Thursday, September 27, 2007

And Baby Makes Three!

Many of you should have already received this news over email, but for our readers who aren't on our newsletter list, we want to share with you our really big, unexpected, and exciting news! We're going to have a baby! Yes, that's right, come May, there will be a new addition to the Tapp household. I'm almost at 7 weeks now, and our due date is officially May 17.

We are still planning on staying in Moldova until Christmas as originally planned. Through the American Embassy, we found an English-speaking obstetrician, who we have seen 3 times already for various tests - blood test, urine sample, and yesterday we had our first sonogram! (For those of you unskilled at reading a sonogram, the black round thing in the middle is my uterus, and the white blob on the right side of it is the baby.) The sonographer told us that the baby is alive and looking right so far... He even showed us where its little heart is already beating! I am overwhelmed at the fact that there is a tiny heart beating inside of me!

We are not only thrilled to find such a nice, English-speaking doctor's office here, but we're also excited about how cheap the health care is! We've paid less than $15 total for all three doctor visits, and this morning's sonogram cost a grand total of $3. So in this world where the value of the dollar is dropping dramatically and killing our funds, at least SOMETHING is on our side financially! :)

I have been feeling ok - very tired and pretty nauseous. I'm ok with that, though, because the nausea tells me that my body is producing the right hormones to make the baby healthy! I feel very blessed to have this happen here, because I don't have large demands on my time, so I'm able to rest a lot and take naps every day. If we were in the States, I'm sure I'd have a job to go to where a daily nap just wouldn't be possible. So although this wasn't a planned event in our lives, we know it is God's perfect timing, and we are already finding things about it to be very thankful for. Justin also wanted me to mention that my sense of smell, which is usually not very keen at all, has become strangely heightened with pregnancy. Riding a minibus last week, the smell of a neighbor's chewing gum made me totally nauseous. And I haven't been able to buy fresh fish - I can't stand to walk up to the fish counter and smell it! I don't mind eating it once it's cooked, so I just have to buy frozen fish and cook it frozen. :)

So we are very excited, although still quite shocked, and we would covet your prayers for health, safety, and good decision-making! I'd also like to request prayer: A blood test that I had last week came back abnormal (high levels of bilirubin, a liver enzyme) and so they want to retest me next week. They said this test comes back wrong quite a bit, so there's no need for alarm unless it comes back abnormal a second time. I'd covet your prayers that it comes back normal this time and there's nothing to worry about!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Great Weekend

Last weekend, we took up an invitation from our new friends Chris and Nancy Russell to visit their home in Comrat, a small city in Gagauzia, which is an "autonomous region" in Southern Moldova (this Wikipedia page makes for a brief but fascinating read).

Gaugazia had some major draws for us (particularly Justin):
1. The Gauguz people speak the Gagauz language, which is Turkic-based and isn't too far from Azerbaijani.

2. The majority of the people speak in Russian most of the time. We heard no Romanian on the streets, in church, or in shops.

3. It wasn't Chisinau. This was our first real excursion to a different city, so we got to see how other people live.

The Russells were more than gracious hosts. Nancy cooked unbelievably large meals for us, the likes we haven't seen in a very long time. Their kids are away at boarding school in Germany, and in the States, so their house was unusually quiet and we hope we kept them company.

Some pics:Justin trying to pose like a local would. In a park built in memory of historic Gagauz people.
The main Orthodox church in town.

V.I. Lenin, eagerly protecting the main street that is still named after him. Gagauzia was pretty unhappy when the USSR broke up.

The highlight of the weekend for me (Justin) when Chris took me to a Baptist church in Comrat on Sunday. The elders greeted me warmly and promptly invited me to preach ("No, thanks!"). When they found out I spoke Azerbaijani, one of them engaged in conversation. He would tell me something in Gagauz, then when I didn't understand he would say again in Turkish, and then I would answer in an Azeri/Turkish blend. If we couldn't figure it out, we'd just do it in Russian.

