This past Friday, March 8th, was a busy one. On top of being International Women’s Day, I joined some of my host family and traveled to Iasi, Romania.
International Women’s Day is a day celebrated throughout the world that honors women. (You can see that name speaks for itself.) In former Soviet Union countries, the day is an important holiday. Schools had the 7th and 8th off, public offices are closed, and many celebrations, concerts, and feasts take place. For example, on the 7th, my host mom went to a concert in the “big” city near us. My village had a little concert, featuring some of the young students. And I know many other volunteers who had plays, concerts, and big feasts to commemorate the day.
For the actual day of International Women’s Day, I joined two host sisters, a host brother-in-law, and a host niece on an adventure to Iasi, Romania. Due to where my village is located and what my host family needed to get, it was more convenient for us to go there.
It was my first experience going through a border not at an airport. That was an interesting experience, but uneventful. It probably took us under an hour to get through the border.
This was my first time through Romania. At first glance, it seemed just like Moldova; rural – check; horse and cart – check, Romanian language -check. But then as we got to Iasi, I began to see things differently. Very little Russian was present at all. Of course, Romania being in the European Union, I saw many other languages on the tags of clothes and tech gear, but no Russian.
The city itself has around 362,000 or so people (making it the second largest city in Romania -according to Wikipedia). So it is smaller than Chisinau. However, we were at a mall that is next to the palace of Culture. So with all the many people coming and going, I felt like I was in a completely different world. And when you compare it to my normal day-to-day life, it was. My village has around 3,000 people (on paper). From 3,000 to 300,000 is a large jump. So it was a huge change. I’d compare it to someone from a small Midwest town experiencing Chicago for the first time.
The difference between Iasi and Chisinau, especially on this first experience, is that I’ve gotten used to Chisinau to the point that it doesn’t feel so large anymore. Additionally, Chisinau has so many parks and green space that I never feel overwhelmed by people (but check back in with me come summer when more people will be outside and enjoying the parks).
Before arriving in Moldova, I had only briefly heard of Iasi. I definitely could not have pointed to where it was on a map or anything. But I have learned a lot about this city. It is the “Cultural Capital of Romania” and has historically been the capital of the Principality of Moldavia, United Principalities, and briefly the capital of Romania. Even today, it is still referred to as The Moldavian Capital. Reading about Iasi and its history (the first written document to still exist references the city in 1408), and cultural importance (cultural buildings, famous Romanian writers- Ion Creanga and Mihai Eminescu- had their works published in the city, and the vast diversity of cultures) makes me appreciate being able to get to see parts of this amazing city.
In the end, the day was long, but totally enjoyable. I was able to see a new country and city, I was able to spend time with my host family, and I was able to celebrate a day to honor all the women in my life.
As the days get longer and warmer, it’s still never bad to sit back and drink a cup of joe. Until next time.