12 December 2010

Calatori (travel) and Moldovan Generosity

The journey from Varatic to Pelinia is a rather simple one. You hop on any rutiera that is going to Balti or Chisinau. Then you tell the driver to stop at the intersection for Pelinia, which is where you get off the rutiera. Then you stand at the corner and flag down a driver who will then take you to the center of town, which is close to Ross' house. Pelinia is situated right inbetween the most direct route to and from Drochia and Balti, so it's rather easy to hitch a ride, and they usually don't accept money because they were going that way anyways.

But going from Pelinia to Varatic is quite another story because Varatic is way off of any main road. So, instead of going to Balti (15 minutes from Pelinia, then another 15 to the bus stop, which is then 1 1/2-2 hours from Varatic) I decided to attempt to flag down a rutiera at the intersection. The last time Ross came to Varatic he caught one at 3:30, so I was aiming for that one. I went to the center of Pelinia to try to catch a ride to at least the intersection, if not all the way to Riscani (my rayon). After 10 minutes, not one person stopped. But an unmarked rutiera arrived that goes between Pelinia and Balti all day, so I hopped on that one and he took me to the intersection, but by the time we got there he had forgotten I'd asked to be dropped off there so he kept going. Just as he crossed the road (and as I asked him again to stop), I saw the rutiera for Varatic drive by. Oh shoot. Plan B.

I stood at the intersection (in the freezing temperatures, but at least it was sunny) for about 10 minutes before someone finally stopped. If they drove fast enough (aka their normal speed) then I'd make it to Riscani in time to catch the rutiera, I thought. But then just as we started to drive, he had engine troubles. So we stopped at a gas station so the driver could get some fluids for the engine. That's another 10 minutes gone. No chance of catching the rutiera now, but I knew there would be at least one other one so I could wait. But another passenger in the car (whom the driver had also picked up) said that it would be best to go to Edinet (which is actually pretty far North because it's closer to Varatic and there should be a rutiera at 4:30, and if not, the taxi ride won't be "too" expensive. Instead of following my gut which told me to go to Riscani, I listened to this man, who is from Moldova, said he used to work in Edinet, and I supposed he should have known. But we dropped him off in Riscani. And I stayed in the car.

Then we picked up 2 more passengers, and dropped one off by the time we got to Edinet, and the remaining passenger helped me find the auto gara (bus station) once we got there. When we got to the station, it was completely deserted, other than some dogs running around and someone cleaning up the trash after a busy day of activity. Great. Stranded. Now what?

This nice man then instructed me to get in a taxi and tell the driver to take me to the roundabout and drop me off in the direction of Varatic, and there I could wait for someone (a car or a rutiera) to pick me up and take me to Varatic. After 15 minutes I'd only seen maybe 5 cars: 4 of which were going in another direction, and the one going my way was a rutiera policeman, which wasn't going to do me any good. But I did make a couple of dog friends, which is always comforting, especially because they seemed to enjoy chasing cars going the other direction. 15 minutes later, it was almost dark and I was still waiting.

Finally someone turned my way, and I said to myself, "Va-rooooooooooooog" (pleeeeeeeease), and to my luck, they stopped. When I told them were I was going, they had no idea where it was. Then they asked if I knew the road to get there, and I said absolutely not. The driver made a phone call, and as he did, his wife told me to get in the back and that they were going to find it. See, what makes things difficult here in Moldova is the fact that there are not ANY street signs telling you where to go, unless it's to major cities (like Balti or Chisinau). Before I knew it I was nice and warm in their seemingly new (and very clean!) car, and I was having a conversation with this wonderful couple. We picked up another family, dropped them off, then dropped the wife off, and then the husband continued to take me to Varatic, even though he had no idea where he was going exactly.

A couple of phonecalls later to Luminita, I was dropped off at my gate, he didn't accept any money from me (just asked God to bless me), and he gave me his number and said I could call if I ever need anything, and that they'd love to show me around Edinet and the surrounding area in the summer when the weather is nicer and it's prettier.

I couldn't believe how nice this couple was. I live almost an hour completely out of their way, but they didn't want me to stand outside in the cold and the dark and risk getting picked up by someone else. Like my host parents said when I got back and told them the story of my travel... I could have had everything stolen, been hurt, or even disappeared. They're right: there really are some bad people in this world. Luckily for me, though, I was put with the right people and some of the kindest and most hospitable people in all of Moldova. I now know Edinet is not the fastest route, and while I was lucky this time, I should stick to the rutieras. But, like my host mom also said, I have a new acquaintance in Edinet and so more connections to make friends all over Moldova.

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