Moldova in zoom or a zoom from outside

Meet Francisca de Zwager – a woman who inspires me and from whom I’ve learned a lot (although, sometimes itchy for me :)). When somebody asks her what nationality she is or where she is from – by the way a question you cannot get a concrete answer – she says she’s a global citizen. And indeed, eight bloods run over her veins and she changed her place of living all over the world: starting with Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, then Canada, after which China,  Hong Kong, Philippines and finally Moldova, where she worked as the general manager of NEXUS Moldova for about four years and implicitly was one of my favorite boss. Unlike many tourists, she did not only see the world, she actually lived it.
So today, on Moldovan National Independence Day, I wanted to ask her opinion about our country, because I am strongly convinced that an eye from outside is always more than welcomed. Being in this boiling pot for 25 years, I kind of lost my sense of objectivity. Therefore we start this morning with a short chat on Facebook, which you may read entirely below:
So, Francisca, it’s been a couple of months since you left Moldova. What do you miss the most?

Oh, that is an easy one: the fresh fruits!

🙂 If there will be one word to describe Moldova, what word you will use?

Actually, there are two words, but they are not completely flattering, as they reflect the continued struggles and insecurity felt in the country, even now, 25 years after gaining independence: tentative and scrappy. Tentative meaning the inability to get together as a people to create a common vision and road map for the country. And the result of that is continued conflict and poverty.

I agree with you. Now a challenging question – do you think Moldova is Independent? I personally don’t. And if you share my opinion, then how could you explain why? What we lack?
Is Moldova independent? No, not really. I am not a political scientist, but in my view, in this age of globalization, no nation is totally self-sufficient and independent. Even while people are resisting this trend, with the intensifying of nationalistic or local thinking, I don’t think it can be stopped. This seems to me acutely true in Moldova, where many are struggling to align with West or East. But even without that struggle, Moldova needs its neighbors, as it does not have the resources to stand completely independently. On top of that, I risk to say, that internally the current political situation is quite toxic, not stable, thus not providing its citizens the security and confidence to develop economically. Moldova has good people, but not the environment (ie, a level playing field) where these people can self-actualize (in whatever their sphere, private, public or civil) and contribute to national growth.

Again I totally agree with you. If I would answer that question, I would say that Moldova has one huge resource and, in the same time, one big trouble – people 🙂 In this context, I know that you met a lot of people in Moldova at all levels – Government, NGOs, business and simple persons… How can you describe Moldovans. What an average Moldovan is?

A hard question. To a large extent, one’s history and current environment forms one’s personal world view and even abilities, if not talent. That is, an individual is not separate from her/his upbringing, education, and economic and political circumstances. The talent is there in Moldova, no doubt. Lots of it, I’d say. But as I mentioned, there seems to me to be (in very general) a tentativeness, a lack of self-esteem and confidence, which is perhaps either the cause OR the effect of a national lack of self-identity. Beyond this, I see Moldovans as individuals, some amazing, some talented and skilled, some so dedicated and caring, others, depending on their situation, desperate or self-centered. Ha ha… the same complex variety of personalities you find anywhere. So, no average, really. A profound mosaic, like the beautiful mosaic bus stops around the country that are mostly left to deteriorate.

Speaking about mosaics, I know you love them a lot in Moldova, if you where a travel agent, what will be 5 reasons to say foreigners to visit Moldova? In other words, are there any places/ unique things that you saw here and nowhere else, e. g. the poplar tree in may that was blooming and it was like snowing in the middle of spring? 🙂

Ha ha… not sure I’d count the snowing poplar trees among the good reasons to visit Moldova!

Okay, my five interesting places/things of interest in Moldova, in no order:

1. Visit the open markets, especially Central Market in Chisinau, for the fresh fruits and vegetables.

2. See the cows, ducks, and other livestock roaming free on grasslands.

3. Taste the local wines and visit the world’s largest wine caves of Mileștii Mici and Cricova.

4. Explore Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei) for its landscape, history and archeology, and go eat a traditional meal in a traditional home in the nearby village of Butuceni.

5. Keep your eyes open for the unique mosaics on walls and bus stops throughout the country.

Surely there are more… the horse farm in Gagauzia, the fort in Soroca, a slice of old Soviet times in Transnistria…

🙂  We are close to finish it, I have two more questions. First one – tell me something funny (strange/curious) that happened to you in Moldova, and you never saw this anywhere else, eg perhaps a strange custom, a habit…? 
Oh dear… thinking…

I guess we are not a very funny nation. For instance I think that Moldovans’ sense of humor is a little low, am I right or wrong?

Well, you are right about that, to some extent. I don’t associate Moldova with a strong sense of humor… 😀

Is it that we take things too much in serious and think of ourselves too seriously?

Again, it’s hard for me to talk about people in generalities. But yes, I could agree that the humor tends to be dark, people are less likely to laugh at events or themselves. In this context, it was a surprise to me to learn that many in Moldova view smiling as a weakness. It did not stop me from smiling! 😀

Or from laughing out loud!

But as in many places, locals will „forgive” or tolerate in foreigners what they can’t of their own.

The last one. You speak about the sense of community that we do not have, and I agree with that, what advice you can give to us for enforce this sense. At one point I think it is not the Government to be blamed for our bad environment. And give some examples that you saw in Moldova that people are not able still to cooperate.

You are right, you cannot blame government for everything. And even there, be sure that there are many dedicated and smart technocrats working in your government. If there is one quality that I find most disturbing, and which I think has a negative impact on both community and nation building, it s the fierceness with which Moldovans think and behave along the political colors. In functioning nations, once elections are over, the leaders and the technocrats work for the benefit of its citizens. In too many cases, that is not so in Moldova. On a personal level, too, short-sighted self-interest and competition is given priority over team work.

Oh, yes, and now promise that the last one 🙂 in order for us to finish on an optimistic note 🙂 Do you think Moldova has a chance for a better future and what would you wish us at our 25 years anniversary

In the nearly four years I worked in Moldova I developed a warm fondness for Moldova and its citizens. I am the eternal optimist and believe that Moldovans have the smarts, the talent and the will to grow into a healthy functioning nation. I wish for Moldova a beautiful day to celebrate its strengths and achievements, but with open eyes to the challenges ahead and with renewed dedication to work together to achieve that healthy nationhood.

P. S. Would you visit Moldova again?

Will be back on September 15.😀

Thank you for your time and wishes and see you then :).

What can I add to all these is that if I would describe Moldova in one word, then this would be „appendage”. Many believe that this organ is pointless and we can very well live without it, but being from a dynasty of doctors, I know that every organ, every bone, every cell has its own function and utility. Therefore I wish a lot for us to filter what we are swallowing as a nation, what we are assimilating, in order NOT to have a surgical intervention.

At last, but not least, here are some astonishing pictures that I’ve selected from Francisca’s album entitled „My Moldova”, which is yours, and ours, and actually our all.

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