Summer starts early in Moldova, on the first of June. It is a hot and humid season and also very busy for most Moldovans. They planted their gardens and fields in the spring and now they have to weed and care for the plants. They have to tie up the grape vines and harvest the fruits and vegetables that have ripened. They have to clean their houses and change out the heavy rugs for lighter ones. They have to keep careful watch over the chicks and ducklings and goslings. They have to prepare their homes for visitors, perhaps their grown kids and grandkids or friends home from working abroad.
Inversely, for education volunteers in Moldova, summer is not quite so busy. Our partner teachers and school administrators are busy tending their gardens and fields and children who are at home during the yearly break of the town or village’s grădiniţă, or kindergarten. Our students are busy working in their family’s gardens and fields or helping out at home with younger siblings. Us volunteers are working around these busy schedules, having an English Club here and there, maybe a week-long summer camp, or perhaps working on implementing a grant project. But even with these activities, we have much more free time than during the school year.
Some days I sit on a swing on our house’s patio and listen to the birds sing and the breeze move the grape vines above my head. Sometimes I go to the garden and pick strawberries or cherries or raspberries, coming back with a full belly and red-stained finger tips. Occasionally I accompany my host mom on an evening walk to visit a friend or run errands. At night, I debate whether I’d rather end up with itchy bug bites along my arms or my legs or sweat in the hot room with the window closed.
If I were asked to describe summer in Moldova, I would say this: It is hot and humid and there is no relief, but it is also beautiful. There are huge fields of golden grain and green cornstalks and yellow sunflowers. People are out and about, working together in the fields to ensure everything gets done. Gardens are bursting at the seams with flowers. Tables are brought outside for eating. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, all picked right from the garden.
I’m not sure I would want to experience these hot summers every year, but there is still lots of beauty to be found despite the heat.