Friday, October 29, 2010

Dear Mr./Mrs. Anonymous,

Thank you.

Also many more big thank you's to all of you that donated toward my Hospice project here in Moldova.  Apparently in the last few days the last $2,146 was collected through my Peace Corps account.  Crazy how fast that last two thousand came but I am incredibly grateful for it.


If you happen to coming to this website wanting to donate to my project. Please consider donating to this other project:

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=261-197

It is the project of a good friend of mine here in Moldova. His village may be located on the other of the country but that doesn't make it less important.

Anyhow, remember to check back here as I will be updating as to the progress of my project here.

Once again thank you one and all,

Aaron

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 11, 2010—Roughly $500, a good start

So as I have told many of you in emails and on my last blog post I am working with a hospice center here in Taraclia named Angelus Moldova.  I told you that I would update you on the progress of the organization over the coming months so that you understand the problems faced by them.

On Saturday we celebrated our one-year anniversary as an established organization in Moldova.  We marked this anniversary by holding a concert at the local House of Culture.  The House of Culture in most Moldovan cities and towns is where most cultural events take place, our HOC happens to have the local library and a few other uses whereas the smaller villages usually just have an area for dancing or important meetings.  It is a very useful service that the HOC provides, usage of the facilities is free and they even staff the event by providing MCs and sound system people—a huge plus when trying to keep the costs down for a benefit concert.

For the past two months we have been organizing the event which really has consisted of finding musical groups and dance groups to perform for free for our concert.  Overall I would say that the concert was a success, we raised roughly $500 which is not too shabby for a small town in Moldova.  The biggest problem that we had was the weather which was rather dismal. We practically sold all 500 seats in the auditorium for the concert, but since the weather was so bad only about 150-200 people showed up.  It is most important in the short-term to raise the money, but the long-term scenario is more important in getting out the message of hospice care in Moldova.  The local television station was there and interviewed a few of the relatives of former patients of the center.  This special should air on TV sometime soon.  Maybe if I can get an electronic copy of it I will post it on here with some subtitles.

Here is the link for donating to my project here as well:
https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=261-204

Here are some pictures and videos of the event:

This is a short video of one of the singers from our last act Crystal:
video


This is the other singer from the Crystal group, this kid is the man:



A local dance group who danced too fast my little ol' camera:

An early act:

A younger dance team from a nearby city:
 Local Musicians:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 7th, 2010--Hospice Care in Moldova and you...

Howdy folks,

It is time I finally let you in on a project that I am doing here in the Peace Corps.

One of the organizations that I have been working with here is named Angelus Taraclia. It is a local hospice care center that works as a non-profit here in my town of Taraclia.  I believe it is either the 4th or 5th organization of its kind in all of Moldova.  This particular center specializes in care for terminal cancer patients who are approaching the end of their time here.

Our focus as an organization is not only to care for patients but also to spread awareness of the service throughout Moldova.  Moldova, in general, has an interesting mentality when it comes to end-of-life care.  Hospice care is relatively new in Moldova and the current medical insurance industry doesn’t cover its cost.  This situation often leads people to hide their illnesses in order to save money for their families which they believe would be wasted on their remaining days in this world.  As you can guess, the result is the sick and elderly of Moldova not receiving medical care that significantly reduces the pain and heartbreak that accompanies death. 

Hospice care gives people and their families the opportunity to be with loved ones at the times they are needed most.  As many of you know being with an ailing parent, sibling or friend at the end of their lives can give closure to relationships that are important to us.

This organization has been around for one year and has reached the end of its funding through the Soros foundation.  At this time, I am raising money for the continuation of the services provided.  I feel like the work done so far has made a significant impact on the lives it has touched and it would be a disservice to the people of Taraclia to stop the effects of a great organization.  My goal is to raise $3,300 in order for Angelus Taraclia to remain open for another 6 months.  This will give us much needed time to develop a strategic plan for the coming years, organize awareness campaigns and help the organization raise the total percentage of community contributions by a significant amount.  Over the duration of the 6 months we will continue to raise local funds and seek out funding through other means.

The money you donate will be going to a very good cause and will give the organization the needed time to develop its autonomy in these rough economic times.

Please follow the link below and donate at:

You can donate very easily by entering the amount you wish to donate on the lower right-hand side of the website.

Thank you much and please check back here often as I intend to update you on the continual progress of the organization.

