Tuesday, March 07, 2006


This was our first day to seriously venture out in public other than brief dinner sojourns the previous two days. We had breakfast at the hotel, in a room so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Some of the items available included fried eggs (fully cooked), buckwheat (very good), and some bread, cheese, and yogurt. We asked for a coffee, thinking that we could have something like a nice Italian cappuccino. We were surprised when they went to a bowl of dark crystals, spooned two teaspoons into a cup, and added hot water: instant coffee. It turns out that instant coffee is the norm here.

Then we waited for Peter to arrive and then took a cab to Costesti for the day to meet his first host family. We originally had a plan to take a Rutiera to Costesti, but our digestive systems suggested that this was not the most wise. It is in the low 30's but the sun is trying really, really hard to poke through the grey clouds. We will all stay here at our hotel tonight and then, tommorrow, take a car to Mereseni for a few days.

Peter's first host family was wonderful and friendly... Tudor and Mila are the father and mother, Veronica is in sixth grade, and Vladamir is in ninth grade. We arrived and we spent a brief while in the front room (a couch and a few chairs. And rugs on the wall). After a brief house tour, we entered the kitchen, where we spent the next six hours.

The house was an interesting layout. One entered into what you’d call a mud room, full of shoes and coats. You then enter the house through an unheated hallway. The formal room and kitchen were on the first floor, and their bedrooms on the second. The other side of the house had a garage and some storage on the first floor, and two unfinished rooms on the second floor. Tudor has built the house himself, so it is a continuing project. In fact, construction is the major marketable skill of Moldovans: most of the black work is construction in Western Europe and Russia.

Eat, eat, fill up! The command was given at each meal as the plates of food covered every square inch. The first Moldovan meal came in Costesti at Peter's first host family. We ate in the warm kitchen with the family of four plus a cousin, her husband and baby. Many of the dishes had a familiar look to them and were quite tasty. Everything is served family style and we each use a salad plate which should be full at all times. In addition to the food of course is the wine, grown and bottled by the host family. Bottled is a loose term since it is in the cellar in a large barrel and then transferred to recycled water bottles. One is supposed to drink and toast, eat and then drink more. You have to remember that we were not at our best physically and this was a difficult five hours around a table! No bit of the chicken is left unserved (for example, one piece was the neck with the head and the comb attached), one learns quickly to identify and choose carefully. [Watch The Slaughtering of Herman if you need a referesher course on how chicken is prepared.] The people were lovely and obviously enjoyed having Peter stay with them for 10 weeks.

We had hoped to take the rutiera back to Chisinau that evening. However, we were late in leaving the house (too many pictures). So, we trudged the 1/4 mile back up the icy road to the house, and called the cab driver who had brought us here earlier in the day.

In the hour of waiting for the can, we talked about life in Moldova and their prospects:

  • Tudor was a tank commander in Germany in the Red Army. I thought the decription of just "Germany" and not east/west was interesting.
  • EC and US can't help Moldova with Transnistria (wikipedia) and (moldova.org). This takes standing up to the Soviet Army. I admitted that most people in the US did not even know where Moldova was, let alone the territorial issues with Transnistria.
  • His major economic concern was getting money to buy seed crops. He can, but banks want 30% interest, and he can't afford that. In general, there is little concept of credit here (at least at the personal or village level).
  • They asked us how much our plane fare was to visit Peter. We said it was about $2,000, and there was an uncomfortable period of silence.
  • An overall observation is that this family and Peter's Mereseni family were all very friendly to us. Yes, Moldova is a poor country, but much of these issues stem from the departure from the Soviet Union and the attendant inflation and its devastating effect on the economy.

Since we missed the rutiera, we called the cab driver who brought us to Costesti earlier in the day to bring us back; he would at least know the way to their house. Driver had a college degree in economics. He spoke English well, and appears ready to get together with Peter to speak English (and the world in general). Peter did commend him for staying in Moldova instead of going outside for "black work." A few parts of the trip home were interesting, as the streets in one area of Chisinau that we travelled through were covered in ice, and this was on hills; we made it up the hill on our third attempt, but Peter's stories of finding sand were coming to mind.

Our vocabulary is growing with practice, but barely. The phrases we have learned so far are Matsu Mille (I thank you), Pooftim (you're welcome). Many things are similar to Italian. So, you can say "bene" and that means good. However, molto bene as an expression over a good meal does not work as well as it does in Italy.

We arrived back at the hotel around 8:30, and Peter lay down on the bed and was asleep (fully clothed) within 15 minutes.


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