Sunday, June 30, 2013

19: Hitchhiking

As I mentioned public transport in Moldova is well developed and well used. However, there are times that utilizing public transport can be a real pain or even impossible. For one example the bus running from the nearest town to my village stops running at 2 o'clock. At anytime after that the only way to get to my village is to either wait for a train or hitchhike.

Hitchhiking is extremely common in Moldova and doesn't hold any of the negative connotations as it does in America. It is quite common to see people standing on the side of the road with their hand out as a car goes by trying to find someone willing to stop. Instead of the American standard of catching a ride with a thumbs up, Moldovans tend to simply wave their open hand as a car go by, or maybe if you are standing with a group of people and don't want to scare anyone from picking you up for a lack of room you can indicate how many people plan on riding by waving that many fingers. 

It seems to be a lot easier to pick up a car on roads that lead into a village as it is more likely that they will know the person in question or the person will know them so not picking them up could lead to a bad reputation being spread around the town...though on main roads it is more likely people will pass you by feeling less obligated to pick up strangers. 

It is also customary to offer the driver the same amount of money for the ride as you would have paid if you had used public really it isn't fair to think of hitchhiking as a cheaper way of traveling.   Though maybe more convenient as you will probably wait around for less time and if you are really lucky the car might be heading even closer to your house within the village so you can cut down on your walk from the middle of the village where the bus would normally drop you off. 

(I've been trying to include a photo or a video with each blog post but I'm not really sure how that would work with this I'm posting without one.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

20: Is that sour cream or mayonnaise?

Sour cream and mayonnaise find their way onto more dishes than I could ever think possible. And even  more confusing is when I think, "well...I never would of thought to put mayonnaise on that.." and then I taste it and it is really sour cream...or the inverse. Some fun examples include pizza which you can find covered in mayonnaise and corn along with the average ingredients. My personal favorite is a hot dog with mayonnaise and spicy carrots.

Sour cream can be added to literally anything to add flavor. If you make some pasta and need a sauce. Sour cream. If you have some fruit and want to make a dessert. Sour cream. 

To better illustrate my point here is a Sour Cream commercial from Moldova in Russian. You don't need to know Russian to understand what it is saying.

Friday, June 28, 2013

21: Cigarettes and Beer

One of the things you might notice rather quickly upon coming to Moldova is the sheer amount of smokers. Everyone smokes. I can probably count on my hand the amount of men that I have met that are non-smokers. And I say men because there is a very large gender gap. It is still not very culturally accepted for a woman to be a smoker, especially in a village and while it is pretty common in bigger cities to see women smoking they still do so at a much lower rate than the men which isn't hard to do since nearly all the men smoke.

But aren't cigarettes super expensive? Especially for chain smokers? How can they possibly afford it?

Easy. A pack of cigarettes can cost less then a pack of chewing gum.

An average pack of cigarettes cost about 12-15 lei, or about a dollar. But if you look in the corner you can find a pack of Doina that sells for 4.50 while a pack of Orbit gum underneath sells for 5.50.

But cigarettes aren't the only thing that is dirt cheap. Beer also flows like water. Sometimes cheaper than water. 

As a reminder in case you forgot, one drink of beer is considered to be 330 ml. Which is the size of that smallest can.  The bigger can and the bottle are both 500 ml and it goes up by 500 ml for the bigger bottles. Which means yes, you can buy a 2 liter bottle of beer and usually it runs for about 3 dollars and the 500 ml usually doesn't much more then a dollar unless you are eating at a restaurant and then it might be as much as a dollar fifty. 
Chisinau of course being the capital of the country it is also the brand name of the best selling beer in Moldova. Although there is other beer available from Russia or Ukraine such as белый медведь, старый мельник, or Балтика, beers from other countries tend to be harder to find and usually cost twice as much. In general Guinness, Stella Artois, Carlsberg, Beck's, and Heineken are really all you can find in most places, though larger grocery stores have very large selections, with the beer and the alcohol taking up two separate aisles. (Also almost all East European beer are sold in 500 ml bottles while West European beers are sold in 330 ml bottles and cost more you pay more to get less beer.)