Sincerely,

Aaron 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 14th, 2010—Welcome Youngbloods

June 14th, 2010—Welcome Youngbloods

So yeah, too long. I know.  I trust that my most ardent supporters somehow got through the past couple months of my silence with all of their fingers and toes—congratulations.   Life has become life here in Moldova, maybe that is the reason that I haven’t written as much in the past few months. 


This last weekend, my fellow M24s and I became veterans in Moldova.  We now have a group of M25s below us in the grand pecking order of Peace Corps Moldova.  Something like 65 volunteers just came and had pretty much the exact same 3-day training course in Chisinau that we did.  It was interesting to be on the other side of the first encounter with Moldova.  Not to say that, I abruptly look like a hardened veteran, but I do think that my group in general has lost the initial wide-eyed look that comes with living in a foreign country.   The new volunteers will at the very least live in constant surrealism for the next few months, it never seems to go away completely, but it definitely becomes less over the course of a volunteer’s time here.   I still love Moldova and the randomness of being on the other side of the planet, the strange regiment has simply been incorporated into my daily routine. 

The proper way to welcome someone to Moldova--with a mustache:

A few days with the new volunteers, yielded exactly what was expected—a lot of half nervous questions about life here as a whole.  I loved seeing the enthusiasm of the new group and their appreciation of it all.  It is hard to create the thousand-word picture, so when you can show someone exactly what you mean when you are talking about living in another country it is all the more fulfilling.


Not only did the last weekend constitute the new M25 group, it also marked the year marker of me being in volunteer.  It is absolutely crazy to think that I have already been here that long.  I feel as though I have accomplished a quite few things since I have been here, but not nearly as much as I probably could have.  I may have graduated to 1st grade (by 1st grade, I mean the level above kindergarten not to be confused with a superior or top-rate form of understanding) Russian by this point but that still may be pushing it.  I think I must sound like a pretentious little child when I talk because I can barely understand a conversation sometimes or talk for that matter but then I will drop a big word on someone that they weren’t expecting me to know.  It like listening to a child babble on about what he did that day in practically incomprehensible language and then drop a famous Winston Churchill quote perfectly.  I keep them on their toes.

One year here has produced a real feeling of home in Moldova, Peace Corps friendships that will most likely last a lifetime, a decent modicum of Russian language, and a respect of culture that goes far beyond merely celebrating St. Paddy’s day or Cinco de Mayo.

IronBeard out.    

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 5, 2010—A Successful Weekend

May 5, 2010—A Successful Weekend

This last weekend I had quite a bit to do:  I had a Small Project Assistance (known as the SPA) presentation to give, as well as a meeting with a couple from the states that live in Chisinau and fund small projects.  Both meetings and presentations couldn’t have gone any better really.  For the SPA presentation I was just told today that I had won funding for my agribusiness project, which consists of setting up a demonstration plot in the south of Moldova displaying a few modern techniques used in agriculture.  Hopefully we can spread the application of these sorts of greenhouse projects, because the profits that are associated with them really do make a huge difference in the monthly paycheck for farmers around here. 

The other project that I had a meeting for was for a small grant for a refrigerator, computer, stovetop and kitchen supplies in one of the kindergartens/ preschools in my village.  I came with 2 projects at two different kindergartens but I am happy to see at least one of them get closer to being funded.   I will have to find another way to do the other one… all is due time I suppose.

Forgive the short blog today but I have to get ready for tomorrow, I am off to the Carpathian Mountains in Romania to get some fresh air.

Cheers folks,

Эрон

Saturday, April 3, 2010

March 29, 2010—Orthodox Easter/everything is just a little more hardcore.

March 29, 2010—Orthodox Easter/everything is just a little more hardcore.               

Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin attend night Easter service 

Tomorrow is Easter here and after tonight “Lent” or «Пост» is technically over.  Back in the states I remember people saying they gave up fast food or coffee for Lent, I personally never really cared to give up anything.  My opinion is that if you truly think something is that bad for you that you will give it up for 40 days, you should probably just quit it all together and not beat around the bush.  For some within the orthodox religion the act of fasting can been taken to a much higher level than what I have seen in the states.  I may be experiencing that stark difference because of the Lutheran upbringing that I experienced just wasn’t quite as gung-ho about giving up their precious bacon-wrapped steaks.   For some in the Orthodox religion it means no kissin’ or lovin’ or even kebabs (both literally and figuratively).  I observed my babooshka truly fast as the beginning for three days where she only drank water and yet still worked all day, while I took to taking overeating-induced comatose naps by the handful.  Even with my protest of not wanting to eat meat during the 40 days of Great Lent, she still insisted that I meet my daily quota of kielbasa consumption—she is a stubborn brute that I very much respect.  Especially the more I come to understand just what it is she is saying, I have realized that half the time that she talks, she is talking in metaphor or quoting a passage from the Great Farce.  It is funny because I believe she tells me the same ones all the time, but it just takes me forever to figure out what exactly they mean.  So, from what I have observed she has made it all the way to the day before Easter and now she has to walk to church with all the sweet bread that she has been slaving over the last few days (which she also can’t eat—eggs (true vegetarians if you ask me, contrary to mainstream vegetarians)) at midnight and stand for 5-6 hours straight (not falling asleep). At the end of the 6 hours stand, everyone exits the church and circles it displaying their respective baskets of multi-colored eggs, sweet bread and whatever else they decide to furbish the basket with, only to have the Father fling holy water over the crowd using a basil plant dipped holy water.  Only at that point does everyone get to eat and drink as they please again. Amen.  I have about 8 hours to decide if I want to go to church tonight with her or not… We shall see.


The sweet bread:



Peace out folks 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 29, 2010—A little about some other parts of the world—Poland/Ukraine Version

March 29, 2010—A little about some other parts of the world—Poland/Ukraine Version     

In case you wondering what i looked like when I think about what to write on my blog entries:


And this is what I look like when I actually write them:


So the last post I mentioned that I had managed to get myself into a spontaneous trip to Poland and Ukraine, both of which we amazing and exactly the vacation that I/we all need more often in our lives. 


This particular vacation began with a pleasurable overnight bus ride (13 hours, originally thought to be 20—relief), pleasurable because it is ok to drink on public transportation otherwise I would have not been a happy camper.  The first day was spent in L’Viv in a sleepless delirium which seems to be the cool thing for me to do on every vacation as of late.  I believe you must see both the day/nightlife of a city to truly enjoy it, so if you are on a budget and must package your vacations into short excursions, sleep simply put is the first thing to go. 

Tons of cool architecture: 


and more:


L’Viv is a gorgeous city with all the things to love about Eastern Europe with the additional flair of a Western Europe feel to it.  Something that nearly always makes an impression on me in a new country or city is how as foreigner or at least someone with the all too familiar look of being lost is treated by the yokels.  My personal favorite experience like this was in Vancouver BC when I was helped by a slew of people when my car broke down and still made it to one of the greatest concerts I have seen in my life.  The first 5 minutes in L’Viv brought back this memory.  I asked for directions from one person and was immediately approached by a young woman who told us she was headed in the same direction and could show us exactly where to go.  After talking for a bit, we found out she knew people at the hostel we were staying at and that progressed to her and her sister kindly showing us the lay of the land in L’Viv a city they are proud of for good reason.  We managed to make it to scenic lookout locations, markets that were perfect for buying ex-soviet awesomeness, a shooting range, and a variety of clubs that can only be described as unique and requisite on a trip to Ukraine.

Hostile takeover of the hostel:

Neal being cliche:

As for the rest of the journey, we continued on to Krakow where there is plethora of gorgeous architecture and a very cool city square with plenty of opportunities for whatever kinds of mischief/adventure you want to delve into.  It was a little bit more expensive than L’Viv but we made due, by subjecting ourselves to mass of amounts of cheap and amazing kebabs, something that Washington really needs to realize the beauty of—probably the best late night snack ever.  Would you honestly ever get late-night hot dog or McDonalds again, if there was a kebab stand in town? The answer is only yes if you are dumb or crazy J.

A very alert taxi cab driver:

View of Krakow from a castle:

Something I must say in general about traveling is how great staying in hostels can be.  It is amazing how many like-minded individuals you can meet on a vacation.  Staying at a hostel is much like your first day in college or at a job where everyone is new.  It provides an incredibly comfortable atmosphere where it is not acceptable to talk to everyone, it is encouraged and you end up making some of the best sorts of friends even if it may only be for a day or two. Something about a hotel reminds me gated community, trying to avoid the contact that needs to be made with the outside world.


