Archive | February, 2012

Running water is finally back

28 Feb

I was having breakfast in the kitchen this morning when it happened. It was 6:42 am and I was the only one up at the time because I still had to finish packing for Chisinau where we are now having our EVS on-arrival meeting.

Suddenly, I heard a drip from the bathroom. I stopped chewing my cereal, stopped breathing, stopped humming my morning song; I became paralyzed. I actually thought I was just dreaming till I got in the bathroom and stared ecstatically at the water leaking out of the faucet.

Twenty full days has passed since the last time my roommate and I had running water in our flat. The day I got in. Since then, Alan and I used to walk two blocks down and collect 36 liters of water per day into six tanks we filled up in the bathroom in Miras Moldova’s centre. After struggling all the way back to our house uphill, I would boil water in a huge pot if for instance I had to wash the dishes or take a ‘shower’.

I called it shower, but I guess that socking my hair into a pot filled with water that was always too hot for my skin and pouring it on my head to rinse me up sounds actually something really different. For sure refreshing, but still uncomfortable as a bucket bath.

Moreover, Alan and I would filter and boil each milliliter of water to make it drinkable. With the filtering process we would get rid of the unhealthy metals that might be diluted into the water since when the nuclear waste was brought to Moldova by the Soviets in 90s, while the boiling process would kill the parasites and bacterium.

As time went by, we couldn’t believe we got so used to living without running water, but unfortunately our spoiled past never stopped remind us what we were missing .  Especially when dirty dishes were piled on the kitchen counter, or there were no  clean clothes to wear, or our hair were nastily greasy, we regretted we hadn’t care about this privilege of ours. As ‘old habits die hard’, in the back of our mind we never stopped crying for running water each day we tried to beg the faucet to come alive.

I wanted running water so badly that once I had a dream about getting up in the morning and found myself surrounded by dozens of springs and I felt like I was in the seventh heaven.

All these emotions bubbled up inside made me scream brutally when I saw that gentle sweet stream in the sink, as if it was liquid gold. I ran to Alan’s door and almost crashed it down knocking as hard as I could; I wanted him to get up immediately and see with his own eyes the surprise the day has brought to us.

We screamed and laughed, hugged and danced in the bathroom and in the kitchen where the faucet has started his blessed drip as well. When we flashed the toilet we almost burst into happy tears; that was like a ethereal symphony for my ears. I could stop smiling as I kept my hand under the water, so much that my cheeks started hacking, but I didn’t care.

All I could see was the thousands of showers I am going to take as soon as I come home for Chisinau.

Getting ready for the EVS on-arrival training

27 Feb

Tomorrow we Evs volunteers from Comrat ( Margherita,Giacomo, Aida and I) will gather in a village close to Chisinau for our on-arrival meeting together with other Evs volunteers who are working Eastern Europe. Finally it seems the time to read the info-pack Salto-Youth (Eastern Europe and Caucasus Resourse Centre) had sent me.

“On-arrival training

28.02 – 03.03.2012, Costesti, Moldova

What is on-arrival training

The main objective of the on-arrival training is to introduce the volunteers to the host country, preparing them for the service period and the EVS experience. On-arrival training helps the volunteers adapt to cultural and personal challenges. It allows volunteers to get to know each other and to build a network. Volunteers should also receive guidance on conflict prevention and crisis management.

At the same time, this training equips the volunteers with communication skills, including aspects of intercultural learning. It helps them become aware that cultural differences require different models of behaviour. The training is also a time for the volunteers to plan the coming months and to develop their own personal goals for their period of service, in line with the non-formal learning philosophy of EVS. If volunteers have already spent time in their Host Organisation, they exchange their first experiences and clarify questions related to their project.

Arrival and departure

The ON-ARRIVAL TRAINING starts on Tuesday (28th February) with lunch. Volunteers are expected to arrive until 13:00 at latest. The on-arrival training finishes on Saturday (3rd March) with lunch. The volunteers may leave from 14:00 on.

In case of well explained reason due to travel arrangements, we can cover one additional night before or after an activity, but it must be clearly communicated beforehand! The volunteer or organisation can contact directly with a logistic person (contact details on following pages) and ask for a free night – but this MUST be communicated not later then 1 week before the activity starts and only due to difficult travel arrangements. The volunteer will be provided also with meals. If informed late, there might be no possibility to accommodate a volunteer need for additional night due to no free rooms in the hotel. We are not able to sponsor additional nights for sightseeing reasons. Volunteers are advised to contact each other and help in this regards.

