Tag Archives: Moldova

2011 Project365 (day296)

23rd October 2011

I’ve been pretty productive today – I have applied for one job, and marked 8 essays. I had this on in the background while I was marking, and I have to say I’m really quite impressed with myself that I managed to follow it and pick up the bulk of what was going on, given that it’s been 4 years now since I was in the country.

I reckon I can manage another 4 essays this evening, and leave the remaining handful for tomorrow. I’m going to apply for another job as well (both these 2 have closing dates this week). They are both part-time, so could work out perfectly for the research and practice together side of things and give me more time to write and do OU work. Everything crossed. I have a full-time job to apply for too, which would be brilliant but make life complicated, and another OU course (which I could manage if I get the part-time ones). What I haven’t done today is any packing. Somehow I suspect next weekend (last weekend before the move) might be a bit fraught, especially as I have another lot of essays coming in! No rest for the wicked (though I am very grateful for the work I have. I just reserve the right to moan occasionally).

Bracing myself

When I was doing my PhD fieldwork a couple of years ago in eastern Europe one of the things that struck me (and I can’t think why this was unexpected, sigh) was just how bloody obstructive the church was in all matters relating to sexuality. Then in May last year both countries had (or attempted to have) gay pride festivals, and the religious media and blogosphere exploded in bile that went way beyond disapproval, to violence and hatred that has made me ashamed and horrified and sad and disgusted. A couple of sites and some of the blogs I read literally haven’t given it a rest since. In a fortnight’s time, another festival is planned in Moldova, and already the blogs and other church-based media are frothing at the mouth and gearing up to oppose it again. So soon after the anti-communist protests there (which have died down, but the repercussions are ongoing – many people who were arrested were assaulted by police, the vote recount has confirmed the communists in power, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this) tensions are already high, and I am scared that this year it will degenerate into worse violence than last year.

I’m in two minds about this festival – on the one hand I think it’s really important to give the same message year in year out about equality and acceptance and the inequalities that people face. On the other hand, by appearing to say little about the recent protests I don’t think the festival organisers have done themselves any favours, with the religious media banging on about the fact that teh evil gayz are so obsessed with their own human rights that they are saying nothing about the human rights of others (similar arguments were made by pro-gay activists about large sections of the black community in the USA claiming their rights as a discriminated-against minority and voting for Obama, but then opposing Prop 8 in California). Maybe if they’d said that the festival would still go ahead but would be delayed by a month or two in solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters that would have been the best thing – maintaining their (hugely important) message, but siting themselves in their wider context (oh arse, that poncey last clause sounds like it’s come straight out of my thesis!!), not to mention giving the religious right less ammunition to aim at them.

I don’t know. Whatever, it’s happening 7-9 May and I’m scared of what might happen. Lord have mercy. +


Please pray for the country of Moldova, which as many of my readers know I lived in for a couple of months a couple of years ago whilst doing fieldwork for my PhD. On Sunday they had parliamentary and presidential elections, which were overwhelmingly won by the (unpopular) ruling Communist Party, who have already been in power since 2001. Since Monday protests have been held in Piata Marii Adunarii Nationale (PMAN, for those of you following on Twitter), which yesterday became violent with both the Presidential Palace and Parliament building being stormed by protesters. The parliament in particular has been trashed.

I don’t know what is going to happen. The (supposedly outgoing, I’m not too sure) president is accusing Romania of involvement in the protests and has expelled the Romanian Ambassador. Russian news agencies are blaming Western agents. Blog posts I have read are accusing the secret services of attending the protests in civvies and taking pictures of protesters. There are reports of up to 100,000 dead people being included on the electoral roll, and in fact the main demand of the protesters is for a recount (which might be going ahead).

The protests are largely (but not exclusively) by young people 18-25. Deeleea sent me an article about how a lot of them mobilised through Twitter, as mobile phone lines are reported to have been blocked. I am worried that once this is over, nothing will have changed. I have hope for future generations, but I really don’t know what to think about today. Of course I’m also worried about my friends and colleagues, and hope they’re safe.

