Allow me a little tantrum…

Georgiana and me at the bar

So it’s the middle of our second week, six left to go.  We have settled in to our daily routines and are wearing pathways between our homes, the school, and the bar.  We know who gets to school early and who is perennially late.  Our language instructors are possessively proud of us and sang a lovely song for Leslie and Jan’s anniversary today at the break. The bar staff is so inured to our presence that they conducted a water fight over our heads this afternoon.  We forgave them (and even felt a bit jolly that they’re not treating us like aliens anymore.)  Today it was at least 98 degrees in the shade.  They say, “Capi frijți!”  My brain is fried.

It hit me softly in the stomach today  that just one month ago I was sitting on a balcony at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel sipping a $19 martini and slurping up a plate of exquisitely prepared mussels with my daughter and grandmother, worlds away from my mental and economic circumstances at the moment. (How quickly life can change with jet propelled air travel.)  I went to the market today and stood in front of the shelf of instant coffee, debating whether I really wanted to spend 40 lei on a jar.  I decided that was too much; it wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized 40 lei works out to about $4.50.  I wasn’t wont to buy instant coffee at home, but I imagine it runs a bit more than that in the States.  And it certainly cost a lot less than my over-priced martini.

When we first arrived, the Peace Corps gave us an envelope with 730 lei for our “walking around” expenses.  This works out to just over $60.  Since our board is provided, we use the money to pay the 6-8 lei roundtrip ticket price on the rutiera (which we take a couple of times a week), load minutes onto our phones, purchase internet time from our host families, and – of course – finance our trips to the bar. Let me tell you, I’m adopting a whole new awareness of money.  There are no credit or debit cards to fall back on; Moldova is almost entirely a cash economy.  You can’t even get a mortgage for a house.  So I must be cognizant of the total sum of money I have available to me on a daily basis, a concept I haven’t had to entertain for at least a decade.  I’m anxiously anticipating the advent of my next allowance, which will be deposited, unfortunately, directly into a bank account that will require the use of an ATM card to retrieve.  I may be poor for awhile.

These are the sorts of incremental, incidental changes that end up altering my existential experience of being at home in the world.  It’s like being slammed back into childhood, suddenly and with no reprieve.  I can’t talk right.  I can’t communicate my needs or desires or worries or doubts to the person I’m living with.  I can’t order complicated food at a restaurant (we have managed to buy a pizza.)  I’m somewhat terrified each time I get on the rutiera that I won’t recognize my stop and I’ll end up wandering the back alleys of Chisinau’s less desirable quarters stammering to wary strangers in a patched together dialect of verb infinitives and singular nouns.  When I go into a store, all the labels are in Russian.  Unless I recognize the packaging I have no clue what I’m buying.  And I have no idea if the prices are steep or fair.  I bought a credit card from Orange, the mobile phone company, to load minutes on my phone.  I couldn’t read any of the directions and fumbled my way through the process relying on luck and tactical guesswork (i.e., randomly punching buttons on my iPhone menu.) The date is twisted here – the day listed prior to the month, the cold water is on the side the hot water should be and time is told military style. I am literally exhausted at the end of the day from translating the world around me and struggling through inane tasks that I could perform with my eyes closed standing on one foot while texting and cooking dinner back home.  It’s all we long for at this point – to one day be multi-tasking, competent, self-assured grown-ups again.


This is Patty

12 thoughts on “Allow me a little tantrum…

  1. OH MY STARS! Just WAAAAAAAAAAA away!!! As much as I look forward to your blogs and enjoy each and every one of them; I also sit each day & pray about the many struggles that you are facing. It is tough stuff, no doubt. I see it almost like the journey to Damascus in the book of Acts as Paul is on his way to what he ‘thinks’ is his mission. He is blinded for a time – I don’t know why it makes me think of this…but it does.
    If you can hang in there – and I know you will…the mud will gradually, eventually come off your eyes and communication will make sense and I really believe that all you seek you will find and once that happens – well everyone will want to fasten their own seatbelts and enjoy the ride while you carry them into new possibilities. It is all a new road…I am making a plaque for the backyard right now that says, “We get lost in the things we love, we find ourselves there too.” So my counsel is this – be patient with yourself, love yourself, toss your hair back and WAAA when you really need too, raise a glass with friends each day and know that what you CAN see is God filled and you are a blessing to the world. So get lost baby. I love you.


  2. Good post, I relate to many of your feelings about Eastern Europe. Your brain is the most amazing super-computer in the world. If you just relax and let it do its job naturally, it will solve all the language puzzles-bizzaro culture puzzles that you have now. And it will do so surprisingly quickly.


  3. Ah, Georgiana a new friend to carouse with! I bet these daily conversions are exhausting!! I bet this experience has been amazing so far. And soon you will be put to work!! It’s an experience of a lifetime bleep the blogs coming….

    Ps I ran into Maureen at the Wiltern last week for an indigo girls concert. I am in love with Amy ray, again!!


  4. Hey Yvette: I’m enjoying your posts. And smiling. The times I’ve been thrown into the maelstrom in another language/country I felt exactly the same as you do. And it’s one of the most mind-bending, mind-stretching, fabulous opportunities there is to get to know yourself, test yourself, change yourself, etc. It’s an amazing roller coaster of hilarity, fear, excitement, heart and mind expansion. I’m so impressed that you’re doing this — and I know you’re laughing at that statement! Baby yourself a lot — it’ll make you stronger. Warmest thoughts, Sandy


    1. Thanks for the encouragement Sandy. I do feel as if this will be one of the most significant experiences of my life (it already has been.) The amount of time stretching out before me seems daunting, but I just spent the afternoon with a small group of PCV’s who have been here a year. Their confidence and self-assuredness is gratifying. I just have to keep myself focused on my reasons for being here and remember that this moment, too, shall pass…


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