Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Moldova

Hello All,

This will be will a shorty... I am just about to head out on my vacation in Egypt, Israel and Jordan.  The benefits of not seeing the family for the holidays.   My camera didn't make it in time, but I will steal my fellow volunteers cameras from time to time to take in the surroundings for you all back home. 

It is probably going to be a little while until I post again.  Although I am pretty positive you all can take it, because I think I have done it to you a few times before... Anyhow i hope all is well.

Peace out,

P.S.  Merry Christmas


Monday, December 21, 2009

Short posts have been deemed OK by me now.

December 21, 2009—Short posts have been deemed OK by me now.

I have decided that I can leave short posts on the blog now.  Stories too long for Facebook, but shorter than what I normally considered a post on the ol’ blog.

Today I couldn’t help but laugh a little while at my favorite gym in the world.  Yes some days Клуб Здорове is the highlight of the day, which runs contrary to everything I have ever said about health clubs back in the states. Who knows, I might even gain a little bit of muscle in Moldova, which would be just be weird  and the last thing I thought I would do here. 

Anyhow, I couldn’t help have a shit-eating grin on my face while watching some Moldovans and I workout to such rock anthems as “Jingle Bell Rock”, “The Wind Beneath my Wings”, an R. Kelly song that I don’t know the name of and quite a few other songs that I can’t seem to remember now.  The comedy gold is in the same ironic vein as the anachronistic t-shirts sporting “witty” English phrases from yesteryear. 

Sometimes it is the little things that make you smile.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20, 2009—My Icy Kingdom.

December 20, 2009—My Icy Kingdom.

Snow came.  Village shut down partially.  I shoveled some snow. I stayed warm in my room.  I sledded with my 4th grade class.  I thought a lot about throwing snowballs at my annoying dog.  I watched more than my fair share of movies.  I came very close to throwing snowballs at my annoying dog.  I dreamed about my upcoming vacation. I was very cold when it was -20 degrees Celsius at night (apparently, so says the baba and partner).  I got a minor case of cabin fever.  I realized it was an acute case of laziness rather than cabin fever.   I played lots of Ping-Pong at the gym I like.  I felt better.  I did laundry.  My clothes froze.  I thawed them.  I have clean clothes now.  Life is funny.  Life is good.  Russian is hard.  Baby steps.  I am writing on my blog finally—right now.

I blame my camera being broken (a causality of war) for no blog contact over the past few weeks, at least I wish that counted as an excuse. It doesn’t, but I WILL attribute it as the very reason why there isn’t a single picture of my village covered in two feet of snow on this post.  I will do my best to describe life without accompanying charts and graphics. J

Apparently it has been 3 years since the last time it has snowed as much as it has in the last few days here.  If remember from my prior posts, the majority of the people that I talk to here are above the age of 60 or around the age of 10.   So the things that I commonly hear from the older folk around here, in Russian mind you is “ three years ago there was a storm about this size, BUT when I was a kid the snow would be over our heads and we would have to shovel tunnels through the snow to get to various places”—a rough translation, but fairly familiar isn’t it?  Much like childhood stories where our parents experienced every life experience that we have only ten-fold.  At what age do you normally realize that uphill both ways is not possible?  What should I glean from my baba’s story:  1) global warming is real? or 2) parents are liars? I am thinking both.   White liars and an overactive sense of gullibility—damn my childhood.

I really wanted some pictures of the winter wonderland here.  It is quite beautiful.  Roads mysteriously become level-looking, still have to keep the lazy eye on the road regardless of the appearance.  Luckily the open manholes don’t become completely hidden in the heavy snow, otherwise I would end up on Russian television as the scared American in the bottom of the well. 

The walls of the shoveled pathways through the courtyard of house stand just below my waist.  I can see dogs if I go out of my way to see past their personal ice castles.  The pregnant cat has been calling the outside attic home.  Practically every time I leave the house via the exit under that part of the house, I hear Даша (Dasha the cat) say a few words and then pull a Cliffhanger move to descend down the gas piping to ladder a few feet below.  The first few times it kind freaked me out, but now I just want a camera so I can film her.  If I am leaving the house in this fashion it probably means that I am going to admire my cold, cold kingdom from the vantage point of my icy, icy throne.   Oh the little big things. 

On that note I have said too much and need to go to bed. 

Love you all,


Thursday, December 10, 2009

6-month review

December 10, 2009--  6-month review

Apparently I have already been here for 6 months.  I think that calls for a moments of brief reflection.  Maybe I will do this every three-six months—absolutely no promises.

Where am I?

I am still living in a country by the name of Moldova.  It hasn’t changed much sense I have been here, although my local internet provider promises me that faster internet is right around the corner.  I have talked about the possible changing of the political regime in earlier posts.  The latest news on that subject is there is no change—again.  Moldova currently has a interim president who will be there at least until next year.  The rather large communist party declined to offer a candidate for the presidency and boycotted the vote in general, leaving the reformist parties 8 votes shy of the 61 votes that are requisite for a presidential hopeful.  Interesting, yes. Prolonged politics just like the US, yes.   I’ll keep you informed.

What am I doing?

Currently I am exploring possible projects with my partner.  I would really like to do a project growing mushrooms with local farmers, but I have yet to have found a suitable partner for that.  I am also trying to put together a presentation that is based purely on cheap alternatives to expensive store-brought products for farmers.  We will see how that one goes. It is a rather difficult thing to do. 

Other projects involve trying to figure how I can help preschools here in my village.   There are a total of 4, all of which need help in their own sort of way.  One in particular is in considerably more need than the others although getting on the same page as to what is needed has proven to be a challenge. 

