Sunday, January 22, 2017

Happy oh-so-late New Year!

Hello friends and loved ones! This might have been my longest hiatus so far. It is due solely to the fact that on December 11th, I dropped my computer and broke the cord. I immediately ordered a new one on Ebay and was assured it would be there anywhere from two weeks to a month. Being an eternal optimist, I delayed blogging on Jesse's computer, thinking that surely my cord would arrive any day and I could just do it on my computer! 

Well. It has been almost a month and a half (11 days past when the seller assured it would arrive) and there is no sign of my cord. It is almost certainly due to the slowdown that happens in the Moldovan mail system around the holidays (and there are lots of them here: many people celebrate Christmas and New Years by the modern calendar and other by the Julian Calendar, for those that are Russian Orthodox). Regardless of the reason, it hasn't arrived and the seller has said they will give me a refund if it hadn't arrived by tomorrow. So then we get to begin what I was hoping to avoid: a long hunt all across Chisinau to find a laptop cord that will fit my computer (my laptop has an unusually small jack, so it might be tricky--hence why I ordered one online!)

So, long story short: at some point I will have a working computer, and in the meantime I have muscled up the effort to blog on Jesse's device. 

Since I posted last we have done a lot!! I have 7 posts coming in the next week detailing all sorts of things, from Christmas to our holiday merrymaking and everything in between!

Let's start out with New Years!!! 

We had a good one this year. Jesse and I watched a couple of movies, then rang in the new year with some sparkling Georgian lemonade and a million gazillion fireworks.

I say a million because it seemed like everyone in Chisinau had bought their own fireworks (those big ones are legal to buy here) and they were going off all over the city! Tons were going off on the horizon, and some even went off in the blocks near us. Sure, it was probably dangerous for a bunch of untrained civilians to be lighting fireworks that go hundreds of feet in the air, but it also felt like all of Chisinau was SO excited about the new year that they just couldn't contain it! (And the revelry didn't stop there--we've heard at least one instance of fireworks going off every night since!)

I couldn't get any good photos, but here's a decent video of some of them. It's so loud because I think some were going off in the block next to us as well!


In the morning, we celebrated with the kids by eating homemade cinnamon rolls and reading memories from our memory jar. 

It made for a really enjoyable morning!

And, in case you need a laugh, here's a few of our funnier memories (also, please notice that these are all said by the kids, because they are the funny ones around here): 

May 9th

(at bedtime)

Niko: Hold on, I need to tell my bandaid something. Bandaid, take good care of my owie until the morning.

July 11th

(playing with Pokemon with a friend)

Niko: *pretending to be the pokemon* I'm going to kill all your friends!

Freddy: No, I don't have any friends. 

*translation: You can't hurt me. I am a rock. I am an island.*

July 13th

Niko: *shouting* NOT A WAR! NOT A WAR! 

*turning to Jesse and me*

Niko: I'm speaking for none wars all of the days. 

(aww, our little pacifist!)

September 26th

(while eating lunch, looking out the window)

Niko: I'm just going to watch the leaves twist and flap.

Catherine: Yeah, that's nice, isn't it?

Niko: It makes me feel like I'm flying. 

(I believe I began crying at this point)

October 28th

Niko: I like myself because I eat lots of pancakes. 

November 16th

I had Miriam in the baby carrier on my front, and couldn't resist giving her tons of kisses. Miri put up with it for awhile until protesting:

Miri: Stop it. Kiss.

December 23rd

We had recently taught Nikolai the term "bladder" in discussing his urinary system, and apparently that term was confusing because: 

Niko: *declaring proudly* No pee in my gutters! 

December 28th

(Niko and Miri were playing pirates in their room--one of the first times they've really played together!)

Niko: *referring to Miriam* Babies can come on my pirate ship because babies don't want money. 

Also on December 28th

There are loads of stray dogs in Chisinau, some of which have set up semi-permanent residence on the block over. Miriam always notices them, and one day she talked to them:

Miri: Hi puppy. Bye puppy. Wuv you, puppy. 


Looking back, it was good to see that we had lots of happy and silly memories from Ann Arbor as well as here in Chisinau. Moving is hard, but we are together and that is good. 

Happy late New Year everyone! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cooking in Moldova

Buying spices here (ok, actually anything here) is an interesting process, because living in a multilingual city means that any given item can come in one of several languages (most common are Romanian and Russian, though I've also seen English and German). In preparation for Thanksgiving, I had to look up some spices I needed in both Romanian and Russian, hoping that between the two I might find what I was looking for (I was 1 for 3 but I don't think it was because of my language deficiencies). This sure makes the experience of going to the grocery store interesting every time!

