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Stories from diaspora// Natalia Ciobanu – the traveller who left everything behind for a journey around the globe

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It started from a childhood dream and a personal challenge. Natalia Ciobanu had been practicing as a speech therapist in Paris when she decided to sell a part of her personal belongings, save some money and go on a trip around the world. Some of us only dream about the Monument Valley from the USA, Salar de Uyuni from Bolivia, Machu Picchu from Peru, The Great Wall of China, Mardi Himal Mountain from Nepal or Taj Mahal from India. Natalia already saw all of them and has got amazing plans for her future trips. Today’s story is about her.

About her own concept of travelling

Natalia wanted to get out of the comfort zone and find her limits. “I chose to say ‘goodbye’ to materialism and to experience a minimalist lifestyle, having only a backpack with me. At the same time, I also wanted to explore the world, to admire the beauties of nature, to try out different cuisines and to see what happiness means for other people,” Natalia says.

Even though she had this idea for a long period of time, the real impulse was given to her by her patients

“The cases of young patients who stayed in the hospital I was working at, being disabled for their lifetime, have accelerated my decision. Life can be short, and we should cherish every moment.”

Hence, it wasn’t just a usual trip for Natalia. Prior to the journey around the globe, Natalia already was an experienced traveller: Martinique, Dominican Republic, Seychelles, Mauritius, Jamaica, Cuba, Morocco, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel, England, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, USA. “But these trips were made in more luxurious conditions. I was a tourist, not a traveller. This is why I needed a change and a new way of exploring things.”

So, she tailored her own way of travelling: alone but open to making new acquaintances, challenging but so exciting, combined with practicing sports and trying out local food, clothes and customs, comfortable rather for the soul than for the body.

About the arrangements before the journey

The preparations were organised really fast: “It was spontaneous, and it was done faster than I expected. My decision was made in August last year. The request for the sabbatical leave was made in September. I received a positive answer in November and on January 6th I was already on the plane. It all happened so fast, I did not even have enough time to solve all my administrative issues,” recalls Natalia. She didn’t even manage to do all the necessary vaccinations.

“I know, for example, a person who planned for one year to go around the world and at the last moment cancelled everything.” Surely, she didn’t want the same.

She first sold everything she could: her car, jewellery, clothes, shoes. She used her savings and arranged everything in 2 backpacks, a medical kit and a small bag for papers, money and her phone. That is all she needed, besides the courage and enthusiasm she already had.

“When I get back, I’ll start everything from scratch.”

Natalia doesn’t plan her itinerary. She has no list of cities and places to visit. “I buy my airplane ticket in the very last moment. Just a ticket, no hostel, no idea about visits. Everything is improvised by taking into consideration my wish list, the geographical position of countries and the price of airline tickets. I make use of internet and the help from travellers I meet.”

About her once in a lifetime trip

At the moment, Natalia explores India and, since she began her journey in January 2019, she already had the chance to travel to the most beautiful places in Argentina, Chili, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Japan, South Korea, China and Nepal. She visited the capital cities and globally recognized touristic attractions, but also got to less popular places, made a lot of friends among the local people and benefited from their hospitality and their priceless recommendations.

Natalia would love to go back to some places one day. “The Carnival of Barranquilla was a great experience. Japan impressed me with its hospitality and sakura. In South Korea I was invited to have dinner with people I met for the first time. I would love to see again the Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the Uyuni salt flat, Peru’s Machu Picchu Mountain, Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador… Now, in India, I can hardly wait for the Dalai Lama event.”

About the flip side of the coin

Nonetheless, not everything went smoothly. “I lost 2 airplane tickets. In one case, I did not have the right to make a stop in China, although I had a transit visa. In the second case, I did not have an exit ticket from that country.” Natalia says that India provoked a great cultural shock for her. “It’s hard to understand what’s going on in my soul.” She also had difficulties in communicating with Chinese people, as the majority of them hardly speak English.

Then, she got deeper and observed other important problems existent in the countries she visited. “There are environmental problems everywhere, especially in undeveloped countries where people are not educated to protect nature and the governments do not have the necessary means to manage the garbage. India shocked me completely, as there is misery everywhere, same in Bolivia and Peru. The plastic is a real problem. I became aware the dangerous consequences of our actions because I can observe the difference, since I have been travelling for 15 years,” states Natalia. Our protagonist often collects garbage during her trips, as she wants to make at least a small contribution.

