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First time in Moldova

I made it here with no problems at all! Compared to going to Australia, coming here is like going to the grocery store - 20 hours traveling seems like nothing! There is a lot of snow here! The weirdest thing is not having streetlights at night . . . and I still find all those fur hats hysterically funny, although I try not to laugh out loud or smile too much so I can try to 'fit in'. Things aren't as bad here as I kept hearing. No different from a farm in a small Australian town in the worst places . . usually a lot better! There's no TV in the apartment I'm staying, but there's other things to do, so it's ok. Anyway, I must piss off for now . . . hope your Christmas's go well!!

Hello there
They don't really have Christmas here, so we didn't celebrate it. In fact, I went to class with Dorina on the 25th. It was her English class, so they discussed Christmas a little bit, and gave the teacher chocolates, but that was pretty much it! But that's ok, it was a no pressure day for me. Apparently new year is a big day, where they exchange gifts and stuff. They have a "new years tree", which is there Christmas tree, and they drink a lot on that day instead. 

There is no need to 'be careful', as this place is more safe than Australia. The main concern if any is the cops!! I don't know what might be the problem with them, but, I don't want to find out either. I am good at looking meek, I think that's all they care about.
We've been going to a pizza place a lot, it's REALLY cool. I buy a meal for me and Dorina, (2 medium pizzas), plus bread, and drinks (beer for me, plus coffee, and apple juice for her), all for about $8. Then I leave a tip, as the bill comes to about 80 lei, so i just give 100 lei bill. (13 lei is $1 US). Beer is REALLY good, and from different European countries. It costs about 80 cents for a 350 ml glass.

The people are really pretty friendly. They are all sorts of people - poor hard core Russian types with the furry hats, and trendy, young girls wearing tight dresses and whose boyfriends drive BMW's - I don't know how the two groups fit together, but somehow they do.There are old crappy buildings, and brand new, posher-than-Australia type buildings . . . it's really interesting. We catch the trolley bus everywhere - usually we wait no more than 1 minute for one - it costs 50 bani, which is about 8 cents Australian . . . very good! We've been to lots of malls and shops - people are crazy, buying stuff everywhere. I don't quite understand how this is called the poorest of the former USSR countries - I guess it's something to do with the "older" group of people - there's a definite distinction somewhere, but I haven't quite worked it out. I've never seen so many BMW's and Mercedes in one spot before in my life!!

We had dinner with Dorina's landlords son and his family. He took great pride in telling me how poor he is (he makes $100 US a month, working as an engineer - he has a degree and everything), while flicking through the "what's on guide" for his cable TV . . . hmmm. I think they just like to feel sorry for themselves. They seemed quite happy to me. Dorina's apartment has no TV - but like I said, people seem to be happier without it. They could otherwise end up like my roommates in the USA - the richest & most powerful country in the world - my roommates watch TV all day, eroding there brains and wasting there lives because they don't feel anything more important to do . . . . . which lifestyle is better??

The bread here is very dry - it goes well with marmite though! I buy pineapple juice everyday, very good! There are these things called "bars" everywhere!! They are a cafe/restaurant type deal . . . the weather isn't too bad - lots of ice everywhere, and the temperature hovers around 0 Celsius. Not too bad! We're going to go to Dorina's mum's house tomorrow, in some village, where apparently they don't have running water, so we'll see what that is like. Maybe I'll see some actual poor people or something. Although, looking at Dorina's photos of life there, it doesn't look too bad. Just like living on a farm or something. GDP isn't everything.

I still can't find any of those furry hats everyone wears to buy. Dorina swears they sell them, but I don't think so. I reckon they issue them to people here when they are born, and don't sell them to foreigners!! So far the very worst thing I have had happen to me here is when the hot water stopped working for 2 days!!! They have a communal hot water system - the government heats the water, and pipes it to the houses along with the cold. It's cheaper that way, but I guess it breaks down more often than our system. Everyone seems to wash themselves with hot water boiled on the stove anyway. It's not too bad. I thought it was funny though that the first thing you do in the morning is put on a nice pot of hot water! Not 'a nice pot of coffee' or something like we do.

