Expat Exhausted: Where Am I?

by missfootloose on April 16, 2011 · 23 comments

in Expat life, foreign places, Moldova, travel

So, one day you wake up in your own bed in the USA and before you ever see a bed again it’s  the evening of the next day and you’re on another continent having dinner in a hotel restaurant, sleep deprived, disoriented, and discombobulated.

The “you” isn’t you, of course, it’s me, Miss Footloose.  And as I write this I’m in a restaurant in Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova in Eastern Europe. I’m having dinner with my spouse and a Very Important local person.  The two of them are talking business, which is good because I don’t have to and I can let my foggy brain be foggy all it wants. I’ll smile and look vacant mysterious.

How many hours ago did I wake up in West Virginia, USA?  Thirty. Thirty hours filled with a) frantic house cleaning, b) a sleepless-across-the ocean-flight to Munich, Germany and another one to Chisinau, Moldova, c) checking into this hotel and unpacking a little, and 4) a leaden-leg stroll around the centru of town with an exploratory visit to a supermarket, followed by 5) showering and finding dinner.

The hotel restaurant is nice in its internationally generic way: white table cloths, gleaming silverware, candles.  The menu too is full of internationally generic dishes.  A pretty waitress approaches our table to take our orders.  She sports a black mini skirt, a snazzy pin-striped vest over a white blouse and a sexy ponytail.

I order a glass of wine, which is probably the worst thing to do in my unstable state of mind, but the hell with it, I want it.  I choose a merlot from the selection offered.  “Is it Moldovan?” I ask.

“Of course!” says she of the black mini skirt.  “It’s very good,” she adds proudly.

“Fantastic,” I say.

“What next?” she demands, pen at aready.

Oh, okay, I’m supposed to order the first course even before my preprandial drink?  “I’ll have a green salad,” I tell her.

She writes it down.  “What next?”

Efficient, aren’t we?  Get the whole order down in one trip.  Fortunately I’ve already decided to do the unthinkable:  Order the fish.  Here, in Moldova, a landlocked country awash in pork and chicken and lamb. I know, I know, but I ask you, what is life without a little (or a lot) of risk?

The thing is, I’m a fish eater (omega 3 fatty acids and all that) and my worries about living here, apart from the condition of my future Moldovan mattress (see my earlier post) is the Moldovan fish situation.

The menu offers sea bream. “Where does the fish come from?” I enquire.  “The Black Sea?”  Landlocked as Moldova may be, the sea is not far, across a tiny strip of Ukraine.

Miss Ponytail is not sure.  “The Baltic maybe,” she suggests.  The Baltic is quite a distance away, but what do I know of commerce and transport and food business?  Not much.  Earlier in the supermarket I saw the fish on display, embedded in ice. It gave me hope.

The wine arrives and I am happy to report here that it is perfectly nice, which is all the wine vocabulary I can muster at this moment.  I sip and enjoy and watch as two tall, skinny girls with long flowing hair, dressed in long, black party dresses (très chic) enter the restaurant.  One sits down at the piano, the other positions under her chin the violin she was carrying.  Live music!

It’s beginning to look like this restaurant is not quite as generic as my first impression had indicated.  Glancing around, I catch sight of a huge painting of a sort not found in American family-friendly hotels.  It’s full of shocking images: Half naked people!  Bare breasts!

The painting lives high up on a wall and depicts a decadent grape harvest festival, possibly of a pre-christian Moldovan era.  A bare-breasted nymph frolics on top of a barrel full of grapes. A party of grape-leaf decorated workers in semi-undress dance around the barrel, breasts a-flopping and hair a-flowing.  Muscular male backs and buttocks gleam in the sunlight, and all faces glow delirious with joy. Nearby another nymph lounges seductively against a pillar, one full breast perkily on display. Frivolity and debauchery all around.  One can imagine what is happening in the bushes.

Clearly I am no longer in the USA, where I last woke up, and where, now that I think about it, I forgot to clean my oven.

Photo of my actual plate, with actual fish.


My salad consumed, the fish arrives, tail and eyeballs and all. Fortunately I’ve been around a bit and have seen – if not eaten – many a fish eyeball. The grilled swimmer is tastefully arranged on a plate with lettuce and red cabbage. I dig in and rejoice to find that the sea bream is meaty and tasty, if slightly overcooked. But I am not complaining since here is proof there is more than canned sardines in my future. Canned sardines, as many of you will know, can be found in most nooks and crannies of the globe along with Coca Cola and Nescafé instant coffee.

I’m feeling rather surreal sitting here so far away from my American bed and uncleaned oven, eating fish in a landlocked country, listening to the Moldovan musical maidens playing a tune from West Side Story:  Somewhere there’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us . . .

First place I want now is my hotel bed; tomorrow I’ll go house hunting. Let’s hope there is a place for us, somewhere a place for us, here in Moldova.