For all the smiling and good times had throughout the trip, we definitely toned it down for one day in particular, the day we visited Auschwitz.  On the way to the concentration camp, I believe I did what I do nearly every time there is a serious event that I am actually a little nervous about in my future--we laughed and told jokes in an effort to not have to deal with the reality of it.  The mood turned to somber and serious the second that we arrived in the town.  It is weird to me to think of growing up in a city of town that possesses one of the darker histories of humanity. I wonder how it would change your perspective on things being so close.  I am sure for some people it would strike pretty deeply into their character, but I could also see how some might choose to repress the thought of it. 

Much like the most beautiful and most ugly things in the world, words do little to describe the experience of being there.  I think one of the things that affected me the most was the familiarity of it all.  The wooden buildings, the dull-color painted walls, the dirt roads connecting it all.  We have all seen these basics before, but what sets these particular things apart is simply the fact that countless atrocities on humanity that were committed there.   It reminds us of the frailties of humanity and the decency of humanity that is sometimes swept aside in cruel times.  Seeing a child’s shoe can bring a tear to your eye for many reasons, whereas a room full of children’s shoes that were all of their last pairs brings a different sort of weight to your mind where you can find yourself floundering in your emotions.  

The last impression of Auschwitz as we walked away.
Entrance to Auschwitz "Work Sets You Free"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010---Poland & Ukraine

Well, I was feeling spontaneous and am now in headed to Krakow, Poland from L'viv Ukraine.  L'Viv is absolutely gorgeous and people equally so.  A friend of mine needed to meet a friend in Krakow on Sunday so I decided to keep him company on the long bus/train ride to our destinations.  I am truly a selfless being... I did this purely because I wanted my friend to not be bored on his trip--not because a vacation to Ukraine and Poland sounds amazing. 

Anyhow, that is what I am doing.  Not saving the world at the current moment, but enjoying life and loving the travel. I will not post any picture until I get back next week, because it is kind of a pain in the ass from here.  anyhow I will keep you all updated I suppose as the trip progresses.  We may make it to Auschwitz and some other points of interests.  anyhow peace out folks.

Cheers,

Aaron

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 9, 2010—A Tangent


March 9, 2010—A Tangent



Life was good this weekend. I took an adventure to Balti, the second-most populated city in Moldova, sitting at a hefty 100,000 or give or take a few ten-thousand. The whole people-working-abroad thing really throws off any estimates you can make about Moldovan cities and villages.  My village/city (depending on who you talk to—young adult or adult) for example is supposed to be a little less than 15,000 by the books, but most people say that 10,000ish live there now.    The thought that gets conjured up in my mind this that of Detroit where they say it can feel like a ghost town with its shrinking population and its continued presence of massive architecture. The difference between here and the states is that here a large percentage of the families have one or two parents or children working abroad or in a major city such as Balti causing the population of a city or village to usually be less than what is advertised on the books.   You might say that this happens quite a bit in the states, because small towns on the whole ship off their young to the closest state university where they become learned in one of the various trades or pseudo sciences offered there. This holds true for the most part in the states, although the big difference is that the family who sends/loses their young off doesn’t traditionally depend on the income of that individual for sustenance, whereas in Moldova that story is all but rare.  

One recent estimate that I heard was that roughly 1 of the 4 million “living” in Moldova work abroad and in almost every case they send remittances back to host country nationals.  You could call the remittances double-edged swords though because they on the whole lead to a pervasive problem that the world as a whole deals with all the time—inflation.  Like many countries, inflation is a tough problem that Moldovans have to deal with.  Interest rates on a good day at non-profit organization come to rest at 15 percent and on a bad day can reach the 25 percent range. Over a period of a loan you can imagine what kind of difference this would make in regard to the difficulty of paying this loan off or even with dissuading you from ever taking the loan in the first place. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but one of the biggest causalities is the fact that so many people work abroad and bring cold hard cash back across the border, after years of high rates of these remittances the average price of goods in general has risen considerably.  These things are natural, if the average disposable income of a population rises, the overall price of commodities tends to rise, bringing on unavoidable comments by the geriatric community such as “I remember when bread only cost a dime and seeing a movie at the local cinema was a quarter for the works”, the problem is that average prices usually rise with real average wages.  What has happened in Moldova is that “real” local wages haven’t risen, but Moldovans working abroad has indirectly given a “boost” to the local price of goods and services.   The more people work abroad the higher the price becomes for people working and staying at home. You can imagine what it is like for a large family, whose parents work at home or a local factory and have to continually put up with increasing prices.

