So – the second major literary-research trip of my life is done and dusted, though of course, at a month, it was much shorter than my first one (3 1/2 years in Taiwan). But the things I needed to know are now known, that which I needed to see has been seen, etc., and to be honest I’m actually quite relieved to be out of there.
Nothing against Moldova, as a country and/or ‘land;’ it’s just that I wasn’t really in a position to fully enjoy it as I might have were I simply on vacation at a better time of year. Going anywhere between the months of November and April, unless it’s south of the Tropic of Cancer, is usually pretty pointless from an aesthetic and comfort point of view, so what I’m getting here now is exactly the same as what I’d be getting in Toronto – grey and wet and cold and crap.
Secondly, I didn’t do anything except read and write. The place I stayed at is on the outskirts of the city; if I wanted to go into Chisinau proper, I had to take an uncomfortable minibus into the city. that would be pretty pointless to do more than once or twice. So I basically just stayed close to home, heading out to a nearby ‘Western’ restaurant (the only nearby ‘Western’ restaurant) every day for lunch so I could eat and get a coffee (the coffee actually being the driving force behind that plan – I’ve become so physiologically dependent on the stuff it actually kind of scares me). There were supermarkets nearby, and lots of little trailer-like shacks everywhere, but they only seemed to sell fresh food – nothing like a street vendor where you can go get a quick bite. Even the supermarket had no microwaveable meals or anything like that. This is good, I suppose, in that I guess it means Moldovans prefer to eat home-cooked meals, but bad for me in that I had nowhere to cook anything properly (the people I’m staying with use their oven simply as pots and pans storage rather than as a heating implement), and so it was either cold sandwiches every day, or the restaurant. After coming back from that I would hole up in my room and write and read. That’s it (I’m pretty mechanical in this way when left to my own devices).
I did, though, one day last week, take the two-hour trip east to Tiraspol, ‘capital’ of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, or Transnistria for short, or ‘that weird breakaway strip of land thingy with no international recognition.’ This is not as exciting as it sounds. If you do a quick search online you can find some harrowing traveller’s tales, c. 2005 or 2006, that speak of shakedowns at the border, mandatory bribes etc. That’s all a thing of the past; now, you just get out at the border checkpoint, fill in a piece of paper, and make sure you’re out before 21:55 that night. That’s it. So I walked around for a few hours in one of the last ‘Soviet strongholds’ on Earth, ate at the same Western restaurant chain that I did in Chisinau (there was even English on the menu), saw the giant statue of Lenin, and left. If anyone out there thinks that any still ‘officially communist’ country is not, or ever was, anything more than totalitarian capitalism, they’re fooling themselves.
So anyway, that’s done. The book will get finished probably within the next month or so, and then if the editing/revision process goes smoothly it should be ready for public consumption by next spring.
And then what? I have absolutely no idea.