Saturday, April 26, 2008

I hate being a responsible adult!
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

Tomorrow is Easter in Romania and I don't have any plans to celebrate with anyone, but I was walking through the piata yesterday and everyone everywhere was selling rabbits. Live rabbits!
Little rabbits by the boxfull, big rabbits - three times the size of my cat, white rabbits, brown rabbits, gray rabbits, dirty rabbits, cute rabbits, rabbits in plastic bags (still alive).

Now I strongly suspect theser rabbits, not being sold as pets, but every time someone called out to me in Romanian, "Domnishwara, Buy a rabbit for Easter!" I was tempted.

The rabbit could live in carboard box in my apartment. I could buy fresh sawdust for it at the pet store. It could eat the vegetable scraps from my cooking - or I could just go outside and pull up some fresh grass for it like everyone else is doing.

Bella and the rabbit could be friends and play together - because basically she's got nothing on a rabbit of decent size. She could be fierce to one of the little baby rabbits, maybe but otherwise I'm not worried. Besides, I'd be there to protect little Pipkin or Fiver.

I don't want to take a home to the USA. I just want a rabbit. Now. To play with for a while and after a couple of months I could take it to the top of the hill and release it into the wild (if I thought it could survive in the wild) and spare it being dinner.

I've never before been in a situation where getting a rabbit could be so easy. And you have to understand that I've wanted a rabbit all my very own for my whole life!!

But I know none of this would work out. None of it is a good idea. It's not good for me, for Bella, or for the rabbit. So I'm not getting a rabbit. And I hate being a responsible adult.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring Fever
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

I am still not feeling 100%, I'm sad to report. My sore throat has persisted for what is now a week and three days. I've tried everything. I have Dr. recommended sore throat lozenges, Cold Remedy Tea, Magic Potion - that concoction of ginger, cinnamon and clove that I brewed up on Andy and co.'s stove in New York. I'm gargling salt water. I'm taking ibuprofen. I'm drinking Tuica.

In less than two weeks I've consumed nearly all of a 1,000 gram jar of honey in various mugs of piping hot beverage and honey is a natural antibiotic.

All this going back and forth between I-feel-better-because-I'm-up-and-about-and-probably-also-because-of-the-drugs and the waking up in the middle of the night with a throat so sore pain is radiating up to my ears and I don't even have to swallow for it to hurt is wearing me out. I must admit I have shut off the alarm several times this week and slept in later that I wanted to. I have been napping on the couch in the afternoons. I have engaged my cat in a lazy-off and I am winning.

We were even when we both fell asleep on the couch watching The Shawshank Redemption the other day but when I discovered I could watch Too Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar in 11 parts on YouTube and pulled the computer up so close to my face I could open each successive window by rubbing my eyelashes on the touch pad while drool pooled on the keyboard - I pulled ahead.

It's not that while feeling like crap-ola I'm ignoring my work as a volunteer. I can still send plenty of emails from right here - mug of tea in my hand - and right now sending emails is pretty much my job.

The other half of this post, however is about how my cat needs to get a job. She needs to do something because the green on the trees and the chirping birds outside the window is calling to her and she is whining constantly to go outside.

But it can't be helped. I can't let her on the ledge outside the kitchen window anymore. And not because a neighbor told me I can never open my kitchen window because she has her kitchen window open every day and if I do my cat will go out, cross the ledge go in through her kitchen window and eat her cheese (which she had done except for the cheese-eating part). But because once I let her out on the ledge and she crawled down a drainage pipe and was frolicking in the grass yard in front of our bloc and crossing the alley before I caught her.

I can't let her out on the balcony unsupervised because she could jump into the nearby tree, slide down it and be off and away on the ground.

I can't open the window in my room because she could push the mosquito-net held in with thumb tacks out of the window frame and be on the balcony (see above.)

Now, your cat getting outside might not seem like such a huge ordeal but Outside she is in Danger of being eaten by Stray Dogs, Hit By Cars, Attacked by other Wild Cats, trampled by Angry Horses, Tortured by School Children or perhaps just getting Lost and unable to find her way home.

You may think I'm exaggerating but I hear the alley cats screaming in pain through the window at night. It disturbs me that Bella has never given any indication of recognizing the cries of her fellow species.

I understand she's a cat and has an animal's desire to explore nature and breathe fresh air. There's no way I can get this cat to forget there is an Outside and accept being an Indoor cat because she was born outside and spent the first 6 weeks of her life there. And her babysitters thankfully have a too-high-to-jump-off-of balcony where she can go in and out as she pleases. So its no wonder she's not happy to be home.

I know she she wants to climb trees and chase pigeons but it's too much of a risk. Too many bad things could happen to her and frankly I don't want to lose her and have to go back to living alone in this apartment. The thought of it is too depressing. Maybe that's selfish and over protective but its the way it is.

So now we've got some problem solving to do. Last summer I hardly ever had the windows closed. And now Bella is crying and moaning when the weather isn't even nice. The sky is gray and it's rained all but one day this week. So for now I'm considering getting her a collar and one of those free-range leashes. We'll see.

Something tells me we have a long season ahead of us.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Am I sick or just lazy?
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

I usually get sick about once a year. In 2007 I used up my sickness before I even came to Romania on a cold I got in New York while visiting for new year's. After that the worst health I experienced in Romanian was two separate days of flu-like symptoms and painfully swollen lymph nodes. Not bad for moving to another country.

It makes sense that sickness would immediately follow my four-week intense vacation. Too many days of waking up at 6am and going to bed after midnight. Getting caught in the rain and snow with no garlic soup to boost the immune system. My body was quite sore and stiff from carrying all that baggage around until I treated myself with yoga and then had to repair the total soreness caused by yoga with a massage.

Right now I have a sore throat. I've had it since Monday and none of my usual natural rememdies are helping it go away. I'm drinking fluids, water, tea and now "magic potion" since I spent the money on fresh ginger. I have doctor reccommended throat drops. The gargaling salt water isn't helping at all.

I can't bare the thought of eating anything cold so all my nice firm tomatoes I bought for greek salad have gone soft in the refrigerator. I also can't muster the energy to cook anything hot like mashed potatoes so it's been bananna and peanutter sandwhiches. (thank goodness mom brought me a 4 pound jar of peanut butter!)

It's more than just a sore throat. I can't tell if I have a fever becasue somewhere in this apartment I lost my thermometer. Sometimes I feel hot and cold at the same time. Wednesday I felt energy returning, but Thursday I slept on the couch for part of the afternoon.

Yesterday I called my French friends who volunteer in Deva just to tell them I'm back in town and maybe we'll to to a movie sometime, only to find out they were having a party Friday night. I knew I should go. One of the reasons I called them was because I've been hanging out alone in my apartment with my cat all week. But they live an hour's walk away. I called them back and said no, thanks. I'm too sick to go out tonight. After all, I didn't go to my office Friday because my throat hurt so bad in the morning I really shouldn't go to a party and walk home alone after dark. Plus it looked like it was going to rain.

But I will get out the apartment and see a movie today. It looks like it's going to be a nice day - so maybe I'll get a coffee and sit outside and write a letter or two. My throat is feeling a little better, so maybe I just needed one more night to knit on the couch and be lonely in my apartment.

But then again I slept for 12 hours so maybe I really am sick.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Month of Travel by Bullet Points, continued
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Wait, there's more

