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.

Monday, August 10, 2009

8.8.09--Swearing (Aga)in

August 8, 2009—Official Volunteer. No more training wheels.

I made it—to the beginning. Yesterday was the first day of two years of servitude here in Moldova. After 58 days of pre-service training I have been officially deemed official. The evidence can be seen in the following four photographs.

Action Shot.

Official. Notice the overwhelming sense of self-worth in my face…no…well try harder. I don’t mean to be facetious; it just comes a little too easy.

Yesterday felt really good. A sense of accomplishment accompanied me on my way to my new village. The pre-service training can summed up as simply as a good pain. It is a large amount of time and energy invested in the growth of your language ability and a time to be Pre-steeped (if you will) in the culture prior to the big submersion. Something I near-wholeheartedly agree is necessary for service. Toward the end of training you tend to get a little tired, a little crazy, and anxious to start the projects you have been assigned.

The van ride down to my village wasn’t all that interesting, just a lot of time for reflection. Oh yeah, I did figure out what the word for smoke detector was though, why you ask, because it was going off somewhere deep within my packed luggage within the van. Lucky for me it stopped somehow and people only looked at me weird for a little while.

The drive itself was beautiful. Gorgeous day mixed with a couple of good conversations on the bus and lots of music that seemed to fit the mood perfectly. I feel that the sunflower fields were trying to tell me something though. Sunflowers are very common here; many huge fields of vivid yellow and green patch the valley floors. The harvest is approaching within a few days for them though. In fields of thousands and thousands of sunflowers I would see the occasionally sunflower with its head up following the sun on its usual course, surrounded with the rest of its buddies with their bowed bodies nose-diving for the ground. There were two ideas consistently circulating in my mind:

1) Persistence, willpower, and sheer tenacity of seeing things through; or
2) The futile attempt at surmounting the inevitable.

The Peace Corps volunteer in me concluded that there was only humor in this moment with the Oracle.



07.08.09—As Promised…

07.08.09—As Promised… ( I have a very slow interent connection right now, with plenty of pcitures to add, be patient i will add more soon)

Last night went very well. For our last night as trainees, we had a large celebration, in which all of the volunteers did something like a presentation, song, dance, play, speech or mix of the possibilities. I personally, as you all know, did a presentation on composting and had a part in a Russian play called “Terem Teremok.” Everything went very well, although our play didn’t exactly get the standing ovation that we expected. I blame that on the fact that we went after a couple of volunteers sang a beautiful Moldovan song that brought the house down. So we were doomed from the start, regardless of the fact that I had to announce that our play was over. J I laughed.
My friend David and I presented on compost with style. Despite our horrible accents and I think we got a few brownie points for being dressed professionally for our presentation. I’m pretty sure at least one person considered doing compost in their homes after we were done, although they may have forgotten about their enthusiasm shortly thereafter. My fingers are crossed. Besides it was more of a celebration of the time we had spent with our families than a time for lecture.

Here are a couple videos and pictures of the events. Sorry I do not yet have pictures of the play. I clumsy left the camera in my pocket during the event.

After all the theatrics were over with, we went outside to enjoy some wine and snacks. Some of my fellow volunteers contributed some ol’ fashioned chocolate chip cookies and of course a slightly different version of Tiny Weenies. It was funny and nostalgic at the same time, but not necessarily enjoyable.

Of my family my sister was the only one that could make it for this presentation. My host parents we off getting a party ready for my host nephew David, apparently when you are roughly one year old you get to sleep through a big party where your parents name your godparents. So after the Peace Corps I crashed the little tyke’s party. It was awesome.
Moldovan parties have three absolutely essential ingredients: Food, dance, and alcohol. Here are some pictures of the good time.

Walking up the next morning to travel to Taraclia was a little rough, but that was just because I danced the night away on accident. Dancing in a big circle is the typical fashion—it is called the Hora. It is pretty easy to catch on to, even for the most inept. I feel like my moves are appreciated in Moldova, or maybe it’s just the tie. Just like with the presentation the tie commands respect, not so much the moves.

Just when I thought my family couldn’t get any sweeter, they went ahead and bought me some departing gifts. My mother gave a really nice tea cup to go with some excellent tea and honey. My sister bought me a really nice daily planner that I had been planning on buying anyway, but had not told anyone that I needed. Either I come across as confused and in need of structure or she could read my thoughts. I still haven’t figured that one out.

Now I’m off to my swearing in.



Friday, August 7, 2009

Much to come,..

I just got done with all of the Pre-Service Training... Now I celebrate. I promise to share the stories in a few days, when I get back to a spot with internet.

Love you all,


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 4, 2009 – I’m a Father

August 4, 2009 – I’m a Father.

Шутка (joke)

No, actually I just finally have some pictures of my family. We recently went to a beautiful lake just minutes outside of Ialoveni. The kid in the picture is my host nephew David, a good kid. We went to a nice little restaurant on the water. It was still under construction in a lot of ways, but in a few years it will be a very cool establishment. Complete with an outdoor gravel dance floor. I’m definitely going to make it back there before I leave.

So as far as things go around here, I feel like I have been in a constant state of crazy-busy anticipation for what lies ahead of me. It is a good thing although we are all simply getting tired. In the next three days I need to pack up all of my things for the move, act in a small play, give a 15-minute presentation in Russian on composting, study for and take my Russian placement interview, write a letter to the country director, and apparently take a couple small tests on safety and health. This all for some reason culminates this last weekend. Oh well, it’s fun.

Here is the rest of my family:

From the Left there is Tanya (Host Aunt), Tanyeshna (Host Cousin), Svetlana (Host sister-in-law), Irena (host sister), David (Host nephew) and Sergio (host brother). All sweet as hell.

So after PST is over I promise to start posting more. I’m finding it very hard to write on the blog with the limited free-time. Until next time, I hope all is well.