Friday, June 22, 2007

13 days and 3 countries

As usual Bri is not allowed to go anywhere or do anything without some sort of chaos ensuing! So, this time...

When I was in Budapest I traveled by train from there to Bucharest. I had bought a 2-way ticket because it was cheaper, so I thought that it would be a good idea to see if my ticket was still valid and use that and then just buy a ticket to Bratislava once I arrived in Budapest. The woman at the ticket window in Bucharest said my ticket was still valid. So I get on the train and of course the conductor tells me that my ticket isn't actually valid. It was only valid for 2 months and I had bought my ticket back in November. Luckily the next stop on the train was in a town called Brasov (pronounced Brashov) and they sell international tickets. And even luckier for me, there would be 1 more train heading to Bratislava. So, in the end, I made it to Bratislava no worse for the wear.

Bratislava, in general, was good. I had too many days there though. I spent 3 full days there and I really only needed 1 or 2 full days. But, the hostel I stayed at hand a really nice garden area and they even had lawn chairs (something I haven't seen in almost 2 years) so I took full advantage of those and sat outside and read. I fully enjoyed being able to do that.

One cool thing was the UFO tower that was positioned on top of one of Bratislava's many bridges. There is a viewing platform on top of the UFO and I went up there to take some pictures of the river and the castle.

The guards at the Presidential Palace are all decked out and they even do a little march every hour or so. I managed to catch it while I was taking these pictures.

I also met some cool people at the hostel I was staying at. One of them was even going to Moldova. I tried my best to give him a quick summary of the top things to do for someone who is only spending a day or 2 in the city.

And then it was off to Prague...

I met this group of people from Ireland and pretty much hung out with them while I was in Prague. Apparently Prague holds a theater expo every 4 years and drama departments from universities all over the world use it to showcase their students' work. That was why the group from Ireland was there. They were quite the fun group and made it possible for me to sample some of Prague's nightlife.

Prague, in general, I feel is an absolutely beautiful city. I really wish that I had spent more time there. If I had known I would have cut a day off the Bratislava part and added it to Prague. But, now I have a reason to go back!

While I was there Prague had their annual Museum Night, where most of the museums are free after 7pm and they stay open til 12 or 1 am. There were special exhibitions at some of the galleries and concerts in the main square. We checked out one of the natural history museums. This one had a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. I was impressed, the thing was HUGE and it weighed over 8000 lbs!

And then it was off to Vienna...

Vienna is another city where I wished I had atleast one more day there...and a ton more money. Vienna has managed to mix it's past quite well with it's present. My hostel was right off the main shopping street and this was a western style shopping street. There was 1 KFC, 3 McD's, 2 Starbucks, and a ton more sandwich and coffee shops. There is also a small english language movie theater playing a selection of recent releases. Of course my first stop was Starbucks...Banana Java Chip Frappacino...and it was good.

I had only planned on having 1 full day in Vienna but my train back to Bucharest didn't leave until 8 pm the following day so I basically had 2 full days and I made good use of them.

The morning of my one real full day there I headed down to the Museum Quarter. And, as one who expect, that is where the musuems are located. The majority of them are attached to eachother. The area is really well marked so you can always figure out where you are and how to get to the next place. The Quarter also is where most of the old architecture has been preserved. There are tons of little corner cafes and knick-knack shops to check out. There were also really nice gardens in the quarter so it was a nice place to just sit and relax. I treated myself to sushi for lunch. That made me happy. Then I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End at the english theater. Also a good thing.

Basically by the time I got to Vienna I pretty much had my fill of walking around and seeing all the cool buildings and taking pictures of the monuments so Vienna became my "western" vacation. Before heading back I hit up Starbucks once more and then saw another movie. I do want to go back. The next time I'll pay more attention to the museums! :)

But now, I'm back in Moldova and ready to finish my term of service with flair :)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

War Memorial

So two other volunteers and I decided to be tourists last sunday. In Chisinau there is a World War II Memorial which we visited. There is an eternal flame with guards posted at the main monument. There are also names of soldiers who died during the war and even a small cemetary in the back. Even the Moldovan go and take pictures. I know that sounds like an odd comment but sometimes being the foreigner you tend to think about what will get you noticed and maybe get you into some type of trouble and taking photos in places where people don't normally take photos falls on the top of the list. So, when you see Moldovan taking pictures of the various monuments you don't worry so much about doing something that could attract police attention.