Unlike wine which is usually chugged like vodka, beer is usually sipped at a leisurely pace and even though Moldovans hardly ever drink anything cold and never put ice in their drinks, because there is fear of catching a cold or upsetting your stomach, beer is an ice cold exception.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

22: Party Time Masa

In addition to the necessity to dance the hora or have traditional Moldovan folk music playing another essential part of any event you might plan is the obvious inclusion of a meal, or as it is called in Moldova, a masa.

I'll never be confused for a professional photographer.

But I think you can get the basic idea. Essentially there is an assortment of food, drinks, more food, and more drinks.

But instead of having one dish and having to pass it all over the very long table they have many plates holding the same thing, and the drinks kind of mark the boundary line to a repetition of the same dishes. Take this example (working my way left to right) you have a plate of fried chicken and placinta, a plate of boneless chicken, carrots, minced meat patties, and squash, a plate of bread smeared with mayonnaise and topped with caviare, a bowl of cooked mushrooms and fresh vegetables, a plate of fruit, a plate of cucumbers and cheese, a plate of processed meats, a plate of candy, cookies, and cake, and finally a plate of rolled crepes with fruit in the center and topped with sour cream. And lastly, I want everyone to take note of the amount of bread that was put on everyones plate. Four slices.  A meal in and of itself.

Yes...that's right I said caviare. 

And like I said what would a party be if it didn't have people dancing the hora?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

23: Chicken Jello

I would like to introduce you to my archnemesis of the culinary variety. It is called racituri (Ra-chee-tor) which is just a fancy way to say chicken jello.

Even served on a gold rimmed plate with a swan decoration it doesn't look any more appetizing. The picture is taken from the wedding I went to last June.
Racituri is made as you might think with chicken broth and gelatin and more often than not there is a leg of a chicken in the middle...and when I say leg what I really mean is foot. My host mother is quite found of making it with the neck as well.

The dish is usually served cold and from the one occasion I did eat it I would say that it taste like a cold piece of chicken covered in cold, congealed, salty gravy.

In case you plan on trying to make it yourself at home I should probably point out that my host mother has warned me that you can only use rooster legs and not hens to make the dish, presumably because they have more gelatin in their bones so it sets better, or something along those lines.

I have also written about chicken jello in a previous post.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

24: Moldovan Moonshine

Similar to Moldovan wine, there is another beverage that is homemade by most Moldovan households and that is something known in Romanian as rachiu and in Russian as cамогон. Rachiu is usually made by distilling the house wine, which would make it a form of brandy or cognac. But again since it is homemade it has a lot more in common with what Americans would think of as Moonshine and has an exceptionally high proof.

When drinking something such as rachiu or vodka there is usually always another drink on hand to help wash it down along with some finger food, such as cucumbers with some salt or pieces of bread.

Monday, June 24, 2013

25: Moldovan Folk Music

What comes to mind when you think of the words, "folk music?" From my own experience I know that whenever someone mentioned folk music, my reaction was generally pretty negative, even though when I think of the handful of American folk songs I do know my reaction to them individually is pretty positive. So as an American it has taken a little getting used to just how popular Moldovan "popular music" really is.

Moldovan folk music or "popular music" (not to be confused with pop music) has very little in common with American folk music. In general it tends to rely a lot more on violins, trumpets and perhaps surprisingly accordions. The music is usually very much up tempo and sometimes can be hard to follow because of its fast pace, which is in quite contrast to the American folk songs I can think of that tend to be a lot slower with a lot less trumpet and a lot more guitar. But don't let the upbeat tempo confuse you, the actual theme or lyrics of the songs are usually pretty depressing. A lot of them are nostalgic for home or for family members who have died and/or remembering life as it used to be, with only relatively few songs devoted to love and a few about wine.

I chose a few songs to showcase mostly based on the fact that I like their music videos more so than the fact that they are good representatives of Moldovan folk music. Starting with a man by the name of Igor Cuciuc who happens to be one of my favorite Moldovan singers and his lyrics tend to be less depressing. The song is "Moldovanu Cît Traiește" or "The Moldovan How Much He Lives."

If you happen to watch TV in Moldova there is actually a channel where they only play Moldovan folk music videos all day. The videos are usually filmed in a very stereotypical Moldovan setting and the singer is usually wearing Moldovan traditional clothing. A lot of the time there is actually people in the background dancing along with the music or people playing instruments.

Luckily enough I actually found a video that has a collection of music videos put into one video so it will give you the impression that you are watching that music channel. However, all of the songs are sung by the same singer and I am pretty sure she is Romanian and not Moldovan but just pretend I didn't mention it and you won't know the difference.

One thing that I find the most interesting about Moldovan folk music is how some of it can become a fusion blend with pop music. There are quite a few songs that you might hear on the pop music station that you might also hear on the folk music station. This song is a good example. Even the music video blends together elements that are very common in traditional folk music videos, such as the countryside setting and traditional village life tasks...while also combining pop music video staples such as scantily clad women and suggestive cinematography. The song is "Eu Numai, Numai." or "Only, Only me" and the chorus of the song is him repeating "Only with you" ... "Without you I can't."

Lastly, I'm going to include another video by Igor Cuciuc who as I mentioned is probably my favorite but this time I'm going to include a video that transcends the normal folk music fare and has a very strong emotional message. It is called "Moldovenii Veniți Acasa" or "Moldovans Come Home." Some of the lyrics include, "Moldovans come home. We have a beautiful country," ... "Mama, Papa, siblings don't become strangers," ... "the children are growing up without a mother and they cry in their sleep."

In case you missed it I also posted a video not that long ago with a folk song about wine.

There is also a post I made quite a while back that talked about Moldovan pop music.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

26: A Year Goes By

There are some places in the world where you could spend a year and not notice any real change in the climate with the every November passing just like April and just like July.

But Moldova is not one of those places.

The winter is cold (down to negative teens) and is long (from late November into late March/early April). And once it snows the snow tends to stay and doesn't really get a chance to melt. 

The fall is just as depressing as everything dies and all fresh fruit and vegetables vanish quicker then they appeared.

But for a small blink of an eye there is a few weeks when the weather is perfect. In between the rain/sleet/lingering cold weather at the beginning of April until the start of cloudless/rainless/swelteringly hot days begin in June.

Speaking of hot days in June, today it was 90 degrees and not much change is expected in the forecast, and no air conditioner around to save me from the heat. :(

Saturday, June 22, 2013

27: Mihai Eminescu

Outside of Ștefan cel Mare the vast majority of all famous Moldovans are writers and poets, and when you keep in mind how much pride Moldovans take in their language this makes a lot of sense. In the same way that there is street named after Ștefan there is probably a school named after Mihai Eminescu in at least every other village.

Mihai Eminescu with his striking good looks is another figure who finds his way to be memorialised throughout the country of Moldova. Born in what is now the Republic of Moldova he spent much of his life actually living in present day Romania, namely the cities of Iași and București. Although he was very much a wanderer never spending too much time in one place he died at the premature age of 39. But before he died he left behind volumes of poems and other literary works. 

I'll give you a sample of one of his poems...well actually a sonnet since his poems tend to run long.

Sonnet V 

The years have passed like clouds across the dale; 
The years have gone and will return no more, 
For they no longer move me, as the lore 
Of legend, and of song, and doina's tale 

Brought wonder to my boyish brow of yore, 
And mystery its meaning half unveil. 
Your shade falls round me now to no avail, 
O secret twilight hour on evening's shore. 

To tear a sound out of the life that's gone, 
To stir within my soul again its thrill 
My hand upon the silent lyre is numb. 

Ay, all is lost beneath youth's horizon, 
The tender voice of bygone days is still, 
While time rolls out behind me... night has come.

Friday, June 21, 2013

28: Ștefan cel Mare

Ștefan cel Mare, or in English Stephen the Great, was the ruling prince of a region known as Moldavia during the late 1400s, a principality that encompassed most of which is present day Moldova. At this point in history in which he lived the Ottoman empire was trying to expand its hold into Europe but didn't find much success when it came to trying to conquer Moldavia. Ștefan is said to have won 46 out of the 48 battles he was in and after winning he would build a church or monastery on the site of the battle. It was because of this tendency that he would be labeled a defender of the faith and is now considered to be Saint Stephen. 

Ștefan is such an important figure in Moldovan culture and history that there is a street named after him in almost every village, town and city in Moldova in addition to a monument of some type devoted to him. Even on the Moldovan money the only person depicted on every denomination of bill is Ștefan cel Mare.

It's also fun to note how small the money is here in Moldova. Which is also true of the coins. 

And while Ștefan is not very well known outside of Romania and Moldova you might have heard of his cousin who was the ruler of Transilvania, Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler. And while Vlad Dracula is indeed worthy of the designation of being the impaler there is very little about his life that would give rise to myth of vampires other then Bram Stoker choosing to use his name while writing his novel Dracula.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

29: Shadows of the Past

A part of Moldova's rich history is its half a century as a member of the Soviet Union. The effects and evidence of which are still visible pretty much everywhere you look both in the culture such as the  prominence of the Russian language in an area that is predominately ethically Romanian and also politically. The communist party still holds the most seats in the Moldovan parliament though the communist party of today has little in common with the communist party of the Soviet Union.

And then of course there is Lenin.

While most localities have exchanged their Lenin statues for a statue of the Moldovan historical figure Stefan cel Mare there are still locations that have Lenin watching over them, including the nearest town where I have to go whenever I want to go to an ATM or visit a restaurant. However, Mr. Lenin's days are numbered as I've heard that the statue is for sale and though I haven't gotten very many specifics the rumors tend to say for the low price of about a million euros you could make this statue your very own.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

30: давай поженимся (Let's Get Married)

TV shows in Moldova tend to mostly be Russian TV shows with maybe a few Romanian thrown in every once in a while. Usually in the winter when we are eating inside we have the TV on and even though I don't understand anymore then a few words or phrases here and there it is still very entertaining to watch. I posted once already about one of the more popular gameshows so this time I am going to link to a video to my personal favorite, which oddly enough is a dating show.

As with most dating shows there is one person looking for love and three suitors for them to choose from. However, getting married is serious business and so you really can't make an informed decision in such a short time. In light of this there are three women of a certain age who do all the hard work for you. They start out by getting to know you for about 15 minutes which is surely long enough to know the intimate desires of your heart and to start making your life decisions for you. At which point they bring out the suitors one by one with their friends accompanying them, sort of like a living character reference. The suitor chats for a while with the women barely acknowledging their future spouse until it is time for them to show off their talent, usually this involves some kind of singing or dancing or perhaps if you are really lucky a little of both. Keeping in mind that the people on the show are not usually involved in show business the talents are actually quite impressive if not slightly eccentric.

This is one full episode that I randomly picked from YouTube. It is completely in Russian and quite long but really you don't need to watch the whole thing it is quite enjoyable picking any spot and pressing play and most likely something worth watching is probably going on.

Oh. I almost forgot that there are special edition episodes with children. These are even more fun to watch. Keeping in mind the name of the show is "Let's Get Married."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

31: Special Recipe

We have my host mother's grandchildren visiting and she prepared a very unique cake just for their arrival. To me it has a lot in common with banana pudding but at the same time is still very unique.

