Monday, October 05, 2009

Rural Urbanity

One thing I love about living in Iasi is that I get a little bit of urban life and a little bit of rural life all smack together. Though Iasi is by no means an enormous metropolis, it's certainly a bustling city of 350,000, and the second largest city in Romania at that. But unlike American cities of comparable size (e.g., St. Louis), here in Iasi once you leave the center of town you are just as likely to see horse-drawn carts as motor-driven cars. Hence signs like these, which basically captures the essence of this article in one tiny little snapshot:
This situation is seriously ideal for someone like me. I love this combination of urban and rural living. I have never lived in suburbia, don't understand it, don't get it AT ALL. It kind of freaks me out. Lots of houses, all looking the same, endlessly stretching on and on and on. And a few strip malls and TGIFridays. Right. I grew up in a town of 300 people and then moved to Philadelphia for college and then off to New York City. Pretty much the extremes. And I love elements of both lifestyles, so in either I often feel a longing for the other. But here I GET BOTH. I get the bustling city life, public transport, fast-paced-ness, and culture (and ok, it's all a bit tempered by Easter Europeyness) of a city, but I ALSO get serious amounts of grape vines (and apple, quince, and plum trees) growing in my back yard:
And cheap cheap cheap veggies at the farmer's market, where the farmers literally came from just outside the city limits:
It's all quite lovely and balances out what has up until now been a battling dichotomy. Yes, dichotomies can battle. This all jives very nicely in my brain and with my lifestyle, but one thing still not only amuses me tremendously but really truly seems strange. And it is this: here in Iasi there aren't laws against having livestock at your personal home. So. That means that the average Romanian property with a little house, mom, dad, kids, two fierce guard dogs, tomato plants, and flowers ALSO has a few chickens. Or a lot of chickens. Or maybe a pig if you're feeling particularly domestic. You're walking down the street and in between the honking and barking you hear clucking and cock-a-doodle-dooooing. On more than one occasion I have been woken up by the intense squeal of a pig being slaughtered. Next door. Or a chain saw cutting wood for the winter. At 6:30am. Unfortunately a few months prior to my arrival they passed a law so that people could no longer keep horses on their property. Now one only sees a few stray ones down by the "river" occasionally:
I would have to say that my most spectacular sighting came in the past week, and it was fabulously wonderfully shockingly amazing. Let me just show you:
Yes, you're seeing that correctly. Ostriches. These are only two of four, as I understand it from Dave and Erin, who live across the street from these little guys. Apparently this family gets a few ostriches each fall and raises up the little suckers for meat. I hope not eggs. Oh my word, there are no words. I mean, I get out of my taxi, walk up the street, and shazaam BABY OSTRICHES. This is the kind of thing you read about in children's books where children walk through wardrobes into other worlds. Oh but this is real life folks. My real life. And I love it. Just when I thought nothing could shock me, I've been proven wrong. Who knows, maybe when it comes time to slaughter those not-so-little-by-then guys, Dave and Erin (and thereby me) will be the beneficiaries of some really fresh meat.

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