I walked into the casa mica for dinner to find my host dad already heating up a dish for me. On the radio was a broadcast about how the trend keep on increasing with people leaving to work abroad. My host dad, a person who always has a joke or two for me when he sees me, seemed very agitated, and repeated things over and over again.
Earlier today my host mom slipped on ice on her way to school and is currently at the hospital. She injured her spine and is not able to make major movements and will stay over at the hospital for several days. My host dad felt a lot of guilt by not telling her to be careful, as he normally does everyday when there is ice. He had to explain to me many times how he felt and then went on to talking about other things, he tends to keep on going once you get him started. I love that about him, I can just seat and listen to him talk. He doesn't care if I understand or not sometimes, he keeps on going, in the end I learn a lot of Romanian!
I sat and ate my baked chicken liver with union while he told me stories after stories about living abroad in Israel. He was the first in the family to leave and worked as a Grounds Keeper at a cemetery by the Mediterranean Sea for 3 years. He slowly saved up money to send over my host mom, then later his two children. Then he worked as a Dishwasher and a Cook at a restaurant for another 2 years. My host mom and sister worked as a Maid for rich families and my host brother worked in a Coca-Cola factory.
His stories encompasses, silly things he's seen, language trivia he's undergone, and different cultural experiences he's witnessed. Sometimes, I see how his eyes glimmer at the silly experiences, but sometimes I see the pain when he explains how much hardship they'd went through.
After one last pahar de vin toast to health, he said something that I didn't expect. That working abroad shortens your life. When I didn't understand what he meant by that, he took it literally and drew a line on the table cloth, "this is how long life is and this is how much it takes off at the end," and drew another line starting from the other end about 1/4 of the way up.
When I asked why that is, he explained that me being here is different, I have no family of my own, children or husband. For him, he had to leave his family behind, and even when they met up, it changed them. I then asked, "You're not happy at all that you went and learned and experienced many different things?" He said, of course he is happy, they learned about the world, they were able to provide for themselves by building a house, buy their children apartments in Chișinău and are able to live well until now. Then I couldn't help to think that I too benefited from their work aboard, for I am too living well, I mean we do have a bathroom in doors!! He finally said that the aspect of money changed them. That was the extent of his explanation, I'm sure you know what he means by that.
After hearing his side of this great phenomenon of people leaving abroad, and also after experiencing it first hand with a close person who will soon leave, I am full of mixed up emotions. The first thing that comes to mind is anger, anger for myself for not being more aware. Angry that I have to lose a friend. Angry and Sad that people here are left with this choice to be able to have things that I get so easily. Pride for them for having the courage to leave their homeland by choice (or not) and live dangerously in order to find a better opportunity for themselves.
I mean it took a lot for me to leave home to be here, but I also knew that I will have Peace Corps who will support me, and that there will be other Americans who will go through this with me. Moldovans who leave here are left to their own resources, sometime with no help, having to learn a new language without a 3 month intensive training and constant support like I did. They have to go through all of the same frustrations I probably go through without the same support with living in another country, with a different culture and traditions.
Then it makes me feel angry that there are not many more people I know back home who have this courage. For even, my courage is not at all equivalent. Then I get sad, because the situation here is environmentally and politically induced. On the flip side, I also feel happy that I and the people back home are free from this constant fear of having a family member or close friend leave or being the one who have to leave to provide for your family.
At this moment I can not express how much respect and pride I have for Moldovans.