Extremist religions represent one of the current problems of our planet, according to Natalia. “I felt this the most in India, where the Kashmir region is dangerous. The bombings in Sri Lanka have postponed my trip to this country, which I really wanted to visit.”

“The poverty I saw in Bolivia, Peru, Nepal and India hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t ignore the sexual aggression problem in Nepal and India and the always tensioned atmosphere in Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina.”

About her main takeaways

Natalia changed a lot since she first started to travel and surely the metamorphosis is still in process, as she is today in one of the most contrasting countries of this world. She has got some thoughts on developing eco and rural tourism in the Republic of Moldova. “I would need a team and sponsors for implementing them.”

What is really important, is that she found out so many things about herself and the surrounding world. Natalia has a message for other experimenters who would like to do it as well:

“As long as we are in good health and have the will, new horizons need to be explored. We must learn to detach ourselves from a materialist life and appreciate lasting things, as well as people that will be there for us no matter what. To make a trip around the world means to accept challenges, to open oneself, to experience, to learn, to get acquainted with different people, to tolerate other civilizations, to appreciate changes, and to simply love life. So, I invite you to have beautiful and emotional journeys.”

Photos: personal archive

Culture

Interesting facts about Chișinău on its Annual Fete

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Every year, on October 14th , the residents of Chișinău celebrate the Annual Fete of the city. You can find below some interesting facts about the celebration of this day and about the history of the capital city in general.

source: zdg.md

  • Every year, besides the usual festivity organised in the city centre of Chișinău, a religious ceremony dedicated to the celebration of the feast day of the “Nativity of Lord” Metropolitan Cathedral is conducted.
  • Another tradition, on Chișinău’s Annual Fete, is the laying of flowers at the monument of the Ștefan cel Mare in the centre of the capital, at 8 a.m.
  • Even though the actual anniversary of Chișinău must be celebrated on July 17th, as the locality was documentarily mentioned for the first time on this date in 1436, it is still used to count its age in October.
  • This year, a wide range of cultural, social and artistic manifestations were organised: exhibitions of crafts, florist, books, paintings and graphics, a musical-choreographic show, food courts, the Municipal Merit Award hosted by the Organ Hall, recitals of a choir from Estonia and a music school from Israel, entertainment activities for elder people, musical shows and concerts with the participation of national and international singers, folk music orchestras, as well as a marching band from Romania. The scheduled events end at 11 p.m. with a firework show.
  • The Annual Fete of Chișinău is celebrated since 1995, when Serafim Urecheanu – the mayor of that time of Chișinău – decided to do so. Initially, it was celebrated on the first Sunday of October. The situation changed due to a decree signed by Vladimir Voronin, the country president back then, who decided to organise the “National Wine Day” on the first Sunday of October. Thus, the municipality had to find a solution to separate the two holidays. The moment happily coincided with ending of the renovation works of the Metropolitan Cathedral, “The Birth of the Lord” on October 14th, 2001.
  • The Annual Fete of Chișinău is celebrated on the same day as the Annual Fete of Tiraspol and Iași.
  • Chișinău became the capital city by the decision of Metropolitan Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni and the senator of the city in 1818.
  • The capital city has a population of 844 605 people, out of which 30893 are children, according to data from the State Register of Population.
  • There are 215 282 cars and 292 900 apartments registered in Chișinău.
  • The longest street in the capital city is the Muncești street, having a length of 13 km, the shortest one – Valeri Cikalov street, which has 41 m.
  • About 7% of the total area of the municipality is occupied by green areas and 2.3% is covered by water, that means about 3 square meters of green land for each resident of the city.
  • Also, the capital of the Republic of Moldova is twinned with 16 other cities from different countries of the world such as: Odessa, Iași, Ankara, or Grenoble.

More facts about Chișinău can be found in the infographic made by TV8.

Photo: zdg.md

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Culture

5 exceptional museum exhibitions in Chișinău, which are currently opened for visitors. Have you already seen them?

