Chisinau from New Delhi, via Istanbul and arrived in the newly EU-friendly, titchy airport of Moldova's capital. Managed to position myself near to the door of the shuttle bus and when we pulled up at passport control, hurtled over to the visa desk, only to find it shut and darkened. A helpful voice behind me piped up that for the last 2 years visas have been scrapped. So, $75 better off.
The aiport used to be spartan, with the requisite security things and a coffee shop, ticket office and bank. Now it's got about 10 new stores selling everything from tourist crap to suitcases and has red and green channels as you leave (before everyone got searched by po-faced, hulking soldiers...usually women). I was meeting my pal and waited patiently for an hour outside the terminal, occasionally being offered a taxi by the touts outside. These guys used to basically run the transport system from the airport and would gleefully charge tourists around $20 for a cab to the centre (cheap if you live in London, a fortune compared to what a local would pay). Now it's regulated so they have to be a little craftier. After an hour or so one of them came up to me and offered me the use of his phone to call my "not arrived yet" friend. I patted my pockets, shook my head and made the tiny violin motion with my finger and thumb and said "I don't have any money". He replied "it's ok" I made a 10 second call where she said she was "just down the road" and would be there in five....and of course the little bastard then wanted paying.
I glared at him and repeated that I had no money AND that I had told him that and he glared back. "Look I told you, don't give me that". I offer him a fag instead (UK definition, although in the circumstances he might have deserved the other) and he grumbled in Russian or Romanian and refused to push off. I then remembered the Indian Rupees I had, about 50 of them in notes and change and emptied them into his hand. He was initially really pleased and scurried off into the terminal entrance shouting "merci" over his shoulder. My friend then turns up a few minutes later and this grubbing little shit taxi driver saw her and came over gabbing off in a language I don't speak that he couldn't change the Rupees and how much was there anyway? (truth about a dollar, but that's his problem and was more than the call cost anyway). My friend started to explain that I had told him I had no money to which he replied he hadn't understood. She started to get her purse out and I pushed it back down, told her not to pay him and him to "fuck off" and if he had a problem we could go back into the terminal and talk to the police about what had happened. My friend simply said "Lance, this is Moldova" and paid the little turd 10 Leis, much to my disgust.
One thing amongst many that I've missed about Chisinau is the good food you get here, not to mention the plentiful alcoholic beverages that accompany meals. My friend's folks had a groaning table of meat, potatoes and salad spread out to welcome their daughter's former English teacher (not sure whether they know that we slept together) and we washed it all down with toasts to good health, England not getting too far into a national recession, Moldova not becoming part of a global one, and to having many kids and fine weather wherever you may roam. Me and my pal then took a trip to a bar in town where I got absolutely steaming and woke up at 10am with no hangover, such is the beauty of the fairy-pure ingredients of Moldavian/ Russian/ Romanian wine and cognac.
My friend has a best friend who despite being 22 looks about 12 and is constantly being asked for ID in bars and restaurants. A house party for my friend's new boyf who was about to leave to move to the USA was very pleasant apart from the cherub faced one getting completely hammered, throwing a drink in some bloke's face (who took it like a gentleman and simply dabbed his soaking fizzog and walked off) and after passing out and being put to bed, vomiting copiously over the duvet, negating me and my pal sleeping over due to the sodden state of the sheets.
Next day we all went to the local sauna where the slightly queasy hell raiser was apologising to everyone and denying she'd tried to get me to kiss her.
Saunas over here are a new experience. A lounge with a TV, tall fridge and sofa plus table & chairs is in one room, a bedroom adjoins it, and the sauna bit is next to all that. You take copious amounts of beer and food into the place and proceed to stuff yourselves with it all, while sweating profusely. Fun, but heavy going.
Next day I shook off 3 nights of heavy drinking with the hour 15 mins walk into the city centre where I looked up some old pals and tried to sniff out some work. Turns out all work for foreigners here who want to teach is either voluntary, you pay for the privilege or the pay is about $300 a month. Soooo....time to scoot off to Italy methinks.
Met some gorgeous women since I've been coming here over the last 5 and 1/2 years. Course, some of them are now married, and a few with kids, which is kind of depressing when I phone the vibrant, disco-dancing, cognac guzzling drinking partner of 2004 to find her at home with a bawling infant in the background. Still, the scary palm reader in New Delhi said I'll have 3 kids (2 boys and a girl) so maybe it's time to find a bride.
The Lei was about 22 to 24 for £1 last time I was here. It's now 17.8 which is piss poor in anyone's estimation. I took out a 1000 Leis which showed up online as £59 a few days later. That's the problem with this every multiplying bacteria that is THE EU. Sooner or later everything becomes the same price (i.e. cheap if you're a rich twat, far too expensive if you're one of the millions who isn't).
My birthday this Saturday so I intend to get as drunk as humanly possible in town and try to pull a 5'10", gorgeous, model-esque, sprayed-on-jeans Moldavian bird. As most seem to live with their parents well into mid 30s, I'm gonna have to be inventive on fully achieving my goals.