The most hiralous thing I've seen here is the washing - people hang there washing outside to dry!!! Note - it's usually less than 0 Celsius here!!!!! Dorina did this with my washing!! I needed some underwear, and she brought in pair which were frozen solid and very rigid!!! I was rolling on the floor laughing for a while at this sight. I remembered when we take stuff out of the dryer and put it on immediately - so nice and warm! I had visions of some poor Russian man needing underwear to go to work, but having the opposite situation of putting on freezing undergarments. Very funny!

Oh, most things are written in Russian here. Romanian is for more official things. Although both are used at various times. In the fridge and cuboards, products are written either in both languages, or one or the other. Very funny! Not many people speak English. Apart from Russian and Romanian, the next favorites seem to be German and French. Anyway, whatever the western media says about these places, it's OK here. I think a shitload of exaggeration goes on in the media. I'm glad I came here to see how things are for myself.
Must piss off for now.

Hello everyone,
Well, I lost my first half-complete account of my second story of my trip to Moldova in my Russian-language enabled Internet Explorer. Thanks a lot, Microsoft.

Well, I've been here for over a week now, and the excitement is wearing off a bit which lets me see some things in a slightly different way. First, I'll tell you about my trip to "the village". Dorina I think, was trying to warn me about "the village" in subtle ways, trying to get across to me I probably wouldn't like it. I never try to think like that, after all, people live there, so it can't be all bad, just different! Besides, the warnings of no running water in the village and an outside toilet didn't scare me. We have such things on our farms. No worries. Anyway . . . there was something I didn't count on though with regards to this!! Getting there was no problem. The shuttles were all full, but Dorina found some guy willing to take us in his private car. I thought "what a nice guy!". Not realising he was just a taxi-type driver, trying to make a living. The price was a bargain, 100 lei (about $8 US) for the hour trip, for me and Dorina. (two fat ladies came with us too, but I didn't pay for them!) Because I thought he was such a nice man I gave him 200 lei, but he refused, taking only 100!! Bloody hell. A few days later when I realised it was just a service people did, I understood a bit better why he refused. Somethings I learn the hard way . . .

Anyway . . . the village . . . I am allergic to villages. First of all, Dorina put me into this little room. It was small, smokey, and it seemed to be a combination kitchen/bedroom/living room/washroom. I was not impressed. Their house was huge, but this room was my first introduction to "the village". The whole thing I didn't understand of course - where I come from, if people do choose to live in such a house with no inside plumbing, it doesn't bloody snow. Even in winter, it's not unbearably cold. A nice fire in the living room is all you need to keep you cozy in winter, and the other parts of the house are not entirely uninhabital. Here, it's a bit different. Because of the cold, everyone crams into this one room. And they stay there. Often, all day. Everyone. In this room. They stay there of course cos that's where the oven is, and it's warm. It's not the life for me. I can see how it can be quite cozy with your family if you have young kids, etc, family bonding time. But, not for me. I think summer in the village would be entirely different, and even quite pleasent! The lack of a shower would still bother me, cos I'm kind of spoiled by such luxeries, and on our farms someone would have the sense to build the house next to a stream so you can at least go swimming and get clean that way. So, in all - "the village" - different type of life, something I'd have a hard time adjusting to because I've had a more spoiled life, but I can see the charm in it too. Personally, I think if you are going to live in a village though, live in one in a warm country. One where there is an ocean, strream, and lots of beer drinkers. Like Australia for example!

Anyway. I had very bad allergies in the village. They started almost immediately, got very bad in the night. I made Dorina get up and walk with me outside in the cold at midnight, cos I was convinced the dust was killing me inside. The cold air outside did help me a lot, and the village is very pretty at night (as well as in the day mind you), set on top of a hill. I managed to sleep after that, but had more trouble the next day. We agreed to go back to Chisinau that day because of my problems, but after some home remedies and a sleep by the oven in that little room, I felt better, and we had missed the shuttles from the village anyway - they stop running at 1pm. Later that night I got very bad. I couldn't breath properly and wasn't entirely convinced I'd live the night (sorry mum!). Unfortunately there's no doctors in these villages . . . not cool. I was saved I think by application of alcohol to my neck and chest . . . . God bless alcohol!! I could then breath enough to be satisfied I could keep on living, and spent the night coughing a lot until I got so tired I just fell asleep. The next day I felt better, and we left the village very early. I immedately felt better outside, and by the time we got back to Chisinau I felt almost 100% better. Diagonsis - Allergic to villages!!