Another interesting difference about living in Moldova arrived the other day when I bought some powdered sugar. I was using it for some sort of baked confection, and I tasted some of it before adding it. Upon tasting it, I immediately felt like it was less sweet than American powdered sugar--but how could that be?? It's just sugar, right? 

As it turns out, no: this powdered sugar includes powdered milk, butter, and several other ingredients, making up more than half of the powdered sugar mix. 

After using it in several recipes, I don't actually mind it not being as sweet, but it was sure a surprise at first!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Out and about in Moldova

I realized recently that I don't post a lot of photos of Our Fair City Chisinau. I really enjoy walking around the city but am usually too busy walking and tending kids and not getting lost (actually not too hard) and not looking like a tourist to take pictures. I'll try and do better about that in the future, but for now here's a tiny sampling. 

The post office/cell phone store (they share a lobby):

The awesome compass out in front of the post office, with distances and ordinal directions for Bagdad, Athens, Bucharest, Paris, Ulan Bator, Beijing and more. 

And my favorite part of walking around the city: the Moldovan version of the "walk now" person, who looks like she's confidently striding across the street: 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Of Dan Balan and Visas

I have a very long story to tell you, but bear with me: it's worth it.

Once upon a time, when we first arrived in Moldova, we saw these billboards for Dan Balan EVERYWHERE. We had no idea who Dan Balan was (Somehow I thought he was some kind of lawyer) but Jesse and I both loved his intense, over-serious stare. For awhile, it seemed like Dan Balan was on every billboard in the city, and whole jokes developed in our conversations about making Dan Balan-like faces and so forth. Before we knew it, Dan Balan had become a beloved part of our humor and lives. 

Several months later, we went to the Moldovan Immigration Office to pick up our completed Visas. This was after we had already spent an entire morning at the office a month before with every possible identifying document we could possibly gather (passports, blood type documents, three separate letters of invitation from the US Embassy, some sort of stamped document we had to pay to get, birth certificates and our marriage license), making copies and paying fees and arguing with serious governmental office employees about seals and signatures and so forth. 

A month after all of that, we all were various degrees of sick (all the way from Jesse and Nikolai with un-diagnosed pneumonia and me and Miriam with annoying colds), but that couldn't stop us from trekking across the city to pick up the completed visas. We got to the office and sat there for 20 minutes, only to hear an announcement that the office would be closing for an hour for lunch. *Sigh* Unfortunately, Jesse had to go teach class, so we headed back home, unsuccessful. 

Miriam, coloring in the waiting room, with pacifier in tow to help her forget she was missing her nap

On Wednesday we returned, waited for an hour in the waiting room and finally made it to the desk to pick up the visas, only to discover terrible news: despite the fact that we had already provided every form of identification ever, we were supposed to bring several of those same documents back at THIS appointment in order to pick up the visas. Yes. The same documents they already had copies of. 

SO. We returned on Thursday, with every single possible document we could think of, even the documents they hadn't said we needed to bring (because the lesson learned from this situation was always bring every possible document). And we were successful! The visa process was pushed along (we don't technically have the visas yet because *surprise* they have to be processed further, but we have legal status here now) and we left triumphant (to return in a few weeks to pick up the actual documents). 

But the really exciting part of this entire process happened when we were sitting in the waiting room on the third and final day of our visa pick up attempt. The flat screen on the waiting room wall was on (it had been off during the other two attempts), and was showing a series of charming videos for the Moldovan tourist industry. I duly noted a few places I hadn't heard of for us to visit, and then, WHAM! They started showing clips from the pop group O-Zone's international hit Dragostei Din Tei (also known as the Numa Numa song):


This song was HUGE in my high school in freshman or sophomore year, and I was minorly obsessed with it. I knew all the words (who knew I knew Romanian?), looked up the lyrics in English, and watched as many versions of the video as the burgeoning internet would allow. It was all I could do to not sing along with every word there in the waiting room, and, after all this time, I was blown away to find out that the group was from Chisinau!

I started babbling to Jesse about how excited I was and was trying to explain to him what song this was (he missed the clip in the waiting room, and, as it turned out, the song hadn't made it to his high school back in the day all the way out in Idaho). I looked up O-Zone on Wikipedia to try and figure out other details to tell him, when one of the band members' names caught my eye. 

"Jesse, this might be a game changer," I said, frantically clicking the Dan Balan link (because I had to make certain there wasn't a plethora of unrelated Dan Balans running around Chisinau, and because sitting in an immigration office with two children for the third time that week was making me lose my mind).

LO AND BEHOLD: It was the very same Dan Balan as our billboard Dan Balan.



My head exploded and my worlds collided and everything everywhere came full circle. 

the end

Saturday, December 3, 2016


We're in a pretty good place with the kiddos lately. Nikolai was home from preschool for 3 weeks when he was sick and we all went a little crazy, but he returned to school this week and balance has been restored in our little universe. 

I've had several moments lately where I look around at these kids, and Jesse, and think, "Wow. Look at these awesome people that I get to spend my life with." Those moments sometimes even happen in the middle of both kids screaming over dinner, or running around crazy right before bed (though sometimes those moments also make me feel like I'm going nuts).  

None of those moments have been captured on photo but I'm including some other pictures here so I can try to remember the feeling. 

Nikolai and Miriam watching Romanian kids tv:

I usually leave Miriam's hair down in a messy bob that gets in her face because she hates me putting it up, but the other day I put on a show for her and somehow she let me put her hair in adorable little french braid pigtails. She pulled them out an hour later during her nap, but they were cute while they lasted! 

Speaking of Miriam: she's recently transitioned to two naps (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) to one nap (in mid afternoon) AND we made her pacifier disappear (previously used almost exclusively for nap and bedtime) SO that has been really rough for everyone. Basically, Miriam used take a pacifier and go straight to sleep like a tiny cherub, and now she runs around the room and wiggles and shrieks instead of letting us snuggle her and sing her lullabies, and it's really rough. Nikolai ditched the pacifier on his own at 7 months so we've never had to do this before, and it's hard giving up our angel sleeper! 

But she still really cute during the day:

Speaking of Nikolai going back to preschool, he's learning tons of Russian! My classes have been going really well too, and we've started to be able to speak a fair amount of Russian together. I wanted to capture him counting to ten in Russian the other day, and then he surprised me by counting twenty, which I had no idea he could do! He does that a lot--surprises me with words that I had no idea he knew. Way to go smart Nikolai! 


Friday, December 2, 2016

Thanksgiving in Moldova

Happy late Thanksgiving everyone!!

I meant to post this last week, obviously, but obviously that didn't happen. But better late than never, right?

We had been planning on having Thanksgiving on our own, but then some of Jesse's colleagues suggested that we have Thanksgiving together! I was excited at having someone to help cook (because let's admit it, Thanksgiving mostly means cooking non-stop for 2 days so you can eat until you never want to eat again) and someone to share the holiday with, and Jesse's colleagues were excited to celebrate their first ever Thanksgiving. 

And that is how we ended up spending Thanksgiving with two Ukrainians and three Moldovans :) 

Without further ado, here are some obligatory (and strangely colored, due to my phone's bad lighting settings) photos of the spread. Major kudos to Kiseniia for making the delicious turkey!

(Also, major apologies to Vlada, because none of these photos of you turned out well. So sorry!)

I couldn't quite pull off a pumpkin pie here (while there's no canned pumpkin, you can find whole pumpkins, but I don't have a blender so I couldn't turn one into puree) but I found this recipe for an apple pie and it was INCREDIBLE. I don't like pie all that much but I LOVED this one!

We had a huge spread of dessert, most of which we couldn't even eat because we had eaten SO much good food. But we sure tried! 

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends! 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mid-fall in Chisinau

I always love fall, and I am falling for fall in Chisinau!

It has been wet and cool and crisp and delightful.

Also, the low sunlight coming through my bedroom window in the morning is divine (that is what I try to remind myself when the sun sets at 4:30 and makes me sad!): 

We are a long ways from the beginning of fall, when leaves had just begun to flutter down and wash up on the shores of sidewalks and curbs. Now, the leaves are almost all down, and have settled in as temporary cement, filling in the potholes and cracks in the sidewalk. 

On days when the kids were sick this last week (meaning I was stuck inside A LOT), I would make an excuse to go to the store for something, and Jesse would insist that I not rush while I was out. What followed was several leisurely walks, basking in the light coming through the barren branches. The lack of foliage this time of year always feels like a revelation to me, literally--I can suddenly see further than I could before, and buildings that used to be obscured by trees are now visible. 

One of those days, the Moldovan flag on our street looked really lovely: 

And it's hard for me to get over how beautiful I find the colors of fall: rich oranges, reds, yellows and browns that make the world seem like it's full of golden light at any time of day. 

I sat in my bedroom window the other week and painted the trees out in our courtyard. I meant to take a photo for this post but forgot (I will try to remember to soon), though I don't think it was terribly good. What was most delightful was mixing the right watercolors for the job--taking time to observe and mix just the right shade of golden brown for this tree, and noticing that the tree next to it was a slightly brighter shade. It was really soothing to spend so much time noticing and appreciating the fall colors, and I highly recommend it!