The holidays are finally over in Moldova. What and when exactly were those holidays, you may ask? (Secret goal: to show so many overwhelming events that clearly I had no free minutes to post anything for the last month!)
December 19, 2016: NSLI-Y students kick off the holidays with a house party. There was Secret Santa, there were cut-sugar cookies (literally cut-outs, not press-the-mold-outs), there were elf hats, there was Christmas and/or Russian music when the Internet worked, there was something along the lines of guacamole (no faulting you Nick. On the contrary. Kudos for getting close), there was ping pong, there was a guess-who type of game by only asking questions like “what element would they be?” In other words, it was great.
December 24, 2015: Do you think I’m going to say Christmas Eve? Nope. Midterm exams. Wouldn’t be the holidays without them though.
December 25, 2015: Western Christmas. Christmas is celebrated on this day in Romania, and many Moldovans consider their culture to be largely identical to that of Romania. However, technically the Orthodox Church recognizes December 7th as Chrismas by the old Gregorian calendar. The result is that some celebrate on the 25th, some on the 7th, some both. My family falls into the first category. We opened presents from under the tree in the morning, then sat down as a family to the first of many many many many праздничные столы (holiday tables). My favorite are shuba (literally fur coat), which is a layered salad made from cut up raw fish, onion, shredded boiled potatoes, carrots and beets, and more mayonnaise than I was personally willing to add. My host mom had to take over the process at that point. My other favorite is golupsi, which is rice, meat and carrot wrapped up in cabbage. After lunch my friend Sasha came over and my older host brother Kristi beat us all in Risk, as usual. (Yet to play any game of strategy with him that he has not won. Oh wait- is Jenga a game of strategy?)
December 30, 2015: Last day of class for the semester!
December 31, 2015: New Years Eve. A remnant of Soviet times, New Years is the most festive and wide-spread holiday in Moldova. It was easily my most memorable night so far in Moldova, thanks to the fact that I was invited to go caroling with my host brothers. By invited I mean I told them I was joining them, they told me it was in Romanian, and they looked at me skeptically but supportively when I told them I was in anyway. That’s how you make things happen as an exchange student. Several stressful evenings of memorizing a song about goats (that is all I understood. I got that from the fact that my host brother donned a goat costume and danced around) and four lines of well-wishes later, I was sewn into a Moldovan traditional costume: rugs hand sheared, spun and woven by my late host grandmother and a ripped-up blouse to make the skirt, about 6 sweaters and a not-ripped-up blouse on top, and a head scarf. Jingle bells in hand, we set off to knock on doors, enter strangers’ houses, sing about a goat and do something like stand-up, throw grain into their hands, and in return be lavished with candy, bread, fruit, and money. Particularly moving was one house, where we did our routine for a family that included a very ill grandmother, who, despite being in bed, unable to move or speak easily, listened attentively and nodded to us appreciatively throughout our visit. Even more moving, to the point of tears, was when my host mom gifted me just yesterday the entirety of the costume, including the rugs that her mother spent countless hours laboring over. At the end, we ran home, quickly divided the spoils, raised our glasses of champagne…
January 1, 2015: New Years Day. …we clinked our glasses, and then I absolutely, most definitely did not drink it. Rules are rules. (On an unrelated topic, I hear Moldovan champagne is very tasty.) Then my host mom and host dad both gave me a kiss on the cheek, because I told them that the only real American traditions for New Years are partying and kissing at midnight. We ate very quickly and went out onto the street, where our neighbors were all setting off fireworks. It was quite a show. The rest of the evening until 5 am when I went to sleep, I hung out with my host brothers, listening to them play the piano, introducing them to Rudolph and the Grinch (life-changing I’m sure, especially for my younger host brother. [He was asleep the whole time.]), and watching college humor, the uniting force of all 17-23 year-olds worldwide.
I have no idea what I did on the rest of New Years Day when I was not sleeping. Then again, that’s probably the case for most people around the world.
January 3, 2016: My host mom’s birthday. Lots of friends, relatives and food. That about sums it up.
January 6, 2016: Orthodox Christmas Eve. This is unrelated to Christmas, but it happened this day so I thought I would mention: merciless snowball fight with host brothers. Merciless.
Before: “Want to come play in the snow Katya?” “Sure!” Thinks: why does everyone except me have every inch of skin covered with waterproof material?
After: “Can you help me get this snow out of my hood?” Host brother comes over and dumps the remaining show onto my head. “Really? Was that necessary?” “It’s more fun this way.”
From that I assume you can guess the middle.
January 7, 2016: Orthodox Christmas. My family, as I mentioned, does not particularly celebrate this holiday. Actually, it was kind of a sad day, because my host brother left at 4 am for his university in Holland. However, my mood was lifted significantly by a) the fact that it started snowing, b) going for a hike in the snow with my friends through some forest we didn’t know of previously and c) the fact that we still had some golupsi left over.
January 10-12, 2016: group vacation in Beltsi, a Russian city to the north. Pizza, anti-Soviet museum tour, Asati’s ice rink, balloons and bowling are my biggest take-aways. Also loved the bus ride. Read lots of Anna Karenina.
January 13, 2016: Old New Years. Remember the deal with Orthodox Christmas by the old calendar? This one is New Years by the old calendar, because it is illogical of course that the most-celebrated New Years date comes before the most-celebrated Christmas date, and therefore to make everything write in the world an extra New Years is tacked on to the end of the holiday season. We had a group excursion to a village, where we witnessed the interesting tradition of dressing up like monsters and “caroling.” Also loved the bus ride. Memorized tons of words.
January 18, 2016: return to class. Which is sort of a holiday? At least I’m trying to look at it that way. Also love the bus rides. I forgot how much concentrated time that is to read and memorize words.
New pictures are up!