Thanksgiving can happen anywhere

Apples
Baked in batter with plums
Redefining “pie”

A vase
With maroon-white mums
Picked from the garden for me

Free from worry about college
As my maroon-white
Sleep shirt reminds

Free from worry about money for
Mockingjay and popcorn (no lines)
A 1969 copy of Anna Karenina
And other flea market finds

My health
Despite adjusting to new food and air,
Trolleybus rides where zero contact is rare
And leaving once or twice with wet hair

People with whom I can debate
The cause of illness (and so on)
Without hate, and with vastly
Different experiences to go on

Speaking of people
A mom’s kind, reassuring conversation
A dad’s attempt to never leave me out of a conversation
A brother’s attempt to have a conversation
All in a language that is not their own

A friend who asks to ensure I’m fine
A friend who messages me a hilarious vine
A friend who messages me an interesting read
Friends who don’t force me to lead
Friends who are brilliant, who speak (two languages)
With both reason and rhyme

And time
Time to learn
Time to care
Not “somehow, someday, somewhere”
But NOW

Time to read from the local library
Time to gather Meetings for Worship
Time to call my family at home
To sing, to think, to watch, to roam
And despite no math, a different sort of sum:
Time to write poems about apples and mums

This is what I would not trade despite
Complaints, complaints, complaints
This is what I remember to relight
My days with thanks

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Малый бизнес в секторе продуктов питания в Молдове

Figured I would throw this up here for those of you who read Russian (shout out to Lee and Miranda!) and don’t have to memorize a доклад of your own tonight (my dear friends). This project did not turn out like I envisioned, unlike the last one, because unwittingly I stumbled upon a sensitive topic, and therefore people were uncomfortable giving me interviews that they would let me use. The more interesting presentation than what follows would be research on the typical Moldovan small business, which is for the most part runs on bribes and/or does not exist legally. Ah well, I’ll have to leave that to another project (or dissertation…)

Тридцать минут на машине от Кишинева, рядом с маленьким селом, расположены на 250 гектарах холмов и узкой речки мечты и надежды обычной молдавской семьи. Там они основали свою ферму в 2006 году. Это одно из малых предприятий в секторе продуктов питания в Молдове. Хотя многие теперь стараются избежать эту страну, многие другие связают себя еще ближе, устраивая новый бизнес. Этот выбор, конечно, имеет и плюсы и минусы.

Первый шаг в развитии нового бизнеса–это решить, каким будет предприятием. В секторе продуктов питания, есть большой выбор: сад, магазин, киоск, кафе, ресторан. Кажется, что единственный тип бизнеса, которого не бывает малым, является супермаркетом. В ходьбе от улицы студенческого до улицы Мирон Костин по Московскому проспекту есть более или менее 25 малых предприятий связанных с едой. Число зависит от количества продавцов на маленьком базаре в данный день. Действительно, из этого исследования можно было прийти к выводу, что торговли на рынке самый популярный тип малого бизнеса. Продавцы уверяли меня, что они сами выращивали свои продукты (хотя спрошенные молдаване сомневались в этом), и поэтому не только продажей но и самым производством продуктов занимаются малые предприятия. Вообще, чем больше предприятие, тем меньше оно привлекает частных владельцев. Само собой разумеется, что ноль процентов продавцов на рынке были сетями. Пятьдесят процентов магазинов и киосков, 78% ресторанов и кафе, и 100% супермаркетов были сетями. Также, чем общее предприятие, тем больше в нем участвуют малые предприятия. Например, 75% общих продуктовых магазинов (Alimentara) были частными, а лишь 25% магазинов продающих что-нибудь особенного, такое как колбасу или конфеты, были частыми. Это отличается от США, где очень трудно малым предприятиям конкурировать с сетями во всем кроме продуктов в особенном нише. Мало того, согласно моему молдавскому отцу, есть меньше конкуренции вообще в развивающей стране.
Моя семья давно мечтала о создании своего бизнеса. В 2005-ом году, они решили посадить ферму, в основном выращивающую миндаль и грецкие орехи, потому что есть дефицит на мировом рынке этих продуктов, и поэтому если будет урожай, то будет доход. Впрочем, такой бизнес не быстро развивается. До того как будет прибыль, нужно подождать несколько лет. Есть грош цена земли по сравнению с землей на Западе, но нужны тоже сажненцы, техника, и прочее. Без большого первначального вклада и капитала жить неопределенное время без зарплаты устроить бизнес нереально, особенно потому что банки в Молдове вообще неохотно дают кредит. “Это бизнес на долгий срок. Мы терпеливые”, сказал мой отец, официальный владелец бизнеса. Нужно несколько лет жить скромно, но все равно стоит, он считает, потому что благодаря ферме мои родители будут способны обеспечивать себя в старости.
Нигде без сложности владеть своим бизнесом. Кроме самого бизнеса, необходимо считать соответствующие законы, среди них налоги. К счастью молдавского предпринимателя, правительство дотирует новый бизнес в секторе сельского хозяйства, и не надо платить налоги на землю до года первого урожая. Также правительство возвращает налоги на то, что было куплено для развития бизнеса, например на новую технику. Когда берут кредит, можно получить до 30% грантом. Судя по всему, молдавское государство хочет помогать тем, которые вкладывают в местную экономику. Впрочем, конечно, все не полностью и целиком хорошо. В Молдове работодатель, не служащий, обязан платить подоходные налоги, в отличие от США. Говоря о Молдове, нельзя забывать, что, как общеизвестно, молдавское государство не возможно назвать стабильным. Завтра все законы могут меняться; завтра могут запретить продажу в какой-нибудь стране; завтра лей может упасть в цене. Последний случай был бы выгоден тем, которые продают за границей, но обычно имеет эти перспективы только крупный бизнес, редко в том числе малые предприятия. Например, в будущем у моей семьи есть цель сами продавать на мировом рынке, но в текущий момент продают через экспортер.
Жизнь владельца бизнеса не для всех. Мой отец любит, что это дело интересное, что он работает только над себя. Как уже было обсуждено, собственный бизнес может быть и очень прибыльно. Но конечно это также большой стресс. Мой отец постоянно заботится и беспокоится о деньгах вместо того, чтобы управлять бизнес. Этим занимается в основном его менеджер по операции. Каждому нужно сам выбрать, устраивает ли его этот путь.

