Thursday, 16 August 2007

Playing the Moldovans at tennis

I've just finished reading Tony Hawks' brilliant book Playing the Moldovans at Tennis - a story of how a bet in a pub led to adventures all across Eastern Europe.

In short, Hawks bet a friend that he'd be able to beat all members of the Moldovan national football team at tennis. This book records his attempt to do so.

It's a fun read - and there's plenty of good laughs. However, what I particularly loved was Hawks' brilliantly observed descriptions. Although he visited Moldova seven years before me, his descriptions of towns and just Moldova in general ring very true. Perhaps what made me smile most was his descriptions of the ways in which he contended with the fatalist Moldovan psyche. He's generally sympathetic in describing a country very different from our own - a country in transition, and with a lot less hope for the future than we're used to. I think he had a similar experience of Moldovans - wonderfully friendly once you get to know them, and they begin to trust you.

I miss Moldova. In fact, it's the only country in the world I've ever had a lump in my throat whilst leaving. In honesty I don't miss the cold showers, the toilets, the food and the general low quality of life there. But I really loved the people, and I hope I get the chance to return soon, and hopefully many times in the future. It's a very humbling experience as you are made to realise that there are people even in Europe who long for many of the things that we take for granted. The Christians there stick out like a sore thumb because they have hope. And in a country without much hope, it's also a remind that Jesus really is the hope of the nations.


ernie said...

Good read or what?!

I read it just before we went to Moldova, just to see what i was letting myself in for, and have read it again since... and was also amused and impressed, and sometimes moved, by Hawks' impression of the place, the little details about the people and about Chisnau, really accurate!

I can also quite relate to your feelings about Moldova - it continues to be so much in my prayers and on my mind, I've never had a place get such a grip on me before. I wish I could go back too! I'm continually challenged about how extreme having hope in Christ should make us - Moldovans, like you say, stick out like a sore thumb because they have hope - but so should we... the world we live in here isn't so hopeful either.

peterdray said...

Amen. Cheers Rachel - see you at Forum...?