Archive for April 22nd, 2009

h1

Road Trip……….To Moldova!!!

April 22, 2009

As is frequently the case, the distress flares go up, the panic button is pressed, whistles are blown in the fog and desperation reeks in the morning air……..

expat-10

……..Yes, another Expat suddenly realises they are about to officially overstay their welcome in Ukraine!!

The solution?………Road trip to the Ukrainian Consul in Moldova for a Visa!!

So, bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5am this morning……..the willing driver on this mercy mission……..errrrrmm………..and more accurately, with eyes like piss holes in the snow, hair by Edward Scissorhands and the complexion of an extra from Shaun Of The Dead……..rolls up outside an address in Odessa to do his bit for USA-British relations and secretes an equally shambolic looking US citizen in the car………for the infamous “Expat Border Run”.

expat-8

Now Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, is only about 240 kilometers from Odessa………so I planned on 2 – 3 hours drive, plus maybe 30 minutes at the national borders whilst the customs officials would try to elicit their “administration fee” to allow the journey to continue.

Eh?………No, there is no reason to pay anything…….other than for personal insurance when entering Moldova…….but in this part of the world a bribe “administration fee” is somewhat customary for someone in uniform to actually do their f*cking job!!!

So, anyway, for some reason, unbeknown to me……..I head for Moldova through a Customs Point called “Koochoorgan”……..what a mistake………and indeed for me a school boy error……I know better, but hey, it’s 5 in the morning, I have not had a caffeine fix suitable to kick start the brain…….so I am relying purely on nicotine for stimulus.

expat-7

Anyway……..I pull up as dawn is breaking at the Ukrainian side of the border and hand over the passports……..and obviously the “$” signs light up in the border guards eyes………Englishman and American, therefore stereotypically “rich westerners”.

10 minutes later, still sat there waiting……..the guard is approached……..”Is there a problem?”

“No”…….comes the reply, with open hand.

“Can I be on my way then?” says I……..knowing that the same day Visa service closes at 12.30………so I know I have plenty of time………..or so I thought……..but we will come to that!!

Realising that no “fee” will be forthcoming…….at least to the likes of him……”You’ll have to wait for the Boss”.

“Ok……No problem.”

20 minutes later and back at the kiosk………”How long is the Boss going to be?”

“Dunno”

The Bosses phone number is then spotted on the wall and the number is dialled………and suddenly, the passports are stamped……..before his Boss gets a call far earlier than he is used to no doubt.

The call was aborted…….and I go to the next kiosk………where personal insurance for Moldova is bought.

Why do you need personal insurance?………Well aside from the obvious, and here is my school boy error, this border post takes you into a place known locally as Prednestrovia……….or Transnistria to others…….here’s a clip…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6kub-Ehbd4

Prednestrovia/Transnistria is a somewhat “lawless” bit of land, officially in Moldova, but declared independence back when the USSR collapsed……but it has never been recognised.  There have been thousands of deaths through a long running war with the Molodvan government which refuses to recognise the break away region and similarly the region refusing to recognise the government of Moldova………making it a den of illegal arms trading, murder, kidnap, serious organised criminality and all the other joys and delights of that the human race can offer……..

……..And yes, your tired and semi-conscious chauffeur is awaiting entry into this small plot of pleasantness.

Anyway, having negotiated the passports, insurance……..and subsequently car search………we are off and on our way, with all the border guards still no better off financially than when I pulled up.

Some 10 minutes later, another border check with………….the unofficial Prednestrovia border guards………..who of course looked very official in their uniforms and permanent customs buildings……..which went, without incident or request for a “fee”………but another vehicle search…….so another delay.

Anyway, off we go………again………….with maybe another 100 kilometers to go…………so although, not likely to be there at “Opening Time”, at 0900, we are likely to be there around 1000.

At this point, I would like to point out, dear reader, that Moldova has the same reputation with Ukrainians and the Irish have with the Brits…………they are f*cking stupid and the butt of all jokes!!  This is of course not true in reality, as I have Moldovan’s who work for me and they are not stupid, and neither are any of the Irish people I have met…….but………

2 minutes into what is officially Moldova, and unofficially Prednestrovia, I am confronted by 3 traffic lanes.  One left, one centre and one right……all separated by the usual broken white line. 

I am obviously driving in the right hand lane, on-coming traffic in the left hand lane………and there is nothing in the centre lane………which is quite obviously for cars……..but from which direction???

Fortunately for me, this matter was cleared up rather swiftly by 2 buses……..one in front of me and one travelling towards me.

How was it cleared up?………I know you’re asking……..

Well, both were actually straddling the white lines, one half in the left hand lane and half in the centre lane………and the other half in the right hand lane and half in the centre……………Errrrm no, I am not joking……..they looked like they were either driving by f*cking braille……..or were damned big Scalextric cars.

expat-6

Anyway, I overtook the bus in front of me and stuck with convention and stayed in my lane……..choosing to ignore the local “custom”.

Some 40 minutes later……..guess what?

Yep, I hit the “official” Moldovan border guards……..and again, passports, vehicle check, both computer and physical by the men in dark green uniform.

In front of me, not 20 meters further on were men in black uniforms…….behind a make-shift barrier.  Well, all part of the same team thinks I…..may be just a different branch.

30 minutes later, after the checks are completed, I am allowed to move forward the 20 meters………where I am stopped again…………….and subjected to the same f*cking checks.

“Why?” I ask.

“Well they are customs and border control………we are the traffic police!”

“But you have just seen them do all the checks……..”

“That was them…..”

So, yet another 30 minutes later, after the same checks………again………….so now for the 4th time in a few hours and over a distance of less than 100 kilometers, we are off again………and now I am conscious of the time, as failure to get to the Consul by 1200 means staying overnight in Moldova as you have missed the “same day” service!!

Now Moldova is not a rich country……….not at all, and horse and carts, recycled and repaired trucks from the days when Stalin was a lad, still make their way along the main roads………..causing horrendous tail backs.

 expat-5

………Exactly, I do not need to say any more, as you can see the day I am going to have from what I have written already……..I am going so slowly that the horse shit leaving the horses arse has fossilised before I f*cking reach it I am moving that slowly!!!

To cut a long and frustrating story short……..I eventually hit the Capitol, having no idea where the Ukrainian Consul is and it is now 1130……….so the car is abandoned and a taxi hailed to get us to the Consul.

Arriving at the Consul………..forms are hastily completed and submitted just before the “gong strikes”………although the money for the Visa must be paid at a bank 5 minutes away.

The sight of two, half dead looking “westerners” must have played on the heart strings of the lady at the Consul…….and time was “added on”…….just like for Man Utd when they need to score……..and payment was duly made.  We were told to then return at 1600 to collect the passport with appropriate 3 year multi-entry Private Visa suitably pasted inside.

expat-3

Returning at 1600, all was indeed correct and in order……..the SOS calls cancelled, flags furled and all danger of being forcibly ejected from Ukraine removed…….another Expat saved……..leaving just the return journey. 

By this time, of course, I am now “with it” and decide to take an alternative route back to Odessa using a border control point called “Polanka”………which completely avoids the need to enter Prednestrovia………and is obviously the route I should have taken in the morning if I had not been such a twat!!!…….As I say, I do know better!!

So, happy bods mount up for the return journey of 200 plus kilometers, all time lines now deferred for 3 years regarding legality in Ukraine…..aside from OVIR registration every 6 months to support the new Visa…….

Well, I kid you not……..the roads here leave a lot to be desired………but the pot holes in the road back were big enough to hide the entire 3rd Armoured Division of the US Army……..so the “going” was……..errrrm slow and careful in order to save a comedy moment of the car chassis travelling onwards at 60 mph whilst the suspension and wheels etc etc remained in a pot hole 200 meters back down the road!!

expat-2

This time, there were no problems at all with either set of customs and border control officers………but hence the reason for the very late post today dear reader………..

……..And now, in an effort to ensure normal service is resumed tomorrow, I am going to make like Rip Van Winkle!!

expat-1

%d bloggers like this: