On June 18th my host sister, Nicoleta, married Grigore. I had been to a Moldovan/American nunta (wedding) last summer when a PCV married a Moldovan, so I had an idea of what to expect from a Moldovan nunta. This nunta lasted much longer than any I had ever been to.
The day started with a hair dresser and make-up artist coming to the house to do first Nicoleta’s, then my host mother’s and other family member’s hair. The house was a flurry of activity as more people began to arrive, food was being prepared in our outdoor kitchen and four women and a little girl were getting ready for the wedding. At around 3:30 PM the photographers arrived to take pictures of the bride. At some point Grigore, the groom, arrived and several cars left taking the bride, groom, and others to have more wedding pictures taken. Unfortunately, in their haste, they forgot to include my host mom in one of those cars. Instead, we took part in the masa (a party that involves a table full of food and drink) that had been prepared (by a woman who had been hired to cook for the pre- and post-wedding masas) for the remaining people at the house.
So, at around 4:30 PM, I sat down to Round One of food and drink. Moldovans love to celebrate and their celebrations are a marathon of food, drink and dancing. Below are pictures of my host mom toasting the couple as well as the spread of food for the “small” masa.
The cars of people came back for my host mom, myself, and Marina (the girl my host mom takes care of) and we left for the ballroom where the wedding ceremony and reception were held at around 5:30 PM. The guests started arriving at 6:PM and waited in line outside of the building with flowers and gifts. First, the parents welcome their children (the bride and groom) into the building, and then the parents with the bride and groom welcome the guests. There are no bridesmaids or groomsmen. There are the nanasi, which are the godparents of one of the couple who stands next to them.
At around 7:00 PM a woman came to do the civil service. In Moldova, there are two parts to the wedding ceremony and they tend to be done on separate days. In this case the civil service, which is the one recognized by the state, was done on the same day as the reception. The church/religious service will be done in several weeks. There are cases where the civil service is done years before the reception is held because the couple wants to save up money to do a proper wedding reception. After the civil service, the guests all entered the ballroom and the party officially begun.
There is a tradition in Moldova where the bride and groom each hold on to the side a giant kolac (a circular loaf of bread) and pull it apart. Whoever gets the larger half is the “head of the household.” When Grigore got the larger half, Nicoleta’s family said that sometimes the bread doesn’t always prove true, meaning they all belive Nicoleta will be the head of the household. J After the kolac is torn apart, each guest gets a small piece to eat. Now, time for Round Two of eating that began around 8:00 PM.
I have been to quite a few masas in my two years in Moldova so I’ve learned a few things:
- never eat bread because it fills you up too fast.
- don’t drink your shot of cognac all at once, take small sips so you don’t get too drunk.
- take small bites and chew slower. People tell you to eat or don’t think you like the food if you have nothing on your plate, so you must eat or have something on your plate at all times.
- It’s ok to say you don’t want anymore for now.
After the first two rounds of food, I was already pretty full. Sometimes even the best made intentions of not overeating go by the wayside. Luckily, people started to hora around 9:30 PM, which is one of my favorite things to do at a Moldovan celebration. The hora is the traditional dance of Moldova and is done in a circle where people hold hands and do simple steps while in that circle. In this picture, you can see three separate circles of people dancing the hora.
At around 11:00 PM came Round Three of the food.
After this round of food, came the time to give the money to the bride and groom. The traditional way of doing this is for each guest to toast the couple and say the amount of money they are giving them. The more modern way is putting the money in the card given to you by the couple and not having to say the amount given. For this wedding the nanasi (godparents) went around to each table to collect our envelopes. Each table had one person who said words of encouragement on behalf of the table. More money is given at a Moldovan wedding than any I’ve been to in the United States. I gave 1000 lei, which is around $90, much more than anything I’ve done previously. This amount was smaller than most. The parents gave $1000 each. I was amazed by the amount of money that people gave in the name of tradition.
12:30 PM Round Four of the food. This time the traditional foods of Moldova: Mamaliga with brinza and meat and sarmale.
Good thing there is lots of dancing.
Then, at around 1:30 AM the nanasi changed the bride and groom into a married couple. This is done by having the couple sit together in a chair while the nanasi tie an apron and head scarf on the bride and put a had on the groom. They then place the linens they have bought for the couple around their shoulders. Next, the parents put the things they bought at the couples feet and the linens around their shoulders. This continues until all the guests have presented the couple with their gifts. These gifts are on top of the money they were given. Below is a picture of the gifts and linen that the couple received.
