Monday, January 30, 2012

The Simple Life

This is supposed to be Pete's sabbatical semester from teaching his normal routine, but at this point it's  really feeling like a "sabbatical" for our whole family.  We are all way outside our normal routines and feel like a little family-unit island.  We miss our friends and family back home, but I have to say it's been a nice break not having all of the regular classes, activities, sports, meetings, etc., that we're used to.

It looks like our involvement in activities may increase soon (possibly tennis lessons, language lessons, Bible study, church attendance, and more teaching engagements for Pete), but for now we're enjoying our simple life.

For the last couple of weeks, I've felt rather old-fashioned.  Pete goes out daily to hunt down our food, and I spend most of my day teaching the kids, thinking about how to cook the food, actually cooking it, washing dishes, or cleaning.  Since the laundry cycle can take a full 4 hours for one load, and we have NO dishwasher and only a very tiny sink, the ordinary chores to keep the household running take much more time than I'm used to.  Every night after dinner, the whole family pitches in but it still take more than an hour to get all the dishes done, the kitchen cleaned up, and the floors vacuumed and mopped.  But since we have nowhere else to be and nothing else that really has to be done, the work has a reassuring rhythm to it.

And in the evenings, since we don't get many English-speaking television shows*, Pete and I do what the prairie folk must have done years ago:  we get in our warm bed really early and watch a DVD.

The daily pace is slow and relaxed and even simple work is fulfilling. There is plenty of time to play games.  Most of us are content in this season of rest... although a couple are chomping at the bit to get out to explore.  The weather is reinforcing our period of isolation, though... we're experiencing over a week of temps not going over 20 degrees.  So we stay in hibernation mode! 

I love that the teaching profession allows for regular "rest" times, or sabbaticals -- I thing every profession should offer them!

* We have been surprised to learn that we can't even watch American TV shows online or through Netflix or other streaming options.  Apparently if you're not currently residing within the country, you don't get access.  We feel so shunned!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Another blog, for Pete's sake!

I am very pleased to announce that my husband has decided to join the blogging world.  It turns out that European Peter is much more prone to writing than American Peter.

So for those of you wanting another perspective on our life in Moldova, feel free to check out

Pete's perspective tends to be slightly significantly different than mine.  We have an ongoing debate between us concerning whether I am a pessimist and Pete is a realist OR Pete is an optimist and I am the realist.  As a point of comparison, you can check out Pete's version of the museum field trip (I documented my version here yesterday).  I am thankful for his balance to my views!

And now the question is: who exactly will be tending to our children if both of us are blogging??

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Museum Field Trip

Yesterday Pete took Rayna and Colsen on a little excursion to the National Museum.  Since the temperature high was 16 degrees for the day, and the trip involved having to walk several blocks to the bus stop and several blocks after getting off the bus, the other 3 members of the family opted to stay home.

They say they had a great time!  The admission price to get in the museum was a good deal-- the kids were free and Pete's ticket was 5 Lei, which is less than 50 cents.  The funny thing, though, was that in order for Pete to take pictures, he had to purchase a separate ticket, which cost an additional 15 Lei.  Then he was given a special badge to wear that said he was allowed to photograph things.  :)

The museum was a beautiful building.... BUT it was not heated apparently.  So there is Reason # 2 I'm glad I didn't make the trip.  The 3 adventurers were undaunted, though, and enjoyed the exhibits... all bundled up.

Towards the end of the visit, Colsen decided he needed to go to the restroom.  It turned out that the museum bathroom facilities were not exactly up to par with the rest of the loveliness.  In fact, the "facilities" were outdoor -- and not even as nice as a port-a-john!  Pete purposely stayed vague when I asked him what exactly the setup was.... but from what I understand, this was one of the infamous "squatty potties" common in this country.  I had heard that we would run into these often, but I assumed this would be in the more rural settings -- not at the big museum in the middle of the city!  Needless to say, this was most definitely Reason # 3 I was happy to not be on this particular adventure.

After the museum visit, the 3 troopers thawed out at a local coffee shop with some hot cocoa.  This part of the trip actually looked fun.

Thankful for cheerful field trippers, and thankful I didn't have to be the chaperone!  :)

p.s. Stay tuned for Pete's version of this story... coming soon on a brand new blog near you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Little "Ray" of sunshine

Moldovans, in our experience so far, seem to be rather serious and un-smiley when they're out in public.  We've tried many times to smile and say hello (even in Romanian!) to people we meet on the street, but we're usually ignored.

So when Pete took a couple of the kids out on a little field trip this afternoon, he had to laugh at Rayna.  As she boarded the marshrutka (which is basically a small bus) she looked around at all the very solemn, black-coat-clad passengers and cheerfully called out, "Hi, guys!"  (I think she always assumes everyone was just waiting for her to arrive, and now the party can start!)