They asked me to speak to the church about my time in Azerbaijan, so I did so briefly in Russian, with Chris providing both moral and technical support. Then, one of the older ladies on the front row asked me to speak about my family in Azerbaijani. I did so, but quickly got my languages confused. I said "Menim bashim chashib!" which is Azeri for "My head is confused!" and they all laughed, and I was glad that it translated well.

The church was really well-organized for a small (sort-of-rural-type) church. They had a Sunday school hour with a printed lesson plan and bulletin, complete with memory verse (quoted readily by many in the audience). Sunday School for the kids, and a youth choir. About 50 people altogether in the church, I'd guess.

That whole service was probably the most fun I've had here. That's the first time I've been asked to speak in Russian in front of a large group of people. Singing a hymn in Gauguz and busting out my Azeri was a huge blast, as it's been a long time since I've spoken it.

Maybe more importantly, I got to briefly mention to the church about my job with Invest-Credit. A man with a medium-sized business came up to me after the service to ask about obtaining a loan. Chris told me that he's an honest businessman who always pays his taxes and understands how harmful the Church's dependency on Western funds is (ie: the perfect client). The man's business also employs at least one local pastor.

I had one of my co-workers call him on Monday, and it looks like he needs a larger loan than Invest-Credit has loans to give. However, investigating this opportunity further and seeing if we might raise support for it with BPN looks like it might be a doable project. More on that in the future.

On Monday morning, we were expecting our first bus experience to get home to Chisinau. We missed our intended bus, but luckily a guy with a large station wagon asked if we wanted to go with him for just 5 more lei a person. A girl about our age was also standing with us and said "I'll go if you're going," so we and a couple others hopped in the taxi and got a comfortable and fast ride back home. That was like the only money we spent the entire weekend, so we felt really blessed.

So, I hope to get back to Gagauzia sometime. I've often thought that one of the requirements for wherever we live long-term is that it has to be both Russian and Turkic speaking (like many of the post-Soviet republics). I guess we can add Comrat to that list of places where we'd consider living!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Touch of Texas (Justin)

Last week, Larry Martin, the IMB Strategy Coordinator for Moldovans, invited us to come meet with a team coming from Texas to work in Chisinau for a week.
The team was The Singing Men of South Texas, a group of Baptist music ministers who have formed a choir. There were about 30 in their group, including a few wives. While in the states they learned a few songs in Russian and Romanian, and sang them in churches and orphanages here in Chisinau, as well as did EV and construction! The normally conservative churches gave them hearty applause; people appreciate attempts to learn their languages. They've posted some pictures on their website.

I met and hung out with them for a couple hours on Friday as they were prayerwalking a neighborhood in our part of the city. While I didn't end up doing much myself, I enjoyed the fellowship and seeing how they brightened the day of many people they met. If I walk up to an old woman and hand her a Gospel tract I get a stern look. But, if you have a group of gray-haired Americans with their big smiles walking around, the people they hand tracts to just look tickled to accept whatever they give.
The Singing Men did a great job of canvassing the area. I was with Larry when he ran into some Jehovah's Witnesses and that, naturally, turned into a 20-minute conversation. There are a lot of JW's here, but that's another post.

Anyway, one of the people I met knew both Gary Rhodes (Joni's choir and praise team leader) and Chris Wommack (Joni's boss) pretty well, and it was fun to make the connection. There were several Baylor alum who wanted to talk to me about Waco and Bears Football and such.

It was just real nice to see a bit of Texas in Moldova. It's also very good to hear a Southern accent every now and again, as most of the English we hear here is with a Slavic accent. I quickly moved back into my "yes ma'am"s and "y'all"s when talking with the team.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Our Host Family (Joni)

It's shameful that it has taken me this long to introduce you to this important family in our lives here in Moldova! My only excuse is that I had been wanting to get a picture with all 7 of them together, but that is entirely impossible. I've never seen all 7 of them together myself, much less assembled to take a picture. So I ended up settling for a picture with the 4 of them that we see most often, and you'll just have to imagine the other 3. :)

The above picture was taken at our house when we had a dinner with Dan & Beth before they went back to Holland. I provided the location, Tanya provided the food. I definitely got the good end of the deal. Front row from left: Anatoli, Nelly, Tanya, and Beth. Back row from left: Slavik, Dan with baby Rebecca, and Justin.

