Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thumbs up, arm out, you get the idea…

Transportation in Moldova is pretty amazing for a developing nation. Basically, the system works as a spiral in and out of the capital. From the most remote village in Moldova you can usually find your way to the capital city, it may however be much more difficult to find a ride to a village 20 km east from your location. It’s sometimes easier (but more time consuming) to go to the capital and then catch a ride to the village that is closer, but yet difficult to get to. There are several methods of transportation available for those without a horse, cart, car or donkey. Public transportation consists of rutieras/microbuses, buses and trains. The trains are typically used for longer trips across the border as well as larger buses. The rutiera/microbus is a fabulous thing. It’s basically a “man van” or conversion van made into a small bus with seats for about 20-25 people. Since coming to this country I have had some of my best and worst experiences on rutieras. A breezy ride to the capital on a Sunday afternoon or a windows up, vents closed, sweaty, crowded ride where my feet barely touch the floor because there are more people than floor space available. It’s amazing and an adventure every time. Another option of course is hitchhiking which is legal in Moldova and quite common. I recently needed to get to my raion center (capital of my village’s municipality), which is not far, but I’m cheap and wanted to try my luck at hitchhiking alone. It turned out to be really fun! I met a nice man who is a chef in Moscow and he was on his way to cook a meal for his family in Balti. He dropped me off exactly where I needed to go and after some great conversation (which included him asking me why I was 24 and single about 60 times… most Moldovans are married with children by my age), he didn’t even make me pay! What a nice guy. I think I will hitch rides more often, just to meet random people and hear their stories…

Crazy as me

I’ve been listening to a lot of country lately on my ipod.  It might be because my partner and I rock out to Russian pop and Romanian folkloric music at work or it might be because I’m missing home or maybe the twangy blues of Alison Krauss has just been speaking to me on a more intimate level lately…
“I still love what I know.
I love to ride alone and sing a song and listen to the radio.
You can ride along and if you change your mind well that’s just fine, but there’s something that you’ve got to know.
Just don’t ask me for the truth if you choose to lie honey.
Don’t try to open my door with your skeleton key.
Some folks seem to think I only got one problem: I can’t find nobody as crazy as me.” – Alison Krauss
So one thing that this experience has made me realize is that I am very alone here and I am not one to easily adjust to the slow pace of village life (here in Moldova or anywhere for that matter).  I know the first few months are slow and that this is the time for me to concentrate on meeting people in the community, learning the language, etc.  but I am going home to USA in one week for my brothers wedding and readjusting after that is going to be doubly hard.  If being in Peace Corps wasn’t hard enough I have decided to torture myself by trying to straddle the line between two worlds.  I suppose this whole experience will only make me stronger, it just would be easier if there was someone as “crazy as me” to share it with but that is why I have my family and friends. :-) Love you all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Death by coffee

Mocha with raspberry and chocolate swirl... topped with steamed milk... YUM!
Before leaving for Moldova, I decided to indulge myself in trashy magazines to ensure that I would have some reading with more photos and comments than actual words. One of the less trashy magazines that I picked up was of course, Vogue, mostly because the June issue donned a beautiful photo of Blake Lively (a secret obsession of mine... I’ve loved her since her debut in "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants"). Besides an incredible feature on Lively covering her current movie undertakings and surfing lessons, the very last pages of Vogue were filled with an inspiring article exploring the characteristics and methods for a perfect cup of coffee (http://www.vogue.com/voguedaily/2010/06/brewed-awakening/). This article has led me to discuss the complete absence of an acidic, nutty cup of brew to tantalize my olfactory system.  Sadly, the majority of coffee available to Moldovans is instant. Yes, I said instant coffee. I know, it’s a disgrace. Sad, but true. The saddest part is the major brand is Nescafe. There are a few places that you can acquire a decent cup of joe, but they are mostly located in urban centers. Chisinau (the capital) boasts an overpriced but seductively similar to Starbucks establishment called Robert’s Coffee (http://www.robertscoffee.com/Englanti/sivut/index_eng.htm).
Robert's Coffee in Chisinau, Moldova
My friend Sam enjoying a milkshake at Robert's
Sadly, I have to limit my frequency to this location, as my Peace Corps salary does not support a 60-100 lei cup of coffee. So, I suppose it’s going to be mostly tea for me with a little instant coffee mixed in on those desperate-to-be-awake mornings. For those of you living and working in the USA… please sip your drip slowly and enjoy it… not everyone has the luxury of a Starbucks on every corner.

Oatmeal + freshly sliced apple + a sprinkle of cinnamon + cup of tea = breakfast of champions!