For more details please read the e-mail sent with this info-pack as well as the draft programme of the event presented below.

Travel instructions

The activity will be held in the Hotel Costesti (Costesti village, 2024, Ialoveni, Moldova), phone number: (+373) 68426926. It is located 30 km to the south-west from Chisinau.

We will arrange a bus that will transfer the participants from Chisinau city to the Hotel Costesti in the village. The transfer bus will leave at 11:30 from the front of the hotel Chisinau: bd. Constantin Negruzzi 7. If you need any assistance to reach this place, you can contact the logistic person at least few days before arrival and ask for help. Someone of our support team will meet you then in the airport, bus or train station, waiting with a SALTO board. Without prior request, you need to find the way to the gathering point in front of hotel Chisinau by yourself.

If you decide to get from Airport to hotel Chisinau by your own, first of all you have to exchange euro into lei – in the Airport you can find several bancs. One way ticket for the bus or minibus is – 3 lei, trolleybus – 2 lei.  To pay in bus or trolleybus you have to wait for the conductor to approach you, in minibus you give the money to the driver. To get to the city you have to take the bus A, from the Airport and get down at the station “Magazinul Unic” and walk a bit back till the hotel Chisinau. If you arrive to Chisinau by bus to central bus station or by train, the hotel Chisinau is somehow between this two points. You can easily reach it walking.

And if for some reason you will miss the transfer bus and you have to reach Costesti by yourself, please get to the South Bus station (Șoseaua Hînceşti 145). The most suitable connection from the centre is bus 190 going along Strada Tighina. From South Bus Station there are minibuses to Costesti (they have a sign on the front or side window saying “Costesti”, one way ticket costs 7 lei).

Visa arrangements

Participants coming from all countries of the European Union do not need visa to enter the territoryof Moldova. If you are not EU citizen, please check with the closest Moldavian embassy about current visa regulations. If you are coming for the event from Belarusor – Russia make sure you have a valid visa for your return! Additional visa costs should be considered by promoters at the project application level. Please note that your passport should be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival to Moldova.

Finances and travel costs

All hosting costs of EVS training/meeting will be covered by organiser – SALTO EECA with the help of local logistical partner. Travel costs will be reimbursed during activity in cash (in MDL, Moldavian lei or EURO) on the base of original tickets (including copies of return ones, so volunteers are expected to have return tickets already before arriving to the activity). Only 2nd class inter-city land transportation expenditures (buses, trains: elektrichka; plackartnyj or kupiejnyj) will be reimbursed (no city buses nor taxis). Only in exceptional cases SALTO EECA can buy a flight ticket for volunteer (flights are not subject for reimbursement).

Participants & working language

In general the on-arrival trainings are obligatory for all long-term volunteers (whose service is from 2 to 12 months). The mid-term meetings are obligatory for all volunteers whose service is longer than 6 months. The size of the groups may vary from 6 to 25 volunteers. Each activity is run by 2 professional trainers, preferably coming from different countries of the region. The working language is English, but with possible support and solutions for non-English speakers.

Accommodation and Food

You will stay in double rooms with bathroom and toilet in the room. In principle 2 participants of the same sex and different nationalities will share one room. You will be provided with bed sheets and towels but you have to bring toothpaste and other shower appliances. No hair dryers, though, if you need one, you have to bring it yourself. There is no internet connection in the hotel. Smoking is allowed only outside the hotel building.

The Training room and Dining room are located at the same building. Organizers will provide participants with three meals per day and two coffee breaks.

Weather

In February we have lot of snow and it is quite cold.  We recommend you to bring with you clothes and shoes(!) that you consider as the most comfortable for you for temperature between 0 and minus18C.

Money:

The Moldovan Currency is called MOLDOVAN LEI.

Approximate exchange rate is:

1 USD = 10, 65 MDL                                                1 EUR = 15, 40 MDL

Please note, that money exchange in Costesti village is almost impossible, so exchange your money before coming to the venue. In Chisinau there are many places you may exchange money in. The ATMs are widely spread. However the interest is taken for cashing in the ATM. Majority shops take cards. In public transport they take just cash.

