*** Saturday, 17 May 2002
Mircea had offered me his Constanta apartment because he would be staying
in Bucharest for the weekend so I took the 7 AM train that arrived at
9:30. The train car was new and quite comfortable and it moved across
the Danube plain with speed. The morning clouds began to lift, it looked
like it would be a nice day.
The train was very new indeed; air conditioned with a thermostat and complete
with a volume controlled musak. It was clean and comfortable with individual
reading lights. The sliding compartment door had one big glass panel.
A view of the working port at Consanta.
Mircea's apartment was very nice in design and tastefully decorated and
in a good location near the old city. I walked around and visited the
museums for 5 hours. The day stayed cloudy, cool and windy. Without the
sun it didn't feel comfortable so I took the 4:30 InterCity back to Bucharest.
There is a bus from the train station in Constanta that goes to Mamia.
When the weather is kinder, I will check that out.
*** Sunday, 18 May 2003 ***
At last a really beautiful Spring day! The temperature is in the low 70s,
the breeze is light and fresh and the sky is blue, and the sun is warm.
Went to La Mamas for mititei.
*** Saturday, 24 May 2002 ***
Denis came buy to help me learn Romanian and he did. We worked at it for
3 hrs and then I suggested that we have lunch but he declined saying that
he got no pleasure from eating so he only ate to live. This from a waiter!
I took the Metrou to Piatza Victorie to get a hearty breakfast meal at
Silkes but it was still closed. I guess permanently so I walked to KFC
at Piatza Romana and had some spicy wings.
Then I took the 336 bus to the Gradina Botanica and walked around. It
is a delightful tree filled green get away from the city but it is poorly
*** Sunday, 25 May 2003 ***
The day started clear but it was overcast before noon. The air was almost
Lunch of mici at La Mama, the only restaurant in Bucharest I know of that
hires waitresses that don't speak English.
*** Monday, 26 May 2003 ***
I am really beginning to enjoy the idea of going to Kosovo on Friday.
I sent Ram an email announcing my visit and asking where the office is.
And of course there is "Anglish" training with my favorite student.
From a local newspaper: "District Attorney Cristian Vladascau (from
the Supreme Court of Justice) found to be driving a VW Passat (registered
in Romania) reported stolen in Germany."
*** Friday, 30 May 2003 ***
I am off to see Smile and his wife. I brought a nice pin for Kimeta.
At Ottopeni I saw what would have been the perfect gift for Tom if he
were alive: a clear crystal 6 inch tall molar with 3 roots. Inside you
can see some black glass that runs down each root like nerve fibers. At
100 € it was expensive but I still liked thinking about it.
As always the food on the fights was loathsome. On the Prishtina leg,
it consisted of a plastic bag containing some meat substitute in a sliced
bun with a green ooze running out the side. I felt like calling an EPA
hotline to report a pollution event.
Smile picked me up at the airport and, after reporting to his team leader,
took me to Prishtina. The city seemed a little cleaner than I remembered
it but just as dusty. Smile dropped me off at the Ministry of Economy
and Finance (the replacement for the Central Fiscal Authority) and I went
in to have a very pleasant reunion with Ramadan, Adaina, Lulzim, Kozetta,
and Arzen, the last two who I had hired.
They told me that the bank accounts were reconciled, that the audit was
so clean that there would be no management letter. I was filled with a
feeling of pride. Rarely have I seen my work carried on so well.
Smile and Kimeta's house was incomplete but they aren't paying rent anymore
which is a huge plus. They live in two of the eight rooms and do quite
well for themselves.
For lunch we had Chinese food at Golden Road but, although good, it was
not what I remembered.
We went to a bar in Lipian that night (Smile knew the owner) but the
music was so loud we sat outside. To a foreign ear it sounded all the
same but to Latifi, it was a mix of Greek and Albanian. We drove back
and had a coffee and Grand Marnier at the expensive Italian shopping center.
I was back at Smile and Kimeta's at 2 AM. I was exhausted but unable to
The Euro Inflation Story
Smile and Kimeta told me that after the Euro was introduced, prices seemed
to double (one Euro = 1.95 Deutch Marks). I had heard about "Euro
inflation" but this was amazing.
*** Saturday, 31 May 2002 ***
I got little sleep. Breakfast was on their tiny veranda and consisted
of burnt potato chips from Chachak in Serbia. Smile called everyone he
knew to tell them he was with "his father".
Smile and Kimeta stand in
front of their home.
The mild morning suggested a very pleasant day as it turned out to be.
Smile drove me around Prishtina and I saw no open burning and found that
parking on Mother Theresa street was restricted to parallel parking on
one side. The old gauntlet of cars parked on both sidewalks was gone!
I was impressed.
There was a new monument to Skenderberg (a great Albanian hero) just south
of the BanKos building and I found Prishtina to be noticeably cleaner
but not uniformly clean. I visited Germia and found no trash and no trash
cans and thus no burning trash cans.
Smile drove us to Prizrin via Shtime, where we stopped to have a coffee
with Smile's brother and I had the best cappuccino in years: real whipped
cream and a delightful drizzle of chocolate syrup on the top. They also
served three sugars although I used only two.
When in Prizrin I noticed a small number of women wearing Islamic scarves
to cover their hair. Smile told me that Arab governments were paying these
women 200€ a month to do this and had paid to build new mosques when
nearby ones were not nearly full and he pointed out one of the new mosques
near the airport.
I remember that Arab governments also built mosques in Chechnya and paid
poor people there to be observant Moslems. The clerics the Arabs sent
to the mosques preached a fanatical brand of Islam and two Chechen wars
were the result.
Smile says that Prizren was always more Moslem than Prishtina (I recall
Ram saying that you needed to speak Turkish to pick up girls there.)
Inter-city road condition have improved dramatically. From Prishtina to
Prizren the only bad road were in and just south of Shtime but even the
equipment and supplies visible from the road suggest that this pocket
will be eliminated shortly.
Smile and his former boss.
Once in Prizren we visited a shop whose owner once had another shop in
Prishtina and Smile had worked for him for 2 years as a waiter when that
was the best job a Kosovar could get - 12 hours a day.
The guy remembered Smile warmly and seemed pleased to have me in his shop.
We settled into chairs and he told Smile his problems which Smile knew
well enough from other trips: 2 wives who hated each other and kept him
in the middle, a son killed in front of him by Serb police, and his remaining
son leaving his wife and three daughters.
Smile told me we wouldn't eat there because they did not have chebop (which
I wanted) and I noticed a lot of dirt under a carpet. We went to a shop
near the old mosque and had some good chebop while we watched hundreds
of teenagers use the fountain in the middle of the square. While we ate,
four or more friends of Smile stopped at our table and I was introduced
each time and we shook hands.
After lunch we walked around the old city and Smile went to see another
friend of his. This time I stood in the sun with my shirt off and soaked
in the rays.
We walked back to the first shop and the surviving son came in and asked
if we wanted some beer and gave some money to the waiter to go and get
it. We went up to the small second floor patio to not let people see alcohol
Resisting an offer of yet another beer we finally set off for Prishtina
Because of the lack of sleep I was now exhausted so I wasn't happy when
Smile pulled off the road to introduce me to yet another friend. I thought
I was saved when his friend was not at home but he saw yet another friend
with a friend of his and we made the now inevitable trip to a cafe for
yet another beer and conversation.
Then one of the guys wanted Smile to see his workshop. I told Smile I
would stay in the car. Eventually we were in the car and my silence got
through to Smile that I was both pissed and exhausted.
Smile eventually calmed me down and we made up and I got some rest.