Making New Friends in Selemet, MoldovaThere doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to do everything that has been planned for us. I am finally getting a few minutes to write the blog as we travel home from the Village town of Selemet where we have been honored guests all day. It's 6:47 and we have about an hour and half drive home.
We met this morning at 9:00 am, boarded our mini busses, and arrived in Selemet around 11:00. The mayor of Selemet, a lovely exuberant woman, native to the village, met us at the Town Community Center. Tatiana Badan has been the mayor here since 2010, winning a second term in 2014.
Mayor Badan welcomed us warmly. She attended an Open World training in America - Columbus, Ohio and she said it opened her mind. It reminds me of the quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, "A mind that has been stretched, never returns to its original dimensions." She is quite fond of America not only because it has changed her way of thinking about governance and democracy, but because her daughter has recently gotten a green card and has moved to Panama City, Florida, and she hopes to visit us again. Reciprocating her welcome with gratitude from our Friendship Force, our Exchange Director, George, bestowed a few California gifts on the Mayor....almonds and a Sacramento Kings Baseball cap.
Since her election, Tatiana is changing her village and the people love her for it. In the last election she received 100 percent of the vote. At its height, Selemet had 4,000 residents, today there are 1,100 residents in this rural, agricultural community where the average salary is $150.00 a month.
The exodus of people out of the village and out of the country (even her own daughter) is due to low wages even for highly knowledgable and skilled people who simply cannot sustain a living in the town. For those who have stayed Mayor Bodan works diligently through grant writing and active solicitation of sponsorship to bring in enough non-tax revenue to make necessary enhancements to an old, post Soviet-era village.
The Mayor explained that the Soviets are gone but the tradition of a top heavy centralized government, leaves little trickle down to the grassroots level for the local people's needs. The school was in disrepair, the people had no community hall, children from poor families had no hope of a better life, residents growing old were not receiving care and nutrition they needed. They have numerous challenges and she is taking them on one at a time.
The American Embassy to some extent, and a non-profit NGO from Norway to a great extent has been financially assisting in the renovations of the village center. We spent the day with Mayor and residents of her community as we viewed the extensive progress that has been made with inconsistent to non existent government support, private donations and the shear imagination and determination of the Mayor and her staff of eleven.
Most of the changes have been made at this point to benefit the children of the community by providing them with an excellent place to learn and be creative. Many of these children are from the most vulnerable families who may make less than $25.00 a week, may have disabilities or parents that have alcohol problems. The mayor's goal for these children is that they learn well, prosper, and have an opportunity to stay in the community when they are grown. She practices what many politicians mouth, but do nothing about. Children are the future.
We were given a tour of town hall,
Classrooms for kindergarten and elementary school children,
|Nap time at school - up to two hours|
The community museum.
In the conference room, we took a break around 1:00 for coffee, tea, and biscuits while the Mayor explained the projects, challenges, and her hope that Friendship Force will help in some way to champion the changes.
She provided us with some Moldovan wines, and we (FFI VP, Chris) presented her with one of two suitcases loaded with donations of children's clothing and school supplies. (The other suitcase, lost temporarily in Istanbul, has been found and is on its way to Moldova...hopefully still filled with donations we brought over.)
After our town halll and community tour, we had a delicious lunch of chicken vegetable, noodle soup, roasted potatoes, chicken, and fresh summer salad of tomatoes and cucumbers. Immediately, following lunch we were whisked away to a cheese making factory that has been newly established in the village, where we sampled cheese.
It was a very short visit as we needed to get to the cultural center, where we were treated to a wonderful Moldovan style "evening gathering", where neighbors, friends, and family gather in their great room to work on hand crafts, sing, play instruments, dance, eat, and drink.
We were served placintei, Moldovan dumpling sfilled with potatoes, and a non-alcohol beer made from grains.
When we thought our fun, and food filled afternoon was almost over, we were invited to a local village home. It was neat and clean, but lacked indoor plumbing and water, apparently typical of the village.
The woman who made the invitation to us, is the kindergarten teacher at her school, in addition to being an accomplished weaver and seamstress. Naturally we had to buy something from her, and enjoyed the visit to her home.
|Cellar Storage of Pickled Foods|
Still not over, on our way home, we stopped at one of our Moldovan host tour organizers family home where her mother and sister had prepared fresh melon slices for us and we had a restroom break.
It is now almost 8:00 pm and we are just entering the city limits of Chisinau. We are beat, and tomorrow we have another full day.