And then as they exited the buses each time, she called out, "Thank you!" with just as much enthusiasm.

These Moldovans aren't quite going to know what to do with this girl.  :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Joy for Joi, week 2

Continuing on with the Joy Dare, here are some things I've been thankful for this week...

+ Meeting some more local Moldovans, including the neighbor across the street
+ Cheap ice cream everywhere!  And inexpensive bread, too.  What else do we need?
+ Seeing Strider step up to help in many ways. 
+ Fun time with other English-speaking women at a coffee shop
+ Snuggling into flannel sheets on cold nights
+ Fun emails from friends at home
+ MagicJack allowing us to talk on the phone to anyone anywhere for free
+ Even though there is very little American TV on here, our favorite show, Psych, is on twice every day!!
+ A boy who comes down this morning dressed like this!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Outside the windows

The neighborhood we're in here is so hard to describe.  Like the rest of the country, it seems to be full of contrasts.  Some of the houses are large and beautiful, and some appear to be more like.... well, Strider asked what all the "shacks" were. 

I took my camera upstairs and took pictures through the windows in each of our bedrooms to give a version of a 360 degree tour.  Here's what we can see from here:

This is is from Rayna's window, and looks over our backyard (or garden as they say here).
 Out Strider's window (on a cloudier day) -- some of the smaller abodes:

From the window in Cole and Milo's room (they have a great view, huh?  Glad they don't care).  We are very, very close to the neighbor's house!

And these last pictures are taken from our bedroom in the front of the house:

From here we can see a very tall house with an empty top floor, some sort of factory-looking building, several clotheslines,and a very beautiful and mysterious house that you can't really see in these pictures.... More on that one later.

We don't have any windows that face the back of the house, so I took this picture from the backyard, in order to complete the 360.

It's definitely an interesting place!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A wintry walk around the block

Yesterday Pete and Strider went to a Russian-speaking church (which they thoroughly enjoyed with the help of a translator), and while they were gone the rest of us decided to explore our new neighborhood a little bit.  We walked around the little block and saw all kinds of interesting sights...

 (Inside the green gate we spotted some of the roosters that we hear sometimes -- and some geese and other fowl)
Even though the roads are never plowed, we still always see plenty of pedestrians out every day, presumably either walking to a bus or to get food. 
 And it sure was a pretty day for a walk!

Friday, January 20, 2012


Within walking distance of our house, there is a large, semi-open market.  A few days ago Pete, Rayna and I trudged through the snow to this market to get photos taken of Rayna and me for our embassy registration papers.  (Pete and the boys had done this the week before.)

The whole area is full of little booths with individuals selling their wares, sort of like a giant flea market all compacted together. Right next to someone selling parsley, eggs and honey, there was someone selling hair clips and accessories.  There are sellers of new clothing and sellers of used clothing.  At one table there could be popcorn, brooms and shoelaces. To me it all appeared very random and confusing -- and huge.  Down all kinds of little aisles and pathways we wended our way as Pete tried to recall which particular little spot held the photographer.  We got twisted around, came back outside, found another entrance, and plunged back in. 

It was all quite overwhelming to me:  it was crowded, cold, chaotic (apparently), full of unsmiling faces, and nothing was in English.  There was even a larger booth with raw meat -- just sitting out! And I was quite lost most of the time.

Throughout our little trek, I had 2 thoughts:

1.)  If I have to shop here often, I may not be thrilled about this.  The learning curve seems quite steep!  For someone who would prefer for her shopping experience to include nice wide aisles, products arranged by category and color (and categories clearly labeled with signs overhead), nice large carts, and perhaps some soft music (not to mention heat), this market is not ideal.  (I know, I know... how American am I?!)   How will I find the things I need, and then once I find them, how will I ever get out of this place?


2.)  Poor Pete!  He's probably all stressed out trying to figure out how to get us in and out of here, and remember where the photo booth is.  And he's probably feeling all the weight of having to provide for us and protect us in this strange land!  And since he'll be going back and forth to work and may run errands on the way, maybe he will end up shopping here more often and he won't like it either!

Well, we made it back home eventually, cold noses and toes and all.  Later that evening after the kids were in bed I asked him about what he was thinking in the market.  Here was his summation:

"Wasn't that place cool?!?"

What??  I thought he was joking... but no, he is not. 

As I'm beginning to realize more and more, some people really thrive in a new place, when there is a foreign language, foreign culture, and all the challenges associated therewith... and my husband is one of those people. 

When someone tries to explain to me how to take the kids on a field trip to a museum and it starts like this:

"Walk 2 blocks this way and then 2 blocks North, past the church, and then wait for the bus or trolley -- either 22 or 130 bus, or #3 or 10 trolley I think -- and then one of those should take you pretty close to the museum probably.  The costs are 2 or 3 lei per person, but ask about the kids (in Romanian or Russian, depending on the driver).  And be careful because if anything is in your pockets or if your purse is not sitting between your legs, things will get stolen..."