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There are still very few things known abroad about the history, architecture, nature and culture of the Republic of Moldova. Some old and contemporary treasures still remain hidden from the public eye, being visited only by a few connoisseurs. In this article, we present 5 intriguing exhibitions in the Chișinău museums for that time when you visit the capital city of Moldova and think about how to spend your time.

The collection of old charters at the National Library

source: ipn.md

The collection of charters of the National Library includes around 200 documents reflecting the economic, social, political and cultural life of Bessarabia from the Tsarist period (1812-1918). It has been recently restored and made available to the public. The preserved documents were exhibited after the project “Bessarabian charters and other historical documents from the 19th century”, financed by the US Embassy, ​​through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Conservation, was completed, IPN reported.

According to the director of the National Library Elena Pintilei the project has a major impact on the national heritage, as until two years ago, it was impossible to make these documents public or to make them available to researchers. “The restored historical documents will be researched by historians, because they contain very important information, perhaps still undiscovered, about the period of the 19th century, when Bessarabia was under Tsarist occupation,” said Elena Pintilei.

The exhibition is open to the public until December 30th, 2019. It can be found at the National Library on 31 August 1989 street, 78A.

The exhibition “Bessarabian Motives” at the “Andrei Lupan” Scientific Library

source: fest.md

The exhibition “Bessarabian Motives” is composed of about 70 works performed in different techniques of visual art: oil on canvas, watercolour, ink pen, paper engraving. In the works of the artists are represented rural and architectural motives, as well as local people of the old Chișinău.

The old Chișinău, located on a picturesque place, on seven hills, impresses its inhabitants, but also the guests of the capital. This is why, the artists try to immortalise the old city and its architecture through new works, representing different seasons and times of the day.

“Bessarabian Motives” is a personal exhibition organised by two freelance plastic artists Antonina Grişciuc and Vitalie Grişciuc who have been exhibiting their work in group exhibitions and organising personal exhibitions for 25 years. Their works have been exhibited in many countries such as Moldova, Romania, Russia, Israel, Spain, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Japan, France etc.

The exhibition is open to the public in the period from September 27th to November 15th at the “Andrei Lupan” Scientific Library, on Academiei street, 5A.

The “Nature. Human. Culture” exhibition at the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History

source: muzeu.md

The exhibition “Nature. Man. Culture” is a permanent museum exhibition that was created in 1988-1994. It has an area of ​​2000 square meters and reflects the global problem of human-nature interaction, based on local experience. Starting from the idea that nature is the environment of any human community, and culture is a reflection of the experience of human accommodation in the natural environment, the exhibition demonstrates the evolution of the use of natural resources and the development of the culture of human communities, which populated the region between Prut and Dniester area in different historical periods. It defines the transformation of nature from the sacralization of the forces of nature to their consumer domination by man. The exhibition also illustrates the problems of developing ethnicity and traditional culture in all its diversity, the results of the irresponsible attitude towards the surrounding nature, the conflicts between man and nature, solutions of economic and rational use of natural resources, as well as the tendencies to optimise the values ​​of the society.

The National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History is located on M. Kogalniceanu street, 82.

The exhibition “Treasures of the past” at the National Museum of History of Moldova

source: nationalmuseum.md

The permanent exhibition brings together the most relevant objects made of gold and silver, from the territory of the Republic of Moldova, from the period between the 5th millennium BC till the 18th century, kept in the patrimony of the National Museum of History of Moldova. The oldest pieces in the exhibition were manufactured 6500 years ago. The collection includes ornaments, clothing accessories and weapon elements, a series of coin treasures discovered in different localities of Moldova.

The National Museum of History of Moldova can be found on 31 August 1989 street, 115.

The open air “Village Museum”

source: https://muzeulsatuluichisinau.wordpress.com/

The Village Museum is a wonderful place at the “Gates of the City” – the buildings located at the entrance of Chișinău (from the airport). It aims to exhibit the monuments of popular architecture, namely the Bessarabian village from the 18th-19th century and offers a representative image of the plant world in the Republic of Moldova.

The museum was inaugurated in 1995, as a branch of the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History.

The museum complex has been under construction for a long time, having until now only one monument: a wooden church built in 1642, brought from the town of Hirișeni (Telenesti district) in order to be restored and saved.

