Monday, April 30, 2012

Our youngest language learners

Colsen and Miles practicing their Romanian:  (I added English sub-titles)

The thing that's really funny is when Miles watches himself on this video.  He completely cracks up at "that Miles boy!"

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Night of Art

 Last night Pete and I went to an event I had been looking forward to for months -- and it was just as wonderful as I had anticipated!  The International Women's Club organized the Night of Art as a way to allow Moldovan artists to display their work in an elegant setting, while raising money for charity at the same time.  Plus there was live music, a huge buffet of food, and free wine and juice.  Win, win, win, win!
 Tania came to babysit -- and afterwards she was heading to an all-night prayer service.  Talk about feeling safe about leaving your kids in good hands!  So off we went, feeling very free and fancy.

The guitarist who was playing at the event was amazing -- and he was also a familiar face to us since we met him the first week we were in Moldova.  (He gave us some printers.)  We enjoyed getting to hear him perform -- very impressive.

 We spent the evening talking with several friends, walking around to look at all the artwork, and buying some handmade treasures.   And here's Pete, annoyed that I'm trying to take his picture.
 One of our favorite artists there was the one with the display below.  (  She is only 16 years old and has already created so many beautiful things.
 Definitely a lovely evening!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Joy for Joi, Week 15

This particular Joi is a beautiful spring day, so I was quick to get all the towels in the house washed this morning so I could hang them out on the clothesline in the warm sunshine.  About 5 minutes after I got all 12 towels nicely pinned up, I started to smell an acrid, toxic smell -- and then noticed large clouds of black smoke billowing over the wall from our next-door neighbor's yard, settling right over my clothesline.  (I'm not sure what he keeps burning over there, but it's awful!)  So back outside we ran, scrambling to gather the wet towels back into the house.

Sometimes the futility in this broken world is enough to drive me crazy!  Thankfully, though, God keeps shining out His promises in time, simple and good reminders to keep me smiling and stable.  This morning when I woke up, I happened to read the lyrics to "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go," and the words have stuck with me all day...

"O Joy that seekest me through the pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbows through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain..."

My "Joy Dare" notebook continues to fill... evidence of a God who loves me in details and in capital letters.  

Here are some of my favorite things this week:

+ Lilacs are blooming!  It's been a very long time since I've lived in a neighborhood with lilacs, and I have definitely missed them.  This week it has been fun introducing my children to my all-time favorite scent in the world!  (They like it, too)

+ Children who remind us to pray.  A few times this week one of the kids has suggested we pray for something when I did not think of it.  On the way to the ambassador's house over the weekend, Pete and I were getting exasperated by how many times we got lost and had to keep turning around.  (Our idea that each street should have its own name, and that street numbers should actually go in order is not shared by all in this city apparently.)  At just the right moment, a little voice in the back seat said, "Why don't we pray and God will help us!"  So we did, and He did... we arrived at the house less than 30 seconds later.

+ Colsen not having a concussion after I was afraid he might last night.  Today he's back to his normal self, spending about 80% of his day in this tree, as is his custom.

+ Seeing Peter's face when my computer "fix" worked.  Our laptop has no battery and power cord had finally died.  Finally, out of desperation, Pete talked to friend Oleg about getting it repaired (the answer was "Sure!  It's probably the connection jack. I have a friend who can fix it on the other side of the ciy")  We weren't sure we were ready to turn our computer over to a complete stranger and just leave it there for a few days (since we have all of our sensitive info on it).  So I said, "Well, if it's just a problem with the connection, maybe we could shove some aluminum foil in there and that would work."  Pete wanted to laugh at me, but humored me... and oh, I loved his face when it actually worked.

+ Pete's new class.  It meets for 8 nights in a row, 3 hours each night, which seems strange, but that's what it is.  I'm thankful to see him making a difference in this grad students' lives.... even if they are 80% female.  (How does he keep getting classes like this?)


+ Singing "Father Abraham," in Russian with the kids at church on Sunday.  It was just fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Note to future self: Be thankful

Someday, when I look back on our Moldovan experience, I'm sure it will all be a fuzzy blur as it is swallowed into the recesses of my dimming memory.  I may generally remember that it was cold for a long time, that we met some great people, that we had a nice house with wide window-sills.... and I doubt I'll forget the dogs.

But of course there are hundreds of details that make up our daily living here, and some of them have made me long for the comforts of home again.  I tell myself I will be so thankful when I get home and get to use my nice deep sink to rinse the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher.... but I know my appreciation for this will wane eventually.  

So lest I begin to take for granted again some of the material things I have missed while here, I have composed this list.  

These are the things I want to remember to be grateful for:
The well/holes in our front yard
 (I made Pete find heavy things to put on top) 
  • Saran wrap that comes in a box with a cutter
  • A garbage disposal
  • Getting a return greeting when you say hello to people you pass on the street
  • Not having open wells and/or other large holes in the middle of the front yard, which the kids insist on playing around
  • Getting mail within days, not months, of when it is sent
  • Not having to unlock a padlock on the gate every time you want to back the car out of the driveway, then get out of the car again to re-lock it
  • The FDA
  • Sanitation ratings for food handlers
  • Not having to walk your trash down around the corner to another street
  • Having public restrooms at church, in schools, etc., that have toilet seats (and toilet paper) (and soap)
  • A dishwasher
  • Not waking up to large spots of mold on the walls and ceilings every morning
  • Fluorescent lights that don’t continue to blink – when they’re off
  • Smoke alarms
  • Building codes
  • Roads not full of potholes everywhere
  • Drivers who stay in lanes on a road
  • Drivers who are kind and let you “in” sometimes
  • Drivers who generally follow traffic laws
  • Policemen who are not usually looking for bribes
  • A government that does not openly steal millions of dollars, and not get punished for it
  • A government who uses tax money to benefit people
  • Whole grain rice
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Brown sugar
  • Molasses
  • Inexpensive peanut butter
  • Peanut butter in jars larger than my hand
  • A deep sink
  • Not having to empty the little sink drain in the trash several times every time we wash dishes
  • Neighbors who do not throw large pieces of wood at dogs who get out of their own yards
  • Light bulbs that last longer than a month
  • Not having to take extremely crowded buses to get around the city
  • Scent-free detergent (or really, scent-free anything)
  • Leash laws (or, not having wild dogs roaming the city streets)
Be thankful for these things, Future Self, for not everyone has them!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Spring-y walk around the block

Things sure have changed since we were first here and went on a wintry walk around the block.  We've enjoyed seeing everything come to life and the street filling with color!

(We've been calling the tree above a "raining tree" since we thinks it looks like that!)

Most of the trees in the whole city have been painted white at the bottom of the trunks as part of the big Easter-time clean-up.  We're not sure exactly what the paint is for -- possibly for keeping the trees either disease- or insect-free. 
I think it looks like the trees are all wearing socks.

Definitely enjoying the flowers more than the snow!

...And even more Easter

I don't think we've ever had Easter holidays span 3 weeks before, but this just must be our lucky year.  We had our Western Easter 2 weeks ago, then Orthodox Easter last weekend, and this weekend we were invited to an Easter egg hunt at the American ambassador's house.

We had fun catching up with a few friends and participating in the activities.  Miles just made himself at home.... perhaps he'd like to be and Ambassador someday.

 And as a bonus we got to play another of my favorite games (not really) on the way home:  "Guess which it is:  a road, or a jutted, gravel driveway that leads nowhere!"  We mostly lost at this game.  Driving in this city continues to be an adventure.

When we got home, Miles put his new stickers to good use:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

On cooking

Someone asked me if I would write a little bit about the kinds of foods that are available here and what kinds of meals I am making….  So I’m finally doing it! 

