One thing that is very different in Moldova is the conversations. The topics, the tone of voice, the body language. You name it, its different. Its one thing to converse with another culture when you understand all that is being said. It is something completely different when you dont understand everything and cant express all that you would like to say.
Right now, my language isn’t great, so Ive definitely had my fair share of slip ups.
For example, after my swearing in ceremony, I left all my fellow Peace Corps volunteers, loaded my life into a car, and had to say goodbye to the volunteers whom I had spent just about every hour with for the past 10 weeks. Being who I am, I cried, of course. And this was infront of my school director and village mayor- but Im only human! Anyways, my mayor and school director drove me back to my village and during the hour and a half drive, we chatted as much as was possible. My mayor asked me if I was sad to be coming to Tintareni. “No,” I told him, “I’m just sad to leave all my friends, but I will have many more friends in Tintareni!” He laughed a little and said “Many friends?!” “Yes,” I said, “I will have many friends in Tintareni!” He laughed harder now and my school director said to him “she doesn’t understand.”
It was only later, that I realized what I had said to him. I had told him that I will have many boyfriends in Tintareni. All I could think was “wonderful… now my town mayor probably thinks Im a hooker.” Hes a bit of a comedian, though, so all is good!
I’ve also been known to mix up bolnav (sick), murat (pickled), and murder (dirty).
My host sister asked if I was hungry and I wanted to tell her that I felt sick. So I said, “ma simt murat.” Which means “I feel pickled.” Yes, I felt pickled… She didn’t understand, but she got the idea and didn’t try to offer me food anymore.
I told my host family that I ate my other host family. They got a good laugh out of that and I guess I did too.
So, just about every time I talk to someone, for the first time or second time or even third, the conversation goes exactly the same:
Moldovan: How do you find Moldova?
Me: I like it very much. It is beautiful, my host family is great, the people are great, the food is delicious.
Moldovan: Do you miss your home and your family?
Me: Of course, very much. But I want to be in Moldova, if I wanted to go home, I would go home.
Moldovan: You should find a boy and stay here:
Me: (laughter) Maybe, but my mom wouldn’t be very happy. She wants me home.
Moldovan: Well she can come visit Moldova
Me: If it is life, it is life (this is the best I can do… it both satisfies them and ends the questioning about me finding a Moldovan husband. Usually at this point, we both have somewhere to go so we say our goodbyes)
After this, if the conversation is not over, it turns to family, food, money, or a persons weight. It is hard sometimes to be a part of these conversations because American culture is so different. Moldovans very openly discuss income, the hardships they have, and how much a person weighs. This is one thing I am learning to adjust to, or trying to adjust to at the very least.
Anyways, that is how about 75% of my conversations go… when I’m lucky! Last week I had a slightly more interesting conversation. I came home from work and both my town mayor and the mayor/governor of my raion were at my house (A raion in Moldova is the equivalent of a state in the US). What an interesting conversation we had.
At first we chatted about what Im doing, same old thing, how I like Moldova, etc etc. Then he went on to tell me that he knew other Peace Corps volunteers and my host mom said that one of the volunteers works in his office. I was excited because I finally understood at this point who this man was, where he worked, and that he knew one of my fellow volunteers. I said “oh! You work with Thomas!” His face change and he responded seriously “no, Thomas works with me.” I apologized but, “Crap! Ive offended the most important person Ive met in Moldova” is the only thing that was running through my head. Luckily for me, the storm cloud passed and he changed the subject.
After this, we talked about my family and where we would visit when they came over and other random things. As him and my village mayor where about to leave, my village mayor commented “isn’t it funny that Cristen is in Tintareni and she is so thin yet working with a bunch of fat people.”
Yes, my mayor said this. All you can do in this situation is smile and nod…. and smile and nod is what I did. It hasn’t failed me yet J