News for December 2003

Turnu M?gurele

I just got home (to Oradea) after a rather difficult journey. We left on Saturday evening on an overnight train to Bucharest, the capital. The trip was ~12 hours. Then, we boarded another train to Turnu M?gurele and arrived there at 12 pm on Sunday. What followed there was about 6-7 hours of discussions and negotiations with a company there, with my one ear glued to the phone (with my father) and the other attuned to Constantin’s voice translating Romanian for me. That was some tough stuff and really opened my eyes about how difficult international business can be. It was at that same factory that I ended up ending the life of my folks’ digital camera by dropping it on the ground. Oh well.

That night, we stayed at a hotel (read about what took place there), and woke up at 4 am the following morning (monday) to catch the train to head home. I was standing in the hotel room with the window open, and looking out over the countryside surrounding Turnu M?gurele, I could hear the most fascinting sound: a cacophonous din created by thousands of stray dogs yelping and howling and roosters crowing, greeting the encroaching dawn.

We boarded our train at 5 am, arrived in Bucharest at 8 am. Our connecting train was at 12:30 pm, so we decided to check out Bucharest on foot. We hopped the subway and walked around a bit, which got tiring because we were lugging around our bags. Nevertheless, it was interesting. One of the things that this visit has done is it’s made me re-evaluate my opinion of Romanian Communism. It’s evident that the system is fatally flawed, and you can see it in some of the buildings that Nicolae Ceausescu built during his dictatorship. He built a huge, magnificent complex, and let his people go wanting. It seems there is greed and corruption everywhere one goes. But the Romanians are a resilient and resourceful people – they are immensely creative and ingenious – out of necessity. Now, the country is caught in the flux between modernity and the traditonal, the agricultural and the industrial. It’s a trip, because you can see it before your eyes in public – the old grandparents, wearing their sarves and their lambwool hats, and the youngsters, with their skin tight jeans (ay mamita!), Italian shoes, and cell phones. In spite of appearances, the majority of buildings here are huge concrete apartment blocks that date back to Communist times. They are ugly as hell. I did see a most fascinating building (more: 1|2|3) in Bucharest, downtown. It was a juxtaposition of the old-style architecture (pillars, arches, etc), with a modern, glass faced building. The glass was simply perched on top of this old relic. It totally took me by surprise, and I really liked the way it looked. I regret I couldn’t take a pic as the camera was dead.

Back to the trip. We caught the 12:30 train to Oradea, and at 1 am Monday morning were at Constantin’s house. And that’s it.

Response to my dreads has been full and varied. The best response by far was this 5 or 6 year old kid on the streets of Bucharest, who looked at me and smiled and said, “How nice you look!” Most people kind of look, and then look away when they see I’ve noticed them, and then look again when I’m not looking. Everywhere I go. It’s a good thing I brought the hats, I think. I’ve never gone into the companies without a hat, and I’ve had no problems. People are pretty nice to me. When I arrived at the airport in Budapest, Hungary, the customs officer saw my dreads and instantly pulled me aside to search my bag for pot. I told him afterwards that I haven’t smoked pot in 10 years, and he said “no marijuana, no problem“. On my return trip I think I will wear a hat.

Posted: December 1st, 2003
Categories: blog, culture, travel
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 1 Comment.