... I start to think: Maybe I'll just stay home.

But Pete, who has no idea which bus will take him to the embassy where he has a meeting, just vaults out of bed, puts on all his winter gear, and heads out, figuring he'll find a bus or something that will somehow get him there.  And even though his Romanian is weak to nil and his Russian is definitely nil, and no one will speak English to us, somehow he thinks that is just all part of the fun! 

So I am learning new things about my man.  Things I admire and don't quite understand... things I am thankful for.  This weak, nonadventurous woman is happy to have married someone so different than me in this area!

p.s. Today Pete and Colsen went back to the open market, so I asked them to get some pictures.  A woman apparently yelled at Pete quite vehemently, so he stopped -- although he had no idea what she was saying.  But at least he got these few first.

(Colsen was happy to find the "Home Depot" section!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Joy for Joi

I've committed to doing Ann Voskamp's "Joy Dare" this year, which is essentially listing 1000 gifts to be thankful for in 2012.  It seemed appropriate to do this year, with my desire to find joy in the journey and all.  So far I'm on # 65.... so only 935 more to go!

And I figured that since Thursday is Joi here, I'd share some items from my Joy list today.  (Not all 65, don't worry.) 

Here are a few:

+Walking into our new kitchen for the first time and seeing this little book in the basket:
(It's called "Joy in the Journey" if you can't see the title)

+  Looking out the front door on this scene one afternoon.... and being thankful I could stay inside
+ Nice wide window-sills everywhere.  They just make me happy.

+ Russian ketchup in a bag (this picture is for you, Joel Golias!)

+ Seeing Miles in his first "big boy bed."  No more cribs for my babies!
+ Miles and Colsen sharing a room together
+ Hearing Colsen tell me, "I just gave Miles a lesson tonight in our beds!  I told him how to sing songs and talk to God!"
+ Having eveyone stay healthy and adjust well
+ A good first week in Moldova!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Finding Joi

Our theme for this trip, we decided several months ago, would be a determination to find JOY, even when things were crazy/hard/incomprehensible.  I knew we would face a few extra challenges during these months, and it's easy for me to become overwhelmed and discouraged by it all, if I don't come at it with the right perspective.

One of the extra challenges I knew we would be taking on was in the form of 2 dogs.  The people who normally live in this house own them, and renting the house included the package deal of caring for the dogs as well.  Pete and I were very hesitant to take on this additional responsiblity... Having 2 more living beings to tend to in a foreign place sounded hard, not to mention the fact that half of our family usually ends up pretty itchy and sneezy around certain dogs.  But, after some deliberation, it seemed like this was still going to be the best situation for our family overall, financially, logistically, etc  -- and of course the kids were begging to have the dogs!

Well, get this... After we arrived, we met the dogs (aren't they cute?)...

The brown one's name is Sandy...

... and guess what this little one's name is!    JOI!  (pronounced pretty much like "joy")

The Romanian word for "Thursday" is Joi, and this dog was born on a Thursday, so that is her name. (Her mom is actually the other dog -- they look nothing alike, kind of like me and my mom!)

So we have, in a very a clear and tangible way, found Joi in this Journey already.  God just makes me laugh sometimes!!

(How's that for a post about the dogs, Jen?  :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year's, new house, new school semster

This past Saturday was a New Year's celebration here.  From what I can gather, not only is this young country (only independent since 1991) trying to meld 2 languages and political ideologies, but they are also operating off of two different calendars.  In addition to the one we are used to, there is also an "old" calendar (Orthodox, I believe) that has holidays falling on different dates.  I asked the cab driver I met last week about this, and he basically summed it up as, "There is Christmas, and then there is Old Christmas, and there is New Year's, and then there is Old New Year's... and we celebrate them all."  Smart people, I guess -- twice as many celebrations!

So while many Moldovans were observing another New Year's this weekend, we were moving into a new house, which seemed appropriate.  We are very thankful for this house... it has many more comforts and extras that we were not expecting to have during our time here.  For example, there is actually a clothes dryer!  (It can only run on 1 setting and we can't run any other appliance, including the washing machine, at the same time that it is running, and it takes a long time to dry things -- but hey, it's a dryer!)  And the kids were thrilled to find that there is both a Playstation and a Wii -- a better deal than we have at home.

Here are a few pics:

From the street...

The front yard..
C'mon in!

The foyer (complete with our boxes of curriculum we just picked up at the Embassy -- and an enthusiastic little boy):

The living areas:
And we've already gotten set up at a couple of desks so we can (finally) resume some schoolwork!  Half of these students is excited... the other half not as much:

As we're getting settled after a crazy few weeks, we are looking forward to what God has for us in 2012... pretty sure it will be a very unique year.