(Side note: Yes, I do know how to spell family in English. The above is how actually it’s written in Romanian. =)
I think I mentioned before, during our technical training, we all shared about our backgrounds and how we came to join the Peace Corps. And one of the Peace Corps employees from Moldova talked a little about her childhood, living with her family and grandparents in a very small space, and, in the winter, gathering around the heat source in the kitchen and listening to her grandparents tell stories. (Keep in mind, she’s just a few years older than me, so this is a fairly recent norm for Moldovan families.) But it reminded me of some of the stories I’ve heard my grandparents tell over the years, and stories my mom has told us about visiting her grandparents growing up. And it makes me a little sad that, in many ways, we’ve sort of lost that in the States. It feels so far in our past. Maybe we spend time with each other, but a lot of that time involves some other form of entertainment. It’s almost as though we can’t just sit with each other anymore. Allow me to elaborate…
My first week in Moldova, I went to a dinner party with my host sisters and a couple of other volunteers from another family. After the fact, one of the other volunteers pointed out that Moldovans seem to be more comfortable with breaks of silence. And I didn’t really notice it at the time, but now I’m definitely starting to pick up on that. In comparison, I think we like to try and avoid any uncomfortable pauses in conversation in the States. We get anxious; someone starts a new topic; we don’t like to sit in silence.
I want to be careful in the way I present this idea, because I don’t want to make Americans seem like we’re uncaring, unconnected, busy individualists with no desire to converse with other people. I don’t think that’s true. But I do think we hear the ticking of the clock more than other cultures. And my fear is that maybe we’re quickly moving away from spending quality time developing relationships, and toward a way of life that puts less value in human connection.
And, as always, there are exceptions to this rule. It varies between families, between people, and between times of the year (during holidays, for example). But I just wanted to share that, because it impacted me in that moment, and made me long for the romance that comes along with living simply (why do I feel like I’m making reference to Thoreau’s Walden here?). And I guess challenge anyone reading this is to have a night just sitting down with family or friends, leave the technology in the other room, ignore the ticking of the clock, and just enjoy being together.