Not too much good news to report out of old Romania except to say that the country’s fascist, authoritarian tendencies are really starting to blossom.
Anyone outside their homes between 10pm and 6am is now required to fill out a special form justifying their presence.
Hilariously, one of the boxes that you can check for why you’re out of your house is accompanying a domestic animal, known in regular language as “walking your dog.”
Typically for Romania, the instructions on the form are written in florid legalese that 80% of the population, even those who are native Romanian speakers, cannot understand. Just two months ago, I saw a report saying that nearly half of all fifth graders in the country are functionally illiterate, and I personally have had to fill out police reports for friends in Romania.
Furthermore, there are no versions in Hungarian or other languages, so it’s going to be a very odd edict to enforce in some towns and villages.
Perhaps even more astoundingly, the “pass” cannot be filled out with a computer or by using a mobile phone app – the instructions specifically say that they must be filled out by hand. And you need a new one every single time/day that you go out. Considering that almost nobody has a printer in their house, the whole process is a giant clusterfuck of incompetence.
Of course, with bitterly cold weather here for the time being, few people are on the streets at night anyway. But the government has already said that they may require these handwritten passes during the daytime soon.
The government also published this indecipherable table of the fines people will now receive if they break the myriad of new rules.
Again, the whole thing smacks of being cobbled together by a bunch of Bucharest lawyers and completely disconnected with the needs and abilities of the people. And it is entirely unclear just how the government is actually going to collect on those fines.
So… Romania in a nutshell, basically.
Republic of Moldova
I woke up this morning to see this fun message (🇲🇩) from the prime minister saying that the army will soon be patrolling the streets and “places where groups of people might gather.”
So far, nobody has seen actually seen them in Chisinau, but the PM did say that they first need to be “trained” on how to destroy the last flickering embers of democracy and human rights.
UPDATE: I just saw that the tanks and APCs have arrived on the streets of Chisinau. You can see the entire disturbing video here.
The PM also said that pensioners will be receiving their monthly payouts “directly at home” instead of via the normal procedure, which is to queue up at post offices and cause massive backlogs.
The PM neglected to say, though, exactly who exactly is going to deliver five hundred thousand envelopes with cash in them, so God only knows how that’s gonna work out.
Despite its absolutely abysmal reputation as a KGB police state, I’m happy to report that the army in Pridnestrovie is most definitely not patrolling the streets.
Most of them, in fact, are being confined to their bases and undergoing strict hygienic measures such as wearing masks and sitting two meters apart during meals. In fact, state media was bragging about this after a leaked video from Ukraine showed 2,000 soldiers all crammed into a mess hall, none of them wearing masks (the soldier who filmed it was also demoted in a nice touch of typical Ukrainian authoritarianism).
In more troubling news, however, President Krasnoselsky decided that yesterday was the last time that public transportation would operate. Starting from today, the only way to get somewhere (other than by walking or biking) is by taxi.
I personally know at least a dozen people who work in Tiraspol but live in Bender, so I have no idea how these folks are going to be able to get to work. Taxis are pretty affordable, but nobody wants to pay for one every single day, especially if this crisis continues for much longer.
Yesterday, the government also made a great show of “sanitizing” public areas, including wiping down kids’ playgrounds and the door handles of public institutions, etc. While I’m sure that this might help a bit, it does start to feel a bit like “coronavirus theater.”
In more concrete news, the government is busy expanding the central hospital in Slobozia (located exactly halfway between Tiraspol and Bender, so within a 15-minute drive of 50% of the country’s population). And the local textile factories have cranked out a bajillion masks, so there’s plenty for sale. One mask costs roughly $0.25 (4 PMR rubles) and is designed to be boiled and re-used.
In addition, they’ve shut down all the food markets just days after exhorting people to go out and shop there. There are a lot of small farmers in Pridnestrovie (and Moldova) who are utterly reliant on these markets for their income. And many people specialize in homemade foods like sauces, pickles, and the like – the kind of stuff you could, theoretically, make at home, but it’s easier and more economical to just buy it from an old lady at the market.
People like my wife and I rely on the markets to get a far better selection of vegetables and other things than you can find at the supermarket, so we are a bit sad.
Currently, the government is only letting people sell meat, dairy products, and fish at the market. I don’t know if that’s because they operate out of a separate building (and so it’s easier to maintain hygiene) or because they want to give the sellers a chance to sell off their expensive stock before it spoils.