This family is the kindest, most generous and hospitable, most patient host family we could hope to have! They have hosted people in their home (or the apartment beside their home that we live in) non-stop for the past 5 years! They are Russian speakers, so Justin has a great time talking with them and practicing his language. They are really patient in helping him learn - they've never had anyone stay here that spoke as well as Justin, so they are excited to have people staying at their home that they can communicate with beyond sign language!

Anatoli and Tanya have five children: Slavik (23), Natasha (21), Ina (19), Sasha (17), and Nelly (7). Their four oldest children are all out of school and have various jobs, which is why it's hard to coordinate their schedules enough to get them all in one place at one time!

Slavik is the oldest, and his English is pretty good. He is SUCH a nice guy and so willing to help with anything! When I first met him, he had this crazed look in his eye that I wasn't so sure what it was about - but it didn't take long for me to see that was just the joy of the Lord shining out of him. He is great!

Natasha and Ina are both deeply involved in church work and ministries to children. They both also have boyfriends who are currently living in Moscow, so they spend a lot of their time pining for them. Natasha's relationship is more serious, and they plan to be married within the next year or two. Ina is the one in the family who has the best English - she translated for me at church once and did a great job.

Sasha is the computer expert in the family, and spends all hours of the day and night on his computer. He also works with his dad in the family business of renovating minibuses, and he does a great job at that.

Nelly is the baby of the family, and she just started first grade this year. She has a little trouble hearing out of one of her ears, and so she sometimes has a hard time understanding Justin's Russian. She also has a hard time understanding that I DO NOT speak Russian - she asks me all sorts of questions every time I see her, and just stands there expectantly waiting for me to answer. Sorry, Nelly, I don't speak Russian. :)

So we are very thankful for this family, and we are glad to have them as our friends here! Please join us in praising God for them, and also in praying that He will bless them immeasurably for their kindness to us!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Andy's Pizza (Justin)

We've mentioned Andy's Pizza on here before, but a post in honor of the restaurant chain is long overdue!
You can learn a lot about Andy's from their website, which has an English translation. Recently, they introduced a "Mexican Menu," complete with Chili con Carne and Fajitas. Now, the burrito is more like Mexican Pizza (have you ever had a burrito with veal and eggplant?) but it's also quite tasty. (On the prices listed on the website, divide the Lei price by 11.6 and you have what it costs us in dollars today).

Andy's also serves an interesting breakfast, "gourmet coffee," excellent deserts and milkshakes, and of course, pizza (with your choice of thick or thin crust!).

Supposedly, Andy's was started by a Moldovan who worked for a pizza chain in the U.S. He apparently realized you can attract customers by providing quality service, playgrounds for kids, delivery, and catering especially to ex-pats. The result is that there are now 13 Andy's in Chisinau alone, and several more in other parts of the country. Here is the one that is a 5 minute walk from our house.
"Together with your family and friends you will have a wonderful time in our pizzeria picnicking among sunflowers, forest grass and children’s’ laugh. It is an ideal place for all your family, children and friends to have a rest because here, every customer will find all that he/she needs: a comfortable separate area in any hall, terrace to have supper in the open, and a playground for children."

Every Andy's has a playground for kids so parents love to go there. The food is relatively cheap, even by Moldovan standards. Many just go for desert. The service is fast, we always have our food within 30 minutes. Every item on the menu is written in English, and accompanied by a picture so you can see what it is. Every ingredient is translated into Russian and Romanian as well. So, many ex-pats and tourists practically live there.