It was New Years Day, and the town was deserted. Luckily, McDonalds was open, and we got a bite to eat. Later that day though, I had breathing problems again. The cold air didn't help, and we went to the 24 hour pharmacy where luckily they sold Ventilin - the asthma inhaler. With no doctors prescription needed either! Cool. That fixed me up almost immediately. The funny thing is when packing my bags to go to Moldova I removed my inhaler - I only ever need it when exercising, and even if I forget it then, it's not a big deal.

Ok, on to other things . . . . I still don't understand the economy here . . . . most people, (I think "most people") make an average wage, say for example, 10 lei an hour. If you compare this with other countries, say the USA, $10 an hour . . . it's OK. The currency of course is 13 times less valuable . . . Now, this is OK. 10 lei an hour will let you get a reasonable apartment, enough food, (bread, milk, etc), and you have enough for some luxeries now and then. The newer, western things are quite expensive. For example, 15 lei for a 1 liter orange juice. I would never consider buying such a thing in the USA if I made $10 an hour and the juice is $15!!!
But, there is a demand for it, so it's there, in the shops. The checkout girls, I noticed, are absolutely revolted when someone, like me for example, buys 300 lei worth of groceries, and they consist of juice, chocolate milk, pepsi, etc etc. I can sort of understand this, it would take them a whole week of work to afford the same stuff - it's weird. 

McDonalds, the food here actually tastes good!! It's amazing. Unfortunately, on any normal day it's packed to overflowing. It's terrible, terrible. No where to sit, long lines at the cash register. Terrible. I did realize however it seems to be the only place to get "quick food", fast food. The other places are restrarants and the cafe/bars, which I do like a lot, but the service is more relaxed.
The internet cafes are numerous, quite cheep, but usually full of kids playing computer games all day. I still can't find any fur hats to buy, even though 3/4 of the population own them. Petrol is about $2 US a gallon I worked out - 5 lei per litre. I have trouble buying all the things I want at the grocery store and getting them home on the trolley bus - a car seems like a good idea.

There are 2 kinds of grocery stores it seems - the standard, and the western ones. The standard one sells only necessitites, bread, rice, pasta, milk, cheese, fish, meat, etc. The western ones sells all the stuff we see in grocery stores. Note, we now have products in our fridge and cuboard in German, Russian, and Romanian. My breakfast cereal is entirely in German. My milk, entirely in Russian, and my medicine entirely in Romanian.

The beggers here really beg. On there knees, in the snow, hand out. They're very good at it. In all, if I lived here, life would be OK. If I had enough money, it would be even better, but if I didn't, how happy I was would still depend on how I thought of life. If I lived in a village and didn't know about chocolate milk, I would be happy. If I knew about it and knew I couldn't afford it and wanted it, life might suck a bit more. It depends how you look at stuff. It seems to me I had a lot of things to write about, but I've forgotten a lot of them. I'll try to remember and write them down for next time I send an email.

Hello everyone,
I am back from my Moldovan trip. Everything went pretty well, although I have some words to say about airport security later on!
I wrote down things to write about on my trip, as I kept forgetting things when I went to the internet cafe to write. So, here I begin in no particular order . . . Hand washing clothes . . . most people seem to do this. It's not so hard. I wouldn't particularly like to wash everyone else's clothes, but washing my own is pretty easy. Of course, you tend to wear your clothes for longer than normal before washing. This, to me, makes more sense than washing everything everyday. It is noted, that wringing the water out of clothes makes you quite tired after a while. I believe that hand washing is the sole reason the women are so bloody strong over here. When Dorina decides I need a beating, she can really beat me, and I am quite often scared that I won't be able to fend her off!!I

think I have figured out the Moldovan economy a bit more. I was reading some government reports about how much it spends and how much it makes. The country really is pretty poor. I mean, it wants students who graduate university and don't take a government job to repay 5000 lei for their education. That's about $400 for the total university education. It's a pretty small amount.
Also, the government was excited about getting foreign aid - 52 million dollars this year. It's a very small figure. Also, the banks reported a total of 2 million dollars in loans - for the whole country, for the whole population of 4.5 million. It really is a little amount.
But - there are a lot of rich people here, and a lot of trade, a lot of cool shops, a lot of cool and expensive things to buy. Dorina said a lot of people go to other richer countries, for example, Germany, and work legally or illegally for a while and then come back with lots of money. Some people have relatives overseas who send back money, and there are people who import goods and sell them in Moldova. I believe all this activity is completely separate from the government itself. So, there is a big flow of money in and out of Moldova, not controlled by the government. This is how some people are very rich in Moldova, and some are very poor. Those who do something extra, start a business, work overseas, etc, can be very well off in Moldova because the prices of things are cheep there, and those who work normal jobs in Moldova and live a normal life are relatively poor and can afford only the basics in life. Which - I must note again, isn't necessarily bad. Yes, luxuries are nice, but you know, my 19" TV distracts my attention so much in my life, I forget to just "live" a lot of time . . . . and if I'm in Moldova worrying about how to sell stuff to afford gas for my Mercedes which I brought so I could feel cool, I forget to just enjoy life and relax in my village with the chickens.

The other thing which I only just realized, which was very foreign and weird to me - Europe is composed of countries which are so different from each other but so close together. So of course it is possible to cheaply travel from your poor country to a richer one, and bring some of that richness back with you. The idea blows me away, cos I come from some islands on the bottom of the world and there isn't much else around. You can certainly travel to other islands where things might be a bit different, but they are really far away compared to the closeness of countries in Europe. The cost of getting to those other places is so much that the difference in how much extra you might be able to make in another country/island is very little compared to the cost of travel and the cost of things in your own country. The idea of having a country next you you that is so different and that you can reach by car, and within a couple of hours even, is really very strange to me.

There is only a little bit of snow removal going on in Moldova. I guess most of it is private - the government doesn't employ people to remove snow from the streets. This is fine with me, I adjusted quite well to trudging over the snow. It gives people a distinctive walk when they are in the streets. There are so many parks in Moldova! Despite being winter, they were still really lovely. I am dying to go back and visit in summer when everything is green - wow. There are so many trees, outside cafes, lakes, wow. And they are all centrally located and designed "for people". It's so nice. There's nothing like it at all in Lincoln. It's a good 20 minutes drive to a park here, and they're not even all that cool.

There were a few signs around town saying something about the mafia. I think they were about the trafficking of young girls to other countries to become prostitutes. I didn't notice many "new Russians" in town, and from what I've read the mafia isn't so big in Moldova as in other former USSR republics. I wonder if any of the cool shopping malls were run by them? I just don't know.
I always felt pretty safe there too. In the markets, I noticed many people wandering around with huge wads of money. They weren't fearful of having it stolen from them, and so I felt greatly reassured. I think some teenagers might have sworn at me a couple of times in various incidents, but I had no idea what they were saying so it didn't affect my good mood at all! The kids spend a large part of there day sledding down hills in the snow. They were everywhere!! On New Years eve, there were many explosions - fireworks!! And for the few days before and after new years, kids where letting off firecrackers everywhere!! It was like a bloody war!! Everywhere you walked - Boom!! Boom!!! Bloody hell!

The quanties of food and drink are smaller here, I think like in most countries outside of the USA!! You get a smallish glass of juice at restaurant, and drinks sold in grocery stores are in small containers. No one gallon bottles of juice here!! Meal portions are also smaller. I adjusted pretty well to this, and even lost a bit of weight because of it, until Dorina kept buying chocolate last week and feeding it to me!

Everywhere you go in town there are people selling things in little stands. These are the most useful things. I can leave the apartment and walk 2 blocks to the street and buy toilet paper, tooth brush, chocolate, soft drinks, all kinds of varied stuff. There are individual street vendors, and other enclosed stands like mini-shops. Very cool. Beer is sold in seperate cans!!!! No 6 packs, 12 packs . . . . hmmm! The Moldovan wine, what little I had of it, is bloody fantastic, by the way. And the vodka selection in supermarkets and bottle shops is amazing!!

I didn't see many drunks out and about. I saw some people drinking in bars, but they were pretty sedate. I personally stick by my observation of Russians over here - they don't drink as much as we do in Australia/NZ. And when they do drink, they try to maintain a serious composure. In our country, we drink solely to give us an excuse to not be serious. We see absolutely no point in consuming alcohol and trying to be as serious as we are when we're sober. That - is a waste of money! We can be serious for free! Dorina pointed out there aren't any vending machines except in the airport - personally, I prefer these little stands. Vending machines often break down, run out of stock, and give the wrong change. The weather was pretty constant. It never varied more than 10 degrees C, and was usually about 0 celsius. It got to -10 a few times. The wind was never very bad, and there was a constant grey cloud in the sky, which I've learned is a feature of Europe in winter. There were a few very sunny days, and a couple of days where it was slightly above 0 but not warm enough to melt much snow. My underwear did unfreeze, much to my disappointment.

We went to a restaurant which was full on Friday night - and they just told us to go away. No waiting inside like in American restaurant. Capitalism hasn't quite caught on properly yet.

The highways are very interesting. They are 3 lanes! You drive on the right, and the middle lane is for passing. In theory, it's a pretty good idea - it's cheeper to make a 3 land road than a 4 lane, and better than 2 lanes. But, I bet it makes for a lot of interesting driving, and quite a few head-on collisions happen . . .

I was a bit disappointed about how hard it was to find a fur hat, but I noticed one day they don't even cover your ears! I thought how silly, as the ears get the coldest on your body! I lost interest in aquiring one after that, at least for a few days. However, I did manage to find a fur hat on my last day in Moldova, and noticed I could pull it down enough to cover my ears, and it seemed to keep everything pretty warm anyway even if it wasn't pulled right down over the ears. Amazing things! I noticed after being in Moldova for a week more things were expected of me because "I was the man". All the door opening, coat putting on stuff for the women can be a real drag!! Arrrgh. I did seem to adjust to the habit at least a little after a while, and it really is just a habit. It's not too bad. On the other hand, it was VERY strange for me that Dorina took such pleasure at the idea of cooking for me or doing my washing. I made many jokes that she should do those things for me, but when she willingly started to do them, I was pretty surprised and a little uncomfortable at how unfair that seemed! Still, being quite lazy, my uncomfortableness wasn't enough to prevent her from a lot of manual labour! I just looked on in amazement expecting her to start throwing things at me for doing nothing. I noticed in restraurants a lot of guys do not help there girlfriends on or off with there coats, and the door opening thing is not as widespread as rumored. So, I hope Dorina wasn't too saddened by my lack of effort in these areas sometimes! I noticed with happiness that when I tipped the waiter (or waitress) enough in a restraurant they would help even me with my coat! Very cool.

We found a bookshop, which was pretty cool and cheep despite most the books being in Russian or Romanian. Dorina found a cool book in French for me, and I also found . . . . pirated Russian software! I have heard many times of this - the lack of copyright laws in these countries permits widespread copying of software and movies, and selling of these things for very cheep. Everything was 25 lei!! (about $2). Windows 2000, Office XP, games, all kinds of shit!! Cool! Amazing. I brought 3 Playstation games, also for 25 lei each. Unfortunately, I found out after they are completely in Russian! I guess it's a good reason to restart my Russian studies again! The clouds - I noticed in computer games that I have played over the years that the sky is always in shades of grey - I presumed this was lack of programming in the computer game, and a lack of power in the computer playing the game to make a realistic looking sky. Well, actually, the sky does look like that in Moldova. It's pretty cool to see it in person - complete shades of grey!! In Australia, the clouds are always irregular, and Nebraska, it's either completely one shade of grey or completely cloudless. Or else there's a tornado! I did start to get a little depressed with the constant grey sky and lack of sunlight though. I guess it didn't help that we usually got up about 11am and never left the house before 12pm, leaving us at the most 5 hours of sunlight. I read an interesting article about Moscow - if you have a CIS passport, apparently you are treated differently than if you are from the west. Hmmm.

