Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31, 2009 - Coffee and a little ADD

July 31, 2009 - Coffee and a little ADD

I have realized how bad coffee must be for me since I have been here in Moldova. I believe I was overdosing on americanos and coffee while in the states. I couldn’t help it Washington is renowned for coffee and I choose to work desk-jobs. Desk-job translates to “I am going to fall asleep in this meeting if I don’t start an addiction to caffeine.” During the first three weeks here I was having ridiculous headaches. I realized at some point that I didn’t have my coffee anymore, I had been drinking tea only. The headaches finally went away and ever since I have been fine. The last two days I ran out of tea, so I decided a cup of coffee each day would be fine. Today, major headache with no coffee. What the hell. I’m done.

I know that was important but I must move on. So I’m not really sure what other volunteers experienced but election day felt pretty much like any other day, except I got to sleep in for once. We were told to avoid all the areas where lots of people would be and to keep a low profile. So basically, it was the first day I didn’t skip through the streets waving all of my electronics around like I was mad. Well I don’t actually do that, but I am definitely an obvious American here—backpack or maybe the sideburns give it away every time. I wonder if my next village is ready for my rockstar lifestyle of sideburns and backpacks—probably not.

So I am going to be completely ADD today and change the subject again. If you must, drinking can be incredibly cheap here. I remember the good ol’ days in Romania when you could get a nice large beer for about 75 cents, Moldova has one-up’d that deal: with one dollar you can fill up your liter water bottle at the local winery full of red or white wine both of which being quite tasty. A liter of wine and an Aerobie frisbee pass the time rather well here. I have posted a couple pictures of friends at the local stadium doing exactly this. I’m still getting used to the concept of playing any sport in sandals. Soon I will be advanced enough to jog in sandals, which I saw a bunch at the stadium in my new village.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ramblings from a Cafe Duet Hero

July 27, 2009 -- Ramblings from a Cafe Duet Hero

Once again some time has passed since the last post. Thank you for having patience between posts. Life is always interesting in these parts and I have had plenty to talk about, but no time to write it down—possibly a Rosetta Stoned moment. Submersion in a foreign country can feel like that kind of a trip sometimes.

I am just about to finish up the pre-service training to be a volunteer here, meaning I have been very busy. I have to give a presentation (in Russian) on composting in two weeks. I am responsible for half of a 15-minute presentation. It will be challenging to say the least. In two weeks there is a little swearing-in/congratulations-for-making-this-far party. That is where I will give this presentation. Also, as if it wasn’t drilled into heads enough that we are children here, my Russian colleagues and I will have to put on a small play in Russian. The play is an enthralling tale about how a bunch of animals living together. The moral being teamwork and community are important. You all will truly miss out.

It is crazy how close we are to leaving for our sites. In two weeks I will be basically cut off from daily interactions with Americans or English speakers. I am excited but obviously that is a scary moment that is just around the corner. I am feeling pretty good about the Russian at the current moment, I did pretty good on a conversational test that we had last week. That doesn’t mean that I can speak Russian at all yet, but it was nice to be reassured that I am learning at least a little bit.

On a different note:

Thus far three people have left from our original group of 62. It is weird to hear of people leaving. It is a personal decision that I completely respect, but it is quite sad to come to class one day and hear that another person has decided to take the god-awful flight back to the states. The reason I bring this up is because a very good person left our group the other day. The volunteer that left had been a volunteer back in the 60s in Africa (I think). The rest of his life he had been a consultant in agriculture and had some incredibly organizational feats on his résumé. He was a great source for an interesting conversation not to mention as an asset in the world agribusiness. As for why he left I can not speculate, although I can say that he will truly be missed. Many volunteers looked up to him and saw him as a great example of someone who loves the work they do. Maybe it was that we saw him as a future version of ourselves—loving the adventure/challenge of being a part of the larger world so much as to bring yourself to do it again. I believe many people feel that this is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. For me, I see his mentality as a way of life that is truly inspiring to me. I believe that people eventually lose that urge to be challenged in their lives and inevitably settle. The trick is to settle extremely late in life, maybe that is the key to sanity. Who knows?

Anyhow, that is enough for now.

Life goes on.


p.s. I now have black-framed glasses, therefore I have an opinion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pepto + Politics

July 20

Pepto J + Politics

Strangely I feel more PC-esque than ever today. I just had to make a special trip to the center of Chisinau to give the doctor a sample of my ailment. I know it’s not pretty but that is the way things are. The doctor believes it is Salmonella, or in other words food poisoning. There is a smaller chance that it could be giardia, which would be bad. Although more than likely I will have that at some point too, the Big G gets a fair percentage of the volunteers here. I feel like it would just be a new badge on my Cub Scout sash. I will not give the details of those afflictions, but you are more than welcome to venture out to fulfill the requirements for your medical awareness badge or at least for some funny pictures or descriptions of what it could be.