To  give  you  the  idea  of  what  you  may  spend,  here  are some  prices. Prices may also vary greatly from shop to shop, so it is worth looking around.

Post to EU – 1,50 EUR
Phone call to Europe(per minute) – 0,40 EUR
Internet hour in internet-café – 0,40 – 0,80 EUR
Newspaper – 0,10 – 3,00 EUR
Shampoo – 1,50 – 3,00 EUR
Soft drinks – 0,15 – 1,00 EUR
Hamburger – 0,80 – 1,00 EUR
Ice-cream – 0,15 – 1,40 EUR
A cup of coffee – 0,30 – 1,60 EUR
A beer in the pub – 0,40 – 3,00 EUR
20 cigarettes – 0,30 – 1,50 EUR
Disco entrance – 2,70 – 10,00 EUR
Cinema ticket – 1,70 – 3,40 EUR

Draft programme of the event

ON-ARRIVAL TRAINING (OAT)

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Arrival of OAT volunteers until 13:00 the latest

Lunch & talks

Intro & team-building

Projects presentations (what’s my project, why I came for EVS?)

Philosophy of EVS

Actors and roles in EVS, EVS technicalities

The learning process

“Going out” – cultural Programme

Intercultural learning

Conflict and risk prevention

Other learning needs

Personal action planning and the learning objectives

Questions and answers

Evaluation and the end of OAT

OAT departure after lunch (from 14:00 on)

Making GNOCCHI from scratch in Moldova

26 Feb

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The fact that I’m almost a day from Vicenza, my own town in Italy, hasn’t held me back from making an outstanding recipe that comes just from my place.

Gnocchi di Patate alla Vicentina

Serves 4

1kg potatoes –scrubbed and unpeeled

200/250 flour

1tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp Grappa – special spirit from Vicenza and the region of Veneto (Italy)*

1 egg – lightly beaten

salt to taste

150g butter

40g sugar

20g cinnamon

Into boiling (salty) water cooked the unpeeled potatoes till tender throughout. When a fork passes through the potatoes with little resistance, it’s time to drain and peel them -after roughly 30-40 min. As they will be very hot, for your safety it might come in handy to hold each potato with a fork stuck into and peel it with a knife.  Mash the potatoes with a vegetable mill or a potato ricer till creamy – you should get rid of all lumps to have a smooth gnocchi dough. Let the mixture lightly cool off.

In a big bowl mix the flour, the beaten egg, salt together with the mashed potatoes, then add the liquids: oil and Grappa. As I couldn’t find Grappa here*, I used another spirit called Bourbom that one friend happened to get from Kentucky, Usa. Knead the dough on a floured work surface for few minutes till gaining consistence. Since the gnocchi dough will be moist – but not sticky, dust it with flour before roll it up into ropes that are supposed to be roughly as thick as your thumb. Cut the snake-shaped long into tiny pieces and spread them onto the work surface, without let the gnocchi pillows take each other.

While getting your mind ready for the final stretch, that is the ‘gnocchi shaping step’, bring a pot of salty water to a boil. Then curl the gnocchi on the big holes on the back of a cheese grater; with  a firm but feathery circular movement of your thumb you should impress the gnocchi with their typical pattern.

When ready, drop the gnocchi into boiling water and fish them out with a slotted spoon as soon as they pop back up to the top.  Pour them into a saucepan where you have previously melted the butter and toss them gently.

At the end dust the gnocchi with their authentic sweet sauce from Vicenza, that is cinnamon and sugar stirred together,  and .. Buon Appetito!

Ice starts melting in Comrat

23 Feb

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gagauzians’ origins

16 Feb

There are many different theories and some interesting legends about the Gagauzian anticient background.

Gagauzian people may descend from the clan of Seljuq Turkish or from the Tartar tribes that used to wandered in the Russian steppe. After Ottomans were defeated in the Russain-Turkish war between 1807-1812, and the region of Bessarabia was took over by by zar Alexandre I, Soviets promoted the Gagauzians’ migration into that new province Christian of the Russian empire. Being  Christian orthodox, Gagauzians entered even more in contrast the Muslim Turkish tribes settled down in Bessarabia, and they chased them off.