Finally, came Round Five of food, the cake. Like in the US, the bride and groom cut the cake. Unlike the US, they feed the first bites to the nanasi, who are standing next to them. Then everyone takes a piece. You can imagine how full of food I was.
I left the party around 3:30 AM to help several relatives take the gifts home. I finally went to sleep around 5:15 AM, as the sun was rising. At 9:30 AM I was woken up and told to come outside where we had yet more food to eat. I ate enough food to last me a couple days.
Like last year, host mom and sister made a wide variety of food for Easter. There are several traditional foods such as cozonac which is a traditional Easter bread. The dough is flattened out and various fillings are spread on it. It is then rolled together to either form cake-like loaves, or long, rectangular roles. They also come in various sizes. Unfortunately my internet isn't letting me upload pictures right now. There is another type of bread called pasca which is eaten specifically on Easter morning, after the blessing at the church. There was also a large amount of meat made for this Easter week.
Last year I didn't participate in any Easter activities. This year I wanted to do everything my host family did. The Russian Orthodox church has service from midnight to about 4 am every Easter morning. My host family doesn't go.....but they do get up around 3:30 am to go to the church and get the bread blessed. The following link is to my friends facebook album about this Easter blessing. Every volunteer has the same general experience with this holiday, so her photos were very similar to what I experienced.
My host mom told me we would leave for the church at 3 am....so I set my alarm for 2:30. Unfortunately she forgot there was a car this year (host sister's fiance's car) to take us to the church...meaning we didn't have to leave until 4 am. Since no one bothered to tell me I was up an hour before everyone else thinking that I they forgot/decided not to go/had already left. Luckily they were up at 3:30 and I went with my host sister and her fiance to the local church. There was a long line of people with small baskets of food to be blessed by the priest. We set our basket on the ground and lit a candle, which we stuck in the pasca. In our basket, my host mom had put dyed Easter eggs, pasca, some of the meat she had prepared, salt, candles, and poppy seeds. We were in the line waiting for about half an hour before the priest came by wit a bucket of water and what I can only describe as a large paint brush. He was sprinkling/throwing water on the line as he walked alone saying "Hristos a inviat!" meaning Christ has risen! We then respond with "Adevarat a inviat." Truly he has risen. Host sister then went in the church and lit a candle which is supposed to burn for Easter week. We then packed up our things and went home....to me it seemed a little anticlimatic after waiting around with candles and bread. I also wondered what the priest thought of all the people who were waiting in line to get their Easter food blessed...clearly many of them had not been in church.
We got home around 5 am and host mom woke up. We unpacked what was in the basket and had a masa. My host mom placed one of the red-dyed eggs in a cup of water along with some banuti (coins). She then rubbed the wet, red egg on her face. This is for luck for the coming year as well as a belief that you will have money for the upcoming year. We then sat down to the food, where I counted 10 types of meat. I went to bed around 6 am.
I woke up around 11 am and we ate again around 12 pm. The day was beautiful, so I sat outside on our steps with my host mom and host sister and the girl who lives with my host mom. Host sister's fiance was in the house fixing the TV that had broken at 6 that morning while host sister was watching her favorite show. I spent a couple hours outside talking with my family and painting my nails with my host sister. Then I went and took another nap. It was a great day...relaxing and without the burden of feeling like you should be working. Oh, and then I ate again after my nap. In all, I counted 12 types of meat...there was almost nothing but meat on the table.
This was started in Mongolia and I think it would be awesome if some of you back in Nebraska would do this. Some ideas I've come up with for you all to do for one week would be:
-no eating at any type of restaurant or bar. No females in a bar or cafe of any kind.
-walk everywhere or take public transportation. No car for one week.
-turn the temperature in your office and house down to 45 degrees. Find ways to layer.
-Only heat the most important rooms of your house (such as only your bedroom and the kitchen).
-Only cook using fresh ingredients-no prepackaged food!
-no dryers when washing clothes. Or better yet, only hand wash clothes.
-Only bathe once or twice during the week.
Can you do it?
Also, I went to Spain for my Christmas break, which was pretty amazing. The weather was warm, I ate great food, and got to spend time with two other volunteers. Instead of giving a summary of my trip, go to my Facebook album:
Not much going on in my life right now other than the usual going to school and teaching classes and English Club. Life is good although I am a little freaked that I only have 6 months left before I have to return to the states.
Thanks for the packages I got from the Methodist Church, Grandma and others who thought of me for Christmas! Everything was great!
