Published: October 5th 2010October 5th 2010
OK, they said this would happen… When we got here, we did a workshop on Culture Shock. The first stage is “Honeymoon”. Oh, is it ever! Everything is novel, exciting…every experience is an adventure! We are experiencing so many new and different things, and we love every minute of it! I’d say in most cases we are still experiencing Honeymoon phase. However… the small bits of “Rejection” are starting to set in. I wouldn’t exactly call it rejection in our case, but more of a homesickness for certain things. And it’s interesting what I am finding myself homesick for. Of course there is the obvious, our family and friends. But it helps that it’s so easy to keep in contact with everyone.
For me, it’s more of the little things. For example, I really miss having American measuring cups. It’s quite tedious converting everything to grams and milliliters when following American recipies. On the bright side, I made a carrot cake for our director’s birthday WITH real cream cheese frosting and everyone at work LOVED it (Honeymoon)! I had to go across town for the Philidelphia cream cheese (Rejection), but it was worth it. The Moldovan teachers had never heard of
carrot cake, and at first were understandably suspicious of a cake with vegetables in it. But after one bite, they were “oohing” and “mmming” and asking for the recipe. I’m not gonna lie, it felt so good to have all that attention over my measurement-converted carrot cake :) Which made me realize something else I really miss…entertaining. Having friends over and cooking for them. So I have decided that as soon as our kitchen is done (still waiting on counter tops and a kitchen sink after a month = Rejection), we are going to invite our friends from work and have a proper dinner party!
While on the subject, here are some other things I am missing:
• A down comforter. We can’t find comforters anywhere, and our sheet and fleece blanket aren’t cutting it as autumn’s chill is setting in.
• Brown sugar. A strange dry version exists here. Chocolate chip cookies just aren’t the same.
• Having coffee with Baileys. I have seen Bailey’s here, it’s just expensive. I have already decided I will treat myself for the holidays!
• Fires in our backyard. We see people having fires in the public parks all the time,
so we may just have to try this.
• Our backyard
• Being near a body of water. In Florida and Wisconsin, I have always lived near a large body of water. We did bike to Lake Ghidigichi last weekend, which helped.
• Milk that doesn’t go bad in three days….actually, now that I think about it, should milk really last longer than three days? Maybe this is a good thing.
• Internet that doesn’t go out anytime it rains. If you don’t hear from us for a few days, it’s probably cloudy here or maybe it even drizzled.
• Things taking FOREVER. Like our kitchen counter. Or the playground at our school that was supposed to be done a month ago. Every morning we come to school and are amazed at how little progress the work crew has made. No one can explain why it is taking so long. The teachers are all ready to come in over one weekend and finish it ourselves. This lack of explanation for things that don’t make sense to us has just become a normal part of life, and when we find ourselves wondering “why?”, the answer is simply “because it’s
Moldova”. Why do they not open windows on the maxi taxi when it’s stuffy, funky, and 90 degrees? Because it’s Moldova. Why are there open man holes and unfinished construction on every sidewalk? Because it’s Moldova. Why was the water turned off at the school in the middle of my art lesson after we had used paint? Why did our landlord tell us that our counter would be installed on Friday, and then call on Friday to say he had a wedding to go to? Well, I think you get the picture…
Whew! Now that I have that off my chest, let me say that I know we have it really good over here. In fact, we have it amazing. Autumn is breathtakingly beautiful here. The air is getting chilly and the leaves are changing color. Perfect weather for cooking soup and wearing cute scarves! As I mentioned, our director had an Oktoberfest party for her birthday. They have an outdoor kitchen where they cooked German sausages over an open fire, kegs of decent beer, hot German potato salad, and white twinkle lights strung all over their backyard and garden. It was an enchanting evening filled with fun and so
many wonderful new friends.
As an expat friend advised me, when missing the comforts of home,focus on all the things you do have. He’s absolutely right. So as not to give the impression that Nick and I are miserable here without our measuring cups and brown sugar, I will counter my “rant list” with this:
• Pancakes with Nutella for breakfast. Mmmmmmm.
• Caribou Coffee from Grama & Grampa.
• An apartment with a beautiful view, running water, heat, and AC (these basics should not be taken for granted !)
• A bed that is SOOO comfy…making it hard to get up in the morning, but when have I ever been a morning person?
• Fresh fruits and vegetables that were hand-picked by a farmer just outside of town.
• Outdoor cafes with really good cappuccino.
• Feeling so excited to find limes, mangos, and avocados at Nr.1 (the Publix of Chisinau).
• Great wine.
• Bike rides through the countryside.
• Gathering walnuts, cracking them open, and eating them everywhere we go.
• The honey market.
• Each other :)
• Magic Jack, Skype, and being able to talk to our family & friends.
• The man who sells
flowers for 8 lei at the end of our block.
• A week-long break at the end of October, and not being able to decide where to go because the choices seem endless!
• The People. The people of Moldova are so friendly and hospitable. Their goal is to make us feel welcome and make sure that we are enjoying Moldova. They are so patient when our American ignorance prevents us from understanding things. They are so helpful when our lack of the language prevents us from communicating. The people we work with will make phone calls for us or go to appointments with us, so we have someone to translate. The people of the expat community are so open and interesting. At the party last night, Americans were probably the minority. The group of people we have been hanging out with are so diverse and accepting of one another. There is no majority, so there is no feeling of superiority or inferiority. Just a general respect that we all come from such different backgrounds and have so much to teach each other. Everyone is just as genuinely interested to learn about America from us, as we are to learn
about their countries form them. Here is an example from a boy in my class: His father is from Germany. His mother is from Portugal, but her family is from Mozambique. He is a business man. She ran a restaurant. Their son (my student) speaks Portuguese, German, and English. Last night as we chatted at the party, we talked about where to find curry & coconut milk, Oktoberfest (the real one in Munich), languages, and how their sons choose which language to speak to whom. They have traveled so much, it makes me insanely jealous. I also love listening to people whose first language is something other than English use English slang or funny catch phrases. For example, one woman kept saying “you have to get me a break” or “you are putting spaghetti in my ears” which is like the American English phrase “you are pulling my leg”. I am so amused by it and I love how comfortable everyone is speaking to one another. No one is critical of others’ attempts to speak another language, and sometimes we just all speak Romanian, for the practice!
Let me close with this… I assigned my students to each give a
presentation about their “home-country” so we could learn more about where we are from. I had 100% participation from the parents of my students, and I personally learned something new from every presentation. The highlights were that they all brought pictures of their home country to share and some traditional treat (you know I had to work food into the assignment somehow!) One little girl shared pictures of her family on the Black Sea Coast in Bulgaria and brought Bulgarian bread with cheese baked into the middle. A boy from the U.K. taught us all about Big Ben and shared English shortbread. Another girl from Maricius (I have to specify that this is an island off Madagascar because I didn’t know where it was!) brought a beautiful Sari and a traditional treat made during Diwali with powdered milk, sugar, almond paste, & cardamom. And of course, my little love from Mozambique brought a picture of his pet iguana that his father caught in their yard (more like a palace on a plantation from the pictures), and some savory coconut chicken that the kids couldn’t get enough of. I am going to ask for all the recipies and make a multicultural
recipe book for our class!
There are more photos below