Monday, March 5, 2018

Moldova

I'm excited to tell you that I got to visit Moldova at the end of February. I got to travel with Joe and Nadia and Alin, which was better than being alone on a bus, which I could have done in going to Moldova. Plus I love road trips in any country.

We had to make a trip to Moldova because my permis de ședere was expiring, so I needed to leave Romania on the last day and re-enter the country the next day, to begin a separate stay. I could have flown somewhere; I actually considered spending some time in London. But I was short on both time and cash, and I have few if any connections in London, so we decided that an overnight stay in Moldova was best.

Joe, Nadia, Alin, and I got into the Ford and headed for the border. We drove through the city of Iași on our way there, stopping at a Lidl to pick up some snacks. We bought donuts, cookies, chocolate, bread and salami and cheese for sandwiches (and mayo) and Nadia found a pair of leggings for ten lei. Fueled by sugar, we continued our journey to the border, as I read more of the book Everything Belongs until it got too dark to see.

Just as it was getting dark, in fact, we reached the border. There was a line of cars waiting in the cold, as passports and vehicles were inspected before each car was released. Eventually it was our turn, and Nadia got out of the driver's seat to hand the passports, permits, and other paperwork over to the border officer.

However, things did not go according to plan.

Nadia was made aware that the paperwork for our vehicle was no good because the car was three months past the expiration of the necessary inspection. In other words, the Ford was overdue for a full evaluation and these border officers could not let us pass through the border because our car might have some defect or something. In addition, we would now be required to pay an excessively high fine.

The four of us must have hatched a dozen different plans for how to get me across the border before midnight and back in Romania the next day. I could walk across, wait in a store, and walk back. But the border patrol would not have let me do this on foot and besides, it was literally freezing out. I could try to catch a bus from Iași, but it was too late for that; no buses would be running. The border patrol suggested we hop in a car belonging to some of the people around us, but Joe didn't think it was a good idea for me to get in a stranger's car to cross over to one of the world's hot-spots for human trafficking, leaving me to try to figure how to get back on my own with no way to call with no cell phone service.

What we decided to do was this: Drive halfway from the border back toward home, and meet Andrei in the Zafira, which after a lengthy phone call, Nadia determined had up-to-date papers and would therefore hopefully be allowed to cross the border. The trick would be to do this switcheroo in time to cross the border before midnight.

We drove back through Iași, and I made sandwiches for us with the items from Lidl. We were all getting sick of the many sweets. Despite the stress, we were optimistic. If this didn't work, I'd have to pay a fine and cross the border in this way on a different day. I decided to see if we could do it.

Lo and behold, we met up with Andrei and Vasile in the other car. We jumped in and stopped at the same gas station we had just stopped at in the other car, probably confusing the guy behind the register. Then we hurried back through Iași and on to the border.

Well, after much praying and planning, we made it! We crossed the border into Moldova with twenty minutes to spare. There was a little confusion once we got into Moldova, because my passport was stamped four times, somehow, while everyone else's was just stamped once or twice. We decided not to let this hang over our heads, and we found a hotel to stay in.

Nadia and I took one room with two twin beds and Joe and Alin took the others. In the morning, there was a knock at the door and while Nadia remained asleep, I groggily opened the door to see no one until Alin and Joe jumped out from either side of the door.

"Please don't do that," I mumbled. They were both fully dressed and must have been tired of waiting for us girls. After Nadia and I got ready and we checked out of our rooms, we all had and early lunch at the restaurant downstairs.

After meal of greasy spaghetti, questionable cream of mushroom soup, and authentic Moldovan dumplings, we headed over to children's foster home we knew of in the country.

When we arrived, we found a young couple named Vlad & Carolina Pogor, who were now responsible for all the kids, though most of the children we at school at that time. But there was a little girl who was barely out of her toddler years, sleeping and cuddling with Carolina, who was actually her mother.

We talked with them, and had tea, and heard all about what they've been doing since they replaced the previous caregivers. There was some work done on the house, which we toured up and down, to make it a more enjoyable place to live. The kids began coming home, and Nadia brought out the clothes that she and I donated out of our own wardrobes for the girls and women to wear. We also gave them food, before saying out goodbyes and heading back out on the lonely, gray road.

Next stop: check out the best inexpensive goods Moldova had to offer.

We bought bags of cookies left out in the open air, softened and stale with age. We then headed to the center of town, the fish market. I found Russian black tea and a bottle of peach iced tea with the brand name of Biola, my alma mater. Then we headed back out into the gloomy, colorless day to return to our home country.

 I am still trying to get a visa. In the meantime, I'll be here in Romania until April 20th, stay in California for three months, and then re-enter for three months, if I still can't get a visa.

I'd appreciate your prayers, for words from friends, for whatever you'd like to offer. Of course, I am also perpetually fundraising, so you can help out at Go Fund Me. Thanks for reading, friends!

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