Here at last, here at last! Today I made it to my Pre-Service Training host family’s site in a small village in Central Moldova. I will live here for the next eight weeks and then move to my permanent home in some place I-don’t-know-where. The transition here has been smooth, my appreciation for Moldova has already blossomed and my gut tells me I may have stumbled upon one of the best-kept secrets in Moldova: the home of Nadea and her two daughters.
I’m living with my host mother Nadea, Ana (16) and Livia (10). As soon as I arrived, I was ushered into the home with a big welcome and a flurry of introductions in Russian, Romanian and English. My host sisters both take English lessons, a boon for sure.
After introductions, a tour of the house and a little unpacking, I sat with my host mother and ate (and ate, and ate! At times, I wonder whether the food will ever stop coming… the best expression of our notorious Moldovan hospitality). We continued to navigate stilted communication, poring over pictures of my home and discussing who-does-what. Approximately 40% of the residents of my village work abroad and send money home to their families. My host father is currently in Moscow, delivering products like soda, bottled water and alcohol to different Russian locations.
My new home (that’s exactly what Nadea told me when I arrived – “Live like this is your home!”) is comfortable: a newer building, only 7 years old. One of the rooms upstairs and the veranda outside are under construction, and an outdoor summer kitchen is in the works. As Nadea has joked, “it is all a small farm!” I almost tripped over the hen in the front yard when I first arrived – she’s tied to a brick so she doesn’t wander off with her new chicks. Instead, they skitter across the yard in search of adventure, though never too close to our dog Tushka, also tied up at the front of the house.
There is a stretch of garden behind my host family’s house – a tangle of potatoes, carrots, peppers and herbs. Nadea grows fifty percent of our food at home, makes her own bread, pickles vegetables for the winter, cans pate, bottles wine and cooks each meal. I won’t do any dishes while I live here (no complaints here, if I can avoid the foulest of chores!) and she does not want me to cook, though I explained that I often cooked for my family at home. Nadea washes clothing by hand, addresses the garden on the weekend and during the week, she is a dental assistant at a clinic in Chisinau.
Since arriving, my host family has introduced me to much of their village. My first night here, Nadea, my little sister Livia and I trekked a kilometer and a half into the hills behind my village where we picked strawberries and cherries. There are three cherry trees in the family plot, and Nadea explained that when three trees are planted in a row, the flavor will meld in the middle tree. After sampling the fruit, I knew at once – Nadea doesn’t kid! On the first tree, the cherries were juicy and sweet; on the second, they had a milder sweetness with a bit of a bite; and on the last, the cherries were earthy and spicy.
On the way home, we picked roses and poppies that Nadea placed in the kitchen window on our return. I presented Nadea with a photograph of the mountains that stand watch over my parent’s home in Virginia as well as a small jug of Virginia Maple Syrup at the kitchen table. As we sat and sampled our harvest from that evening, I showed Nadea and Livia pictures of my family.
In that moment, so soon, I gratefully embraced Nadea’s suggestion to make this place my home.