In the States we enjoy quite the opposite of this, with a large influx of cheap labor from various countries; predominately from south-of-the-border countries such as Mexico (another popular country for remittances) because of this we enjoy the lower-than-average prices of goods.  You could sit back and say that is great for us, but I guess the point of this is not necessarily to make a point, but maybe to share a less vocalized view of working abroad for a brief moment.  Do what you will with it and enjoy your day… I am tired.

I apologize for my serious tone in this post, I realize I haven’t taken an air of solemnity like this in quite some time, I honestly sat down to describe an adventure to Balti that I took last weekend. Maybe you will get the alternative peachy-keen version tomorrow.

Until then or another then.

Respectfully yours,

Aaron

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What the Hell is That?

March 2, 2010—What the hell is that?    

That would be the sun and the broad and overwhelming-welcome changes in the weather, life and most of all (in this humble bloggers opinions) in the ol’ psyche that come from the new season. I have not written on this blog for over a month now and I suppose it is time again to inform the minute following that I have.  Although that amount has grown a bit since last I checked, which is always nice.  So what has happened in the last month?  Some would say not too much, but I suppose since this is the Peace Corps it is interesting to at least someone.  Just kidding really, in all honesty the past month has been rife with new experiences and good/bad times. 


A large percentage of Moldovan statues incorporate guns into the art:
To start off this, I will talk about маслыница.  A holiday a few weeks back that celebrated an ol’ pagan and Russian tradition for the coming of spring and the start of пост (Lent or the 40 days of fasting that some other religions take part in the states).  The day itself is celebrated by eating pancakes all day with fruit or sour cream. The pancakes symbolize the coming sun.  In this blog are a few pictures of the day, which was surprising the first absolutely beautiful day of the year.  The irony was that the very next day turned right back into a foggy, raining, muddy day again--dashing the hopes for spring starting already.


France vs. America: My money was on France:


They take the fasting a little more serious here from what I have observed, not drinking water or eating food for the first 3 days at all.  I refused to give up water, but I did tell my Babooshka that I would fast with her.  She said “ok”, and then next time that dinner time rolled around there was the all too familiar multiple course meal that I have become accustomed to; waiting for me.  She insisted that I did not need to take part in the tradition, so I said “how about I just don’t eat any meat for пост?” something that she also does for the remaining days of пост.  Thinking that this time, for sure we were on the same page and that surely breakfast the next morning would only be eggs and bread.  No, I was surprised with a large defiant helping of Salami standing in the place of eggs as if to signify her adamant refusal for me to “endure” in her traditional way.  So now, instead of trying respect her traditions and I get to be a jerk and eat large meals of meat in front of her, even when yesterday she told me she was craving BBQ.  Yeah, I get to be that guy, that says yeah that sounds delicious saying that with my mouth full of a cutlet of meat that she prepared for me.  I tried.

More pictures of the nice day: 



Over the past month or two, I have met a fairly large group of European Union volunteers, who have proven to be more than entertaining.  Most of them live an hour’s bus ride from my village.  Hanging out with them, definitely is refreshing.  It actually reminds me of being back in a youth group in church before I opted for working Sunday mornings at a restaurant. They are incredibly fun and always trying to make the most fun out of their situations.  A day spent with them most likely means I will take part in some sort of artsy project, whether it be cooking or doodling.  I appreciate it quite a bit because suffice it to say it makes me feel young in spirit again. What is it that makes us lose sight of the little things like that? I don’t want to blame it on anything specific; I feel that would be disingenuous to the cities, jobs and people I have come from.  Anyhow, more about Moldova.
Very serious theater performed by the French and German ladies:
Over the past month I have also had a couple of Peace Corps ISTs (In Service Training)s, once for the work I am doing here and the other for language training.  Both were incredibly helpful for me.  My partner and I made significant progress on the grant that we are writing together.  We hope to have it completed early this month.  The language IST couldn’t have been better, I think all of the Russian students agree that they miss the tutors that we had in Chisinau—some of the best.

I have decided to grow out my chest hair: 

My hope is that with the changing weather I will have more stories to talk about with you kind folks.  This winter I could have been a professional film critic, but I don’t think that is what you wanted to hear about that from Moldova (For any future Peace Corps volunteers that read this:  An external hard drive is the best/worst thing to ever bring to a country.  It will consume hours on end, but will also supply you with much needed breaks from PC reality. Consider yourself warned).  The last few weeks before the nice weather arrived, my village reminded me of London horror movies that take place in 19th century, such as the Movie “From Hell”, massive amounts of thick fog obstructing your vision for anything past 5 meters, and an eerie inordinately small amount of people on the street.  All is well now though. 