I’m afraid it might not be all that exciting, though, because basically, I am able to make meals very similar to the ones I made at home, with just a few exceptions:
  • I’m still skeptical of the meat here.*  We didn’t eat much meat at home, either, but here we’re eating basically only chicken.  I’ve been in the habit of roasting a chicken once a week, using the meat in one or two dishes, and then using the bones to make chicken stock.  Other than a little canned tuna and some salami occasionally, this has been it.
  • We have been extra-careful with the fresh produce.  When we first got here we peeled or cooked everything, having been warned that there would be bacteria that our bodies wouldn’t be used to.  Now, hopefully we’re more used to it all, and we’ve been eating some raw things – after we wash them really well. 
  • The oven in this house doesn’t work right, so it’s either off or blazing at something like 600 degrees.  This makes baking anything rather challenging.  So I’ve been doing more stove-top dishes.**
  • I can’t make yogurt here like I do at home, and they don’t sell large amounts of plain yogurt, so we’re buying tons of little individual cups, which feels weird.
  • We can’t get things like molasses, Mexican seasonings, mixes, canned soups, etc., so I’m limited a little bit in my recipe choices.
  • Groceries are NOT cheap – except for a few things, like fresh bread, onions, garlic, potatoes, cabbage and wine.  So we eat (and drink) a lot of those things.  J  We’ve also added a few products to our diet that seem to be regular staples here, like buckwheat.
Overall, I’d say we’re eating just fine.  In fact, if anything, I’d say my cooking has stepped up a notch, if I do say so myself.  J   Maybe it’s because I’ve had more time on my hands. Or maybe it’s because of Pinterest.

Anyway, for dinners, our regular dishes are things like:
  • Mediterranean tuna and pasta (with red peppers, onions, peas, lemon juice and a little olive-oil-based sauce I make up)
  • Lemony-dill chicken and quinoa salad (also made up)
  • Potato and cabbage bake
  • Potato soups
  • Vegetable soups with chick-peas and potatoes
  • Black beans and rice wraps (with chili powder spiced peppers and onions).  The only challenge with this one is finding tortillas… we use lavas bread instead, and I just cut it up.
  • Pita pockets with roasted chicken and coleslaw
  • Omelets
  • Pizza with salami and veggies (again, no real pizza crust, but we find pita pockets work)
If I don’t want to cook, there are a few options.  We can have these little frozen pasta things called Pelmini that have chicken or something in them… but our local friend said she wouldn’t eat them too often.  Hmmm.  There is also a local pizza place called, of all things, “Andy’s Pizza” which we like.  Unlike most of the other pizza places here, they do not just offer mayonnaise-sauce-based pizzas, and we can actually get something like we’d recognize at home.  Most of the pizzas do have corn on them, though, for some reason.  Or Pete could bring home food on his way home from work from either McDonald’s or an American-style coffee shop.  We’ve only done this a couple of times. 

Well that’s probably way more than anyone wanted to know about our food situation here!  And now it's time for me to head back into the kitchen...

*If you want to know why I’m skeptical, ask Pete about the handling of raw meat that he saw – even at the new, “nice” meat shop!  Where are the sanitation board people when you need them??  We’ve also been warned against eating the fish caught locally.

**Despite this temperamental oven and the lack of brown sugar, I think I’ve finally perfected a chocolate chip cookie recipe – they only take about 5 minutes to bake and they include honey as an ingredient.  Where there is a will, there’s a way!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nice perk

Pete recently wrote about "entrepreneurial ubiquity" on his blog, talking about all of the little alimentaras that are around our house.  His title is pretty fancy, and he, as usual, is viewing this situation through his economist lenses, but from my perspective as a consumer, it all adds up to one beautiful thing:  I never find myself stuck in the middle of a recipe because I don't have a staple grocery item I need. 

At home in NC, I often would discover I was missing a key ingredient at the most inopportune times, and then either had to scramble the jets and get everyone in the car and head to a store, or wait until Pete came home to bring it to me, or head over to beg shamelessly from a neighbor (as several Lake Park folks can attest to!).

But now when I realize I'm out of butter or onions or milk or something (which happens at least weekly), I can just yell out to Strider to please go run to the store.  He can get to the closest alimentara without even crossing a street!  Less than 2 minutes after I request an ingredient, he is back with it in hand.   He's gotten pretty proficient at pointing out what he wants in the shop and understanding the transaction generally.  Sometimes the shop ladies ask him questions, so he's putting his Romanian lessons to good use.

While I am grateful to have these little shops so close by (and not even over-priced, as American convenience stores often are), Pete, as he mentioned even more enthusiastically, is thankful to also have the local vintner within a minute's walk as well.

So we never have to go without food staples or wine for long at all! 
"Just in time" inventory planning at its best.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Joy for Joi, week 14

Every time we've checked the weather forecast for the last 5 days, we've found them predicting another week of straight rain.  But, with maybe one exception, we've had sun poke through at various times every day.  Today I was thinking about how God keeps poking through like that... showing His presence and His love, sometimes unexpectedly, in stark contrast to the rest of our "weather."

