Archives for the month of: April, 2011

Easter morning was occupied with eating and handing out candy and red eggs to the children walking throughout the village to each home announcing, “Hristos a înviat!” (Christ is risen.) ” After which we say, “Adevărat, a înviat!” (True, He is risen.) This expression is supposed to replace the typical “Buna Ziua” for the next 40 days, but E says that people usually revert back to “Buna Ziua” after a week or so. E said it used to be a tradition to give new church clothes and shoes to the kids on Easter morning, but now kids just want new school clothes, so that’s what they get.

After first eating Pască, we sat down to a full meal at 9:00 am. Let the meat feast begin! (I heard some volunteers ate at 5:00 am with their hosts.) Later in the day we went to the neighboring village and had another masă. We held baby goats and fed the mama goats (post to come) and then went on a short walk. All in all it was a pretty relaxing day. Happy Easter!


Easter preparations continued…

After lessons on the Monday and Tuesday before Easter, all the students in the village gathered at the school to receive their class assignments for the village clean up. Every class from the first grade to the 12th grade was assigned to pick up trash in a public area of the village. As we were cleaning up with the students, we immediately realized that we have different definitions for the words “trash” and “clean”. It was good for the students to clean up the village, but I also wonder how effective it is if they have to do the same amount of work each year.

I mainly focus on the positive aspects of Moldova on this blog, but to say that trash management in Moldova is a problem is an understatement, especially in villages. Because there are no managed dumping sites and no enforced trash laws, people end up dumping their trash anywhere and everywhere, on public and private land. We all know the health risks associated with poor trash management, but these risks are accentuated in many Moldovan villages because of the vast agricultural occupation throughout the country. What we put in our soil eventually finds its way back in our bodies. Curt has been working with the mayor and a few other members of the community on a trash project what will hopefully help with some of the problem.

Easter preparations continued…

The week before Easter I helped make Easter bread at the bakery. Cozonac and pasca are traditional sweet Easter breads that most Moldovans have on their table for Easter celebrations. Pasca is a round religious bread with a braided cross in the middle and a sweet cheese filling. This bread is taken to the orthodox morning service (12AM to 4AM) where the priest blesses it. Pasca is always served before eating meat or dairy products.

There is so much preparation that goes into Easter in Moldova. Weeks before the actual day Moldovans do their version of spring cleaning, which doesn’t seem to mean getting rid of stuff (like we do in the states), but more of a really thorough house cleaning. Most of the gates, curbs (the few that exist in our village), houses, and tree trunks are painted. The streets are cleaned, and the students take a few days to thoroughly (well kind of) clean the publicly-owned land throughout the village (Hai Moldova… post to come). And this is all in addition to the crazy amounts of food, especially meat, in need of preparation for the big Easter day feast. Members of the Orthodox church observe post or a fasting of sorts for the seven weeks leading up to Easter where they basically maintain a vegan diet. So Easter isn’t just a celebration of Christ’s resurrection around here, it’s also a celebration of meat and dairy products.

For Easter Moldovans dye eggs red for the kids who come around the village on Easter morning. I’m not really sure what the symbolism of the red egg is, and I don’t think my host family knows either, so we did some red and some other colors. They had never dyed eggs a color other than red, so I showed them how we do it in the states. We used wax from a candle to draw on the eggs, and then dipped them in egg dye that I had bought in the city. Andrușica was so excited about dying the eggs. It was fun to share something new with them.

The spring weather in Moldova has been wonderful… and not so wonderful at times. I guess it’s typical for spring in most places. The concrete buildings keep the temperature much cooler inside than outside, so we try to spend most of our time outside, which is not hard to do right now because spring cleaning is in full force in Moldova to prepare for Easter (post to come). There has been quite a bit of rain, which is good because that just means we have had running water so far. (Our village does not have running water in the summer.) Curt and I usually try to go on a walk at least once a week, and so here’s beautiful Moldova in the spring…

And this last one is probably my all-time favorite Moldovan picture. I don’t think it’s necessarily a high-quality photo; it’s my favorite more because of the subject matter and the situation. We were walking up a hill and all of the sudden as I passed by this gate, from the corner of my eye I saw all of these sheep (a.k.a sweethearts) look at me all at once. I love sheep.

