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.