Last week, a friend and I decided to take a walk over to Green Hills, a grocery store on the outskirts of Balti. When we found Brie cheese, delicious-looking garlic bread, bruschetta, and tonic water, we immediately decided to have a late-afternoon picnic. We took our goodies and sat on a bench at the end of the tree-lined promenade by the market. After a few minutes sitting there, it became obvious that the children across the way were watching us and debating whether or not to come speak to us. Eventually, one of the girls ventured closer, and I spoke to her in Romanian; she responded in English. We spent the better part of the next hour speaking to the three girls and the friends they called over to meet us.
The girls understood some Romanian, but none spoke it, and their English seemed to be limited to a few basic greetings, so that left the majority of the conversation to Robyn, who speaks Russian. This language gap also led to a few funny moments, since the girls didn’t seem to grasp that I couldn’t understand Russian. When they asked us (in Russian) if we liked Balti, Robyn responded and I failed to, so the lead girl turned to the others and said, “That one doesn’t.” Overall the girls were friendly, inviting us to their school’s classes the following day, telling us about their hobbies and how they hoped to move out of Balti.
Talking with these girls is the perfect example of the language challenges that exist in Moldova. You have several children, all around 10 years old, in a wealthier area of the second largest city in the country, who speak less Romanian than English. The girls also being so open about their desire to leave Moldova is not an uncommon sentiment here. Beyond this moment highlighting these things about Moldova, it is a perfect example of the Peace Corps Volunteer’s role as mini-diplomat. As PVCs our mission is to spread peace, friendship, and to provide technical assistance. While most of our trainings and projects we discuss involve our technical skills and work, I am enjoying embracing these little moments of spreading peace and friendship and promoting a better understanding of Americans.
Picnics, Peace and Friendship
59 Strada Voluntarilor