With the exception of a day trip to Orhei Vechi and a couple of visits to the Tiraspol soccer stadium, we have not really explored the Moldovan countryside. Our car is still stuck somewhere in transit from the States, which has limited our mobility. Our friends left us their car while they went home for two weeks, but other than taking care of a few errands we barely used it. We did, however, drive to the Bostaniada — Moldova’s second annual pumpkin festival — last weekend.
There were a couple of great Onion articles recently lampooning the modern-day societal obsession with our digital lives. We may not Instagram every meal we have, but we too are guilty of wasting more time than we should on Facebook and sharing snapshots of our life through this blog. And the more one shares, the greater grows the itch to keep doing it. What started simply as a way to stay in touch with friends and family while we served abroad has taken on a life of its own, with the number of strangers who follow our blog outnumbering our friends and relatives by a ten-to-one margin.
During the two years we spent in Nairobi we rarely saw our Kenyan colleagues socially. Friends serving at other posts recounted how they were invited to every birthday and wedding, even when the inviter was barely related to the people whose marriage was being celebrated. We had friendly relationships with many of our colleagues in Nairobi, but they tended to stop at the edge of the Embassy compound. That’s why we were very excited to be invited to a wedding soon after our arrival in Moldova. One learns a lot about a culture from its celebrations, and weddings in Moldova are very important.
After a busy week, we were looking forward to catching up on our blog this weekend. Last week we attended a colleague’s wedding and, having finally sorted through the photos, we were hoping to share some of our impressions and the joy of their celebration with our readers. After the events of this weekend, however, it has been difficult to focus on our small lives and marshall our thoughts away from the tragedy unfolding in our previous home in Kenya.
In much of the world, it is easy to become disconnected from the farms that supply our markets and grocery stores. In Ecuador, for example, there was a popular joke that if one asked an American child where milk comes from, the child would answer, “the supermarket.” One of Moldova’s biggest selling points is that most of the fresh produce here is locally harvested. Moldova imports bananas from Ecuador and citrus fruits from Costa Rica, Turkey, or Israel, but the rest of the fruits and veggies are homegrown. Though we still shop at the supermarket, we’ve loved buying most of what we consume directly from farmers at small outdoor markets.
D was once a millionaire. He spent three weeks in Paraguay, where the local currency — the guaraní — was traded at 4,000 to the dollar at the time. A couple of hundred dollars was all it took to feel immensely rich. In Ghana, where S studied in 2005, one dollar was equal to 10,000 cedis, and whenever people went to an ATM they would bring a plastic bag for the armfuls of mostly worthless bills they withdrew.
In years past, the Ukranian Open has been held in either the capital city of Kiev or in Lviv in Western Ukraine, which is widely considered one of the country’s most important cultural centers. It is unclear what happened this year: as best as D could gather, there was some balloting controversy that took place on Ukraine’s ultimate frisbee forum and Ivano-Frankivsk got to host the annual tournament for the first time. People were upset; teams that travel from Russia and Belarus decided to skip the tournament. Last year, there were 16 teams, including Chisinau’s Flying Mamaligas. This year, only ten teams participated in the competition, and they were all from Ukraine.
Months before moving to Moldova, D had his heart set on playing in the Ukranian Open Ultimate Frisbee Championship, which was held over Labor Day weekend in Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine. This summer, we had an open invitation to play at Wildwood — the massive beach frisbee tournament on the Jersey coast — but had to back out because it fell right before our departure from the United States and we had too many loose ends to tie up before moving abroad.
We had been counting on a quiet night in last Thursday. It was going to be our last night together for two weeks. D was planning a weekend trip to Western Ukraine over Labor Day to play ultimate while S was going to spend some time with her family, who were traveling through the Netherlands and Germany. Instead, we wound up driving an hour and a half to watch a soccer game in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria.