It's been a while since our last post, but we’re back in Puhoi, the land of the rolling hill, and this time, we’re here to stay (given no unexpected kidnappings suddenly occur again...). Since our site visit, we’ve managed to each become a year older and finish our PST training.
About that becoming a year older part…
Birthdays have always been a big deal in my (Ash’s) family. I can still remember, quite vividly some of the amazing birthday parties my mom managed to put together for me between her two jobs and school while I was growing up. There was a Barbie party complete with Barbie birthday cake, a pirate party with a showing of the movie “Hook” and a treasure chest for a birthday cake, and to top it all off the birthday person always got to eat off of a large red plate that says, “You are special today”. In fact, last time I was home, I was lucky enough to be there for both of my sister’s birthdays and we still have the same red plate.
All this to say that I’ve had some pretty incredible birthdays growing up and some since then as well… I can remember a few – card games with friends, homemade birthday cakes done by Mum, no matter where or with whom they have all been full of laughs and love. This year was no different…
My incredible group of friends in Budesti and my loving husby set up a surprise party for me on top of a gorgeous hillside in Budesti. Our group, along with a few other friends, spent the afternoon playing games and enjoying some delicious cappuccino cake that the lovely women of Budesti handpicked from Chisinau just for me. Needless to say, I was definitely feeling the love.
Had my celebration stopped there I would have been ridiculously content and I still would have felt humbled by the experience, but that wasn’t the case. It started the night before my actual birthday with my host mom making me my absolute favorite Moldovan dinner – tocanita (toe-cah-knee-tsa), a mix of tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and eggs simmered until boiling and served with bread. Yummy!! The next morning I woke up to my favorite breakfast of oatmeal mixed with raspberries and coffee. Mind you, I’ve never actually told my host mom these are my favorites, she has somehow figured this out all on her own – this is how attentive and caring she is. For lunch, another of my favorites – homemade pizza. I’m telling you, this woman can cook!! :) Throughout the day I received many Happy Birthday’s from my fantastic sitemates and was even sung to, twice, by my LTIs and the entire “healthy” group just before the start of our Tech session in the afternoon – which was only mildly embarrassing.
Joseph decided he could come into Budesti even though it was a week day because he had to be in Chisinau the next morning anyway, so I also got to see my husby on my actual birthday… honestly, it was incredible. We arrived home around 6:30 and my host mom told us it would be a few minutes before dinner would be ready, and that she would call us when it was time. Right around 7, mama gazda called us down… she was waiting for us in the kitchen where we normally have dinner and proceeded to walk out and gesture for us to follow her into one of the rooms of the house I had actually not even seen up until this point. We rounded the corner and I about burst into tears as I realized there was an entire masa (table of food) set up for my birthday complete with a handmade cake in the shape of a book (as she knows how much I love to read) that had a hand drawn map of Moldova on one “page” and “happy birthday to you” written on the other “page”… it was incredible. Mama gazda had gone through so much trouble with every detail, it was astounding.
I can’t begin to convey how much I appreciate the love I was shown on my birthday, it blows me away. I am so blessed by the people I have met here… thank you to you all, you know who you are.
As for me (Joseph), birthdays have not necessarily been the biggest of deals in my family. I can remember only a couple from early childhood, then all the rest start to blend together after crawling through a brand new sleeping bag with a brand new tiny flashlight on my 9th. This year I had moved to what would be our permanent home for the next 2 years 4 days before my birthday on August 9th. I was bummed Ash wouldn’t be there with me, but more because I was sick of being away from her than the fact that it was my birthday. I also had mentioned the fact that my birthday was on Tuesday in passing in conversation to a ‘co-worker’ from the wine factory I’ll be working at and therefore didn’t know if anyone would know it was my birthday or not.
It turned out that she must have told my host mom and they then told the rest of the office. Around 11am I was making myself an espresso (rough life huh?) when Tania, our host mom, and Cornelia, the co-worker I had told, came in with a cake and a bottle of red champagne (there are definitely no rules about drinking at work here). A few other office workers gathered around as the champagne was poured and the cake was sliced to wish me ‘la mulţi ani’ (literally: to many years). I was also presented with a two bottle set of Asconi fine wine (the company I’m semi-working with is Asconi), and an expensive bottle of Moldovan cognac, all from the director of the company. That evening I had dinner with our family and Tania’s parents, and everyone made lengthy toasts to my health and long life J
Listening to long-winded toasts while holding a glass of home-made wine is definitely something I could get used to. Moldovans are so genuine in their well-wishes to others; there is nothing fake in their voiced when they raise their glasses to someone.
All in all, it was a good birthday, and I’m excited to open those bottles of wine at the right occasion in the future.
So that sums up how we came to be a year older in Moldova! We’ll be writing more soon (‘soon’ is a relative word, right?) about our work and first couple weeks together in village J