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Moldova 2000
Living Conditions

"We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."

Tom, John and Ron

The flat in which we are staying has every modern convenience - except A/C which would only be missed in the dead of summer, perhaps July and August. There is a small kitchen-dining room where the 5 of us can squeeze around the breakfast table. The refrigerator beeps at you if you leave it open for more than 4 seconds. There are three bedrooms, though Eugene's is tiny with only one bed. The living room has a TV and VCR - we have some archaeological tapes loaned to us from the Heltons that we are previewing when we have a free few minutes.

Moldovan Building

Kishinev is the capital city of Moldova and, as such, is the most prosperous part of the county. This relative prosperity translates to poverty when compared to most American cities. The buildings look like slums, even the ones that are only three years old. Some have peeling paint, the rest have unpainted CBS block or some combination of the two. Elevators are built to hold 2 or 3 people; you put in more at your own risk.

These apartment buildings are noteworthy for their extreme drab ugliness. Rising 15 stories into the sky, they all appear to be unfinished with raw, untreated masonry bedecking their facades. It is not that they are old buildings that are falling apart. It is that they are new buildings which are falling apart - some only several years old. When I asked Ron Helton about them, he replied that it was the communist policy to construct all new buildings so that they were equally ugly - communism dictated that all people be brought down to the lowest common denominator.

A girl was reported to have been injured outside our building when a piece of plaster broke away from the building and fell on her, giving her a deep gash in the arm. From the look of the buildings, this is no uncommon occurrence. The plaster is pealing from every building that we have seen. They are in a constant state of disrepair. Even the buildings that were constructed within the last several years have this run-down appearance. As the deterioration continues, the actual stability of the buildings begins to be compromised. To make matters worse, this is an earthquake zone and small tremors are not uncommon. The effects of a major earthquake would be comparable to those of which we read in Turkey that kill so many thousands.

The streets are filled with potholes. This has one advantage in that no one drives exceptionally fast and accidents are hardly ever fatal. On the other hand, pedestrians cross streets at their own risk. They are expected to jump out of the way and no allowances are made for slow reflexes.

I awake early this morning as the sky is just beginning to pale with the morning light. Rolling over to check the alarm clock, I am surprised to find that it is five in the morning. Daylight comes early in Moldova. Greg shows me how to turn on the heat for the water - it is much like starting an outdoor propane grill, only these fittings look like they were jury rigged and would never pass a fire safety inspection in the States. We only keep the propane on while we are taking what passes for a shower. It is cold water only for the rest of the day. The good news is that we have water at all. This isn't always the case and the water is often turned off entirely throughout the city.

A shower involves getting on your knees in the tub; the holder for the shower head is only about three feet high. There is only one temperature, although it could be adjusted slightly at the water heater by playing with the propane fixture. Nevertheless, a hot showed is an appreciated luxury. Most residents of the city are limited to cold showers or no showers.

After a brief but satisfying breakfast, we head for the seminary. It is about a mile walk and it is through what seems to be the most pleasant part of the city. The route is lined with trees and the air is crisp and cool without being uncomfortably cold, even to my Florida sensitivities.