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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Preparing for Autumn

It is still June, but as we must leave Cluj this coming weekend, I am spending this week largely in meetings in preparation for my teaching here at UBB in the fall term.  At FSEGA yesterday, Prodeacon Mihaela L. and I concluded that I am to be teaching Labor Management in the fall, with Moni Z. as my T.A., as well as a new course called Starting New Ventures, for which I shall be responsible for both lectures and seminars.  It will be a practical course in planning the launch of a new small business.  Tomorrow at 1:00 P.M. I will meet with Professor Dr. Marius J. of the European Studies Faculty to discuss my teaching of the course American Business and Economy in the American Studies Progra.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

La Braşov

Note: this post should have preceded the one below, which tells Friday's tale.

On Wednesday, 16 June, following a final meeting with Mihaela, Trent and Roxana W. at the Cluj Chamber of Commerce, Shirl and I drove Roxana to her family's home in Braşov.  From Cluj that is about 280 Km southeast across Transylvania.  Shirl had heard that Braşov was a beautiful old city, but on our previous trip through that Judeţ on June 6th, we had seen little of its beauty, in spite of having set the GPS for "Center City," and in spite of our having had Monica Z. with us.  So this week, Shirl had cut a deal with Roxana: promise to show us "Old Braşov," and we'll take you home on our way to Bukovina (thus saving her parents a ten-hour round trip to pick Roxana up).

Roxana accepted Shirl's offer, and it worked out wonderfully.  Not only did we share a long and sociable ride through a torrential hailstorm and rain squall, but when we got to Braşov the weather eased, and the views from the hill above her family's home were lovely, indeed. 

We offer our thanks to Doamna Geta ("Jetta") and Domnile Dorin Dima of Braşov for the wonderful dinner they fed us upon our tardy arrival, and for taking us on a stroll to the hilltop to take these photos.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

The Celtics took until almost 11:00 PM to win game 5 of the NBA finals in Boston, so Shirl was captivated in Cluj on the computer until well past dawn. It is now almost 8:00 AM, and I am about to collect Klaus and cruise across Cluj to have breakfast at The Faculty (FSEGA), where I am told there is a coffee shop on the newly-completed sixth floor.  Hopefully, I will meet up with Trent and Roxana W. there, for they arrived Friday afternoon, and today we will be in meetings with Mihaela and others.

On Sunday, while Roxana rested from a difficult trip during which her money was lost to a thief in Turin, Trent and I went sightseeing in the country, first to the beautiful monastery at Rameţ, near Teiuş, then to Colţeşti for lunch.  We drove via the god-awful, but scenic and rural back road from Aiud to Colţeşti, then came home from Turda to Cluj on a brand new (no exits yet, save at the ends) 42-Km of divided highway, at 130 Km/Hr.  It is a wonderful road, but it also made clear my point from last year.  The country of Romania will not be the same for tourists once the highway system is completed.  In some ways Romania will be better, commercially it should be more prosperous, clearly it will be much easier to traverse, but it will not look the same, feel the same, nor be Middle Earth anymore.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Market Day

The Piata M.V. market was bustling this Saturday morning as I went for dishwashing detergent and came home with fresh fruit and makings for a stir-fry.  As Trent and Roxana arrive today, I will either have to cook a fine lunch, or risk having the huge mushrooms, gorgeous eggplant, zucchini and yellow & red peppers get tired in the refrigerator.  No need to say "organic" in Romania.  The strawberrues and grapes are unbelievably yummy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Trip Pics

A self-explanatory gallery (I hope).
Campton, NH:
Next Winter's Wood was in the shed before we left, May, 2010.  Thanks to Alex McD. and Alex Ro for help in stacking four cords!

First stop: Stuttgart/Fellbach, DE.

