Learning about life in Rusesti Noii, Moldova

Greetings,

Let me tell you that my trip to Rusesti Noii, Moldova changed my life. It’s like this entire trip was leading to that one weekend where everything I was looking for became clear. Little did I know that the warmth from a cold part of the world fighting to find a foot hole after the fall of Communism would do that to me. I learned more about life, living and what REALLY MATTERS in a weekend than I did in the first 31 years of my life….

I made a video, instinctively I thought I want to document this trip, that video will come probably this summer when I’m home, lots of footage. Russesti Noii is a small town of 3-6,000 people about 20KM outside the capital of Moldova. The place for the most part has 1 or 2 paved roads, no running water and life isn’t easy.

Luckily I met a world class gent named Ahmad who offered to take me for a sneak peak into the Moldovan way of life and culture. The host family Nikoli and Lida were incredibly friendly, despite the fact we didn’t speak each others language, we got along famously. I also met many of the people there including but not limited to Tudor, Julia, Peter, the mayor and his ex military friends.

Communism is still a touchy subject, some of those that are very old despise it and welcome anything as they were around during Stalin. Let us just say it was “dangerous to be successful” and those with stuff often had it stolen and sent to Siberia.

The middle aged people tend to sympathize with it, at least everyone had a job, food on their table and a way to make a living. The younger people don’t even want to hear the word. Obviously there are exceptions but as a whole and talking with people, this is what I gathered.

It’s weird how so many of us complain about our jobs, imagine if you were from somewhere that you were LUCKY just to have a job? Fields are left abandoned as farmers have no equipment or means to pay the workers… Buildings from the communist regime stand half finished, once it fell, everything just stopped. Communism divided tasks into different regions. Imagine if your country grew tomatoes for the regime, the regime died and all you were left with was tomatoes and no other real industry or skills?

The number varies from 3-6000 people because it’s a transient town. People live there but most can’t live there. There is no work, instead they go to the capital and wait all day to hopefully be granted a visa to Romania, most are refused. Others go to Moscow. Besides one family, everyone I met had children living in Moscow to work. On the train to Bucharest today, I saw a gentleman get escorted off the train, he didn’t look so happy.

The side roads reminded me of Arusha, Tanzania. They aren’t roads, just dirt which when it rains becomes the thickest mud and the area has many hills, my shoes are still covered in mud. Many people that are well past retirement age still hike 2-3 km daily to tend to their crops. You need to work to eat, everything I eat while there was home grown. Every bit of meat came from someones back yard and all the wine from their cellars. All the commerce really takes place in Chisinau so any basic produce or canned goods you can get in town are considerably more expensive than in the capital.

Despite all the hardship, I had as many laughs and said “cheers” more than I have almost anywhere else in the world. The first day I arrived, the sun was shining and it all seemed like a dream. The next day had some light rain, my final day I woke up to a freezing cold rain. Can only imagine what it’s like during a long dark winter. I used to complain so badly about getting up in a cold house. Imagine having to go outside to get to an outhouse in the cold, having your kitchen in a separate building? I couldn’t, I still can’t but I do have an idea.

It’s a place where you’ll see a car drive down the street, passing a few cows and the other way there will be a horse pulled carriage. One morning, went up to the orchard with Nikoli and Ahmad to pick cherries, spent an hour or so and brought back 2 large buckets. Typically it’s a job him and his wife do. I now understand the term “Farmer’s Walk”. It’s what people do to strengthen their grip as part of a workout routine.

Also met the mayor, a very jovial fellow. He was ill but agreed to have us over for an interview, some of his friends joined us and we had a good time. His goal is to build roads and get the plumbing going as well as make some activities for the children. He won by a landslide 80% vote, I can see why.

Part of what changed my paradigm of happiness was meeting Tudor. He used to be a clown in the circus until he got a back injury, in a weird twist of fate his back has begun to degenerate. He can no longer walk and is fully dependent on his older brother for all basic needs. He lives at home with his mother and is bound to a wheelchair. Walking these roads is tough, near impossible in the wheel chair, yet they make it happen.

You need to do what you can with your life while you can do it. Since his accident and drastic change in his life, friend have just stopped coming over. He says that he rarely gets to leave the house now and this is the summer. I can’t imagine what it’s like when there is 2-3 feet of snow everywhere. He said it’s isolating and lonely.

Having a handicap where I’m from is horrible, I’m speechless as to what it is like there. Yet despite it all, we still had an awesome time. He is trying to raise the 20,000 euro to get an operation. What makes me upset is that if he was born somewhere else in the world, the operation would be done and his life would go on as normal. He just wants to be a clown again.

None of us are really that different .From Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, North America. The only major difference is language and opportunity given to you. We all have the same wants, needs and are in an eternal pursuit of happiness.

The second day, I eat / helped make the freshest meal of my life. Green beans, onion, garlic, potato and chicken stew. Everything came from Julia’s yard. I even caught and killed the chicken we eat, never did that before, it’s quite a different experience than shopping in a super market.

I won’t go on as I have a video and will write more on this later. If you are somewhere that has peace corp workers in the area. Try and connect with one, they will show you what the country is really like. Chisinau was like any other city in the region that I’ve coined “the land of lada and lexus”. You don’t see much in the middle.

I’m in Bucharest now, will never forget my time in Rusesti Noii.

I’ll be back, I hope.

18 Comments

  1. Andrea

    July 4, 2011 at 4:11 am

    What a fascinating place, I would love to go one day. I used to have a housekeeper who was from Moldova and she used to tell me how difficult life was there. She lived in France in the black and would save every cent she made to send back home to her family. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to lead the privileged life I do.

    • Rob

      July 5, 2011 at 3:42 am

      We are insanely lucky, so easy to forget.

  2. PHIL

    July 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

    STRONG UPDATE SIR !!

  3. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    July 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Really eye-opening post about a part of the world I know very little about. I look forward to reading more about your experiences there.

    • Rob

      July 5, 2011 at 3:42 am

      I love this part of the world.

  4. Bean

    July 4, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Very moving,makes one realize how fortunate a lot of us are.

  5. Natalie

    July 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I love reading blog posts that move me emotionally and this is one of them. Great write up and great pictures. A reminder of how hard life can be but celebration of the people who still smile despite the hardships.

  6. Lily (Explore for a Year)

    July 5, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for this beautiful article.

    When I was trekking in Chiang Mai, we met a mute and deaf man in the village where we stayed. Between him using hand gestures, pen and paper, and about 5 hours of our patience, we learned about details of his life like how old he was, many people he had in his family, that he was looking for a wife, what he grows on his farm, how his last harvest was and more.

    It was one of the most extraordinary things I’ve experience, in the sense that he wasn’t trying extraordinary, but just carrying on with life despite his differently-able-ness.

    I wished I had taken a video of him using hand gestures and the drawings he made with a stick on the ground to explain who he was. His grace and patience was touching.

    - Lily

  7. Andrea

    July 5, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Excellent piece. Travel really opens your eyes to the plight of others in places like these. They live truly extraordinary lives.

  8. Wendy

    July 5, 2011 at 5:10 am

    Wow – very moving. I am on my way to work, driving on perfect roads in a new BMW. Have a dentist appointment later. Feeling very different after reading your blog & super grateful.

    Wendy

  9. Kevin - The Mad Traveler

    July 5, 2011 at 9:23 am

    That’s some pretty heavy stuff. It’s a pity most people have no idea how good they have it in the States and elsewhere. I just shake my head when people think that everything they have was earned or somehow owed to them. A damn good portion of it all is simply luck of a birthplace. Humbling.

  10. GotPassport

    July 5, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    This is the kind of post that makes me continue to appreciate your blog and why we do what we do. Like Kevin said, it is a pity many have absolutely NO idea. Thanks for the share, Rob.

  11. flip

    July 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    very moving post and what a great experience… “None of us are really that different” this statement got stuck in my head… Thanks for sharing…

  12. Alex Berger

    July 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    A fascinating place, thank you so much for the insights. Always spectacular when we have those moments that really adjust the way we see our world.

  13. Jenna

    July 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Rob, I read this post with great interest because I teach ESL in California and have many, many students from rural Moldova, people who have recently moved to the U.S. in search of a decent life. They look just like the people in your photos. I will show this post to my colleagues because it will help us understand better the life our students left.
    I would love to interview you for my site about your experience there. Please let me know if you’d be interested.

    • Rob

      July 6, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      Glad you found it useful and definitely do an interview, send me a message.

  14. Ryan

    June 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Wow, what an authentic place. I love each and every picture, it looks so real and full of life!

    • Rob

      June 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      Thanks Ryan, it was a special place I feel lucky to have visited.

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