The one project that I have complete faith in right now, takes places at the health club that I mentioned earlier in my blogging adventures.  The club I have realized provides a great alternative for teenagers to do something productive, other than drinking.  I, for example, can speak from experience on the things the things you teenagers resort to, when they feel there is nothing to do in town.  This particular club, despite the endless character it possesses is in desperate of some essential repairs:  a roof that is the prime culprit for the growth of mold; a floor that has been the victim of 25 years domestic abuse from the dropping of weights; and a general scrub and paint job that would spruce the place up.   I would like to organize some sort of artistic contest where a local student(s) would be able to paint or add a piece of art to the décor of the gym when the place has been completed.  A forewarning to you all, my partner in this project and I have decided that the best funding source available for this particular project would be a grant in which I request funding from various sources in the states—including you kind folks.  I will keep you updated.  This may very well be the death of this blog.    

Can I talk to people in Russian, yes or no? Answer:  kind of, sometimes, maybe, all of which are suitable answers.  It is funny how fast a normal conversation can dive into the realm of Aaron-has-no-idea-what-you-are-talking-about.  I feel like I have gotten to a level where I can in general understand what is happening in conversation around me.  With adequate time, I can contribute a decent answer that mostly likely won’t be grammatically correct, but at least it is a try.  I am excited to see what an additional six months will do for me. 

How do I occupy myself?

Occupied is not the best word for it, merely the first word that comes to mind.  Pace in general is a lot slower here, I usually spend the first half of my work day exploring possibilities for projects and having small conversations with people at work.   I usually get distracted by a decent modicum of news via about 5 different sites.  Today, for example, I explored the how to use Google Wave and how I might be able help my partners here with it, if of course they have computers.  I usually spend a good chunk of my day exploring something like that. 

After a large Bulgarian/Moldovan lunch I will study a little bit with one of my two tutors.  I usually go to tutor classes for 2 hours at a time and twice a week.  A typical class consists of trying to talk without the help of books or dictionaries. We usually simply talk about the things I have done since the last time I have seen my tutor, after my new material has run out we descend into the Russian textbooks which I was given at the start of the Peace Corps which still, not surprisingly, contain a lot of material I don’t yet know. 

After the lesson, I either play games in English with a 4th grade class or I make my way to the gym.  Hopefully I have worked up at least a couple drops of sweat from the workout, otherwise the super-sized meal that is waiting at home will add two kilograms rather than one.  I have made a promise to myself to regain my health when I return to the states, it will have to wait two years though.   

Food in general—how is it?

I already mentioned I plan to give an epic fight to regain my health when I get back to the states, that having been said I haven’t become accustomed to nearly all of the food here.  From the overly-buttered and -oiled everything, to the sheer mass amount of food consistently in front of you , to the soup appropriately described as the “fat soup” amongst volunteers.  Yes I eat it all and it is pretty good, although if I was to name a top ten of things that I miss it food items would probably make up 8 of those slots.  I have found it is really easy to miss good food.
That is all I have for the moment, I am a little tired.  How have the last 6 months treated you?  Any big news that I don’t know about?

Cheers folks,


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Limited Edition Blog

11.26.2009—Thanksgiving Limited Edition Blog

Aside from a few hangovers here and there, today is the most I have longed for home since I have been in Moldova.  Over the last few days I have been reading the news headlines about how people and turkeys have both been gaining weight over the last 5 decades, about how the Thanksgiving day parade has changed routes defying history, and of course about the black Friday deals speculation.  These sorts of things I have not and will not miss in my time here.  Although talking to the family for a little while earlier has made me realize the things that I do miss:

1)      I miss beating my brother at ping pong during holidays. (and usually picking a fight with him at some point in the night)
2)      I miss flipping my sister crap about anything in general. (I also miss her motivation for fun during the holidays)
3)      I miss that oh so good feeling of overdosing on tryptophan and falling asleep on the couch. (yes, I know that tryptophan isn’t the reason why I fall asleep after the Thanksgiving meal—it is the fact that I eat and drink like it is the last morsel and last drop of wine/beer I will ever consume)
4)      I miss getting to steal my nephew’s bed for the holidays.  (Maybe because my bed was always one of the first to go when relatives came to our house when I was young)
5)      I miss the slight shade of red and the shit-eating grin that mysteriously appear on my father’s face when he has downed a beer or two.  (He is kind of a lightweight)
6)      I miss my mother’s constant threats about how she is going to break out the wooden spoon if I don’t quit what I am doing.  (She usually gets it out but they are hollow threats in the end—she is all talk)
7)      I miss getting my 3 nephews and niece all riled up just before bed.  Making it hell for my brother and sister.
8)      I miss being the sibling without kids at the holiday, because I get to rub it in a little. J
9)      I miss how hard it is steer the Eisenbarths anywhere.  (I was once told that we are like trying to herd cats)
10)   I miss friends that are essentially family members (and all of their flaws)

Happy Thanksgiving folks



Friday, November 20, 2009

A Few Words from Your Son, Brother, Friend or Acquaintance

November 18th, 2009—A Few Words from Your Son, Brother, Friend or Acquaintance.

Hello all,

Life has been rife with experience since the last post, although I suppose that is just a perspective, whether you think I am talking about the rife or the life part. I have been on a bit of a reverse facebook binge if you will.  With all the free time allotted to me here, I feel that it is far, far too easy to slip into the blackhole (both of good and evil) that is the internet.  When you finally muster up the energy to close the internet browser then comes the black box of laziness that is the external hard drive complete with damn near every series of television that I have ever wanted/needed/never should have started watching on it.  I actually don’t consider myself to have been all that lazy over the last two weeks although there have been few moments laying in bed with a laptop on my belly, and a movie and minesweeper open on my desktop.   Something about growing up in the great generation of multi-taskers has enabled me to detect mines and simultaneously watch a serious movie out of the corner of my mind.

That all being said I have been trying to find new things in my village to entertain this mind.  I have successfully found what I previously did not believe to be in my village: a gym.  It is hands down the best gym I have ever worked out in—in my entire life.  Why?
1)      Because it lacks 50 televisions;
2)       it is the size of my old living room;
3)      its dilapidated structure has more character than any of the sterile, lifeless structures that I have seen in the states;
4)       the weights and equipment are from a very classic yesteryear variety;
5)       it has 1980’s Arnold Arnold Schwarzenegger posters all over the walls;
6)       in Moldova you are not surrounded by meatheads flexing their muscles incessantly in the mirrors, instead you are surrounded by few people rocking sweaters and tracksuits;
7)       and last and certainly not least there is an old pingpong table located in the back that has a certain holy allure to it where I get to play a whole bunch of really good Moldovans.  I am currently shooting a 50% win rate.  I’m trying to make you proud America. 
Yes I realize that it is probably just a novelty factor, although let me have my moment, maybe I will finally lose that baby chub that I have been passively trying to lose for 25 years.  

Something else interesting that happened recently was my first and second visit to the Russian dentist.  Something I must say is an experience.  The fact that I speak Russian instead of Romanian to him, I believe gained me a few brownie points, although my ability to talk about dentist-related specifics has not yet bloomed (it is high on my list), so listening to the dentist ramble on about something about teeth and the sound of the drill told me that I definitely had a cavity.  Previous to this appointment I had made plans to meet a friend of a friend in the capital.  The friend and her sister ended up being two very good-looking women, who I am sure I impressed with my incessant salivation due to a numbed mouth.   Not exactly my smoothest moment.   My tooth is fine now, although before I leave for Egypt I need to get the permanent filling put on, so maybe I will have the pleasure of telling you about another grand experience at the Russian dentist soon.

The picture that I have posted are pictures from one of the many holidays for Saints, I have a new respect for all of the saints of the past.  They give a reason for celebration, there should always be more reasons for that.  In fact tomorrow will apparently be another saintly reason to celebrate.  Maybe I will be motivated to write about it. 

Talk to you all soon


Monday, November 2, 2009

Two Weeks in the Mici

November 2nd--Two Weeks in the Mici

Howdy Folks,

I have been told that the most cliché line in blogs is “sorry that it has been so long since my last post”. I intend to never say it again or at least never again apologize for my inconsistency whichever way you prefer to view it.

These past two weeks I have been staying in a different village named Milestii Mici. It was yet again another village that was beautiful and possessed a unique character that sets it apart from cities in the states. It is always interesting to get a glimpse of a different village here and it also relaxing to be back around native English speakers if just for a few days. I had another absolutely awesome family who I very much enjoyed talking with, although the fact that I was in a village with friends from the states it made it very hard to be home much at night because we all had more than a few stories to tell.

The purpose of the two weeks there was to wrap up pre-service training for the Peace Corps, this might not make sense to you at first thought I have been a volunteer for about 3 months now, but I assure you it was the correct way to finish up training. We essentially got two weeks of language class and technical classes that answered a wide variety of the questions all of us have developed over the past few months of confusion.

The two weeks was concluded with a conference where half of the current volunteers met up in the capital. One and a half days of what I thought was a made up of productive meetings, oh god what does it mean when I start enjoying meetings? Could this be the slippery slope of aging? Jesus, I am going to go check the receding hairline after this post. I haven’t decided if I am growing my hair out as defiant refusal to act my age or if I am acquiescing to it and simply growing the comb over while there is still time left. Either way Mullets are ok here, so I don’t have to worry for awhile. Anyhow after the conference was all over with we got to have a nice dinner at a local restaurant where we meet the Ambassador of the US for Moldova, a very nice and seemingly genuine person who was kind enough to give a memorable speech about his thoughts on Peace Corps and how he would like his son to do it as well. I personally liked the awkward silence that precluded the speech, it was kind of like when one person starts a standing ovation (you know when one person claps for a little while by their lonesome and then everyone chips in) except for opposite—a standing silent awkwardness—if you will. One person stood up in order to give respect to the Very Important Person in the room and then slowly everyone else did the same, although what was funny was that he was waiting for the champagne toast to talk, so instead of us sitting and waiting for that he got to make a fairly uncomfortable phone call while we all watched in silence. The night went on without a hitch after that and I even made it into bed at a reasonable hour, which is an accomplishment.

All in all, I loved my time in the Mici, but I am happy to be home in Taraclia. It is great to see the babooshka and get back to figuring out some projects to do. It is approaching the daytime freezing temperatures here and it is pretty dark at much at 5 o’clock. I guess this is all part of the test that is Peace Corps service. Anyhow until next time, I wish you all the best.



Friday, October 16, 2009


October 16, 2009—Winefest

Welcome to Winefest:

So what were you expecting me to say about Winefest? You probably wanted some sort of tale of how I made a fool of myself in one way or another (stories which I also enjoy), or maybe you want to live vicariously through an amazing event where I barged into a kitchen at a resort to find someone to vouched for my legality, drank a beer with a lookalike of Mick Jagger, made out with an older woman and lost a friend at the party only to find him the next day wandering around the large resort like a lost child (Sorry mama J)—which did to happen to me once, just not here. I can’t really give you either today.

Although I did like this guy's bow tie:

I can say that Winefest was simply amazing. It was exactly like Disneyland (but different): it had Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse riding around on a little train waving their puffy white gloves at passerby’s as if to say “hello”, it had rides to appease the bumper car junkies, and where it lacked Thunder Mountain it made up with a plethora of booths, some going for the traditional look of a fair booth, some in the shape of oversized wine barrels, and some looking like royalty owned them and of course all of them selling wine, cognac, and vodka at reasonable prices. Not to mention the шашлик (bbq), which was everywhere and delicious. There was a concert stage and a traditional music playing from every direction. So I suppose is it was like an affordable Disneyland made for adults. I had a great time. I danced my butt off for a long, long time and socialized with damn near everyone at some point.

Proof that they stole Mickey:

The Barrel booth:

This was all a very good thing to do after a 5k run at 10:00 that morning. I believe I took roughly 9th place in this particular race out of maybe 25. I guess the funny self-deprecating thing that I can say about the race is that I never passed one person. I was that guy that thought he would try to pace one of the people leading the masses. After I realized the first group belonged in a much higher echelon of runners, I tried to pace the next challenger only to realize the futility also present in this attempt, and the next, and the next until I was in 9th place not to be passed again or pass anyone ever. I have no qualms with the outcome and I was proud with my 8-minute mile time, can’t complain since I have never fashioned myself a runner. I was simply happy that I didn’t give in to the oh-so-good burn in my lungs.

Look at that game face:

Anyhow it is bedtime, I hope that will suffice for now… hmmm how about if possible you all go out and buy yourselves a bottle of Moldovan wine if possible, for all of you in Walla Walla I know the nose may be in the air, but give it a whirl—variety, after all, is the spice of life.

Peace, Love, & Aaron

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9, 2009--Wine & Babooshka Sabotage

Wine and Babooshka Sabotage

This weekend is Moldova’s famous Wine Festival—День вина. I have heard rumor that this festival can be as good a drunken time as the well known Oktoberfest in Germany. This may be going too far, although I will find this out shortly. Saturday I will take part in a 5K run in Chisinau and then spend the rest of the day measuring the awesomeness of this festival. I’m crossing my fingers. I’m sure that there will be a blog post devoted to this celebration.

If there is one thing that Moldovans are proud of more than anything else it is their wine. It is a tasty drink of choice that I happen to agree with. Some volunteers have ended up living with families that do not grow their wine, I am happy to say that is not the case where I live. My babooshka and I have made the standard house wine a few weeks ago as well as a cabernet yesterday. Just like the chore of husking corn, winemaking is a very family and neighbor oriented task. The babooshkas typically go up and down the rows of grapes picking large baskets full of grapes and having others run them to where I and a few others are cranking away on crushing the grapes and filtering the grape juice (best grape juice I have ever had) in large wine barrels. At the end of the day we made three large barrels full of potentially delicious вино. This is a tradition I would gladly bring back to the states with. It is a very fun hobby and actually a very cheap way of stocking your shelves with some decent wine.

Smashing the grapes:

Babooshkas in the field:

My Babooshka’s grandson Dan (даник)

What is work without a feast:

So is this story is too funny to not tell. I contemplated whether or not to tell it for at least five minutes. So my babooshka and I often use a very primitive form of the telephone on a regular basis, she actually calls it a telephone. Every time a meal is prepared she knocks on the wall in the kitchen to which my room is adjacent. My house is oddly built, so the knock is actually the efficient thing to do, otherwise one must walk through three rooms (including the babooshka’s room) to get to my room. I usually come quickly because I don’t want to make her wait. This particular day of making wine was a tiring day and after we had finished with the wine, I lied down on my bed for a quick powernap and waited for the food to be finished. I fell asleep just long enough to get that groggy and dazed feeling that comes with initially waking up in the morning. I woke up to the telephone “ringing” and quickly jumped up and proceeded to the kitchen, upon opening the door to the babooshka’s room (like I always do) I walked in on one of the babooshkas changing. Whoops. My immediate reaction was to say «ещё раз», which is NOT the correct answer in Russian in this particular situation. It means “one more” or “one more time,” obviously my Russian reflexes are not up to snuff compared with my English reflexes, in which the proper response would have been “Excuse me,” or “I’m sorry,” or at least “whoops,” or any combination of all of the proceeding responses. Thank God I didn’t see anything and that I quickly made my exit. The thing that I find funny is that I haven't habitualized a apology yet in my Russian, that means I still have to think about it before I say it. Although I have made great progress in asking for more food. "Would you like another piece of chicken?"«ещё раз» please.

It didn’t seem to bother her, but I was a little red in the face at the feast followed—although that could have been the wine.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 4, 2009—Shucking or husking Koяn, whichever you like…

October 4, 2009—Shucking or husking Koяn, whichever you like…

Every day I take a short walk through the streets of Taraclia to my work. I pass by the brightly painted, ornate gates of houses, seemingly ceaseless barking dogs, geese whose days are numbered, school children dressed in their black and whites and a road that you cannot take your eyes off of lest you end up on it. Looking off in the distance I can see rolling hills littered with patches of sunflower and corn fields, barns overfilled with hay so much that the covered hay resembles elephants trying to fit into outhouses.

Today I walked home to find a good percentage of the stalks of corn littered throughout my neighborhood. People buy the bulk corn and it is delivered to their front gate in one gigantic pile. They then have mini-work parties in which neighbors, family and neighbors that are family sit around these piles and husk corn until the pile is gone. There is a standard textbook approach to this chore, it involves about 5-7 people (typically babooshkas) sitting on stools doing nothing but husking the cobs and throwing them into one pile and the stalks into another, all the while 1-2 other people (typically men or children) stack the stalks back into another large pile for someone else to pick up the next day. These runners, if you will, also have another job (probably the most important) and that is to periodically walk around the circle serving shot glasses of wine to the workers. I couldn’t think of a more efficient way to accomplish this task, the social lubricant (wine) makes for hours of gossiping, joking, storytelling and getting the job done.

Neighbor and kids:

Initially I called this work, although after being there for a few minutes I realized it barely resembled the concept of work that I have seen time and time again back home. It was a community doing what needed to be done for winter and making the best of it. The perspective was turned on its head instead of focusing on the seemingly insurmountable pile of corn; the focus was on laughing at stories and socializing. I have had my fair share icebreakers and team-builders at jobs throughout my life, but none have felt as fluid and authentic as this. It was genuine experience that I got to repeat two days later when the new piles were placed in front of my house and I got to be the one pouring the wine.

Friday, September 25, 2009

9.24.09--Nuttier than Squirrel Shit…

9.24.09--Nuttier than Squirrel Shit…

Today was a good example of the peculiar situations that come free with Peace Corps servitude. I arrived at my office today ready for some thorough Russian studying—день как день—a typical day for you novice Rusky students. Everything was normal except for an inordinate amount of farming brochures lying on the main table. Soon after my partner came in with a hurried look on his face carrying a projector and a large screen for it. He mentioned that today we have a seminar in a nearby village and asks if I want to come because we will be leaving shortly. After standing awkwardly for a few minutes I realized that meant it was still going to be awhile and I took a seat.

We packed up the car (I believe a Volkswagen Golf) and headed to the seminar. I sat in my normal seat in the front where a combination of my “big boy” status and the seatbelt being semi-broken makes the closest thing I have to a seatbelt is the oh-shit handle located above the window.

After driving for awhile we came to a standard intersection where a police officer happened to be standing. We pulled off to the side of the road quickly, coming to a stop behind a car that had done the same thing. I figured this must have something to do with the cop, I assumed he would be coming to talk to us shortly. After about 5 minutes of waiting my partner gestured for me to put my seatbelt on quickly or at least act like it. I did and we pulled back on to the road and slowly passed by the officer who had been essentially kicking rocks this entire time. We turned left and parked on the opposite side of the intersection and waited for an additional 5 minutes, for what, at this point I don’t know. The car started to get hot so I decided to get out of the car and mimic the police officer by kicking rocks me in my own way, with a cell phone Sudoku fashion. A few more minutes went by and my partner broke the Sudoku silence by telling me to close the door, which I did, only to watch him drive off in a hurry, leaving me standing next to an older gentleman that couldn’t help but stare at the American. Ditched—I didn’t know just yet.

At this point I realized this was humorous and I should be telling someone about it. I called a friend and talked about the ensuing awkwardness. After another few minutes I realizes my partner had actually just parked a few blocks down the road and has not left his car. This you have to understand is both relieving and disappointing at the same time. On the hand it is great to have a ride, but on the other it would be a better story if that was the last time I saw him for the day. Another minute or two go by and he is pulling up to the same spot he initially left from and telling me to get in the car. I get in and we drive—maybe 20-30 feet forward—coming to another stop just off the road where a semi truck was getting weighed previously. Maybe, I think, we were waiting to get weighed on the scale. I have no idea why, but maybe. Just then, the original rock kicker, as if suddenly woken from his daydream, saw us and immediately approached the car and told us to move. My partner turned the car around and proceeded to turn left again parking on the broad shoulder of the road, now directly across from the direction we first came from.

As we approached the 20-minute mark of twiddling the thumbs, I was busy formulating my strategic walk through the grammatical minefield that is Russian. When out of nowhere a bus pulled up and the keynote speaker for the seminar stepped off. At some point in that 20 minutes of waiting I had realized that we were probably waiting for someone to arrive, although as to why the parking spot of the car required changing 5 times all within a block radius. I have no idea…

And it is more interesting that way.

Monday, September 21, 2009

09.22.09--A Day at the Cemetery

09.22.09--A Day at the Cemetery

Yes I slacked on the last post.... I owe you one.

Just before leaving from the Vadul lui Voda I was asked to continue my excursion away from Taraclia and to venture up to northern Moldova for a few days to help clean up an old Jewish Cemetery. Sniffing my clothes I realized I could at least get a few more days out of them and of course agreed. I definitely underestimated how long the bus would take to get up there. The finger measurements I quickly did on a map did not account for the fact that the bus took the slowest possible route to get there. It was kind of funny to see the bus roughing it by endeavoring down roads I previously hadn’t seen buses take on. Suffice it to say I we made it there in about four and half hours.

I believe there were about 6 volunteers total and we all stayed at a veteran volunteer’s house. The nightlife consisted of BBQ and longing for the wine of the south. Northern Moldovans from what I could tell don’t fashion themselves wine drinkers like the other villages I have been in, nor are they content with water so rachiu is the official substitute. I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat it: it simply doesn’t taste good to me. Reminiscent of rubbing alcohol. Luckily good food made for a good chaser J.

Post project:

Post-project photo op:

The next day we went to the cemetery to do some work. When we first arrived the cemetery really didn’t appear to be all that big, but after a few hours it turned out to be a fairly large cemetery. It was very interesting to read tombstones that were in both Hebrew and Russian. It is always good to actually be able to recognize a word or name in Russian.

