So what didn't I know before I came to Moldova?
Well first of all, I'll need to admit that I had never heard of Moldova. Neither had a lot of people I know, so my go-to answer was "It's right by Ukraine." (In retrospect, I should have said, "It's right by Romania," because telling people it was right by Ukraine, even though that's literally where I ended up being placed, made them worry unnecessarily and even say, mmmm yeah you probably shouldn't go there. But I was obviously trying to be cool and dangerous, duhhhh.)
After reading this prompt, I've spent the last couple of days thinking about all the things I never knew before I came here. Misconceptions, interesting facts, superstitions.. And it's interesting, because even some of the traditions and superstitions I've learned in my village are things my fellow volunteers have never heard of. So not all of these will even end up being true for all of Moldova, but I'm going to try to list some things I didn't know a year and a half ago. Some will really be things about Moldova, but others might end up being about myself.. We'll just have to see.
I never knew...
- That a village can run out of something for days. Right now, snowed in, we're out of bread. And when I say we, I mean the whole village. Recently I wanted to bake something with milk, so I went to one of the stores. "No," the woman said when I asked if she had any. "The milk car won't come for another two days." So I went to the next store and she told me the same thing (of course, they would have the same supplier! Why hadn't I thought of that?). I asked about other stores and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. "No, I told you, it doesn't come until Wednesday." Then I had the audacity to ask for another dairy product.. Nope. She said to me, "Just have your host mom call someone who has a cow." Oh, of course.
- That I would be able to have discussions at work in Romanian about topics I never could have talked about in English before.. Today the mayor and I discussed renting a tractor and the process of digging underground and installing pipelines to carry water through to the center of the village. Yeah, that's my latest project. What? I didn't really expect that I'd be able to communicate as well as I have in another language. I didn't think I'd be bad at it, but sometimes my level of understanding astounds me. I definitely have days where I feel like I've forgotten everything I learned, but I have really good language days, too.
- That I'd take so many selfies.
- That I would simultaneously learn to love solitude and want so badly to be around people.
- That I would have a favorite type of plăcintă. I was offered some by my mentor on our second day here and, having never heard of it, I panicked and thought she said "placenta" - I have to eat that?! Luckily it's plăcintă, it's a pastry filled with something either sweet or savory, it's delicious, and my host mom makes the greatest kind ever.
- That finding a bay leaf in my soup meant I was going to get a letter. (This superstition has never quite been proven..)
- That sitting on the floor/ground or walking around barefoot/with improper footwear would cause my ovaries to freeze and prevent me from having children. (Also not proven.)
- How to make wine - even now, I'm sure I couldn't do it all on my own, but I've definitely worked through the whole process.
- That my "friends" in the village would be 11-year-olds or middle-aged women, and virtually no one in between. And also the mayor. Definitely never knew I'd consider the mayor of a tiny village in Moldova to be my BFF.
- I'd be able to navigate life in another country by myself for this long, starting at zero language and really zero knowledge of anything about this place.
- That chickpeas signal the end of a masa in the southeast region of Moldova.
- That I'd wish, on a regular basis, that I could experience life in this village when it was part of the Soviet Union, just for a day. Everything they tell me about life then.. I don't know, I just know the village would look completely different.
- What true loneliness is.
- The art of making a care package last practically forever - my self-control is off the charts now.
- What I'd become so passionate about.
- About any of the people or places that I now can't imagine life without. I never knew I could fall in love with so many of the people I've met and experiences I've had and places I've been in such a short time.
That list only makes a dent in my time here - the things I've learned, the things I've done.. I didn't think I'd be asked to be a translator for conferences, or that I'd be interested in the lives of random old ladies that I've only met a few times, or that I'd practically want to be adopted by my training host family. I didn't know I'd have any fun teaching kids English or be able to assert myself in an office full of outspoken Moldovan women. I didn't know I'd be included in so many cultural events and experiences that are sometimes unique to village life, and I didn't know that the community would end up feeling more like home and more like a family than I thought it would. The mayor will probably tell the story for years about the American girl who saw the village she had to live in and cried for two days straight, but then he'll probably have a similar story when I leave this summer. So, it turns out there's a lot I didn't know.
This is part of the Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge!