OK, I have been threatening for some time to write a post about the various school events I have attended since moving to Moldova oh, eight months or so ago. Maybe it’s the lack of soluble protein in my diet, or perhaps the cold has heightened my sense of irony, but I think the time has come for America to know about the “boboceli”.
Here’s a bit of a preface, my wife is in the English education program of Peace Corps. As a result, I am obligated, no, honored, to attend many, many school functions. I almost feel sorry for PCV’s who don’t get to go to at least 90 dances during their time in Moldova. For one thing, it is a great opportunity to meet potential language partners in the school, and nothing says “integrate” like awkward high school dances. Not to mention, this is Moldova in her natural environment. I always say, get 3 Moldovans together and they are going to dance. When I think of my own adolescence, or, heaven forbid, one of my teen-age nieces or nephews, there is not a whole lot of spontaneous, communal dancing going on. We just aren’t like that, but Moldovans love to dance, going so far as to have a national dance, “the hora” that I really like.
I feel like I am getting on another tangent, but without explaining the hora, the rest of this will make even less sense. So, the hora is a dance preformed to modern or traditional music, in a circle, with relatively simple steps. I have seen three different variations and can mimic them in a getting by kind of way, but I feel you really have to be brought up in the culture to really get it. Google it. Every Moldovan does this dance eight hours a week. That is of course not specifically true, some weeks it might be double that. It is automatic. From childhood. That is what they do together. It really is quite cool to see everyone in the room, age 6 to 90, participating in a common activity, doing it well, and happily.
Back to the point at hand. As near as I can tell, “boboceli” literally means “quail”, as in the adorable little bird. It also, according to my trusty two-language dictionary, means sweetheart. None of this makes a bit of sense when I attend the high school dance of the same name. I imagine it’s like if I played “ridin’ dirty” by, well, whoever that song is by, to my grandmother. (I realize this is incredibly lazy writing by me, I could easily find out who sings that song, but I don’t really care, so there’s that.) What I infer is that the boboceli dance is for the older grades, say, 11th and 12th graders to compete with one another to be silly.
Jana and I used the phase “Japanese game show” right from the first to describe these dances. For one thing, we had no idea what was happening, couldn’t speak the language, lots of singing and dancing, skits, where we did not expect them to be. Like a Japanese game show. The boboceli took it to a whole new level. They were trying to be kooky. I was once asked to be a judge in a video contest (for Halloween, I think), where I was lost. I literally had no idea what the videos I was judging were about. The boboceli was like that, but they all dressed in black and yellow, the boys generally in dresses. Even my host mom wore a tutu, and engaged in a conga line. She is really a great person, and knowing her now it’s not that out of character, but at the time I was surprised. All the kids had a good time, were awarded prizes at some point. I was struck with the both the foreignness of the whole situation, and the sense that it was ok, they knew what was going on, and it was alright.
I wouldn’t say that I have enjoyed all these dances (I may even have left after only a few hours once or twice), but I really am glad that I am here, a welcomed guest in an fascinating country.