I actually prefer their lunch menu because the selection is more national (borscht and usually something more Moldovan). We've never used the delivery service, but I'm told that they store your phone number (a la Papa Johns) and you can just tell them "my usual, please."

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Other restaurants in town offer delivery, have similar playgrounds, and I imagine are simply trying to copy Andy's success. But none offer the same high-quality service or the great website. Andy's blows McDonalds way out of the water!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lovely Day for a Wedding (Joni)

Saturday was definitely a lovely day for a wedding! Sasha, the lawyer at our office, got married on Saturday, and we had the privilege to attend! They held the wedding at a camp about 45 minutes outside of Chisinau, so we got a ride from Ghena & Alina. Apparently traditional Moldovan wedding ceremonies are REALLY long, so Ghena & Alina decided to arrive late on purpose to not have to sit through several hours of ceremony. The wedding was supposed to start at 2 in the afternoon. We arrived at 3, and so we sat through a lovely 20 minutes and then it was over! (And from what we hear, this was a short one!) The couple are both believers, so it was moving the way they used Scripture and prayed together. Their parents also got up and prayed for them during the service, which was very special. So this was definitely not your normal Orthodox Moldovan wedding.It was neat to get to see all of our coworkers dressed up for the occasion and outside the office. Below is a picture of all our coworkers. From left to right: Kelly, Victor, Alina, Ghena, Sasha & his bride Nelly, Roman, me, and Justin.
Another thing that was different about this wedding was that since the couple are Baptists, there was no dancing at the reception, which is apparently a big no-no among European Baptists. So instead, there was a 4-hour long feast. And I mean a feast! Upon walking into the reception room, the tables were already loaded full to bursting with all sorts of delicacies - meat & cheeses, pickled vegetables, fried chicken, crab cakes, fish, fresh vegetables, fruits, bread, etc. So we ate and enjoyed ourselves. The only problem is that I didn't realize that was just the first course! I filled up on those thing, and THEN they brought out big plates of stuffed pork and potatoes! So we managed to get down some of that, and THEN they brought out plates of cakes and pastries! And THEN they brought out ice cream! It was unbelievable. Even more unbelievable is that we managed to eat it all. :)In between these courses, there would be breaks - you could go out and wander around the camp, which was lovely with trees and pretty scenery. There were also some musicians playing who kept us entertained. It was all in Russian, but Justin said they were singing all Christian love songs, which seemed appropriate to me. Occasionally someone would go to the microphone and say a few words to the bride and groom, who would stand up to hear what they had to say and acknowledge their kindness. Several children got up and quoted poetry.
It was definitely a fun evening and we at least got a glimpse into Moldovan Christian culture if not Moldovan tradition. Congratulations to Sasha and Nelly!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rye Chili (Joni)

WE'RE ONLINE!!!!! As I type this, I'm sitting in our living room! Praise God for a friend of a friend who works at our internet company and graciously came to our house and fixed our wireless router for us. So hopefully our blogging and emailing will be more consistent now that we can access the internet from home. Sadly, though, I do not have a picture to post for you as Justin promised. We're going to a wedding tomorrow, so I'll have a lot of pictures of that for you!

Instead of pictures, though, I'll post a little story for you, which is where I got the title of this post. The weather is turning colder here, and I decided to make some chili for dinner. However, at the grocery store, I just couldn't find cumin, which is a spice I like to add in my chili. I did find chili powder, so I decided to make it anyway. But then I was at a different grocery store today and found a spice called chimen in Romanian. Most of the other spices' names are similar to the English names (piper, oregan, rozmarin, tim, etc.), so I thought this must be cumin! I joyfully bought it and this evening put a large amount of it in my chili. I noticed when I added it that it smelled kind of strange, but I thought maybe it had just been a long time since I'd smelled cumin and I must've forgotten what it smelled like. However, when we sat down to eat it, Justin took a whiff and said "This chili smells... different." Then he took a taste of it and said "Did you put RYE in this chili?!" (Side note: We do NOT like rye bread, and that is a very popular bread here, so we always have to be on our guard when purchasing bread. So the fact that my chili tasted like rye to Justin was NOT a good thing.) I said "No, but I think that the cumin I put in it wasn't really cumin." So I pulled out my Romanian dictionary and looked up chimen, and lo and behold, it's caraway (a spice commonly found in rye bread)! Why in the world would all the other spices have similar names to the English, and this one is just there to trick me?! So I'll definitely leave the caraway out of my next batch of chili... Ah, adventures in Moldova!

