If I had to describe the city of Chisinau with one word, I would choose “inconsistent.” During my initial tours of the city, I was overwhelmed by everything that was going on around me, especially the traffic. I definitely had to exercise caution when crossing the street because the traffic was all over the place. Unfortunately, rules are not as strongly enforced as they are here in Vancouver. Alcohol can be purchased and drank by all ages and in public, people can set little bonfires and play loud music by the lake, and litter is quite prevalent in many public areas such as the parks and the forests.
Walking through the city, the separations in social class are strongly apparent. Fashionably dressed females walk the streets together with the many beggars and BMWs and Mercedes vehicles share the same streets with the very old, run-down cars. There is no predictability to prices either. While an ice cream costs less than $0.20 and a trolley bus ticket costs $0.10, a drink can be on par with the Vancouver price of over $1.00 and many well-known clothing labels still display the same high western pricing. I was actually surprised at how westernized the city was and I was surprised to see how popular and prevalent cell phones were.
I visited various hospitals and clinics for my medical project, often spending one week at each location mostly observing the medics and at times providing a helping hand. My shifts were often from 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and I would take the trolleybuses to where I needed to be. As many of the medics and nurses could not speak English, I had a translator to accompany me. My first week was spent at a clinic with a homeopathy doctor. Prior to this, I knew nothing about the field of homeopathy and it was interesting to hear about a different kind of approach to medicine. Unfortunately, the doctor did not have many patients at the time so there was not much to observe but she told me that many of her patients have thyroid problems due to the Chernobyl disaster.
My second week was spent at the No.1 State Republican Hospital in the physical therapy department. Their methods were definitely less advanced than what we have here and included electrotherapy, barotherapy, paraffin wax therapy, inhalation therapy, and massage.
I visited the Oncology Institute in my third week and for my last week, I spent time in the Central Children’s Hospital, which definitely proved to be the most exciting and interesting week of my medical placement. Here, I observed surgeries in the face and jaw ward and I was surprised at how welcoming and accommodating the doctors were. I was allowed to stand right next to the surgeon and the doctors were always happy to answer any questions that I had. Having never observed a surgery in real life before, the experience was overwhelming at first but I eventually became used to the sights. I also spent a few days in the burns ward and witnessed some of the most gruesome and saddest sights that I have seen so far in my life.
Having spent time in various hospitals, I can see that we have much stricter regulations on sterilization and sanitation and our technology is definitely more advanced. Also, many areas of the hospitals were dimly lit and the buildings do not display the same maintenance as ours. However, despite this, they get by with what they have and the medics and nurses were always welcoming and friendly.
After my shifts, I would often walk around the city centre and visit the various markets and shops. Sometimes in the evenings, I would meet up with the other international volunteers for food and drinks. Projects Abroad would also organize various excursions to places around Moldova for the volunteers on the weekends. During my stay, I visited Orhei Vechi (a cave monastery), Milesti Mici (a huge underground winery), Soroca (the so-called gypsy town), and Saharna (a village known for its Holy Trinity Monastery). The sights of the vast fields, hills, and the river Dniester were breath-taking and it was refreshing to see so much nature around me.
While I was definitely exposed to a new environment during my first month, Chisinau is still a city displaying many of the same city characteristics that I am so used to in Vancouver. The one month in the city came and went and in mid-June I prepared for the move to the village of Vadul lui Voda. I had no idea what to expect in the village and realized that I would have to re-establish myself after getting used to the city.