Living in the City

A little over a week ago I moved from the district seat of Strașeni where I had been living about 20 km NW of Chișinău into the very center of Chișinău itself. It’s turning out to be a very pleasant and practical transition experience from Moldovan village life into a more urban environment, one that will be much closer to my pending life in the US. I hope.

It is more than a little ironic to me that I’ve finally found the milieu that suits my fancy, where I feel comfortable and acclimated, located halfway around the world from my original home, a little less than 2 months before my three years of Peace Corps will end. (I joked to a friend of mine that it is a good thing I didn’t relocate here sooner or I might have elected to stay a fourth year…) It is surprising to me to discover a deep appreciation for city living percolating within me; I had always fancied myself a beach or a mountain dweller, somewhere abutting “nature” where the trappings of civilization were not so in-your-face. But this is working for me in so many ways that I will definitely seek to replicate it when I make my leap back to US soil.

This morning I took a walk to the No 1 Market, the favorite food shopping destination for ex-pats and young professional Moldovans. It was a humid 79F at 8:30 am, a preparatory warning for the heat and thunderstorms that are due to arrive this afternoon.   Up until now I’ve rarely had the opportunity to stroll through Chișinău at this time in the morning. Unless I happened to spend the night in the city (and I can count those instances on two hands,) I wouldn’t usually arrive here before late morning or early afternoon when a steady stream of pedestrians clogs the walkways, trolleys and cars jostle for open slots on the un-laned boulevards, and one is constantly  dodging the vehicles that utilize  sidewalks as impromptu parking lots.  This walk was quiet, bordering on serene, one of those pristine movie clips that fill me with a vague melancholia as this wondrous chapter of my life rolls inexorably toward its credits.

Here are a  few stills:

Entry to apartment
Here is the entry/exit of my apartment building. Everything quiet, no one around at this early hour. And that is a very old grapevine, it’s trunk at the bottom right, covering the facade. I can pick grapes right outside my window!
More backyard
       Backyard area of my apartment block. The bench down at the right in the bunica hangout.
Backyard of apartment block
More backyard. In the evening this fills with kids, mothers with babes in strollers, men gathered to smoke, and bunicas presiding over it all.

Hidden gem on my street

Walking the four blocks along Mitropolit Dosotfei, my street, to the market I must be attentive to my footing.  “Sidewalk” is a generous appellation to bestow upon the checkerboard interstices of crumbling asphalt, sturdy tree roots, hodgepodge ceramic tiles and stone-studded, sun-baked dirt that abut the streets.  But once every couple blocks you find yourself transported onto a plane of concrete that aprons the 5  square meters in front of an entryway like the one on the left here, and you come to a full stop in appreciation of the beauty of a level walking surface.

Flower Market on Bodoni
My street dead ends into the Flower Market that runs along the outer edge of Cathedral Park, one of                                                    Chișinău’s well known landmarks
path through Cathedral Park
                                           My pathway through the park to the market
Cathedral in the Park 1
The Cathedral from which the park takes its name
No 1 produce section
The produce aisle of the No 1 Market, the most popular grocery chain with ex-pats and young professionals in Moldova. You can find imported cheese, coconut milk and oil, Asian food, lean cuts of beef, fresh baked bread, and an entire aisle of chocolate here. I’m not wanting for much these days….
path in park
                                   An alternate path through the park on the way home
Flower Market
A closer view of the flower market on the way home. Moldovans love fresh cut flowers. These stalls go for 100 meters along Bodoni and are heavily patronized. And this is just one of dozens of flower markets in Chișinău. Every occasion is celebrated with flowers and there are specific rules (which I once learned but have long forgotten) regarding the color, number, and type of flower that attends specific holidays and events.
Mitropolit Dosoftei
     I cross from the flower market to the start of my street. It’s four blocks down to my apartment.
$32 groceries
Mission accomplished! This is what $32 buys you in Moldova: peanuts, chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, lavash, chefir, sour cream, coffee, half & half & heavy cream for soup, a beer, 2 lbs of beef loin, gorgonzola, swiss, and feta cheese, 2 jalapeno and 10 eggs. This translates to 653 MDL which is roughly 1/4 of my monthly food stipend. I purchase mostly dairy and meat from the grocery store as I currently receive my produce from a Community Supported Agriculture project.
CSA Veggie Bag
This is one week’s worth of produce from the CSA. I paid about $140 USD for 12 weeks. It’s way more than I can eat so I find myself spontaneously distributing peppers and cucumbers to co-workers and neighbors. I am now accustomed to eating vegetables for every meal, including breakfast, and I feel amazing!

So that is a splice of my life at the moment.  I hope to be more consistently present here as my time in Moldova winds down; I do realize these are some of the golden memories in the making…

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15 thoughts on “Living in the City

  1. Oh my goodness, these pictures are just so BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely gorgeous!!!! Such beautiful writing Yvette!! XOXOXOXO

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  2. Beautiful, Yvette! The environment is clearly European, which I always long for over our American cities. I’m so glad you get to close out your service with 2 months like this. You’ve earned it! Well done!

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    1. Thanks Kathleen – I do feel so fortunate to have this particular experience in closing out my service. One never really imagines Peace Corps being an urban experience, but there are so many elements that amplify one’s connections and impact living in the capital. I am enjoying the opportunity to spend time with other ex-pats (not just Americans) and so broaden my appreciation for other cultures and world views.

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  3. Hi, Not sure if my (previous) comment went through..so here it goes again. I have so enjoyed reading your blog and seeing you evolve along the way – from re-upping in the PC to now transitioning back to the US. I hope you continue the blog. I recently did the pilgrimage hike (Camino de Santiago) – if you are ever looking for an escape – this was a special one. Best to you in your return to the US.

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    1. Oh Ann-Marie – I’m so envious! That is a journey I only learned about through the Martin Sheen movie (which I loved!) and have wanted to take ever since. I would love to see pics or hear more about it through an email, if you have the time.

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  4. Pleci chiar acuma? Am auzit că guvernul a angajat Corpul Păcii să găsească miliardul furat de parlamentarii. Vor avea nevoie de americani deştepţi.

    Sau este că absolvenţii americani sunt buni numai pentru a mulge văciile şi a culege struguri. 🙂

    Are you leaving just now? I hear the Moldovan govt asked the Peace Corps to find the billion dollars stolen by their parliament. They will need smart Americans.

    Or is it that American college graduates are only good for milking cows and picking grapes.

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    1. Whether it is good or bad, Peace Corps Volunteers do not involve themselves in the politics of their host countries. And while many PCVs help their host families to put food on the table in the villages, I don’t know any who are picking grapes or milking cows here in Moldova for work!

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      1. It is probably from necessity. The corrupt politicians are the same ones which allow the foreign PCVs to operate in their respective countries. Should the PCV point out the corruption, they will likely be kicked out. I think Russia terminated its program.

        Still, in an European country the PCVs who also are of European descent, and speak the local language, are eventually accepted as residents. From that advantage point, to avoid confronting the corruption which is probably 90% of the root cause of the poverty in Moldova, seems like a disservice to any possible PC “mission.”

        When I visited family in Romania I always engaged in such debates with family and locals. (And I was a foreigner to the govt, my citizenship having lapsed). The result is that they (the locals) asked me to stay and keep fighting, to help their country improve its condition.

        I think being European-American PCVs and not using that implied familiarity and respect to their advantage is a loss.

        Obviously every culture is different and few PC countries are European, so this might not work in Africa, Asia, etc.

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