Animals of Moldova
I live in Moldova with two cows, one pig, three dogs, two cats and unknown quantities of rabbits, chickens, geese and turkeys.
As an American who grew up in suburbs or small cities, with no animals other than cats, dogs and hamsters, I’ve learned a lot since I began serving a few months ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer here in eastern Europe.
My neighbors give names to their cows based on the days of week. I found this out as I was sitting on a minibus with a Moldovan friend. She was telling me about growing up in her village and walking her cow to the lake. She had such fond memories and said the name of her cow with such delight that I had to smile and ask her about it. She then explained the local cow-naming tradition.
When I arrived at my permanent site, I wanted to know if my family had weekday names for its cows, too. My host mom cheerfully let me know that, yes, her cows are named Lulică (luni- Monday) and Marțiănă (marți - Tuesday). She, too, said the names in an adoring way. I asked her about the names for the other days of the week; she said they were Mericuță (miercuri – Wednesday), Joiană (joi- Thursday) and Vineră (vineri- Friday).
My host family takes great pride in owning its cows and enjoys telling humorous stories about them, hoping I will understand in my limited Romanian. One of these stories was about cows and bomboane. I laughed with the people at the table as the story was told but wasn’t clear what they meant by bomboane, which usually means candy. The next evening the cows arrived home and I stepped outside to greet them. One was pulling grapes off the vines that cover the patio. The grapes were the bomboane! The joke referred to this natural candy, which Moldova has in abundance.
Our family’s cows go out to the pasture every day with many other cows in the village. A little after sunrise and the first milking, people walk their cows to a meeting spot and a few villagers then guide the cows to a neighboring pasture. The group pays and provides food to a herder to take care of the animals during the day and to send them back home in the evening. A little before sunset, we open the side gate for our cows to come into the yard. If we’re running late, the cows herald a few loud “Moos” to let us know they are home.
Besides the cows, I am getting to know more about turkeys and geese. I regularly see rafters of turkeys and gaggles of geese wandering around our village streets, usually near my house. Our rafter of turkeys goes out in the morning and returns early in the evening. They spend the whole time pecking through the grasses to see what food they can find. On hotter days, someone leaves them bowls of water to make sure they don’t get thirsty.
The turkeys scurry out of the way when someone walks near. Not so with the geese. Adult geese are very protective of their young and will stretch out their necks and aggressively hiss at you. I’ve found it difficult to navigate village streets without encountering the hissing. Other Volunteers say they’ve changed their path to school or work to avoid the areas where geese hang out.
Even though Moldova’s geese can be aggressive, they are fun to watch waddling down the street, squawking away. I keep imaging them singing songs. I hear them singing, “On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again” when they come running onto the street from a side patch of grass, or “We are the champions!” when they force me to run up a hill and off the road to get around them.
Each day I learn a little more about what it means to take care of livestock, especially how to prepare for feeding them during the cold winter months ahead. It’s an education I never expected when I was girl growing up in the suburbs.