The thin strip of Moldovan land on the left bank of the Nistru River holds an undeniable fascination for Western visitors, who long to see its still-venerated Soviet symbols with their own eyes.
Live in a country long enough, and a part of you starts identifying with it. Chisinau may only be a temporary residence for us, but after spending two years here we have developed a soft spot for Moldova. So when friends comes to visit, we endeavor to show off Moldova’s good sides. We haven’t had nearly as many visitors here as we did in Kenya, but that was in line with our expectations. In fact, we have been pleasantly surprised at how many of our friends made arrangements to visit our little corner of Eastern Europe. Last weekend, we hosted the last of our visitors — an Austrian friend from D’s grad school days.
This summer marks fifteen years since D first picked up a disc and started playing ultimate frisbee, a trajectory that has taken him from his New England college team to pick-up games in Spain and Costa Rica, tournaments throughout East Africa, and most recently the role of field captain for Moldova’s Flying Mamaligas.
Unlike the Danube Delta, which required advanced planning and a full day of travel to reach, Odessa is so close to Moldova that we always figured we would just go. Ukraine’s storied Black Sea port is a 3-hour-drive away from Chisinau, yet we never quite managed to make our way across the border. Though to be fair, for a significant part of our tour Ukraine was off-limits for Embassy personnel. This month, we finally found a good reason to go.
With Kenya’s incredible biodiversity, it was almost inevitable that our frequent safari trips would turn us onto birding. Moldova, on the other hand, proved a poor posting for this hobby. Fewer than 300 bird species have been recorded in the entire country, and very few of them flock to Chisinau. We have a couple of bird feeders in our yard, but even in spring and summer when our fruit trees flower, we rarely see anything other than the usual house sparrows and great tits.
Topping our admittedly short bucket list for our remaining months in Moldova was a visit to the Danube delta. The mighty river that courses through much of central Europe empties out into the Black Sea just south of the Romania-Ukraine border. The resulting estuary is a vast network of reed-lined canals that host 90 percent of Romania’s 390 bird species.
Munchkin had been such a joy the last few months that his newest cranky phase caught us a little off-guard. We have heard of the terrible twos, of course, but the term seemed to imply that we would be in the clear for another eight months or so — at least until he turns two. Not so. This past month, we have run the full gamut of emotions from bemusement to frustration as Munchkin’s little tantrums have increased in both frequency and intensity.