Monday, February 28, 2011

Woman of the forest

This post is long overdue.  In Moldova, when it rains in the fall and spring people flock to the forests to gather mushrooms. Now the funny part is that we have a mushroom factory in my town and so I asked my host mom and the hairdresser why exactly we gather the mushrooms from the forest when we should support the business in our town.  They promptly replied that there was not an economic reason for this, but rather to enjoy our afternoon together picking mushrooms.  Enjoy?  Enjoy bending over for 5 hours to pick two measly bags of mushrooms?  Enjoy scavenging through the woods?  I did enjoy the small talk with my host mom and walking through the forest taking pictures. Meeting other scavengers from the village was fun as well.  The mushroom picking... well that I could have done without.
Here are some awesome photos from the day:

Celebrating Spring on March 1

Long, long ago the sun would descend into villages as a handsome brave young man so he could dance at wedding parties and holidays. One day a dragon ambushed and jailed him. The whole world grieved. The birds forgot their songs, the murmur of spring ceased, and the singing of young girls and laughter of children turned into deep sorrow. No one dared fight the terrible dragon. However, there was one man brave enough to attempt to set the sun free from the dragon’s prison. Everyone gave him their strength to help in this difficult task. He walked through summer, then through autumn, then the entire frosty winter, until he found the castle of the terrible dragon. A dreadful fight for his life began. They hit each other mercilessly, shedding blood and sweat in the crystal snow. Both the dragon and the man were very strong, both wounded across their chests, arms and shoulders. At last the brave man gained victory as the cruel dragon fell to its death. The victorious man broke the walls of the prison and set the handsome sun free. The sun sprang into the sky. Nature began to revive, and people were glad, but the brave man did not last to see the spring. His warm blood dropped on the snow that began to thaw in the flowers that were growing. The snowdrops gently rocked their petals, heralding the beginning of spring. The last drop of strength and blood fell from the young man’s arm on the first of March, and he closed his eyes and stopped breathing.  Since then, in his memory, all the girls knit two tassels, a white one and red one, as a sign that spring is beginning. The girls present this token to boys of whom they are fond. The token is named Mărţişor, which is the diminutive form of Martie, the first month of spring. The red color stands for love of everything that is beautiful and is the color of the brave man’s blood. The white color symbolizes happiness, health and purity like a gentle and fragile snowdrop, the first flower in spring.  People give each other the Mărţişor on March 1 as a symbol of new life and love. Everybody wears it for the first week of March, though it is not uncommon for it to be worn the entire month. At the end of March the Mărţişor is put on a tree. They say that this will bring a good year and good crops. 
Snowdrop, the first flower of spring.

Celebration of Spring (Mărţişor) – March 1
During the first week of March, many concerts, musicals and entertainment take place to celebrate spring. As a token of love, friendship and greeting, people give and wear small red and white lapel flowers, mostly a handmade decoration, to signify the legend of Mărţişor.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cold hands, cold feet, my office is a refrigerator!!!

I love the winter.  I do, I swear. And I am very glad that I grew up in a cold climate and had the common sense to bring amazing layers.  I have silk long underwear, cuddle duds, winter and summer under armour, thick socks, wool socks, wicking socks, hats, gloves, mittens, down feather coats, and the list could go on and on.  I am to say the least prepared (probably overly prepared).  The sad part is I don't take many of these layers off once I enter my office.  Our only source of heat is a small gas heater located on the wall near my desk, thankfully.  It puts out a lot of heat but it's located just below the windows and on a wall that is not insulated.  We also have 12 foot ceilings.  My partner at work understands that all the heat escapes through the windows, wall and up to the ceiling, but what can we do?  Hopefully this grant I am writing to make repairs in the building will fix the windows, get us a carpet and maybe a ceiling fan.

Anyway, today when I was really cold my partner came over to stand on the heater and grabbed my hands and said (in Romanian) "Wow!  Your hands are so cold, like an icicle.  You're husband will be very handsome.  We say that people with cold hands will have handsome husbands."
My response (in Romanian)?  "Well, I'll wait for him.  This handsome husband."

Everyday, I learn something new about the culture.  So now, I begin my search for a trophy husband.  I better start working out a little more if I think I'm going to attract someone so "frumos." 

Friday, February 11, 2011

U.S. Senator Wants Trade Sanctions Lifted On Moldova

Interesting news tidbit...
A senior U.S. senator has introduced legislation in Congress that would life a set of U.S. trade restrictions on Moldova that were imposed in 1975. 

The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock

I just finished a very interesting historical fiction novel by Dennis Bock, "The Ash Garden."  Bock does a beautiful job of capturing the reader's attention with the book's opening sentence, "One morning toward the end of the summer they burned away my face..."

This novel offers three diverse perspectives on the bombing of Hiroshima.  A German scientist, Anton Boll, who contributes to the building of the A-Bomb.  His wife, Sophie, an Austrian Jew who sails on the St. Louis bound for Cuba and ends up in a refugee camp in Quebec, Canada.  Emiko, a you Japanese girl who witnesses the bomb dropping on Hiroshima. Through colorful illustration and historical fact brings these characters to life and allows the reader to walk through the creation of a scientific wonder to the felling of devastation and pain in it's aftermath.

It's a read I would suggest others to absorb themselves in.

Challenge: Live like a Peace Corps Volunteer

I recently came across a really interesting blog.  So here is my challenge to all of you.  I have no microwave or toaster at home.  Only a stove top and an oven (both gas).  So I challenge you and your friends/family,  try living without a microwave and a toaster for a week!  Please let me know how it goes... how long until you cave or any challenges or funny stories you can share.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Foreign Correspondent for Pink Pangea

Hello readers!

I just wanted to let all of you know that twice a month I will be featured on Pink Pangea a blog for women travelers.  It is a great resource for women travelers with tips and tricks for destinations "off the beaten path."  You can also check out their Facebook page.

Anyway, I just thought I would let you know that I hope to get Moldova on the map by writing for this blog!

Peace and love,

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Project

Today, my partner approached me with a new project.  Apparently Moldova does NOT have a digital database of people's addresses and phone numbers.  Don't get me wrong they do have a yellow pages website but this does not include a search for "people" like we have in the USA.  This makes finding someone's telephone number, address, email address or contact information almost next to impossible... unless of course they have a Facebook page, which is not exactly common in the rural villages.  So today, I downloaded a Phone and Address Book template from Microsoft's website and using a barely legible hard copy list of names and addresses that my partner somehow procured (without permission) from the local phone company, I am making a sustainable, digital version of a town phone book for a community of 8,000 people.   Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A recipe for flatulence: Christmas in Moldova

Now before you all judge me for the title of this post, just read about the cuisine and condition I am living with here in the magical land of cruciferous vegetables.  Since returning from my travels in India in 2008 I have had issues with my stomach and digestion.  The medical community diagnosed me with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).  So with this condition I am more apt to have discomfort when eating certain foods.  You'd think I'd be fine here with all the potatoes, bananas, oatmeal and basic BRAT diet needs but the influx of cabbage in my diet has certainly had an affect.

Christmas in Moldova is an interesting celebration.  It is celebrated in the old Orthodox tradition with Christmas day being January 7th and New Year's Day being January 14.  On Christmas eve my host mother and I were greeted by several children reciting poems in sing-song voices and opening their bags for candy.  I caught myself trying to ask the question, "Trick or Treat?" as the tradition of going door to door for candies is more of a Halloween thing for us Americans.  After this, the eating began.  And oh did we eat.  We had bread, boiled rooster meat in a rooster-stock-jelly, cold potato salads, layered salads with fish, potatoes, carrots and red beets topped with may-o, small meat burgers (much like meatloaf).  And then came all the hot foods: soups with cabbage, sarmale, sausages, etc.
I ate once with my host mom at our apartment, then we went to my partners house two hours later to eat more, then on our way home we stopped at my host mom's cousin's house and ate more dessert and drank more wine.  I ate very little at the last stop and the Moldovans could not understand why I was full, uncomfortable and just wanted to go home to sleep.

I really want to share with all of you the local foods and to do so I will be uploading the recipes to and posting the links on my blog!  Above you will find the link to the traditional sarmale, enjoy!