Because of their stand-alone origins, Gagauzian people have always considered themselves as entity that is independent from Moldovian or Bulgerian neighbors. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the willing of self-determination raise up again; at the time, Gagauzia was part of the Republic of Moldova, had to respond to the parliament in Chisinau and it was stressed by issues about minority rights. Consequentially, the Gagauzian independence declaration in 1991 was easily expectable.

The Gagauzian autonomist uprising of those years was greatly expired by all the most ancient Gagauzian tradition and symbolism; the fact had been clearly pointed out even by the iconography of the very first flag, where a grey wolf is depicted onto a blue sky.

While the blue color is to be recollected with the sky god Tengri the pagan Gagauzian progenitors believed in, the image of the wolf is related to one of the best-known legend about Gagauzian lineage. According to this tell, in the steppe there was a tremendous fight between two tribes, that caused the destruction one of the two rivals. A boy was the only survivor out of the losers, but his leg was badly injured and if a wolf hadn’t found him and took care of him, he would have died. Eventually the wolf delivered him twin baby boys, half wolf and half man, who started the dynasty of the werewolves, the great ancestors of the Gagauzians.

When I first heard this story, I immediately associated it with the legend about the great origins of the Roman Empire, whose protagonists are twin baby boys with a wolf as a mother as well. Of course, there are some differences, because according to Roman tale, the babies Romolo and Remo had been abandoned in the wood, and a wolf found the basket where the twins were wrapped in and she took care of them as her cubs.  The analogy might be self-explanatory: it looks like people with great consciousness of themselves have a disposition to associate their ancestors with proud and fearless animals, such as wolves.

The dispute between the political organs of Chisinau and Comrat opened by the Gagauzian secessionist uprising in 1991 was toned down when Gagauzia was recognized as a ‘national-territorial autonomous unit’. It was 1995 when the actual three-colored flag was approved. Blue is again the major color, but on the bottom there is also a white band, symbolizing wisdom and pure thoughts, followed by a red band that represents the blood spent into the renovation. Three stars that stand for the number of the Gagauzian districts are in the upper corner on the left.

Even though  political and economical compromises gave an answer to theseparatist request and  approaches between Moldova and Gagauzia has became mostly dialectical and cooperative, groups of extremists are still in action, such as one called волкурт, the wolves. They preferred violence than words, even if the former makes just sounds while the latter might lead into actions and results.

They probably forgot that even wolves can communicate and get the point without scratching and snapping their pack-mates all the time.

Some views of Comrat

10 Feb

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When the cat’s away, the mice will play – ‘Quando il gatto dorme, i topi ballano’

5 Feb

For the first few days the place where I was going to stay was a question mark.

As the volunteers’ common house was already full, Alexandra, our coordinator, had to arrange another accommodation for me. A couple of options were available at the end, and when on my third day in Moldovia I moved to a little flat next to the volunteers’ house, I thought I found my definitive spot.

The apartment, made of two bedrooms, a bathroom and a front hall used as kitchen and dining room, was tiny but it looked warm and sufficiently furnished. The owner I was going to share the flat with was a friendly short woman who welcomed me with a big smile and lots of Russian words. I was finally happy to unpacked my stuff for the first time, after having wandered from house to house for the past two nights. I closed the door of my new bedroom, ready to sleep soundly.

That night, though, I didn’t rest much. After a while I noticed there was an weird tapping that was annoying me, but sleepy and confused as I was, I didn’t realize where that sound was coming from, even because I had never heard it before. My senses got sharper, as the scratching noise grew intense;  I sit up and I stayed still as a statue.

‘Oh God, Jesus Christ and all saints in heaven..I can’t believe it!’ I get up at once, turned the light on, and peeked under the bed holding a lamp like a sword. Not a sound, not a motion, everything quite but my heart.

I slowly went back to bed, and waited in alert. It took a little while for the sound to come back, but again it was there, loud and clear. And besides it, I had the singular creepy feeling of something alive and vibrant that was running around in the dark.

I didn’t hesitate any longer: I put all my stuff straight back in the luggage, and after locking it, I threw myself under the blankets and covered my head trying to avoid thinking that some mice were having fun under my bed. Every now and then I had to swing roughly to make the roaring mice quiet down.

At the end, we managed to share the room, but before falling asleep some hours later, I had already decided I had no right to bother my little friends in their habitat: the next morning I was going to move out.