Having been in Moldova for nearly nine months, I feel like I’ve more or less settled into life here. Don’t be fooled- it really does take quite a bit of time. It feels like the past 9 months have flown by even though many days go rather slowly. Last weekend, we had a language training for two days in the capital. Although it was nice to catch up with Peace Corps friends and the training was useful, I was glad to return home to my village on Sunday afternoon.
On my way to catch my rutiera (mini-bus) back to Festelita, I ran into another volunteer that lives near me here in Moldova. She is also from New York and we chatted for a few minutes along the side of the road. It was a beautiful spring-like day, and she asked me what I had thought about my first Moldovan winter. She mentioned that, being from New York, it hadn’t seemed too bad. Besides my school building being a bit colder than I’m used to, I have to agree with her. It was a relatively mild winter and besides one very cold week in January, the temperatures haven’t been too bad. The one thing I am not as used to in the United States is the ice here. Without salt to sprinkle on it, the roads and sidewalks (where they exist) are solid sheets of ice all winter here.
This week seems to have welcomed spring in. In Moldova, spring is believed to start on March 1st, and the first little flowers have begun peeking out from the little remaining snow. The temperatures are warmer, the snow and ice has melted, and everything is a muddy mess. Even coming from a smaller rural community in the United States, I’ve never seen mud like this! I’ve almost lost one or both shoes so many times. It is deep and sticky and impossible to avoid! I’m thankful to have host parents that are generally willing to walk with me to the post office, where the paved road begins, each morning in order to switch from rubber boots to the boots I wear at school. When I return, though, my boots get covered! Washing your shoes and boots is a daily occurrence here.
With the welcoming of spring also comes a handful of celebrations and holidays. Today is Dragobete. From what I understand, this is a holiday that celebrates both love and the welcoming of spring. For more information, check out this Wikipedia page.
March first is Mărţişor. People give one another small pins, which represent peace and love, to wear on their coats and shirts and celebrate the beginning of spring. These pins are worn throughout the month of March for good luck. At the end of the month, the mărţişor are placed on trees branches.
8th March, International Women’s Day, is a very large and important holiday here to honor women. There is no school on this day, and poems, songs, and dances are performed. Women are not supposed to work on this day and are given presents.
Orthodox Easter will be celebrated on April 16th this year. Although usually a different date than Catholic and Protestant Easter, this year it is the same day. This the most important and celebrated holiday in the year. Most people fast for the 40 days of lent. Those that strictly obey the fasting rules do not eat meat, oil, butter, milk, or other animal products (though I believe honey is allowed).
One week after Easter, Pastele Blajinilor (or Memorial Easter) is celebrated. Everyone goes to the cemetery, bringing wine and lots of food. There is a big meal, and each family brings gifts (a towel, a special bread, a bowl with candies, a candle, and a box of matches) for each loved one that has passed. The priest goes to each grave to bless loved ones who have passed, and then a glass of wine is poured over the grave.