One out of a litter of awesome puppies at the cemetery. This one in particular decided to nosedive into a puddle of mud shortly thereafter.

The work at the cemetery was definitely not just our doing. The blood, sweat and tears were given by about 25 people I would guess. The event was organized by a volunteer and his partner who did a great job of doubling our numbers by getting a microbus full of Jewish girls from Chisinau to come up to the site.

I got to use a scythe for the first as shown above. Not the most practical tool for what we were doing although it was fun to wield for a few minutes.

Post-work consisted of a picnic at the lake sponsored by the bus load of girls, a trip to a small agricultural museum and playing in some very cold water.


Water sports:

Not one thing I could complain about in regard to this day… It felt great to actually do some work. The major majority of my time here thus far consists of studying Russian, so a day in the sun doing work was everything I could have wanted it to be.

Hope all is well back home.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

3 days at a resort—Ha

September 17, 2009--3 days at a resort—Ha

First off, I have a proposition… I have about four posts that I would like to load onto my blog. I don’t want to post them all at once because no one reads the old ones. So I won’t post another one until there are at least 3 comments on this post, same for the subsequent posts. Deal? Oh yeah, they can’t only be from my mom either. J


I left my computer and internet at home for about 3 days last week. It felt incredible. I need to ditch the ol’ ball and chain more often. I will say that it was pretty easy to do so though because I was at a PC conference. The agribusiness volunteers and the Community Development volunteers got to take their partners to a training that was held at a pretty nice resort called Водул Луй Водэ (Vodul lui Voda). I felt like it was a very productive and worthwhile seminar that consisted of getting to know the variety of people taking on the challenge of Peace Corps volunteers. We also had translators so the plethora of things that have been lost in translation over the last month were made a little bit more clear—definitely still not crystal clear, but hey I’ll take any progress. We basically had a variety of icebreakers (which are much more interesting when you don’t speak the same language), informational sessions and of course post seminar late night meetings with at the beach.

The walk to the beach, which reminded me of the lost boys from Peter Pan:

The beach:

Now I was confused about this beach because some people told me that the sand was brought in from somewhere in the world so they could have an amazing resort close to the capital. When I tried to pantomime and half-ass explain this to my partner I got a puzzled look and was told that the sand had always been there. I am gullible from time to time but I have no idea who to believe here because both scenarios are suspect in my mind. The beach has a feeling of being way too random for its location in Moldova and it was huge, but my partner is from Moldova and would probably know. Oh well I guess, a beach is beach here in Moldova I am happy to see one.

One of my favorite moments at this resort came on the very first night. We finished up with the seminar for the day and went in search of party juice if you will. We were told that the old folks home next door (pictures above) had a small store that we could buy beer at. The prospect of buying beer at an old folks home was already funny to me, but the better part came when I had to catch up to the group of Peace Corps volunteers that had already gone to the store. I forgot something in my room and was lagging behind. The building was fairly large and leading up to it was one long path lined with benches on either side, these benches were chalk-full of retired folks. Now since I had come late, an entire mass of Americans had walked by asking directions prior to my arrival. I walked around the corner to see the mass of aged people staring at me. I think they sensed the Americanness of my swagger and promptly started pointing the way to the store. I never had to ask a single question, each time I made eye contact with someone I would either receive something close to bicycle hand signals or a friendly conformational nod of the head seemingly saying “hello and yes, you are on the right path.” After making it past the long line of whispering old timers I made it to the store where certain stocks of certain beverages were mysteriously depleted except for a few warm bottles.

Ah Party Juice:

My friend Dave with 3 of the partners:

My partner is featured below on the right hand side:

Lots of crows circling overhead at the beach:

That is all for today... rememeber the agreement.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Comfort of Discomfort...

September 6, 2009—The Comfort of Discomfort… and a few random pics from Cahul.

Last night I was warned of two things before I went to bed: 1) Watch out for the hanging lamp; and 2) don’t forget to close the gate when you go to the bathroom. I awoke this morning with a sense of urgency that I have found all too familiar in this country. I jumped up, struck my head on the lamp breaking it just a little bit more than it already was and went out to the outhouse where after a few moments of rest I began to decipher the sound I was hearing—it was the near-silent waddle of the ducks making their great escape. I rushed the process as much as one can and I returned in doors hysterically laughing at myself and admitted to my friend that I had completely forgotten his words of advice. I ventured back out (into stormy weather to find my friend’s host mother rounding up the ducks by force of broom. Pretty sure she had done this before, she was pretty fast. I felt like a huge help giving the last duck a threatening stomp before he finally entered the corral. Then I started my day the way I had intended, by eating.

The Placinta (thank you ma'am--lol) Bar

Yesterday I spent the day in Cahul, the biggest city in the south I believe. A few of the other “Southerners” here in Moldova met for what I like to call a “Southern Conference,” essentially drinks and good times with familiar English-speaking folk. Exactly what you need from time to time here. I enjoyed some hilarious stories and hypothesized ridiculous ideas for making money here in Moldova.

A good Rusky friend in front of a beautiful church.

Upon departing for Cahul I took only a few things in my backpack. Nothing too important: a change of clothes, deodorant, and books I needed to return to friends. The weather over the last month has been absolutely gorgeous; I believe it has only rained once since I have been in the South. I packed according to the weather I had been witnessing. During the night there was a pretty large thunderstorm, I awoke to have the pleasure of a very wet morning awaiting me.