Part II: Romania
March 31st, Timişoara

  • Friend in town: Cameron, a volunteer I met 1 time for 3 minutes who said we can keep our bags at his house
  • Arrive in Timişoara at 7:30ish a.m after switching trains at 4:30 in the morning in Arad. It was not immediately apparent to me we would have to switch trains.
  • Relived European Daylight Savings again by jumping ahead another hour in the time difference between Romania and Hungary which no one will tell you about.
  • Miraculously I got all of our luggage aboard the second train by myself while mom was in the bathroom - thinking the train was about to pull out of the station. Memorable quotes: Mom -How did you get all the bags on the train? Me- I don't know.
  • Walk to a coffee shop that is open for coffee and pastry, then cross the street with baggage and have coffee in another coffee shop this one with a bathroom. It is now time so that if we get a taxi now it will be a decent hour by the time we show up at Cameron's
  • After taxi gets lost, then finds the apartment we haul baggage upstairs with Cameron's help while taxi driver continues to argue with a lady in front of the building who said she didn't know the name of the street she apparently lives on.
  • Scenic walk at a brisk pace gives us the highlights and historical landmarks of Timişoara ending at Cameron's school
  • Limp around the park
  • Briefly shop the sparse Easter market because Easter is not for another 3 weeks in Romania
  • Saw Piatia Victoriei where the Romanian Revolution began in 1989. Bullet riddled building is now a McDonald's. Guidebook said there was a plaque on McDonald's. Saw no plaque.
  • Went to the church across from the Opera at Piata Victoriei and lit candles for those who died in the revolution
  • Ate lunch at a cafeteria-style restaurant with Cameron. Mom's first experience with Romanian restaurants that don't have what's on the menu. Also, I order for her in Romanian.
  • Cameron walks us to beautiful Piatia Unirii although it's too early for the terasas to be out yet. We see the pillar built as a memorial to the Plague and also the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church which stand across from each other
  • Go to a coffee shop and order juices
  • Buy postcards. I have a World Wise Schools Partnership Program classroom I write to once a month and I'm determined to send them as many postcards from my touristic ventures in Romania as possible despite the fact that I've never heard from them and don't know what grade they are in.
  • Fret about how to find Cameron's apartment and retrieve baggage in time to meet him and give him back his keys. End up taking another taxi to his apartment, retrieving bags and having taxi take us to meet him at the McDonald's near his school
  • Get yelled at by Cameron's neighbor in Romanian - Why are you throwing that suitcase down the stairs!? -I'm sorry! Excuse me! -Where are you from? -I'm from the United States but we lived in Budapest and now we're moving to Transylvania! -You're moving to Transylvania? -Yes, we live in Transylvania now. I think moving is the only acceptable explanation for the amount of baggage we have.
  • Take yet another taxi from the meeting place with Cameron to the train station
  • Meet Dan a volunteer from my group at the train station and chat with him for approximately 6 minutes.
  • Board the 3:00 Rapid train for Deva. Yay! All goes well despite my temporarily misplacing the tickets while on the train. Made friends with two helpful Romanian young men eager to help us with the baggage but surprised by its mass and volume.
  • 6:45 arrive in my city of DEVA! take a taxi to my apartment
  • Duration of stay in Timişora: About 7 hours
  • What we ate: Strudels, I had the vegetarian non pizza Romanian restaurant standby: fried cheese and french fries, and a very cheesy Greek salad on the side. Forget what mom had beside cabbage slaw. In Deva I prepared Mamaliga cu branza, the Romanian national dish - which is pollenta with cheese and fried eggs. Although we didn't eat until like 10:00 at night. It's a good thing mamaliga doesn't require much chewing because I was almost too tired to swallow and chewing was right out.

April 1 -2 Deva

  • Mom slept for 13 hours
  • Have coffee at best café in Deva, Café Amigo, while writing out postcards
  • Repack baggage for the rest of the week - much smaller now.
  • Visit the local piata and look at the flowers, fruits and vegetables for sale
  • Walking tour of Deva - this is where I pay my electric bill, this is the vet's office. Walking tour includes paying the bills
  • Visit my 2nd host mother in Romania. Watch and episode of Medium with her on TV in english with Romanian subtitles and have a long chat in Romanian. Mom intelge nimic.
  • After visiting with my gazada I take mom to Presto for desert.
  • Visited my office and met the ladies from Fundatie Mara, presented them with Austrian chocolate and gave them the update on the trip so far but had to breeze through to catch the train to Sibiu
  • Duration of our stay in Deva: 2 nights and 1 day
  • What we ate: Strudels, and papanasi, a desert which is a fried donut filled with apricot jam and drizzled with sour cream and berry sauce.

