Don’t you agree that the first few months of your life as an expat in a new country can be
frustrating fascinating? There are so many entertaining things to do when you are new in a foreign country. That is to say, after you’ve done the more important ones such as finding a nest to bed down, sourcing good cheese and wine, and figuring out if you can walk around at night without getting mugged. Here’s a list of five things I enjoy doing in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, my new habitat. (Clearly, I have no children to feed and herd.)
1. WALK AND SNAP
A good way to familiarize yourself with a new town is to go exploring, carrying a map, a camera, a gun, and a piece of paper with your address on it. Okay, I’m joking about the gun. Chisinau is a very safe place I’ve been told, and so far so good. Nobody even stares at me. I’m kinda disappoined, since I love to feel special. Not.
Still carless, I do my shopping on foot, taking a taxi home when I have too much to carry. To get to the center of town from my house is a mere 25 minute stroll through tree-lined streets and parks. I love the parks! Lots of benches to sit on. Lots of people: Breastfeeding moms, necking/snogging couples, texting teens, school kids doing their homework, snoozing grandpas and even the occasional saxophone player. It’s a joy to observe humanity here.
While I was taking this photo, my man and I were being observed by two young men who were handing out election pamphlets. They approached us and made a friendly comment about my taking the picture and asked where we were from, what we were doing in Moldova and so forth. In very precise school English. So we chatted with them briefly to give them a chance to practice their English and of course because it was fun and they were so excruciatingly polite.
“It is not every day that a tourist comes to our small country,” one of the two said when we were ready to move on. It sounded like he was reading it straight from a text book, and it reminded me how tricky it is to learn a new language. You can say a sentence grammatically correctly and yet it’s not how a native speaker would express that same thought. I know I’ll be lucky if I get this far in learning to speak Romanian.
Not all is green and beautiful. The city claims a mix of modern apartment buildings, interesting old buildings, junky houses, and even shacks. Here a few random shots and then we’ll go on to the second fun thing to do as a new expat in Moldova.
2. FIND THE GIRLS (if you’re one, or even if you’re not.)
As a female trailing spouse, you will find it is of the essence to carve out for yourself a meaningful existence to maintain your mental acuity and general sanity while the husband is toiling away earning the bucks. A good thing to do is to do lunch with the girls, or have a drink with the girls, and discuss the latest discoveries in neuroscience, the effects of global warming, and where to find a good cleaning lady. I have girls now since I joined the International Women’s Club. Connecting with the sisters is important because otherwise you’ll just sit home alone in a house with three bidets and feel sorry for yourself and start obsessing about not having any utensil drawers in your tiny kitchen, and your laptop no longer recognizes your big screen monitor, and the views from your urban windows are walls and buildings.
3. EAT SOME PLACINTA
You were waiting for this one, weren’t you? And no, I did not misspell it. Try some placinta, yes. Or some other local delicacy. Placinta (pronounced placheentah) is a Moldovan lunch and snack food (Romanian too, I believe), a thin dough filled with any number of stuffings (cheese, meat, apple), then baked, or fried. There are many varieties but what I’ve had so far wasn’t very taste-bud titillating. I’ve also eaten mamaliga, the local version of polenta, often served with sour cream on top, which I rather like. And to continue on the culinary path:
4. GO RESTAURANT CRUISING
Mais, naturellement! My prince and I have eaten out in quite a few restaurants now. I want to know about what is available gastronomically speaking. I know there are many cheap and simple places in town where you can indulge in placinta, but I must confess to being somewhat of a foodie and to enjoy eating extravagantly well, if not copiously so, on occasion. So I like to hunt out the more upscale places at times. And I’m happy to report that Chisinau has quite a few to explore.
On top of this building is an outdoor restaurant. Breezy place, great views. I love eating outside and fortunately Chisinau features a number of outdoor restaurants, along with a joyous number of sidewalk cafés. I am fond of hanging out on sidewalk cafés, like any normal Dutch person.
I was quite taken with this super modern building and the reflection of the old building in the windows. So I took a picture. Wouldn’t you? The young guards outside at the gates didn’t like me photographing the building and started waving at me with grim faces. I pointed at the reflection and smiled innocently. “It’s interesting, isn’t it?” I said charmingly. They weren’t charmed. So one shot is all I got.
5. PLANT SOME HERBS
Why not. Planting flowers and herbs is a way to bond with your new surroundings. I like my basil and love making pesto. The seeds of these I planted while still in our temporary apartment.
And this, dear reader, is it for this week.
* * *
I crave succulent comments, so tell me some fun or interesting things you’ve done in a new (foreign) environment. I’m sure you can outdo my list here, so don’t be shy.