Trying to bridge the gap of distance and culture with a blog post

Recently in talking with friends, we realized that we don’t have many pictures of our daily lives in Moldova. We have LOTS of photos of our travels, as well as a random assortment of photos that confuse us or make us laugh. But we don’t have much visual evidence for the daily routine of our last six months.

And actually, I’m not sure that the following photos even portray a daily routine. They do, however, provide some idea of what catches our eye in this city we call home, as well as what we think about what we see.

Cats in Chișinău

I swear that I’m not obsessed with cats, but I do often have “snapshot” moments with cats when wandering around Chișinău. Chișinău has a large stray dog and cat population, and both are pretty adorable. But I must stay, the dogs make me feel more sad than the cats do. The dogs wander around the streets and parks in packs. They are obviously loyal – they wait for their limping comrades as they move about. And they are also clearly smart – they literally stay on the sidewalk until the crosswalk sign is green to cross the street. But I hate to see that most of them are fearful of humans, walking with their tails tucked between their legs.

Stray cats, on the other hand, seem to behave just like indoor cats do. They stalk across the sidewalks and through the grass as they ignore humans that don’t interest them. But when they want to, they are more than happy to lay down for a good belly rub. Daniel and I didn’t have a pet of our own in the US, but I find myself itching for a furry friend the longer that I am in Chișinău.

New construction vs. Decaying existence

Chișinău is not beautiful in a traditional sense. It kills me to write this, but it’s true. It doesn’t have mountains or oceans or beautiful vistas or famous architecture. And what is more, many buildings in Chișinău are in fact decaying shells. It is common to walk by buildings with half-boarded windows, full of trash and debris. I think of Detroit after the city went bankrupt when I see these buildings.

An abandoned building located on the same street as the American Embassy

And yet, this city is not one of decay. These same decrepit buildings have constructions walls around them. Though perhaps the project is delayed, it is clear that there is at least a hope for the building. New sidewalks and park paths are continually under construction around the city. And once finished, they really are lovely. Though the city is poor by most standards, it has not given up or given in. I am excited to see how it will look 10 years from now.

An Orthodox church undergoing renovations

Rural meets Urban

Moldova truly is a rural country. After spending some time in the capital city, we have realized that even if Moldovans might live in Chișinău, they almost always continue to identify with their home village. City life in Chișinău holds more opportunity, but it doesn’t hold the hearts of the people. We have enjoyed exploring the city and seeing how urban and rural mesh in this unique place.

Waiting at a bus stop near our apartment
Older adults enjoying an impromptu dance to folk music in one of the public parks. I love how they use the tree as a coat rack.

One way we have particularly experienced the rural/urban combo of Chișinău is through long runs. Every weekend we try to run for at least an hour and explore different parts of the city. Recently we went to a town just outside of Chișinău during part of our run. The map made it look like we were running on a real road, but it was actually a packed dirt road in a remote area.

Remember how I mentioned that stray dogs are fearful? Well, dogs in people’s back yards are quite aggressive. They get really mad if you walk by, and they always seem to lurk just behind especially rickety fences. On the particular run when this picture was taken, we turned around well before we wanted to because the dogs were that intense. Interestingly enough, every person we passed was very kind and only minimally confused by our jogging through a “rural” Moldovan area.

I would never want to use this rock against a dog, but it made me feel safer to run with it…just in case some kind of Terminator dog did come after me

It’s the little things

I have been saddened each time I try to take wide angle photos of Chișinău. So many of the buildings are somewhat run-down Communist-era apartment blocks. Even our shiny new apartment building doesn’t photograph in a way that displays how it feels. To me it is home, and in photographs it is just “meh.” What does come across in photos, though, are the brief moments in time. These express so much more of what I feel about this place.

It is like stepping back in time to see communist-era vans, trucks, etc still running on the roads

Graffiti is an incredible view into the mindset of a population. It can also be just an art form without any deeper message. Whenever Daniel and I stumble across graffiti that catches our eye, we like to photograph it. For your own personal education, 1 December 1918 is significant because it is the date that Romania was unified as a nation state that included its prsent form as well as the Republic of Moldova.

And although most of the city is concrete and graffiti and construction, there are nice parks scattered throughout the city. I’ll be honest- the parks aren’t mind blowing. They aren’t like the gardens around Versailles. But they are a calm place during the week and a lively place on the weekends when many Moldovans descend in all their selfie finery.

“Drum bun” literally means “good road.” People say it to express “safe travels.” And that is what we wish for all of you. 🙂