True Holidays

In Europe the word for a vacation is "holiday."  These past three days we have truly been on holiday.  I have had lunches with Melinda and Mircea, and met briefly with Alexandra, Dora F. and Ralu T., but have truly not done anything that could be termed work.  Meanwhile, Shirl, who caught some minor bug in our travels, has spent the days getting well and decompressing from our rapid journey.  She has yet to walk down to Strada Andrei Suganu since first climbing the two flights of stairs to our apartment on Sunday night.  My shopping has scored us enough fruit, meat, bread, cereal, milk, yogurt and ice cream that we have not had to go out to eat, and though I have invited Shirl out, and Moni Z. has invited her out, Shirl has preferred to stay here and rest.

Today is sunny and warm in Cluj.  I went out this morning to move Klaus, a daily necessity to avoid his collecting tickets or being towed, and after moving him I strolled around the piata for an hour and a half.  I bought paper towels at the Magazin Alimentar, had coffee and a pastry at a small "Cofeteria," went to the foyer of Nr. 1, which is unchanged, but for the mailboxes, which have been removed for some reason.  I considered calling Lauren H., the Fulbrighter now living in Ap. 16, but realized that I had failed to get her phone number.  Now, I remember that I have her land line, which I assume is unchanged, since it came with the apartment.  I will call her one day soon, and introduce her to Shirl.  I went around the corner and walked past Rolland Garros, the Spalatorie Ecologic, and the travel agency where my Internet friend Kriztina works, and found the office closed.  So, I turned back to P-ta Mihai Viteazul, crossed to Strada A. Suganu, and stopped at "my Hungarian barber" to get my beard trimmed.  I made it home by 9:30, caught up on e-mails, then went to bed for a nap with my still-sleeping life-partner. 

It was a good way to start a vacation day.  I expect that Shirl will be willing to go out for a ride this afternoon, or for dinner tonight.  But if not, who cares?  We are on holiday.   

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Family to Expand!

Last night we learned from son Jesse (31) that son Alex (25) and Yvonne W. of Plymouth, NH, are now engaged to be married.  Perhaps Alex's early departure from our company in Rome will prove to have been very much in God's plan.  Godspeed, good son, and welcome to the family, dear Yvonne!  Health, prosperity and friendship for one-another are my warm wishes for your future.

Home in Cluj

In Cluj.  New apartment is nice.  I have just bought silverware, a kitchen knife, essentials for the fridge, etc.  Last night I roasted pui for Shirl, and made ciorbe de varza for me, but Shirl had a tummy ache, so the wonderful aromas went to waste.  Today, I hope, she will feel like eating, because we have a lunch date at Gente's with Alexandra.

Yesterday I was at Autotransilvania BMW at 8:00 A.M. to see about repair to Klaus' rear bumper.  In Sighisoara's old city the rear end bottomed on a too-steep cobblestone right turn, and tore the right side of the rubber bumper loose.  No permanent damage, though, and for only 210 de Lei ($60), he is just fine again.

From there I went to FSEGA where I saw Alexandra to deliver the books I brought, Moni Z. to pay her back for the deposit she made on our apartment, Melinda P. for lunch, and Mihaela L. very briefly.   Mihaela is again looking after her ailing mother, and postponed our planned meeting, as she had to have her Mom to the hospital by 3:00.

Then, I went to Auchan at the Iulius Mall, and filled the preliminary shopping list for the apartment.  Meanwhile, at home the washer was running with my travel clothes in it, and Shirl was sleeping soundly in our good bed.  When I got home, I hung my clothes on the rack on the balcony, and cooked dinner, awaiting the arrival of Angelica, our landlady, and her husband Dumitru, to receive the rent that I had withdrawn at the bank in Iulius Mall.  When they arrived, we chatted for 20 minutes, as Shirl continued to sleep.   Dumitru is a civil engineer, working in his own company on bridge projects for the state, and for private builders.  His proudest private accomplishment is the entrance bridge to Polus Center on Calea Floresti, which I told him was a very graceful design, to my eye.

