Friday, June 24, 2011

From NJ to Moldova: My Moldovan Adventures, Volunteering,internship at IRFF Moldova

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2011

Orheiul Vechi

Orheiul Vechi is this archaeological site in the middle of No Where, Moldova BUT it isabsolutely beautiful there! 

A friend of my boss acted as our tour guide and all around Moldovan expert for this excursion. 

This site essentially looks like a large crater hole in the middle of the country in Moldova. Our tour guide explained that at one point in time, it was actually a body of water and that is the reason for this seemingly crater-induced valley. 

Well, either way, it is beautiful. 

There is a tiny town in the middle of this valley. In this tiny town, we stopped at a well and got our own water. We literally just stuck the bucket down the well, pulled up the water and then drank the water straight from the bucket! I have never done anything like that. 

All the roads in this tiny town were dirt roads, of course. Our tour said that this town is so small that there are maybe only 4 or 5 children that actually go to school in the town. 

Also, most people that live in villages in Moldova don't have indoor running water (hence the wells). They all have out houses and they go to the bathroom there! I could not imagine that. 

Then we ate freshly pickedapricots that literally were just picked straight from the tree. My family has an apple tree back home in the US but my parents decided that it is just easier to purchase apples from the store so our apple tree remains wild and well, not maintained. 

Also, there is a church at the top of hill. It was recently redone and now it has a beautiful garden. 

And there is a cave monastery with one lonely and slightly grumpy monk living there all alone. He has the BEST balcony though, it is a rock balcony built into the caves! 

There used to be 12 monks living in this cave monasteryand they all slept in one room. This room was divided into 12 sections by rock walls. This room was so short that even I couldn't stand up straight and I am pretty short. I would never live like that but I guess not many people can. 

On the way back, we stopped and ate pizza in some town. I ate a whole personal size pizza for the equivalent of $2.50. Seriously. Moldova is SO cheap for a foreigner! 


I joined a gym!

This is the gym I joined, it is called Heracles-->

And the best part is that I did it all in Russian! 
Well, my Russian isn't very good so it was a combination of Russian and hand gestures but no English was involved. 

But I love the gym, it is such a great place. However, gyms in Moldova arevery different than gyms in the US. 

You are not allowed to show up at the gym in your workout clothes and tennis shoes. And you have to haveseparate tennis shoes to wear in the gym (indoor gym shoes and outdoor gym shoes!). 

But that is how it is in Eastern Europe, you have to have separate house shoes. You HAVE to! 

Also, all the girls look so pretty while they are at the gym. Seriously. They don't break a sweat! And no girl actually runs on the treadmill, they only walk. 

Then afterwards, you have to shower and change before you leave. It is not acceptable to leave the gym without a shower and without changing into proper shoes and clothes. Most girls even blow dry their hair and put on make-up. 

Back home, I always just went home and took a shower. I never cared about walking out of the gym looking like a hot mess. But here it is different. 

However, it makes me feel so much better to work out! I like living at this apartment with my Russian grandmother but I have no TV and no internet so the gym is a great way to spend my time! Also, my grandmother/host LOVESto fry all of her food so this is  a good way to counteract all that oil and fried bread/meat!

Maybe I will even be lucky enough to meet a cute Moldovan there? I am here for 5 more weeks... 


Mat, the other volunteer here at IRFF Moldova, and I went to Cricova yesterday.

During WWII the USSR built miles and miles of tunnels underground. Afterwards, they had miles of empty tunnels large enough to drive tanks through but no use for them anymore.

In the 1950s, they decided to turn these underground tunnels into tunnels of WINE! 70 miles of WINE!

So at Cricova, you can take a tour of the underground wine tunnels and then have a sampling of the wines. But take a coat because it is cold that deep under the ground!

In the tour, you pass through a section with hundreds of bottles of wine. All of these bottles are tilted so that they can ferment properly and so that the sediment in them falls towards the bottle cap. BUT all of these bottles are HANDturned by women. Cricova is the only place that still uses this method; most wineries use machines to turn their wine bottles. One woman can turn up to 35,000 bottles a day!

The wine tasting was the best part and I definitely recommend it. They served two white wines, two red wines, and then two types of sparkling wine (aka champagne).
They also served nuts, cheeses, crackers, and some type of traditional pastry filled with either cheese, cabbage, or potatoes. The cabbage pastry was so good (I think I ate maybe 5).

Go to Cricova and check out Putin's large collection of wine or the oldest bottle of wine from Jerusalem dating back to 1902 (sounds delicious, right??)!
I may now be inspired to go home and take a wine tasting class. maybe.

FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2011

Moldova... again.

I spent my last winter vacation traveling through Eastern Europe and I somehow found myself in Chisinau, Moldova.

At the time I did not plan on returning to Moldova. 

However, in January, I was looking online for more opportunities to travel and possibly intern and I happened upon an internship opportunity in Moldova (of course). 

So it is now 6 months later and I am somehow once again in Moldova. 

I intern at IRFF Moldova in Chisinau and I live with a Russian grandmother who speaks only Russian. 

The other day, I was eating cereal without milk (I don't like milk) and my Russian grandmother, concerned about my dry cereal, tried pouring hot water on it! I stupidly threw my hands in front of the tea kettle and told her in Russian, "No No! I don't like milk but plain cereal is okay!" 
She still didn't understand. It was a good fifteen minute confusing conversation about hot water, tea, milk, and cereal. I still don't really know what we were talking about but the important part is that I didn't have to eat waterlogged cereal! 

But she is a nice woman and I think that it will work out. 

Besides my Russian grandmother, Rima, I know two people here in Chisinau: the director of my NGO, Nick, and the other intern that arrived just today. But I am hoping to change this and meet at least a few locals and make some friends. 

These are just a few pictures from my last trip to Chisinau:

It is my first weekend here so there will definitely be more pictures of Chisinau come Monday!