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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
I must note - European radio plays A LOT OF ENGLISH SONGS AND A
LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND THEM EITHER!!!!
So to all those people who hassled me for liking foreign music -
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
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
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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