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Friday, January 28, 2011


The title says it all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Departure Day

Bleeding money, but coming home.  Taxi to airport: 50 Euro.  Bag fee (no carryons can weigh over 8 Kg,  Mine was almost twice that), 150 Euros.  (The good deal was that the first two were free, and they accepted my huge bag, even though it was 27 Kg, 5 over the limit!)  Internet hookup, $14.71 for two hours.  But I am here at the Stuttgart Flughafen, and am online, and have a good looking salad and sandwich next to me, and have three hours till flight time.  So, I will bleed the money happily!  After all, it is only money.  Soon, I will be seeing Shirley, and Alex, and Alex2, and maybe even Ralu for dinner in Boston.

Thank you, Dietmar, and Sabine, and Max, and Ferdi of Fellbach.  It is always a pleasure to see you all.  Max, I hope you will enjoy Klaus for the coming year.  He is a great old car, and I know he will keep you safe.  Ferdi, please remember to check the brake pads.  I heard a bit of scraping at low speeds in the Alte Kelter lot.  It was probably just a sticky caliper in the cold, but best to have them checked!  The key is in Max's mailbox, and Klaus is stowed at the Alte Kelter.

Goodbye, Europe.  I do not know when I will be back, but the smart money will be betting it will happen before two years are out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spaetzle and Venison

Made it safely to Alte Kelter in Fellbach.  Great little hotel.  Had the subject dinner with our old friends, the Familie Schmid, cooked by Sabine's mother, Annamarie.  She is a delightful octogenarian.  I will be based here for three nights.  Tomorrow, I will run Dietmar to the Flughafen, then plan a day trip to revisit old haunts from my 1972 trip to Heidelberg.  As the old college song says, "Alt Heidelberg du feine. Du Stadt an Ehren reich."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Departure Day -1

Sweaty day.

When I awoke today, seven shirts on hangers, a rack full of clean underwear and socks, and assorted toiletries stared across the room at me.  Around the corner in the foyer were two full bags, a large cooler, and an empty microwave box, the latter awaiting my finishing breakfast, and all awaiting carriage down to Klaus for their trip into Clujian storage.  My office was still littered with the case files and books I had brought from Plymouth to use in my teaching.  But also there in the office was the beat-up but still sound box they had arrived in (thanks to Fulbright and to Aline Cautis).  I had a packed my sportcoat and slacks, brown sweater, blue corduroy jack-shirt, and many other items in my black duffel on Thursday night, and it, too, awaited being hauled down to Klaus.

Daunting, to say the least.

Then, as my bleary eyes cleared, so did my foggy brain.  I remembered that Good Friend Gig in Fellbach would probably be willing once again to have nico-Schmid ship my book box to Rochester Shoe Tree Company in Ashland, as he had in 2009.  That took one problem off my to do list: finding a reasonably priced shipping company (Postal Romana asks $200 to ship a box filled with books, and only God knows if and when they might arrive).  As is so often the case, my spirit responded to the epiphany, and I got to work.

My only scheduled meeting today was at 11:00 with Mihaela Lutas, my vice dean at FSEGA.  Before that meeting, I had:
  • eaten breakfast, 
  • packed up the microwave, 
  • carried two heavy bags down to the lot and loaded them into Klaus' back and front seats, along with the tires that were already taking up much space,
  • recovered from his trunk my wheeled luggage carrier, as it would make transporting the Microwave and cooler far easier, 
  • gone back upstairs, loaded the last two items for storage on the wheeled carrier,
  • gone back down and completed loading Klaus for a later trip to Horaţiu's shop, where our "stays-in-Cluj-stuff" would be stored (Thank you, Horaţiu), 
  • showered, and dressed half-decently to appear civilized at The Faculty.
My meeting with Mihaela was to say "goodbye," but also to collect a business document from UBB that needed to be taken home to Plymouth State, but as it had not yet arrived from the headquarters of the University, we agreed to have a bite and a coffee in about fifteen minutes at the Panorama, a snack bar on the 6th floor.  It turned out to be more like thirty minutes, which allowed me to clean my office, and pack my book box.  amazingly, I had remembered to take my carrier with me to the fourth-floor office, so I loaded it, and wheeled it with me to the Panorama.  Mihaela and I had a delightful chat over toasted sandwiches and apple-carrot smoothies, called a "fresh" in Romania, which were fantastically good.  I had not tried that mix before, but I surely will again.  From there, we went down to Mihaela's assistant's office to see if Aniko had packing tape for the book box.  She did, and was most kind in bidding me farewell and a safe trip home.  Then, Mihaela invited me in to see Dean Dumitru Matiş, FSEGA's distinguished leader. The dean and I shook hands and bid one another goodbye, and then he handed me a book on the history of the University, and a medal commemorating the 90th Anniversary celebration of a Romanian Language University in Cluj.  (Prior to 1920, all university studies in Cluj had been in either Latin or Hungarian.)  These gifts came as a complete surprise, and are deeply appreciated.