First you should mix warm water with a packet (15 grams) of gelatin. As the gelatin is solidifying mix half a liter (or half a mason jar) of smantana ( soured heavy cream) and combine it with about a half cup of sugar. My host mother added a few drops of Barberry extract but I don't think this is readily accesible to most Americans, though a few drops of vanilla extract would probably work just as well. Mix the heavy cream and the gelatin together.

Take a large bowl and cover the bottom with animal crackers and then cover with the heavy cream mixture. Add in any fresh fruit you may have on hand such as raspberries. Covering each layer of fruit with another layer of crackers and the cream.

Place the finished product in the refrigerator to cool and set overnight and enjoy eating it by the next day.

Pofta Buna!

Monday, June 17, 2013

32: Horse-drawn Carts

Horse-drawn carts are still very common throughout Moldova. Usually it doesn't seem to out of the ordinary to see one going by in the village but it always catches me off guard when I see one in town. 

Instead of keeping the foal at home they usually just follow after their mother. More than once I have turned to look at a cart go by and nearly get trampled by a pony trying to keep up with their mother.
I even got to ride a cart myself. It was one of the things on my Moldovan checklist and I was starting to lose hope that I'd get a chance before I left.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

33: There's Always Room for One More on the Minibus

This is a minibus. 

AKA a rutiera, maxitaxi, or marshrutka. In general there are seats for about 12-16 people and are the chief mode of public transport for the majority of Moldova's population. If you plan on a long trip you can rest a little easier taking the minibus since tickets are sold at the bus station for each seat and the bus always leaves on time. Minibuses are not only for long distance travel though as they are the main mode of transport inside the capital city as well. However, these minibuses operate much differently. Instead of buying a ticket and waiting at a station you simply wave down any bus that passes you by and jump inside. Unlike on a long distance ride, minibuses in the city are usually filled to overflowing with upwards of 30 people at time getting on and off as they please. Air conditioning or even an open window are pretty hard to come by and the heat is always made that much worse as the bus stops over and over to keep picking up another person. No matter how packed or crammed the bus might appear to be there is always room for one more. But for 30 cents a ride and on demand stops you really can't complain.

The North Station in Chisinau

The minibuses aren't without their entertainment. Watching the bus driver at work is like watching a skilled craftsman. Distracted driving is not so much a habit as it is the form of driving that every bus driver has mastered. Here's an example that I've seen a few people pass around on Facebook:

Drinking a cup of coffee and driving with one hand, collecting money from passengers with the other while also smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

34: Trains

Transportation in Moldova is quite different from what I was used to in America mostly based on the fact that I never used much public transport besides the metro in DC, however, in Moldova public transport really is the only way to get around. For me trains were the easiest method to get out of my village which was great since I have always really enjoyed riding trains, even if they are a little unforgiving as far as scheduling your life around them goes. I spent much of my first year utilizing only the trains until Moldova bought a new train and had to change the schedule to accomodate it. Now the trains are not as convenient as they once were but for others living in the country I am sure the addition of the new express train will be very much appreciated.
The older train making a stop at the station in Scumpia

Wooden benches dont make for the most comfortable travel experience...especially for a 4 hour train ride

The newer faster express train

The added comfort will only set you back an extra dollar 

Friday, June 14, 2013

35: Invasion of Cuteness

Baby Ducks

Baby Chicks

And baby bunnies...they are hiding in the corner.

Babies are everywhere at our house now. They all came all at once and now practically all the animals have little babies to take care off. My host mother also informed me that the proper way to oh and ah over them is to say "pfft pfft." Not only do the animals all make different sounds in Romanian but even the way to react to their cuteness is different. However, in the interest of full disclosure I should probably mention that the baby bunnies are actually quite ugly which is why I didn't zoom into them on the picture above.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

37 & 36: Wells and Icons

The highly unusual and rare plain white well. Brightly colored ones are much more the norm.

A standalone icon. Like the well above it is also quite unusual since it is not located beside a well.
Household icons.