It was definitely a worthwhile trip. Being so close to a major city with attractions that I could essentially go to anytime I wanted usually means I don't bother to take the time. There are many different museums and theaters, like any major city, and so far I have only been to one museum and now this memorial. I have to keep reminding myself that there are things to see here and that I should see them while I can.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sfintul Nicolai

First off, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! I hope the holidays are fun filled and not too stressful.

Now, I don't know if I have talked about this in a blog before but if I have then I feel that it is something worth noting twice! December 19th is (atleast according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar) St Nicolas Day and I feel that the way the Moldovan's celebrate it should be brought everywhere. I woke up on the morning of the 19th to find a chocolate bar in my shoe. The tradition here is to put a little something in your family member's shoes, either chocolate or money or, as my host sister did for her parents, a little note. Of course it's easier to do it in a house where the shoes are left out in the entry way but if you know St Nic will be coming by to give you a little something, you leave your shoes out. I personally think that the best part of the morning was when my host mother went out into the entry way and then came back into the living room and started going on about "oh what great things Sfintul Nicolai has brought us, oh sfintul Nicolai..." I'm 26 and my host sister is 15. I'm quite positive we are both beyond the whole sfintul Nicolai thing but she wanted to make sure we knew it was sfintul Nicolai that came to the house and not her. My host sister's notes to her parents were even addressed as "from Sfintul Nicolai". Quite cute.

So that's my little diatribe for the day. As I said before, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thanksgiving 06

Once again Thanksgiving was an amazing success. The football game commenced at 3pm. The promise to our wonderful medical personel that the game would be a touch football game was effectively broken on play #2 and we the first injury occured roughly 5 minutes later. Thankfully it wasn't much more than and bad skinned knee. Dinner was pretty typical Thanksgiving food served for 291 people. That's roughly 100 more poeple than we had last year. I guess we have quite the reputation for providing a worthwhile holiday dinner. We even had greenbean casserole and real cranberry sauce. You read it correctly REAL cranberry sauce, a direct benefit from being able to order food in bulk from the commissary at the embassy! We finished off the evening with the annual talent show which, as usually, was packed with talent-less performances. However, all were quite entertaining. We had once group lipsync to some fantastic 80s hits and even managed to have dayglo pink spandex sent to them specifically for the performance.

Work wise things are going pretty well. My boss keeps telling me that he is so busy he's pulling out his hair. Basically that means he has a lot of reports to write which means in about 2 weeks I will be stuck at my computer typing said reports!

Really not much else to write. But don't worry, both my host parents' birthdays are coming up and then starts the holiday rush so that will provide plenty of fodder for the next few blogs!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Viva La Budapest

I know there are many people waiting with bated breath for this blog so I do not want to delay!!!!!!!!!!!

My first stop was Cluj Napoca, Romania. I didn't expect to spend so much time there but due to a bus break down a websites with misinformation about train schedules, I did. Yup, you read it right, my bus broke down. At 6 am, less than 2 hours from Cluj Napoca my bus broke. I was stuck for 4 hours. My host brother (he goes to school in Cluj) waited for me at the bus station starting from 7 am. I didn't arrive until noon. Talk about dedication! We went to the train station and I found out that there is no 2:40 pm train as I had come to believe, instead there is a 1:40 am my host brother and his friends took me around Cluj, which is absolutely gorgous and treated me to dinner. The first 3 pics are from Cluj. I made it to the train with no problems and arrived in Budapest around 9 am.

First I would like to thank everyone for my cards, presents, and donations! All are greatly appreciated. Mom - I hope I manage to save the nativity calendar until December!! So the first of the Budapest pics is of the Chain Bridge. The hotel that aunt Marianne and I stayed at was a 2 minute walk from the bridge. The second pic is of Parliament. It is absolutely mamoth and disgustingly gorgeous. We could see it as soon as we walked out of the hotel. It looks spectacular when it is all lit up. The last pic is of the fenicular which we rode to go up to the Castle District. There we went to the Royal Palace and saw one of the many museums Budapest has to offer. We also went to the Budapest Labyrinth. It was the huge underground cave system.
This picture is of the entrance the courtyard of the Royal Palace.
This picture is from the labyrinth. It is a wine fountain. We walk into the area where it is and I can't figure out why I keep smelling wine until I take a closer look at the fountain and it has wine and not water running through it!!

