I leave for Moldova in the morning and I’ve gotta admit, I don’t think I have ever been more nervous about going somewhere. Usually Moldova can be challenging and the breakaway region of Transdnistria, which I’m also obliged to visit, is one step above chaos, but things have worsened recently making the overall picture none-too appealing for an American journalist, travelling alone, in a Romanian car that’s not in his name and insured by a third party, without a single word of Russian in his vocabulary.
Relations between Transdnistria, the Russian-backed country that doesn’t exist, and Moldova have never been great but various moves by self-absorbed fat-heads, resulting in consequences largely felt by the already long-suffering citizens of both regions, have hit a new low and Transdnistria has called for Russia to send more support – the bulk of their defence is supplied by Russian troops, sympathetic to the region clinging to old Soviet ways. I’m already being told not to drive the car into Transdnistria, though if I do, don’t dare go without a smooth talking local in the passenger seat or the guards will have a field day with my sorry ass. I’ll have to see if anyone in my large group of contacts in Chisinau will be willing to take a short road trip with me. Guides are surprisingly expensive (15-30 euro per hour), so that will have to be a last ditch option. Hopefully, there’ll just be a friendly local in Chisinau, preferably with relatives in Transdnistria, who’d like to come along for the ride.
With Communist ways in full force in Moldova and people extra touchy right now, I imagine that fact gathering will be even more difficult than here in Romania, where paranoid suspicion of questions, no matter how benign, particularly by older, Ceausescu-era generations can be like pulling teeth from a starving crocodile (e.g. Q: “What time is it?” A: “Why do you want to know? Who are you?”).
The good news, as I’ve already mentioned, is that pre-trip emailing has brought me a windfall of excellent contacts in Chisinau. I’m in touch with two motivated guides, a dedicated blogger, the enthusiastic host of my LP predecessor, the business partner of some acquaintances of mine and a Fulbright scholar from Arizona, teaching a journalism class who I’m meeting en masse to talk about freelance travel writing in America. My cup runneth over with help and hopefully all the local wine my liver can endure.
I’m planning to stay 10-12 days. No more than 14, as my insurance will run out and I don’t need to give anyone additional excuses to harass me at the border.
Updates here will undoubtedly be scant and brief. If I go silent for more than two weeks call the embassy, stressing of course that I’m too cute to die.