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Snapshot of Romania — Romania has a rich history, first united as a nation in the mid-1800s by King Carol I. In subsequent years, Romania was ravaged during both World Wars, after which communism took over and Romania joined the Soviet bloc. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, Romania attempted to create a democracy, an ongoing experiment today; Romania has consistently progressed as a pro-democracy, pro-Western nation. The official language of Romania is Romanian, which is a Latin-based (also called “Romance”) language, though Hungarian is also spoken as a first language by some of the population and Russian is also commonly known. About 85% of Romania’s population belongs to the Romanian Orthodox Church, but other Christian groups are also present in the country.
Romania has a significant rural population, nearly half the total country’s population, and as such is one of the least urbanized European countries; as a result, many unique folk traditions are still practiced today. Examples include intricately-painted red eggs for Easter, folkloric costumes used during special events, and a rich mythology involving several types of supernatural creatures. Romanian folk music continues to be popular in the country, with different regions having their own unique styles. A variety of dance, electronic and pop music are also popular. Soccer is the most popular sport in Romania, as well as boxing, basketball, and handball. Romania has historically been very successful in the summer Olympics, notably in gymnastics. The traditional Romanian sport Oina, somewhat similar to American baseball, is still practiced but less frequently. Romanian cuisine bears influences from Greece, Turkey, Eastern Europe (former Soviety nations), and Germany. Popular Romanian dishes include mititei (ground meat rolls that are grilled with a variety of spices), frigarui (a kebab dish), and schnitzel. Sour soups, often made using lemon or sauerkraut juice, are also common. Many types of pastry desserts, including several varieties of doughnuts, are also popular.Snapshot of Moldova — The official language of Moldova is Moldovan, which is technically a variant of Romanian. Russian, Ukrainian, and Gagauz are also recognized as regional languages in different areas of the country. Most of Moldova’s population belongs to the Moldovan Orthodox Church, while other Christian denominations are present in smaller numbers. Moldova’s culture has primarily been influenced by Romania and the former Soviet Union. Folk crafts such as weaving and ceramics are still practiced in rural areas. Popular music is similar to that of Romania, with electronic dance music being particularly popular. Soccer is Moldova’s most popular sport, though rugby, Romanian oina, and trânta wrestling are also practiced. Some popular foods in Moldova are manti (a spiced meat and vegetable-filled dumpling), sarma (stuffed cabbage rolls), and beef meatballs. Mamaliga (a cornmeal mush) often accompanies meals. Other meat dishes, a variety of sour soups, potatoes, and cabbage are also popular.
Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated Romania for the preaching of the gospel in early 1990 and early humanitarian missionaries were sent into the country. The Romania Bucharest Mission was formed in 1993; Moldova was added to the mission boundaries in 1997 (and the named changed to the Romania Moldova Mission in 2012); these countries had formerly been encompassed within the Austria Vienna East and Hungary Budapest Missions. The first complete translation of the Book of Mormon into Romanian was finished in December 1998. As of 2013, Romania itself has over 3,000 members in 18 different congregations; Moldova has over 350 members in 3 congregations.
Romanian cuisine is heavily influenced by its surrounding countries: expect to find influences from Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria (as well as Russia and other former Soviet countries). Traditional dishes include meat—pork and chicken are the most traditional, although beef and lamb are not uncommon—or fish. Goat and sheep cheese is also popular, as are şaorma (shwarmas), yogurts, and vegetables, which are very fresh. Meals are often served with rice or couscous, and sometimes accompanied by sauerkraut and other cabbage dishes. Sour soups are especially popular.
Romanians and Moldovans have smaller specialty food stores as well as larger supermarkets, where missionaries will be able to find versions of cold cereals and other “common” (to North Americans) foodstuffs.
Missionaries should expect to primarily take public transportation and walk. Actual needs vary from city to city; missionaries will walk more in some places than others, along with light rail, trams, buses, and occasionally taxis (which are typically more expensive). Buses, trains, and light rail infrastructure is increasingly becoming more modern throughout most of Romania and is interconnected with many other European nations’ railway networks, although much of the system is still outdated. Bucharest is the only city in Romania with an underground (Metro) railway system, but it is heavily used!
