Tuesday, October 17, 2006

last post from Moldova

well, that's it. I am leaving moldova tomorrow at 8am. I finally finished all my documents, I bought my souvenirs, I said goodbye to my host family, partners, PC admin, etc. I'm happy mostly because I have managed to finish all the stuff that needed finishing.

Moldova is no paradise. All of the things I've said over the past 2 years are true. There is corruption, many public institutions are dysfunctional, there is very little work, people tend to be both poor and unhappy (because they used to be wealthier, or at least had a more guaranteed source of income), rural areas are devastated, etc etc. In spite of all this, I have gotten used to moldova, and moldova went and got used to me too. Generalizations about something as large as a country are fun to say, but the reality is there are great people and bad people everywhere. I've met some great people, and for that I am appreciative. I will be sad to leave, and I will be sad to leave them.

I am starting a romanian language blog which will be about my travels back in the states at scrisoridinamerica.blogspot.com if you want to check it out. I hope it helps me keep my language skills from dying completely.

Goodbye Moldova. Maybe I'll see you again soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Moldova holds claim to a famous singer both in Moldova and Romania named Pavel Stratan, whose original style and lyrics that have captured the thoughts and actions of rural moldovans. He writes a lot about town life, about drinking and depression and family and relatives, among other things.

His three year old daughter Cleopatra has recently produced her own CD, and her video is on all of the MTV like stations in both Moldova and Romania. It's called Ghita (pronounced Ghitsa), and is best appreciated while watching the video. Check it out here .

Anyway, I like it, so check it out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Shooting the moon

I am now getting ready to leave Moldova. I have complained about it for nearly 2 years, and now, at the end, the things I’ve come to like are surfacing like sunken glaciers. A typical life consists of 95 percent little things, and 5 percent big things. I thought I was complaining about a lot of little things in conjunction with the big over the last 2 years, but I wasn’t – they were just big things after all. Little things tend to be so little they don’t even enter our conscious mind. I guess that’s why when you make a big change in your life, you have certain somewhat unexplainable feelings which are your body’s reaction to the 95 percent of little things shifting suddenly, as if dumped all the marbles out of a chinese checkers board.

The thing about dumping out all your marbles is you start to get the feeling you have, in fact, lost them. Big things and little things get mixed up, as does cause and effect, means and ends, possibilities and opportunities. In putting my marbles back, I seem to want to use the last picture I had of them while in place – the picture from Moldova. I want all the little things from Moldova, because they are me as I know myself now. So in constructing my future, I am drawn to Moldova like a magnet. Yet being a self-aware person (even without marbles) I know that my future self will readjust and Moldova will wash slowly out of my list of internalized preferences as new little things build me up from new. This is natural, and understood by everyone, without any unnecessary chinese checkers metaphors.

However – we tend to forget something. We could decide to keep our marbles as they were – that is, I could decide to keep my Moldovan marbles. Our self-awareness gives us the realization that we can reorganize them, but it does not force that action upon us. We feel forced, but it is in fact a decision. Sometimes we plan so long for something we forget that we are living a life in which we decide, and we act, under the sole jurisdiction of our minds – not other peoples’ minds or preferences, and not even something created by our minds, like a plan or an idea. Every day we can completely change our lives, regardless of whether we actually do so.

Perhaps just realizing this is good enough. Changing the plan is risky, with uncertain outcomes, long odds, and probably lots of unhappy endings. Or so the thinking goes… so few people ever try it out, it’s hard to really know.

Monday, September 11, 2006

right and seems right

So today is the first day of the fifth year since September 11, 2001. There was a documentary on Romanian TV about the jumpers and their story (or their story’s story). I talked briefly with my host family about it. Nina seemed genuinely interested – she had seen some other program about it on the 10th. She said “with all of the bad things that God does to punish us, why do people have to do bad things to each other?”. If the human race was collectively trying to minimize its punishment, that would be a great question.

Today is the only day of the year when I feel like praying, even though I don’t believe in God. It is similar to the time we went to the basement with the tornado flew over our backyard and took out the willow trees. I was young enough to not have decided about God, but I was praying regardless of that decision. I guess when you lose all control over your most fundamental rights (security, happiness, life…), you appeal to the only thing you’ve ever heard could help you. I assumed that closing my eyes and putting my palms flat against each other would have saved me from being torn out of the basement of our house by the blackness and roaring that was outside, so I did it. I would do it now if I thought the same. I almost do.

That is the effect of terrorism.

There are many random causes of death completely outside of our control which are done by God. Terrorism, however, is done by man. We forgive God because we cannot kill him – for many of us, killing him means killing ourselves. We never have to forgive men – and we have perfected the art of killing men for thousands of years. And so we kill them by the tens of thousands.

Like me almost praying, at least it feels right.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

do I have to share my candybar in Denmark?

I received a comment from a person from Denmark who noted that he comes from a society in which there is a thriving version of “institutionalized sharing” of a similar type to what I described in a previous post. His point being that taxes are a form of sharing, and certainly a forced sharing (perhaps similar to my description of “not sharing is a sin”), and yet society runs and runs well.

Well, I agree, Denmark has a model economy by most standards, especially in recent years since its unemployment rate has dropped significantly. However, I think that the comparison (of Denmark and my “not sharing is a sin” remarks) is flawed. When I pay taxes, though I am certainly sharing, I am doing so in a very institutionalized way, that is, in an almost contractual way. If I pay 500 dollars a year for roads to be repaired, I can rightly assume that roads will be repaired. More importantly, I can rightly demand that my money is spent correctly since I have somewhere to demand to. However, in the more general version of “not sharing is a sin” that I was talking about, you can demand nothing. Not only can you demand nothing, but you have no one person or intitution to demand it from. Government is accepted on a contractual basis by the people (though not by every individual seperately), and though we are born into it (therefore having the contract forced upon us before we can really accept it) it remains a contract in the sense that I have some control over its conditions and stipulations on how it affects me. Especially in the case of Denmark, this contract is beneficial to nearly everyone, and so you can’t say you receive nothing as a result (unless perhaps you’re a childless upper-class entrepreneur in perfect health). So though part of the taxes in Denmark are redistributive (from those who have to those who need), a large part are also a simple, efficient unification of services like health care, child care, pensions, etc. I would not consider this part of “not sharing is a sin”. Finally and most importantly, in the case of taxes, the government has the capacity to seek out and punish those taking advantage of the system (regardless of whether it does it well or not… but anyway…). In the case I describe, it is impossible to punish cheaters without taking on the risk of looking stupid yourself by doing the punishing.

I am interested to know if the sort of sharing that I described – the giving-a-piece-of-my-candybar sort – is perhaps more prevelent in Denmark or in other countries. Though I think it’s very possible that culture has some effect, I still believe that the chaotic result I described is logically inevitable if you are morally obliged to give up a part of anything you receive (see both posts 1 and 2 (called Our Water Bottle)).

Thank you for the comment Henrik :).