I tried to arrange to go to Romania to ski at Christmas time, but it is just too hard to get to the ski areas without a car. It would probably take me 14 hours or more by bus or train, eight to ten hours by plane (followed by taxi, train and bus). So I will wait until a friend is going or I get my own car.
I decided to go car shopping with my landlord, Ion. He is in the business of buying wrecked cars and rebuilding them, so he knows good mechanics who can check out cars and he knows what prices are reasonable. My original idea was to buy a new, Russian made Lada for $3000. But Ion says that they are no good and not worth it. He says I am better off buying a German car that is several years old for a bit more money. It will be more reliable and I will get more when I sell it. It should also be more comfortable. So I think that is my plan.
On Saturday morning Ion and I head for the car market. In a desolate field not far from the center of the city we found hundreds of cars parked. Many owners were washing their cars, some were dozing in the front seat. I was pleased that most had signs announcing the model, the year and the price.
Ion says that if I buy an Audi that is five years old he will be glad to buy it from me when I head home from Moldova. I like that idea. The Audi is comfortable and reliable and Ion says that it is not problem getting parts.
We didn't find exactly what we were looking for, but Ion says don't worry. Either he or a friend will go to Hungary after New Years, find the right car and drive it to Moldova.
When I returned from the car market I dashed down to the fruit market to get some oranges for my morning orange juice and some apples for a pie. Then it was off to Oleg's football game. My driver's son (Did I mention that one of the percs of working in Moldova is that I get a driver to take me wherever I need to go for work? Most advisors need rides to and from work but I made it a point to live within walking distance. So many days all that Ghenadie does for me is drive me down the hill to the main office where the advisors all meet to go out for lunch. After lunch I walk back to the office. He also does some errands and occasionally drives other advisors but he spends a lot of the day waiting to see if I need to go somewhere.) As I was saying, my driver's son just had his fourteenth birthday and this afternoon his football team has a game (in the US we call it soccer but here it is definitely football.)
It's a cool day, about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. So Oleg is wearing his long-johns under his soccer shorts and during the first half he also wears his hat. The spectators are colder than the players though, because they are busily running up and down the field. The "field" is paved with asphalt, so the long-johns are also good padding for falls.
Oleg is the left wing. His team dominates the game, keeping the ball deep in the opponents end. Oleg makes many corner kicks and one of them leads to a goal. His team wins 3-0.
The Euro Circus came to Chisinau for several weeks and it seemed like a fun way to spend the afternoon. I invited the two children of a family I met several weeks ago to join me along with their two cousins. Chisinau has a building dedicated to the circus. It's a circular amphitheater with one large ring.
The show started with acrobats doing flips and walking the tight rope high above us. Then the usher came and told me that video cameras were not permitted. So I have no pictures of the clowns or the animals.
I liked the clowns. They made audience members part of the show. First they invited some kids to try jumping the long rope they twirled. Then the invited a man to try. He jumped very high successfully so they blindfolded him, whistling when it was time to jump. They didn't bother twirling the rope, but he was very proud of his jumps!
The bears were particularly well trained. They walked on rolling drums, jumped through hoops and rode bicycles. Then they brought on a table filled with disks that could be slid around and pushed off through the proper hole. First they invited a dozen kids to try. After a couple minutes they hadn't removed a single disk. So they shooed away the kids and let the bear try. He successfully found the right slot for each disk. So maybe bears are smarter than we are!
During the intermission the younger boys paid twenty-five cents to swing across the ring on a swing suspended from the ceiling. Then they posed for pictures with a bear.
The second half featured acrobats, the strong man and more animals: lions, tigers, wolves, goats, monkeys, even cats. No elephants though - I guess Eastern European acrobats are less expensive than elephants!
After the show we found some cotton candy.
My landlord and his family invited me and Larry (another American advisor) to join them for dinner. Before dinner the children (Nadia, 15 and Gherasim, 7) serenaded us with Christmas Carols in English, Romanian and Polish. Their mother's ancestors came from Poland and the family is considering emigrating if the economy does not improve.
We feasted on many Moldovan specialties. We started with cheese-filled pastries, salami, eggplant, small fish, cheese, bread and I forget what else. Then we moved on to cabbage stuffed with rice, meat and vegetables and stewed meat. I thought it was turkey but Larry said it was rabbit! Anyway it was very good. For desert we had a cake with a creamy filling and tangerines (they call them mandarins - are they the same?) Of course the wine kept flowing but they didn't push it the way some Moldovans and Georgians do.
Throughout dinner we discussed life in Moldova. Ion speaks some English but Marie knows very little. Fortunately Nadia is almost fluent. She didn't seem to mind spending much of the evening translating back and forth for her parents. Ion has embraced the free market and expressed frustration with country-mates who are moving more slowly from communist ways.
I was pleased that Marie only went into the kitchen long enough to retrieve the next course. In Georgia the woman who had cooked a big meal very seldom had time to sit and eat with the guests. I asked who had been the head cook for the three weeks that Marie had spent visiting Poland. Nadia answered that during one week when she had a vacation from school she did most of the cooking but that her father cooked the rest of the time.
Many advisors had gone home for the holiday, but one of the advisors invited the other three of us to his house for Christmas dinner at 1:00. Mark came from Australia so he is accustomed to barbecues outside for Christmas. His wife came to visit for a few weeks and they cooked turkey, squash and a combination of English and Moldovan specialties. I contributed apple and walnut pies (I haven't found pecans here, but the walnuts are plentiful).
Mark's landlord had arranged for traditional Moldovan carolers to serenade us. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I will have to find another chance to photograph Moldovan costumes. They wore white shirts embroidered with colorful patterns.
We drank and ate and drank some more. Since there were many leftovers we invited ourselves back for lunch the next day.