I suppose visiting a foreign country like Moldova is rather like getting into a really cold pool. There are, by my reckoning, three ways to go about this: slowly, quickly, and involuntarily. For the purposes of this discussion, we shall focus on the last - being thrown in head first.
It was only my second day in Moldova - and I was to attend a wedding. In America, this means church pews, organ music, tears, and a general sense of solemnity. In Moldova, this means a ten hour dance party, punctuated by feasting, drinking, feasting, dancing, drinking, and feasting. And if you didn't think you could punctuate dancing with dancing, you are sorely mistaken. Me - I was just sore.
What kind of dancing? The Hora. Over and over and over again. Every ten minutes, the trumpet player would stand up, and the Hora music would start (imagine playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" for ten hours - I still don't know how he did it.) Twenty to thirty people would then circle up and start Hora-ing thier hearts out. If my wedding is half this fun...
The truly amazing part of the wedding came when the basket was passed around. Every family in attendance gave the newlywed couple around 100 US dollars. That's a month's earnings for the average household in Moldova. There were over a hundred people in attenance - which means that a wedding brings in enough money for a couple to start a real life together.
The groom is a student at the University of Alabama. He will be returning there for the next two years to finish his degree - which means that the couple will have precious little time together before he leaves. Why not take her with him? Because it is almost impossible for Moldovans to get visas to other countries. If you are an American, you are used to traveling freely from nation to nation. For someone from a poor country like Moldova, this is completely impossible - "we" simply don't want "them" in our country. Think about that, next time you cross a border by flashing your coveted blue passport.