The walk wasn’t horrible it’s really all about getting passed the initial soak. I had the satisfaction of getting it over and done with very quickly. The mini-lakes and narrow roads made for water-logged shoes and a thorough drench resulting from cliché showers sprayed by passing buses and cars within the first five minutes of the twenty-minute walk. I got to the bus stop on time, turned down a few overly ambitious taxi drivers and entered a bus full of Moldovans whose silence was only broken by the squish of my size 12’s slapping the floor and the gurgle of the rainwater bubbling up and out from the impact. The next hour was spent listening to music and enjoying a very bumpy game of Sudoku.

This particular bus did not take me the entire way to my village, but it got me within twelve kilometers I believe. After that I had to rely on my increasingly effective hitchhiking skills. The problem with hitchhiking on a cold raining day in Moldova in my area is that there aren’t very many people going down it. I stood in the cold weather shivering for about twenty minutes before I finally gave in and chanced missing a ride for a much needed cup of tea from the nearby convenience store. I exited the store and I decided to start walking all the while splashing the hot tea over my hands which was very refreshing. I did forget to mention that at some point in the waiting I started to laugh at the scenario, laughing in the sort of way that any passerby would reconsider the good deed of picking me. I only had to walk little more than a kilometer before getting picked up.

I made it back my house to find that I had hot water and hot food again—something I had been without over the last week. In all my years living in the states I can think of only a few showers that may have topped this one. Following the shower I sat down to a new, delicious, and hot meal from my babooshka. All of this setup the rest of the day for being perfectly lazy and warm. I wouldn’t trade one element of the day for anything else. Sometimes it takes a tad bit of discomfort to experience some of the greatest comforts of our lives. Metaphor for the PC…I think so.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Story time--Part 1

August 26, 2009—Story time—Part 1.

I just had a goose come after me like some goofy heat-seeking missile, not scary at all, just kind of weird. Something about the threatening manner of approach mixed with a complete lack of a perceived violence made me smile. Life is funny.

So I read my first book in Russian. “Book” is not the right word but it’s the first word to come to mind. Let’s call it a short fairytale, albeit it took the time of a short book to translate: the little чёрт. It was called «Маша и медведь» or “Marcia and the Bear”—yes it felt like one of those Big Boy strikes again moments. Contrary to what you might think, it was a riveting tale about a girl not catching up to her friends quick enough and getting lost in the forest. Eventually she stumbles upon a hut, specifically one of those huts in which you knock and the door opens all by itself. Fairytale characters are always stupid, I have found, no matter what culture they are from (Much like the Crazy Cat Lady-referenced in an earlier post). Curiosity, of course, got the best of my little Marcia «маша-чек» and she entered the hut and waited for the owner to return.

Here is a picture of the bear’s return to the hut:

I believe that маша-чек should have known better. She should have seen the Mushrooms1 drying and realize this guy is probably out of his mind exploring the recesses of his brain somewhere out in the forest. She should have seen whatever this thing2 is, surely it is used for more than its prescribed use in the fireplace. The bear—even with the loving, goofy look on his face—walks in and essentially says “you are going to be my slave and cook my food and never leave this house again.” Luckily, after crying for a sentence or two, маша-чек realizes that Bear is not the brightest bear in the woods, Bear has obviously explored those recesses a tad too much. She convinces the bear to carry a huge crate of Perrogies (A crate of potato and cheese dumplings, come on Bear!) to her grandparent’s house. Goof Troop begins this task not realizing that there is actually a little girl in the huge crate with only a plate of Perrogies resting on her head. He didn’t notice when he picked up the crate that a little girl was missing from his spacious studio apartment that he resided in. I suppose I’ll forgive him his pupils were pretty dilated.

Long story short, the bear gets to the grandparents house and is chased off by the ferocious neighborhood dogs (evidenced in the above picture) that smell him when he sets down the gigantic crate of Perrogies in front of their house. I don’t mean to be critical but he isn’t doing the image of bears any justice by getting the boot from a couple of lapdogs.

As you can see my Russian reading skills have taken leaps and bounds in a mere two-and-a-half-month span here in Moldova. I don’t usually throw the prodigy child jargon around very often but I think the evidence speaks for itself in this case. I bought a mug a few years back for my mother. The mug has a really amazing picture of myself on it (Smiling a prize-winning smile with a trucker’s hat, long oily hair, and a nasty inch-and-half goatee hanging off my chin) and says “World’s Greatest Genes.”

Don’t hate. I’m just living up the great expectations bestowed upon me at birth! J

Peace, Love, Aaron

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Boy...

August 23, 2009--Big Boy...

Currently, I am eating a common snack in this household called popcorn, contrary to what you might be thinking it is not popcorn. The closest thing I can compare it to is Kix cereal, you know like “Kix are for kids” cereal. They taste exactly the same and look exactly like puff-sized Cheetos lacking the orange faux-cheese dust. I am pretty sure I don’t like the taste of them, although they are nostalgic of a big chunk of land I recently left.

I felt like a big kid today, I hand washed all of my laundry by myself. That’s right, no washing machine just me, some clothes, a bathroom, and brute patience—yes, the old fashioned way. It really isn’t too bad, albeit I felt a little funny shirtless with my bandolier of clothespins hanging up all my seemingly gigantic pairs of underwear. I think my babooshka (host grandma) was proud. She calls me “big boy” in Russian every time I do something well. Just another merit badge on my PC honor sash I suppose—you should be proud J.

I feel like I need to further reduce the clothing regiment I have allotted myself. I wouldn’t want to do more laundry than I did today especially during the dead of winter. I have a set of socks each having an individual day of the week written on them. I’m starting to wish they had a particular month written on each pair. That way I wouldn’t have to feel bad about wearing a pair for an entire month.

