Monday, April 29, 2013

Just another Batumi sunset.

Lanterns for Adjara.

For Adjara.
For unexpected friendships in an unlikely place.
For Batumi Wednesdays and weekend escapes.
For rainy days spent in warm cafes with iPads and Americanos.
For sunny days spent laying on the beach throwing rocks at cans.
For night trains and crowded marshutka rides here, there, and yonder.
For wandering and for bike rides and for long walks to nowhere.  
For every toast, every dance, every bite of khachapuri.
For sunsets and the mountains and the sea.
For the things we've let go and the things we can never.
For our love, our happiness, and the wonderful place that we share. 
And for our futures, wherever they may lead us.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013


I went through Transdneistria, and all I got were these Transdneistrian rubles.  

This might be disappointing if I wasn't the girl who jumped out of the bus when stopped for a bathroom break to exchange her last Moldovan lei just so she could know what they looked like or if I wasn't the girl who got overly excited because she filled out a migration card for a country that does not officially exist.  This might be disappointing if I wasn't the girl who has a maybe-not-so-secret ambition to visit all the post-Soviet frozen conflict areas because she just can't help herself or if I wasn't the girl who relishes in the fact that she now has no exit stamp from Moldova in her passport giving the illusion that she is still there.  

But I am THAT girl, therefore nothing about a detour through Transdneistria could ever be disappointing.  

Retro Moldova.

When I ventured to Odessa back in January to visit my friend Katie (Fulbright scholar, former St. Pete classmate, and Soviet sister wife), I couldn't help but notice just how close Odessa sat to the Moldovan border.  My goal of making it around the entire FSU got the best of me when I decided that a 14-hour train ride from Kharkiv to Odessa should be topped off with a 6-hour bus ride to Chisinau and back.  Lucky for me, I have friends as crazy as I am like the lovely Katya who without hesitation agreed to accompany me on this little side adventure.  Moldova, which is often called the poorest country in Europe, was a place of great contrasts.  As we drove through the countryside on our way to the capitol, it definitely seemed to be living up to its reputation; sparsely populated and dilapidated villages blurred together as our Soviet-era marshrutka clunked along, fruitlessly attempting to avoid the potholes that all but covered the road.  Our first glimpses of Chisinau gave the same impression--grey and a bit depressing, but as we worked our way to the center (after a nice tour of the Soviet-block suburbs, thanks to a not so honest marshrutka driver) we quickly realized that there was a part of Moldova that was pretty hopping, lined with very European styled restaurants and shops.  I did not expect to find a relatively decent Mexican restaurant and one of the best omelet and coffee breakfasts I've had in the last six months in Moldova, but I wasn't that surprised either.  Cities like that always seem to make an attempt to redeem themselves (not that it needed to) or be something that they're really not (i.e. Western European).

Even though we were in Moldova for two short days, those days might be some of the best days of traveling that I had during my whole pre-school trip.  And to be honest, the reason that they were so great had very little to do with Moldova itself.  It had to do with visiting (yet another) Pushkin house museum whose curators were thrilled to have two Amurican girls who love Russian literature and could laugh at their jokes in Russian.  It had to do with buying Kseniya friendship bracelets from a lady on the street, thereby making the longest-running inside joke eternal.  It had to do with the discovery of sochni at a random produkti and the mutual love shared by the shopkeeper who excitedly told us how those sweet little tvorog-filled pastries remind her of her childhood.  It had to do with splitting a good bottle of Moldovan wine and reminiscing about a past life in Piter and sharing in the experience of not-Russia-but-somewhere-else-post-Soviet living.  But mostly it had to do with being with someone who understands why the previous reasons are so wonderful when nobody else can.

The magical McD's with wifi that saved our lives.
Because after 12 countries-worth of travel, I still don't think it's important to write down the address of my hostel.   
The Gov'ment.
I had to go to Moldova to get a good omelet.
...and tacos.

And I went to Paris...but only in my dreams.
Moldova is Romania.
Pushkin wuz here (and that's his hookah on the couch).