This morning, I met with "the guys" at the coffee stand in P-ta M.V., including Dan, Ion, Ion, Petru, Petru, and Sandru.  These are the deliverymen I would have morning coffee with at the parking lot last year, on my way to the Faculty, and who helped me on the morning in 2009 when I found Klaus' battery to be dead.  Only "Big" Dan was absent, because he is now driving a TIR "in Europe."  The general opinion of these guys is that the world is in "one big shit," and the politicians in Romania are worse than useless.

My optimism for the long term future of Romania is not shared by many Romanians.  Meli had expressed parallel views at lunch.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nieces are Nice

Monica Z. is coming to join Shirl and me for lunch here at Casa Victor,  As followers of my Fulbright Year blog will recall, Moni is a doctoral candidate at UBB-Cluj, and was our friend and my teaching assistant in that Fulbright year.  She has come to Bucharest for a friend's wedding.  Learning of this, we have stayed an extra couple of nights here in B-town, so that we can give her a ride home, something any uncle and aunt would do for a chance to spend a whole day with such a dear niece!

I have just spoken on the phone with Melinda P.  Again, the world-hopping, multi-lingual Melinda is one of my former teaching assistants at UBB and also an honorary niece, much-mentioned in last year's blog.  On Monday, we will see Meli for lunch.

I have just chatted in Yahoo Messenger with Teodora (Dora) F., still another star of the prior blog, adopted niece, and a UBB graduate now working in Cluj.  Dora has offered to help me get my HP Laptop repaired, and I will also see her on Monday at Iulius Mall.  I hope that she will be able to join us for dinner.

Dear nieces, you are all among my favorite people.  I look forward to seeing you again.

Friday, June 4, 2010

50 Years of Fulbright-Romania

Yesterday was a long but wonderful day, as many Romanian educators and officials, a goodly number of current and former Fulbrighters as well as other Americans living here in Bucharest joined to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the educational and cultural exchanges between the two countries, made possible through the work of the late U. S. Senator J. William Fulbright.  There was great respect shown for the Fulbright Program's impact on Romanian-American relations over the past five decades, and for its effects in the lives and careers of us grantees.  A number of participants expressed heartfelt emotions, not the least of whom was your humble blogger, who shared with the audience the last post from A Fulbright Year in Romania.

Here was the day's program:

50th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Romania
June 3, 2010

Program of the day and description of the events

The events celebrate 50 years of Fulbright educational program presence in Romania and 130
years of American-Romanian diplomatic relations. 

8.30 to 9 a.m.  Registration

9 to 13.00 a.m.  Anniversary Conference in the Aula of the Carol I Central University Library,
► 9 to 10 a.m. – Opening session

Speakers (10 minutes each) in the following order:
-  Remus Pricopie, President of the Board; 
- Anita McBride, Chair of the Fulbright Scholarship Board (video recording); 
- Anton Niculescu, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 
- Jeri Guthrie-Corn, Deputy Chief Of Mission, Embassy of the United States
- Minister Daniel Funeriu, Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sport;

Awarding diplomas to the former Fulbright Executive Directors.

► 10 to 10.30 a.m. Coffee break – Press interview sessions

► 10.30 to 11.45 a.m. – Plenary session

Speakers (10 minutes each) in the following order:
- Keith Hitchins, First U.S. Fulbright grantee in Romania (1960);
- Frederick Kellogg, First U.S. Fulbright grantee in Romania (1960);
- Ionel Haiduc, President of the Romanian Academy, Romanian Fulbright alumnus;
- Vasile Puşcaş, Romanian Fulbright alumnus;
- Duncan McDougall, U.S. Fulbright alumnus;
- Radu Florescu Senior, U.S. Fulbright alumnus;
- Rodica Mihăilă, Romanian Fulbright alumna;
Closing remarks: Dorina Guţu, Executive Director of the Fulbright Commission.

