Tonight I write from an apartment in Chisinau the capital of Moldova.
Myself and the tall artistic one (aka oldest daughter) made our flight with moments to spare this morning and after an uneventful journey were met at the airport by our host. We have recieved a very warm welcome and we spent the day working out a few basic things (like how to cross the road).
I have never stepped off a plane from the UK and been in a colder country than the one I left. Today in Chisinau it was snowing, and with tall fir trees and very different buildings to the ones we’d left behind, it felt like the start of an adventure and made me wonder about going to Alaska sometime. As we drove through the city it seemed dreary – grey buildings against a grey sky and the ground covered with mud coloured snow melt. The one bright thing I saw was the golden dome of an Eastern Orthodox church.
We have only been here a few hours but I think when travelling it is good to record initial impressions as the unfamiliar quickly become familiar and the strangeness will fade even in the few days we are here.
So very briefly here are a few things I have learned about life in Moldova today.
- To drive in Moldova one needs ‘a degree of flexibility’ to quote our driver . In part because of the state of the road surfaces but also because of other ‘flexible’ drivers.
- Unlike many other places I have travelled to English is not spoken or known. Finding myself with absolutely no language to communicate with I realised both how Anglocentric we Brits are and what it is like to be a foreigner.
- Crossing roads is a dicey business. Especially with snow and icy slush on the ground.
- Moldovans do not like drying up. and they are very nifty with space. So rather than have a drying rack by the sink, there is a rack in a cupboard over the sink and the dishes are shut away to drip dry by themselves. Genius.
- Moldova has the 6th highest number of people trafficked each year in the world. This may be partly because this post communist country has such high unemployment that many parents leave their children to be cared for by elderly grandparents and the children are very vulnerable. Some families also sell their children to traffickers as they are so impoverished they feel they have no other options. OM the organisation we will visit with here, have set up programmes for vulnerable boys and girls aged 12-17.
- The heating in the apartment building we are staying in is controlled externally by the authorities. This means that sometimes there is no heating and other times it is too warm. Tenants have no control over their radiators and are billed each month for varying sums of money.
- We found amazing bread rolls in the supermarket. Similar to very good brioche with sultanas.That’s it – Day 1 from snowy and grey Chisinau!