Tag Archives: Ialoveni

My Two Homes


On Monday, the library where I work in Ialoveni, Moldova unveiled an exhibit about North Carolina — the home state of “Domnul David” and “Doamna Champa.”

The exhibit features brochures about the Wright Brothers monument in Kitty Hawk, the Biltmore mansion in Asheville, the NASCAR museum in Charlotte and attractions across the Triangle. It also offers information about where to taste wine, go fishing or ride a hot-air balloon in North Carolina.


Before we came to Moldova with the Peace Corps, I gathered these brochures at the North Carolina tourism office on Route 85, just south of the Virginia border. I brought them with me and now finally put them to good use. As I described in an earlier post, Champa and I have also shared souvenir postcards about Durham.

My library colleague, Doamna Stella, and her daughter did a great job of arranging the new exhibit, which is in the center of the library. It’s the latest example of the close ties between Moldova and Carolina du Nord, two places I’m proud to call home.



‘Frumos’ is Beautiful

Moldovans love all things “frumos.”

The word means “beautiful,” as in a beautiful song or a person’s beautiful soul. A well-behaved child may be “frumos.” Most of all, “frumos” means beautiful as in beautiful — a bouquet of flowers, a majestic sunset, a gorgeous woman.

You hear the word constantly here, which is no surprise in a country where people are usually well-dressed in public. Many women wear makeup whenever they go outside. Men iron their clothes and clean their shoes. Few people are rich but almost everyone shows pride in their appearance.

For an American like me who never paid much attention to clothes, Frumos poses a challenge. I’ve made a point to always dress neatly here. Fortunately I generally don’t need to wear a tie.


I felt the Power of Frumos as I walked near our main traffic circle in Ialoveni on Thursday afternoon. Within one block I saw a hair salon (or Frizeria), a beauty salon, a cosmetics store, two flower shops, a shop displaying beautiful foods, even fancy lingerie.

Frumos is only skin deep and in the eye of the beholder, of course, but there really is no avoiding its importance here in Moldova. It’s a beautiful thing.

Guguță’s Children

Do you know “The Cat in the Hat” and “Good Night Moon”? If you’re an American, especially if you’re a parent like me, of course you do.

Here in Moldova, an equivalent question might be: “Do you know Guguță?”


He’s the beloved character created by Spiridon Vangheli, one of Moldova’s most famous writers. Wearing a distinctive hat, Guguță faces adventures in a series of books that children and their parents have enjoyed for decades. Vangheli has also written other books, poems and translations. His work has been translated into many languages, been performed on stage and received numerous honors.

Ialoveni named its children’s library after him a few years ago, as you can see on the sign near the door. On Thursday, many of the city’s children turned out to honor the great author, now 85, at a charming ceremony.

Little kids dressed in traditional costumes presented Vangheli with flowers and serenaded him with songs and dances. That’ s him in the purple shirt. The kids shouted “la mulți ani!” — or long life! — and stepped forward to recite short speeches they’d memorized with their parents and teachers, some of whom mouthed the words as they watched. The mayor, Sergiu Armașu, extolled the writer, who then thanked everyone, signed books and posed for photos. Television crews captured it all for news reports and a future documentary.

IMG_5495The library has interesting exhibits and memorabilia about Vangheli. It is marking its own 25th anniversary this year, so Ialoveni has been celebrating both the facility and its namesake, who lives nearby in Chișinău. The Vangheli library is tucked away on a small street near the heart of Ialoveni, not far from the city’s main library, which also has a nice collection and programs for children, including a weekly English class taught by Champa.

I recently began trying to read one of the Guguță books myself. The Romanian is still a bit difficult for me but I’m making progress. Now that I’ve met the famous author, I’m even more motivated to finish it.

[The short video clip of the kids at the top of this post is also viewable on YouTube.]

Body Language

Do you know that person who comes to your staff meetings, pretends to participate but keeps checking his or her smartphone?

Or the two people who whisper to each other during meetings? Or the curmudgeon who rolls his eyes when someone makes a comment?

