1. Hanging out before seeing my second favorite baseball team!

    Hanging out before seeing my second favorite baseball team!

  2. tafttheatre:

    Check out “Never Coming Home” from Reigning Sound’s forthcoming album Shattered

    What a jam.

  3. Good morning, Chicago.

    Good morning, Chicago.

  4. Beers on the roof!

    Beers on the roof!

  5. Goodbye Moldova

    Yesterday morning I again awoke early, but at least this time I wasn’t hungover from wine. All those city sounds from the hustle and bustle of Bulevardul Moscova filtered into the open window. For breakfast Kostea and I had bread with butter and Nanuca’s dulceăță, which between you and me I left with him, as I didn’t want to pay to check a bag just to bring home a kilogram jar of strawberry jam. I will say that it was delicious and had I otherwise needed a second bag, I would have surely brought it home.

    At around 9:30 AM the four of us left to pick up my photos and lo and behold they were ready, which I’m thankful for. Nanuca is really waiting on a photo of her standing next to the gravestone of her friend Pasnuca’s grandfather. She intends to mail it to Pasnuca’s widow since there weren’t any photos (apparently) taken of the monument since Pasnuca paid to have it installed. I also printed a handful of photos for her and Ana, which are of Ala, Sașa, and me (and Nanuca and Ana too).

    Kostea, Ilya, and Yuta then drove me to the airport where we said our goodbyes as they dropped me off curbside. I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but I’m confident that they’ll receive me, so long as they’re still in-country. By that time Yuta will quite a bit bigger and hopefully we’ll be able to talk with one another, so long as either she learns a little English or Romanian or I finally knuckle down and learn some Russian. We will see!

  6. A Romanian or Russian Speaker?

    As an American who speaks conversational Romanian, it’s both interesting and confusing to observe the language conflict between speakers of Russian and Romanian. I’ve observed that nearly all Moldovans speak Russian, while Russians typically do not speak Romanian. There are also many Moldovans who prefer to speak Russian, to further confuse things. Oh and Moldovans often make liberal use of Russian words in their speech, as well as colloquial words that are unique to Moldova. Good luck learning the language, right?!

    As a rule of thumb, Russian is predominately spoken in the cities and in Gagauzia, a semi-autonomous region in the south of the country, which has historically been populated by Orthodox Christian Turks. I can’t recall if the Gagauzians settled in present day Moldova before or after 1812, but that was the year that the Russian Empire wrestled control of the territory from the Ottoman Empire. It makes sense that the Gagauzians would readily adopt Russian since it has always been the lingua franca in Eastern Europe (sometimes to the dismay of whole nations of people).

    It’s always very passive, but the dynamic is that a Moldovan will usually respond in whichever language he is being spoken to, while a Russian will only speak Russian, either because he sincerely doesn’t understand Romanian or because he’d prefer to speak Russian. In the latter case the motivation is is either one of pride or a fear of speaking Romanian poorly, which I can definitely empathize with. That said, I assume that the majority of Moldovans speak Russian with much less competence then a native speaker, although this varies village to village and family to family.

    I always lead with Romanian, just because I don’t know any better, but Kostea leads with Russian. This can lead to interesting interactions with Moldovans who assume that he only speaks Russian, even though he’s an excellent Romanian speaker. It has been frustrating to me since I cannot contribute to the conversation if it’s in Russian, even though I’m a competent Romanian speaker. I can think of two instances on Monday where I could have easily spoken Romanian, but did not because I wrongly assumed that Kostea was talking to a speaker of Russian only. I only knew better after hearing enough Romanian words slip through in discussion.

  7. Back to Kostea’s before an Afternoon Out

    In about fifteen minutes I got off the rutieră by the Soviet-era Circus and hoofed it to Kostea’s apartment. If I were smarter, I probably would have taken a trolleybus or a rutieră, but I couldn’t definitively recall the numbers and I also didn’t want to get crowded into another vehicle. I covered the several miles of distance with at least ten pounds of wine and dulceață in my otherwise heavy bag. It was hot and the sun was blazing, so I arrived to Kostea’s apartment quite sweaty, just like the old times.

    We had plăcintă for lunch and afterwards took a trip into the city so that I could print my plane ticket to Istanbul while also printing some photos for Nanuca. The first order of business was easily taken care of, but it proved difficult to find a proper place to print photos. It’s expensive compared to a full color print on paper stock, so there are few places that actually print photos. Thankfully, we eventually found one in Centrul, across from the Primariă. It took us a half hour to get there and after handing over the digital photos, we were given an estimate of forty minutes to completion.

    Ilya and Kostea then took me to the Art Market to buy some additional Soviet-era Moldova pins. I found seven that I didn’t yet own and they cost me 5 lei each, which comes out to $0.0036, so not even a penny per pin. Kostea had warned me not to speak any English, so that we’d get the Moldovan price and not the price for tourists. This is a marked contrast from the fifty cents that I’ve paid in the past for pins on eBay, which to me is still really cheap. I’m sure the Ukrainians and Russians that I buy them from think that they’re taking me for a ride, regardless.

    It’s sometimes much more difficult to complete tasks in Moldova than in America, for whatever reason. The photos were an example of this, since we returned an hour after dropping them off to learn that they weren’t printed and that we’d then need to to wait an additional forty minutes. By this time, Yuta was a tired and hot baby, so we decided to head home. The clerk at the photo stall assured us that the photos would be ready by the next morning, but I was skeptical. I also didn’t want to further inconvenience Kostea, especially since I was depending on him for a ride to the airport in the morning.

  8. Early Morning Chiroște

    For some reason, unknown to me, I awoke a little before 6:00 AM. I would have liked to have slept in, but I couldn’t. I got out of bed, dressed myself, drank the remainder of my bottled water, and headed outside to use the outhouse. On my return I saw that Mama Elena was in the summer kitchen, so I walked over and joined her. As promised, she was making chiroște for my last meal at Vera’s, which was totally unnecessary, but very much appreciated.

    She had to work at 8:00 AM, so she had enough time to make the dough, the brânză filling, and then put it all together. At 7:30 AM she handed the work off to Vera, who had been awoken by the sound of the rolling pin on the counter. All that remained for Vera was to boil the chiroște. Mama Elena left for work before enjoying the fruit of her labor, while the rest of us ate the delicious breakfast she made for us. I was prepared to say my goodbyes, but she promised that she’d return around by 11:00 AM to send me off.

    In the interim, I packed up my bag and then had the pleasure of watching a wedding video. If any other PCVs are reading this, you know that you’ve stayed too long when you find yourself watching a Moldovan wedding video. This particular video was three DVDs long, but luckily for me we fast forwarded through the dull parts, or at least the parts where we couldn’t recognize any of the guests.

    At 10:45 AM Mama Elena returned and sat down to enjoy the wedding video with us, but I had to get going soon. I bowed out at 11:00 AM and said my goodbyes. Sandu accompanied me down the hill to the bus stop and in minutes a rutieră arrived to take me to Chișinău. The rutieră was packed, just as I had hoped for!

  9. Mama Elena, Bunica Vera, Alina, and Vera

  10. Last Night in Ratuș

    We got back to Ratuș in the late afternoon and Andrei again walked me home, in spite of my insistence that I could find my own way. I arrived in time to eat some plăcintă with Bunica Vera, who seemed to appear out of nowhere. I drank a couple more glasses of wine with her, which I probably shouldn’t have done. I can’t recall whose idea it was, but we had a photo shoot with Bunica Vera, Mama Elena, Vera, and Alina, after which I retired to my room to take a four hour nap. The life of a tourist in Moldova, right?

    I awoke around 10:00 PM and found Mama Elena outside in the ogradă. She and I sat down on the front steps to chat and were joined shortly by Vera. It was much cooler outside since the sun had set. We sat together until nearly midnight and were even treated to fireworks from Porumbeni’s Hram, which was a surprise ending to my last night in the village.

  11. To Tamara’s Dad’s House

    When Andrei and I arrived back in Ratuș we headed straight to his house and shortly thereafter found ourselves on the road to Drăsleceni to visit his grandfather. I got to sit in the back seat of Ghița and Tamara’s truck, which brought me back to my Volunteer days. I’ve been inside and on top of that truck dozens of times, usually with Tamara behind the wheel. We even had the company of one of their dogs, who has gotten into the habit of joining them on their errands in the village. The ride to Drăsleceni was bumpy, but pleasurable.

    During my initial week in the Peace Corps I accompanied the Spinu’s to their grandpa’s house, so it was very nice to see him again, especially now that I can speak, however stunted. We sat outside around a table, ate smoked fish, and drank white wine. I seldom spend afternoons like that at home, so it was a good respite. These are the moments that made it really worthwhile to visit.

  12. Tamara with Veronica, the calf.

    Tamara with Veronica, the calf.

  13. Ratuș as viewed from Pașcani.

    Ratuș as viewed from Pașcani.