“You’ve given him reason to keep living!”
I wriggled my eyebrows in mock-pleasure as the Gagauzian man across from me grinned widely and teased. He was referring to his father, a slurring 73-year-old with a fondness for wine and a delicate red stain on the collar of his light-pink-pastel shirt. I had just sat down after a short dance to Gagauzian national music where we stepped (close but not too close) in a near-waltz and whirled a few times out-of-sync with the beat (I wanted to see if I could give my unintelligible partner a bit of a shock, but he was delighted with my spin and emphasized it with his favorite exclamation, “y-AH!” I imagine this is the sound a farmer would make when an ox refused to take yoke, a curt half-yip with a hint of glee). Apparently, now that my new gentleman friend knows I’ll be back in town, he’ll have a little more spring to his step.
“I think your job is done here. You can go on knowing you helped someone discover a proper selfie!”
I flicked through my thread of Facebook messages with a smirk. I had just revealed to my friends the newest development in my relationship with my 16-year-old host sister, Ana: this week I lent her my iPhone for selfie purposes. Lo and behold, the selfie is universal… Ana used my phone (a device met with a quick intake of breath and knowing, wide-eyed appreciation on the day of my arrival) to take seventy-four selfies, emphasis on the tens place. She had modeled for a new hair and makeup salon opening in Chişinau and asked if she could use my cell for a few minutes to take some pictures. The loan extended past the sixty-minute mark, and as the minute shook hands with the hour, Ana returned to ask me to send her photos through Facebook Chat. I spent the next ten minutes making sure she wouldn’t miss a single frame of her cute pout.
“By the time we get to the monastery, we’re going to smell so bad they won’t want to let us in.”
I glanced back over my cushioned seat at my Language Training Instructor as I joked – what do the Peace Corps staff remind us at training? All hail the eternal requisite: a good sense of humor! Ten of us were stuck in a rutiera en-route to visit three Moldovan monasteries. It was the first “real” summer day since we’ve arrived (we’re beginning to refer to many things as “real” these days… Is that a “real” dog? A dachshund! Not like one of those scabied Moldovan mutts… And where can I get a “real” hamburger?! That beef/pork mixture at Draft just wasn’t right). Cotton sticking to thighs and moist hands wicking sweat from skin, we were caught in an impromptu sauna as our rutiera driver awaited police inspection. He had been pulled over to show his papers – standard practice in Moldova, we were told. Of course, as soon as the police officer walked away, the rutiera refused to start. It took several of the men hopping off and pushing the vehicle before the driver could jump-start our journey onward.
I think I’ve got myself a sidekick.
This afternoon as I slipped into my running pants, I heard a tap-tapping on my bedroom doorframe. The introduction now elicits instant recognition: it was, of course, my upstairs neighbor and curious confidant, Livia. (Ever-observant, the girl had complimented a tattoo peeking above my fellow volunteer’s shirt-line the other day. I decided to let her in on my own secret – my admission was met with a blasé glance. Relief! The first member of my family to know about my tattoo couldn’t care less. After warnings from the Peace Corps that tattoos in Moldova may be met with responses ranging from interest to indignation, I couldn’t have been more pleased with Livia’s nonchalance.)
By virtue of my Russian capabilities and my host sister’s English skills, I’ve had a few enlightening conversations about Moldovan culture as well as Moldovan citizens’ notions of America.