Sunday, April 30, 2006

Distant Bells bells, that is!It was so great seeing my daughter, having her here with me for those two weeks. And now we are into wedding mode as she and Dan have set their wedding date for June 23, 2006!!! (Yes, folks, that’s in two months.) So the current agenda is to plan a wedding in Vancouver from Moldova. Ask me if I’m thankful for Skype and for e-mail!
Believe me, any suggestions for reasonably priced reception halls, caterers, flowers, photographers, cakes, hotels, and air fares will be most gratefully received!!

Saturday, April 29, 2006


In Moldova, they say that once a young woman knows how to make ‘sarmale’ she is ready for marriage; she is able to be a ‘gospodina’. So – two new vocabulary words for you:
sarmale – this is a Moldovan dish that is basically tiny cabbage rolls. They can also be made with grape leaves. In Romania, they are usually made with meat but in Moldova, they generally are filled mainly with rice and vegetables. We went to a Moldovan cultural event and they had a variety of Moldovan foods. At one table they had what looked like very large cabbage rolls but when you pulled back the cabbage leaf, it was in fact filled with many very tiny sarmale, like a little surprise package!
gospodina – some would translate the word as ‘housewife’ but I am told that it has a much richer meaning than that – a woman that is good and competent and frugal, wise, capable and hard-working. Probably the closest English translation would be ‘homemaker’ but it is along the lines of Proverbs 31.

So, during the time that Marah was here, sporting her new diamond ring and looking forward to her June wedding, one of our Moldovan friends offered to teach her how to make sarmale. Marah was delighted to have such an opportunity. She and Brandy, one of the American young women on my team, had their first lesson together.
(As you may remember, new team members are required to live in a Moldovan home for the first three months of their time here. Brandy is living in the same town where I was living, Ialoveni, but with another family. Sora (sister) Sveta is her host and it was Sora Sveta who taught Brandy and Marah how to make sarmale.)
So yesterday when I put Marah on the plane to send her back to her fiancĂ©, Daniel, in Vancouver, it was with the confidence that she is well on the road to being the best ‘gospodina’ ever. Not only does she know how to make ‘sarmale’, but she also knows how to make apple pie, which her very own mother taught her how to do. Daniel, you are a very lucky man!
I feel a need to add a bit of a postscript to this. It is a wonderful thing for a woman to know how to cook and manage a household, and it is no small skill. Keeping house, raising children, cooking meals takes a great deal of wisdom, planning, patience, love and ability. But there are some who believe (and this is a common assumption in Moldova) that this alone is what women are meant to do and this alone should be their goal and their purpose in life. For some, I’m sure this is what God calls them to and equips them for. For some, God calls them to home-making for a season, but that is not to say that they are not capable or deserving of having other dreams, hopes and plans for their lives. Some never marry but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something amazing that they can do with their lives.
Each of us is given one life to live, talents and abilities to develop and use, and love to share. I want my daughter to be competent and able to be a loving wife and mother, and a competent home-maker – but I want her also to develop all the talents and abilities that God has given her in whatever realm of life she can use them. I want her to be constantly reading and learning about the world we live in. I want her to be aware of the needs of her community and the gifts she has to offer beyond her own home. I want her to be confident that she is capable not only of raising a family, but of taking responsibility together with her husband, for the support of her family and the decisions that need to be made and the situations that need to be addressed day by day and year by year. I want her and Dan both to know that each has a great deal to offer to the other and that marriage is an opportunity for them to help each other become all that God has created them to be. I want them to know that individually and as a family, they have a responsibility to give of themselves to make this world a better place, and to show the love of Christ in whatever way He directs them. By God’s grace, may it be so.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Odessa - The Grand Adventure

My daughter Marah and I went on a ‘grand adventure’. With a couple extra days off for the long Easter weekend, and with my ‘new’ car, we were able to take a road trip to Odessa. Odessa is in the Ukraine, a seaport on the Black Sea. If it were in Canada it would be a 2 hour drive from Chisinau. In fact the trip to Odessa actually took closer to 6 hours. Here’s a list of some of the challenges we faced, and with God’s help, overcame:
- Roads – On the way to Odessa we were advised to avoid Transnistria (Moldova’s renegade state) and in order to do so we went over horrendous pot-holed roads, making the trip much longer than the distance warranted.
- Map – The Moldova map we had didn’t have all the roads, including the one we were on, and the European map was also missing the roads we were on. We didn’t have a map of Odessa till we actually got there, and the first map we got was all in Russian.
- Road signs – In Moldova a route was indicated only at the exact moment that you have to decide whether you want to take that route or not. In Ukraine the signs (and maps!) were all in Russian (Cyrillic script) so we couldn’t even read them!
- Border crossings – Although, on the way there, we did avoid Transnistria, we still had to cross the Ukrainian border, where they spoke only Russian (or Ukrainian, which is similar but I don’t know the difference). On the return journey we opted for better roads and discovered that the border crossing was an even greater challenge – experiencing realities that I have heard stories about but hoped not to face…

One of the most difficult challenges was the fact that we had no idea what to do when we got to Odessa as I didn’t know the route from the highway to the apartment we had booked (over the internet – in English). We tried to figure out how to get into the city (remember, we couldn’t read the signs!) but somehow (I’m sure it was God’s direction) we arrived at the airport, where we were able to change some money, use the washroom, buy a map and ask direction. Eventually we made our way to the great apartment we had booked, right near the centre of town.

The time in Odessa was great – lots of walking, talking, shopping, planning the wedding, eating, talking and taking pictures, and more walking. Some really funny things have happened, like when Marah was handed a monkey to hold so I could take her picture and pay the guy money for the privilege. We figure the monkey is due for retirement, at age 23, as he has no teeth but he did gum Marah’s finger. She also told me after that he was incredibly stinky and we’re often laughing about the ‘tooting’ monkey.

Of course when I didn’t have my camera we went out for dinner and ended up at a Ukrainian restaurant with folksingers in awesome costumes performing right by our table!

For me the highlight (apart from just time with Marah)
was to find the beach and sit in the sand of the Black Sea shore, listening to the lap of the waves on the shore.

On Sunday morning, (Orthodox) Easter in the Ukraine, we heard the church bells peal out the glad news that Christ is risen. We had planned to attend a Presbyterian church a vendor had invited us to, but instead we went into a nearby building because we could hear the loud praise and worship music from the street. It was a contemporary worship service, complete with liturgical dance, music, lights, smoke, and a communion service too.

It was interesting this weekend being ‘incommunicado’ from the world. Very few people were able to speak English, my Russian consists of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, we couldn’t read the signs, watch TV, use my cell phone and didn’t seek or find an internet cafĂ©. Nevertheless, the Good news of Christ’s resurrection was heralded not only by the bells but also when we met a Ukrainian vendor who invited us to her church. And aside from that, some very important communication took place in the deeper twining of souls of mother and daughter sharing together about the joys, sorrows, and mysteries of love and life that has been, is becoming, and that will be. Thanks be to God.

Marah and the cuties

The other day we went to Telenesti, a village where two of our OM missionaries work with the churches there with some children's programs. We visited both the children's feeding program and the orphanage homes that are there. It was a great day and I learned a lot from Corinne and Aniko about the work they do there and the wonderful partnerships of Christian people and agencies who seek to bless the lives of these very poor families. I won't share a lot now, but I wanted to share this photo of my daughter Marah, who -as you can see - loves children and puppies!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bine ai venit la Moldova! Welcome to Moldova!

Spring is here, Easter is here, and my daughter is here!!!
What a joy it was on Wednesday evening to greet my daughter Marah at the Chisinau airport, along with several of my team-mates who came to help welcome her. After 16 hours of travelling – from Vancouver, Canada – she was pretty tired and is still catching up on her sleep and dealing with jet lag.
I spent the day on Wednesday buying a car. Praise God for providing me with a very good used car, a friend to help with the purchase of it, and a mechanic to care for it! It took all Wednesday afternoon to change registration of ownership, get the environment test done, go to the notary to do up a contract regarding the ownership of the car, buy gas, and then rush to the airport, arriving barely in time to greet Marah. In Moldova, a foreigner cannot own a car, so what happens is that a Moldovan buys it and then you make a contract allowing you, as a foreigner, all the rights of ownership and insurance, etc. So now I am the proud semi-owner of a 1990 Ford Sierra, with all the privileges and responsibilities that go with it. Finally I can go some places!
So today, Saturday, Marah and I took advantage of my new-found mobility and drove with a group of people (connections through International Women’s Club) to a village in Anenii Noi. There the community had prepared a cultural festival so it was a wonderful opportunity for both Marah and I to experience traditional Moldovan culture. At the entrance we were greeted with bread, salt and wine, the traditional symbols of Moldovan hospitality. After a series of speeches and welcome there were some traditional dances and songs performed and then an opportunity to sample wonderful Moldovan food and to buy crafts made by local people. The food was amazing and Marah seems to like ‘brinze’ (sheep cheese), and sarmale (tiny cabbage rolls) and the delicious cheese bread that was shared. She even said the mamaliga was ok, in small amounts. She also got to join in as the women spontaneously started dancing in a circle – it was great! We bought each other tiny trees, pretty decorative trees made of wire and beads. On the way home the trip was a bit longer, firstly because we got a bit lost at the beginning, and then once we found a road back to Chisinau (a different one than we came on!), I kept stopping to take pictures, because I could. We had another woman with us, who works with Peace Corps, and she also enjoyed the opportunity to take pictures.
Spring is bursting forth and at some places the vivid green was breathtaking as we drove through the countryside of what was known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. As beautiful as the scenery was, none of us were particularly appreciative of the bumpy roads we find in most parts of the country. The highway wasn’t too bad, but in the city the potholes in the streets are atrocious and you have to weave down the street to avoid huge ones and sometime play ‘chicken’ with oncoming cars in order to avoid the worst of the potholes on narrow streets.
This is Easter weekend, in Canada, at least. Here in Moldova Easter is celebrated next weekend. But for those of you who hail our Lord’s Resurrection tomorrow, may you be blessed with the joy of His victory and the peace of knowing that His death has obtained forgiveness of sins for all who put their trust in Him and receive His loving grace!
The Lord is risen! Alleluia!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Trying to Stem the Inevitable

Since I left Canada I have had news of 3 different engagements of people with whom I have varying degrees of attachment. I was delighted to hear about these dear friends and about my nephew Jamie, although disappointed that I would have to miss his wedding in July. And although my daughter had invited a young man home for me to meet last summer before I left, I reassured myself – and reminded her – that she had been clearly instructed there were to be no weddings for at least two years.

On Friday, April 7, Marah turned 21…
…and she got engaged!

There are some things over which a mother simply has no control. All we can do is love from a distance. Thankfully, Marah is on her way here to Moldova to visit for 2+ weeks so we will be able to hash out all the details and plans that need to be made. Ask me about keeping my mind on my work - it's not happening.

Congratulations, Dan and Marah!

Monday, April 03, 2006

My Amazing Mother

I forgot to add a very important post last week. You all need to know that one of the hardest things to do when I was planning to come to Moldova, was to say goodbye to my Mom. Mom has been my #1 supporter and fan forever and I appreciate her a lot. Last week, on March 22, my mother turned 87 years old! I missed the party but my niece sent me photos. The man at the right at the head of the table is my uncle Jack, Mom's brother. I think he is about 10 years older than Mom! So here's some pics for all of you to see my dear Mom and feel free to comment with birthday congrats for her, because - of course - she reads my blog regularly!


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Stepping into Spring

Usually on the weekends I make an effort to get out and have a nice walk. Now that the time has changed and the spring weather is beginning to brighten the days, it’s easier and easier to go out and enjoy the wonderful warmth and sunshine. Another thing that makes it easier to go walking is having someone to walk with. When I was in Toronto, I had the blessing of my friend Inga who faithfully walked with me every week. And now God is bringing some new friends into my life, and walking is becoming more inviting once more.
Last week I went walking alone in the park across the street from my apartment. It was one of the first really ‘springy’ weekends and people were out to enjoy the weather, even though there was still a bit of ice left on the lake. I saw people walking dogs, babies in carriages, kids riding bikes, couples enjoying the sunshine, and kids even roller-blading even though there is no such thing as a smooth sidewalk in Chisinau!

This week my Scottish friend Melly called me and invited me to go walking on Saturday. Melly works for the United Nations and she and I connected through the International Women’s Club. We met each other for a walk a few weeks ago and then had dinner together one Friday night. Yesterday she brought another friend, Holly, for me to meet. Holly works for the American Embassy and she is from Alabama. That’s another whole interesting part of being in a foreign country, is being part of the expatriate community and meeting people from all over the world. And the thing about people who come to live in Moldova from somewhere else is that, generally speaking, they are people who are here because they want to do something to help the country of Moldova. So the three of us enjoyed a lovely time in the old botanical gardens of Chisinau.
Melly & Holly
You may remember me telling you about the custom of ‘martisor’ at the beginning of March. Women are given a red and white ribbon to wear in honour of spring, and the custom is that they hang the ribbon on a tree .
at the end of March and the tree is supposed to bear abundant fruit (or something like that). Anyway in the park we saw a bush with a marisor hung on it. I thought that was pretty cool and of course, took a picture Here’s another interesting thing about meeting other expatriates – not everyone has learned the same language to be here. For example, Holly speaks Russian and I speak Romanian. Melly is here only on temporary assignment so she manages fairly well with only English to get by on. I have decided, though, to start at least learning Russian numbers so that when someone tells me the price of something I’ll be able to understand!
So spring has begun, shoots are breaking through the earth, people are cleaning up yards and painting fences and trims, brightly painted playground equipment was installed next to my apartment building, buds are forming on the trees and life is getting ready to burst forth. I can’t say I’ll be sad to say goodbye to winter. Already the brightness and beauty of spring has lifted my spirits and the prospect of a visit from my daughter contributes to that same lifting of the spirit. She’s coming in 11 days. Ask me how excited I am! I hope all of you are having a wonderful spring season as well.

Melly & Barb