I did notice a few times people looking at me because I was speaking English. A most delightful experience was in a jewelry store. I was not particular well dressed, and the shop keepers have an almost disgusted look on there face when they see me. But, hey, speak some English, and things change a little bit and they suddenly become happy to see you. It didn't happen all the time, but it did happen.

Another cool thing - in restaurants - they have a menu completely devoted to different types of vodka. You have your food menu, hot food, cold food, salads, deserts, drinks . . . and vodka's. Very cool. Also, I noticed that a lot of menu's had a "non-alcoholic drink" section, listing drinks which actually didn't have alcohol in them, as opposed to the USA, where the alcoholic drinks menu is short and often has a skull and crossbones symbol on it! (well, not really, but I get the feeling people would like it to be there.) I went off the bread in Moldova after about a week. It's not because it's bad - it is very dry, and I prefer soft, fluffy bread, but and it does go well with marmite - but I went off it because people keep it for so long. There was a bowl of stale bread in our cubboard. Yuck!! I noticed the same in Dorina's university dorm room. Maybe this has to do with being poor or something, I don't know, but as far as I'm concerned, when the bread has gone stale, even marmite can't help it.

One partiality peculiar thing I noticed was women selling seeds on the street - little black seeds. There were vendors selling fish/bread/chocolate, some selling magazines, some selling clothes, some selling toothpaste/hygiene items, then these women selling black seeds! The birds kept eating them and the women would have to keep fending them off. Very funny.

Quite a lot of people in the USA have thought me to be very strange for listening to foreign music. They say "do you understand the words?". I say "no." They then go ape and fail to understand how I get pleasure out of these songs if I don't understand them.
So to all those people who hassled me for liking foreign music - sod off!

It seems English and French are widely taught in schools - as well as Romanian and Russian, of course. There were a lot of English and French textbooks sold in bookshops. It also seems more people than I thought do speak English, (although not particularly well). If you press them a little bit, it's surprising the number who know at least a little. Even Dorina's roommate knew quite a lot, at least a lot of words, although she never spoke. We got along quite well just not speaking to each other though.

The service in the restraraunts we went to was always excellent. I can see what my ex-russian girlfriend meant now when she got upset by the "relaxed" service in American restraurants.The waiters/waitresses all wear suits and ties, and wait patiently by the wall until you glance at them and then they run over and ask you what you need. If you put your plate/glass to the side, they run over and take it away from you. Very cool! I wish they had such places like this in the USA. The relaxed atmosphere here is a little bit too relaxed sometimes. I really hate when you've finished you meal waiting for the waiter to bring the bloody check. Then, when you give them the money, it seems to take forever for them to bring you your change. Arrrgh! Of course, if we consider the currency and economic factors in there restaurants, our average meal in Moldova was 100 lei (with tip), For me it was fine, about $8 for two people, bloody good. But if I lived there and made 300 lei a week . . . well, you know, I would not eat out very often in the USA if meals cost me $100! But I would expect as good service if I did pay that much in the USA.

I was dazzled by the number of ATM's which were in town, because a guide book I read told me there was only one. But apparently, ATM's have been installed in Moldova only in the last 6 months . . . . hmmm! People smoke quite a lot over there - there's no "no smoking sections" in restraraunts. And no one wears seat belts! Very stupid considering the way people drive. They are really mad drivers! I saw a few old Soviet farms on the way to the village by the way. Old, torn down buildings, which Dorina said people raided at the collapse of the USSR and took everything home. Also, I noticed a lot of "abandoned" houses around town, or what look like abandoned houses. I thought they had been blown up or something from the look of them. But they are actually new houses!! Being assembled slowly.

Also, Dorina said most people own there own house or apartment. Which is interesting, because in Australia and the USA, most people don't. They are in debt until they are 50 or 60, paying it off. So really, people in Moldova actually have more money than us! Or me, at least. The economy of western countries seems to depend mostly on debt. I don't think I'd want to be in debt in Moldova anyway. The interest rate on loans from banks is 30%! I wonder if that explains why there's only 2 million in loans taken out from their banks?!!

I spent surprisingly little money while I was there, and this was despite buying meals for 2 people almost everyday, and buying groceries for 3 people in the apartment!! I noticed with amusement when I brought a bottle of Pepsi no one drank it in our apartment, but when I brought coke it disappeared rapidly!! What's mine is yours . . . . the communist attitude to my groceries was prevalent in that apartment! Actually, this communal attitude is quite apparent in many things in normal life in Moldova. The girls holding hands walking down the street, men kissing each other in public when greeting a good friend, the gas bills for apartment blocks being split evenly between all apartments. Even in our apartment, we changed bedrooms one day with Dorina's roommate. Then one day her roommate was asleep in "our" room! My privacy was invaded, and I wasn't quite sure what to think!! It seemed to be quite offensive to go off on ones own in the apartment and do one's own thing. I am very used to being alone and doing my own thing, so this attitude was a little bit difficult to get used to, especially when I wanted to be alone after a busy day. On the other hand, it's also kind of nice to have people around all the time who want to be around you, and it was very pleasant to sit in the kitchen with Dorina and her roommate, and often some other people I didn't know, just sitting and talking. Even though I had no idea what they were saying, it was very pleasant. Actually, even when I was sitting in the kitchen by myself, just doing nothing but listening to the clock, sometimes drinking tea, sometimes just sitting, just living . . . it was cool.

The soviet airports, it seems, like to transport you by bus from the airport to the plane, where you board. In fact, the plane to Moldova had a fold down thing in the back of the plane which had it's own stairs, so we entered in the very ass of the plane. Quite clever I thought. The soviet planes too seemed very powerful and strong. The wings don't flex as much as on the American planes, and the thing goes really fast! Sometimes on American planes it seems to be going so slow I wonder if it will ever get off the ground . . . And . . . people really do clap when the plane lands!!

2 days before I left Moldova, I decided to go shopping one last time and buy everything I wanted which I had seen during my stay. Souvenirs, etc. Unfortunately, it was the 7th of January, and no one informed me it was Christmas. Even Dorina, who didn't particularly like going out in the cold to see things she's seen all her life with some weirdo who only speaks English and depends on her to translate for him, didn't tell me! Thus, most of the shops were closed. Not all - but most. The next day was also a holiday, but more shops were open, so we had a successful shopping experience. I saw more markets - these are the coolest things I have ever seen. Markets - people selling all kinds of stuff on the street. Shoes, clothes, animals, music CD's, you name it, you can find it at the market. I liked these markets a lot more than the shops. There's more variety, it's cheaper, and more stuff in a smaller area than walking around shops for hours and hours.

