A week ago on Friday afternoon, as soon as I had finished my classes and eaten lunch, my host mom and I headed out for a weekend in Chisinau. Our trip to Chisinau took twice the usual amount of time. Our town only has rutieras (buses) to Causeni and Chisinau in the morning, so we had to catch a ride to Causeni. In America, this would be called hitchhiking, but here it is so common-place I’m not sure it should really be called that. Generally, it’s not too hard to get a ride, but there just weren’t many cars leaving our town at 1:15 in the afternoon. Finally, a young man who is apparently our neighbor and also a police officer stopped and offered us a ride to Ermoclia, which would at least take us to the main road to Causeni. We waited for a rutiera to pass, but unfortunately it was packed so full they wouldn’t allow anyone else to get on. So we hitched another ride, and once again, my host mom actually knew the driver. He is a godfather of one or more of her children. He took us to Causeni, where we got a rutiera to Chisinau. Whew!
We had planned to attend Chisinau’s hram, which is a celebration of the town that occurs in every town and city in Moldova each year. It’s basically the celebration of the town’s “birthday” though the date is based on the main church’s saint day (each church is named after an Orthodox saint and each saint has a day on which it is celebrated). However, because of our late arrival in Chisinau, we missed the celebrations. Instead, we went to my host aunt’s apartment near the gates of Chisinau. We had a masa and my host mom’s other sister also joined us, along with her daughter. It was really nice to meet more if my extended host family and we laughed plenty. Being around 3 sisters who clearly enjoy each other’s company reminded me of my dad’s 3 sisters every time they are all together. We spent the night there.
In the morning, we headed to my host sister’s, on the opposite end of Chisinau. I counted presidential campaign signs, and counted 39 during the 20-minute bus ride. And that was only the signs I could see on my side of the road. Just as in the US, Moldova is in full-campaign mode. Unlike in the US, here there are many more political parties and candidates. I counted signs for at least seven different candidates and there are many more.
I spent some time at my host sister’s before heading to a totally different part of Chisinau once again to meet up with other Peace Corps volunteers at the Peace Corps office. All of the volunteers had been invited to the US Ambassador’s residence for a luncheon. We got a number of taxis to the residence. Close to 100 volunteers came, and it was great to see everyone. This is probably the only time all of the programs and groups will be together during my time here. I think all but 3 English volunteers in my group were able to come. There was American food- amazing hamburgers, real salad WITH dressing, pizza, and ice cream with toppings.
After, I managed to find my way back my host sister’s apartment and spent several hours playing with my host nieces, Sofica and Elizaveta. I spent the night there, and Sunday morning, I spent some more time with my host nieces. I also went to a large piaza (or market) in Chisinau with one of my host sisters and my host mom. We also drove by the botanical park, though it wasn’t a very nice day out (raining hard and chilly), so we just saw it from the road. After lunch, I headed back to my town with my host mom.