Anyhow I need to be on my way. 

Cheers,

Aaron

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January 20, 2010--This is a Story of Perseverance

January 20, 2010--This is a Story of Perseverance


I awoke with headache and a yearning to stay in the place I had awoken... although duty patiently prevailed. "I must be at work" I told myself.  Life called, I answered by rolling back over in bed. After one hour of listening to the debate of the little apparitions on my shoulders, I moseyed into life. Convinced that the day would be a failure, I went to work and did what any failure would do. I wasted away the gift of time on random internet browsing.  I read every article related to healthcare and the populist hangover facing America after the Massachusetts election.  Just when I thought I had had enough of my nose leaking like a high-powered squirt gun and my "for-fun" reading curdling the blood in my veins, I sat and contemplating my early departure from work and the ensuing laziness that would come of it.  



I sat... I sat... I sat and then my partner blindsided me with a wintertime picnic—today is the day of John he said—and in our particular office building “the Day of Johns” because two people are named John (Ivan is the direct translation of John).  To hear that we were having a picnic at work was odd enough, despite the fact it is the dead of winter. The patient side of my mind said give this an hour, if you’re still feeling like hell you can go home. 


The thing with any given masa in this country is that giving a little bit of time no matter the type of celebration it will get interesting with patience.  Within an hour the huge table I usually sit with my computer was cleared and a table cloth spread to its edges, with a multitude of workers from the other offices throughout the building.  I realized very quickly that I had been introduced to all of the men in the building quite long ago and the new faces present in the room were all women, who were in turn introduced to me as “not-married, not-married, and not-married”, normally in America this would make me a little uncomfortable, but since I have lived in Moldova I have become more accustomed to the statements and questions in this vein.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been introduced to a female here, and asked immediately in her presence whether or not she is attractive.  Alright actually that is still a little hard to deal with, both because of the language barrier and the obvious awkwardness. 



This masa ensued for the better part of the afternoon with the guest list being refreshed every hour.  One of the more interesting guests was a local priest, with a jolly smile on his bearded face reminiscent of a post-high school Santa Claus, who brought Kraft singles (WTF, where did he get them?), wheat bread (the first I had seen in a long time) and tartar sauce (interesting mix) and an icon of the Virgin Mary (he is a priest, it’s not weird) to the party.  Knowing that my partner Ivan is not religious, he gingerly laughed when he placed the iconic Virgin Mary picture on our bookshelf when Ivan was out of the room.  I thought it was quite funny, mostly because it was a priest, who normally I see as extremely serious in Moldova. Maybe I just don’t make it to the church enough here, maybe things get a little more wild there.  J

On this particular morning I decided to wear my Yak Trax for the very first time. Yak Trax if you are unfamiliar are amazing little slip-on traction additions to your shoes, they work extremely well.  I found myself disappointed that I had not worn them earlier, it would have prevented the two spills that I had taken early in the year on the ice.  Anyhow, this being my first day using the little gems, of course, the risk of losing them would be at an all-time high.  It always seems that way for me.  If I don’t ruin something or lose it the first day I have it, I can expect that it will be safe for at least the next year.  So “how could I possibly lose my Yak Trax on the first day of using them?” You ask.  Well, I gave them away to the young Saint Nick.  You might think “Why the hell would you do that?” as I thought when was doing it and even now.  The answer is that I was called out, being the number one diplomat for America in my village in Moldova, it was hard to say “no”.  I was asked in front of a dead-silent room full of people “Why don’t you give those to the priest? He is a priest after all”.  With all eyes on me and my decision, I sensed the corner I managed to get myself into (merely by not wanting to fall on my ass that morning, can you blame me?) and dutifully handed the Yak Trax over with a sigh and a pitiful “Why not?”.      

Overall the day was a success, the patience of waiting out the sickness led to yet another unforgettable day in Moldova. Yet on the negative side I am still able to fall on my butt any given day of iciness.  Good ol’ status quo of life I suppose.    


Cheers,


Aaron


Unfortunately, I wasn't anticipating the Day of Johns and didn't bring my camera, hence the reason you only get pictures of the Winter Wonderland. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just when I thought the holidays were over… Old New Year.