Weekend Plans (Justin)

For those of you lamenting the lack of posts by Joni this week, fear not! We're nearing the end of our long saga to have internet at home, and then she'll be able to upload pictures and stories and such.

This weekend, we're going to the wedding of one of the employees here. It will be a long afternoon of ceremony, dancing, eating, and sitting around. Good news (for me) is that most of it will be in Russian.

Speaking of Russian, here's a NY Times article about how the growing Russian middle class has led to a boom in copying American middle class sitcoms like Married With Children and The Nanny. I watched some of the Married with Children clone while sitting in my office at Baylor. It's an exact copy.

Our meetings with Moldovans and American missionaries this week have been fun and educational! We're learning a lot about Moldovan life, and the wedding will hopefully add to that knowledge.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How to Preach with a Translator (Justin)

I've heard a lot of translated sermons both in the States and Eastern Europe. It's probably one of the toughest, tedious, and most frustrating things a pastor has to do. I've never preached through translation so maybe I lack credibility to talk about this.

That said, I've sat through several good ones and several poor ones. The best and the worst of which I've experienced in the past month here. So, I've decided to compose some guidelines in the hope that someone going overseas will read them and deliver a high-quality sermon.

Why it matters: If it's not quality, it doesn't reflect badly on the preacher but rather on his national translator. He/she has to live with shame, while the preacher gets to leave the country, often oblivious to the fact that he embarrassed the translator!

I asked my father-in-law (very experienced at this)for his insights and he gave me a list of 14 points, some of which I'll include with my points.

1. Write out your entire sermon beforehand. I don't care if you don't normally do this, you need to if it's going to be translated. Word-for-word.

2. Have someone edit your sermon to take out any wordiness and American idioms. Just like you'd have someone edit a paper you turned in for Seminary or grad school. Ex: Don't say "go out of," say "leave." Don't say "under the table," say "illegal," etc. Try also to eliminate "churchy" words.

3. Print out your edited copy and give it to your translator at least a day before you preach. Let him/her become familiar with it, look up words, and ask questions about it. There may be some necessary "churchy" words that he/she needs help understanding.

4. Have a Bible in the local language ready for all quoted passages. Don't expect your translator to translate a verse from English exactly as it's written in the congregants' Bibles. (You would think this is a no-brainer, but all too often...)

5. Keep your printed copy in front of you as you preach. Read from it with passion. Try not to look down or read or as you speak; you have plenty of time to prepare your next sentence or 2 while your translator is talking, and can look up at the congregation as you speak as if you're not reading.

6. Don't ad-lib. The last thing a translator wants to hear is "oh, by the way..." Nothing ruins a well-translated sermon more than a poorly-translated tangent.

7. Don't include jokes without going over them beforehand with your translator. He/she can likely think of a similar joke, or can modify it to make it more understandable to the locals. Literally-translated jokes almost never make sense.

8. Don't quote from old hymns, anecdotes, or anything King James and expect the translator to make it understandable. Russian Baptists have many of the same (or similar) hymns that we do. If you want to quote from it, ask someone to show your translator the equivalent hymn in the Russian hymnal and let them read it.
Last week, I saw an American pastor try to make the connection "I know you know the lyrics to an old hymn.... 'sin had left its crimson stain...'" His translator didn't know what "crimson" was, and may not have understood "stain. " The American pastor eventually had to say this passage 3 times and eventually broke it down to "ugly red spot." It took literally 5 minutes and his point was completely lost in translation and in the frustration of having it translated.
*Warning!* If your translator has to ask you to clarify something during the sermon, then you've likely already lost the congregation. Get out while you can!

9. Be humble. Give a greeting from your home church, and be sure to tell the congregation how much you appreciate their hospitality.

10. Avoid telling stories from your own church unless you make your point absolutely clear. 99% of the congregants have never been to America, have no idea what American culture is really like, and cannot relate to your average congregant's life in the slightest. You go out on a limb when you say: "A man in my church is a stock broker, and understands that life is often uncertain," for example. There's a million better ways to generalize that in a way they understand (work and income are quite uncertain outside of America, too. What does having a stock broker have to do with that, and does that really matter to your sermon?).

11. Talk about what Christ is doing in your life, personally. That will help them relate to you as a fellow brother and not just a foreigner.

The first 7 points are ABSOLUTELY necessary! It doesn't matter if you never do these things for preaching at your own church. You're NOT at your own church, some things are NOT universal, and you need to be FLEXIBLE when working in another culture. Do all of the above, and you can ensure having your sermon effectively delivered. They ought to teach this stuff in seminary.

On 9/11 (Justin)

Yesterday was 9/11, and I didn't think much about it. I know a lot of people are sad and remembering, as we should be. However, without 9/11 we probably wouldn't be in Moldova. I would never have prayed for a place called Dagestan, and I wouldn't have ever thought about going to Azerbaijan. Those were good things that came out of something horrible. I don't know how 9/11 changed your life, but that's how it altered mine.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On Making Friends (Justin)

I want to briefly draw your attention to the website of Access Partners, a company started by a friend of mine that helps get Kingdom-minded businesses started in "closed" countries, primarily in Central Asia. They do interesting work, but I particularly like their statement about "Ongoing Missions Responsibilities:"

From the time of Paul to today, cross-cultural missions has required much effort and time. There are no short-cuts. All cross-cultural missionaries have the following baseline responsibilities:

  • Language: Speaking in the native language of a people group so the Gospel is clearly understood.
  • Culture: Respecting others' customs and values so discipleship is effectively addressed.
  • Church Planting: Encouraging local believers to meet together in a community to display God's glory.
I work from this same framework every day. We're working hard at #1, learning about #2 so we can figure out how microcredit can help do #3. Honestly, I think most people involved in "business as missions" have no concept of the importance of these 3 principles combined. "There are no shortcuts," Amen!

Our contacts here have been pretty limited, so Joni and I are branching out. Due to the wonders of Facebook, we're starting to connect with other folks in Moldova who aren't connected to the work we're doing. Some of them believers, some of them people who went to school in the U.S. (and thus speak English). Our goal is to start meeting with folks this week and learn more about Moldova from their perspective. Maybe this will lead to finding some aspiring entrepreneurs who might make good clients?

We're also meeting with professional American missionaries here to learn about what efforts at church planting, particularly CPMs, are taking place.

So, please pray for us as we try to make new friends and and engage the culture to learn more about it!

Monday, September 10, 2007

What do you do when 1/4 of your country is gone? (Justin)

Since we don't yet have internet at home (though much drama and trauma trying to get it there), we miss out on IM and online chats with family and friends who we've not spoken to since we've been here. We also often miss out on weekend news. So, Monday is kind of like Christmas when I get to come to the office and see what I missed (namely football scores and seeing that my beloved Hendrick Motorsports dominated the Nextel Cup race on Sunday).

But, the weekend also gives me a chance to walk around downtown and see the sites. One thing that escapes attention as you're walking around beautiful, cultural Chisinau is that there aren't as many people as there "should" be.
20-25% of the population of Moldova live abroad. That's about one in 4! I used to think it was ridiculous that 10% of Mexico lives in the U.S., but Moldova's numbers take the cake. 47% of Moldovans report having a family member abroad. 800,000 Moldovans are currently waiting for Romanian passports so they can get into the EU.

