Thursday, January 23, 2014

Merry Orthodox Christmas?

It has become clear to me {and probably everyone else} that keeping an up-to-date blog is not my forte. I have somehow managed to skip all of December and most of January without any kind of entry. In fairness, we were traveling and I did sort of have most of this entry done before we left for Christmas but then I ran out of time. Since the majority of Moldova celebrates the Russian Orthodox Christmas {a few weeks later than everyone else} I'm going to go ahead and claim that this is still relevant.

Greeting Cards available here

This was the second Christmas we spent away from "home." 

Christmas is just not quite the same around here. I found myself tearing up watching youtube videos of flashmobs of Christmas songs. Even though I'd like to blame "the hormones," they are not the likely culprits since I've been crying watching them for years...

This is one of my favorites:

While we were sad to be missing time with our families and friends, we had the opportunity to spend it in London. When I first found out we would be going there for Christmas, my first reaction, of course, was to create a Pinterest Board. Then we asked a bunch of friends who'd been there for their top suggestions because even though I had been there in high school, Michael Ball hadn't and we wanted to make sure to take it all in.

At the top of our list were the following things:

  • Eat awesome ethnic food: Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, maybe even Brazilian. 
  • Arsenal vs. Chelsea. If we can't get tickets at least watch it in a Cool Pub or something.
  • Go to some kind of epic Christmas Service with great music.
  • Visit Christmas Markets & Shops {well, that one's more for me...}
  • Visit the Cabinet War Rooms.
  • Catch a show of some kind.
  • Find out what gender Baby Ball is.

I'd say we accomplished all of the above, and maybe even a little more. Here are a few shots from the trip...

Buckingham Palace 

The Thames

Covent Garden

Southwark Cathedral

Amazing Indian Food | Dishoom

Arsenal Pajamas for our Baby Boy Ball!

Of course, we did manage to make it back in time for the Russian Orthodox Christmas celebrations, and by that I mean we were subjected to Moldovan teens coming door-to-door in Santa outfits, ringing our doorbell to sing us traditional {or made-up?} songs in exchange for candy or cash. Never a dull moment around here...

P.S. In anticipation of our trip I finished a book I started reading a while ago about the lower class in England called "Life at the Bottom" by Theodore Dalrymple which I highly recommend. The author is extremely insightful and explains his observations through fascinating stories from his work.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Wind's Blowing In...

Paintings courtesy of "Let's Paint Nature"

"The wind's blowing in, and it's looking like rain, the air's getting colder, the geese are turning again. It's that time of year, when ya know it's time to make a change. It's dark in the house and it's dark outside, clouds coming in from the east side. Something deep down, it says, time, time to make a change..."

These words are the opening lines of a song by one of my favorite musicians, Ruth Moody, also a member of the Wailin' Jennys. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Of course I enjoy summer & spring, and can even appreciate certain elements of the winter (not the cold) but something about the fall makes me breathe a little deeper and think of change. Maybe it's because the majority of the meaningful changing events in your life as a kid are tied in to the school year, which always begins in the fall.

I had the privilege of spending part of this fall back in my "hometown" and made a point to visit each one of my favorite parks while I was there. They're nothing terribly exciting, but the Midwest does have a stunning array of leaves in bright yellows, reds & oranges and going for walks through the white gravely paths brought back so many memories for me.

The contrast between who I was back then, what my life was like, and where I have come to be struck me: I have clear memories of being a teenage girl of about 13, riding her bike through those paths to a friend's house. One of my friends lived near one of these parks, and the one time I went to her house, I remember her vacuuming up the plague of ladybugs that had taken over their entire house and she acting as if this was a completely ordinary task. Then there's the park near my high school where I would run my cross-country races and sometimes have soccer practice, and also where we would go for my Environmental Science class, tracking animals in the snow or otherwise trying to avoid stepping in the shocking amount of goose poop scattered throughout while pretending to learn something about the natural world. After college I moved back to the area, and one of the first dates I went on with my husband was on a bike ride to a local marsh. The weather was beautiful for the date, but on the way home we got caught in a powerful summer thunderstorm. When my dog of 17 years died on a quiet Sunday morning in the fall, my husband took me and my current dog, then a puppy, for a boat ride at a historical lake in Wheaton where his ancestors had lived once upon a time. This very same park is where my sister-in-law recently got engaged, also the same park where I first got to know my in-laws and may or may not have let a mosquito suck the blood out of my father-in-law's forehead for minutes as we walked around the lake because I didn't want to interrupt him.

When Michael was there with me this past September we also went to visit the park where we got married. And there I found myself, my life circumstances altogether "other" than what I could have ever imagined as a young girl wandering through the prairie path, or even as I stood there over four years ago and said "I do". I was there, with my feet on the very same soil, but had just come from the faraway land of Moldova. A little corner of the world where we have a life that is completely separate, but just as real as the grass beneath my feet. A place that somehow also feels like home, albeit in a different way, like in a soviet-blast-from-the-past kind of way.

Something I have come to realize is that when you are in a new place, you tend to notice even the smallest details, or perhaps things strike you a certain way particularly because you are comparing them to where you just came from. One of my brazilian cousins, when he first visited us in the US and accompanied me on a road trip was amazed at how clean the trucks were on our highways {who knew?}. Another friend who visited was going to pay for something at a gas station and looked up at me in a slightly panicked fashion when he was trying to pay for something because he had no idea what coins were what value, because, as it turns out, our coins do not have numbers written on them, nor do their sizes correspond to anything logical. They also say funny things like "dime" or "cent" which, to a person with basic english skills, is gibberish. I had never even thought about it...

But being back in Chisinau, this time for the second time around, gives me an even greater sense of belonging and continuity. When the creepy teenagers wearing gas masks show up at your door after 11:00pm on a weekday threatening you with either "life or candy" you are no longer horrified, and simply remember that the Moldovans haven't quite figured out Halloween yet {gotta give them props for trying though}. They did, however, manage to figure out which houses are the American's so as to increase their chances of actually getting something. Not sure if it worked out for them or not.

I love walking through the park near my house in the morning and watching the little old ladies who are the groundskeepers of the park. They all look like they came out of a cornfield, wearing thick skirts and either green or blue head coverings with flowers on them. The preferred tool for "raking" up leaves in Moldova is the use of a makeshift broom made out of branches, with more leaves on them, which I gather seems to work for them just fine. Meanwhile, our neighbors and apparently every true Moldovan in town decides the best way to get rid of their own leaves is to burn them in their back yards, leaving a layer of ashes on anything within a short radius, aka, things like our car. One day I woke up and looked at the forecast on my phone and it seriously just said "smoke". No kidding.

I guess it's all part of the changing of the seasons around here...get some candy, burn some leaves and brace yourself for a long, gloomy winter.