January 14, 2010—Just when I thought the holidays were over… Old New Year.

I am not going to lie there has been a lot of holiday celebrations here lately and I wasn’t here for half of them… and just when I thought it was all over. Some amateur Jedis came banging on our gate, demanding candy and money.



When I first saw them on my way to the outhouse, I was confused by them yelling something at me, I just figured they were messing with me, so I carried on do complete my predestined duty. When I returned I came to watch them gently hitting my babooshka with their makeshift lightsabers as they serenaded her with a song which I am sure was some special for the day—the day being the Old New Year’s eve. When I approached, I too, got to take part in the festivities and was sung to and beaten with a stick simultaneously. We gave them money, apples, bread and candy. All of which I would have thought was great as a kid as well, but the bread and apples I probably would have put in the same class as the people that give out toothbrushes on Halloween in the states. A nice gesture but the furthest thing from your mind on Halloween is brushing your teeth. It has to be taxing to be the person that only gives out toothbrushes, all night you have watch hordes of ballerinas, jedis, and other superheros and Superheroines come to your door with joy on their faces only to glance into their bags to double-check that it was indeed a toothbrush and not a mini snickers bar that they received from you, and then to only get a subdued “thank you” in return. As an adult that all kind of sounds funny now, but I don’t think I could face the tough crowd all night.



Enough on that tangent. Both new year’s eves are celebrated here, with essentially a 10-day party in between. I know that there was a big party on new years at least in the capital, although I haven’t asked my babooshka yet what they did. I am pretty positive it was a made up of few people, great food and a sampling of house wines. Typical masa. Next year I will have to find out.

Just the thought of the night…. спокойной ночи (Calm night) People.

Aaron

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 10, 2009—The Triumphant Return Home (Moldova)

January 10, 2009—The Triumphant Return Home (Moldova)


The vacation was an amazing experience, one in which I would gladly do again in the future although the world is too big of a place to stay in one place too long. We all need to see as much of it as possible. I have to admit at the end of the trip I was very hesitant to return to Moldova. I was a little overwhelmed with the experiences that I had been having. When you have been listening to the Call to Prayer from the rooftops in Jerusalem, or hiking to the Monastery in Petra or standing next to the Sphinx and Pyramids and looking over the enormous city of Cairo—all of which are humbling to say the least. So when you are waiting for your airplane in the Cairo international airport it is a little hard deal with the fact that I was flying back to my small village.

I had told my host mom here that when I returned I would cook dinner for some of the neighbors and her. This apparently turned into my birthday party without me really knowing it. Suffice it to say, the spaghetti I was intending on preparing was not nearly enough. While I prepared my addition, my baba and her friends cooked a variety of other dishes for the party. Typical Moldovan fashion is to completely cover the table with every piece of china in the house full of some sort of food. I am not sure if the goal is to eat all of the food, but if it is that goal is rarely achieved.

Host Family:


I made the spaghetti sauce from scratch so I received plenty of advice and know-how during the prep time. Luckily, the only superfluous addition into the sauce was a little bit too much oil. Not all that bad. I am not quite sure how the meal went over on the whole but everyone was kind enough to say that it was very delicious and that I should cook more in the future, despite some of the plates of it being barely picked at. Next up is tacos.

The birthday party made me feel ashamed that I even hesitated for a second coming home. We sat around the table eating and drinking for hours. Receiving toasts to my health over the next year every 5 minutes from neighbors, colleagues and my host family. It was great. I did try a few times to express my gratitude for all the generosity and blessings, I’m pretty positive it came out as garbled Russian, but hey I tried. In addition to an impaired sensation in the head and a belly full of food, I made off with two towels (which I really needed), some smelly stuff and my all-time favorite gift ever a traditional carafe sort of thing with 6 shot glasses which was full of “Taraclian Cognac” also called raiku or самагон. I had to be extremely careful opening the present lest I end up with cognac on the floor. The party winded down I believe around 11:00, a good 6 hours. My bed has never been more comfortable. (I fear going to a wedding here though, they are supposed to last two days).

Neighbors:

Cheers:


I felt incredibly spry this morning which was a nice bonus considering the excesses of birthdays, although I did sleep the majority of this Sunday away. My plan is to next write about each of the countries I visited, which I regret not doing while I was in country. Oh well, you live and learn right? Talk to you soon.

Aaron