon fresh Tide was not so fresh - it barely could cover the smell of the rancid water. Anyway, I began to wash my clothes and then I noticed that my host mother was watering the flowers with the first pale of CLEAN water that I got. I was completely blown away. How could it make since to her to use clean water to water the flowers but made me wash my clothes in the most interesting water I have ever seen. I have decided to wait until she isn't home to do my laundry the next time.
She asked me if I had to wash my clothes in America - to which I responded yes! Then I motioned with my hands that I put them in a container and push a button! She laughed

Language Barrier

Its amazing how much you can communicate without speaking. The first day I went home with my host family I was overly anxious and worried about how we would communicate. But surprisingly we were able to get the point across. And if all else fails we just smile and I give a fake laugh - its great. We are just finishing our first full week of language training and its funny how many of us speak in broken english now. I'm amazed at how fast we are all picking up on the language.
My family is very curious about everything. They constantly ask how much things cost - my computer, my camera, my ipod. My "mamagazda" or host mother had her grandchild over and I took his picture and showed them how it transfered to the computer - they were blown away.
The country of Moldova is a very beautiful place. But you are constantly being reminded that this place was once under Soviet rule. The streets are in really bad condition and strewn with trash. Its not uncommon to see loads of dumped trash on the side of the road. Also there are many buildings that are just a shell - having never been completed after Moldova became an independant country in 1991. Everyone has a large fence around their home with a gate near the road. Behind the gate, many of the yards are well maintained with flower plantings and fruit trees. Just beyond the gate - the road is filled with litter and fieces from cows, horses, geese, chickens, and dogs. I asked why they don't pick up the trash and the response makes sense. They said that many the people are used to living when the soviets ran everything and the only thing people had control over was their property behind the gate. So they spent all of their efforts taking care of thier personal property and left the streets to be taken care of by the government. Once the Soviet Union disbanned there was noone to take care of the streets - so everyone just overlooks it because the current government can not afford to sustain proper sanitation. Almost every house has a well and 90% of the wells are contaminated with heavy metals, bacteria, and parasites. We were provided a distiller, brita filter, and clorine tablets.
The house I live in is very nice compared to some of the other homes. My room is obviously what was the dining room before I came - so I keep my stuff in the china cabinet. I have a door to the outside balcony, which is nice in the morning.
anyway enough for now -rt