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.