So, still without the VIP (very important paper), but assured that there would be a call from Mihaela when it arrived, I drove a awkwardly-loaded Klaus out to Piata Unu de Mai, and found Starmax in its new offices.  It is a much-improved location, and features an elegant aquarium, as well as fresh paint, good lighting, and working heat.  Horaţiu helped me haul the items into his store room, and we tucked them into an out-of-the-way corner, stacked so as to minimize the floor space occupied.

For the record, Shirl, on our next stay in a Cluj apartment, we need not buy much kitchen stuff, nor pillows, only one towel (I kept one here for tonight), sleeping bags to use as comforters, desk lamps, a keyboard, a microwave, etc., etc.  I have not yet figured out what to do about the water pitcher, because I want it in my travels for the next five days.  So it will likely stay in Fellbach.

After we stowed the stuff, Horaţiu and I went to his local lunch-spot, where I had ciorba de burta and a couple slices of bread to round out my lunch.  Then the efficiency of the morning started to fade.  I said goofd bye to Horaţiu and beat my way back through Friday afternoon traffic to Economica II, only to discover at the gate to the lot that I was using Klaus' spare key, that I had put in my pocket to ensure its getting to Germany with us.  It had no clicker attached.  I couldn't get into the lot.  I called Horaţiu,  "Did I leave my leather jacket there, or in the restaurant?"  Horaţiu searched.  "It isn't here, give me a minute, I'll run to the restaurant."  Youth is beautiful, and Horaţiu is still young.  Shortly, he called back to say he'd found it at the restaurant, and my PSU hat, too.  "I'll be bacj in ten or fifteen minutes," I told him.

It took half an hour.  I tried a new route, and lost my way.  When I got there, my keys and jacket were intact, but only one glove was in the pocket.  I had expected to find both.  We walked back to the restautant.  No glove.  "No big deal," I told Horaţiu,"they are only $10.00 gloves from a catalog."  But they are new, and soft, and warm, and I was a bit bummed.

On my way home again, Mihaela called to report that the document had arrived.  I accepted her offer to have it brought across the street to the dorm.  I was wearing out.  Back at the dorm, I paid four months' rent ($267.00, total), and went up to my room.  There was the missing glove, lying on top of my sandals, where it had fallen when I put on the jacket.

I have finished packing, but for refrigerated meds.  I have downed a bottle of vin rosu sec in the company of a floormate, and together we have eaten my last foodstuffs.  I have chatted with Shirl, watched an episode of Foyle's War, chatted with Shirl on the Internet, and now, I am well and truly ready for bed.

Goodbye, Cluj.  Goodbye, Romania.  Goodbye, all you wonderful people that I have come to know, and have come to know better this fall than ever before.  I hope to return to see you all, yet again.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

(D -4) Elena's Birthday

A knock on the door at ten P.M.  "Unde esti?" I call, inaccurately. I'd asked "Where is it?"  Oh, crap!  I'd meant "Cine esti?", "Who is it?"

