This is one of the main forms of transportation around Chișinău. It costs 3 Moldovan lei per ride, which is less than $0.30. And at least once a week, we take a rutiera into the capital city from our suburb.
The best way that I can think to describe what a rutiera looks like is to think, first, of a medium-sized party bus, then take out all the bells and whistles. They’ve got about 10 rows of seats in length: the back row has four seats, then the two rows in front of that have three across (two on one side, an aisle, and a single seat on the other), then the rest of the rows are just pairs of seats on one side of the vehicle. If all the seats are taken, people stand in the remaining space and hang on to the nearest seat, metal bar, or person.
There’s a Peace Corps joke about how many people can fit on these vehicles: always one more! But really, it’s true. Sometimes the rutieras get so crowded that, just when you think there is no humanly possible way that one more person could fit on the vehicle, three more squeeze through the door. Rutieras are like the Mary Poppins bag of transportation vehicles.
Masă is the word for table. Sometimes I feel like the rutiera rule can be applied to their tables – there’s always room for just one more! Moldovans are very hospitable and welcoming, and they always make sure their guests have enough food and drink. (For those of you who don’t know, many Moldovans make their own wine, vodka and cognac. I have yet to taste homemade vodka, but I have had some homemade wine and cognac. Both the wine and liquor are usually served in a large shot glass, and you can sip or throw it back. Personally, I like to take a more cautious approach and just sip.)
Curat is the word for “clean.” One thing that I admire about Moldovans is how well they care for their belongings. The houses are cleaned often and thoroughly, everyone removes and leaves their shoes in the entry way every time they come into the house, the dishes are washed immediately after meals (at least in my home), and surfaces are kept clear. They tend to their gardens and fill their front yards with flowers. There are so many roses planted in the neighborhood where I’m living now – it’s absolutely beautiful. They clean and polish their shoes and press their clothes. Like I said, I admire how meticulous they are in caring for their belongings.
How big is your garden?
I’ve gotten this question a couple of times, and I just explain that Arizona doesn’t really have fertile soil, so my parents only have fruit trees. In contrast, Moldova has some of the best soil in the world. Almost anything will grow here, which allows families to plant and grow a lot of their own food.
Moldovans greet each other according to the time of day. So, in contrast to the simple “hello” or “hi” you might get in the States, they say “Buna dimineața” (good morning), “Buna ziua” (good day), and “Buna seara” (good evening). It’s quite refreshing!
Those were just a few fun facts I could think of off the top of my head. I only wish there was a better way to share this experience with everyone at home. You’re in my thoughts, all! And just know that I’m having a wonderful time exploring this new culture. I’m drinking it in…just like the tea I have with breakfast, after most meals, and before I go to bed at night. It’s delicious!