Many people I know have families in other countries. Some of these people still visit their families, much like I do. I have yet to meet someone that says they are going to Moldova for the summer however. Moldova is…entirely unremarkable. Are their beautiful places where nature takes over urban development? Sure! But neighboring Ukraine and Romania are definitely prettier. Are the fruits and vegetables amazing and fresh? Yeah, in the central bazaar they are, but they aren’t Moldovan. The one outstanding quality Moldova is known for is the production of great cheap wine. Cheap wine, made from native Moldovan grapes we can make damn well!
Yet, like clockwork, every single summer I am excited to go back to the place I spent the first 4 years of my life. Why? I’m not exactly sure. Part of it has to do with the slowness of life. No one is ever running anywhere, every single meeting is nonchalant and the agreed upon time is simply a loose suggestion. Part of it is the way it smells in the morning in our village, when the grass is wet with the due and the nearest spark of civilization, Kishinev, is a whole 15-minute car ride away. I love the feeling of practicing both my Russian and my Romanian and figuring out which is worse. I love bargaining in all the smaller bazaars for hours until I settle on a price just a tiny bit lower than the original. I love the way in which I get to shop. Every merchant asking for me to try their best apricot, and the way in which after shopping for fruits my belly feels full and aches a little.
Yet still, I wonder, is their a Moldovan culture? In terms of food, I know of several. There are the beef sausages that feel like someone tried to make them taste quickly and haphazardly, there are the placintas of different flavors, a beautiful puffy pastry filled with cottage cheese, or cherry, or poppy seed, or potatoes, or cabbage. Of course there is the mamaliga, a dish I have no idea how to explain except that it feels like eating coziness and happiness.
Is there a set of customs? Not really. The only custom I know of among Moldovans is to leave Moldova to find work, because of the huge poverty there. Is leaving in max exoduses considered a tradition? I don’t believe so. It’s actually quite strange how walking around in the summer time, when work visas have just been handed out for the next nine months and every has left how everyone you see is older, and far too tired to travel out to work.
I guess Moldova has a culture to me, but I can’t quite put a finger on it. It’s the culture of laying back and feeling pressures blown off of you by the wind coming from the Dniester. It’s the culture of climbing a tree and grabbing an apricot than eating it still in the tree and breaking the pit for the seed inside. Most importantly it’s the culture of a place that isn’t outstanding, but stands out nonetheless.