We only have one more week of school before the Christmas break begins. That means TEZA testing (semester tests) for the lyceum (high school) students and other students being more squirrely than normal. Yesterday my 11th form (grade) class gave me a box of chocolates. Today two boys from the 10th form barked at me... So, while I like most of the students I teach, there are those who are harder to find good things about.
Things that have changed about me since coming to Moldova: I know have what PCVs refer to as Moldovanca bangs and I wear skinny jeans tucked into my boots...as well as tighter tops. I've had several instances where people who I work with or know in the community have told me how much more frumos I am now and how much more Moldovan I look...which begs the question. How bad did they think I look before? I also now wear a Moldovan coat. Meaning its fashionable but not as warm as my Columbia coat. In America no one would ever think to ask if my Columbia coat was warm enough. Here if I wear it people will touch it and are worried that I am not warm enough. However, with my new coat, which is knee length, I have never had a single person ask me if I am warm enough (even though this coat isn't nearly as warm). All they say about my fumos coat is how fumoasa it is. Who knew I'd pick fashion over function. I am not wearing heels though. I still am amazed at how these women can walk on uneven muddy roads in 3 or 4 inch heels.
I made a powerpoint titled "What is Art" for my 8th form class. I used a doodle from one of my 11th form boys which I think is pretty cool:
Pretty awesome right? If I do a mural at my school, he would be the first one I ask.
Thanksgiving was fun. I spent it with about 80 other PCVs at the Peace Corps office. We had turkey and all the traditional food. I helped make the potatoes and spent most of the day in the kitchen. Afterwards I watched a pirated copy of Harry Potter 7 and made fun of it with several other volunteers. Christmas vacation will be spent in Barcelona and Bucharest. I am looking forward to this. It will be nice to have a break. And I am always up for seeing a new part of the world.
So that is it for now. Hope you all enjoying the holiday season! Thank you to the church for the package you sent via my mom! It was awesome!
People in my area have more or less gotten used to "the American" in the neighbourhood. I do still have random people stopping me and asking, "are you the American? Why are you here when you could be in America? Do you like Moldova?" A couple weeks ago I had a man come up to me with a large bunch of grapes he had just picked for his wine and gave them to me. I think I teach his child, but I'm not sure. Most the time people are curious and friendly, although this past week I did have a different man get upset at me because America has all the money and he has none. Most of the time life here is great. There are those times though when you have to just forget and not dwell on what people say to you and this was one of them.
In my entire raion I didn't get a single M25. Last year four of us came to Ungheni. This year some raions got as many as six new volunteers. because the other three volunteers in my group have ETed, there is only me and a friend in a village outside my city. It's strange for me not to have a site mate anymore. I rarely go into the center anymore. I was told by a host uncle that I need to go to the discotechs (where teenagers generally hang out on the weekends) in the center to find a man. I don't think I'll be taking that advice.
I have my first break this coming week. Last year I remember September and October going so slowly, now the first two months of school have flown by. I am amazed by how easy my second year of school has been compared to my first. I have a good working relationship with two partners that just continues to grow. I have taken my materials I've made to school and see my partners using them. This is great because it shows that all my time spent making those activities and materials were well spent and that what I leave behind will be used.
There really hasn't been a fall in Moldova....other than about one week. SInce the beginning of school it has been either rainy or cold, with the exception of one week of nice fall weather. Lots of rain means lots of mud. I have gotten much better about walking on these dirt roads when they're muddy, but I still have the dirtiest boots in the classroom every time. There's been talk that this winter is supposed to be the coldest winter in Europe in over a hundred years. And how lucky am I that I get to experience it? I was looking at an online store the other day at their "winter" clothes. All I could think of was how cold I'd be if I only wore a sweater. I've already been wearing about three layers a day. I think I've forgotten what it's like to have a building be above 50 degrees.
This time of year my host mom has the chickens and ducks out of their coop to eat all the left-over vegetation in the yard. Needless to say I am not happy about this. Every time I go outside those damn birds follow me around. I have to refrain from running away too quickly.
I'll try posting an entry soon about events of this summer and the prasnic (ceremony to celebrate a deceased loved one) my host mom had for her husband.
So many thoughts have been going through my mind about what I've actually done here. If me being here has helped in any way. IThere has been so much I have learned about myself and so much I have gained that I feel like I am taking more than I am giving. After teaching for a year here I hope that I have helped in some way. I see little things my partner teachers do now that they didn't do before. Every time they do something I've introduced I get a little excited, thinking, ha something I'm doing is working. I've made friendships with women that teach at the school. My host mom is an amazing woman and now like a second mother to me, worrying about me and making sure I am happy here. I feel like I am almost constantly busy, so I guess that proves I'm not wasting my time, right?