Interesting events are nigh here in Moldova. Moldova’s parliamentary election is right around the corner. If you remember back to my initial post, Moldova has done this before. The first election ended with the Communist party winning somewhere around half of the seats and the rest of the parties calling the final vote fraudulent. This is the moment that the riots began to ensue.

Winning a majority of seats is not enough to control the Presidency here. Unlike the US there are quite a few parties here, with about 5 of them getting a sizable portion of the votes. In the system that the US uses it is very rare for a small party to play a decisive role in an election. In most parliamentary systems the small parties play larger roles in electing the prime minister or president. In the case of Moldova it takes 60% of the seats approval for a politician to become the President. The Communist party had less than 60% so they had to bargain with the other parties to get the extra votes needed for their leader to stay in office. Over the last few months the parliament has tried twice to vote someone into office and those attempts have failed. The constitution here calls for a new election after two failed attempts to form a government. The new election is scheduled for the 29th of July. Well that’s what I know for now in regard to politics. What all this really means for me is that there are some really interesting articles and fliers everywhere in Moldova that I can’t read—in due time I suppose.


Friday, July 17, 2009

New Beginnings!

July 15, 2009 – New beginnings

The adventure started out with a groggy 5:45 alarm. I rose and left the house in a hurry. I traveled to the bus station in perfect Moldovan fashion and even was there 20 minutes early. I sat awaiting my bus’ arrival at the designated 7:25 in the morning spot only to ask someone at 7:20 where the bus was. For some reason they moved in down 3 stalls. Crisis avoided, I was off to my new village for my site visit.

The bus ride was perfectly fine. I talked to a very nice woman who turned out to know my new partner. Here wasn’t much that came of that talk information-wise but it was still cool to make a connection like that. I also talked to a few good-looking women with such pick-up lines as “I have a green shirt” and “What is the temperature today?” and after an awkward conversation with my teacher I realized I mistakenly said “I am virgin” rather than the preferred statement “I am a big child.”

So when I got to my village I went straight to my future job site and we had a masa—big lunch, lots of food and drink. I met about 6 people including my partner, all of which were very nice and friendly. My partner is an older gentleman that seems to be a very wise. The office was small but nice. I believe I will be working with two of the people that were at the masa. Their names are Ivan Ivanovich and Natasha.

Over the two days I spent the majority of my time walking and exploring the community. It is definitely a small town, but something that will be manageable. One of the most interesting characteristics about the town was all of the old communist monuments—which carry much more meaning than just a part of history.

As for my new host family (grandma), she was a complete sweetheart. The house is nice and her Bulgarian neighbor is hilarious. She is already trying to marry me off to some Bulgarian women in the village. All villages are all different with their predominant language, some speak Romanian, some Russian, and some Gaguazian (a form of Turkish), as well as others. My village is predominately Russian with Bulgarian and Gagauzian mixed in. My host mom is a very small, cute 70-year old woman. I doubt if she is taller than my belly.

Food is definitely up in the air in this village. The last day for breakfast there was a plate of 6 cookies lying on a plate each complete with a half-inch of butter. It was not my favorite breakfast thus far. My stomach has been on the fritz every since. I’ll spare you those details, that is for privileged PC volunteer talk—a subject that dominates most conversations.

Well that is all for now. I have plenty to talk about although I have had limited time to do. I have many tests and projects that need to done in the next couple of weeks. So bare with me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Mailing Address:

I have had a few requests for my address for sending care packages. I have to say I have seen the look on the PC volunteers when a care package comes for them and it looks amazing. It is like they have been transported back to Christmas when they were 6 years old and they got the BB gun they always wanted. I am really not getting homesick just yet, although if you feel the good samaritan urge, please keep the package small for your own sake. International shipping rates are expensive.

Thank you much and here it is:

Aaron Eisenbarth
Corpul Pacii
Str. Grigore Ureche 12
2001 Chisinau
Republica Moldova

Please no BB guns... this is a peaceful nation, nor do I want to shoot my eye out.

Yet another big day around the corner...

July 11, 2009

Do you remember that age when your parents started letting you ride the public bus on your own? Well the current PC recruits just got their permission and now tomorrow at 6:00 in the morning I am going to get up and leave by 6:30 so I can make a bus in Chisinau that is going to my new town. My excursion will only last until Tuesday, but it is still a little nerve-racking. Imagining my groggy half-functioning self walking around the 2-million person capital of Chisinau at 7 a.m. trying to find a bus sounds kind of funny.