► 11.45 to 13.00 p.m. – Lunch 
3 to 4 p.m.  Book Launch at the Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission headquarters 

► Launch of the anniversary volumes 50 Years of the Fulbright Program in Romania and
On Education. New and Fresh Perspectives (made with financial support of the National
Agency for Scientific Research – ANCS)

Speakers: (5 minutes each) in the following order: 
- Remus Pricopie, President of the Board;
- Adrian Curaj, President of National Agency for Scientific Research – ANCS; 
- Julie O’Reagan, CAO, U.S. Embassy;
- Alina Bârgăoanu, Romanian Fulbright alumna;
- David Banville, U.S. Fulbright alumnus.

► Press interview sessions

4 to 5 p.m. Opening of photo exhibition at the Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission

► Opening of photo exhibition A Fish in the Sky by Lauren Hermele, Fulbright Junior 2009-

Speakers (5 minutes each) in the following order: 
- Mihai Moroiu, Fulbright Commission; 
- Patricia Guy, PAO, U.S. Embassy;
- Lauren Hermele, U.S. Fulbright grantee; 
- Chris Tănăsescu, Romanian Fulbright grantee. 

► Press interview sessions

5 to 5.15 p.m.  Wrap up session

6 to 7.30 p.m.  Reception hosted by H. E. Mark Gitenstein, the U.S. Ambassador to Romania 

► 6.30 – Speeches 

Speakers (5 minutes each) in the following order: 
- Mark Gitestein, the U.S. Ambassador to Romania;
- Bogdan Aurescu, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 
- Representative of the Ministry of Education or Mr. Remus Pricopie (to be

► 6.45 – Photo session with the Ambassador and Fulbright alumni. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bucharest! Breakfast with Alina!

In a Auchan store in Italy we found a really cool cooler that has a built-in refrigeration unit made to operate either from a 230V 50-Cycle European outlet or from a 12V DC car plug.  On the ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik, to protect my insulin and Byetta, I had let it run all night (about 8 hours) off of Klaus' battery, and he had started up fine the next day.  I did the same in Lukovit, Bulgaria, but we slept in, so it was some 14 hours' run that depleted the battery.  Klaus was unable to start Tuesday morning.  Several hotel employees, led by bellman Nikolay, gave him a push, but he also refused to bump-start.  No juice at all.  Fortunately, the Diplomat Plaza has a garage, and the garage attendant has a battery charger, so we pushed Klaus into the garage, and about 45 minutes of charge fixed our problem.  We proceded to the border at Ruse, about 215 Km northeast of Litovik.

Happily back in Romania, and at our Bucharest home, Casa Victor on Strada Emanoil Porumbaru Nr 44, we have settled in for three nights.  We are relieved and happy.  I am using my Romanian for practice, as best I can, and have thus far received no complaints.

Now, I am headed to Reception to await the arrival of my former student, UBB alumna and Romanian skydiving champion Alina S., who hails from Oradea, but is now working in Bucharest.  I look forward to seeing her again.  She must be at work by 9:00, ao it will be a brief reunion.

Shirl is still asleep, so I will open the door quietly...

Breakfast with Ivan

Ivan K is an engineer of about my age.  He speaks only a bit of English, but when I joined his table this morning in the breakfast room, my "Mucho gusto!' led to our conversing in Spanish, which my bilingual brother in Puerto Rico will find humorous, as he knows that I have only un poco de Espanol.  Ivan spent four years of his life working in Cuba, and is still an aficionado of that land.  I shared Brian's story of studying Cuban music, of fainting in a diabetic incident while in Cuba, and of having his disease diagnosed and his life saved by Cuban doctors.  Ivan and I have exchanged cards, and become new friends.

Ivan's wife is at home this morning, but because she is a fluent English-speaker, Ivan called her from our table, and we chatted a bit.  Perhaps I will make a weekend trip to
Bulgaria next winter, and meet her and Ivan once again.

Shirl is sleeping.  Whoops!  There is our 10:00 wake-up call!  I have relieved Shirl of get-up duty, as I want to go use the beautiful indoor pool I visited on my way back from breakfast.

Barring unforeseen problems, we are less than three hours' drive from Bucharest ("Little Parts," as Mrs. K. described it over the telephone). The joys of travel notwithstanding, we look forward to being back in familiar, beloved Romania.