Friday, December 31, 2010

Leaving Chisinau

December 31, 2010

Well, it is the last day of the year and this is my last post on the blog.  I wanted to wait a few days to reflect on my stay in Chisinau.
First, let me tell you about my departure. I left on December 20 and flew to Vienna with no problem, but ended up being in Vienna about 24 hours rather than the planned 30 minutes. My onward flight was to Heathrow was cancelled at the last minute.  It took about 3 hours to get my luggage off of that flight and into a nearby hotel. There were thousands of bags by the baggage carrousels and probably close to that many people milling around trying to find an available flight. Many passengers were stranded in Vienna and many were sleeping in the airport, but I decided to book a room in a nearby hotel for a night or two. At 5:00 a.m. the next morning, I lined up with many others to find out about rebooking a flight. After several hours in several different lines, I was booked on a morning flight on the 22nd-so faced another day in Vienna.  My flight from Heathrow to Detroit was scheduled to leave the morning of the 22nd, so I knew it'd be impossible to make that flight.
After returning to the hotel room for a few hours, I then returned to the airport to see if any progress was being made. About 1:00 p.m. I talked to an agent about a flight scheduled to leave Vienna for Heathrow in the afternoon so I would have a chance on catching my flight to the USA.  He said I might be able to try standby so bring my luggage and come back around 4:00 as the flight was to leave at 5:15 p.m. I arrived at the counter and talked to a new agent at about 3:45 p.m and was handed a standby ticket.  My luggage would be loaded on the plane and offloaded at carrousel #1 if I did not make it. I went to the gate and through security and waited. About 30 minutes before scheduled departure, all the standbys--about 10--were called and we received tickets to fly to Heathrow on the 21st.   I arrived on time, checked into my hotel that I booked 4 months earlier (planning to stay for 2 nights) and got something to eat.  The next morning-the 22nd, my flight was on time and I even arrived in Detroit early. I felt very very fotunate to be on that flight!  After about 2 hours there, I caught the commuter plane to Kalamazoo where Alma met me at the airport.

A day or two before leaving, I received an e-mail from Malina Dumas, a young Fulbright researcher, seeking to set up a dinner for departing Fulbrighters. The tenative schedule was too late for me, but she agreed to change it to Sunday evening .  Only Malina and Rod and I could come, but I still think of how thoughtful Malina was in arranging for one last get together. I made a number of good friends while in Chisinau includng Fulbrighters like Malina and Judithanne, university colleagues like Aurelia and Alexandru and Elena and Helen, friends like Michael, Rali and Rich, Sandy and Andy, Dennis, Slav, Natasha, Natalia and others.  I don't have photos of all of them for this posting, but many of them are here and some of my earlier photos showed the others.
I met many students through my presentations and quite a few asked questions and had kind words to say to me. The people I met in Chisinau are wonderful people who helped me to come to know more about Moldova. I'll never forget them.

Finally,  I'm includng a couple photos of my home.  It is where I started this venture and of course where I have returned to. I hope to do some collaborative work with a couple of the professors I met and will of course seek to inform others in this community and beyond about Moldova and its people! I wish each of you the very best for 2011 and pray for peace throughout the world!

Fulbrighters Malina and Rod
Dennis and me near Stephen CM statute

Chisinau ExPats dinner with Andy, Sandy, Rali and Rich and other friends
A wave from grandkids on our lakefront

Some grandkids opening Chirstmas presents

Alma on our frozen lake with our home in background

Our home as seen from the frozen lake
I arrive after walking across the lake--our home is in distant background; my thumb's up is for all of you for 2011.
Bill McCarty

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Departure Days

December 18, 2010

Well, this wll be the last blog from Moldova, but I do plan to write one or two more reflection ones after I return to the USA. It is about noon on Friday and I leave in just over 48 hours from now--Monday afternoon! So, I'm including just a few items related to my last few days here. I'm including a couple of photos firom presentations--although you're probably tired of those by now.  In addition, I have some photos of a couple of good bye scenes as well a couple showing the winter weather and decorations around town. This blog will be rather short as I want to reflect a little more before entering some final remarks--after I return.

Winter arrived in Chisinau and the holiday spirit is in the air! People are all putting up decorations in their homes, apartments and of course the city has decorated the parks, streets and many public places. Here, the most important Christmas day is January 6, but the celebrations are starting well before that.  If you think of the song "The twelve days of Christmas" and the different gifts on each day, that is a little like the 12 days between  December 25 and January 6.  There is not the gifting on every day--that's in the song, but certainly not here--but that time is now the "Christmas season". But, the season really started about the10th  when all the city decorations were turned on--maybe even a few days before.  There are Christmas trees to buy here, Santa appears at a few places and friends start to visit, chat and plan for the holdidays.

The presentation photos were taken at a conference and at the Institute of International Management where I talked about Corporate Social Responsibility to students and  several faculty members. The departure photos include me at a couple of small or larger gatherings saying good byes to people I've come to know while here.

The last two photos show the city during a snow storm that actually was quite nice and not destructive although certainly a bit cold. It led me to buy a new winter cap to cover my ears.
So, while this is my last posting from Moldova, I hope you'll stay in touch for some follow ups I'll do after my return wich  hope goes well!

Bill McCarty
This is part of the crowd at the American Studies Center's conference.

Organizers and Keynote speakers (I was 1 of 2) at American Studies Center Conference

I'm giving a talk to the Institute of International Management on Corporate Social Responsibility

Students at Institute of International Management
 This is an interesting monument to
the overthrow of the Soviet
regime--described as occupiers.
It stans in the tow's center in
front of one of the large ministry buildings.
Dinner with colleague Arelia Braguta and her husband Valeriu Strelet, a member of Parliament and VP of his Liberal Democratc Party

Dinner with the Ex-Pats of Chisinau group-showing Andy, Rali, Rich and Sandy (hidden).

Dennis (landlord's son) and me by city center in light snowstorm wth city lights

Dennis and Arch in back left and lights of Chisinau

That's it for now!

Friday, December 10, 2010

December events--Village visit, presentation in Balti, Chisinau Christmas lights

December 10, 2010

It's time for another update! This entry takes you to Balti, the second largest city in Moldova, to a small village home and then back to Chisinau to view some of the Christmas lights.
First is the visit to Balti. Balti is pronounced as Beltz beause the t actually has a small comma at the bottom to signify it has the z sound and the a in the word is pronounced like our e in elbow. I said it wrong for about the first 6 weeks of my stay here.
The university in Balti is well-regarded--has close to 20,000 students and sits as the center of the agricultural area (in the north) that produces a large share of Moldovan food. My presentation was on basic business functions to a group of economic students.  Economics is very popular in Moldova but students don't think it is practical enough because in fact they are studying more economics and not so much business.  They're starting to do business adminstration in the universities' economics departments, but since many of the teachers used to teach economics they're only slowly taking to the more practical and useful business topics--finance, marketing, logistics, etc.
There is a young Fulbrighter in Balti, fluent in Russian, and he and the US Embassy helped set up the visit.
Students were pretty attentive and while at first reluctant to ask questions, did get into some near the end. I did not have the opportunity to spend much time there as I had another presentation later that same day in Chisinau. So, there's not much to see except my presentation, so I'm including only a few photos to let you see the students.
The second activity I am reporting on in this blog actually occurred first--my visit to a village about 75 km (50 miles) to the south of Chisinau. I went to the childhood home of one of the professors, Elena Sulman, who teaches full time at the State University in Chisinau where she is also trying to finish her doctorate. Her 11 year-old daughter went with us, but she was quite shy. I don't know about the father in the family -did not ask and nothing was said so not sure of the story.
 Her childhood home is actually one of the better homes in the village--her family was the first to have a refrigerator ( probably 25 years ago)  and the homes of her brothers have indoor plumbing, heat and satellite and internet access. Her mother, however, lives in a 3 room home--rooms are each about 10 square feet in size--with a built in chimmey that serves as the heat source and is also used for baking bread. There is no t.v. and she uses an outhouse for her bathroom. They have about 1/2 acre or so of vineyards where grapes are grown and an outbuilding with a cellar where 3 oak barrels store wine (and some vegetables). There are chickens and a couple of ducks for food and a shed with a cow for milk and dairy products. On the side of the house is a large garden plot--maybe 2/3 or 1 acre, where vegetables are grown. There is another small building on the property where those vegetables are stored and used during the winter.  Grapes are stored in the wnter in an attic area of a building.
One brother and his wife and two children live in a somewhat larger ( maybe 400-500 square feet) house (blue front in the photos) just 10-20 feet away from the mother's house. There is an indoor bathroom there along with a t.v. All the walls have homemade rugs on them to decorate and help insulate against the cold. The home has access to gas for heating, but basically does not use it because it is too expensive; the chimney heat makes one room warm and a smaller chimney in one other room also can be used. Corn husks and wood is used to stoke the chimney ( sometimes manure) and so there is no fuel expense.
Another brother is building a home about 2 miles away, but in the same village.  I've been told that  people do not want to borrow from the bank to build a home--too difficult and too expensive, so they build their homes themselves and use a pay as you go plan. For that reason, you see a number of homes being built, but often no work is being done on them because they only have money for phase 1. As you can imagine, it often takes years to build a home. Some hire people to do some of the work, but most do it theselves with family help.
One brother is away working in Russia, but this family feels fortunate because 2 siblings live and work in Chisinau and 2 in the village.  The mother is quite independent--wants her own home and doesn't really need or accept much help from her children. Elena translated, but the mother seemed to be in good spirits. I was the first American to visit their home; she said she'll tell all her neighbors and friends about my visit. They all wanted to see the picutres in my passport.  You know, I had not noticed them before, but the pages do have different views of American scenes and so are quie interesting.
The third and final part of this blog shows some of the Christmas lights in the center area of Chisinau. While Orthodox Christians like those in Moldova usually celebrate Christmas on January 7, now people are starting to do so on December 25th--usually now having two celebrations. The Soviets did not like to see any Christmas decorations, so a number of Moldovans want to put up lights and decorations so that all will know they are no longer following the Soviet practices. I don't think that will change, even if the communists are part of the governing coalition--as seems likely.
So, photos follow! I'm here for only 10 more days, so likely only one more blog after this one.
If you want to ask about something, do it now!
Hope all are starting to enjoy the holiday season!

