“You eat like a Moldovian” my host said to me (through a translator as I don’t speak much Romanian and he doesn’t speak much English). To me, this was a huge compliment. Its very interesting as I travel in many different cultures that each culture seems very proud of its food. So whenever I am in a place, I don’t try to figure out what the food is or try and figure out what it will taste like before I eat it. Instead I watch my hosts and see how they put the food on their plate and do the same (sometimes in smaller quantities though). I just try to experience the food as they do. My main rule is – “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. If you don’t know what the food is, then you probably won’t have a problem eating it. I also keep in mind, that what some people say is “disgusting” in one place, others will say is a delicacy somewhere else.
For me, this is a part of my striving to be like Jesus. Not that I was being polite or anything like that but that Jesus came to Earth to experience being human. He was fully God but he was also fully human. He knows what its like to live on this earth as a human being. He knows because he experienced it.
Communitas (http://www.Communitas.md) is an organization about improving the standards of life in Moldova one village at a time. The first village that they are working on is Antonesti where they have purchased the old Communist bath house (no indoor plumbing in this village so to get a bath, it was either out at your garden or the bath house – although Communisim fell before this bath house was completed). In this building they are putting in small businesses that help the community but to survive, they have to be profitable. The first business they have put in is an Internet Café. Future businesses are to be a pasta factory, tailoring shop, greenhouse, and possibly a mini-hotel. There are other ideas for the rest of the space. To the community, this will be a hub of commerce in the town.
Internet Café? How is that helpful to a small village? In many different ways: Computer skills are the job skills that are in demand so in the Internet Café, they run courses to help people know how to use the computers. The computer center can also be used by the businesses for producing marketing materials or building up clientele outside of their one village. It gives ways like email and Skype for people to communicate with family members who have had to move to find work in other villages, countries and even those on other continents. The Café is equipped with a projector so that they can conduct different seminars like teaching better farming techniques and business administration. The Internet Café is the ideal first business to start a change like this in a village.
My job in coming to here was to help make the computer center more efficient (so as to be more profitable), a safer Internet surfing experience and to train people to a deeper level on using the computers (they are Linux based). So we installed some free Internet Café controlling software to help them be able to control people’s times on computers more efficiently. Before, the administrator/operator would just write down when they came in and when they stopped working on the computer and then figure out how much they owed. Now the users put money onto their account and when they log in, the system automatically deducts from their account as they use the computer. When the log out, it stops deducting from their account. We also set up some Internet filtering on their Internet connection using a free service called OpenDNS (http://www.OpenDNS.com). Before the fall of Communism, they didn’t know that pornography existed as it was illegal but since the fall, it has flourished and now seems to be common place on most websites that are in Russian and Romanian (the languages of Moldova). This filtering will help them keep that in check along with filtering gambling sites and other malicious websites that scam users. Lastly, I got to teach a class to several people about going beyond the basics of Linux and learning how to use it more fully. This was neat as two days before the class, we were on a bus (and that’s an experience for another blog) when we got to talking to the man in front of us who turns out to be the computer teacher at the school in Antonesti. When he found out we were teaching this Linux class, he asked if he could send over some students. We happily said yes. He sent over 6 teenagers who sat very attentively and soaked in all that I said. I can already tell you who the first hacker will be in this village!
Communitas is a group of people who are establishing business that will help this village and the people in it greatly. But in the bigger picture, the village, which is mainly culturally Orthodox (means they will claim to be Orthodox but can’t remember the last time they went to Church and still don’t recognize the name of Jesus when you say it), knows that the center is run by these Christians but it serves the needs of the village and the people of Communitas speak unabashedly about why they want to help the village – because Jesus loves them all! The people of Communitas aren’t some people who come in for a week or two and leave (except for helpers like me). They are Moldovians who grew up here, live here and have experienced life just like everyone else here – through the bad times and the even worse times. But unlike many in the village, they do have something different – they have a hope and joy in life that comes only through knowing Jesus Christ and instead of waiting for people to come into the church, they are going out into the village to share that hope and joy through the services they offer.
Check out the pictures of Moldova in the photo album and let me know if you’d be interested in joining me on one of my trips back to Moldova to help with the computer center or to do construction to get the other businesses going or to help build a bridge that people won’t fall through (see the pictures).