Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Number 1

After the meetings, I went back to the big Number 1. Picked up more supplies for the kitchen -- and more groceries! I went when I was hungry. Back home, when I shop hungry at Target, I come home with random and bizarre flavors of Archer Farms products. Here, I come home with "paprika" flavored chips from Hamburg and Olive flavored crackers from Italy and a chocolate cereal from Russia. Actually, they were all quite tasty. We've found a number of yummy snacks here -- like the waffle cookies with hazelnut filling (made in Romania). Yum! We'll have to send Ramsay back with some of these snacks when he comes to visit. The truth is we probably don't climb enough stairs to justify the current level of snack food in the apartment, but I have definitely lost weight since we've been here just the same.

Monday, August 30, 2010


More meetings at ULIM this afternoon. I got the key to my office! Very exciting. I'll be in Room 219, for those of you near 52 Vlaicu Parcalab. (One of my assignments was to make a sign for my office door. I think Zina will be sprucing it up for me. Photos of the office will follow!)

I will be sharing an office with a professor from Turkey and a professor from Germany. The Turkish professor helps organize the caucus of foreign professors at ULIM -- from China, Korea, Spain, Turkey, Germany, Austria, Poland. Apparently the other foreign professors are here to teach languages. I believe I am the only foreign professor here teaching in another discipline.

The gracious Turkish professor (who is here as a part of a Turkish govt program to teach Turkish in countries abroad; at home he teaches English) showed me around campus and brought me to meet with the Dean of History and International Relations. The facilities I will be using are in the high rise building that I overlook from my kitchen (you've seen the photos in earlier posts). The relevant floors were ground floor through the 7th floor. Of course, I now laugh at stairs. Ha, ha, ha.

We saw several reading rooms/libraries (see photos in this post). The classrooms were all being renovated. Everything everywhere smelled of fresh coats of paint. Though the semester begins tomorrow (Sept 1), classes won't begin until Sept 15. Several of the classrooms are "country rooms" - that have been "adopted" by a country - and decorated with information about that country. Neat idea. Many of these rooms were being set up, or they were locked. Photos will be posted later.

I learned where the copy centers are located, where I can go to print documents, where the restrooms are, etc.

Then we went to the 7th Floor to meet with the Dean of History and International Relations. (The acting Dean. As I mentioned earlier, the Dean is heading to GW on a Fulbright this year.) She said they would like for me to teach in their MA program. Which is fantastic. Except that I had been planning on teaching undergraduates during the day, when Peggy is at school. This latest development means that I will need to find a nanny while I teach evening classes. Friends are already on the case, and I am hopeful we can find someone soon. (The other twist is that classes may not be scheduled until Sept. 10, which means I will try to find a nanny - but not know what days I will need her?!) Flexibility will become my middle name. Good thing my mantra is Improvise, Adapt and Overcome! (with the tag line: Make it harder!)

We then went for coffee across the street at the Roberts Coffee, managed by one of his Turkish friends. (I posted a photo of my apartment window, as seen from the coffee shop). Over a latte (and later over a Turkish tea), he gave me a thoughtful overview of Moldovan political and economic history and answered my questions about what it was like to be a foreign professor at ULIM, etc.

On 31 August Moldova celebrates the Language Day

On 31 August Moldova celebrates the Language Day

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon with new friends, all parents (and their children) from Peggy's school. Guests were from Germany, Mozambique/Brazil, France, and Sweeden - who have been in Moldova from 6 mos-2+ years. Our gracious hosts are from the U.S. (and work for Peace Corps). What a lovely and cozy home. Here you can see Peggy with her new friends sitting in the kitchen window. (The boy to her right is in her class) What a lovely courtyard/garden. Knowing my obsession with finding soy milk for Peggy, our hostess bought some for us. How sweet! It is remarkable how welcoming the ex pat community is here. While I hope we will make some Moldovan friends as well, we very much appreciate the warmth and hospitality we have received so far. It is making the transition so much easier.

Peggy is doing so well. She is happy here. Last night when we were playing with her dolls, she said she was *not* from Florida, she was from Moldova

I signed her up for her after school activities this morning. She will have Drama on Tuesdays, Girl Scout Daisys on Wednesdays, and Piano on Thursdays.

For her language, she wants to learn Romanian. Her choices were Russian, Romanian, French, Spanish, and German. I thought Spanish would be a good choice, but she insisted on Romanian. Ramsay pointed out that I have been learning Romanian all summer, teaching her Romanian words and phrases, so I should not be surprised that she chose Romanian. While not quite as "universal" as some of her other options, it will serve her well here - and it is a Romance language.

I am so pleased that she will be learning a foreign language in Kindergarten. I started with French (1st thru 5th grade), Latin in middle school, Spanish in high school and college. I wanted Peggy to start a language in elementary school as well. Once Peggy gets back to Florida, I don't think her language starts until middle school (Spanish only). For now, she has a wonderful curriculum that will include arts, music, and foreign language.

I have a meeting this afternoon at ULIM with my Dean, the Dean of History and International Relations.

I am eager for my classes to begin, and for the semester to be underway!


Moldova has its own currency: lei. And the "cents"/coins are called "bani." Here are some photos of the various bills. Each denomination (a different color) has Stefan cel Mare on the front, and a national landmark on the back. Right now the exchange rate is about 12 MD lei to 1 US dollar. We live on the main drag - Stefan cel Mare - and there are lots of places to change $. All at about the same rate.

On Friday I found an exchange place that's inside a candy shop. I went back later with Peggy. They sold the little fruit candies that they gave us on the AirMoldova flight (that Peggy was crazy about), and I wanted her to pick out the flavors she liked the best. We also found some delicious chocolates called "Moldova." (We don't actually "need" this many sweets, but we are walking up and down 4 flights of stairs several times a day)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Here are 2 photos from the School picnic that I told you about yesterday. Dr. Smith welcoming the families for the new school year.

These are the windows of our apartment (in the living room). When I first opened our kitchen window, I thought they must not have been installed properly. (As I've mentioned, everything here is newly renovated - new floors, new bathrooms, new windows, new kitchen and appliances, etc, etc) And I quickly put the window back, thinking it was about to fall off the hinges. When I went to Peggy's school the next day, I saw the window opened in the manner you see in this photo. My window does open both ways (see photos), but apparently opening the window fully, allowing in a big draft, is a no-no here.

The weather has been beautiful. Warm, but not hot. (One thing I do NOT miss about FL is the humidity). It's a cool, rainy morning. We have the windows opened, getting some fresh air. We heard the church bells ringing. The traffic. I am drinking hot coffee. All I need is the Sunday paper. (And cable tv)

the apartment, cont.

This is the plaque that is on the corner of our apartment building, of Nicolae Costin.

These are flags that were hung along Stefan cel Mare for the Independence Day holiday

And this is the stairway to our apartment. As you know, we were to have had a 5th floor walk-up -- but we are actually one floor below -- and that is probably not a bad thing. We have very high ceilings in our apartment. Which is very cool. But it also means that there are that many more stairs between floors. The stairs are terazzo, so a reminder of home. The lower floors are dark at night, so I carry a flashlight in my purse, if needed. I have been surprised that we have not at all been phased by the 4 flights of stairs. Once I start teaching and lugging the books and papers/exams and lecture notes binders, it may be a different story. For now, I am enjoying the exercise

Loaves and Fishes

This afternoon we went to a family picnic at Peggy's school. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet the parents of Peggy's schoolmates. Quite an interesting group of people -- they work for the embassies, Peace Corps, Unicef. Today was an introduction, and I look forward to getting to know the families at QSI over the coming months. In fact, we were invited to a BBQ tomorrow afternoon, and Peggy is looking forward to a playdate with her new friend (and so am I!)

The school - while a great new facility - is no longer in the city center. (You've already read all about this, I know.) We've just been walking around - or hailing a cab - when we need to go somewhere. At the end of the picnic, I called the only phone number I had for a driver - but all of the cars were in use at the airport. Oooops. I should have arranged a ride back in advance. In any case, one of our new friends graciously dropped us off on their way back home. Next time I'll plan ahead.

Even better was that they dropped us off at the Number One 2 blocks from our house, which is MUCH bigger than the 24-hour store that is in our building. Wow! I had heard of this store, had walked by that corner at least 2 or 3 times, but had not seen the entrance to the store. It is tucked away behind a parking lot, though I am not sure how I missed it. In any case, it was fabulous! I am sure we can find everything we need here.

In the short-term, I bought the hangers I so desperately needed. (And I have unpacked and stored the last suitcase!!) And the spatula. (Maybe I will bore you with my pancake story from this morning??) And a measuring cup. I had Peggy and Gracie in tow, and I could tell Peggy was tired. So I was conscious not to buy too much stuff to lug back to the apt, and up 4 flights of stairs. But we found soy milk! So I bought chocolate and vanilla. And real paper towels. Some vegetables. And a few other things. What a difference!