Talk to Economic students at Balti university

Students at Balti--pretty attentive!

Another gesture to make a point!

It's question time!

Elena's 72 year-old mother in her kitchen!

Elena entering her childhood home!

 Home of Elena's brother and hs family; just feet from the mother's home

Group photo--Elena, Her mother, 2 brothers with wives and one of their children and me

Elena's mother gives me some of her homemade wine!

Bill and Elena preparing to leave the village to return to Chisinau

Christmas tree in center of Chisinau

Holiday Greetings on Government Building
Santa pays a visit by the Christmas tree

Lights by the Chisinau Arch--in front of an important Church!
Lights over the main street--Stephen cel mare ( Stephen the great)

That's it for now! Best wishes for the holidays,
Bill McCarty

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moldova Elections

November 30, 2010

As promised, I am writing to you now regarding the elections in Moldova that took place on the 28th and polls closed about 45 hours ago.
The good news is that the Alliance in favor of closer ties with the EU gained seats and now has 59 out of 101; the bad news is that to elect a President, 61 members of Parliament must agree and the other 42 seats are held by Communist party members.
I will comment on the election process and then on the current situation and prospects for post-election activity.
As to the process, I was certified as an international observer and visited 9-10 sites in the southeast part of Moldova--closest to the Transniestria region and the Ukraine border.  Two cities were regional centers with towns about the size of Battle Creek and they had 5 of the sites. We also visited small villages with populations of 1,000 or even less and we were in 4-5 sites (my memory is not perfect here).
I also participated in a debriefing at the USA Embassy here with about 20 other people and their comments were quite in line with what I found and they were all over the country. Essentially, this was a fair election with few problems and no significant corruption.  Over 50 % of the population turned out--more outside of the capital city than inside, probably due to low student turnout but some students did vote at their home villages rather than in the city. The election was validated because > 30 % participated.

There were NGO, international and local politcal party observers at all the sites we visited although at one or two small villages, we questioned whether the various political parties had their represetatives or whether locals just represented them for the day. Practically every site reported a very high turnout compared to recent elections.  The weather was nice and there had been a lot of advertising by the parties.  The one exception was in a village that we were told, by members of a nearby village we visited 1/2 hour earlier, was a communist stronghold. The representatives in that place  told us there was a low turnout there. I'm not sure if that is true or why, but that was the story we received. I found the election officials well prepared and seemingly very competent.  They had no problems answering any question we posed--via our translator.

