*** Monday, 09 Dec 2002 ***
The driver told me that the temperature is 17 C below zero. That converts
to -6 Fahrenheit. Brrr.
Behind the art work is the
Senate Building. It used to be the Communist Party headquarters
and on the balcony above the doors Ceausescu gave his last speech.
The negative reaction form the assembled people lead to his flight.
Tonight was my dinner with Senator Maria Petre and it turned out to be
very pleasant time. I arrived at the Senate building 25 minutes early
because the traffic wasn't nearly as bad as usual. The young guard looked
at me in a confused way from behind his flashy uniform which was suitable
for a parade march. I said "Senator Maria Petre, please" and
he covered his confusion by looking in a listing of some sort. He dialed
number after number with apparently no result -- but he kept trying. I
was impressed. Clearly he believed that I had some legitimate purpose
there. Eventually, he spoke to someone and said that Senator Petre would
come down to see me. We waited in silence for a while and then, perhaps
thinking that he should really do something, he said, quite gently, "Give
me your passport." I looked at him blankly and said, "I don't
have any identification with me." "Oh," he said and accepted
that as an answer. I still don't have my legitimatsia, a document required
for remaining in Romania for more than three months.
Marius Urzica, of the former Slobozia Web Team, arrived fifteen minutes
later. We should hands and chatted. The guard never asked who he was.
Shortly thereafter, wearing a fur coat that would set PETA members aflame,
Maria came though the opaque glass-paneled doors that separate the visitors
section from sanctum sanctorum. She gave me her hand I kissed it while
looking in her eyes (as Judie had taught me) and cursed the dim lighting
She, Marius and I took a Senate-supplied car to a small restaurant that
was in a back alley. I knew I was getting the real Romanian treatment
when she sent back the menus and ordered verbally. Gradually about fifteen
plates of exotic food appeared. I even enjoyed some of it and was grateful
that I didn't know what the rest was. It is difficult to be as picky about
food I am. I did my best to eat something from as many plates as possible.
I felt like I was back at home as a child.
We talked and it was apparent that she could understand more than 75%
percent of what I said but still did not try to speak English. We chatted
about the GRASP program, what Marius was doing and about Nella Mocanu
who has had medical problems.
I told Maria that I wanted to give her a gift from friends. She was pleased
that to be remembered and I gave her a rhinestone flamingo. She seemed
to like it. Then I gave her a smaller, brightly colored pin for Nella
and went on to say that no one should be left out so I gave Marius a small
pin in the shape of an apple with the US flag in rhinestones.
We had a fun time. Maria insisted on paying and we agreed that I would
pay the next time. They drove me to my apartment and seemed surprised
that I could navigate the back streets off of Floreasca.
It was a delightful evening. The country (I have only really seen Bucharest)
is much the same as when we where there a few years ago. There is clear
evidence of paved streets (many), fewer potholes (generally), new buildings
(not enough), fewer feral dogs (not few enough), brightly painted houses
(plenty bright enough), but as a waitress replied to my optimistic assessment
of change here: "You did not have to live here during this time."
Romania continues to be an interesting place to be.
*** Tuesday, 10 Dec 2002 ***
I got a call from Professional Realty about my clothes: did I want to
have them stored at the Professional Realty office. This was a surprise
to me. Panic. Mihaela volunteered that the maid would do it for me.
Today the entire staff went to Sinaia, a historic town north of Bucharest,
for a three-day team building session to figure out what we are doing
and how we are going to do it. The bottom line is that we are implementing
a very unique, demand-driven, bottom-up citizen-centered plan that will
require a lot of cooperation. The staff piled into a bus and the trip
to Sinaia of team building exercises was two hours of pleasant driving
across the plain and into the mountains.
*** Wednesday, 11 Dec 2002 ***
The hotel was a Holiday Inn and rather nice. There was even a phone jack
at desktop level with the words "modem plug" written on it.
But while I could get an outside voice line, my Mac couldn't get a dial
tone. I asked the desk staff about it (nearly always a waste of time)
and they suggested that I use the Ethernet access of a computer in the
lobby. I tried but that failed to work for obscure reasons. I asked Mihai
if he could help me and he checked my room connection and the lobby computer
but nothing worked. On his own he found out that only certain rooms had
a working access to the Internet. He got the list and cross checked it
with our rooms and discovered that only Christine Creosteanu had Internet
access. She became our ISP for the next two days and had her room invaded
by laptop toting people from morning to night. She was a real champ about
*** Saturday, 14 Dec 2002 ***
Mihaela from Professional Realty showed me an apartment on the corner
of Regina Elizabeta and Victoria. It had three red leather chairs and
matching red finishing in the "American" kitchen but was otherwise
OK, so I took it.
Park manages to be lovely in Winter.
I walked to and through Cismisiu Park which is across from City Hall.
I admired its large-trunked trees, the skaters on the pond ice, the bridge
over middle. The wandering paths passed fountains and vine-covered tree.
Afterwards I walked over to the Pizza Hut on Regina Elizabeta and Victoria
and had my favorite: pepperoni with extra pepperoni and extra, extra pepperoni.
Then I walked down Carol I. As I was on the edge of Piatza University,
a middle aged guy came up to me and asked where Strada Victoria was, as
I was telling him, two more guys show up and flash some ID and said they
were police. I raise my hands emphatically and said "NO! You are
just crooks. Get away from me or I will call the real police!" and
walked on without looking back. They did not follow.
I decided to have dinner at the Belle Epoque and ordered steak in a green
pepper sauce. It was OK but not nearly as good as the meal served under
the same name by Da Vinci which is now a shadow of its former self and
doesn't even have that item any more. When I asked for the check, she
brought me a detailed register-generated slip and said that she had "forgotten"
to put my second beer on it so I owed 35,000 lei more than the total on
the slip. I was flummoxed because I realized she was probably cheating
the company and making me complicit into the bargain. I paid what she
asked and left without giving her a tip. Later I realized that I should
have apologetically told her that I needed a correct receipt for reimbursement
and asked her to go back to the register and print out an accurate copy.
I won't be caught napping on this again.