Published: September 18th 2010September 12th 2010
Waiting for our taxi in Riscani
We have now been in Chisinau for a month! Some days I feel so comfortable, like I have been living here for years. Other days, the fact that we are not in the U.S. is so blatantly obvious. But one thing is constant...Nick and I are in this together, and no matter what we are doing, we are having the time of our lives!
This is an amazing country full of contradictions. Just today, I walked into three "frizeries" (barber shops) asking "vorbesc engleză?" before I found someone who spoke enough English to understand what I wanted. In the same afternoon we stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe where we were seated next to two tables of Americans! It is pretty uncommon to hear people speaking English, so whenever Americans hear one another talking, we all have a free pass to automatically become friends and ask the usual questions..."where are you from?" and especially "what are you doing here?" Our English speaking friends at the cafe today where here on business and with the Peace Corps. The community of "expats" living here is a pretty tight group, so we are getting to know a lot of them,
A night at the ballet...Swan Lake.
and even run into them around town.
Last Thursday we went to the ballet, Lacul Lebedelor (Swan Lake). Ignorantly, I set my expectations low, but tickets were about $12 a person, so we figured we'd check it out. It was SPECTACULAR! The opera/ballet theater is a beautiful old building surrounded by fountains. (www.nationalopera.md) We were closer to the stage than I have ever sat at a ballet, and the scenery/costumes/dancing were all fantastic!! Of course, we happened to be sitting near some Americans who work at the Embassy and ran into several of our students from school. Not unlike running into all my students every time we went out in Crawfordville, although replace the ballet theater with Walmart. One thing that made me laugh was the way people applaud. Everyone applauds in unison, like they are clapping along with a beat, even during the curtain call. People would applaud during lively parts of the ballet, but all in unison, like we were clapping along to a good 'ol country western Hoe Down! Not the somber atmosphere of most ballets I have been to... It made me laugh :)
Tomorrow we are taking part in the "Velo
This is the National Opera Theater where you can see opera and ballet performances for as little as $5 a ticket.
Hora", a 20K bike ride around the city. From what I hear, it is a huge turn out and the streets are so crowded with bikers that at times you are hardly moving fast enough to keep your bike upright. Should be fun!
We had a busy day at the market today. I took lots of pictures to give a better idea of what these outdoor markets are like. This one is in the center of the city, and it is enormous. It goes on for blocks and blocks. You can find ANYTHING at these markets...produce, lingerie, toys, wedding dresses. They are like a maze and often times very narrow and crowded. Tucked back in a corner of the market, back through narrow aisles and what seems like hundreds of turns, we found a police station. My first thought was, "it would take the police at least 30 minutes just to meander their way out of this market labyrinth in an emergency!"
Of course I must devote some of this entry to....FOOD! We continue to be impressed by how fresh and flavorful everything is. Our school lunch is the most delicious thing that has even been
Outside of the National Opera Theater
cooked for any student anywhere. Our lunch is cooked by one lady, Ms. Irina, everyday who cooks everything fresh from scratch. She always makes a huge pot of soup, some sort of beautifully fresh salad, and then a main dish of meat and potatoes, rice, or pasta. Nothing is frozen or bought in bulk. Ms. Irina goes to the local market every day and buys ingredients for just a few meals. Nick and I have gotten into the habit of eating school lunch everday, which, as my fellow teachers in Florida will know, is unheard of for me! It is 40 lei, which is less than $4 a day.
We have also discovered a German restaurant called "The Flying Pig". The food and atmosphere are great, but the beer leaves something to be desired. Nick and I were hoping for a good, hearty, German beer. No such luck. I am starting to think that they serve the same beer under different names. Almost every beer we have tried tastes the same, sort of like a Natural Light, and yes, we are beer snobs :) There are a few good Czech beers we have tried, but nothing like the breweries
Inside the Opera Theater
of Wisconsin. We miss you New Glarus...
Even though we are sampling so many delicious foods, we are feeling very healthy and fit. In fact, one huge difference from the U.S. is that it is more convenient and cheaper to eat healthy here. Locally grown foods are much cheaper because they do not have to be imported, and they are so fresh. It is actually very inconvenient and expensive to eat unhealthy, processed food. Packaged, frozen, and processed food is much more expensive because it has been imported from Western countries. You would be hard pressed to seek out a fast food restaurant, I think there are only 2 McDonald's here, in a city of 600,000 people. And yes, it tastes exactly like McDonald's in the U.S. (except they serve beer and there is no such thing as a super size.) Although, I'll have to cool it with the "plachinta cu brinza" (a pastry stuffed with cheese) if I want to stay fit!
I'll end with something funny we saw today...this afternoon we heard sirens and saw flashing lights coming down our street. We have a view of everything down below from our 8th floor apartment, so
we rushed to the window. Instead of the emergency vehicle we expected to see, here comes a mini choo-choo train down our street. Exactly like you would picture in the storybook "The Little Engine That Could"! It was all decked out with flashing lights, flowers, streamers, and a very real-sounding siren. You guessed it...wedding!! I love it :)
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