Laughs

Smile with your eyes

Smile

As the days in Moldova are winding down, I’m doing my best to spend time with the people I have learned to love here. Maria is the one who made me love Varatic… and as happy, beautiful, and photogenic as she is, she doesn’t like to smile in photographs because it says smiling makes her look old.

So I told her to smile with her eyes… but it took some time to get there 🙂

… but she finally did it!

Family shadows

The Carpet Salesman

All the time people used to tell me, “Cate, you’d be great in sales. You will talk to anyone and you could sell anything!” Today it still rings true. Instead of sales, though, I’ve focused my shift to marketing or a position that lets me constantly interact with people which will ideally cause an increase in sales for the product or company. Because I do not have any formal educational experience in this field, I have been taking a class online, reading books and blogs, and following people on Twitter to learn as much as I can before I return to the States. Something that this research has taught me is the importance of knowing your audience. Yesterday, for example, I helped one of my students set up a website/blog to showcase his photography. We decided to put his website in English because it is good practice for him and he does hope to reach an international audience (at least with a following). I showed him websites of American photographers I like, and he showed me websites of Moldovan photographers he likes and we used the combination of that to put his site together. While I think having a website with a plain background is better and more professional, he chose to put an image in the back because he’s catering to teenagers: they like that (and now that I think about it, I did, too, as a teenager). I thought about also creating him a Facebook and Twitter page, but that would not do much good here in the village… that’s not where the audience is, so therefore he cannot reach future consumers or clients. Within the first few hours of putting a link on his Odnoklassniki account (aka Russian/Moldovan Facebook), he had 327 hits. Bravo, Marin, Bravo!

Then early this afternoon there was a persistent knocking on the door of my host parent’s house. Finally my host mom answered it and shortly thereafter there were voices just outside my room. I assumed some of my host dad’s friends had come to visit, but nope, it was a carpet salesman. My host dad then called me into the living room to help them make a decision. You see, he was certain he wanted to buy a carpet the size of my room for 4000 lei, which meant he got 2 free smaller carpets in return.

My host mom insisted it was a bad idea because she has a carpet she bought a couple of years ago that they haven’t done anything with up to this point, and it was cheaper and prettier than these carpets. With one yes and one no, it was up to me to make a decision. Because I’m leaving in 6 weeks, I said I was indifferent. The salesman used this information to his advantage and went and pulled out the “last” carpet he had and said he’d trade it with one of the smaller ones (still 6x9ish) and my host dad could give it to me to take home to remember Moldova (my host dad really liked this idea).

The salesman kept saying it is a great deal and today is the last day for people over 50 to receive this 50% discount plus free carpet per retiree in each household, and these are the last carpets and they won’t find cheaper or prettier ones in the city. He tried to say they could save these for their kids or send them to where they live abroad (tailoring to their emotional reaction) but in the end, my host mom kept her ground and refused… and my host dad listened.

Carpet salesmen would not be successful in the States because we do not put carpets on our walls to make our homes beautiful. That’s one of the reasons my host dad wanted the carpet… he said other houses have new, beautiful carpets on their walls and he wanted some too for when guests come to the house. But in Moldova, it is common to find carpets on the walls especially in the homes of the older generation, and even more especially in the villages. The older villagers do not frequent the city, so coming to them is the best way to make a sale… and offering them a one-time discount for their age is also an incentive. While it is not ethical, the salesman can say whatever he wants the prices to be in the city because he knows they will not go to compare (I tried to look on the Internet and I found the website but the catalog is not working at this time so I could not see the price difference). Plus, if one does go to the city, they have to bring this HUGE carpet back with them on the small, crowded, public transportation… which is a pain in the neck (literally). This salesman  was doing a great job in targeting the right location, age, and emotional triggers to get my host family to buy carpets they don’t need, but want. If it wasn’t for my host mom’s stubbornness and my host dad’s respect for her decision, the salesman would have sold 3 (because nothing is free) rugs to my family.

In the end, the salesman asked me to take him with me in America when I go home. Twice.  Unfortunately for him, he did not have a good sales pitch prepared for me to buy into that one. Looks like I’ll be going back to America alone!

Food

Bună seara! (Good evening!)

The food here in Moldova is quite different from anything I’ve eaten before, but I really can’t complain about it at all! When we all met up together for a Welcome Ceremony at the school, all of the host moms were talking about who can and can’t eat what. It was pretty funny. They totally don’t understand why I can’t eat dairy, and vegetarians just confuse them to pieces!
My first introduction to Moldovan food was placinta, a common Moldovan fast food itemwhich is basically a form of fried bread with various things inside, such as cabbage, cheese, or potatoes. From my understanding, there can be a lot of different things there, too, such as meats and other veggies. Then I came to my host family and was introduced to more things! While they didn’t have an actual meal prepared for me, they had plenty of what I assume were leftovers. There was egg salad (with corn! yum!), and potato salad, some sort of soup (with anchovies- my first time ever eating them!), a cucumber salad, and I think that was about it. What’s interesting is they eat HOT soup any day of the year, no matter what the temperature. We then sat down as a family (me, the mom, the dad- who just received a haircut, 2 daughters, grandson, and in-laws). We drank wine, they talked, the daughter translated, and then the men went to the store to get more things. One of which was something like beef jerky- only fish, raw salmon from a package, and bbq potato chips. I tried the fish jerky but steered away from the others. It was, fishy. 🙂 The best part, though, was the tangy sweetness of the lemons+sugar! They cut very thin slices of lemons (peel and all) and then covered them in sugar. Wowza, I was in heaven!
Then this morning it was time for more food. Bread, leftover egg salad, and compote, which is a stewed hot fruit drink. Delicious! I’m in love with it! This morning it was made with cherries, and tonight it was cherries and apples. I can’t wait to learn how to make it.

Dinner consisted of these incredible grilled castravetelui (cucumbers), fresh tomatoes, fresh zucchini, and then a cabbage soup…with more compote!
She also brought out a 2 liter bottle of what I thought was beer, but it turned out to be their homemade vinul rosu (red wine). It was pretty strong, but definitely something to write home about.
That’s all of the food for now…

Outhouses and my new house

Buna seara! (Good evening!) Check out the toilet- for which I have an awesome story.
When I first arrived, my host sister, Nadea, was giving me a tour of the house. She speaks English incredibly well, so it has made my adjustment that much better. I had been told time and time again that the chances of having an outhouse were pretty high. In fact, it would be odd if the home where I was staying did not have one. So, I’d like to say I was mentally prepared when she said, “the toilet is outside”. Unfortunately, though, I did not have to use the restroom until it was dark outside, so when I went to try to remember which gate lead to the outhouse, I forgot. Along comes Nadea with a flashlight (thank goodness!) to show me the way. She helps me open the gate, then shines the flashlight in the direction of the toilet (a hole between 2 boards. literally). My thought was she was then going to walk out and wait for me, but no, she says, “Don’t worry, I won’t look” as she is shining the flashlight on me. Ok, that’s great, I don’t want to fall in. As we were leaving she says, “You have great legs!”
Welcome to Moldova- where privacy doesn’t exist.
… now that’s a story for the storybooks.