It turned out to be my Englishline Labor Management student and floormate, Elena, from Room 214.  "You caught me in my pajamas," I said.  "Oops.  Sorry,"  she said, "but it is my birthday, and we wondered if you would like to come for some sangria and cake.  We are in 214."  It was too nice an offer to refuse.  "Okay, I'll get dressed."
Birthday girl Elena Dumitraşcu with the fortunate Andrei Manea, her boyfriend.

All but one of the party goers.  (Someone snapped the photo.)
I surely enjoyed meeting this jolly throng, and I thank them all for the invitation.  Elena, "La mulţi ani!"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gorgeous Gorge

Cheile Turzii (pronounced "Kayleh Turtzy") has appeared in my blogs several times before, but on this perfect January Sunday, I went there one last time.  The sun shone, and my recent travel companions Valer and Simo were joined by my cheerful and energetic colleague Kinga Kerekes for a fun day in the gorge.
Cheile Turzii

Small streams mighty gorges gouge.

Ice still rims the brook.

Massive walls of the canyon.
Valer, Kinga and Simo on one of several suspension bridges on the trail.

No mici being sold today.  (Great smile, Kinga!)
 But soon we found our favorite lunch spot in the valley west of Turda, Conacul Secuiesc.
So we pressed on to Colţeşti and Conacul Secuiesc
Friend, fellow auslander, and Etaj Doi floormate, Simo Imakor at the Conacul Secuiesc

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Minus Six Days

Today I had breakfast with Lucian Bogdan, the brilliant Ph.D. student of American Studies who helped me with my course in that discipline back in 2009.  Lucian is 250-pages into his thesis on the history of American/Romanian diplomacy in the immediate aftermath of WWII, as the country was being taken into totalitarianism by the Communists.  Lucian has spent weeks pouring through the archives in Bucharest.  He is likely the most knowledgable living scholar on this topic.  He is a fascinating thinker.  His viewpoints on the modern world are highly interesting to me.  He reads and thinks about the political news periodicals.  He follows world economics.  He is quite a guy.

My 3:00 PM lunch/dinner was with my new friend Vlad Ciurca, to whom I was introduced by Ray Wright during his apartment renovation project this past November.  We ate at Indigo, an Indian restaurant that I now consider a "good find."  It was delicious.  Thank you for the suggestion, Vlad.

One other act commited today was to post the following on the Facebook Cause "Let's Improve Romania's Image."  I have not previously ventured this far into political observation, but events of the past weeks have led me to offer these thoughts:

For Romanians it seems fashionable to make disparaging remarks to foreigners about Romania. I find that sad. For Americans it is considered unseemly to disparage America. Many of us Americans criticize our government and elected officials, but we generally profess sincere love for our country.

Romania has educated you Romanians. It has given you much of value in terms of a sense of right and wrong, and in terms af a loving culture. Romania is your beautiful homeland. You know in your hearts that if you leave it, you will miss it.

Romania deserves your love, even if its government and elected officials do not. I want to hear fewer sick jokes about Romania, and more positive proposals for transparency, for honesty in government, and for a service attitude on the part of the bureaucracy. If you do not like the officials, elect new ones. And do not tell me they are all the same. After two election cycles in which the party in power is thrown out, all parties will get the message.

I am now completing my second stint as a university professor in Cluj. I will be going home next week to New Hampshire, USA. I love it there. But I also love being here. I sincerely hope to come back, yet again. God bless Romania!

Friday, January 14, 2011

GO minus seven days.

Friday evening in Cluj.  Watched Foyle's War episode 2 "The White Feather" with Simo Imakor, my Morrocan floormate, did a wash, and continued the packing of:
  1. my check-bag, that gets only through-stuff not needed between Cluj and Campton, and
  2. my "stays in Cluj" bags and boxes, which will again be stored at my friend Horaţiu's warehouse.
The rest of my clothing and meds I will cram into my marvelous L.L.Bean midsized duffel, big enough for five-days' clothing and a small cooler for insulin, yet designed to fit perfectly into the overhead bins of a B737 or A320.  Thus, hopefully, I can make it home with only one checked bag.

