TAMARA’S FAMILY’s water supply was a well about a dozen feet from the house. It was a cylindrical hole in the ground whose walls were made of concrete that stood a couple feet into the air. On its top was a steel cover, which had to be pushed back to reveal the well’s ten-foot shaft. At the bottom was about a foot of clear water.
In the past, they had a small pump that brought the water to the kitchen sink. It had since broken and they could not afford to repair it, which Tamara related to me with a sneer. Now, to get water out, a steel bucket was dropped down into the well while someone clutched the rope tied to its handle. The bucket was drawn up and then carried to a water container in the kitchen.
The summer had been very dry so far. Their house was built on the top of a hill and, like the other homes in the same area, they had problems with their well running low. Water trucks had to come to refill them. Later in the summer, the storms finally did come, which turned out to be a mixed blessing. We lost electricity during every heavy rainfall.
MIRCEA DID NOT COME HOME every weekend even though Chisinau was less than an hour away by bus. The few times he did, he was kept busy helping with the gardening, the feeding of the animals and maintaining the house.
We did hang out together once. On a Saturday evening, we meet up with some other Peace Corps Volunteers-in-training at the village disco, which a couple young locals organized on the weekends in the town hall of the village. On the first floor people hung around talking and drinking. A small folding table had been set up to sell bottles of beer, cigarettes and snacks. We walked past them and went up a tired looking staircase to the dance floor.
Every time we danced the Moldovans would stop and stare at us. Having only one CD player, pauses came in between each song of European techno or American hip-hop, as a new disc was put on. During one of these breaks in the music, I walked off the dance floor and over to a wall. I leaned against it and observed the room, which had a dirty tile floor and a couple of colored lights that cast everything in gloomy shadows. Tamara had told me that Nicole’s band used to play here and she loved to come listen to him. I wondered if the room had looked old and worn out back then or fresh and new.
Mircea came and stood next to me. His white pants and long sleeve shirt made his tall lanky frame stand out in the dim light. He shouted into my ear above the music things like, “Don’t dance with that girl. She’s crazy!”
Eventually, everyone gathered in the center of the room in a circle. I moved closer and saw two young guys break dancing in the middle. They spun themselves around with only their palms touching the floor and backs perfectly horizontal before fluidly popping into a handstand. Brian, another Peace Corps trainee, lived with them and their mother, who worked in a bank in a nearby town. He told me that their father had moved to Italy to work in a coffee factory and sent money home. Neither of the brothers had a steady job, even though one had training in refrigeration repair, so they spent hours learning to imitate moves from break dancing videos.
After the break dancing finished, Mircea and I headed home. We walked up the hill carefully as the only sources of illumination were stars and the weak, hazy beams of light leaking from people’s windows. He asked me what I thought of Moldova and I told him that it was a beautiful country. During that summer, the small hills were covered with green and the plots of flowers in front of people’s homes were in full bloom.
I regret not knowing that this exchange would be our last. All I said to him after we reached home was “good night” as I went to my room. I would have liked to have told him that I admired his sacrifice for his sister.