Moldovans, especially living in villages, use all their land for planting, whether it be fruits and vegetables or flowers. None of this grass nonsense. Starting the second week in March we started preparing the garden by turning the earth and picking out old roots. The soil in Moldova is perfect. I am no gardener, but what naturally covers the ground in Moldova is said to be some of the best land in the world for growing crops. I’ll try to be detailed with each of these vegetables for our garden in the future.

Cepe = Onions:

Make rows in the ground about 15 cm apart, place baby onions with root up about 8-10 cm apart. Cover with dirt, and finely rake. We used baby onions instead of seeds for a faster crop. About $2/kg.

Usturoi = Garlic:

We used these garlic starters for a faster crop. Make rows about 15 cm apart. Stick bulb in the ground with the root up about 5-8 cm apart. Water. Do not cover with dirt. About $2.50/kg.

We also planted a few rows of garlic cloves with with root up about 5-8 cm apart. Do not water, but cover and rake like you do with onions.

Ridichi = Radishes:

Make rows about 15 cm apart. Sprinkle seeds sparingly along the rows. Cover and lightly rake.

Morcovi = Carrots:

Make rows about 15 cm apart. Sprinkle seeds sparingly along the rows. Cover and lightly rake.

Every spring one of the major tasks that most rural Moldovans must accomplish is the pruning of their vineyards.  Although it is not a physically difficult task, it is tedious when you are taking about pruning even one hectare (~2.5 acres).  In our case, our host family only has 8 rows of grapes approximately 25 meters long behind their house; so it wasn’t a great deal of work.

There are apparently a significant number of different ways to prune a vineyard.  The method used depends on the age of the vines, the climate and individual preference.  In our case the plants are mature and have well established trunks.  The larger woody trunks are important as they help prevent loss to freezing during harsh winters.  During the previous years’ growth each trunk sprouted many branches or individual vines which we trimmed this spring.  Grape vines have “eyes” which, much like potatoes, are the beginnings of a new stem.  For each woody trunk we pruned all but two branches – one with two eyes and one with five or six eyes.  The logic is that the shorter branch will continue the development of the larger woody trunk while the longer vine will produce smaller vines where the grapes will develop.

Once all of the old and unwanted growth has been removed, each of the remaining vines is tied to the wires running above each row of plants using young pliable willows.  As a side note, one great thing about Moldova is the amount of natural materials they use versus buying something synthetic – case in point, using willows as string.  Once the vines are secured to the wire, the work is done until early summer.

**Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert, and the information presented here is according to my very limited understanding.

The second morning we were in Riga, we decided to take a train to a resort town on the sea. March is obviously not tourist season as the sea is covered in ice and the beach is covered in snow, but we did see one swimmer. It was fun to see a beach like this, and I know we won’t ever be back here and most likely won’t be able to walk on the Baltic Sea again.

Riga is known for its art nouveau architecture as it has one of the largest collections in Eruope. Most of the architecture is concentrated on Alberta, Vilandes, and Rupniecibas streets. It’s pretty impressive how much detail goes into some of these buildings.

We did not love Latvia. Maybe we would have liked other parts of Latvia if we would have traveled more, but we stayed in the capital Riga for a day and a half, and that was even too much for us. The people were as cold as the weather. The sites were just ok. The food was nothing special. The portrayal of women in the media was offensive and appalling (yes, worse than the US). The streets were dirty and loud at night. Enough of the complaining… It suffices to say that it wasn’t our favorite part of the trip. Latvia is a part of the European Union and uses the Lat, which was about .5 Lats to the dollar.

Riga Dome Cathedral. 1211.

House of Blackheads. 1334. Destroyed in 1941 and rebuilt in 1999.

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. 1209.

Victory Monument. 1935. “For Fatherland and Freedom.” The 3 stars symbolize Latvia’s 3 regions: Kurzeme, Vidzeme, and Latgale.

Riga Castle. 1340. Latvian President’s residence.

(Shout our to our nephew!)

Riga’s central market consists of a covered and uncovered market selling fruits and vegetables, fish, cheeses and dairy, breads, clothing, and much more. It is the largest market in the Baltic states, but Chișinău’s is much bigger with a much larger selection (and way dirtier). So basically, we weren’t impressed. It was our first time seeing pickled apples though.