We also went to the shopping district (of course). Budapest is definitely a city that could do serious damage to someone's check book. If I had a MUCH larger budgest and a house to put everything in I would have spent have my vacation at the post office arrange to ship things back home! I did however manage to buy some pretty sweet stuff even with my limited budget. Budapest is also a city where someone on a limited budget could still do very well there. There is a city market where you could easily buy all the fixings for a good lunch for cheap and then you just go sit somewhere outside and eat. There are a ridiculous number of coffee shops, all with food. I definitly ODed on coffee!! It was nice to be in a place where freeze-dried coffee isn't even an option!
We also went to the Statue Park just outside of Budapest. It has most of the monuments put up in the communist era. That was definitely a cool place to visit. I bought myself a pair of socks that had Lenin's face stitched onto it! Of course I go home and I show my host brother my socks and he asks me why I didn't get him a pair. I didn't think anyone else would like them as much as I did so I didn't get any extra pairs. Actually, I kind of thought that they either just "wouldn't get it" or might actually be insulted. If I had thought he would have found the socks funny I totally would have gotten them. I probably should have known, he's only 18, Lenin socks would be funny to him! Now I know for next time.

So needless to say, my vacation was an awesome time of site seeing and eating. I even got serenaded by a violenist the night before my birthday!

I hope you all are well back home and getting ready for Thanksgiving. Things here are in full swing in preparation for the holidays. Stay warm.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Man Purse

I felt this had to have it's own section even though it's gonna be kinda short. It's a minor commentary on cultural differences between the US and Moldova. In the US most men hate to be seen holding on to their significant other's purse for an extended period of time, especially when shopping when they might be seen by someone they know. However, here I really don't think it makes much difference to the men here because men have purses here. I forgot to get a picture of my host dad's but I am on a mission to photograph it and get it up here. Most of them are very nice and leather and in a file folder style design. The majority of business men here in Moldova have atleast one. I just find it amusing because I know guys who would rather carry around their bulky briefcases just to hold 2 small pieces of paper rather than carry around something that might even resemble a woman's purse.

Autumn Has Begun

So I just finished up a IATA business camp at my site. We didn't have too many kids but they were really into it and were happy about participating which is all I can really ask for. I had 4 other volunteers come in and help me. This was my first camp that I put on myself so I was a little nervous and definitled had more volunteers come and help than I really needed but oh well, we had a good time hanging out together.

I got to help harvest corn!!!! And let me tell you, that is not easy. I was all ready to get right in there and get dirty and sweaty cutting down cornstalks, but after 8 unsuccessful whacks at the stalk we all realized it was better for me to just watcha and take pictures. I did however manage to cut down a few, granted they were a little on the small side. Those big ones were just too much for me.

AND..........!!!!!!!!!! I got to help harvest the grapes and make wine! That was awesome. The wine festival is this coming weekend. My raion also has a celebration so I am currently trying to decide which one I really want to go to. Since I've already been to the one in Chisinau I might decide to stay in town this time. I know, I have such hard decisions to make in life!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


FYI, I just put up a new link. It is a database of PC blogs from all over so check it out. I found it because the guy who runs it come across my blog and added me to the database and then emailed me to let me know. You can even read blogs from those lucky duck PC volunteers working in Fiji...wouldn't I love to be there right now!!!

Commentary: Fences

I may have talked about this before or just mentioned it to people in emails, but now I have pics to back up my tyraid so I'm going to talk about it again. EVERYTHING is behind a fence in this country, it's really crazy. People here honestly believe that if their property is not fenced-in other people will steal everything, including flowers straight from the garden. Granted, it might actually happen.

Case and Point: I was in Pepeni a few months ago. The volunteer who used to be there had won a grant to put in new soccer goals at her school. When I was there the goals had just been put in. Now the design of the goals was pretty typical and at the bottom was a second rebar for added support. As we are walking by them to admire the volunteer's grant's handiwork we realized that the rebar had been stolen. Someone had come by and unhooked the wires around the bar and removed the bar.

Of course, the craziest thing about these fences is the amount of money people are willing to spend on them. Now there are the traditional picket fence and the even more basic wire fence but then there are some that are just completely crazy. A large percentage of the work force is in other countries sending money back to family members still here. These family members do not invest this money and very rarely put it into a bank. They quite literally put it into a sock and hide it under the mattress (I am so not kidding). Much of the time the money goes to property improvements including putting in the "blingiest" fence they can. Some of these fences are really nice, and I mean nicer than most fences people would put up in the States.

Now, for all of you wine people, it's about time to harvest again and I have a few pics of the grapes growing outside my bedroom window.