Winter is coming and although the official start is not until December if you were to ask me winter arrived officially this weekend. And of course with winter comes an increase of sicknesses so now is as good a time as any to describe how sickness in Moldova is treated slightly different then it is in America. (To tell the truth I wrote this last year and the real reason I'm posting it now is because I only just now found my handwritten version of this hidden away in one of my notebooks...)
Now the first most important difference is what is known as the current in Moldova. It is a very bad idea to have a door and a window open or even two windows open at the same time, as this would create what we think of as a draft, or as they say, a current through the room. This current is seen as bad for you and can lead to catching a cold. Even in the middle of the summer when the heat is above 90 and there are 30 people packed in a van it is very common that they will not open more then one window or in especially unlucky cases not even one window for fear of the current.
Another difference is the importance of keeping your feet warm. When you arrive home or at someone else’s home you are expected to always take off your shoes before you go inside. There is usually a rug beside the door that has been placed there to be a convenient place to stand on with your bare (or sock-covered) feet before you enter the house. Leaving the rug and walking on the cold ground without shoes is avoided as much as possible. This has been an adjustment for me because, for one, I’m not used to taking my shoes off so much and number two my lack of balance is made apparent to everyone everywhere I go.
Lastly, as with your feet you also have to avoid sitting on the ground but this has quite a different reasoning as it isn’t so much to avoid getting sick but in fact to avoid freezing your eggs, both male and female equivalents. Doing so can lower your chances of having children in the future. There are two ways to avoid freezing anything of importance, the first is to simply place something on the ground under you. Similar to the rug used to keep your feet from getting cold. Anything will do: a towel, another item of clothing you aren’t wearing, even a manila folder. When you are especially tired and have no other resources to work with or simply too tired to even bother you can indulge in what is called by PCV’s the Moldovan squat. The Moldovan squat is named as such because it is quite different from the American squat. The main difference being that the knees tend to stay closer to the chest and the feet stay flat on the ground. This position is used most frequently by Moldovan men or younger children, however, it also happens to be the same position for utilizing toiletless bathrooms.
If you are unlucky enough to fall prey to a disease or sickness the easiest cure is vodka, similar in the way you might see whiskey used in America. This is something I have not witnessed as much in my village or with my host mother but other volunteers have told me that no matter what you might complain about the solution to your problem is most likely vodka. And in addition to the benefits of simply drinking vodka it is also be used to relieve sore muscles through the use of a vodka massage.
As the weather continues to turn toward the lower end of the thermometer I continue to find myself more and more daydreaming of summer. I can already tell this is going to be a very long winter, no matter if it is mild or extreme one. And can you believe that I only have about a month more of school until winter break? Talk about how time flies.