“Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my love” – Needtobreathe
The maxi taxi rolls to a stop at this dilapidated bus station
and I am more than ready to leave its sweltering interior.
After riding for ten hours with the windows firmly shut
my lungs beg for fresh air.
Our first smell in this new place
is the customary Eastern European cigarette smoke,
lingering on clothing, swirling through the air,
orienting us to this unfamiliar world.
A group of gangly teenage boys stare at us,
the four obviously American girls
with their gigantic bags of luggage
and casual, foreign attire.
Our first order of business is locating a bathroom.
Between paying for our pink square of toilet paper
and experiencing the glory of the squatty potty
our bathroom expedition is a prime example
of full-immersion baptism into the culture.
Our guide leads us inside the ramshackle station
and I notice a massive mural on the wall.
He says it’s a remnant of Soviet propaganda,
and my history-loving brain is intrigued by
the mosaic of geometric shapes
delineating the communist view of society.
The interior of the station makes me feel uneasy
but the warmth of our hosts eases my feelings of trepidation.
They greet us with huge smiles and Moldovan chocolate,
giving us an opportunity to practice saying mulțumesc
and accept their radical hospitality.