Pumpkin Experiences

Traces of autumn are everywhere in Moldova now. The trees are changing color, the temperatures are getting cooler, and I have already attended my first fall festival of the season. The Bostaniada Festival (pumpkin festival) is an annual outdoor festival celebrating fall complete with a stage for music and dancing, craft vendors selling traditional goods, fun games and activities for children, and food vendors selling traditional Moldovan food and pumpkin-y goodies.

Bostanadia 2014 - pumpkins are everywhere!
Bostanadia 2014 – pumpkins are everywhere!
The stage at Bostanadia while two young musicians sang songs.
The stage at Bostanadia while two young children sang songs dressed in traditional Moldovan costume.

The past couple of months/weeks leading up to this event, some of my site mates had been working on preparing a food booth for this festival to sell American pumpkin pies, pumpkin bars, and pumpkin cookies. Proceeds benefited Speranta Terrei, an organization that works to fight and treat tuberculosis in the city I live in, Balti. [Read more about this organization and how you can help at the bottom of this post.]

The food booth crew at Bostanadia selling American pumpkin baked goods.
The food booth crew at Bostanadia selling American pumpkin baked goods.

Days leading up to the event some dedicated volunteers roasted and pureed 120 kilos of fresh pumpkin to prep for baking the day before Bostanadia.

Pumpkin puree
Pumpkin puree was transported from Balti to Chisinau (2 hour rutiera ride) using recycled water bottles and then dispersed to the different baking crews on bake day.

And then the day before the event we gathered in the capital, Chisinau to spread out over 5 kitchens to make 90 pumpkin pies, 11 pans of pumpkin bars, and over 400 cookies. I was on the bake team for the cookies and pumpkin bars with this awesome bake team pictured below.

Mixing multiple batches of chocolate pumpkin cookie dough at once - we had many systems in place throughout the day to get to our goal.
Mixing multiple batches of chocolate pumpkin cookie dough at once – we had many systems in place throughout the day to get to our goal.
With baking in Moldova we had to adapt to baking in smaller ovens - but check out these lovely chocolate chip pumpkin cookies.
With baking in Moldova we had to adapt to baking in smaller ovens and adjust times – but check out these lovely chocolate chip pumpkin cookies.

The next day, about 15 of us loaded up a rutiera along with all the baked goods and some activities for the children’s area. In  exchange for the food booth space my site mate helped organize a children’s activity area where other Peace Corps groups and organizations that volunteers work with had the opportunity to do activities with kids throughout the day.

One of the activities that I setup was a photo booth with one of the projects I have been helping a bit with here in my community called “Salut, Moldova!” This is a national volunteering initiative that develops volunteering in various communities throughout Moldova as it develops the spirit of volunteering, and encourages people from the community to help  solve problems within their community.

We're trying to start off the photo booth at the beginning to get the fun going...
We’re trying to start off the photo booth at the beginning to get the fun going…
Some kids having fun with the photo booth.
Some kids having fun with the photo booth.

Another part of the “Salut Moldova!” activities was a ‘Wishing Tree’ where anyone could write their ‘wish’ about Moldova. There were wishes written in Russian, Romanian, and English all over the wish tree. I enjoyed watching people read the wishes later in the day as there were a lot of them – when the wind didn’t blow them away.

DSC_0382
A young boy writes his wish for Moldova on a leaf.
Another young boy shares his wish before putting it on the wish tree... it says
Another young boy shares his wish before putting it on the wish tree… it says “So there will not be poverty in Moldova”
A gentleman reads over all the wishes toward the end of the day.
A gentleman reads over all the wishes toward the end of the day.

It was a fun fall festival to see and be part even though it was a lot of work – all for a good cause and many of the youth that were involved got to be part of the process at various points and to learn and see what goes into local fundraising and events. We may never know the impact of projects like this when it comes to learning and experiences when working with youth and encouraging hopes and dreams they may have.

So many pumpkins!
So many pumpkins!
A few of us Peace Corps Volunteers at the wishing tree at the end of the day.
A few of us Peace Corps Volunteers at the wishing tree at the end of the day.

About Speranta Terrei:
Speranta Terrei is an organization that works to advocates for the rights for those with tuberculosis and provide treatment for those that are suffering throughout the Balti community. The money from this food booth went towards the final funds needed to open a warm house, in Balti, for tuberculosis patients and the homeless. The center is currently under construction, and they are in need of the last 10,000 Euros to install the heating system in the center.  If you would like to donate and support what Speranta Terrei is doing here in Balti you can do so here: >> https://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5666/speranta-terrei/

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