A Ray of Light
On the personal front, some good news. But first, the bad news.
Yesterday, my wife and I trouped all over town trying to find the right person to talk to about helping us get access to our money. As I wrote about a couple of days ago, all foreign bank cards don’t work here, so there’s no way for us to get any cash.
Some ladies at the police station on Rosa Luxembourg Street were completely cold and indifferent to us to the point of inhumanity. I had to actually yell at them a few times to at least give us a phone number for someone intelligent enough to at least give us an answer on what we could do.
We then decided to visit the Interior Ministry’s headquarters. It’s a huge compound near the train station, and the entrance is staffed by a single security guard in a booth. He was somewhat elderly and utterly unable to even think of whom we might talk to in order to get some help.
He had a mask, but it was sitting on the table next to him instead of being worn. And as we stood there, talking to him, several employees breezed through. The guard was supposed to use a contactless thermometer to check their temperature, but when he pressed the button, I saw it flash red and the words “LO BATT” appear on the screen. Obviously, as an English speaker, I know that this meant that it needed charging and wasn’t working at all, but nobody else seemed to notice (or give a shit).
Eventually, an employee coming into the building heard us talking English amongst ourselves and asked if he could help. It turns out that he couldn’t do anything personally, but he did, at least, give us the telephone number for the coronavirus “hotline” and instructed us to call it.
Cold and with our faces raw from the wind, we then headed home. To our great relief, we saw a notice on state-run social media that the government was organizing a trip to Varnita for people who needed to use “international” bank cards to withdraw money.
This wasn’t in response to our needs or guys like that poor African football player stuck here, I don’t think. It turns out that some Russian citizens living here get their Russian (government) pensions on some kind of card that doesn’t work here, so they, too, need to go to Varnita to get their cash.
Either way, the good news is that we wrote to the email address listed on the announcement and have been told that we’re on the list and need to wait for further information.
With only about a day or two’s worth of money left, I was researching every possible way for me to get my hands on some CASH MONEY 🤑🤑🤑
I eventually discovered, to my surprise (since I hadn’t seen any logos anywhere) that both Western Union and Moneygram supposedly work here.
I tried Moneygram first, and the fee was pretty reasonable, so I filled out all the numerous forms to send some money to my wife, a fairly surreal experience considering that we live together.
But after all the clicks went through, I got an email from Moneygram saying that their automatic system had “detected fraud” and that my account had been deleted.
Mind you, I had just signed up on their system 10 minutes earlier, and there is nothing less fraudulent than me using my real bank card to send money to my real wife, but hey, what can you do?
My heart in my mouth, I then tried Western Union. This time, there was no “fraud” detected, and the transaction went through. Of course, it might help a little that I greased the skids with an eyewatering 12% commission. Shit, that’s expensive!
Today, however, my wife was all smiles as we waited in line at the bank, had our temperature checked, were forced to sanitize our hands with gel, and spoke to a cashier in a homemade leather (yes, leather) mask because, after about 500 clickety-clicks on the computer, we finally got some cash money in our hands.
So… they might be highway robbers, but praise be to Western Union. Apparently, they have some way to make it “through” to the lawless wastelands of Pridnestrovie when nobody else (aside from Russian competitors that I cannot access due to American sanctions on the Russian banking system – SIGH) can.
Now we can wait for the PMR Interior Ministry to organize their “cash shuttle” to Varnita without stressing that we’ll run out of food, so that’s good.
As anyone who has read this site for more than a half second can probably guess, I read a lot of news, as in a lot. On a normal day, I read at least 50 articles and scan through 400 headlines.
But it’s become simply too much. The panic and alarm buttons have been pressed once too often, and it’s not doing me any good staying “informed.” Therefore, I have hidden away all my news feeds for use at a later, hopefully happier, date.
I also strongly all of you to do something similar. I got two separate emails from clients, each one talking about feeling overwhelmed and close to burnout due to the scary news overload. Clearly, it’s having a huge psychological toll, and I prefer to stay healthy even if it means being less “educated.”
Plus, I’ve already seen enough to know that there are too many idiots in charge of this virus situation, and it is far too complex for them to handle.
Speaking of which, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, actually went on TV yesterday to say old people would rather die than have the precious capitalist system in America suffer.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my elderly relatives in America alive than lift one finger to support the abysmally rotten system that is supposedly the foundation of the “richest country in the world.” And just for the record, no, I am definitely not a Communist. 😜
Until next time…