This last Sunday I had my first invitation to a Moldovei home for a masa since coming to live in Hîncești. It was a big first for me – I was going on my own, without another PCV or my host sister accompanying me. Angela and her husband Uri are the parents of Auriel, an 18-year-old young man confined to a wheel chair who comes to my center every day. In fact, Angela, who is a social worker with the raoin council (similar to a county worker in the States,) is the president of the association which started Pasărea Albastră a number of years ago. She also attends the English class I co-teach on Tuesday and Thursday nights. We have taken a liking to each other, as she is a very determined, classy, well-spoken and intelligent
Uri picked me up in his car and drove me (thank you!) way up into the hills that surround Hîncești, where they have a house abutting the forest. They have quite a spectacular view and seem to be fairly well-off by Moldovan standards (note the flat screen TV in the background of one picture.) I was relieved to see that Angela met me at the door in sweats, absent her usual make-up. This was obviously Sunday and a day for relaxation; it made me feel immediately at home. I greeted Auriel, who was quiet vocal in expressing his surprise and happiness (though he is not able to verbalize) and their 12-year-old adopted daughter Nicoletta, who speaks perfect English (though she is shy about doing so.)
Angela’s mother and husband Uri
This comfortable feeling deepened over the course of the 5 hour repast. Their friends Angela (same name) and Sergio joined us with their youngest daughter. The second Angela speaks almost perfect English; she has her own business working as a document translator. Sergio is an optometrist. They lived for three years in Portugal and have adopted many European viewpoints. It made for a very different experience than I am accustomed to having when interacting with Moldovans.
Auriel, his grandparents and me
They are impatient and disappointed with their country about many of the problems that Americans immediately identify: the lingering Soviet-era entitlement mentality coupled with the endemic rigidity, nepotism and cronyism, corruption, and multi-tiered bureaucracy that makes changing the toilet paper require a veritable act of legislation. They are personally affected by the economic conditions that require their children, brothers, sisters, and extended family members to work outside of the country, possibly with no hope of returning.
(Second) Angela and (first) Angela’s mother
Angela talked about her older daughter who is working as a maid in a five star hotel in Chicago. Because she has an excellent command of English, she has a good chance of moving up to the front desk. If this happens, she will most likely not come home. Ever. It is too expensive and her life would be grounded in the United States with the husband and children she hopes to have one day. I ask Angela how she feels about this and a steely curtain descends over her eyes. “This is the best thing that could happen for her. I have to let her go,” she tells me, not even a hint of a quiver in her voice. Wow. My mothers’ heart broke open wide and mourned for her.
Angela with her mother and daughter
The evening was mostly filled with laughter and enjoyment, however, despite some of the grim realities of life in Moldova. The two Angelas and their husbands are obviously very good friends. It put me in mind of my Canyon Acres and IUCC buddies; there was palpable warmth and happiness that suffused the room and it was pleasurable just to bask in their friendship. I haven’t felt so relaxed and completely at ease in any setting since leaving the States. I even joined Nicoletta for a rousing karaoke and dance to Queen’s “We Will Rock You!”
Of course, the next morning I paid the price of imbibing a little too much cherry raku (a homemade liquor) but it was definitely worth it. I have made new friends. The second Angela actually talked me into joining her aerobics class at the casa de cultura on Monday and Friday evenings. Will report on that later…..