These semester-and-longer stays in Romania have led to an increasing collection of Euro-possessions, our Freudian guarantors of future trips to Gernamy and Romania.  Of course, Klaus is the biggest of these, but next time, for example, we won't have to rebuy a microwave oven, filtering water pitcher, dishes and silverware, a ladle for ciorba and a knife for cutting veggies for soups and carnaţ for cooking.  Olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, thyme, and even an unopened jar of Jif peanut butter will remain here, encased in our 240V/12V refrigerating cooler, awaiting our return.

Monica, if you hear that I have kicked the bucket, please keep what you like of this collection of household goods, and give the rest to a deserving student or charity.  And Horaţiu, thank you kindly for stashing it all for us while we are away.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christmas week in Romania

Ever since I arrived in Cluj back in 2008, I have been aware that Christmas in Romania is special.  Else, why would so many Romanians have expressed disappointment when they learned I had made plans to return to New Hampshire for Christmas break?
A night at Piaţa Mihai Viteazul in Cluj, Christmas Season, 2008

This year, I stayed.

Shirl and I had been together at Christmas every year since 1972.  I love our New England Christmases together, and I had some misgivings about breaking our 38-year series.  But, with Jamie and Amy having tied the knot in Florida late in November, I had already made a special flight to America only a month earlier.  Shirl and I talked it over.  All our kids are grown.  Only Alex (25) is still living in the house, and four of our six would be far away, Christal and Piper in Colorado, where Piper was going to have to work Christmas Day at Aspen Mountain, Brian and Jamie in Florida, where Jamie was also scheduled to work Christmas Day at Sea World, and I would be returning to Campton for the spring term only one month after Christmas.  It made sense to stay in Romania.

Thus, I had an opportunity between December 24 and 30, 2010 to keep a few promises, and to accept a few long-standing invitations.  It proved a wonderful, yummy, busy, somewhat overly liquid, but extremely cordial and happy week.

In the main, Christmas in Romania is a time of hospitality and caroling.  It is truly a time of good will toward men, women, and children.  Families gather, eat Christmas Soup (my name for the chicken noodle soup with carrots that I was served at three successive visits), sarmale (delcious stuffed cabbage rolls, served to me at four homes), assorted sausages and meats (everywhere), and fancy cookies and cakes.  Oh, yes, and they also drink ţuica, polinca, homemade wines, as well as tea, coffee, various juices, and whatever other nectars the guests might have brought (in my case, good scotch whisky).  So, Christmas in Romania challenges one's self-control.  In fact, in Suceava, at the end of my six-day marathon of Christmas, I received a cogent lecture from my hostess on which foods and drinks to avoid, or not to mix, so as to prevent a painful acidic build-up in the digestive tract.  (I'd wished that lecture had come a few days earlier.)

Here is a chronology of my Christmas in Romania, which I record for posterity, so as not to forget.  I thank all of you wonderful people for showing me so much love and caring.

Friday, 24 December, Cluj:
Christmas Eve was enjoyed at the home of Alexandra Muţiu's mother-in-law, Tibi's mom Katalin Kajcsa.  Ida (almost 9) and Ingrid (5) were a bit hyper, of course, but absolutely charming in their appreciation of the gift bags that this old Santa brought, filled with chocolate bars, Barbie dolls and stuffed bears.  (Both girls got the same toys;  Alexandra's explicit request.)  It was a warm and joyous evening, featuring Christmas Soup and sarmale.  Carolers came to the door of the flat, and I had the pleasure of joining in one of their songs (probably "Jingle Bells," the one English song that all Romanian children know). 

Saturday, 25 December, Cluj:
Both Raluca Tarcea of Cluj and Alexandru Mican of Bistriţa are presently enrolled in the Plymouth State University MBA Program in New Hampshire, and both came home to Romania for Christmas this year.  They are both dear friends of Shirl's and mine, and have spent many days and evenings at our home in Campton.  So, I found myself with two competing invitations for Christmas Day.  I accepted Ralu's, partly because I had not yet met her parents, and wanted to do so, and partly because it would make logistical sense to visit Bistriţa on my way to Suceava, a few days later, and I could then stay with the Micans for two nights, which Alex had encouraged.

Domnule (Mr.) Nicolae Tarcea and Ralu came to pick me up at 2:30, and took me home to a Mănăştur bloc, to their graceful apartment, and to a party that lasted until almost 11:00 PM.  Supposedly, there was a lunch and a dinner served.  In fact, there was an all-day feast.  I think Doamna Nastasia Tarcea had cooked four or five different meats, along with sarmale, Christmas Soup, and a marvelous collection of side dishes and desserts.  And, Mr. Tarcea opened the Johnny Walker Black Label that I had given him, so we ended the day with "sipping whisky."  We sang.  We found beloved carols on YouTube and listened.  We talked of all manner of things.  And then, Nastasia showed me the newspaper story about Father Sava, that led to the next weekend's mission to Oaşa Monastery (as described below).  All in all, it was a grand Christmas Day. 

Sunday, 26 December, Satu Mare & Ocna Şugatag
Way back on 29 September, 2008, my first work day in the UBB Faculty of Economics, I met at about 8:00 A.M. a new first-year student from Satu Mare named Valer Olimpiu Şuteu, who was there with his father (also Valer) to launch his university studies.  (That encounter was described in the latter part of my post of that date entitled "Faculty Day."  In my quoted letter in that post, you will read of my invitation then to spend Christmas, 2008, with the Family Şuteu.)  As the chance meeting ended, Mr. Şuteu invited me to stop in to see them in Satu Mare, if ever I made it there.

Later that fall, on a visit to the northern counties with fellow Fulbrighters, we met with Mr. and Mrs. (Mariana) Şuteu for a coffee on the drive home to Cluj via Satu Mare and Oradea, from my first visit to Maramureş.  Over coffee, we learned that Mr. Şuteu was battling cancer. This fall, he died.  Valer had called me to give me the sad news.  Now, in December, Valer called again to invite me to come spend some time at Christmas with him and his mother in Satu Mare.  It was a small gathering on Sunday at about noon, just the three of us, and the first social event at their home since the loss of Mr. Şuteu.  But Christmas love was in the air, and we had another fine meal, although a less liquid one than previously, as Klaus and I were scheduled to drive east to Ocna Şugatag for the night, over the mountains, and in the snow.

I made it safely to Popasul din Deal in O.S., and had a small supper in the company of my friend, Vasile Pop.  Bedding down early, I slept for eleven hours straight.  It was wonderful.  In the morning, I tried out the brand new indoor swimming pool, now completed, in a spa featuring also a salt bath and a sauna.
Country of Contrasts: The Spa at Popasul din Deal
Monday and Tuesday, 27 & 28 December, Bistriţa:
Country of Contrasts: Winter Haystacks in Maramureş
The mission was to drive south from Maramureş to the city of Bistriţa.  It is only, perhaps, 160 Km.  But again, it was over the Carpathians in a snow storm.  It went well for Klaus on his new winter tires, but far less well for the three cars seen off the road in snowfields or, in one case, hanging from a bridge with the rear end in a brook.  One was being pulled from the ditch by a team of horses with a caruţa (horse-drawn wagon).

At the top of the road there is an inn where I had previously stopped for coffee with Connie Goddard.  This time, as I walked across the road to the entrance, I was joined by a fellow motorist, also in need of a break.  As she was in the lead, I asked, "Deschis?"  (Is it open?)  I guess I asked in an American accent, for she replied, "I don't know, I'll check."  The door was not locked, so we spent a pleasant half-hour over coffee and ciorba, and I made a new friend from Cluj, Lucia S.  Lucia is a businesswoman, and proved an erudite conversationalist, and good-hearted sort, typical of those who grew up, as she had, in Maramureş.