Imagine if 1/4 of the cars you see in your town were gone. Imagine with each car went someone with a proven skill. 1/4 of the plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc. Your town would be much smaller and good help would be harder to find.

As I've discussed before, that 25% of of the population abroad sends a lot of money home ($475 million from Jan. to June). That is primarily what drives the economic prosperity and growth I see around me in Chisinau, and accounts for over 27% of Moldova's GDP. Only Togo relies on remittances more than Moldova.

Who is migrating? Mostly skilled workers, and reports indicate that more people are migrating from Chisinau than from the villages (villagers migrate to Chisinau first, then abroad). The government reports that the average wage in Moldova is about $160/month. This is above the $2.15/day poverty line that the World Bank uses, but is still the lowest in Europe.

The ILO estimates that a Moldovan can make, on average, $800/month in Europe (and reports the average wage in Moldova is actually around $120/month). Pretty big gap, so it's no wonder people leave.

It's estimated that 1 in 9 Moldovan children will grow up without at least 1 parent (though given the above information I think that number is too small). This causes all kinds of obvious social problems.

But, practically, this means that if you want to find a skilled laborer for anything you're going to have a tough time. Joni's language teacher is having her apartment re-done because it was done so poorly and incompetently the first time. Everyone tells you that you can't trust who you hire because no one knows if they're a quality worker or not. You never know what you're going to get! "If they were quality, they would be working in Europe and not in Moldova."

Obviously, microcredit offers quality workers a chance to start businesses, hire skilled workers, and develop a workforce in Moldova.

But, our internet site project also offers some hope. We hope to eventually offer an evaluation system (kind of like E-Bay does) for customers to rate the services of the people who post advertisements. This will allow good workers to distinguish themselves and grow their businesses. Competition means improvement all around. We're excited about that possibility.

Please continue to pray for the site's development. We have a target date of the end of October for it to be up and running. Pray for Vasile, the chief architect, to have time and ability to work on it. There's much work to be done!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mileşti Mici (Joni)

Sorry for the lack of posts recently! We're having difficulties getting internet hooked up at home, and we haven't been to the office in a couple of days because we've been around town working on our work permits. The good news is, though, that WE HAVE THEM!!!! We went and picked them up on Wednesday afternoon. This, however, is not the last step in the process. This morning we dropped the brand new permits off at a different office to get something else. We're not even sure what it is we're getting this time, but they told us to come pick them up on September 22. So we will! Praise the Lord, though, that we passed this MAJOR hurdle of getting permission to live here for our full intended term, and please keep praying that He will bring the process to completion.

On to the title of this post: Alcohol is a large part of Moldovan society. There is even a Chisinau brand of beer that is manufactured and bottled right here in the city. However, Moldova is known all over Europe for its good wine. When we discovered that one of its finest vineyards is just a few minutes outside of Chisinau, we had to go visit and find out how they do it! So we, together with the Staffords and Kelly, booked a tour.The name of the place is Mileşti Mici (pronounced mee-lesh-tee meech). It's about 15 minutes outside of Chisinau, and we managed to get a tour that included transportation. So a van picked us up at 9:30 am, we arrived at Mileşti Mici at about 9:50, and our tour started at 10. The coolest thing about this wine-making facility is that it is all underground! They have miles of tunnels in which they make, mix, store, age, and bottle wine. Our tour guide (a 19-year-old Moldovan girl who spoke excellent English) said that about 70% of the wine they make is red, 20% is white, and the other 10% is sweet and sparkling wines.When they first make the wine, they store it in giant barrels and let it age for varying amounts of time. Then, they bottle it and store it in their miles and miles of storage. (They are, in fact, in the Guiness Book of World Records as being the largest underground wine-making facility in the world, and also having the largest collection of wine stored!) When it has aged according to their desire, they put it up for sale. It sounds simple, but there was a lot that goes into the process!One of the things we found most interesting about Mileşti Mici was a tidbit from its history. Apparently, in 1985, the Soviets outlawed the manufacture or consumption of alcohol (Our guide said that was because too many of them were spending their days drunk instead of working!), so they came in and destroyed the whole facility, including their massive reserves of wine. However, they had a secret room hidden behind a moveable wall (the middle section in the picture below), in which they hid as much as they could. So now there is only a small amount left of any of their wine from before 1985, and that stuff is really only for collectors now. All of the wine they sell now was made in 1986 or after, because they repealed the law less than one year later!So we had an excellent time seeing this unique part of Moldovan culture and history.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Moldovan Independence Day (Joni)