The first day or two the store in our building was sufficient - but - this morning - I was so frustrated that we did not have basic supplies for cooking and a mostly empty fridge and pantry - and no way to contribute meaningfully to the School Picnic. (Did I mention the picnic was a potluck??) We have no oven. (A new one should be coming soon) We have burners, but only one small frying pan and one small saucepan. (I brought a package of cookies from the Number One Bakery... Groan)

The trip to the bigger Number One was just what I needed! They have all of the kitchen supplies I will need -- and the groceries. It will probably take a few days to build up our supplies. But we'll get there.

If you're still reading, I'll tell you the pancake episode. So, we have no mixing bowl. Fine. I used the small saucepan. We have no measuring cup or measuring spoons. Fine. I've made these pancakes dozens of times. I estimate. The mixture doesn't look quite the same. (But neither did the egg or the vegetable oil) Whatever. I don't have a mixing spoon (and I don't want to damage the saucepan with a metal spoon), so I use a small wooden spatula. A little lumpy, but it will do. Could not find the Pam cooking spray (or any cooking spray) at the store. I lightly coat the frying pan with some of the oil. OK. I spoon the batter into the pan. I tell Peggy these will be baby pancakes. Because I have only a wooden spatula, and I know it won't be easy (possible?) to flip them. They came out either slightly burned or mushy in the middle. Surprisingly, they tasted pretty good. Peggy was disappointed. I was really frustrated that we did not have what we needed to make our pancakes -- especially since we were primarily using the mix that we brought with us! Sigh. I used the nice new hood and light while making (attempting) the pancakes, so we did have ventilation, but as I flipped (or, tried to flip) the pancakes -- I thought -- I hope I don't set the smoke detector off! Then I looked around and realized, we don't have any smoke detectors. If we had a microwave (and microwave popcorn), I guess this means I could burn it with reckless abandon and not worry about waking Peggy with the alarm

On a completely different note. We drove by at least 3 brides/weddings today.

Art Market Finds

I went back to the market to buy the painting. We'll have to figure out how to un-frame it and roll it up without ruining it when it's time to go home. For now, it is hanging in our kitchen, and I love it!

Ziua Independentei

August 27th is Independence Day in Moldova (19th anniversary). Click here for Secretary Clinton's message to Moldova: http://moldova.usembassy.gov/082610.html

Peggy had a half day at school due to the holiday, which gave us some time to explore the park -- pony rides, balloons, concert, dancing. At night I could see the fireworks reflected in the windows of the office building across from our apartment.

It was fabulous to have all of the fun just a block from our apartment


On Friday I had my first meeting at ULIM with my key contact, the Vice Rector for International Cooperation. We talked about my classes, the students at ULIM, logistics (such as the office where I will hold office hours). I am grateful that I have such a helpful contact at my university.

I learned that the General Prosecutor of Moldova and one of the co-authors of the Moldovan Constitution are professors at ULIM. I look forward to speaking with them about my classes here, as well as my research project.

Gerhard took me upstairs to introduce me to the Rector (President) and the Vice Rector (who is also a member of Parliament).

The Rector invited me to say a few remarks at the upcoming Opening Ceremony (which sounds like the Freshman Convocation). The President of Moldova will be there. I am honored to be included in the Program.

I also met the Department Chair for my Department -- who is on her way to be a Fulbright Scholar in the US -- she'll be at GW! -- and another professor in the Department.

I am very much looking forward to being a part of the academic community at ULIM

On Wednesday the Embassy (Public Affairs) organized an Orientation for the Fulbright Scholars and Students. Lots of helpful information - from health care/medical facilities, to security issues, to the system of higher education in Moldova. Though I was completely exhausted (see the blog post about Tues. night/Wed. morning), I tried to soak in as much of the information as possible.

The morning session was held at the Embassy, the afternoon session at the American Resource Center. For lunch, we went to a restaraunt that was a replica of a traditional Moldovan house with a buffet to sample traditional Moldovan cuisine. Everything was delicious.

The Public Affairs Officer (a "recovering academic") was especially helpful in pointing me to Embassy contacts to assist with my Courtoom Observation project (for Law and Politics class)/questions about judicial reforms in Moldova (there is a DOJ detail) as well as the political officer to talk to about the upcoming referendum and elections.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

mental health day

I saw Peggy off to Kindergarten this morning. (She takes a minivan/taxi arranged by the school) The bus came to pick her up at 7:30 am. As you could see in the photos I posted earlier, she was tired! But she was so very excited!