We have those people in Moldova, too, although they are generally more discreet than back home, at least in the meetings I’ve attended.


As someone who attended several meetings a day for many years, with a reputation for keeping my own meetings short and sweet, I’m a connoisseur of meeting behavior. I’ve continued taking mental notes since I came to Moldova, at meetings I’ve attended in Ialoveni, Chișinău and elsewhere.

Even though I can’t understand everything people say in Romanian, some of their body language is familiar, although generally more formal and polite. In both countries, a meeting may include someone bemused (or irritated)  by everything. One person may speak with a rhetorical flourish, while another mumbles or reads in a monotone from a notebook and never looks up. Some people address the entire room while others speak only to the person leading the meeting.

Similarly, if a meeting drags on too long, people may start staring ahead, flipping through papers or glancing at their watches, regardless of whether the conversation is in English or Romanian.


If someone’s cell phone begins ringing, especially if it has a distinctive ring tone, others in the room will quietly chuckle.  The phone’s owner will probably look chagrined and race to turn it off, although sometimes only after whispering “I’m in a meeting” to whoever is calling.

img_0106One big difference in Moldova, though, is that everyone is addressed as “Domnul” or “Doamna” — Sir or Madam. And when it comes time to schedule the next meeting, they’re more likely to check their paper daybooks instead of the electronic calendar on their smartphone.

Here’s one of the best things about meetings in Moldova: There are far fewer Powerpoint presentations. That alone is a good reason to leave America and come here.

Oh, and if you’re reading this on Facebook, rest assured they sneak peeks at that, too. Every meeting I’ve attended has also included an American guy from North Carolina who glances frequently at the Google Translate app on his iPhone. Discreetly, of course.

Children’s Day

Love. Happiness. Fun. Health.

Those are some of the things people wrote on Thursday when Champa asked them to describe in one word the meaning of International Children’s Day, which people celebrated in Ialoveni and across Moldova. The mayor, Sergiu Armașu, in the shirt and tie, helped her gather responses in front of the Casa de Cultură.

Click on the photo of the chart to see all of the responses. American readers may especially enjoy two in the top-right of the photo: “Best Friend Forever” and “iPhone 7.”

Easter in the Cemetery

Our neighbors ate, drank and shared memories a few days ago in a place that may surprise you: the local cemetery.

They were there for Paştele Blajinilor, or Memorial Easter, a week after Orthodox Easter. Like families across Moldova, they gathered at the graves of their loved ones, placing flowers and food besides the tombstones, lighting candles and enjoying a meal together.

The photo on the left shows what the cemetery at the Biserica Acoperământul Maicii Domnului in Ialoveni usually looks like. On the right is the same cemetery on Monday, when Champa and I visited.

We saw dozens of families spreading containers of food and bottles of soda, wine and cognac on tables or cloths near the graves. They had traditional local foods along with colored eggs and special bread. A priest circulated to say prayers. Families visited with their friends and neighbors, sharing food and wine as they remembered grandparents, parents, spouses and others. IMG_4384They dribbled wine on the graves and left behind food and candles. The mood was friendly but subdued and respectful.

Our host family was out of town visiting the village home of our host mother. Yet we felt welcome among everyone we saw. The woman in the middle of the photo with Champa knows us. She and her daughters stopped us as we were wandering around and insisted we share some food and wine with them. They also gave us a small gift bag with treats inside. Many families also use this occasion to donate food and small gifts to the poor.

IMG_4385Paştele Blajinilor, which traces it origins back to pre-Christian times, is celebrated widely in Moldova and parts of neighboring Romania. It reminded me of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, although the religious significance is quite different since it coincides with Easter instead of Halloween.

The church you see here is on a hill on the other side of Ialoveni from where we live. As usual in Moldova, we traveled there on foot, walking about 9 km. roundtrip on roads still slick and muddy from a recent spring snowstorm. The trip was worth every step. We were moved by what we saw and felt privileged to take part in such a memorable event, a picnic in a cemetery to feed your soul.