Buzzfeed Edition

11 Russian expressions that you need in your life

  1. Bitch water. Translation: vodka. The Russian suffix “k” often adds a negative connotation to names. It can also be used among close friends. The Russian word for water is voda.
  2. Conversationmate. Translation: the person with whom I was talking. So awkward to say this correctly in English.
  3. He ate the dog in… Translation: he’s THE expert in… We have an English equivalent, but there is something wrong with an expression if the only way to convey it is by intonation, i.e., by emphasizing the word “the.”
  4. It’s taken. Translation: I actually don’t know how to express this elegantly in English, which is the problem. The best I can come up with is “it’s done” or “it’s customary.” For example, “it is taken to bargain at the market.”
  5. Speecho. Translation: the speaking version of typo. In Russian, the word for typo is pretty much the same, except the “o” is a prefix rather than a suffix: otype. Then the word we don’t have an equivalent for is ospeech.
  6. Cookooing. Translation: twiddling thumbs.
  7. Seven nannies have an unwatched child. Translation: everyone thought someone else was doing it.
  8. Gov-anything. Translation: government anything.
  9. By my soul. Translation: works for me, suits me. But bring up your soul makes it sound more meaningful and sincere.
  10. After rain on Thursday. Translation: I’ll do it tomorrow. The next day: I’ll do it tomorrow.
  11. Oncheeker. Translation: slap in the face. Just imagine how much HIMYM would be improved by having just one elegant word for this.

11 signs you are a foreigner in Chisinau

  1. You have a favorite cookie and armchair at Tucano, the westernized “Moldovan Starbucks” that is the favorite hangout of all foreigners in Chisinau. The only two places in the city where you are more likely to hear English are inside the American embassy and during events at the American Resource Center.
  2. At cafes other than Tucano, you attempt to order at the counter. This does not work out well. Even if all you want is a coffee, you have to sit down and wait for a menu, and order from a waiter. No such thing as a quick mocha run.
  3. When you’re on a hot and crowded trolleybus or have just been walking quickly, you might unzip your coat or take off a scarf. Radical.
  4. Speaking of walking quickly, your pace is about twice that of the average Moldovan.
  5. You eat your бублик (bublik: shape of a pretzel, flavor of a cracker, texture of a good cookie, that is, crunchy shell and soft on the inside) right away. Why on earth would you waste its warmth to the inside of your purse? And yet, Moldovans just do not eat on the street.
  6. You are more aware of and enthusiastic about city events than most locals. Free jazz concerts, lectures from WWII veterans, Japanese festivals and fashion shows all make it into your sphere of consciousness from a variety of sources, and at all of them foreigners are well represented.
  7. You have asked for directions enough times to know that the answer will be something like “go up this street, then go down that street” but do not know the topography of the city well enough to interpret them. Because instead of using left or right, or assigning cardinal directions or street numbers meanings to the words “up” and “down,” they are literally referring to the gradient of the road. That is, walking in the same direction on the same street might sometimes be “up” and sometimes be “down,” depending on where you are.
  8. You don’t always remember to bring toilet paper with you to public restrooms (horrible mistake), but you are no longer astonished when you open the stall door and see a squat toilet.
  9. You are fully aware that it’s taken to bargain at the market, but always forget that when the seller actually says how much it costs. The prices are just always so reasonable.
  10. You attempt to pay for your 20 lei ($1) purchase with a $200 lei bill ($10) at your local alimentara (small grocery store) in the morning. The clerk laughs at you. What, you think we can make change for that?
  11. You don’t know all the flavors of Buccaria (a candy manufacturer and also Romanian for joy) in Moldova, but bit by bit you get to know your favorites are always up for trying something new.

Жок

This past weekend we had the pleasure of getting tickets to see the famous Moldovan traditional dance troupe ЖОК (gok, where g is pronounced like in mileage) at their 70th anniversary concert (as far as I could gather from the Romanian speeches on the subject). Not only were we there, alongside some of the most important people in Moldova, but we got what I would consider to be the best seats in the house for watching traditional dance: first row of the balcony. Besides being delightful and thrilling to watch, the concert illustrated a few things I’ve been thinking about lately.

When we first were told that we had tickets to ЖОК, I couldn’t remember the name of the group in order to tell my host family about it. Through repetition throughout the concert, I learned the word. We were even explicitly given some background information beforehand, namely that the group is one of the most famous things about Moldova and that they travel all over the world. And yet I will never understand the significance of going to a ЖОК performance the way a Moldovan would. This parallels language learning, and not just the fact that it took hearing a word about 20 times in order for me to remember it. When we speak our native language, words are rich. They recall, even if subconsciously, idioms, quotes, song lyrics; through the thousands of times we have heard, read, said, written and thought them, we have a nuanced, contextual understanding of them. We feel the words; they resonate deeply. They have power, because they are at once completely independent–never hostage to specific contexts like some words are when I learn them in Russian–and completely connected to real life. For example, take the word for brother. When you see that, what do you think? Besides picturing your actual brother, probably the slang “friend”–and you probably have a firm conception of the type of person who would use brother that way–the childish and old fashioned “oh brother!,” Orwell’s “big brother,” Martin Luther King’s “little white black boys and white girls will be able to join hands with little black boys and black girls as sisters and brothers.” The word for brother in Russian, брат (brat), means exactly the same thing in a dictionary; there is not even a nuanced or connotational difference. Yet of course there is a difference in how the word is rich. It is used not just for full brothers, but for cousins; a famous movie from the 90’s called Брат; Dostoevsky’s Братья Кармазовы (Brothers Karmazov); the linguistic similarity of блат (blat, connections) and брат has probably been used in some poem, or at the very least would have been associated in my own mind; the Soviet Union’s emphasis on the “brotherhood” of nations. (Speaking of which, I read an interesting article once about how the Soviet Union’s constant use of meaningful words in cliched contexts caused a linguistic crisis, because it was very difficult to express sincerity.) You can learn a language quickly, but it takes a long time–more than a lifetime–to feel it’s full weight.

So I’m at a ЖОК concert, only partially understanding the significance of that fact. The curtain opens and out walk the dancers, eyes locked on their partners, not paying any attention to the fact that we were there. For me this gesture sent a clear message: we are doing this for us, not for you. Of course, they did end up looking out at the audience a lot, but even from where I was sitting their smiles of real enjoyment were obvious. They were having fun. The audience was not as important as the dance itself, but they were also not afraid of the audience. When I speak Russian, I almost always have an audience. That is the entire point of a language: to communicate. Yet as ЖОК demonstrated, the communication of culture was effective because it came from a place of love, not a place of desperation. It’s like an article that our teacher gave us: Меняйте слова, меняйте жизнь (Change Your Words, Change Your Life). One piece of advice was to replace должен (I should) with хочу (I want). While the examples they provided were a little ridiculous (I want to go grocery shopping!), the principle applies well to me, at a point in my life when, as long as a bare minimum of behavior and performance is maintained, there are no real negative consequences. Everything I do is an addition, not the prevention of a subtraction. And I’m doing it all for me.

After a few songs, the dancers cleared the stage and we were left to focus on just the background music, which became foreground music. I was at a ЖОК concert to see dancing, but all of a sudden I was enjoying hauntingly beautiful notes held fluttering from wooden pipes. I came to Moldova to learn Russian, and learning Russian is very nearly my entire existence, my dance: steps, formations, smile. You can dance without music, theoretically; this was demonstrated to us for a few measures, when the steps formed the only sound. You can speak a language and admire it as a pure entity too. However, mostly languages is built on people, cultures, and our own subjective selves as we interpret it. I have to be careful not to miss the background music of Moldova and the relationships I’ve made here. For example, the background music of my mom’s kindness as she prepares me breakfast right now. I should go eat it.

New pictures are up!

P.S. I highly recommend checking out some of ЖОК’s videos. Just copy and paste this blog post title into YouTube. They do a great job making high art from folk art without being snobbish about it or glorifying the folksiness; it felt like they weren’t trying to make high art at all, but rather demonstrating that the only difference between a village wedding and ЖОК is that the most talented were plucked out of the wedding and given some rehearsal to coordinate their skills. Actually, that is exactly how dancers are found, according to my teacher.