So on the same day that my cousin’s wife was having her baby shower in the United States… I attended a similar event in Moldova. That morning I got up and indicated that I was going to Chisianu to buy my orange stick (for 24/7 internet) and my host mom indicated that I should be home by 14:00 because we were going to visit family in Ialoveni. I agreed, as I assumed visiting family meant eating a lot, dancing, chatting and just plain having a great time. Little did I know that I was going to a Moldovan style baby shower. We arrived with our plastic bag filled with two new outfits for the little one that my host mom had bought earlier that day at the market. We walk through the yard, past the chickens and a HUGE sow to go into a bedroom filled with ladies. On the bed was a pile of presents for the new mom and her baby. We added our gifts to the pile as did everyone else and then finally they put the baby on top of the pile, wrapped it in a few of the items and said a prayer. Then they handed the baby back to its mother and we all left the small room to sit at a table FILLED with food, wine and deliciousness in an area just inside the gate of the house. There was fish, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, plates of meat, cheese, gelatinized pig fat, chickens were sitting on bottles of cognac wrapped in pink and yellow napkins to make a dress and had boiled eggs as heads. It was amazing. There were salads, eggplant with tomato and cheese, and as we finished the “cold/room temperature course,” hot items were brought out. While we were eating the copious amounts of food, the grandmother and great grandmother of the newborn were walking around with a shot glass and champagne, then a shot glass with wine, then a shot glass with cognac, asking each of us to take a shot and wish the mother and child well. The laughter and gossip that ensued was amazing. I wish that I knew more than 10% of what they were saying. This type of gathering would be an excellent time to really get a feel for the needs of the women of this community. I wondered, where are their husbands? Where do they work? I sat between my host mom and a woman named Zina (possibly the largest lady there). Zina sure liked to tell stories, joke and laugh. Every time I looked over at her she had a new piece of food stuck to her chest and she was laughing so hard she could barely balance herself on the bench where we sat. It was truly amazing.
After about 30 minutes, a woman came around with a bowl of water and a dried reed of some sort. I followed the example of the other women and put 10 lei into the water bowl and held out my hands. She shook the reed and then my host mom studied my hands, indicating that I would not have any children. She then clucked and shook her head and looked at me with disappointment. Sorry?!? I then tried to explain to her that a similar cultural practice is done in Mexico with a necklace and the palm of your hand. Let me explain: They take a necklace (typically with a cross on it) and lightly touch your palm three times and lift the necklace. If it spins one way you will be having a girl and the other way you will be having a boy. You count how many times it spins in each direction to identify how many children you will have. When they tried this on me in Mexico the necklace did not move. It stood straight. We tried it 3 times and every time it never twisted, turned or even wavered. I have always said I never really wanted to have children… and it seems that two ancient cultural practices have spoken my desired result. This really struck me… but only time will tell.
Later on in the meal we passed around another basket where everyone placed some money, took a shot of wine/champagne/cognac and then wished the child and its parents well. As we sat around this table with 25 or so women and girls, I couldn’t help but think about what was happening at the baby shower in my hometown…
It really was an amazing experience and I thanked my host mom for dragging the American Volunteer along... I can’t wait to experience more of these types of events in Moldova, especially when my language has improved!