31 October 2009

Eastern Hospitality

Over the past two weeks, we have gotten a glimpse into Moldovan life outside of Chisinau, but we have also seen a more intimate portrait of life within the city itself. Last weekend, we were invited as guests to the house of some very kind people that we met at the winery, and last night, we had someone over for dinner who has lived in Moldova for his entire life. In both of these scenarios, we were offered insight into Moldovan culture that aptly corresponded with many of our first impressions. That is to say that we have met some genuinely good people in the relatively short amount of time that we have been here.

Granted, the language barrier continues to be an issue. In this regard, even small talk has proven challenging. For example, it took Victor - our dinner guest who works in the building where we live and speaks very limited English - about five minutes to explain that he is the youngest of four boys and that the rest of his family live in a village about an hour from here. On the same token, rather than explain that Jamie was born in Detroit and has lived in Cincinnati, Greece and Grand Rapids, Michigan as a kid, which is where we met before living out on the west coast and then moving to a small town about an hour outside of Chicago, it was easier to just say that we're from Chicago. All in all, it was both enlightening and to be honest, a little exhausting, but it was nonetheless a great opportunity learn something about life in Moldova, not to mention practice our Romanian with a native speaker.

Last week, I was also able to get some great footage of the changing season in the park at the heart of downtown Chisinau. There were a lot of people walking around as golden leaves cascaded from the trees and blanketed the paths. It was not uncommon to see couples making out on park benches or young professionals working on laptops, taking advantage of the free wi-fi. There were vendors selling popcorn, juice and coffee, and amidst the relaxed atmosphere, it was easy to forget that we in the middle of a thriving metropolis. Chisinau truly has some beautiful parks, and nearly every street in the city is lined with old trees that are full of character. Sure, much of the architecture is standard fare Communist bloc design, where it was all more or less designed with the same aesthetic - as opposed to buildings in American cities that express the individualism of its tenants and the architects who initially designed the structures - but Chisinau makes up for it with its many trees and its many beautiful people.

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