That gave me an opportunity to stop by the Nr 1 and get a larger bottle of water/apa and pick up some more supplies (including the ingredients to make her favorite choc chip pancakes for breakfast on Saturday morning, our tradition) -- without having to look after her in the store (and without having to save a hand free for her). At this point it is still taking me a lot of effort to read labels in Russian and/or Romanian and/or German and/or Hungarian -- so it was nice to be able to concentrate. Surprisingly, we have not been phased by the 4th floor walk-up. Still, it is easier to shop and carry groceries up 4 flights of stairs without Peggy in tow.

I got some work done. (I now have a desk, and it's all set up.) The internet guy came. And then I left to do some errands.

After walking to the real estate agent to return the device I was borrowing to access the internet from my apartment. I took some time to visit the Flower Market, where I purchased a beautiful bouquet of a dozen red roses for 50 lei (a little over $4). I strolled though another market, then had a latte at the Roberts Coffee shop in the SkyTower (which I see from my balcony). It is an American-style coffee shop (with a menu in English). [Don't judge me!] I read through the materials from the Embassy while sipping my latte and listening to Coldplay. Perfect. Then I strolled through the Art Market -- which is opposite our apartment building (block) on Stefan cel Mare. I spotted a painting that I just fell in love with, and I may have to go back to get it tomorrow. Such a relaxing afternoon. I felt terrific.

Then it was time to pick up Peggy from her first day of Kindergarten. We now have a good pick-up/drop off spot. [This is the one big safety issue in Chisinau: traffic. Cars do not yield for pedestrians.] I was thrilled to see her and hear about her first day.

After dropping off Peggy's backpack and lunchbox in the apartment, we went to the Art Market together. There were several stalls with beautiful nesting dolls -- and I thought I would get a set for Peggy to celebrate her first day of Kindergarten. There were so many beautiful dolls to choose from, that I thought it would be more fun for Peggy to pick out the ones she liked best. I hope we will treasure these for many years to come, and fondly remember her first day of Kindergarten in Chisinau.

We came back to the apt, played, had dinner, a bath, and watched a movie. She was fast asleep by 8:30 pm.

I think we are now in the groove and adjusted to Moldovan time! We feel great, and we are settling in to our apartment, which is feeling more and more like home.

Tomorrow morning I meet with my key contact at ULIM, and I am ready to begin my work with the university.

Photos attached to this blog include -- City Hall (this is caddy corner to my apt bldg, I can see it if I look left from my balcony), the statue of Stefan cel Mare, a random street/strada sign, the Flower Market stalls, and a view of the Art Market. I also posted a photo of a typical Chisinau sidewalk. Sidewalks are maintained (or not) by the property owners, not by the city. Hence, you will find that they are quite uneven, sometimes (often) with big holes in them. I try to be careful - but - I want to look around and take everything in - not just look down at the sidewalk. I have been walking around in my favorite croc flip flops, but this is likely ill-advised on the sidewalks here. (It is also another sign that I am not from here, since most of the women I have seen are sporting high heels)

Referendum, September 5th

On September 5th, there will be a national referendum to amend the Moldovan Constitution to change how the President is elected (from selection by the Parliament to direct election by the people).

I am attaching photos of some of the many campaign billboards seen around town.

I will post more about the referendum and the election.

In the meantime, suffice it to say that I am pleased to be in Moldova at such an exciting time!

Here is a link to the current Constitution:


Peggy is starting Kindergarten at the QSI International School in Chisinau. Today!

There was an Open House scheduled for 4-5 pm on Wednesday. As soon as Peggy was dropped back off at the American Studies Center (where I was for the afternoon portion of my Orientation with the Embassy), we hailed a taxi to head to the new school location. (They moved to a new, larger facility this summer.)

We were given an address on Strada Miron Costin -- but it turns out the school is on Strada Nicolae Costin -- which is in another part of town. For a moment, we were sitting in the taxi, with a driver who speaks only Russian, in the wrong part of town, not having any idea how to find the correct address (or how to communicate that address to the driver). Luckily, our contact at the Embassy had just given us her business card with her cell phone. We called her, she found the correct address, explained to the driver, and sorted out our fare. Whew! I think we finally arrived at the school around 4:45 pm

The first thing we did was to go check out Peggy's classroom -- she found her cubby and her desk and her name in the Garden of Success (which was in pink, her favorite color). We met her 2 teachers, who were both so friendly and cheerful. Peggy's teacher just moved here from Florida! And her husband (a former scuba instructor) is from Tampa (he is now the PE Coach at Peggy's school. Yes, we moved halfway around the world - and Peggy's teacher is from Florida. (Well, originally from Wisconsin, Milwauke. I told her Peggy's Dad got his MA at Marquette. Still a small world.) Peggy loved the classroom so much, she wanted to stay and play there all night. A good thing! But I coaxed her downstairs so we could go to the office to get her paperwork and bus schedule for the next morning. There we met the Director of the school, Dr Sandy Smith.

