Sunday, February 17, 2013

Moldova 2012

01.06.2012 - 29.06.2012

Europe's Poorest Are Rich

Estonians love Georgia but do not know too much about Moldova. In 2011 when I packed my luggage to go to Georgia for an exchange semester, my family and friends got really excited about it and a few even said they wished they could come with me. But when I told them that I was going to do my internship in Moldova, nobody paid much attention to that. ‘Why Moldova?’ some asked. The most I got were the comments that Moldovan girls look like ‘bimbos’ and you are likely to catch rabies.
Well, skirts are indeed short in Moldova, but given the last summer's heat light clothing seemed to be necessary for survival. Roads in Moldova are bumpy and overcrowded minibuses and trolley-buses are not the easiest places to wear heels. Yet, girls manage it well there. And I saw much fewer dogs on the streets than in the neighbouring Romania, which I visited last year.

When I complimented Moldovans on their green capital, many locals asked for  assurance. ‘Do you really think it is green?’ they asked and looked ashamed of the waste thrown on streets.

One of my fixed ideas about Moldova, described in international news as Europe's poorest country, was that the country is almost empty, with most of its citizens being abroad in search of a better life and towns and villages being populated mainly by grandparents who are taking care of their grandchildren.

Yet, one of the first things that I noticed upon my arrival in the sunny and hot capital of Moldova on 1 June 2012 was the large number of well-dressed, happy and smiling children on the streets. It turned out that International Children's Day was celebrated on that day. ‘That explained it,’ I thought. 

But I was surprised to see that the residential area on the outskirts of Chisinau, where I lived for a month, was full of knee-high kids and their young mums. My impression was that Chisinau was a city of kids. They were everywhere: on the streets, parks, stores and coffeehouses.

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to spend a lot of time in the countryside to witness whether it is really empty as reported. Still, on a few occasions that I had to visit Moldovan villages, I found them really romantic. I was stunned by the pure nature and freely living poultry, grandmothers in colourful smocks pumping water from common wells and fathers and their young sons working with horses. All that was amazing and at the same time it was hard to believe that people still make a living like that.

On the other hand, in Chisinau I asked myself many times: ‘Where is the much-talked-about poverty?’ Clothing and grocery cost almost the same as in ‘dreamland Europe’. Coffeehouses and terraces do not only look expensive but most of them really are, which, however, does not mean they stay empty. On the contrary, in the evening, after the burning sun has set, people gather outside to breathe some fresh air over a cup of tea or a glass of beer or wine. And then they complain about their low salaries…

Two Moldovan students who have been studying in Tartu, an Estonian  university city, pointed out that when they were invited to apartment parties in Tartu they did not know they had to take their snacks and drinks with them. When Moldovans invite guests, they take care of everything. Estonians are not that hospitable or rich after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment