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.