Last Monday, Moldova celebrated it's 16th Independence Day - August 27, 2007. It was quite a celebration, and living in the capital city, we were able to go downtown and be a part of the festivities. Downtown was PACKED with people, and the later it got the more people were there. This picture was taken looking down the main street early in the evening. On the right in the distance is the red canopy covering the main stage. On the left is The Holy Arch, that stands in front of Chisinau's main cathedral. The booths and tables were set up along that side of the street behind the arch. The Moldovans are PROUD of their independence! They even closed a block of the main street later in the evening to allow the crowds to fill the street.
When we first arrived, at about 6:30 p.m., there was a large stage set up in the main square, and there were local musicians performing traditional music. We spent about an hour strolling the booths and tables that were set up along the main street. We ate pastries, ice cream, and even found some barbecue Lay's potato chips! (Now that's a reason to celebrate right there!)

Then we went back to the stage to watch the national dance troupe called "Joc!" These dancers were amazing! There were about 12 men and 12 women performing various traditional Moldovan dances. They literally danced for an hour. They would finish one dance, go backstage to change costumes while a singer sang one song, then they'd come back out for another 10-15 minute dance. Man, they were great! My camera isn't great at capturing night-time photos (It certainly couldn't be the photographer's fault!), so these pictures are kind of fuzzy. Hopefully you'll be able to at least get the idea.
The crowd was so festive and fun - they even broke out into spontaneous dancing throughout the evening!One interesting thing about this crowd, though, was that nobody was drinking any kind of alcohol, and they weren't selling it at the booths either. Our only guess is that they must've been stopping people from bringing it in in order to keep a family-friendly atmosphere. It was so nice to be a part of a group that was in such high spirits, and nobody was drunk!

Then at 9:00, there came the fireworks show! It was seriously one of the best fireworks displays I've ever seen in my life! Part of my enjoyment may just have been because the crowd was so into it. They enjoyed it way more than any American crowd I've been a part of before. After the fireworks, more singers started, but we decided to go ahead home to try to avoid the going-home traffic. It was definitely a fun time, and we felt like we experienced a part of true Moldova that day.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Your Daily Dose of Romanian (Joni)

We don't have internet hooked up at home yet, so I won't be able to post more pictures until Monday. In the meantime, however, some of you were wanting to know how my language study is coming, so I'll tell you about that. IT'S GOING GREAT!!!!!! Romanian is very similar to French, and there are a lot of words that are the same as English. So although I've only had 11 classes, I'm able to get around pretty well. I can go to the fruit & vegetable market by myself and come home with all the things I wanted in the amounts I wanted! I can ride on a minibus and get off at the right place. So my practical language is definitely coming along. The grammar, though, is somewhat difficult and confusing for some things, so I thought I'd give you an example by giving you your Romanian word for the day:


Yes, that word had THREE i's at the end of it. It means "the children." The word for "child" is copil. To pluralize it and make it "some children," you take off the l and add another i, copii. To make it definite, instead of adding the word "the" at the beginning, you instead add ANOTHER i to the end, making it copiii. It's pronounced ko-pee-ee. Niiiiice. :)