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first order of business

D spent 21+ hours at or between airports and experienced a seven-hour time change before arriving in Chisinau just after 3pm last Friday with just one thought in mind…

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The Embassy couple who are our social sponsors grew a little nervous waiting in the arrivals lounge as they watched most of the passengers leave the airport. It took a while to go through passport control, but it was actually at customs that D got held up. Lugging his three bags towards the exit, D triggered the suspicions of the border guards and they asked him to scan his luggage through the x-ray machine. It seemed like a reasonable request so D complied. Next came the questions: how many laptops was D carrying, and how many cell phones. At this point D showed his diplomatic passport and one of the guards burst out laughing. The border patrol had thought they had a small-time smuggler on their hands and were simultaneously relieved and a bit embarrassed when they realized their mistake.

The minor misunderstanding resolved, our sponsors dropped D at our apartment, gave him a foldable map of the city, and left him to his own devices. The promise of the sturdy bed that awaited his arrival was tantalizing, but sleep was not D’s highest priority. The best way to avoid jet-lag after experiencing a major time change is to stay up until a reasonable hour before going to bed. A Nairobi friend had pointed D towards the Flying Mamaligas, Moldova’s ultimate frisbee group, so D decided to attempt to find their playing grounds.

Unlike Nairobi, which was both too big and too dangerous for aimless wandering, Chisinau is a great city to explore on foot. It is small, has a fairly well-organized downtown, and boasts low crime rates. A small forest separates the hill on which our apartment building stands from the downtown area. It does not divide the city entirely, but D figured it would be faster to use one of the forest footpaths than to try skirting the forest on city streets. The problem, D soon realized is that the streets where we live are not as linear as the map makes them appear. D did find a footpath that led into the forest but it was not the footpath he had had in mind and it took 15-20 minutes of backtracking through the woods to find the path that appeared to lead in the right direction.

Evaluating his amble through the city later that night, D considered it a limited success. Despite the initial false start, he reached the gates of the park he sought right on time. Unfortunately, he could not locate the frisbee players in a park that spans approximately half a dozen square miles. He paid the 4 lei admission (about 30 cents) and wandered along the bifurcating footpaths in search of flying frisbees. He passed a sizable rose garden that was filled with couples doing wedding photo shoots, got lost among various groves and fields, but could not locate the corner of grass where the handful of Moldovans who play frisbee practice their skills.

Unfortunately, it took several days for the Embassy to issue D a cell phone so, mindful of the late hour, he made his way back to the park gates to set off in search of a taxi. It had taken a little over an hour to walk downhill through the forest to the park and D had no intention of trying to find his way back on foot at night. Hailing a cab at 8pm on a Friday evening proved no easy feat but D finally flagged one down after spending 20 minutes trying different corners of a major intersection.

The route back to the apartment was not entirely straightforward so D didn’t know how to direct the cabbie back to his front door. After a couple of false starts up dead-end alleyways, D finally got out and found his way on foot as darkness set on the city.

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