Indoor plumbing is becoming more and more common throughout Moldova as people who have left Moldova to make some money come home and start to make renovations to their houses. One fun consequence of people renovating their houses is that any time someone wants to add a line to the water main they have to cut the water off for everyone else using that pipe. Which usually means that at any given time you might not have water and once it goes out it is usually gone for the whole day.  That might sound like quite a hassle but the water from the tap is really only used for bathing and for the sink. If you plan on cooking any food or want some drinking water you need to head to the closest well. In addition to the water being free it is also always crisp and cold which is a definite plus in the summer time when the weather is scorching hot. 

Wells are everywhere in the village and you are never more than half a block a way from one if not two of them. I've been told that the reason they are so plentiful is that there is a saying that a Moldovan has not lived a good life unless they have built a house, planted a tree, and dug a well. Wells are also usually very unique and colorful (in contrast to the only picture of one I could find on my computer) and they are almost always partnered with an icon. 

Icons are devotional images usually depicting Jesus but other saints are possible and are mostly unique to the Eastern Orthodox church. Every house, classroom, car and motor bus has at least one icon and throughout the village you can find them whether standing on their own or placed next to a well. Tradition calls for anyone passing an icon on the street (whether walking or driving) to make a sign of the cross but this is not heavily followed by most Moldovans, older women being the most ardent observers. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

38: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

One of the first things you notice walking through a village street, other than the fact that it isn't paved, is that all of the houses no matter the size have a fence and a gate. Just like the houses, the gates and the fences are always unique and brightly colored. In a country that has such a strong feeling of community it is quite interesting that Moldovans would feel the need for fences and delineating their property but the more I think about it the more it reminds me of Robert Frost who wrote that, "good fences make good neighbors."I'll have to translate that and see what Moldovans think.

Monday, June 10, 2013

39: EU Integration

In Moldova EU integration is such a big deal that the current government is composed of a group of political parties whose number one stated goal is for European integration. Things have actually been going very well for Moldova on that front with plans to sign an agreement by 2014 and drop visa restrictions not very long after. Although joining the EU would be great for Moldova for many reasons, for the average Moldovan the chief importance of joining is for free and open access to find work in other European countries.

Emigrating from Moldova for work is a startling and growing trend with some measures placing nearly half the population of Moldova as working abroad, and most of them are working illegally and getting paid under the table. Remittances form more than 1/3 of Moldova's GDP which is among the highest in the world.

Moldovans waiting in line at the Romanian consulate, which happens to be right next to Peace Corps HQ and I can't remember a time no matter the weather when their weren't people waiting in line.
(Stolen from Google Images again.)
Moldovans really don't have to wait to join the EU, however, as almost all Moldovans can claim Romanian citisenship since Moldova was apart of Romania before WWII which means they have family members who had Romanian citizenship  It really only takes a day trip to the Romanian consulate to fill out paperwork and pay for a passport in order to become a dual Romanian-Moldovan citizen. An option many Moldovans partake in since Romania has fully joined the EU and has already signed agreements for visa-less entry throughout the EU.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

40: Cricova Winery

As a continuation of my post about wine it is important to also note that the largest wine celler in the world is actually located in Moldova in a small village near the capital called Mileștii Mici. I was  unable to find any good videos of this one but I found two videos of the second largest one inside of Moldova which is quite the labyrinth as well.

The first video is better quality but is in Romanian...although once you understand that it is a very large wine celler you don't really need to understand anything else they say.

