As my weeklong vacation is slowly coming to a close I finally got around to taking a trip to the capital and turning in some paper work and printing out a few things. I tried putting it off since I was afraid of the crowds of people I would encounter on all forms of public transportation since last Sunday was Orthodox Easter and this Sunday is the Easter of the dead. Though I was delightfully surprised yesterday when I made it down to the bus in the early morning and encountered a normal sized crowd to Falesti and was even more surprised to be the first person to get on the bus waiting to head to Chisinau. As usual I planned out a host of things I needed to accomplish and because the train from Chisinau no longer stops at my village I figured I would just end up catching up with the other volunteers in town and spending the night and heading back by bus in the morning...except there weren't any other volunteers when I got to the Peace Corps office. Which is unusual in and of itself but even more so considering it was midday on a Saturday. I am going to assume that everyone thought like I did that the crowds would be too much to handle or perhaps they planned on staying in the village for the Easter of the dead celebrations. Either way I was left with the prospects of having to find something to do on my own to occupy myself for the entire day and pay money to spend the night a hostel, which didn't excite me too much. So just on a hunch I checked the train schedule and realized I could take the modern train to the town of Ungheni and then wait 2 hours to take the old train which still stops at my village. I normally wouldn't be too excited with waiting around for 2 hours but since I haven't been to Ungheni before I might as well undergo the trip simply to say I had been there.
I had to wait about 4 hours until the modern train left Chisinau and even trying to fill that amount of time was pretty hard, I think I take for granted how much less things there are to do when there is no one else to do it with. I ended up getting lunch at a restaurant since fast food options are limited in Chisinau and I had more then enough time to kill, though that meant I would be at my own table by myself which I hate doing but it's a lot more bearable in warmer weather when you can sit outside and read a book while you wait on your food. I also managed to finally take a leisurely stroll through the open air market instead of my normally very quick run through to grab what I need and get out. I hate buying things in a hurry and if I go anywhere looking to buy something and the clock is ticking I will never leave with anything other then what I went in looking for, no matter what catches my eye along the way. So it was nice to finally pick up quite a few things that I never really 'needed' but had always wanted to buy.
I made it to the train station about an hour before the train was scheduled to leave and walked up to the convenient little booth that sits outside of the actual train station that makes it easy to just walk up to the booth pass in your money and get a ticket. However, this time according the sign on the booth (and according to the very loud woman who yelled at a man when he tried to purchase a ticket) I had to go inside to buy the ticket which I thought was odd, since normally you only need to go inside to buy international tickets. But then I remembered that the new train came with a new ticket with a printed seat number and so it requires a fancy printer and the only printers are inside.
There were three windows that I could use to buy tickets with three people assigned to work them, so naturally there was only one person doing any work while the other two were literally chatting by the water cooler and I would assume merely switched places throughout the day. As I waited in line it got even more frustrating as the woman working the window kept stopping any transactions to answer her cell phone and just walk off. When I finally got to the window and got my ticket having waited at least 10 minutes for something that normally took me less then 30 seconds I walked away wondering if the hassle of having to go through all of that is worth having a new train, especially one that doesn't even stop at my village. *deep breaths* I guess that's the price of progress.
I found it a lot harder to complain though once I made it to Ungheni an hour quicker than it would normally take. Since I had been reading and we traveled there so quickly I nearly missed my stop and when I got off in a hurry I was slightly turned around since normally the old train always stops at the domestic train station (which is on the left) but for some unknown reason the new train stops at the international station (which is on the right) and since I didn't recognize it I wasn't quite sure if I was even at the right town until I found a sign.
I had two hours to stroll through Ungheni and see all the sights and the only thing I had to do in the mean time was find the other train station on my way. I ended up in a park about 10 minutes later after having seen all of Ungheni, finding the train station, and buying food from a super market. I wasn't walking particularly fast either, Ungheni just wasn't quite the metropolis I had been expecting. There was also something about it though that reminded me so much of being back in the US. I can't even really explain why but walking down the street just gave the impression of walking down any street in small town America to me. While I was enjoying the deja vu I was feeling walking down the street I found a park with a working water fountain and a bouncy castle (the presence of bouncy castles being the chief measure I use to judge all parks) I sat down on a bench and tried reading some more of my book but couldn't help but people watch. There were so many people in the park enjoying the sunshine; parents with strollers, kids with skates and skate boards, huddles of teenagers snickering amongst themselves. It was so quiet and peaceful that I felt bad when I finally had to get up and make my way to catch my train.
I finally made it back at around 10 o'clock and ate a second dinner before falling straight to sleep. I still feel so tired from yesterday that I am having a hard time deciding if I want to get up early tomorrow morning and walk to another village with my host mother to celebrate Easter of the dead with her family.