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Well folks, I’ve been living in the Republic of Moldova, otherwise known as the Poorest Country in Europe™, for over a year now, and am slowly starting to get an understanding of this country. I must admit, it’s not easy to get to know Moldova, as it is far more bashful and less vivacious than neighboring Romania.
Nonetheless, over the course of my travails, I’ve come to learn of a number of myths that apparently pretty much every Moldovan believes in.
Myth 1 – Moldovans are hard workers
If I had a nickel for every time a Moldovan told me that moldoveni sunt harnici (Moldovans are hard workers), well, I’d have a giant collection of American coins that I couldn’t spend :P
There are more than 2 million Moldovans in this world, and I certainly haven’t met even a fraction of them, but from everything I’ve seen, Moldovans are the complete opposite of hard working. Oh, don’t get me wrong, some jobs here are pretty crappy, and the pay is low, and they’re not laughing and joking all day long, but that isn’t the same as working hard.
What I have seen is a capital that looks like it was bombed back in the 90s, with barely adequate trash control (on my very first day in Chisinau, a homeless person complained about the trash on the streets!), a dilapidated City Hall (primaria) that looks far better on the 200 lei note than in real life, and signs of neglect everywhere.
Even my veterinarian, who takes wonderful care of my four animals, told me just last week that he works from 9:00 to 5:00, and said this with a straight face even though I was waiting for him until 9:45 am to get to the office. A few other things I’ve seen:
- Kiosks that say “5 minute break” and the operator/seller is gone for an hour
- Stalls in the market full of food, but the seller is off gossiping or getting a tea, and their neighbors don’t know when they’ll be back
- Commercial stores that open later than their advertised hours, or close up 10-30 minutes early for no discernible reason
- One guy working and TEN guys watching at construction sites
- I called 112 (the emergency number) and had to wait 10 minutes before someone answered
- During a court deal, the “plaintiff” was the devils at Immigration, and they failed to even show up. Everything was delayed 5 weeks, and then the judge was fucking around in her office doing nothing, making us wait for 90 minutes.
- Stores regularly run out of goods because they forget to do their re-orders in a timely manner
- Every bank, supermarket, or other large store has between 2-4 employees who do little more than stand around and talk
So yeah, I’m sure there are some hard-working Moldovans out there, especially ones who are abroad, but around here I’ve never seen anything close to what I would consider to be true hustle, get-up-and-go, or even breaking a sweat.
Myth 2 – Moldova (the Republic of) is much older than Romania
I’ve already written an entire article about this, but it is amazing just how pervasive the belief is around here that Moldova is far, far older than Romania.
Long story short, Wallachia + Moldova = Romania, so both components are older (duh), but no matter how you slice it, Wallachia is far older than Moldova, and today’s Republic of Moldova (RM) is far younger/newer than the original Moldova, which is 90% in Romania (and Ukraine) these days. Today’s RM is the new kid on the block, yet every Moldovan thinks they’re direct descendants of Stefan cel Mare.
Myth 3 – Composting is bad
Actually, most Moldovans have no idea what compost even is, and it shows, as the country is rapidly turning into a desert. I should add that the Soviets, despite all their other evils, actually did a pretty good job of keeping Moldovan soil healthy, while post-independence it seems like a race against the clock to convert every last hectare of fertile soil into wine for export.
But here in Chisinau, I ironically see a ton of hard work going into converting the city into a desert too. In a country where almost no one works hard, there is an army of sweepers to take every leaf and shred of decomposing organic material and haul it away to be burned or buried in a landfill. Why? I don’t know. It’s as if people truly think composting is evil. Even hidden side passages are regularly swept clean of everything, leaving just bare dirt, which rapidly turns into mud.
I personally had the police(!) called on me because I dared to do a little composting in the garden in front of our apartment. My neighbor went apeshit when she saw me composting, and screamed in Russian that she was calling the militsiya. I told her, “Go ahead!” because why in the world would I be in trouble for composting in my own garden?
Well, long story short, I got hauled down to the fucking cop station, and officially received a written warning never to compost again. Yep, true story. And if I ever do it again, they’ll fine me 50 euros. Nice, eh?
Myth 4 – Tara de Minuni/Tara Minunilor
If anything ever goes wrong, or something gets messed up, or something breaks down, every Moldovan will reflexively tell you “Tara de minuni!” (or the variant Tara minunilor). Literally this means “A country of wonders” or “What a wonderful country”, and is about the only time a native will use sarcasm. Romanian is such a literal language that it’s hard to do sarcasm right.
I guess the best way to really translate it is “Will wonders never cease?”.
And, to be a true Moldovan, you have to say this with a smile and a gleam in your eye, as though you were the very first person to come up with this witty rejoinder.
I hate this “answer” to problems almost as much as I hate the poem Miorita, which is featured on the money in Moldova, a beautiful bit of verse that’s all about giving up and quitting the moment you face a tiny bit of adversity.
In reality, Moldova really COULD be a wonderful country, smartly neutral in a world where the European Union artificially jacks up prices, and NATO forces countries to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on useless weaponry, or caught in Russia’s iron grip. Indeed, I’ve already written about how awesome Moldova is, and I will continue to live here for the foreseeable future, but the last thing I’m going to do is shrug my shoulders and chime in and say “Tara minunilor!” every time something goes wrong.
My answer will always be, “Let’s do something to make it better!”. But hey, that’s what makes me weird :)
AND NOW YOU KNOW!