Giurgiulesti villagers give work ethic new meaning

In regard to international travel, one thing is certain: your expectations will be blown away. Such is the case with our  travels in Moldova, in Eastern Europe. Our UW-Eau Claire group has been exploring the world of Moldova, including the small village of Giurgiulesti. This village now holds a dear place in our hearts, which was evident by the tears that flowed as we said farewell last week. It is amazing how even through a language barrier love can still be communicated.

Aside from the many interviews for our research projects and the teaching we did with the village students,  I learned many lessons of Moldovan culture and collected fond memories in Giurgiulesti. We often brag of our American work ethic, especially those of us from the Midwest.  I can brag no longer. I was astounded by the Moldovan way of life and  ashamed of what I used to consider “hard work.”

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Every Giurgiulesti home features a garden where the family grows its food for the year. © 2013 Rachel Debner

Each home in Giurgiulesti has a beautiful garden with rows of grape vines in the backyard. Cherry trees, pear trees, tomato plants, herbs and other plants are scattered throughout their gardens. Among all of the gardens sit pens of chickens and ducks. The typical small Moldovan homestead  is a full-time job.  Gardening isn’t a hobby,  it is a way to sustain life.

The economic situation in Moldova doesn’t allow for a life of relaxation and free time. A vacation is a dream and travel is an impossibility for the average village person. Most families use their garden to provide what their income can’t.

Most of the women not only tend to the garden and animals, but have a full-time job. For instance, my host mom is the village nurse. She heads to her office at the school by 8 a.m. and is back before supper. She  wakes at the crack of dawn to tend to the garden and make the meals before leaving. There is no rest for her when she returns from school. She heads right to the plants that need watering, chickens that need feeding, or cherries that need picking. Bedtime comes long after the sun sets.It seems there is no end when it comes to work. As a result, there is great sacrifice. For instance, my host mother spent her Saturday picking all of the cherries to sell the next day at a market in a nearby town. The profit of the sales was for diapers that are to be a gift for her soon-to-be grandson.

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Villagers raise their own chickens and either use them for family meals or sell them on market day. © 2013 Rachel Debner

It was mind-blowing to see a culture that is so diligent in its work and sacrificial with its time and leisure. The people of Moldova bring a new standard to work-ethic. They accomplish more in a day than I would in weeks. Yet, for the many jobs they do they don’t get to experience luxury or rest. Through my eyes the life in the village is far too difficult.

However, I’ve also discovered such beauty in the difficulty. There is beauty in how the Moldovan culture takes joy in the little moments of rest. There is beauty  in time spent sharing sunflower seeds with the neighbors. There is beauty in the fresh juice made from homegrown berries. There is beauty in the all-natural meals. There is beauty  in the wrinkled and worn-out skin of the people of Moldova.

They deserve credit for their hard work, but they also deserve to be acknowledged for their beauty — a true beauty. The Moldovan people in the village are the hardest workers I know. They may not whistle while they work, but their smiles and joys showed me that they value their diligence and they will work until there is no more work to do.

Rachel Debner, Organizational Communication

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