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.
It’s curious that the less there is to do with one’s free time, the harder it is to keep track of it. Entire weeks drift by, the days so alike that they dissolve one into another. We’ve been back for more than a month now and other than D’s birthday weekend, we have a hard time recalling what we’ve done in that time. S especially finds this frustrating. Everyone keeps telling us to take advantage of this calm before the storm and catch up on sleep before the baby arrives. Sleep is nice, but it does not leave one feeling fulfilled. S feels that she should be accomplishing more, but it’s hard to structure one’s day when all one has is free time.
Although a lot of the time it feels like we are simply watching the days go by, we have had a bit of excitement to break up our routine. Last weekend, for example, we joined the rest of the Embassy community in celebrating the anniversary of the Marine Corps at the Marines’ annual ball. S was at first afraid she would not be able to fit into any of her pre-pregnancy clothing, and we did not purchase tickets until she found a suitable dress that accommodated her baby bump. This weekend, D joined the Marines and about two dozen other Embassy employees for a game of paintball in the woods outside Chisinau, ignoring his inner sense of reason, which suggested that playing at combat with a bunch of military guys was probably not the brightest idea.
Perhaps the event that generated the most excitement in our quiet corner of the world was the visit last month of Tottenham Hotspur, which played a Europa League match against Tiraspol Sheriff. Some of the English footballers might not have been able to pick out Moldova on a map and one of them was famously quoted saying that he thought Tiraspol was somewhere in Scandinavia. Here, on the other hand, everyone knew the big-name players, and the arrival of a Premier League team was not to be missed.
The two previous games D had seen were sparsely attended. Although they were both Europa League matches, Sheriff had faced little-known opponents from Serbia and Russia, and D got to watch those games from the VIP box with a handful of Embassy friends. This time, the Ambassador himself attended the game and though he invited a couple of people from the Embassy to accompany him to the box, there was definitely not enough room to accommodate the three carloads of soccer fans from the Embassy. The stadium was packed — one of the rare times a game has been sold out in Tiraspol — and the Embassy contingent had to rely on a contact in Transnistria to acquire tickets.
There was a long line of cars waiting to cross the checkpoint into Transnistria that stretched for the better part of a mile, and which the diplomatic cars happily skipped. The Sheriff arena — a shiny, new venue that sticks out among the Soviet-era apartments that dominate the Transnistrian landscape — was buzzing with excitement. D actually found it more fun to sit in the midfield VIP tribune and channel the energy of the fans than to watch the game from the box, which can feel a bit disconnected from the action. Alas, although Sheriff was clearly trying very hard, the team lacked a scoring touch and fell 0-2 to a Tottenham side that appeared not to be trying at all.
In Kenya, we tried to take a trip at least once a month to help us maintain our sanity. Although Chisinau lacks Nairobi’s stress level, here we face the opposite challenge of trying not to go stir-crazy. So far, we’ve kept to our goal — we’ve taken three big trips each over the course of our first 100 days in Moldova and have one more journey on the horizon before the year comes to an end.