In this short visit I will meet my business partner that I will work with for the next two years as well as my host mother in the new village. I’m sure this trip will include a small tour of the village, possibly a walk from one end to other, which will take a whopping 5 minutes-- 10 if I am lucky. It is a pretty surreal moment. I just packed up a bag full of clothes and books to fight the uphill battle of the language barrier. I am hoping for the least sweaty bus ride possible. Riding the Мапшуткы (big vans, seats about 15 people—usually has about 30 in it) is fine if you like to sweat incessantly and smell whatever brand of stink you are surrounded by. It really is an adventure, Мапшуткы really have character.

As for the pictures attached. The one of all the water on the road is from a torrential downpour two days ago. I couldn’t go to school the normal way because there was literally a foot of water flowing over the path. Instead I went the long way and got completely drenched and broke my external hard drive. That was quick. The other pictures are of the fields behind my current house walking home after a wonderful night with friends (can you sense the euphemism?).

As for now I am tired and in desperate need of sleep if I am going to wake up on time tomorrow.

Brief Reflection

If you have been sitting at your desk for the last few days thinking why the hell hasn’t Aaron posted anything, then I am sorry but I have had to study for a test that I just had today on the ol’ Rusky language. I have to admit, it was pretty tough. I was not alone in the utterly beaten category. Power in numbers I suppose makes you feel better—that’s kind of sad. As bad as I butchered the grammar and sounded like a thickly-accented American-yits. I feel pretty good about it. It is quite the challenge to surmount, and it is impressive that we have come as far as we have with the language.

We are half way through the PST training, pretty crazy that I have already been away an entire month. I guess that calls for some sort of reflection or something:

Moldova is an amazing place. It may not have the Louvre or Taj Mahal, but what it seemingly lacks it makes up for in sheer character. I’m pretty positive that 1% of you (including myself) actually knew where Moldova was prior to my excursion. A few quick reads of topical Moldovan history found on the internet and I was in Moldova. The metaphor scratching the surface is an obvious understatement. According to Peace Corps guidelines I can’t talk about specifics on this blog, damn those affiliations. What I can say is that the gamut of emotions that we as Americans, as Washingtonians or what have you feel on a daily basis is both equal yet totally different here. Happiness, life, sadness, etc are all the clearly here albeit viewed from a different perspective altogether. Much like Americans, societal, political, family, monetary pressures all play a part in forming the base of a person, like the great tectonic plates something unique is formed regardless of similar scenarios because no one situation is identical. Moldova itself has many unique characteristics that have formed over hundreds of years. From an American perspective some good, some bad and all interesting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


July 6, 2009 Village-day

So I could post this today, although I think it would be best to let the anticipation get the best of all of you. Just to give you a sense of what I am going through. Although the joke is on me I’m sure. Most of you probably check this thing once a month--if ever--so the rising tension that has been strategically placed into my PC story is undermined by your lack of punctual blog checking.

And the big news… or should I say small village news.

So moments ago we were all gathered around a very large chalk-outlined map of Moldova outside of the local school. Chairs were placed all over the map with city/town/village names placed on each one of them. One by one our names were called and we took a seat where we had been assigned. We all had done our research, at least so far as to what the big cities were, so you could see the nervous anticipation on people’s faces build as the larger cities chairs were taken. I ended up in what in America would be considered a pretty small town of 8,000, although relative to other volunteers I believe I ended up somewhere in the middle of the ol’ population spectrum.

The first thing I read about my new house was that I would be living with a 70-year old widow who is the proud owner of cows, ducks, dogs, cats, hens, and rabbits. I’m going to be right at home. The second line I read looked exactly like this:

Plumping/Pipes look safe? _Yes _No Not applicable

This obviously caught my eye. After reading on I realized I may still have some sort of bathing usage, because a line further down the page says that I have running water for baths. So no pipes, but running water? These people are thinking outside of the box. Maybe that means I have to run to the well, heat up some water and use it to bath. I’ll post more when it comes on that issue. Until then my fingers are crossed for a decent shower this winter.

The description of my future job came in a mix of Romanian and Russian, which means I couldn’t read it except for a select few Russian words. I took the time to figure out what the direct translation of the section that described what the NGO thought my job could possibly look like. The direct translation read as follows:

1. Application biological greenhouse power

2. Help with technology mushrooms.

Well that is what you get for now. Be sure to tell your showers that you love them. Treat them well you may not have one someday and you’ll regret not saying it. J

SHTY (Stinky as Hell for Two Years)

Monday, July 6, 2009

No-to-Low Expectations

No-to-Low Expectations

July 5, 2009

So tomorrow is a big day. We have it very easy right now as trainees; we live in villages with multiple volunteers that we can socialize with at almost any given time. After one more month here I move to another area where there is a good chance I will be the only volunteer. Tomorrow I find out where I will be living and what it is exactly that I will be doing for the next two years.

Apparently the older volunteers draw a large map of Moldova behind the school and we all stand where our cities/towns/villages are. The feeling is definitely surreal. I’ve been told that the Russian assignments typically are in cities rather than villages. So there is a good chance that I will be in a city rather than a village. I don’t have strong feelings as to where I go, but my only real hope is that I end up with a good business partner and host family.

In regard to what I will be doing I’m pretty certain I will be working in an extension center. I believe that means that I talking to numerous people on a daily basis about problems that they are having with growing agricultural products and seeking out good candidates for projects. I feel pretty good about the job especially after talking to more than a few Ag volunteers about their experiences in extension centers.

Oh yeah, about the 4th of July party. It was great. It was made up of socializing, dancing, taking two types of pictures: American style and Moldovan style. The American style means to smile in the over-the-top fashion that we are accustomed to in the US. Moldovans tend to smile a lot but as soon as the camera lens points in their general direction any indication of a previous smile disappears and a stern, serious expression is formed. It is difficult to give such a serious pose. The pictures posted are evidence our futile attempts.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lost in Expression

третья Июля, Две тысячa девятый год

Stephanie has brought up a very good point about yours truly. I predominately speak in expressions and I feel sorry for the Moldovan that tries to communicate with me with the intention of learning something about English. I would like to rest assured that my words are pure poetry, but undoubtedly I will fill their heads to the brim with nothing but colloquialisms from my adolescence and college years. For instance I recent spread the saying “Up shit creek with a terd for a paddle” and to be honest I don’t think I helped anyone with that. Except of course if you count myself. This brings up a broader point about the seemingly insurmountable goal of learning one of the hardest languages in the world. After two years here I will definitely understand the gist of what people are saying although there will be the “Aaron’s” of the world that I simply will respond to by saying “wtf does that mean?”

I recently found out that the popular INXS song “Hungry like a wolf” is a quite popular saying here. I’m assuming that that particular song was about sex or lust in English, although here, you definitely use the phrase in the context of food alone. Another similar Russian saying related to food is “you will lick your fingers” obviously a very close relative of “finger-lickin’ good”—although it is not quite the same without the southern drawl.

Tomatoes and War

ТРИ, ИЮЛЬ 2009

Yet another hot day in the land of Mordor. My host mom is in the kitchen making the next couple of meals while my host dad is spackling the cellar walls for better insulation in the winter. I asked “Вам помочь?” although no one seems to need any help. So I’m practicing Russian/posting a blog.

So yesterday was an eventful day. We spent the afternoon on a site visit. We went to visit a agribusiness volunteer who had spent a considerable amount of time working on a heirloom tomato project. It was an impressive project. He helped the farmers get awarded a grant for a new greenhouse and then started producing heirloom tomatoes, something that few Moldovans have seen much less produced. The project seems to be highly successful thus far. He had proven that the greenhouse was substantially better at producing the tomatoes. The family that he is helping out is trying to develop a market for these by selling them to the nicer restaurants in Moldova. The family was very generous and let us fill up sacks with tomatoes for gifts to our families. My personal favorite of the varieties of tomatoes were the Zebra tomatoes that are red and green. Absolutely delicious.

After the tomato farm we drove to a World War II monument where one of the biggest battles for Moldova was fought. It was located at the Neistri River which you may recognize if you watched the videos at the beginning of this blog. Directly on the other side of the river is Transneistria, the semiautonomous separatist region of Moldova that is loyal to Russia and not recognized by many countries.

All in all a very interesting day in Moldova. I am very excited about the week to come though, we have the fourth of July celebration with the embassy folks tomorrow. Most importantly on Monday we find out our assignments. I will find out what where and what I will be doing in Moldova. Will I be in a city or an isolated village? I know that my job will have a choose-your-own-adventure feel to it, although I find out who my partner is and which organization I will be working with.

More to come.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Stormin' Norman

Двадцат девят, Июнь, 2009

So I am sitting here in the midst of a fairly large lightning storm enjoying the marathon of pouring rain and thunder outside my window. During the last few moments of language class we began to hear the gentle rumble of lightning approaching from a distance. I walked outside to see one ominous, enormous cloud swiftly spreading its vast tentacles into our little valley of Ialoveni bringing with it the type of weather that is only fun if you are not stuck in it. Luckily it postponed the torrential downpour until the last block of my walk. A little bit of a storm is much appreciated especially after the last two weeks of nothing but sun, sun and sun. I love a good farmer’s tan as much as the next but a little cooler weather was in order.