The proprietor had a television playing on one of the several channels that broadcast mainly traditional folk singing and dancing.  Lo and behold, the man singing and playing an instrument on the TV was the proprietor.  I tried to get a picture of the TV, and took one of the man himself.  Here are the pictures of Dle. Petre Bârlea, of Sighetu Marmaţiei, Judeţ Maramureş, Romania:

As for my new acquaintance, Lucia, I hope she will read this blog and e-mail me, for I cannot today find her e-mail address, and would like to be in touch.  We agreed to drive in convoy down the southern side of the mountains, lest one or the other of us encounter misfortune.  The downhill ride went well, and Lucia beeped her "Goodbye" as she turned right and I left, where the road to Nasaud and Bistriţa diverges from that to Beclean and Cluj.
Following a new friend in low-traction snow
Arriving at the house of Mican I was warmly greeted by Claudia and Augustin, Alex's parents, and immediately made to feel at home.  A Christmas feast was almost ready, and soon the fun began.  It lasted for that day and the next.  I cannot tell you how many friends and family I met, but among them were Alexandru's aunts and uncles, grandmother and great aunt, family friends from Braşov, and the assorted children large and small of all.
Augustin (in the white shirt), and Alexandru with three of his uncles

Claudia (in a red baseball sweatshirt!) with the family Mican

With my delightful contemporary, Alex's grandmother
It was a noisy, friendly, joyous occasion.  The last evening Alex and I walked the 300 meters over to the Faur house to pay our respects to Dora's family.

Wednesday, 29 December, Vatra Dornei & Suceava:
On the morning of the 29th, I left for the East, myself loaded with good Christmas cheer, and Klaus with a lot more homemade hootch. 

Ski Lodge in Vatra Dornei
The road east to Bucovina is now upgraded to European Highway standards, and while far from an autostrada, it is smooth and well marked.  Snow was again in the air, but the trip was uneventful, and I arrived in Vatra Dornei on time for my lunch appointment with my former American Studies student, Irina Tarniceru, and her boyfriend Mihai.

We ate at the ski lodge at the base of Vatra's ski run, and the similarity to New Hampshire's smaller ski areas was unmistakable.  I was pleased to see Irina looking beautiful, and sounding both well and happy. Finally, I would be amiss if I did not report our having seen Vatra Dornei's Goat Dancer and his entourage.  Crăciun in Bucovina!
After lunch Klaus and I continued to Suceava, where, after a couple of false starts, we found our way to the home of Mihai and Traudi Moroşan. 

Bay windows at the end of the dining room at Moroşan residence

In my room at the Moroşan residence

Mihai is, as already established in this blog, a great guy.  And Traudi is nothing if not a dynamic (some 20-year younger) partner to him.  It was established early that the fears for her health, the tests referred to in an earlier post, had come back revealing local nerve damage in her wrists, rather than a systemic disease such as MS or worse.  So, she has had one operation for carpal tunnel symdrome, and will undergo a second one in March.  Thanks be to God, it was not worse.  (Our prayers were answered, one might say.)

The Moroşans live in a large and solid home in a lovely part of downtown Suceava, with their youngest son Mihail, a computer science student at Essex University in the U.K.  One floor above is the home of one of Mihai's brothers, who paid us a visit Wednesday, and joined in the sumptuous feast that seemed to be on the table from the moment of my arrival until my departure the next day.

During our conversations, I had a chance to tell Mihai and Traudi of Anthony Antolini's Rachmaninoff Choir, and their planned tour of Romania in 2012.  They kindly expressed their willingness to help Anthony make the necessary contacts in the Romanian Orthodox Church.  (But, I have since learned from Tony that the economic downturn has led to the indefinite postponement of the tour.)