When the project will be completed, it will cover an area of 150 hectares and will include six ethnographic areas with 165 monuments: windmills, water mills, wooden churches, dwelling houses, house annexes, trout, a traditional inn and a pub, etc.

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Economy

Unaffordable prices for low quality transportation services in Moldova or the apple of discord among carriers and the Government

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The Employers Association of Car Transport Operators from Moldova organised a protest yesterday and today. More than 250 transport units have been brought to the city centre of Chișinău, and about 250 other units are stationed in villages and district centres. That means 586 trips of 124 regular routes were suspended.

The carriers require the adjustment of the tariffs for transportation by doubling them (from 0.48 lei/km to 0.92 lei/km). On the other hand, the Government officials consider that only after providing decent transport conditions for passengers, the request of tariff adjustment can be discussed. In the meantime, people have to wait for hours for public transportation all over the country.

The <<Marshrutka>> phenomenon

The public transportation in Moldova is not expensive at all from an outside perspective. There are few countries on the European continent where one can travel from the airport to the city centre of a city for 0.10 euro. The prices for longer distance travel using mainly the so-called marshrutkas (fixed-route minivans) and sometimes buses may also look more than affordable. Nonetheless, due to low income, these prices seem high for the main client segment – the local population.

Moreover, passengers in Moldova accept and tolerate to travel standing and ‘packed like sardines’ (as local people like to say) sometimes their whole route. Some people still approach the driver to pay, that meaning their ticket money are not officially recorded and paid. The schedule of busses and minivans is sometimes confusing and not accurate, the transport services being provided on old and insecure vehicles.

The protest of transportation companies

According to protesters, the last change of tariffs took place six years ago and they incur losses because of this. Oleg Alexa, the president of the Employers’ Association of Car Transport Operators, explained for Moldova.org that there is a Government decision, approved ten years ago, which provides for the adjustment of tariffs in the transportation area once a year. However, the decision was not respected. The last adjustment of the tariffs was made six years ago, in November 2013, and was obtained by addressing the matter to the court. That time, the tariffs were increased from 0.38 to 0.48 lei/km.

“We are basically all bankrupt and we have a staff shortage of 3,000 employees.”

At the same time, during the negotiations with the representatives of the Ministry of Economy, the carriers have presented a list of proposals that could cause the tariff not to increase so much. That means carriers require partially maintaining the current conditions of passengers’ transportation, namely reusing transport units, transporting passengers standing up to 50 km, combating illicit passenger transport, importing transport units up to a certain age, eliminating abusive tax controls, etc. If the authorities will consider the carriers’ proposals, they would be willing to accept a lower tariff than the one requested during the protest, as Oleg Alexa stated.

At the same time, the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure declared that the Government is against increasing the tariffs on transport, specifying that the adjustment of the tariffs can only be discussed after the passengers will be provided with civilised travel conditions.

In a press release, the Government disapproved the decision of the carriers to suspend 600 trips, thus blocking the movement of citizens, motivating the strike by the refusal of the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure to increase the tariffs on national road services.

The experts’ opinion

Economic experts say that the request of the carriers is justified, but the tariffs should be increased gradually, in order to not affect the citizens.

The economic expert Veaceslav Ioniță declared that the carriers have at least 50% higher costs as compared to six years ago. This is mainly due to the basic components of tariffs – employees’ salaries, the cost of spare parts and fuel price, which have all increased.

According to him, the authorities impose more and more stringent requirements on the carriers, which means that the carriers can no longer use old cars, but have to buy well-maintained cars, that implying additional costs.

As for the requested increase of tariffs, the expert claims that it is obvious that the carriers “requested an exaggerated tariff, hoping that they will reach a middle ground at the negotiations.” In the same context, he noted, however, that the current government has a reason to be upset about the carriers. This is because they have not taken such actions in the past, during the six years since the tariffs were maintained.

At the same time, Ioniță warned that tariffs are politicised in Moldova. “They are approved by the authorities. It is not an independent regulation. Because of this, carriers are also vulnerable,” claimed Ioniță.

As it seems, the protests of the carriers will continue and the public transportation problem in the Republic of Moldova will not be so easy to be solved, as several contradicting interests exist. One thing is clear: Moldovan passengers of national and international routes have to suffer in this situation.

Photo: ipn.md

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