I started to miss my cellphone, my car, and my TV a little bit a few days before I left. But, 2 days before leaving, I really, really, really didn't want to go. The Moldovan airport security is really good. They scan all your luggage before you can even get to the check-in part of the airport. They check your passport and ticket then too. Then they check it again after scanning your bags. Then you check-in, and they examine your passport again. Then, you visit a lady next to the check-in person who examines your passport again. Then - you go to passport control, where they examen your passport for about 5 minutes. Then, you go to another security checkpoint, where they scan your hand luggage, and you, again, before being allowed into the departure area. I felt that the security people were actually doing something, and doing it well. When I got to Frankfurt airport, we were taken by a clean, heated bus to the airport. The difference from Moldova was immediately obvious. Personally, I don't need a clean heated bus to take me anywhere. Yes, it's nice, but who cares? Give me a Moldovan trolley bus any day. I don't particularly like the Frankfurt airport. There are very few signs telling you were to go. There's like, 2 electronic information booths which can tell you were your flight is leaving from, but they were always busy, one with 2 young girls shopping for jewelry on it. Fuck. So, I actually had to go through passport control in Germany and customs in order to get to somewhere where I could actually find out where my flight left from. I checked the big departure boards, but my flight wasn't even in it. I finally found a non-busy information booth with a real human in it, who told me to go to the United check-in, even though my flight was Luftansia. They seemed to be a flurry there. Some guy told me to wait, so I waited. Then he said he would help me, and took my passport and rummaged through it. I tried to flick to the back page for him to show him my visa which he was looking for, but he took offence and asked me "If I minded". I told him sorry, and let him do his stuff, but he decided I was an "unruly passenger" and I had my name put down on a special sheet of paper, the "unruly passenger" sheet. I noticed with amusement a great number of other passengers were French! Yeah Frenchies! What this meant was, after I passed through the standard Frankfurt security area, (which is actually reasonably well managed), and waiting in line at the United gate, I got pulled aside for more questioning and searching. This is REALLY dumb. So, I had to wait like 20 minutes for some guy who was eyeing me suspiciously to finish searching some other people. Then he asked to search my bags. So I took the stuff out of my first bag, and tried to explain what it all was, he said "OK OK, put it all back in". Er, OK, I thought, and started showing him the second bag. He didn't even bloody search the whole bag. He said "OK OK, that's all", and I could go. What the hell? If you're going to bloody search someone, bloody search them. This is not "airport security". This is bullshit. If you're going to make me wait somewhere and be suspicious with me and then want to search me, bloody search me. For f**k's sake.

I got seated in the plane next to a very suspicious looking guy. I suspect the security people sat us suspicious looking guys next to each other to keep an eye on us. It was actually pretty good, cos we were in really good seats. I was on-board a new 777 plane, and it was cool. It had the TV screen in the seat in front, and you could select what movies you wanted to see. Most enjoyable. Also, my legs never fatigued once, something that has never happened on a long flight on a plane before.

The Chicago airport security is a big joke. They have made their metal detectors so sensitive now that they beep even when you have no metal on you at all, and so they just wave people through. Some guy had to ask the security chick if she was supposed to check our boarding passes and ID's. She said "oh yeah!", and checked his, then said "I better check yours too" to me. She barely even looked at my boarding pass. I could have showed her a piece of cardboard for all she cared. Quite honestly, if I really wanted to blow something up in the airport, I could probably do it without much trouble. The funny thing is, the 'poorest country in Europe' - Moldova - had a substantually better security system than any American airport I've ever seen, where people actually do there job and seem more intelligent than the average guest on the Jerry Springer show, which a lot of American security staff bear a striking similarity to . . . This is American security. "We'll talk about it, cry about it, make headlines in the newspapers about it everyday, spend billions of making new departments of security and trying hard to look like we're doing something, but "acutally" doing something about it is a bit beyond us."

And so now, I am back in Nebraska. I didn't really like being back very much. The next day - today - I am a little better. I have my big bed, I have my car, my TV, I have fast internet connections . . . .. I feel comfortable, and I am a little disappointed in myself at how quickly I am lapping up all this comfort. However, now it's late afternoon, and as I thought, the novelty is quickly wearing off again. I'm getting a little bit bored already . . . . I am only now realizing just how different Moldova is. I think I am in shock. The other thing I keep thinking about, is the village conditions. You know, most of the worlds population live in such a way, without hot water, or indoor plumbing. I can't believe I've been brought up with hot showers all my life, and that now, when I go to such a place as a village, I have trouble adjusting to the way life is there. I am a little disgusted with myself. The Dalai Lama lived without such things. Jesus lived without such things. Some entire countries live without such things. And I can't? I feel terrible for having had such an easy life. We have a lot of "comfort" here, and a lot of "stuff". A lot of potential to do things. Life though, is too comfortable a lot of times, and we, or at least I, don't use the potential to do anything. Everything is so easy, why bother to do anything hard? You know, I like comfort, I like having things, but at the same time, I don't like them. It's distracting. It's distracting from living.

In Moldova, there is life. It's easy to feel. And it's really good. I hope the people do not become distracted by "stuff" from the west, and waste all there time trying to aquire "stuff". I like Moldova just the way it is.

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