This week has had its share of "cloudy times"....  Pete had a frustrating day driving all over the place with a couple of local young men, trying to accomplish a couple of simple errands yesterday; we had a long morning on Tuesday spent in Moldovan government offices; and I just found out Pete might be leaving us to go to Croatia for a few days.

It's been muddy outside -- and thanks to 8 creatures continually going in and out and in and out -- it's been muddy inside as well. And when everything around me starts to get muddy, the mud that persists in my heart becomes all too evident.

BUT, in the midst of the cloudiness, the Son breaks through and reminds me there is always Joy to be found!

And in between showers of the regular rain, we've enjoyed playful times with Flower Petal Rain!

Other blessings this week have included:

+ getting our registration documentation finalized at last -- our cards stating we are allowed to be in this country should arrive in about a month (about one month before we're due to leave!)

+  meeting with Moldovan women last night as they learned about teaching toddlers from another American woman

+ getting to know a woman who lives on our street

+ working on vacation plans for this summer

+ new job opportunities for the Fall

+ seeing lalelele blooming at last


+ finding that the littlest boy had climbed in with his bigger brother again a couple nights ago:

Thanking the God who brings both rain and sun to encourage us and draw us closer to Him!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Second Easter

We had the pleasure of repeating "Cristos a înviat" over and over yesterday morning as we celebrated Easter at a Russian church.  (Even though it was not an Orthodox church, everyone in the country follows that calendar apparently)  One of the songs we heard there was the Russian version of  "In Christ Alone", and although I couldn't pronounce the words correctly, I loved knowing they were singing:
...There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ!

Although we didn't dye eggs again and do another egg hunt this weekend, we did have some chocolate eggs made right here in Chisinau:

And we also took this second opportunity to eat a few special Easter foods (of course!).  The traditional Paşti (Easter) bread here looks like this:

... and it was as tasty as it looks!

I also went ahead and made a not-so-traditional bread-type thing as well:

It's always a good day to celebrate our Risen Lord!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Picturesque (and picture-less) Field Trip!

Today we went on probably our best field trip ever -- and I forgot the memory card for my camera, much to my dismay.  So I will use postcards we bought, some videos we took with our Flip camera, and lots and lots of words to describe it instead!

Old Orhei (Orheiul Vechi) is the site of several layers of history;  various fortresses and citadel walls were built here, even as far back as hundreds of years before Christ! There were also public baths hundreds of years ago, as well as a monastery made out of caves in the side of the cliff.

 Today there is a beautiful church, the monastery in which monks still live, and a small indoor museum that had artifacts from many different centuries.  (We saw things like earrings from 300 B.C.!)  It's also just a beautiful place to walk around, hike, and do some rock climbing!  So we did all that.

Here we are approaching the top of the hill where the monastery is:

We saw a little entrance in the side of the hill, outside of which a long-bearded monk was working on some floor mats of some kind.  When we approached, he spoke to us quietly in Romanian, and since the only words we could pick out was "bine" (good) and "copii" (children), we figured we were allowed to go in.  (And we'd seen a couple of other people go in ahead of us). 

This is what we saw inside:

The monastery opens right up on the side of the cliff -- which is why I was freaking out when the boys went right out to the edge.  It was a looooong way down to the river below!  But it did look like a nice place to pray, if there were no reckless boys around.  The caves were fascinating -- Pete says it's the coolest monastery he's ever seen.

While in both the monastery complex and the church area (below) we saw signs that indicated women should have their heads covered, so I cooperated:

What a peaceful place -- and a windy place, located at the top of the hill.

After exploring at the top of the hill, we descended down to the river and explored from the bottom of the cliffs.  Rock climbing was the big attraction at that point -- Strider made it back up to the top while I tried not to watch.

All in all it was not only a beautiful trip, but also probably the strangest one we've ever been on. On our way from Chisinau out to Orhei, we passed chickens, goats, cows, sheep, shepherds, geese, and a wild turkey -- along the "highways!"   Several times we passed people on horse-drawn wagons -- including one here in our neighborhood in the city. We also saw numerous public wells along the highways, and in the villages we went through.  And we drove on dirt roads through a village that looked like it belonged in another century.

I cannot believe I forgot my camera card!!  But it was a great trip anyway.  :)