Aug. 19, 2005: Chisinau

Chisinau
August 19, 2005

Hi everyone!
Wow.
That’s about all I can say.
It was more than just a festival. Like Ecotopia 2003, somehow it has changed me a bit, in some kind of subtle but profound way. I am leaving with a warm glow inside that feels like it will carry me through the next year and beyond.
For those who weren’t there, I guess I should say a bit more about what Ecotopia is. Ecotopia is building an alternative world for two weeks. Like the Rainbow Gathering, we change the rules, we work together, we build community. Unlike the Rainbow Gathering, the days are filled with workshops, offered by whoever chooses to, on environmental and social topics. After a gentle wake-up call of acoustic guitar and singing, each day starts with a morning circle where we divi up the tasks (cooking, wood-chopping, maintaining the solar showers and composting toilets, etc.), discuss anything that needs changing, make announcements, and present workshop descriptions.
At any given time there were usually more workshops that interested me than I could attend. But sometimes I just skipped them all and played with my poi or devil sticks, helped in the kitchen, went back to bed, or hung out and talked with people. Time became mostly irrelevant and my focus stayed happily in the Here and Now.
Most nights we had an activity to bring us all together. One night we joined the kids’ camp for their goodbye party, dancing alongside the little ones to delightfully bad pop music and sneaking swigs of clandestine beer and Moldova Coladas (pineapple, coconut and vodka). Another night we watched everyone flaunt their talents in the Ecotopian version of a EuroVision contest. The winners got watermelons. A few nights during dinner we watched EPCTV (Ecotopia Permaculture TV), which consisted of a big wooden frame in which anybody who wanted to stood and tried to say or do something interesting. And of course there were the campfires, around which I always found myself sitting late into the night meeting people and singing my heart out. I sang so much all week! Remind me to teach you “Black Socks” next time I see you. Mom, you won’t like it.
Oh, there are so many little details and pictures in my head that I hope I remember forever. Like the little frogs that jumped away every time I stepped from my tent toward the river. And the shooting stars that seemed to wait until each moment I looked up to race across black sky, adding to the effect that we were in some magical world where everything is a little extra special. Some of the most intense rains I’ve seen herded us into the big tents, one day followed by a huge rainbow arching from horizon to horizon. The rains never lasted too long, just long enough to make us really appreciate the sunshine.
I joined singing workshops, poi workshops, and hugging workshops. The spirit of lightheartedness followed into serious matters as well, and our media action against the Transdneistrian government’s non-cooperation with munitions removal agreements was filled with the song, theater and playfulness that permeated the magical land of Ecotopia.  The biggest highlight of the week was the final night’s magical journey with Lian and Frodo, a night that reminded me of the absolute beauty and perfection of the Universe, and brought me back to a place of perfect peace and trust inside. But that’s a story you’ll have to ask me about in person.
Our camp was situated alongside the Dneister River. Across the river is Transdneister. According to the Moldovan government, a region of Moldova. According to the Transdneister government, an autonomous country. Although not officially recognized by any other countries, the Transdneister government successfully makes its own laws, prints money, and controls its borders (they turned away a group of Biketour Ecotopians who thought they’d go visit after the action). They speak Russian instead of Moldovan (Romanian) and do quite a bit of trading in illegal arms and drugs.
Transdneister declared itself a country after the breakup of the Soviet Union, on the premise that Moldova was likely to become Romanianized, politically and culturally, leaving its Russian population disenfranchised. The Lonely Planet guide describes Transdneister as “the last bastion of Soviet-style Communism.” It sounds like a fascinating place. I made some friends from there and plan to go visit as soon as I get better on my crutches.  
Crutches. Right. It seems that I unknowingly walked around on a broken foot all week at Ecotopia. A slip on a sailboat 2 weeks ago left me with a sore foot that didn’t seem to be getting any better. When I returned to Chisinau, I visited the hospital (a story unto itself) and the X-ray showed a small fracture. They plastered it up and now I’m hobbling around in a cast, all my plans out the window.
All I can do is laugh. Somehow, it all seems perfect. I had been having a hard time envisioning what I would do after Chisinau. Nothing quite felt right. My friends were going in different directions, none of which were calling to me, and all I had planned was that I would head south, then west and north, and eventually end up in Zagreb. Well, unless I want to figure out a way to travel one-footed with all my bags and bicycle, I’ll be sitting right here for the next four weeks.
Luckily, I feel like the universe has showered me with absolutely everything I could possibly want. Two really great people, Tatiana and Serg, have invited me to live with them for the month. Already they feel like family. We’re going to trade language lessons (how much Russian and Romanian can I learn in a month?) and I’m really excited to have a hot shower, soft bed, and kitchen where I can have dinner waiting for them when they get home from work.
Serg has a computer and I’m supposed to stay off my foot, so there’s not much to keep me from writing for hours. And he has a guitar. And offered chi gong lessons. Could it get much better? How about a beautiful, fascinating city with legendary nightlife, bustling markets, interesting history, and tree-lined avenues. Really good 100 g dark chocolate bars for 60 cents each. Great ice cream for 25 cents.  I even have a phone where you can call me. So I’m not too sad about my broken foot!
OK, enough for now. Maybe I’ll send the hospital story in a few days.

Much love,
Asha    

Black socks, they never get dirty.
The longer you wear them the stronger they get.
Sometimes,
I think I should wash them
but something inside me says
don’t wash them yet.
Not yet.
Not yet.
Black socks, they never get dirty.
The longer you wear them the stronger they get.
Sometimes,
I think I should wash them
but something inside me says
don’t wash them yet.
Not yet.
Not yet.
(repeat four hundred times)