In the words of one former missionary, “Chisinau, (in Moldova), also had great transportation. They have maxi taxis (or marshutkas, in Russian) which were seriously like the Knight Bus in Harry Potter (without the magic part). You would stand anywhere on the route that you wanted and stick your hand out and they would stop and pick you up, and then drop you off anywhere along the route that you wanted. That was by far the fastest public transit I found (other than the metro of course). The smaller cities generally had slower transportation, so it was often just as fast to walk. And taxis were usually less expensive in smaller cities, so that was more of an option.”
Nearly all zone leaders, those serving in the mission office, and some sister training leaders have cars, although road rules and typical driving behavior may vary greatly with driving in the U.S.
Romania and Moldova generally have good relations with the United States and other North American and Western European countries; however, poverty and inequality in both nations (particularly Moldova) leaves room for petty theft (i.e., pickpocketing, credit card fraud) and other crime, most of it nonviolent. Missionaries should check ATM’s and internet cafés before entering sensitive information to safeguard their accounts. Political and other demonstrations are police-supervised and are generally peaceful.
Foreigners must carry identification documents at all time. The Romanian equivalent of “911” is “112.” Do not buy counterfeit or pirated goods, which may be widely available, as this breaks both local and international law.
Easter is a big deal, with many ceremonies to celebrate Christ, and eggs are decorated (sometimes elaborately) in celebration, along with games of cracking eggs against each other to see whose is the strongest. Many of the main holidays are influenced by Christianity, especially the Orthodox church (Pentecost, Palm Sunday, Christmas) although there are other legal holidays; the current National Day of Romania is December 1st and is celebrated by demonstrations by the military nationwide.
During the weeks before and after Easter, Romanians greet one another by proclaiming that Christ is risen; the greeting is “Isus a inviat” (“Jesus was resurrected”) and the response is “adevarat, El a inviat” (“True, He was resurrected!”).
Necessary medications and medical supplies.
Sos. Pipera Nr. 41, Et. 7
For alumni: http://www.mission.net/romania/bucharest/
Straight from the Romania Moldova Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“You really can find pretty much everything you need there. Unless they have some sort of specific medication… pretty much everything is available. And I discovered that if I couldn’t find something anywhere I generally didn’t need it. Some medicines would be good to bring, like Benedryl and Ibuprofen. Peanut butter can be hard to find, but it’s there. Near the end of my mission they even started having Oreos and Doritos in certain stores. It was glorious. I remember getting macaroni and cheese in a package from my ward one time and that was really fun because they don’t really have that [in Romania and Moldova]. I brought my own toothpaste, so I don’t think I ever bought any there. But you can find pretty much any hygiene stuff that you need.” —Charisse
*What did you eat the most of?
“As far as food goes, we usually fed ourselves and didn’t get to eat very often with members and others. So usually I would make myself pasta or bread and cheese or something. But when we did eat actual Romanian food it was frequently şaorma (shwarmas) or veggies and goat/sheep cheese. The vegetables and yogurt and bread there are super delicious, probably because they don’t have the FDA and don’t have to add all sorts of preservatives to food.” —Charisse
“Saorma and sarmale.” —James
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Goat/sheep cheese… I thought it was extremely gross!” —Charisse
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“One thing that surprised me a lot when I first got there were the numbers of dogs just roaming the streets. There are stray dogs everywhere. They’re usually pretty friendly. I never got attacked by one. In fact sometimes I would try to teach them the lessons when we were out tracting because they were the only things that would listen to us… And the people usually treat the dogs better than they do beggars and homeless people.” —Charisse
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Romania Moldova Mission?
“Remember that Orthodox Christian traditions, even if they are different, can help prepare people to receive the fullness of the Gospel.” —James
“Love the people, love the language, love your companion, love the Lord. Pretty much everything comes down to love.” —Charisse
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“That Romania was a real place! I had never been outside of the United States before!”
**Did you serve in the Romania Moldova Mission? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at email@example.com.**