April 2-3 Sibiu

  • Friend in town: Dan, an American who lives in Sibiu who is not a Peace Corps volunteer. Had lunch with him at an Italian place, chat him up about life, Romania, girls who've broken our hearts...just kidding
  • Checked into a nice Pension
  • Somehow get back to the old city center and climb the famous bell tower which seems to go upward infinitely but is a great place to take pictures of the beatiful city despite the fact that it was rainy and cloudy
  • Looked at the old church
  • Went out for coffee
  • Walked back to the pension looking for a restaurant - found a church and asked a passing couple in Romanian where we could find a restaurant in the area. They responded - Do you speak German? -No. (Continuing in Romanian) Go back the way you came across the intersection with the roundabout to a hotel on the other side of the stadium
  • Have a nice dinner at the hotel with the waiter who tries to impress us with his english
  • What we ate: Fried cauliflower which I've been craving since Christmas, Romanian dumpling soup and rosemary potatoes. Mom had the same but with Chicken Kiev instead of cauliflower. We ate a lot of bread. This marks the first chicken for mom in a long time.
  • Duration of our stay in Sibiu: 1 night

April 3, Cluj

  • Friend in town: Iulia, a Romanian college student studying American Literature
  • Travel to Cluj by bus. Bus arrives half an hour early so we get off at some random place not knowing where the bus station is. Luckily I recognize the National Theatre and we are a short walk to the center of town and then our hostel
  • Check in to hostel
  • Stop at University bookstore famed for large selection of books in English
  • Walk to Marty's a restaurant and bar I know from the only other time I've been to Cluj
  • Find the Romanian Folk Art Gallery, a store which preserves and educates about the authentic and traditional crafts. Mom breaks a dish there. We both buy a bunch of stuff - I buy a surpriza for someone....
  • Meet up with Iulia and Micah, who came to Cluj just for the evening to hang out with us, have a beer
  • Hike to the Cluj botanical gardens even though it's an hour before closing
  • Mom has the typically Peace Corps experience of Where the hell is the bathroom?
  • Pop into St Michael's church in time to catch the end of a concert going on there
  • Eat traditional Romanian cabbage dinner at a little known restaurant I don't know the name of, but Iulia referred to it as the Cabbage Shop - though that's the name of it.
  • Walked to the Romanian Orthodox church and insisted mom take pictures of it as well as the Catholic church
  • Visited another bar in Cluj, Micah and I catch up on business
  • Next morning: continue shopping for a book about Romania in english for mom. Don't find it. Take more money out of an ATM. I freak out about time and take a taxi to the bus station so we don't miss our bus. Get to the station in time but the bus is sold out so we have to wait for 1 hour
  • What we ate: Salads, at Marty's - not very Romanian. Sort of expensive strudels and coffee at a bare bones café right next to Breakfast and Coffee a very swanky looking café with a GAP inside of it, Sarmale - traditional cabbage rolls served without me for me because it's Lent - first time I've ever had it at a restaurant. Mom has Varza La Cluj - a kind of Lasagna with cabbage instead of noodles and stewed tomatoes instead of red sauce, and pork. Also wicked awesome baked potatoes with cheese and cream. And gogosi - Romanian donuts which are like a chocolate, fruit or cheese filled elephant ear at Gogosa Infuriata (the angry donut - a chain)
  • Duration of our stay in Cluj: 1 day and 1 night

