We spent our first Thanksgiving in Africa climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. It wasn’t the best season to go. In fact, it rained almost every day of our ascent and snowed on the days when it didn’t. However, November was when we had the time off to make the trip and we are glad we did not pass up the opportunity. Similarly, when D’s friend told us that November was not the best time to visit him in Vienna, we simply shrugged and booked the tickets anyway. Even more so than in Africa, there is really only one season for European travel, and there are too many places we want to visit to sit around waiting for the warm weather to return.
In an earlier post we hinted at the faint sense of déjà vu that has colored D’s return to Eastern Europe. It is a fleeting feeling, one that usually lays dormant until it is unexpectedly triggered by a conversation, a meal, or a simple stroll along the streets. It is a feeling that is hard to convey in words; thankfully, pictures usually help where words do not suffice. Now that we have finally found the time to sort through the thousands of photographs we’ve taken since moving to this corner of the world, we’d like to share a few images.
A few friends have asked whether our soon-to-be-born child will have Moldovan citizenship. The answer is no, unless Moldovan authorities have begun handing out citizenship documents to newborns upon arrival at the airport. With the exception of a handful of posts, mostly in Western Europe, the State Department encourages expectant mothers to deliver either in the United States or at a medevac hub, which for us is London. To do otherwise would be “acting contrary to medical advice” and would require us to sign a liability waiver, which we see no reason to do. This means that we will trade in a few months of cold Moldovan winter for cold New England winter as we return home early next year.
The last week or so Chisinau has resembled a flash-frozen version of Mordor, a chilly, thick, impenetrable fog enveloping the city. There were a few hours of bleak light each day; at times the reluctant rays of a distant, listless sun penetrated the haze. It did not rain hard, but the dark, heavy clouds hung so low that nightfall appeared to begin well before sunset. Winter has come to Chisinau, protestations to the contrary from our Moldovan friends notwithstanding.
While we were busy reliving last month’s travels, winter has quietly crept up on us. Not only has the cold set in again after a pleasantly mild October, but also the days have gotten much shorter — a phenomenon we had happily forgotten in two years of living on the equator. And now that we’ve set the clocks back for winter, nightfall begins well before 5pm. By the time D leaves work, pitch-black darkness has already engulfed Moldova’s unevenly illuminated capital, significantly raising the bar for what makes going out worthwhile.
There is a whole wide world out there — a cosmos we have only glimpsed, but which we are soon about to enter. It is the world of sippy cups and diaper accessories, of nipple butter and snot-suckers, of teethers, pacifiers, and training potties — and navigating it is both exciting and absolutely terrifying. In Kenya, juggling our own safaris and a nearly endless parade of visitors, S felt like a part-time travel agent. With her ever-expanding waistline and the knowledge that soon our little guy will make his entry into this world and forever change ours, S has become a full-time product researcher.
It is a curious aspect of human nature that the extent of our enjoyment depends to a large degree on other people. Movies, plays, and concerts, for example, are more enjoyable when one can share one’s appreciation and excitement with someone else. Sporting events are far more electrifying when one is at a sold out arena than a half empty one. Yet, the opposite seems to hold true for travel, at least for us. Part of the reason we enjoy mountaineering, hiking, and camping so much is that they offer an escape from the crushing mass of humanity. A breathtaking mountain vista feels more magnificent after a grueling hike when one is alone atop a summit than when one is surrounded by a horde of others, especially if most of them drove instead of hiking to get there.
No sooner had we returned from Ukraine than it was time to repack our bags for another trip. It is standard State Department practice to send employees and their family members who need medical care to regional hubs where the healthcare standards are on par with those in the United States. In our case, London serves as the medevac point, and S was due for her second trimester screening. We did not yet know the gender of our baby, so D asked for a couple days of leave so that we could receive the news together, and see London besides.