Thursday, 30 December, Suceava to Cluj:
On Thursday, I had contemplated heading south to pay visits to acquaintences old and new in Brasov, Bucharest, and Piteşti before heading home to Cluj, but my departure was delayed by a morning visit from Father Nicolae of Sf. Nicolae's Biserica in Câmpulung (Mihai's younger brother), his daughter, and her fiance. 
With Traudi, Nicolae's daughter and her fiance
We ended up in an intense conversation/caroling session, during which I learned that Father Nicolae can really sing!
Father Nicolae and Mihai Moroşan
It was noon before I finally hit the road, and given the weather and the many hundreds of Km already traveled, I chose to take the familiar road back west to Cluj, and not to stretch my luck by making a long southern loop.  After passing at least twenty horse-drawn hay wagons coming down the highway east of Bistriţa, we came upon one that had had a mishap and blocked the road in a village.
I gasped in horror when I came upon this scene, fearing the horse was a goner.

But as we passed, the horse was able to get up, and continue with his work.
Klaus and I got home safely to Cluj just after dark, where I fell happily into my bed at Economica II.

It was a wonderful Christmas Week trip of about 1000 snowy kilometers, and a fine holiday, albeit far away from my own home and family.

Thank you, my dear Romanian friends, for making me welcome in your homes, and for allowing me to enjoy the holiday with your families.  I now understand what was meant by all those who had told me, "Christmas is a special time in Romania."

[For Search Purposes: Morosan]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Father Sava's Story

We walked perhaps two kilometers up the snowy road above the lake and between the evergreens, and then turned back.  On the way up the road, I asked Father Sava to tell me his tale.  I shall relate it from memory, and ask that the good Father amplify it, and excuse and correct any inaccuracies when he gets a chance to read this account, which I shall mail to him at my first opportunity.

Father Sava was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Roman Catholic parents who sent him to parochial schools that he says were the best schools in the city.  He went on to become a graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, with a major in accounting.  I assure you, he has an excellent education, and speaks English with nary a trace of a southern accent.

After college, at some point Father Sava's interests became focused on his Christianity, and his story jumps to when he was in his thirties, and finds him living as a newcomer in the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Gregory Palamas in north central Ohio. He had left the Roman Catholic Church and converted to Orthodox Christianity.  Why?  Well, exactly when and why he converted to Orthodoxy I do not know.  Suffice it to say, he had decided (Found? Come to believe? Been inspired to know?) that Orthodox Christianity was "The True Christianity," having adhered to traditions that stem from Christ's own teachings, and from which "all Western Christianity has strayed."

While at the Ohio monastery, Stephen found a book on the Spiritual History of Romania.  He says it was so powerful a story that while still in Ohio, he started to study the Romanian language.  From Ohio he went to Mt. Athos in Greece (The Holy Mountain, located on a peninsula that juts into the Aegean Sea southeast of Thessaloniki, and on which there are some twenty monasteries), where he spent time in two monasteries, seeking his Place.  He was committed personally to a monk's life, but had not yet found his Place.  He asked at one monastery to be admitted as a novice, but was told no, because they were a monastery for Greek monks, could not accept foreigners beyond 20% of the population, and had filled that quota already.  At a second, very famous and respected monastery, he stayed as a guest for weeks, loved it and its brethern, and asked for an opportunity to meet its abbot, and ask permission to join the flock.

As Stephen tells of the encounter, "The abbot and I had never met.  In fact, I doubt he even knew my name before this meeting.  I was nervous, but I was able to tell him how many days I had lived there, and how right it felt.  Then, before I could specifically request admission, the Abbot said 'Oaşa.'  I said, 'Excuse me, Father.  What did you say?'  He then proceded to tell me that God wanted me in a monastery called 'Oaşa' in Romania.  He asked me to go there and see for myself.  So, I did.  That was ten years ago.  I have just celebrated my tenth anniversary here."

Stephen clearly was comfortable in his mountain retreat.  He now speaks Transilvanian Romanian fluently, of course, and he never for a second evinced doubt that the Greek abbot that sent him here was simply transmitting God's Will to him.

The rest of the talk got pretty personal, as we shared certain of our experiences as American newcomers to Romania that had convinced us both that there are no coincidences, and that we both are here because we belong here.  It was as if we were brothers, which, of course, we are, in many senses of the word.

