Easter

Happy Easter!

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The primary religion in Moldova is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Because of this, Easter is arguably the most important religious holiday in Moldova. During April there are many traditions (most related to the Church) that are followed to celebrate Easter. For example, many people use a different greeting and response during this time (Greeting: “Hristos a inviat” which means “Jesus resurrected.” Response: “Adevarat a inviat” which means “Indeed resurrected”).

It is also customary to color eggs, and make Easter cakes and Easter bread. Furthermore, many people follow “post” (Lent) in the six weeks before Easter Sunday. During this time many people will not eat meat or drink alcohol, and because of this most restaurants offer a separate vegetarian “de post” menu.

I celebrated with a picnic in Ciocana, as well a midnight mass at one of the city’s biggest churches. This consisted of an Easter vigil (where everyone brought the light from the church candles back to their houses) and, of course, the Easter service.

I had never been to an Orthodox service before, and so this was a very interesting experience. My favorite part was the beginning of the service, when we walked around the church three times with our candles. After this came the mass, which was four hours long (however I only lasted until 2:00am). The night concluded with the priests going to the street to bless big baskets of food. I’m sorry that I missed this part, although I did  take some pictures of the people lining up to get their food blessed before I left.

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American Film Festival and a Japanese Dinner

Despite the dreary weather, I managed to do a lot this past weekend! The US embassy has sponsored a weeklong American Film Festival, where they play two or three free movies (in English!!) every evening at a local theater. On Saturday I watched Wall-E, and on Sunday Roman Holiday. I’m also planning to watch the original Ocean’s 11 on Thursday. The full list of movies showcased can be viewed here: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/moldova/106281/AFF2014/AFF-2014-booklet.pdf

On Saturday evening I also hosted a Japanese dinner at my flat. The menu included miso soup, yakisoba, rice, and karaage. It was a lot of fun to both cook with others, as well as watch some Miyazaki clips on youtube! It turns out that Tototro is a fairly universally known animation. However, while the evening overall was successful, my yakisoba tasted a little off. I’m thinking that this was because of the sauce. Does anyone know how to make yakisoba sauce by hand without Tonkatsu sauce or any pre-made powders? Without those ingredients the dish ended up just tasting like soy sauce.

Even though I had some difficulties with the yakisoba, introducing people to Japanese food was a lot of fun, and I’m hoping to go to more themed dinners in the future! I have been promised Spanish, German, Polish, Italian and Estonian meals in return, and I’m super curious to taste them all! Learning about different countries and being able to taste a lot of different dishes are both definitely benefits of volunteering with such an international group!

Easter Egg Painting

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an Easter Egg Painting Workshop (thank you ADVIT for organizing this event!). Easter is a huge holiday in Moldova, and because of this there are a ton of workshops being offered and crafts being sold all over the city. This particular workshop was hosted by the Museum of Ethnography, and at it we discovered how to paint eggs in the traditional Moldovan style.  Art has never been my strong suit, and because of this the intricate processes of both draining the eggs (I may have accidentally exploded two….), as well as drawing with wax were slightly beyond me. However, despite my difficulties, everyone did a fantastic job, and the end results were beautiful!

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Orheiul Vechi

Orheiul Vechi is arguably Moldova’s most visited tourist site.  It is located an hour outside of Chisinau, and on Saturday I went there with a small group of volunteers and mentors.

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Getting there is a little tricky. While we thought that there were buses going to nearby villages every thirty minutes from 7am, it turns out that the first bus to Orheiul Vechi actually departed at 10:20am. But luckily we didn’t get to the bus terminal too early, and so we didn’t have to wait too long before the bus left –  just long enough for a cup of tea at Andy’s!

Orheiul Vechi is a valley, filled with different rock formations (for example limestone), as well as ancient monuments and fortresses dating from the 10th Century BC!

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The valley walls themselves are full of small caves, and while these caves have been marked with graffiti over the years, they are still impressive (and a little daunting).

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After exploring some of the caves we found a nice walking path on the top of the valley. This path led us to an orthodox church, as well as a small stone cross which you could touch to make a wish.

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While the church seems to hold the place of honor on top of the valley, what Orheiul Vechi is most famous for is its monastery. This unassuming monastery is carved by hand into one of the limestone cliffs, and was made by Orthodox monks in the 13th century.  Unfortunately photographs were not allowed inside the monastery, but I did get one on the outside ledge. Fun fact: I’m fairly sure that there are priests living within the caves to this day.

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Beware the steep drop!

Beyond the historical structures and tourist sites that Orheiul Vechi has to offer, the local towns are also very beautiful. As Easter is coming up, many of the houses were freshly painted with a coat of bright blue paint.Walking through the village we were lucky enough to see many shops, fully functional wells, and of course, people. What with the tour groups and the local children, the latter offering to share all of the monastery’s secrets with us for one leu, it was a fairly busy day!

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          Overall, Orheiul Vechi was spectacular and is definitely one of my favorite places in Moldova so far. I will definitely be returning!

Bonus: As this was a small country town, I got to see a ton of horses, cows, and geese! I got some weird looks for taking so many pictures (I guess horses aren’t that cool if you see them everyday), but I wanted to show you all some of the neat things I got to see! What particularly interested me were the horse-drawn carts, which are actually quite common once you leave the city.                                               IMG_3177    IMG_3235

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