Today has been fairly uneventful other than the highlight of laundry. Some PC friends and I have possibly settled on a destination for the great series of holidays at the end of the year: Jesus’ B-day, my B-day and they advent of the New Year. We are thinking Egypt and Israel, today has been spent doing some market research on that possibility. It may or may not happen. I’ll keep you informed on that.

Here is a random picture of my weird cat:

The internet is being dumb... so you only this picture of my cat for now. I wish you all the best.



Monday, August 17, 2009

Village Explorations

August 16, 2009—Village Explorations

Ahh Sunday the day of rest—a luxury given straight from боже мой itself. For some reason I found myself continually motivated to walk around town. I am pretty sure I walked near 10 kilometers and now I regret it because I did it in my sandals, not the wisest choice. The walk itself was very intriguing. I found a vantage point where I could nearly see the entire town. I took many pictures but they do the beauty of the day an injustice. I am trying to enjoy the days with sunshine as much as possible, otherwise I will regret it when it the rain comes and mutates into a harsher winter than I am traditionally accustomed to.

Just walking around:

Here is a picture of the main gate to the stadium:

Many of the roads look like this:

The rest of the day I walked through the streets taking pictures of random barnyard animals walking the streets. Sometimes it feels as though I live on a gigantic farm that has managed somehow to contain an entire town within its fences. I personally liked the driveway with a gigantic tractor taking up every inch of space in the driveway, not sure why I didn’t take a picture of it although I’m sure the opportunity will rise again.

He won the staring contest:

There were two goals of this excursion: 1) to hike to the vantage point; and 2) to find the Bulgarian University in town. The view was easy to accomplish, but the University was not to be. It was pretty funny actually, I live on the opposite side of town as this mysterious University and everyone on my side of town seems to know exactly where it is located. Though when I walk to the opposite side of town where you would think that specific information would be commonplace—no one seems to know its location. I’m pretty sure I must have walked by the university and just didn’t notice it. I suppose there are other possibilities too, such as they merely didn’t want me to know where such a majestic place was, or it simply doesn’t exist and the joke is on me. I wish I could pull of such pranks.

The view from the top:

Food for Thought

August 13, 2009—Food for Thought

A few people have asked me about the quality and types food here. I suppose I will take a moment with this post to talk about the varieties here.

In general you could say that Moldovans are a natural-food kind of folk. Not your typically hippies, but nearly every time you sit down to eat with another family they speak highly of their vegetables (and wine) slanging words such as organic and natural. I haven’t seen any practices that contradict their statements, although I highly doubt that they would pass the organic label test. Water for one thing is not purely water here. That being said I believe that the vegetables and fruit are extremely tasty regardless and I will undoubtedly eat them every day.

One thing that I find funny here, not because Moldova is ridiculous, but because American culture is ridiculous is that whatever food you find yourself eating, you probably know what that food is much faster than you would in America. The obvious factor is a little higher here. Often times back in the states you could ask yourself “what is this that I am eating?” After a moment or two you have your “ah-ha” moment and you realize that “hey, this is fish.” Here that mystery is taken away, not a bad thing at all, but that “hey, this is fish” moment definitely comes when the plate is set in front you.

I think this should happen a little more in America. It really puts the action into perspective. Rather than associating the aesthetically-pleasing package in the store with rabbit I now have a completely different association—a bit more graphic—not gonna lie. We have a tendency to deny what it is that we are eating. It is funny the more you think about. Instead of seeing a picture of a cow on a carton of milk or slab of meat, you will probably see some sort of caricature of that animal or another telling you that this is the product cows prefer. This is definitely not a call for vegetarianism or veganism, merely a note that maybe we should be a little more conscious of the things we call food. I suppose what bugs me is the way that we euphemize what we do. In our world food is magic and appears out of nowhere every day. Saying “It was either me or the cow—I won” loud and proud is much more acceptable to me, at least then you are acknowledging the existence. On a similar note I hear that chicken/rooster feet are pretty tasty—they are considered a delicacy here. I, myself, have not had the pleasure yet, but I will definitely let you know how they are when I finally do.

On a similar note, a friend of my said something very simple and interesting the other day, he mentioned “the juice tastes like fruit.” I hadn’t had any juice yet, so the next day I ventured out to make the purchase and low and behold it does. It literally tastes someone juiced some kind of fruit in front of you and handed you the glass. As much as I love artificial flavor number 5, I Moldova wins in the juice department. And that is all I have to say about that.

Typical meals


-Pasta and brunza (it feels weird to call it Macaroni and Cheese)
-pasta and eggs with something like ham diced up in it
-hard-boiled eggs

-all accompanied with bread w/ a little bit of hotdog and a more traditional cheese melted on top


-Always - one of the variants of Borscht
-Always – a variant of cucumber and tomato salad.
-Maybe accompanied with some sort of rice and chicken dish

With nearly every meal that is not breakfast I have had some sort of cucumber, tomato mixture. A great salad that I hope to not get sick of, but most likely will. Sometimes it comes with hot peppers, sometimes with cabbage and occasionally with Brunza, which, I think is a pretty good cheese that comes from goats (don’t quote me on that source). My last family fed me it all the time but always told me that no one in their family appreciated it.


-Always – a variant of cucumber and tomato salad.
-Maybe Borscht or Soup
-Mostly likely chicken, maybe rabbit.

The one major problem I have with food here is the amount of oil put into ALL the food. Think about what a lot of oil would look like on, say, a salad or in soup—now times that by ten and maybe you would be getting close to how much is used here. I’m tired of talking about food and just tired in general. Goodnight.