30 August 2011

No money, no happiness

After a walk from the hospital back to his house this afternoon, I stood in the street and spoke with Anatol awhile before heading home. He told me about his huge collection of medals, awards, and coins from before the Soviet times that he has picked up over the years (and wants to sell because now he has too many... so let me know if you're interested). Anyways, I continued my "Pursuit of Happiness" project and asked him how he finds happiness in Moldova and in life in general. Unfortunately his response wasn't quite what I expected (even though I did get a great smile out of him).

There is no happiness in life without money. If you don't have money, you can't have food. If you don't have food, you don't have energy.

So I asked him about love and family.

Love? What is love. Love comes for two days and then it passes and the person you thought you loved at one time goes to another country to work. But if you don't have food to eat, you don't have energy, and if you don't have energy, no sex. So no happiness.

Ahhh ok. It all makes sense now. #men. (Thank you Twitter. I really don't get the hashes and @ signs at everything else, but it seems to work here).

Animal Analogies

Tonight while eating a delicious dinner of "soda bread" (tastes a lot like biscuits that we'd eat with gravy), tomato and onion salsa dip, and "zeama" (chicken soup only we had it with pork), I was sitting alone with my host mom because my host dad wants to get rid of the slanina "fat" on his stomach and my host brother was still at the river. I looked over and saw one of the 6 cats/kittens that has decided to make its way to us at mealtime cleaning itself. Trying to be funny I said, "cats are like Moldovans... they're so clean". Apparently only I understood what I meant (typical) because then my host mom started saying she tries to be so clean and that she swept the sidewalk twice today but no one would know and more, when really I was serious: Moldovans are so clean and they are always cleaning their shoes and their clothes and everything else. For being such a dirty country (literally dirt and trash), Moldovans are SO CLEAN (as a general rule).

So then after dinner I was getting ready to come back to my room to do some more post-Peace Corps job research and I noticed my host mom was gutting the fish. In the dark. She then asked me if I'd ever gutted a fish and I said, "no" to which she asked, "why not". Well, we only went to my grandparents' lake house once or twice a year, and I was little, didn't eat fish, and it just always seemed to be "a man's job". She laughed at that and then got back to work. While I really wanted to go back inside I decided to seize this opportunity and learn how to gut a fish. It didn't look so hard after all. I choose a small fish for my first experience because I figured it would be easier to handle. Then I took ahold of the "scraper" and stared de-scaling the fish and let me tell you something... this is hard work especially as the scales start coming off because then the fish gets very slippery. Just as I had finished and was ready to move onto the next step, the fish started moving. In case you missed that, let me repeat myself: the fish started moving. It just about scared the you-know-what out of me and I threw the fish back into the bloody water saying, "il merge! il fuge!!" (He's moving! He's running!!") That just caused my host mom to laugh, and then pick it up and take a knife and prepare it for step two: the big operation. I took the fish and the knife and began to cut along the bottom of the fish (which is also much harder than it seems), and at that point was still scared by the moving fish that I handed it back to her to finish the rest. Apparently doing this makes me ready to marry a Moldovan. Well, we'll see about that.

Oh, so the analogy: Fish are like chickens. They still move when they get their heads cut off.

On Leadership

I came across this great list of 34 quotes on leadership (which is super considering school starts on Thursday). Here are some of my favorites:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. - John Quincy Adams

Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.- Harold S. Geneen

The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense
stress lies at the heart of effective leadership. - Jim Loehr

You don't lead by hitting people over the head. That's assault, not leadership. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone. - Harry Truman

New Fundraising

"Happiness is right now... spending time with friends and family, and one day finding the person who will always love you."

I'm going to start a new fundraising project. It's going to be called If You Want Me To Take Your Picture That's Great But I Need Some Money So I Can Print The Other Pictures I Have Taken Of People In Varatic.

With that being said, today was the last "free" shoot in the village. I really want to make prints for people I've taken photos of thus far, so I figure this is the best way to do it.

29 August 2011

Happiness from friends

"Happiness is having someone take a picture of your friend knowing she'll put it on the internet" (but SURPRISE! I got you, too!)

I don't want...

Tonight at dinner my host mom and I counted down the days until school starts again. We have tomorrow (Tuesday), Wednesday, and then school begins. I said, "Oh I don't want school!!" and she responded, "You don't want school and I don't want to go work in the fields"... we both don't want it. Then I told her that her job is much more difficult than mine, and 6 km away (she usually walks) whereas mine is about 5-10 minutes walking.

Photo walk + yesterday

Yesterday I caught a ride to another city to see a friend and a ladybug decided to join us for the ride, and the 5 and 7 year old girls loved playing with it the whole hour.