However, if you prefer something in English this is not as well made and is slightly more dated but provides a lot of factual information you can watch this one. (blogger won't let me share it as a video for some reason)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

41: Vin de Casa (House Wine)

I stole this pic from google images.
My pictures of anything wine related are severely lacking.
Whenever I stop and I try and think of the three things that define Moldova more than any other or even just asking a Moldovan what they are most proud of I think the answer would almost always be:  Moldovan wine, Moldovan Orthodox traditions, and the Moldovan/Romanian Language. Wine in Moldova is not simply a drink that is consumed with a meal it is a very serious part of their culture. Whenever any event or holiday happens you can be assured that it has not properly been celebrated unless there was wine involved. Wine is also how Moldovans display their hospitality by offering it to any visitors who come to their house and since every house usually makes their own wine each vin de casa is unique and in a way defines that household from others. Recently we had a person from the neighborhood come over to our house and actually serve us with their house wine as they invited us to a party which is a much different approach to the average party invitation. My host mother also refuses to serve placinta without accompanying it with wine which is notable because it is the only meal we have with wine when we are at home without guests.

I should also note that the actual way wine is consumed is quite different from the way it is consumed in America. Instead of a wine glass with a tiny dab of wine that you sip on throughout your meal, in Moldova it is much more common to have wine in glasses that have more in common with juice glasses, and the way the wine is consumed is much more like a shot with everyone taking the whole glass of wine all at one time. There are also several variations on how it is served with each person given a glass and everyone takes the round at the same time after a short toast or if there aren't enough glasses only one glass will be used and it will be shared with everyone around the table with each person filling the glass saying a toast of good health to the others at the table chugging the wine and passing the glass to the next person. This usually continues until the pitcher that the host filled from their wine barrel is empty and as I have mentioned many times before the host is usually very adamant on making sure no one leaves until all the wine has been served from the pitcher... but also it is very likely that after the last of the wine is served that the host will try to run off with the pitcher to fill it up again. At which point if the whole group doesn't get up to leave then the whole group will most likely be forced to finish off the second pitcher as well.

I've never had much experience with wine outside of Moldova so I'm not sure if this is true with wine in general but one way to know if someone has been indulging in house wine is just to wait until they smile and observe the color of their teeth. House wine has a habit of staining teeth bluish and it really only takes two glasses to make a noticeable effect and it only gets worse with the more wine you drink.

Finally I plan on writing about Moldovan folk music in a future post but since wine is a major theme in Moldovan folk songs I will give you an example and you will have to wait for further explanation in the future.

I previously posted about how Moldovans make wine in a past post but in case you missed it or want to read it again you can find it here. 

There are some pics of me recently going on a wine tour that can be found here. Which also reminds me that vin de casa taste nothing like professionally made wine. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

42: 5 dollar gas

So while not that many people in my village drive cars there are a few people who own and operate cars on a daily basis and the cities in Moldova are of course filled with people drive around guzzling gas just like in any country. What always has surprised me is just how expensive the gas is here compared to what I am used to.

I just took this picture this week and it shows that gas prices are about 17 lei for each liter which once you translate the measurements comes out to about $5.20 for each gallon. Although it should be noted that they don't sell regular 89 the cheapest is 92 plus and of course the more expensive 95 supreme.

My favorite part about riding in a car with people is when we hit a hill they kill the engine and ride the momentum down the hill and turn the engine on once we need to accelerate. At those prices I can completely understand although really that is still better than most other places in Europe. So for all those Americans out there who still find reason to complain about gas prices the next time you see the gas prices rise you should do a quick google search for gas prices in Turkey or the Netherlands and you will see the world in a whole new light.

Oh, and in Moldova the gas is never self serve so you never have to leave your car you just let the man at the pump handle it for you and oddly enough the man at the pump is usually wearing a very sturdy looking jumpsuit. Which I guess when you think about the material he is handling it really isn't odd at all just odd to me since as an American I'm used to being rather careless with my gasoline pumping.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

43: A Bear of a Dog and Moldovan Mutts

I wasn't planning on doing animal posts three days in a row but yesterday I had another encounter with the largest dog I have ever met. She lives with a family who work in the embassy and have dinners at their house once a week. Since the dinners usually happen in the middle of the week I have been unable to go since July and when I was there that time I didn't have my camera so I wasn't able to share with everyone the bear of a dog I got to eat dinner with the last time I was there. This time, however, I had my camera.