Here is a link to some photos from PMAN and of the parliament and presidential buildings, that I took in 2007, so you can see what they usually look like. The penultimate photo is the presidential pad, and the last one is the parliament. The rest are of views round PMAN.

And here is a link to some photos from the protests.


Having waxed lyrical about 84 Charing Cross Road and how charming and relaxing and pleasurable it was, I just need to let of a wee bit of steam about a totally different subject. In the Moldovan media this week there has been a flurry of debates due to the fact that there is due to be a Gay Pride march in Chisinau this Sunday. On one website in particular (the website of one of the TV stations) every time they have an article about it there appear hundreds of comments, and it is just desperately depressing to see the intolerance and bigotry and vitriol and hatred being spewed out – much of it from Christians – and it has made me so sad and angry and frustrated. The latest as far as I can gather is that the city mayor has banned the march, citing concerns from NGOs and fears that it could lead to violence, but the group that organised it saying it’s going to go ahead anyway. Please do pray for Chisinau on Sunday – for no violence, for a way to be found for dialogue rather than partisan ranting, for hearts to be softened. I’m trying to pray for the church in particular, but I’m finding it difficult because I’m so angry with the Christian voices I’m hearing. So, as per the prayer from Jeffrey John that Auntie Doris posted on her blog a few days ago, do join me in praying for the church – but start with me, because God knows I’m so angry I’ll be useless if God doesn’t start with me.

”Lord, do something about your Church,
It is so awful, it is hard not to feel ashamed of belonging to it.
Most of the time it seems to be all the things you condemned:
Hierarchical, conventional, moralising, compromising,
Clinging to its privileges and worldy securities,
And when not positively objectionable, merely absurd.
Lord we need your whip of cords.
Judge us and cleanse us,
Challenge us and change us,
Break us and remake us.
Help us to be what you called us to be.
Help us to embody you on earth.
Help us to make you real down here,
And to feed your people bread instead of stones.
And start with me.”

The Curious Case of the Christmas Tree in the Night-time

I’ve been very entertained this week by reading the Moldovan newspapers online, where there is the most ridiculous spat going on in Chisinau, the capital. As far as I can tell, the crux of the matter is that the police are responsible to both the municipal authorities and to the national authorities, so when those two august bodies don’t agree there is the potential for ridiculous spats.

If I’m understanding correctly, the situation is basically as follows. The other day the mayor arranged for a big Christmas tree to be placed in the centre of the main square, in front of the Government building. However, suspecting that the tree might (in a beautiful Romanian euphemism) “make feet”, he arranged for some members of his Liberal Party’s youth wing to hang around the square during the evening and into the night after the tree was placed in its allotted spot. However, after not very long the police came along, said “‘ello’ ello’ ello what’s going on ‘ere then?” (or words to that effect) to these young people, confiscated their phones and cameras, and marched them round the city centre for a couple of hours. They then took them back to the square, where the phones and cameras were returned to them (and, quelle surprise, all pictures that they’d taken had been erased) and they discovered that the tree had been moved to a less prominent bit of the square. The bit that really made me laugh was when one of the young people told journalists that the place where the tree had originally been placed “was cleaner than a pharmacy” – all trace of earth, decorations, greenery, had been totally removed. Apparently the police, in this case, seem to prefer the orders of the government, who will be putting up a tree on 25th December.

It is the most ridiculous thing – but totally unsurprising. Along with the various machinations of who may or may not represent them in next year’s Eurovision Song Contest (another Big Topic in the press), you’d think everything else in Moldova was rosy. If only.

The trials and tribulations of radio stardom

So, I blogged last week about being interviewed for national radio, and the various hideous indignities and unintentional hilarity that ensued. Now I’m in the internet cafe I’ve just checked the website to find that I can’t listen to it tonight (for it is tonight that I am broadcast to the world) after all as the computers here don’t allow any plug-ins to be installed (it means I can’t see anything on YouTube while I’m here either).

I suspect that’s probably just as well actually, it’s bound to be cringeworthy. When I’m home this weekend I’ll see if they have a “listen again” feature (I suspect not actually, but it’s worth a try).


Earlier this month (7th, if you really want to go and read it) I was delighting in being called “a young person from England” on national radio. Today I did an interview at the radio station with one of the presenters, and when I’d finished and went to put my dictaphone back in my bag, she whipped out her own dictaphone (it was swankier than mine – thank goodness I didn’t bring the steam-powered cassette recorder) and asked if she could interview me. So we did a 10 minute interview (what I’m doing here, what my impressions are of the country, etc). All mildly embarrassing, but I don’t think I said anything too hideous. It’s on next week so I got the time and will try to listen to it in the internet cafe in Romania.

BUT. The last question threw me a bit, and I don’t know how I didn’t just laugh out loud. She suddenly said (I paraphrase but this was basically it) “As a final question, from a youth from England to the youth of Moldova, what would you say to us?”

I’m daaaan wi’ da yoof.


Lowering the tone

To counter yay’s scatological adventures over at Tales of Variable Yayness recently I was going to tell you about the little girl who puked on the (crowded, rush-hour) bus I was on yesterday. But I have thought better of it, I think there’s enough lowering of the tone going on down in the upside-down bit of the wibsite without me adding to it. It was pretty impressive though – I have worked as a nurse don’t forget, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much sick before except when I had food poisoning! We were all (including the driver I think) desperate to get off the bus! The little girl looked completely non-plussed by the whole thing, despite having drenched both herself and her mother – it was the adults that couldn’t handle it! Oh whoops, so I told you after all. I blame yay. And am never going to eat minced quorn again, because that’s what it looked like.

Now that I’ve shared that, I shall tell you that I have made some phone calls and cold-call visits (easier than cold phone calls) with not 100% but some success, and have given up trying to find one place because the building doesn’t appear to exist (it was only of peripheral interest to my research, rather than a vital interview, otherwise I might have tried a bit harder). I have finally pinned down the person I’ve been trying to interview for the last 2 months to a time on Friday (ie my last full day here), and I have decided I might try to fit in an impromptu interview this afternoon if my intended victim interviewee is agreeable to this.

Last night I interviewed someone who had 2 children with her, so I recorded them too to distract them a bit. It was very cute, Moldovan poetry recited by a 6 year old, but less cute when the baby was yelling into the microphone while her mum was (rather quietly) making a serious and relevant point. I really hope the dictaphone picked it up! They never tell you about this sort of thing in lectures.

Goodness only knows when I’m going to pack. I can’t get my head round the fact that I only have 2 full days left here! How did that happen?

Phone phobia (furrin version)

I know birdie will understand. And plenty of other people too, judging from previous phone phobia-related comments.

At home I’m not that fond of picking up the phone, but actually once I’ve dialled the number and got through to whoever-it-is I’m wanting to talk to, I’m usually OK. However, here I’ve got not only the sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach in anticipation of picking up the phone and talking to someone who may or may not be expecting my call and who may or may not be interested in speaking to me, but when someone does eventually answer (who may or may not actually be the person I want to talk to) I then have to explain myself in another language, which is *much* harder on the phone than in person because I don’t have the benefit of facial expression to help me out (on both my part and the person I’m speaking to). I find it’s much easier in person to communicate in another language – I’m more relaxed, and am not translating every word as I go along as it’s easier to factor in non-verbal elements in order to get the gist of what’s being said. On the phone I’m so busy trying to make sure I catch every word (and for some reason it feels like people talk much faster on the phone than face-to-face, though that’s probably just me) that I’m aware that I’m not really picking up the more subtle nuances, and also it’s much easier for me to make a mistake in what’s being said.

Today I phoned someone, whose number had been given me by someone I’d met but who wasn’t able to be interviewed himself but who recommended this other person. Unusually, he had also had the foresight to give her my number, and so she had an idea who I was and actually phoned me first (I don’t usually have this luxury, it’s often a cold-call to a total stranger), but as I was in an interview at the time my phone was switched off. I returned the call the same day (yesterday) but she had left the office and there was nobody there. So, heart in mouth, I phoned her again this morning, got her this time and she has agreed to meet me later this week.

However – although she has given me a date and time, she has not specified where, but told me to phone her again on her mobile tomorrow evening so that we can arrange that. If I was doing this in English I’d find it much easier to ask her to specify a place there and then, but in a foreign language (even one that I’m reasonably good at), when I’m on the phone and flustered it’s much easier to just say “yes of course, thanks very much” – I need to talk to her much more than she needs to talk to me, and my language isn’t good enough to smooth out any diplomatic issues that may arise from being any pushier. So now I’ve got to go through the whole thing again tomorrow! Argh!

This scenario isn’t actually that unusual. I’ve found it quite frustrating that people will give you snippets of information, or partially agree to something, but don’t give all the required information in one go. Another example, over the weekend I emailed someone whom I had been told by her colleague had done a study in an area of interest and relevance to my research, to ask if I could interview her this week. This morning I’d still had no response, so I phoned her this morning too (heart in mouth, the usual thing), to find that she hadn’t actually done that research at all but had contracted it out so didn’t think an interview would be useful. When I asked her about the contracted out research it turns out there was a report done, which she was happy to send me in another email – but why couldn’t she have just said that in a return email, rather than wait for me to chase it up by phone? It doesn’t seem to occur to people to offer solutions that are not exactly what is being asked for but which could be just as helpful. Likewise, other people say they will let me know their availability for an interview, but won’t tell me there and then, so I have actually put off contacting other people to arrange things in the meantime in case I have to drop everything in order to finally get the interview I’ve been after since I got here two months ago. If I don’t hear soon that’s another phone call I’m going to have to make. Sigh.

Ooh, this has turned out a bit more ranty than I intended it to! I must be tired!

Last minute fieldwork

I’m having a bit of a funny old day today. I’ve just had some good news from HD which has made me very happy and improved the day enormously though, so that’s good.

Yesterday the Man Flu got worse again and, having felt OK on Saturday, I spent all Sunday morning in bed groaning and feeling miserable and not quite daring to stand up because my head was spinning. But because I had lots of interviews today, I had to get up to prepare, and what would normally take me a couple of hours ended up taking more like 7, and when I finished I realised it was time for bed! So much for a day of rest.

Today’s interviews have been sort of OK, and sort of not that great really. I reckon they would have been fine if I’d done them towards the start of fieldwork, but now I’m in my last week here, I’m really struggling to be arsed with it. I found the first one OK, and thought the second was in the same building (actually it was just up the road, so I went to the wrong office to start with, which didn’t put me in the best mood ever. I’m getting quite tired of trying to locate buildings which don’t have numbers or obvious entrances or have ambiguous street signs and which all look the same as the next building. It’s a wonder I’ve ever found any of these people, let alone interviewed them). The second interview really was a case of “well I’m here so I’ll do the interview but I honestly can’t be doing with it and I’d rather be in bed” so I don’t think the interviewee was that impressed with me, but I felt too ill to care. I then made my way (by dint of quite a bit of a walk and then an unknown bus) to the third, only to find that a. I couldn’t find the building (same reasons as before – no number, no street sign, all look the same) and b. when I phoned the person to ask for directions it turned out she was in a totally different part of town (she had told me the right address, but I had written the address in my diary from a photocopied business card which was clearly out of date). So I had to hot foot it across town and get a taxi (which was a rip-off – I could have got half way to the airport for the price he charged, grrr, but needs must) and was only about 2 minutes late, but I was all sweaty and flustered, and my interviewee had even worse Man Flu than I did so didn’t get the impression she really wanted to talk to me – because it was too painful as well as because I was probably smelly and gross – and croaked her way through it with me spending the whole time praying that the dictaphone would pick up her whispers. I’m sure it’s fine, but if she hadn’t been in a hurry (and ill) and I hadn’t been flustered and kicking myself for being stupid and not checking the right address, it would have been much better. I have another interview this evening and then will be catching up with my one expat friend here as this is our last chance before I leave. Which will be good, but to be honest all I really want to do is go to bed and sleep for a week. No chance of that though – too much to do!