“How do you like Moldova?”
If I had a Moldovan lei every time I was asked that question… I’d still be broke, but that’s a matter of economics, which is none of my concern.
I promised myself a month ago that if people were going to continue to ask me this question, I am going to start to answer honestly. No matter what. I’m fully aware that my version of honesty is typically delivered in a brash and tactless manner, but we are all a work in progress… I’ll leave it at that.
Today, as I was waiting for the bus to go into the city, two teachers at the school came up to talk with me; the very first question was “Cum este Moldova?”. I stood there for a moment debating about whether or not this was the right time for honesty or a moment to be politically correct. However, a promise is a promise, and it’s important to keep them, especially the ones we make to ourselves. So honesty it was.
“It’s okay.” I responded (in Romanian of course). “People are kind to me. I like my students. But life is very different here, and it’s difficult for me.”
“You are right. Life is difficult here.” One of the teachers nodded in agreement. “But how is it different?”
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT???? There it was. The follow up question. The follow up question that is nearly impossible to answer without being offensive, at least for me it is. There are a million ways to answer this. The food is different, the economy is different, the culture is different, the education is different, our values our different. SO MUCH is different. Instead of selecting one of these perfectly appropriate responses, I chose the response that was weighing me down the most. The very thing I struggle with several times a week.
“Well, the culture is different and the people are different. In America, we have many different people from many different countries, but here you don’t have that. So here in Moldova, I am very different because I’m African American and people don’t look like me. That is one example of how it is different.” I replied.
And then I waited…I waited for them to say something. I waited for them to look a certain way. I waited for them to in any type of form acknowledge what I had just said.
But there was nothing.
There was an absolute lack of response. Both women gave each other blank stares and began talking about the schedule at the school, and how Domnul Fronze can’t seem to get it together.
You can imagine my bewilderment. I stood there stuck back in the past 30 seconds, rewinding, trying to see if I had missed something, but I hadn’t.
They didn’t respond. They did nothing. It was as if I hadn’t said a word, as if I wasn’t standing there, as if they hadn’t heard me.
I was prepared for a lot of things, but I wasn’t prepared for that.
And so now, I’m sitting here writing this blog, wondering who I tell this story too? Who will understand? Because while I adore my fellow volunteers they, with the exception of 6, do not share this problem with me.
I do not care to harp on the race factor, but it is a very real dilemma for me. I’m not certain of much, but I am certain that when people ask “Cum este Moldova?” they don’t really want to know the answer.
And that is what I learned.