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.    



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.


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).



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.