The country uses a mobile ballot box for those unable to vote that day.  Officials, along with observers, visit homes of people unable to travel.  In cities, no problems can really occur because numerous people accompany such a box.  In the villages, it is hard to say.  All the people know one another so how they implement safeguards--not sure! One of the dilemmas is that it is the villages that are so poor and they suffered under 8 years with communist rule out of the last 10 (may be not exact figures, but close). Yet, they are old people and the vote communist --probably because they have done so all their life--but the communist did not really help them. Several villages--with 1,000 registered voters--said they had 30% who had left the country for jobs outside th country as there is no opportunity in the villages. So, the turnout may seem low compared to registered, but in fact not too bad if you subtract 30% from the possible votes.

So now what? The negotiations are underway. While the communist received the largest perentage of any party (41%) there seems little chance they can form a government as all other parties say ( at least for now) they will not align with them. So, the pro-European 4 parties need to find 2 communists who will vote with them to elect a President.  That is what is going on today--probably tomorrow and for who knows how long. No one seems to want another 1-2 years with  an interim President, but the communists have stuck together.
The talk is that many of the 30% of villagers currently working outside the country (Italy, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, Romania) would return if the pro-EU can get power. There are also apparently some potential investors looking at the low wages here as attractive.
Moldova was a part of Romania in the early part of tis century (independent before that and part of USSR after that), so by law a number of Moldovans can claim romanian citizenship through grandparents--etc.
So what? In early 2011, Romania is supposed to be eligible for free movement of "its citizens" into other EU coutnries for work, etc. So, I've heard about 100,000 Moldovans can also be Romanians and work wherever they want in EU.  It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. the web sites below look at these issues.

You ask, do you have some photos? My answer, yes, of course. Some from elections and a couple others re some recent activities. I'll likely do at least one or two more blogs before leaving Moldova!

Ballot box and observant election official nearby

Lining up to vote

A small crowd, but all seem patient
Part of our informal exit polling-Vlad asks some Qs.
Election workers check registration

Milling around before and after voting

Ballot is about 3 feet long; you just vote for one person/party/

Cities register by street names; villages alphaetically by family names as street names are basically non-existant.

Temporary Office of Interim Moldovan President Gimpu; located 50 yards from my apartment.Jouralists with cameras setting up fo photo shoots--occurs at least weekly now!

O.K. That's it. comments or Questions are welcomed!
 I'll be in touch again soon!


Friday, November 26, 2010

November Potpouri


I'm adding a blog now before the November 28 election here as after that I will write about the results and my participation as an international observer in a couple of small towns.
For now, I'm focusing on activities just before Alma left on November 15--specifically the Marine Ball--and some of the presentations I've been doing.
The Marines here put on a ball around the mid-November anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps.  They honor the local marines (6 are at the Embassy), provide photos of past and present Marine activities, bring in some dignitaries, and provide dinner and dancing.  It is a black tie opional affair, so it provides a chance for all to show their best sides and tickets sell out as it is always (I hear) a fun night. The donation goes for the Marines, their projects and some R and R for them.
After my buiness ethics class ended, I've been giving lectures to various professors and students, local groups interested in the USA or a law/ethcis topic and some business managers. My topics have included U.S. educational system, Intellectual Property, Business Ethics and Sustainable Business Practices. There's a bit of prep time due to different topics, but also some down time between preparation and presentations. I'm going to travel within Moldova on a couple of day trips and will include that in a future blog as well as the election for all of the 101 members of parliament.
So, for now, here are some photos. Hope there are at least a few you'll enjoy.

  These are good friends Rich and Rali at the lobby area of the Marine Ball

Alma and the Marine Commandandant
The merry couple at the Ball
Fulbrighter Bill, Ambassador Chaudry and Fulbrighter Juidithanne at the Ball

Bill and Valerie Colby, Head of Public Affairs which includes Fulbrights

Department Head Jalencu welcomes faculty on Dept. Day celebration

 Intellectual Property presentation to SUM law students

I've picked up the gestures!

The Head Table at SUM International Econ and Marketing Conference

Business Managers from Moldova Small and Medium enterprises at Business Ethics presentation sponsored by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

One of the two teams of managers working on a case presentation at the Business Ethics Seminar

OK,  That's it. I'll provide the next update after the electons-probably late the first week of December.