We have heard so many wonderful things about this school. And Peggy is so excited to start Kindergarten!

The internet guy is here - I will finish in another post

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, time change

Tuesday (Day 1.5) was a relatively rough day for us. I rustled Peggy out of bed at 10:30 AM, wanting to get her on MD time schedule, but I could tell she was tired and not herself all day. She wanted to stay in the apartment and play. I wanted to go explore the city and get a cell phone charger and some groceries. It became a battle of wills, and all I will say is that the apples don't fall far from the tree.

Eventually, we made it out, and got what we needed to get: a cell phone charger and pre-paid minutes for the phone and more apa minerale plata (bottled mineral water, flat) and a few more things at the grocery.

We have been shopping at one of the big chains here: Number 1. It is a 24-hour grocery store in our apartment buidling,that includes a deli counter, produce, etc. - so it is more than a 7-11, though less than some of the larger stores. There is a larger store a few blocks from our house which I hope to check out soon. We are especially looking for a larger selection of fruits and vegetables. I am told that the produce here is amazing, and that anything seems to grow like gangbusters in the Moldovan soil.

Tuesday night was as challenging as the afternoon. I put Peggy down to bed around 8 pm, and she fell right asleep. But then she woke up around 8:45 pm, and was up until well past 1:00 AM! I was concerned about getting to an Orientation at the Embassy first thing in the morning - since Peggy got up at Noon on Monday and 10:30 am on Tuesday (only after considerable effort on my part). At 1:00 am I just didn't know how I would get her up the next day. I was exhausted and at wits end.

The good news is that Peggy awoke at 7:30 am, chipper and ready for her playdate, which she was so excited about. One of the Embassy staffers has a 4-year-old son, and his wife graciously agreed to have Peggy come over to play while I was to be at the Embassy for the Orientation. Orientation was scheduled for the day on Wednesday, but Peggy's first day of school was not until Thursday. Since we are new in town and haven't yet secured a sitter/nanny, I was most grateful for the Embassy's assistance in securing childcare for the day. And Peggy had so much fun with her new friend.

Peggy was in great spirits when she was dropped off at the end of the day. We had a fun time at her school's Open House. And then we enjoyed a visit with an old friend. She went down quickly at 9:15 pm. I am hopeful that this means that we will fall into a routine, and that we are starting to adjust to the time change.

Becuase our plane landed at 6:20 pm on Sunday night -- I hoped that by the time we got our luggage, went through customs, got to the apartment, etc -- that we would be in our apartment by 9:30-ish, fall asleep at a MD bedtime, wake up the next morning feeling refreshed -- and have no issues with the time change. What was I thinking?! That was completely unrealistic! However, after a few days, I think we are falling into place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Buna ziua

Good morning! Our first breakfast in our new apartment! In our building there is a 24-hour market (Nr. 1) and we picked up some essentials for dinner last night and breakfast this morning. We had gotten Peggy off the junk-food cereals, but she reached for the red Fruit Loops box, and I oblidged. I hope on our next trip to the grocery store we can find something a little healthier. And I found Activia yogurt. Both items were expensive, relative to the other options, but, for now a few comforts from home aren't a bad thing.

I posted a photo of our powder room in my last post. When I explained to Peggy what a bidet was used for, she giggled.

A few apartment photos

Here are a few photos of the apartment.

The views from the kitchen window and Peggy's window are of ULIM, where I will be teaching.

The french doors leading out to the balcony are in my bedroom. I took another photo from standing on the balcony. Looking to the left, I can see city hall, to the right, office buildings and a coffee shop.

I love being in the heart of the city center. We can hear some traffic -- just enough so we feel the life of the city -- but not in any way annoying.

One thing I wanted to mention about our rental agency. Customer service is not always about doing everything right all the time -- it is also about how you deal with problems when they do arise. While our arrival and settling in to our new place did not go as smoothly as we might have hoped, everything was done to assist us and to get us into a new place that we love. And we appreciate that!

More photos to come