I'm not sure if she was digging for trash or putting more in the bin, but by the looks of her bags I think she was looking for bottles or something (I should have stopped to ask but I was going to miss my bus).
Like I said in this post, I needed to take a walk this evening. So I did.

I began by using the veceu, and teasing the geese into thinking I had food for them (they're actually quite funny... they usually run from me when I go to use the outhouse, except at night they come for a visit. They must have been confused today)

It's almost wine-making season!

When I got to the stadium/park/shortcut path, I couldn't help but photograph the trees in this light:
Before heading to my "spot" I had to say hello to my friend, the cow:

And apparently it was a self-portrait type of day:

The trees and corn near my "spot":

My spot:

AHH amazing light!

... and I had to finish up the walk with one more self-portrait:

Now I feel much better.


Haha sometimes I crack myself up!


An encouraging video from Alastair Humphreys

More Musings on the Why of Adventure from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.

I'm ready for my next adventure (thankfully I have a year to figure out where it'll be!)


Mei mei mei mei mei... That's what my host brother likes to say a lot. I'm not quite sure what it means exactly because it can be said for really anything from "mei, mei, mei, mei, mei this BBQ is really good" to "mei, mei, mei, mei, mei these roads are bad". But I think right now I mean it more along the lines of the negative...

I got home this afternoon after staying with a friend only to find my family had left early in the morning to cut the corn in the fields. I was actually pretty excited because it was lunch time and I've been dying to make a vegetable curry... so I took this as the perfect opportunity to do so. However, I had to run to the store to get some chicken stock and an onion since I couldn't find where they were at the house, but they didn't have onions so I stopped to ask my neighbor for one, which then led to a bit of a conversation. Well, when I got back home, my family had returned... so much for the curry. So I went and gathered the ingredients I'd pulled out and brought them back into my room and then waited around for bit because I knew my host mom was going to have lunch coming.

When we finally sat down for lunch (um, "dunch" since it was about 5), mei mei mei mei mei there was some tension in the air. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but something along the lines of someone was supposed to buy beer and they didn't (we've never had beer at a meal?) and everyone was super tired from working all day, and then my host mom bit down on something and it really hurt her teeth so she was in pain... and so when she walked away for a few minutes to try to fix the pain, it seemed as though everyone was done eating and I didn't think she was coming back, so I figured it was up to me, the remaining female, to clean up the table. So I took my host dad's plate (he had the fork turned upside down... usually a sign of "I'm finished) and started to scrape what was left onto mine before my host brother started scolding me for doing that and told me to put it back because it wasn't "correct". Then he accused me of lying about where I was yesterday and not running the errands I said I was going to (and did) run, and then scolded me about playing with my hair (nervous habit). Good God, I couldn't wait for "dunch" to finish.

And I even slept well last night.

I think it's time to go for a walk.

Say something nice

From Improv everywhere:

28 August 2011


The other day I was called a star. And I didn’t quite get it. I mean, what have I really done in this community? I haven’t built a new playground or put a clean water facility in the school. I haven’t written a grant, and I haven’t done anything with the Mayor’s office (all of which are not obligatory, mind you). So I asked the men- if I haven’t done anything concrete for people to remember me, then why am I star? They said it doesn’t matter that I haven’t done any of that… it’s not important. They said everyone knows who I am, and I know who they are (which isn’t completely true because I am terrible with names, although I do recognize the faces). Then they said I go out and I talk to people and I get to know them and I care about them and that is what makes me a star. And that, my friends, made my day.

My week in photos

I went to a BBQ on the river with my host family and the extended family:
I danced the hora (photo credit goes to my host mom!)
Watched the little kids dance the hora;

Got stuck in the rocks on the "beach":

Had dinner with my host dad's brother and his wife (and my host family):

Laughed at the kitten begging for food:

Gave this photo to Eugenia (a relative of my host family), to which she smiled and then said, "Oh wow, look at this beautiful woman" and then put the photograph on display.

Cut my host brother's hair (I think I'll actually leave the hair-cutting to my sister) and then watched how to do it correctly as he cut both his mom and dad's hair:

Watched this man do a "woman's job" canning vegetables and asked him what happiness means: "Happiness is being able to fall asleep and not be hungry."

He then told me that at one time he, too, had wanted to be a photojournalist. In fact, he studied photography in Moscow when he was younger. Then he went inside and pulled out some old photographs to show me and said he'd love for me to come over and look through his archives of 2,000+ photos. I can't wait.
Talked with this man while his friend canned the vegetables and asked him what happiness means... “Listen, Miss Cate” Vasile said as he was taking a break from watching his friend prepare jars of tomatoes for the winter, “You want to know where to find happiness?” Yes, I told him, I want to know where you find happiness in your life that many people find so hard. “When everything you have is yours and no one else’s, then you are happy”. So I then asked him if everything he had was his, and he said that at one time it was, but now, no. But was he still happy, “Sure, some of the time”. That’s a good enough answer for me!

Chatted with these men at the bar, and this is how one conversation went: “Doamisoara Cate, everyone is happy when they’ve had something to drink!” “Apa?” meaning water, I jokingly ask, which leads to even more laughter.

Oh, and I celebrated Moldova's 20th year of Independence, but no one would know it because I did it in my heart since no one else around me was celebrating. So, HAPPY 20th BIRTHDAY, MOLDOVA!

To see more photos of this weeks adventures, go here, here, and here.

24 August 2011

happy idea

I spent Monday afternoon in Chisinau for part of my yearly medical exam that is given to us by the Peace Corps, and then headed to have a taste of America at MallDova, meet up with my host sister, and also with another friend. I was expecting a rather late night with friends so I thought a coffee would be a good idea... and it was... until later (which I'll also get to later).

It was great catching up with my host sister even though she was working... but it gave me time to meet her Greek boss, which, although he loves women in a way that was actually a bit uncomfortable for me, taught me a lot about Moldovan culture that I never knew before. He pointed out that prostitutes here in Moldova are not like the prostitutes in other places in the world. The women here, from his... err... experience... sell their bodies 3 or 4 times a month just to survive. More specifically, just enough to make ends meet. It's possible they charge by the hour, but stick around for more (for dinner, a coffee, a walk, etc). At least this is what he says... and this also relates to not just prostitution here but the workforce in general. His employees at the restaurant in the mall will work just a couple of days a week for a few hours... enough to survive... and then ask for a raise, where his response is, "If you want a raise, then show me you want to work more and I'll give you more money".... (ok, so this is kind of a broken and all over the place paragraph but moving on)...

So then I went bowling, where my highest score was 97 (so close!). I really enjoy bowling but I always forget the pain I'm in the next day, and few days after that! My right fingers and wrist/forearm are so sore... and for some reason so is my left butt muscle. Ouch... but at this point the coffee seemed to be wearing off, so I decided it was time to head to the apartment for be at 10pm...

But then the mosquitos started buzzing. And while I couldn't open my eyes, my body and mind wouldn't sleep (baaad coffee... baaaad!!!). So I was just waiting until 5am when I would leave the apartment and head to Peace Corps (where I then found out I wasn't allowed in until 6:30... fail..)... but at 4am all of a sudden I got a surge of energy, adrenaline, and wonderful thoughts. I have an idea. And here's how it started:

You see, there is this awesome photojournalism seminar next June in Cape Town, South Africa. And I want to go. But, well, it's expensive (but you can't pay for experience... right?). However, there is good news! The offer a scholarship! I just have to apply for it before it's gone, and I have to prove why I'll take what I learn from the seminar and apply it further than just improving my photography... and travel more :). So I figured I needed a theme for when I travel because up until now, I've just carried my camera with my and snapped a shot when the need was there. But what would that theme be? War? Famine? Dying children? While all of that is very important and needs to be addressed for sure, I felt like there had to be something else. And then at 4am it hit me: happiness. Why not go to those places that are generally given a "bad rep" for being poor, or sad, or sick and find the happiness... and photograph it? I mean, Erik Weiner wrote in The Geography of Bliss (which unfortunately is NOT available on the kindle and I really want to read it!) that Moldova is " statistically the saddest country in the world.".. and that he didn't like it. After living here for 14 months (wow, where did the time go?) I have to disagree. There is no way Moldova is the saddest country in the world! And I have many photographs to prove it. So if I were to use those photos as a start (and this project will be great to get me through the hard winter.... which I believe is when he came to Moldova), then go to the seminar, get a boost of knowledge, then hit the road finding happiness where there is supposed to be sadness... it will be a great success. And I hope to receiving funding with kickstarter which funds creativity... and then after the traveling, publish a book of smiles! Would you buy it?

So that's my exciting news for the day. There is a movie out now that you should check out: thehappymovie. It looks great and is only showing in limited locations. It's kind of the same idea, and I found the link after I had my idea... I guess great minds think alike :)

And the preparing for school began today. I'm really going to have to look for the happiness where I am in order to survive this school year... it's going to be a battle. But happy thoughts: one more year to spend with some of the greatest kids on the planet (and a great family and neighbors)! (And more good news... hi-fidelity internet is coming in OCTOBER! Bring on the faster internet and days with lots more productivity!!)
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