Before we moved to Chisinau, I had an image in my mind of what living overseas would be like... Now that we are here, I am finding it to be everything I imagined and everything I could never have imagined. Open air markets, delicious bakeries and delis, new foods, beautiful people. I am still surprised every day by the similarities AND differences that we encounter.
For example, all day we work with English-speaking people, in our little "English-speaking community". We have been introduced to a group of expats who get together a few times a week and have dinner, play cards, etc. They are mostly people from the states. Last night I met a girl who is doing research here for UW Milwaukee. Two kids in my class are even from Georgia and Florida! We are 4000 miles from The States...and sometimes we feel right at home.
On the other hand, we leave school and go out into the city and struggle to communicate with the vendors at our local market or the taxi driver. Everywhere we go, people turn to look at us because they hear us speaking English and we are probably so obviously American to them
despite our efforts to fit in. Not to say that the locals are anything but gracious and accommodating, but it is such a drastic shift from our “school world” and the reality that we are foreigners here. One thing I must point out about the local people is that they are very accepting and accommodating of Americans. Not many people speak English, but they are all very patient with our attempts at Romanian mixed with lots of hand signals! The other funny thing is that despite the lack of English speaking people in the city, all the music you hear in restaurants and stores is by American artists. All the lettering on clothing is in English. They may not speak English, but they love their “Jesus is My Homeboy” t-shirts and Justin Timberlake’s music! Yesterday as I was hanging mu laundry on the balcony, someone somewhere was blasting PDiddy.
Each weekend that we have been here, we go out on little excursions, venturing a little further from home each time. Last weekend, we wandered downtown to see what there was to see... We found the "Dendrology Park", which I mistakenly thought was the "Botanical Garden". This place is
one of my favorites so far! It costs 4 lei to get in, which is about 50 cents, and we could have spent ALL day there. BEAUTIFUL rose gardens, lily ponds, kids feeding ducks (something we've noticed here is that there are always lots of kids everywhere). There were roses of every imaginable color...I felt like Alice in Wonderland :) When we passed by the Dendrology Park today, we saw at least 4 or 5 wedding parties, limos all lined up and brides in white dresses everywhere!
We then made our way to the center of town, where there was some sort of festival going on. Back to school shopping is done at open air markets, rather than Wal-Mart (there is no such thing!), so families and children filled the central park shopping for art supplies, backpacks, and new shoes. We were also lucky enough to find some quality pillows at this outdoor market...you just never know what you are going to find! I decided that I prefer these open air markets to the shopping malls. The inside of the shopping mall is like a crowded, narrow labyrinth, and I find the people at the outdoor stands to be
much friendlier! (They're probably just happier that they get to be outside and not cooped up inside the mall). Next to the back to school market was a honey market. Yes, an entire block of stands selling nothing but honey. They were also selling chunks of honey combs and live combs with bees included (At least I assumed the bees where included because they were swarming all over the place!) We bought some delicious honey from a kind lady who was more than happy to let us sample all her different shades of honey. It was warm from sitting in the sun all afternoon and it was all I could do not to buy the liter sized jar!
After the honey market, we discovered "Cathedral Square”. I must write for a minute about the people coming and going from the cathedrals. The buildings are all white and pristine looking. Women going into the cathedral must wear a scarf around their heads. However, anything goes for the rest of the outfit. Tight, revealing clothes? No problem! As long as you have your head scarf
I met my students for the first time last Wednesday. There are more
than 7 different countries represented in my class alone, and almost all of my 5 year old students are bi and trilingual. The buzz word for these little guys is “Third Culture Kids”. These children have no “home” country. Many of them have lived in a different country every year of their short lives. Their parents may have a country of origin, but these kids have never spent more than a year or even a few months in any one country. When we talked about our favorite things we did this summer, most of them said things like “Cliff jumping in Italy” or “Seeing the pyramids in Egypt”. I am amazed by them! The families at our school are mostly Embassy workers or successful business people. Hearing about their travels and hearing them speak to one another, jumping from language to language is so intriguing! It also makes me realize how inadequate American schools are when it comes to foreign language education. Although the American teachers at our school are greatly valued by the parents and the country of Moldova, we are the only ones at the school who only speak ONE language…how boring. On that note, Nick and I
are getting very good at ordering produce, beer, and asking “how much?” at the market!
The International nature of our school also makes pot lucks SO much delicious fun! Forget the regular chips, dip, and potato salad…at our “Back to School” picnic we had Plachinta (Moldova), Blintzes and Cous Cous (Israel), Cheese pastries (Bulgaria), Cakes (Sweden), stuffed cabbage leaves, and to represent the U.S., we brought fruit salad and deviled eggs, which were a hit especially among the Moldovans! It doesn’t matter that we walk everywhere and live on the 8th floor…I am sure to gain weight with all these amazing foods!
Last interesting observation of the weekend: They just showed a nude beach on the evening news…no censoring fuzz.
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