Ultima Sunet (last bell) is the last day of the school year (May 31st for the entire country). The ceremony was held out front (the only place large enough to hold all 800 students). All the 12th formers marched out and walked around in the center since they will be graduating (as long as their test scores are high enough). For ours, my director gave a speech and handed out various awards and diplomas to all classes. There was waltzing, traditional dancing by some 4th formers, poems, singing, and finally the 1st formers went into the center and each rang a bell, signaling the official end to the school year.
Now that summer is here I am almost as busy as the school year. As I believe I've posted before, I am one of 4 main volunteers (in relation to the mentor program) helping out with the new group that arrives TOMORROW!! Preparing and planning for them has been a lot of work, but exciting. Their first three days in country will be spent in Chisinau and our job as mentors is to help calm some fears and also as a resource of support. The "if we can do it so can you" attitude. There are several mentor activities going on throughout the summer. I will also be helping with PST by facilitating several sessions. Somehow my June and most of July is booked doing this, as well as a club on Mondays at my site. I originally wanted to do a week-long summer camp, but found I have no free week to do it, so no summer camp.
Lately what I want to do after Peace Corps has been running through my mind a lot. Several ideas have been: extending for a year, teaching in Asia (Taiwan perhaps?), moving to some random state with mountains, or just simply going back to Nebraska. The safe bet is Nebraska, which to me almost seems like a cop-out. If I just go home, I won't be pushing myself to try something new, and I don't know if I know how to do that. Since I left for college I've always tried to do something a little beyond average so heading back to all I know seems almost too simple.
The longer I stay away the more I realize how amazing my family and hometown are. I don't think any one else has gotten packages for things to give other volunteers. I've had people tell me to share things that are in my packages or ask if there is anything they can give to someone who rarely gets a package. One volunteer said Nebraskans have some of the nicest people in America...I tend to agree.
Julie and Amy: thanks for the package! It was amazing, seriously. I believe the volunteer who was with me when I opened it was a little jealous of all that was in it.
Carolyn: Hope your ankle is feeling better!
After everyone put the flowers on, the police and military (there is a base in my town since we are on the border to Romania and a check-point) did a small march/display. Coming from America where we have some of the best military in the world, this was a little.....well less than that. The soldiers weren't able to completely march in a straight line or stay in step. Don't get me wrong, they weren't completely out of step, but when you are used to seeing marines/army/navy/air force marching, it's a little different. Another interesting thing for me was the shoes. In the US the military all has regulation uniforms. Here, the uniforms were the same, but the shoes were not. There were women in full uniform with some incredibly high heeled shoes. It shouldn't surprise me, since Moldovanka's seem to be born with a special gene that allows them to walk on ice/mud/uneven ground in high heels and not stumble, trip, or fall. I wonder though, what does the Moldovan military do other than border control? I tried asking someone once (a student at my English club who wants to go into the military), and he couldn't really tell me.
After this hour long remembrance for the soldiers, I went with a teacher at my school to find a pair of jeans. We both wanted some, so we went together to the piata (Sunday's and Thursday's are when the big piata is open). Now, piatas are generally outside stalls selling just about anything you can think of. Many clothing stalls have a curtain, that may or may not cover you completely. When I tried on my jeans, the curtain did not completely close and I am sure some people saw more of me than I would have liked if I were in the states, but you get over your shyness quickly here. The woman selling the jeans even pulled and tugged at the jeans...another strange thing in the states, but here..eh. Complete strangers tugging at your clothing showing you how it works. I did find a pair of jeans, and I am now a little more frumos.
At 1 I met with the group of teachers I spend most of my extra time at school with and who I consider my friends here in Moldova for a picnic. Most of their husbands also came, which was the first time I had met all but one of them. We had a barbeque/picnic in a park and sat around talking (well I mostly listened and tried to understand), ate, and drank. I was the first one to leave since I had a skype meeting. All in all, it was a great day, and I am now a little more integrated into my community here in Moldova.
Two weeks...10 days left of school, not like I'm counting or anything.
Take that goal two of PC!
As Peace Corps Volunteers we need to be very careful what we say and what we are associated with. This means not being around demonstrations like the one above or talking about political issues/our personal views. If we say the wrong thing, or are seen in the wrong place, it could hurt the impact we want/are making in this country. So although being there was a great experience, I'll try to be a little more careful in the future.