When I got back to Cluj I wrote to Father Sava, and enclosed printouts of several past stories from this blog.  I hope that he enjoys them, and that he will write me back.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oaşa Monastery and Father Sava

 (Photos by Elena Adriana)
Mânăstirea Oaşa
I will later report on Christmas Week in Romania.  It was worth a detailed post, for it was everything that I had been led to expect.  But first, I must report last Sunday's events, while they are fresh in my mind.

On Christmas Day, while I was the guest of TARCEA Nicolae and Nastasia of Cluj, parents of Raluca, our Plymouth State MBA student (and a frequent house-guest in Campton), I was shown a newspaper article about an American monk named Father Sava who was living at a monastery called Oaşa (pronounced "Wah'-sha"), in Judeţ Alba (Alba County).

On Sunday, 2 January, 2011, I paid him a visit.

I had no way of knowing whether Father Sava would be there that day, but since it was a reasonable distance (under 200 KM) from Cluj, I decided to drive down there into the Southern Carpathians to see if I could find him.  Surely he would have a story to tell, and I wanted to hear it.  And, Oaşa is in a part of Romania I had yet to visit, high in the mountains some 70 Km south of the city of Sebeş, which is on the road between Alba Iulia and Sibiu.  Two third-year FSEGA students, SUTEU Valer Olimpiu of Satu Mare and IMAKOR Simo of Casablanca, expressed their wishes to join me on this Sunday drive.  Hence, at 9:00 Sunday morning, we three jumped into Klaus, and headed south.

There was no traffic on the road south.  We were in Alba Iulia by 10:15, and Sebeş by 10:30.  This drive could have taken well over two hours under normal conditions.  Then, the final 70 Km into the mountains took another hour-and-a-half.  Oaşa is in the wild, 1450 meters above sea level, and in territory reachable only by a broken-up road built to allow maintenance of the three Ceaşescu-era hydroelectric dams to which it led.

The region is heavenly.  Tall trees and steep canyon walls border much of the road, and each dam has a lake behind it, making for many idyllic views.  Probably these beauties explain the choice of this location for the Oaşa monastery, which was founded only about 1982.

Oaşa is not a village on the map, so the GPS could not get us past Şugag, 30 Km south from Sebeş, and still 40 Km from the monastery.  There were a number of alternate roads, so we had to stop and ask directions a few times.  Fortunately, Valer is Romanian, so we never doubted that we understood the directions, and were on the right path.  Still, it was remarkable when the GPS took it upon itself to find the road to Oaşa, and start indicating upcoming turns to us, even though it was still programmed for Şugag.  Valer told me, "Be sure to tell about that (minor miracle?) in your blog!"

At noon, we parked in front of the monastery's wall.  A monk and another man were in the road, so I rolled down the window and asked in English, "Do you have a monk here named Father Sava?"  The monk departed down the road, and the other gentleman guided us into the grounds, up a flight of stairs leading to the biserica.  There, he introduced me to Father Sava, and when I said, "I had hoped to meet you today," he did a "take," and said, "You are American?"  "Yes."  "Wow!  We don't see many Americans here!"

As the Sunday morning service was just ending, Father Sava had duty in the dining hall, where all the church's attendees, thirty or forty local people all dressed up in their traditional Sunday best, were invited for lunch.  The Father apologized for not being able to invite us to eat, but said he would be available to talk in about half-an-hour.  So, we waited.  There were no stores or restaurants within many miles, so lunch would have to wait.  Being diabetic and feeling the need, I ate a Snickers from Klaus's glove box, but my companions declined my offer to share.

The Abbot
While we waited, Valer and I received blessings from the abbot, then gathered for group photos.
Gathered around the Abbot, after the lunch
When Father Sava returned, he explained that they had no place at the monastery to sit and have tea, and again excused himself to go change from his church robes into hiking clothes, so we could take a walk, and talk.

We walked and talked for two hours.  The man kept me spellbound.  He had, indeed, a story to tell.  I will post it soon.