However, since this is supposed to be posts related to Moldova I will run with the topic of dogs and see what I can come with.

Peace Corps Moldova's newest member

The first thing that comes to mind is the overwhelming amount of stray dogs you find in the capital city. They are usually friendly but are a lot more apprehensive to human contact since people in Moldova have more a tendency to hit or kick them if they get in the way. They also tend to form little dog packs so its not unusual to be walking down the street and have a pack of 5 dogs just run past you on their way to their next meal.

Our guard dog Vova (which is the short form of the name Vladimir)

Also, no Moldovan house would be complete without its guard dog. Whenever someone comes over to visit they usually stand outside the gate of the house and call out for the person they are looking for, usually though unless the windows are open you probably won't hear anyone calling out for you. This is where the dog comes in, as soon as someone calls out from the gate the dog starts barking and the barking is usually a lot more effective than the actual calling out. 

I should also note that almost all dogs you will find in Moldova are mutts and are all about the same size. Whenever, I have run into pure-bred dogs or at least dogs that held stronger resemblances to specific breeds I have usually caught myself doing a double take. Which brings me to my next subject: ляля or Lyalya.

The face she gives me when I don't give her food. 
Our other dog is not a mutt like Vova she is purer bred though I really can't think of what she might be. However, I can tell you that she is a bottomless pit for food and will forget within a minute of her last meal that you fed her and will constantly bark until she gets more food...although you can distract her for a while by playing she will eventually get bored of playing and go back to barking.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

44: Public Enemy #1

In contrast to the lovable and docile, albeit sometimes stubborn goats that sit peacefully in the pastures there are also marauding hoards of loud, exceptionally combative and forever grumpy geese whose chief goal in life is to wander around aimlessly in groups and make as much noise as possible when anyone or anything gets within a certain range of their personal space.

However...they are I guess there's that.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

45: Goats and Other Assorted Living Lawn Ornaments

Consistently one of my favorite parts of Moldova that always makes me smile is surprisingly the goats. They are really. Everywhere. Anywhere you go that might have even the smallest patch of grass is a good enough spot for someone to park their goat for the day.

Every morning anyone with a goat will take it for a walk to a nearby pasture and hammer down a post to keep them tied down. This isn't just true for goats but also for cows and horses as well, however goats are the most common. Although this isn't a year round occurrence as animals are usually kept at home in the winter and during the summer it becomes more common to have a shepherd take care of your sheep along with pretty much everyone else's in the village as everyone is too busy with the harvest and their gardens to take care of them. This has the added advantage of them most likely coming home pregnant in time to have a baby goat in the fall and the kid will have enough time to fatten up through the winter in order to be slaughtered in the Spring. The slaughter is all but assured since lamb or mutton is the traditional centerpiece of the Easter feast in Moldova.

Goats tend to be more common than cows and as such goats milk is more often used to make cheese and other dairy products which are a major part of the Moldovan cuisine. Although cow's milk is readily available at the market...however oddly enough it usually comes in a plastic packet and not a bottle which no one has been able to explain.

Seriously. I don't get it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

46: My Classroom

My classroom in Moldova that I taught in for most of the two years since I initially taught on the third floor of the building for a few months until we were moved to the first floor.

Some key elements to take notice of is the giant poster in the back of the class. Every single Moldovan classroom will have a poster of some sort of beautiful landscape. I would assume it gives the teacher something nice to look at while they are teaching. But for me it had a lot of practical uses and I can't begin to number the amount of times I used to illustrate a new vocabulary word we were learning that I somehow found a way to tie into that landscape.

The turkeys that set up shop outside my classroom window on Thanksgiving to not only remind me that I had to go to school but also that I wouldn't be getting any Turkey on Turkey day.

And lastly in the winter time the furnace that heats the school is right by my classroom so whenever the horse drawn cart full of coal pulls up next to the furnace the horse is perfectly positioned at the window to my class, which is always the biggest distraction you can imagine.