In the few days I spent in Freetown, post-Rotifunk trainings, with all my work and project commitments behind me, I finally started to feel the heat of frustration burn through. Frustration for how everything ended in Erbil, and how callously everyone who was invested in the project was tossed aside.

Without my mind still in manic focus towards my short-term role in Duhok, or on the training sessions in Rotifunk, I had time to process my disappointment. Even though the school had fallen apart over two months prior, I’d been working so furiously on a number of different things that I had no time to process my thoughts from the situation. A good deal of purposeful distraction.

What it did mean was once all the committments were met and finished, instead of enjoying my time in Sierra Leone’s capital or looking forward to the famous Bureh Beach for some decompression, I wanted out, quick. I realized I wanted and needed the exact opposite of both northern Iraq and tropical West Africa.

I knew as long as I was in Freetown, or Sierra Leone, or anything relatively close to it, my mind would be stuck in one work mode or another. I needed something significantly different from all of the above so that I could start to lick my wounds from Iraq. I wasn’t going to find decompression in West Africa.

So, northern Europe it was. Cold beer and cold weather in northern Europe sounded like the perfect opposite of both Iraq and Sierra Leone.

And so far it’s been 11 days in Belgium, 8 in Poland, and 5 in Ukraine. I’m now in Kishinev, Moldova.

At the Chernivtsi bus station at 7:30am, with sunrise still close to an hour away, and the temperature somewhere around 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the minibus from Chernivtsi, Ukraine, to Kishinev, Moldova.  The small minibus only sat about fifteen people, but the bus driver would stop to pick up anyone waiting on the side of the road, people who probably wouldn’t be able to get a ride with anyone else otherwise. Picking up people helped supplement what I guessed was the bus driver’s poor salary. At one point there must have been close to thirty people in that glorified minivan. I was the only “foreigner” (neither Ukrainian or Moldovan) on the trip.
The main rail yards just outside of downtown Kishinev. All of the rail lines in the old Soviet Union are built on a different rail gauge than most of the rest of the world. A standard railway gauge is 4ft 8 1/2 inches, while Soviet railroads are built with a 5ft gauge. What this means is that whenever trains pass over a border into/out of a former Soviet state into a country that wasn’t, the train cars have to be lifted from the track, and fitted with different wheels so that they can continue.
Downtown Kishinev
The Triumphal Arch in Kishinev, built in 1840 to commemorate the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War of 1826-1829. At that time, what is now Moldova was known as Bessarabia, and though under Russian control, was still considered under threat from the slowly weakening Ottoman Empire. Russia’s victory in the war forever ended Turkish influence near Bessarabia.
A second-story view of Kishinev, with an Orthodox church in the distance
A normal Kishinev neighborhood. My favorite photos are often the random average photos of random average places in cities.

A small art fair in a square in central Kishinev

The Museum of National History in Kishinev

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