Boney M

Jan. 5th, 2017 06:43 pm
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Rob, one of our former volunteers (turned one of Moldova's hottest interior designers apparently) sent this picture of Boney M doing the sound check to me (the background info is here).



They were really bossing the sound guys around apparently. He wasn't there for the performance itself because he had to attend all the important parties in Chisinau and mingle with the Moldovan elite who are his potential clients. I get that but how do you miss this goodness (start from about 1:30, the beginning is a bit slow):



That guy owned all the cool moves in the book let alone the coolest cape.

But unfortunately time is ruthless to all of us and here is the guy in 2010 in France:



He lost some of his moves (not all though, see 1:30 again) but luckily his cape got even bigger. Most of the girls also dropped dead along the way (understandably) I think and he had to replace them. And then he died too, after a performance in Saint Petersburg in Russia and the girls replaced him with a young dude. The circle of life.
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Moldova's newly elected president stripped the ex-president of Romania of his Moldovan citizenship today. I think this kind of fun is possible only in that region.

The reason for revoking the citizenship was undermining Moldova's legitimacy by calling for the reunification of Moldova with Romania. Moldova's newly elected president is known for his anti-Western and pro-Russian views. They did have to find some other pretext to declare that the guy's Moldovan citizenship was obtained illegally, and they did find some minor procedural irregularities apparently.

Moldovans generally can get Romanian citizenship because Moldova used to be part of Romania and the current generation's grandparents were stripped of their Romanian citizenship by force when Moldova was annexed by the Soviet Union after the WWII. Likewise, Romanians whose grandparents were born in what is currently Moldova while it was still Romania can claim Moldovan passports.
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So I am back in London. Yeah, the New Year is way bigger in Moldova than Christmas when it comes to non-church stuff from what I have seen (and drank).

One of the towns not far from the village where we were based in Moldova is getting ready for some serious New Year celebrations in their central square where their Christmas market is. None other than Boney M themselves will be on stage singing jingle bells to the people on the 31st around midnight (among the busy line up of more "regionally famous" bands and singers). I understand they are still wildly popular in the former Soviet Union (one of their leading dudes even died in St Petersburg I was told).

You see, the mayor of this town is a twenty-something Israeli billionaire (yeah I know) who is married to a Russian popstar (this is Moldova, baby!) ten years his senior and who is currently under a house arrest because of the ongoing investigation into the theft of one billion dollars of EU loans from the Moldovan banking system (for Moldova it is huge) in which he apparently was heavily involved and some very damning phone recordings have been released to support it.

So to cheer up the people in the town he reigns over (probably one of the poorest towns in Europe, the country is the poorest in Europe after all) he decided to throw a really good party for them. I kinda get it I have to say. Everything is so completely fucked and there is no hope for even a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel whatsoever that "fuck this, let's drink and party" is not a bad choice at this stage.

Here is the mayor's wife, Russian pop diva Jasmin with Putin for no reason really except that a little bit of Putin is a must for any conversation these days and everything in the world apparently is because of him so I thought he should be here as well (everything is more fun with Putin!).



And here is Jasmin with her husband who is the mayor and apparently a huge Boney M fan:



Yeah, fur and leopard print are mandatory there if you want to "make it".

And to top it off, let's hear the first lady of our provincial town sing, shall we?



Still has quite a bit to go to touch Carla Bruni but then this is not Paris either.
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So the big meeting went very well. And yeah, it would have been a disaster if I had chosen to do it via VC, it was not working properly, the sound was off and nobody in that huge room really listened to those poor VC speakers (everyone's eyes just glazed over). Beating my laziness into submission and flying over was a good choice. I started my speech in very bad Russian, which I have been trying to pick up a little while based in Moldova (without much success I have to say, it is a crazy language). This did wake people up and tickled them on a couple of levels. Choosing to learn and speak Russian and not Romanian here, which often can be a political thing here these days was one of them. So people did wake up. I had to switch to English after the opening but I kept provoking in other ways and we had a very good conversation with everyone fully engaged (even a bit more than I would have wished for at times).

I am now waiting for a one-on-one meeting with the vice-minister and there are quite a lot of other people here doing the same. There is a guy who is working towards changing the way the system here works with people with mental and developmental issues. He had a bunch of articles by Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic philosopher and humanitarian with him and he gave me a couple. This is not something I had a high chance of picking up myself and what an interesting read it is.

This is from "Welcome in Community":

When a community welcomes people who have been on the margins of society, things usually go quite well to begin with. Then, for many reasons, these people start to become marginal to the community as well. They provoke crises which can be very painful for the community and cause it considerable confusion because it feels so powerless. The community is then caught in a trap from which it may be hard to escape. But if the crises bring it to a sense of its own poverty, they can also be a grace. There is something prophetic in people who seem marginal and difficult; they force the community to become alert, because what they are demanding is authenticity. Too many communities are founded on dreams and fine words; there is so much talk about love, truth, and peace. Marginal people are demanding. Their cries are cries of truth because they sense the emptiness of many of our words; they can see the gap between what we say and how we live. If the community reacts by showing them the door, this can create a terrible uproar, and then it is easy to label them unbearable, sick, lazy, and good for nothing. It has to devalue them as far as it can, because they have shown up its hypocrisy.
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So I unexpectedly landed back in Moldova tonight close to midnight. Everyone kept telling me that the tomorrow's meeting at the ministry which I am here to attend would not happen until after the holidays because this is how things in Moldova worked and it would get moved, etc. Well, it is happening and I flew over. It can be hard enough to get our message across at those meetings (speaking via translators, etc), VC would not work at all for this. I am flying back to London on Friday and we are going to Copenhagen for the New Year.
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It was this little dude's first time and he was cautious at first but very quickly got super excited and wanted to ditch that penguin.

In Moldova.

YOLO

Dec. 25th, 2016 09:15 pm
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This Moldovan guy was taking a picture of his wife and their four kids, three girls and a boy. I liked that "YOLO" on the boy's hat.

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There seems to be no shortage of mistletoe in Moldova this Christmas. So much so that it turned some of the trees almost evergreen.



I guess in an ideal world there would be a road sign at least a hundred meters before one sees the trees with a trigger warning about rape culture. Or even better, the trees would be burned to eliminate any chance of anyone ever getting offended or triggered.
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We are flying back home to London for Christmas on Friday. Our Moldovan hosts are going to London for Christmas too, they lived and worked in London for four years a couple of years ago and will be spending this Christmas and the New Year with their friends in London.

Meanwhile we have been having a hard time trying to get our volunteers to leave. The core team is so awesome and people bonded so well that they do not want to split and leave. Three people (two Americans and a Dutch guy) who all came here separately and met each other while volunteering for us have now become Moldova's hottest interior designers to the stars (albeit Moldovan stars, which is rather low key) apparently and are swamped with the contracts from Moldova's upper class.

They designed and built the interior of our community house, the wife of a local MP saw it when they visited, liked it a lot and that was their breakthrough. They are quite excited about the money they can make here from those introductions and will be staying for at least a couple of months for which they already have contracts designing interiors of Moldovan MPs' hunting lodges apparently. Interestingly, not one of them actually is an interior designer. Well, they are now I guess. If there is a market with a low barrier to entry and not much competition when it comes to interior design, Moldova is that market apparently. This reminded me of Tony Hawks's "Big in Albania" a lot.

They want to continue living in the village at our place for volunteers though and are asking us to charge them rent because they won't be volunteers anymore. We agreed that they would just make a donation to the local art school instead to make it simpler now that we have closed the first phase of our project here.
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We walked to the neighbouring village through the woods today before the sun set for the project closing meeting there. It was a great day.



They started decorating their Christmas tree there already. It will get much busier when they are done I was told. They start late here with Christmas stuff compared to Western Europe so this is considered early, there are no signs of Christmas decorations in our village yet. I think they are later than we are with this because Christmas is not that commercialised here so nobody is incentivised to start getting people in festive mood asap to sell stuff.

Gates

Dec. 12th, 2016 10:47 pm
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Moldovans love a good gate. And they can be quite particular about it. You may remember this one (see here). Today I visited a family who must have put quite a bit of work into their gate too:



On my way back I saw a gate that had dolphins in crowns on it.
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So when I called the Moldovan election the least important presidential election in the world (see here) I was definitely wrong. It's gotta be the Transnistrian one, which has just happened. I was told that the average turnout was estimated at slightly over 25 percent. Apparently it is so unimportant that even Transnistrians themselves don't give a damn about it.

And I thought I'd post some random Transnistrians from Tiraspol to celebrate. I bet these three didn't vote.

In Tiraspol, Transnistria, Moldova.

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The capital of Moldova seems to be obsessed with the concept of VIP. They are really into adding "VIP", "Elite", "Exclusive", "Platinum", "Gold", "Club", "Privé", etc everywhere, even where it doesn't fit at all to the point of being comical. Often it is even a combo of a number of those. I saw a place once that had both "Platinum" and "Gold" in its name at the same time. One would have thought that at least these two were mutually exclusive. Well, not in Moldova. I still predict Chisianu to remain firmly below the radar of the jet-setting glitterati crowd in the near future despite the density of all things VIP, Elite and Exclusive on the ground.

Also, it is considered really cool if the name of the establishment, whether it is a hypermarket, a car park, a hospital or a tiny market stall, is in English. A week ago I was in Chisinau with a number of locals and I drove past a "cool" interior design shop. All the advertising on its storefront was only in English. The locals could not even understand what kind of a shop it was and I had to translate it to them. I had to translate to the locals what the local shop in their capital was about. That's how cool English apparently is here. So cool that you would even sacrifice the reach of your advertising just to stay that cool.

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In Moldova

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In Tiraspol, Transnistria, Moldova.

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We visited Transnistria (don't confuse it with Transylvania, which we also visited (see here)), Moldova's pro-Russian break away region a couple of times (see here) during our stay in Moldova. This guy in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria was showing off the car he built.



It had "We are Russia!" in Russian on it. The three flags are Russian (white, blue, red), Moldovian Soviet Socialist Republic, this is how Moldova was called when it was part of the USSR (red and green) and I need to figure out what that gold and black one is. Russian Empire is black-gold-white with a double-headed eagle, Russian imperial standard is gold with a double-headed eagle but this seems to be gold and black only with a double headed eagle.



Following in Crimea's footsteps and joining Russia is a very popular idea in Transnistria, which is heavily populated by ethnic Russians. Moldova's newly elected president (ses here) is a big believer in offering a federalisation agreement to Transnistria and in strengthening the ties with Russia, which some believe might change the dynamics and reunite Transnistria with Moldova again.
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Time to get back to the village for dinner.

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This is what I saw around our village today:



Then I drove 15 minutes north (and up) to one of the neighbouring villages and the scenery changed to this:

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