* * *

Do you have a jet lag story?  A moving-to-alien-shores story?  I’d love to hear your tales!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Ballerina Girl April 16, 2011 at 3:39 am

Good description of how we all feel every time we jettison back and forth, especially between the US and my current location here in Kazakhstan. We are actually much closer to each other now!

I have many stories, and someday I will post about them too. Right now on my blog is all about the latest trip we took through Europe…



Miss Footloose April 17, 2011 at 1:47 am

Looking forward to your stories. We are both now in a FSU (Former Soviet Union for the uninitiated) country. I expect the sidewalks use the same pavement stones/tiles 😉


Mara April 16, 2011 at 6:31 am

Good luck with all the househunting! Hope you can find someplace with a clean oven! (yes, I know I am a bit cheeky here, sorry)


Miss Footloose April 17, 2011 at 1:48 am

Je moest je schamen 😉 More about the house hunting later!


Judy April 16, 2011 at 8:19 am

You’ve described very well that feeling of being in one place, while your mind is still in another. The sense of unreality is very disconcerting. I found that while living overseas I seemed to be able to deal with it much better than since I repatriated. Even now I can still transport myself mentally to the places we used to live and and returning to the “here and now” can be quite a startling re-entry.


Miss Footloose April 17, 2011 at 1:51 am

Yes, all I have to do is close my eyes and visualize any of a number of places I’ve lived in, see the house, the bathroom, the street, and it’s all there, and I’m there. Strange!


Sailor April 16, 2011 at 8:57 am

It is a nice feeling to wake up in a different country!


Miss Footloose April 17, 2011 at 1:52 am

Does depend a bit on how well you slept, but yes, it is. There’s a quotation about that, Bill Bryson I think.


Turkey's For Life April 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

Good luck with the house hunting. Everything must seem really strange for you. We’re really looking forward to reading your Moldova posts. It’s not a country we know a lot about.


Miss Footloose April 17, 2011 at 2:00 am

At first glance actually Moldova looked very familiar because it has the same Former Soviet Union flavor as Armenia where I lived for six years. The streets, the buildings, the busses look the same, and Russian is everywhere, spoken and on signs. I’m sure beneath that veneer is a different country and a different people, but it was odd to see the town driving out of the airport to the hotel.


maria altobelli April 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm

One forgets between journeys that feeling of being jet-lagged between two countries you described so well. I suppose it’s like childbirth. The traveler blocks out the pain after the fact.

Don’t know if I should thank you or not for reminding me what’s in store for us at the end of May when we take off for Latvia.

Glad the fish and wine were good. This is crucial. Looking forward to hearing your Moldova tales. Happy house-hunting.


Miss Footloose April 17, 2011 at 2:01 am

Good luck in Latvia. Ah, the joys of travel. At least we’re not doing it on the back of donkeys or camels!


Bianca April 17, 2011 at 2:28 am

New years eve 2009. I had left Bali and boyfriend 2 days previous and was terribly jetlagged and not happy being where I was: back in the Netherlands. So I decided to sleep and I did: through the countdown at midnight, briefly waking up thanks to the fireworks and closing my eyes again straight away. Dullest new year of my life but I didn’t care: I only wanted to sleep!


KarenZ April 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

Miss F: glad to hear that you and Mr. F have arrived in Moldova, and good luck with house hunting.


Welshcakes Limoncello April 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Sounds like a very good start to your life there to me! Have a good sleep and then tell us lots more, please!


Aledys Ver April 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Well, besides the normal jetlag, it sounds like you had a very nice start with good local wine, fish from the Baltic or maybe the Black Sea, live music and … art! 😀
Good luck with the house hunting!!


edj April 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm

This post made me very happy. How well you’ve described landing in a new place! I have lots of jetlag and new arrival stories myself; some happier than others.
Welcome to your new home! I’m so looking forward to reading all about it!


Walter Knight April 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm

It is a law of economics that the further food has to be transported, the better cut is usually is. It has something to do with the cost effectiveness of transporting quality and then being able to sell it. So, your fish was prabably the best, even better than at a Baltic Port.

Speaking of naked paintings, my hometwon of Montesano, Washington, USA, has a grand old courthouse. High above in a courtroom is a mural of Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden. One day the judge looked up and finally noticed an exposed breast on Eve. He issued an order from the Bench that more clothes will be immediately painted onto Eve. I would hate to get sentenced by that guy.

So you are right. We can be prudes here in America when it comes to naked artwork.


missfootloose May 31, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Loved your story about the prude judge! He’d better not make a trip to Europe, go to museums, or watch TV!


Ashleigh April 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Looks like a pretty good start! Good luck with the hunt! Can’t wait to see what you find!


GutsyWriter April 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Was that the actual photo of your fish? Glad to see they have red cabbage like the Danes. From a can? Anyway, I wondered why you ordered fish after seeing the map of Moldova. Just a jump over the Ukraine to get to the Baltic Sea. Did you find a place to rent? I hope so. Sonia.


missfootloose May 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Yes, that was the photo of my actual plate. And red cabbage is here for sale fresh by the truck load, as is white cabbage and red beets.


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