Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Now who's Thankful?!

After we enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving meal, my students presented me with a wonderful gift. I was overwhelmed. It was a handsome photo album that included photos of the many events from the semester, as well as photos of each student in the class accompanied by a special inscription. The Album's cover is embossed "Precious Memories Forever." I absolutely will treasure these precious memories of Moldova, most especially my students!

Thanksgiving Celebration in US Constitutional Law

In addition to covering lecture material related to Congressional power under the Spending Clause, we also celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving in my Constitutional Law class today

Ramsay brought many, many supplies in his suitcase -- things that are hard to come by here (like cranberry sauce and Thanksgiving party supplies). He also prepared all of the dishes for our feast!

Peggy also helped with the decorations, as you can see in this garland. (A shout out to my friend David for the reminder that we could get nifty decorating templates on www.marthastewart.com)

Ramsay also made a short presentation about the first Thanksgiving, the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, and modern-day Thanksgiving customs.

I had called Grampie (Ramsay's father) who filled me on on the details of Ramsay's ancestors who came over to America on the Mayflower. I shared the story with my students -- about Isaac Allerton, who traveled to America with his wife and 3 children. One of those children was a daughter, Mary, who is Ramsay's ancestor. (She was the last living Mayflower passenger; she was in her 90s when she died in 1690.) Isaac was the Deputy Governor of the Plymouth Colony, a position which he held for many years. His wife (Mary's mother) died that first winter. Indeed two-thirds of the Pilgrims died that first winter. There were about 50 Pilgrims who survived, and they were joined by 90 or so Indians for that first Thanksgiving celebration

It was fun to share this Thanksgiving story and traditional foods (thanks again, Ramsay!) with my students. Some foods were foreign/different (like the cranberries and the sweet potatoes), while others were similar (like the cornbread).

Milestii Mici

Milestii Mici

For lunch on Monday, Ramsay and I visited Milestii Mici, "the biggest wine collection in the biggest underground wine town."

This was a limestone mine that was converted in 1969 to a wine cellar - that now boasts the biggest collection of bottled wines. (Was on the cover of the Guiness World Book of Records in 2007 and still maintains the distinction)

We hired a driver - and we were accompanied by a guide from the winery - and we explored the underground network of "streets" (Here is a sign for "Cabernet")

See http://www.milestii-mici.md/ for more information

Spargatorul de nuci -- the Nutcracker! -- at the Opera and Ballet Theater in Chisinau



Later on Sunday afternoon we went to see the Nutcracker (Spargatorul de nuci) at the Opera and Ballet Theater. What a treat!! One of the nice traditions here is that after the ballet, girls can go up on the stage to give flowers to the ballerinas. On our way to the theater we stopped off at the Flower Market so Peggy could pick out some (pink!) flowers.

on our walk down Stefan cel Mare, Peggy was able to show Ramsay the Arc de Triomphe, the Parcul Catedralei, the parliament building and the statue of Stefan cel Mare

Parliamentary Election Results

There was a 59% turnout for the parliamentary elections on 28 November 2010

The election results break down as follows

Democratic Party, 13%
Liberal Party, 10%
Liberal Democratic Party, 29%
Communist Party, 39%

Now the negotiations begin to form a new governing coalition

See http://www.alegeri.md/en/ for more complete listing of the election returns

Monday, November 29, 2010

Observator International, doi

It was exciting to see democracy in action -- to see the crowded polling locations and the steady stream of voters at each precinct we visited. One high point was when the President of a polling location pointed out a first time voter, and there arose a loud cheer and applause

This was quite a contrast to the very low turnout we witnessed during the constitutional referendum. After the referendum failed, because it lacked the requisite voter turnout to validate it, I was unsure of what to expect during these parliamentary elections.

We found that at our first precinct (at around 10:30 am) turnout was already at about 30%, and we found turnout rose at each successive polling location, even topping 50% by lunchtime!

However, when calculating turnout we could not simply take the number of voters who voted and divide by the number of registered voters at that precinct. We needed to also factor in the number of voters who had cast a ballot who were not on the lists. These included students (who were not required to go back to their villages to vote, but who could vote here in Chisinau if they showed the proper documentation) and at one precinct, voters from Transneistria who were authorized to vote at that poll.

It was clear from our observations early in the day that there would be high voter turnout. At each location, we heard from poll workers and from other observers
"We never have seen this many people"
"This is the first time we have seen so many people"
"For 10 years I have been the director here and I have never seen so many voters. Our workers usually can take a break to have some tea. Not today!"

Observator International

On Sunday, 28 November 2010 I served as an Observator International for the Parliamentary elections in Moldova. I visited 6 polls in the Chisinau City Center that I visited back in September during the constitutional referendum. It was good to have a point of comparison.

20 parties + 19 independent candidates = one very long ballot

The ballot looked as if it was about a yard long (and about 4 inches wide). Voters had to fold it up several times to be able to fit it in the ballot box. At a few of the polling locations, poll workers were carrying around rulers and used them to push the thick ballots into the box.

Voters could select a ballot in Russian or in Romanian.

Each polling location had many observers. All of the major parties had observers at the polls all day. (So there were usually at least a dozen other observers there when we arrived at any given polling location)

The procedure was the same. When we arrived, we would check in with the President of that polling location and register. Then we were free to look around and ask questions (of the President, other observers, voters)

The only difference was that for this election turnout was very high, the polls were quite crowded, and we often needed to wait quite a while until we were registered. This was understandable and actually gave us time to take everything in before we asked our specific questions.

Again we saw the laptop/online registration that was part of a pilot program at the precincts we visited in the City Center. The only difference this time was that it was so crowded, sometimes voters would bypass the the laptop line, go directly to the "traditional" line (where the paper voter lists are arranged by street address, not by voter last name) -- only to be sent back to wait in the laptop line -- before having to go back and wait in the "traditional" line again. The only surprising thing was that voters did not seem to get disgruntled by this added inconvenience.

Each of the polls we visited was quite crowded. Here are a few photos. If you go back and look at the photos I posted in September (of these same precincts), you can see the contrast.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Monastery in Curchi

On the drive back from Soroca, we stopped off at the monastery in Curchi. (If you go back to September posts, you can see more photos) I was so glad Ramsay would have the opportunity to visit one of the monasteries here.

Then we stopped off for lunch. More zama. Hit the spot on this cold, wet day.

Roma 'capital' of Moldova

Soroca is called the Roma 'capital' of Moldova. We drove up to the top of the hilltop to see some of the Roma mansions

Soroca fortress

Windows on Soroca

This is the Nistru River. On the other side is the Ukraine.