If a playground were being dedicated in America, you might see a child cutting a ribbon, a mayor shaking hands or a reporter interviewing happy parents.
On Sunday, we attended a Moldovan version that offered all of that and more: a priest sprinkling holy water on the equipment, a wrestling tournament and a couple of giant mice.
The new playground, which is beautiful, is in a park in the center of Ialoveni, the town where Champa and I moved on Thursday. We attended its dedication with two of our new Peace Corps neighbors, Michelle and Cynthia. The mayor welcomed us enthusiastically as things got under way, making sure we got pieces of the ceremonial bread to eat. He then helped a boy cut the ribbon and declared the playground open.
As the children raced inside and a television crew spoke with some of the parents, an Orthodox priest lit candles, chanted prayers and walked through the crowd to sprinkle blessings on people and equipment alike. The mayor, who is wearing a blue shirt in the video, carried the water beside him.
The festivities then moved down the street to the Casa de Cultura, or cultural center, where people watched as wrestlers competed to win a ram tied to a nearby staircase.
The crowd included Igor Balaur, a local wrestling hero who competed in the Olympics years ago and was now visiting with his family, which lives in France.
The dedication was part of a larger “diaspora day” honoring Igor and the many other Moldovans who reside abroad. It also featured two other notables from another country, both with big ears, with whom you can see us posing in the photo. Perhaps you recognize them.
Peace Corps has trained us to be open to new experiences, although that didn’t quite describe Mickey and Minnie. Still, we all managed to be culturally flexible. It was a beautiful afternoon. The kids were happy. The parents were happy. We were happy. It was all of that and more.