April 4-6 Baia Mare

  • Friend in town: Todd, volunteer in my group who was busy and we didn't originally plan on spending so many days in Baia Mare but he was very helpful in finding us a pension with an all purple room
  • Slept hardily on the three hour bus ride, my mom tells me I missed beautiful scenery but I may be back in Mara Mures county sometime...
  • Walked around to Piatia Revolutiei, did a little second hand shopping during a spontaneous power failure
  • Walked through the large park. Saw a guy that was at least 7 feet tall. Todd tells us he's an American who plays basket ball in Baia Mare
  • Ate at a very slow restaurant in Piatai Liberatti
  • Photographed churches around St. Stephen's tower
  • Walked through the piata, by which I mean the one where they sell vegetables
  • Visited the Village Museum with old buildings from around the Mara Mures region preserved on display including the wooden church from 1630 which we didn't get to see right away because it was Sunday and services were going on inside but it was full so people were standing around outside following the service
  • Visited the Ethnographic Museum which typically displays traditional folk art and crafts from the rural area surrounding Baia Mare but is now under new management and temporarily closed except for a visiting exhibit of wax figures of celebrities ranging from Christ to Osama bin Laden and Bill Gates. We were planning on seeing the ethnographic museum for its typical offerings but were particularly encouraged to go to the Special Exhibit by the proprietor of the Village Museum as we didn't have correct change to pay our entrance to the Village Museum until we saw the Wax Exhibit first.
  • Bought a coffee and an apple from McDonald's so we could use the bathroom then realized their bathroom wasn't actually locked
  • Visited the unique Baia Mare art museum with its particularly interesting textile exhibit and also paintings of the city of Baia Mare during every season
  • Got on the train to Deva at 5:00 - arrived in Deva at 1:30a.m. with a two hour Layover in Dej. Hiked to a truck stop where I ate french fries and mom tried Mici - little sausages - for the first time.
  • What we ate: Omelets at our piata with french fries in them - what great idea! I had mamaliga with sour cream and cheese, mom had a salad made mostly out of ham, at a Medieval themed Romanian restaurant she had a kepbob and fries while I had onion soup and natural potatoes and fried cheese - thank goodness I didn't also order the corn! Beer, and a desert I can remember the name of that was like a plum paste with sand in it.
  • Duration of our stay in Baia Mare: 3 days, two nights

April 5, Sighet - Day Trip -

  • Took a bus to Sighet for the day Saturday, worried about getting the last bus back to Baia Mare at the end of the day
  • Toured the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and the Resistance which is in a former prison from the Communist period. A very unique museum which offers a lot of resources in english, but it is a lot of reading. I'm told its the closest thing Romania has to a Museum of Communism at the moment.
  • Toured the Sighet Ethnographic museum where the masks for the Winter Festival Dec.27th our stored when it's not festival time. Also an impressive display of traditional weaving and embroidery done on leather
  • Photographed a Romanian Holocaust Memorial - a rare display
  • Debated visiting Elie Weisel's childhood house, Although it was supposed to be closed according to guidebook, the woman at the museum told us it was open and wouldn't sell us the two page english booklet about it when we could just go there.
  • Instead we hiked to the River Izei which is the northern boarder between Romania and Ukraine
  • Bought way too many snacks for the bus on the way back to Baia Mare - no time to eat in Sighet!

April 7-8 Deva

  • Walked through the old city center where the prettier buildings are like the Mayor's office and the post office, visited the large park
  • Had breakfast at the place I've been told has the best "pancakes" in town - really they're crepes
  • Had dinner at the insanely popular traditional Romanian food restaurant in town that's in a converted garage and has only 4 tables
  • Took the maxi taxi to the nearby town of Hunedoara and photographed their castle even though they wouldn't let us in the castle because it's closed
  • Had a beer at a bar that appeared next to the castle since I was last there in December
  • Went back to café Amigo for coffee and wrote out postcards again. Brought our own strudel in again only this time it was from the good strudel place that was closed the last time.
  • Searched out some Hunedoara postcards
  • Went Romania souvenier shopping at the grocery store
  • Repacked all the baggage that was going home to the USA
  • Climbed up to the Deva Citadel, built in 1269. Didn't even die on the hike up, and took the telecabina down
  • Ate a desert and coffee at the good desert place at the bottom of the hill
  • Immediately left the desert place and walked to the sandwich place and ate lunch because mom wanted a sandwich
  • Hurried to get the train to the village of Baru Mare because I'm always nervous we're going to miss the train. had time to buy drinks before getting on the train. Managed to wrestle all the baggage on to the Personel train. Unfortnately was trapped on the hot sunny side of the train.
  • What we ate in Deva: Mamaliga at La Biatul for me, Pork Cutlet with French fries for mom, At the Sandwich place: chicken wings with sauce and cabbage slaw and french fries and lipie (flat bread so you can make you own sandwiches, but mom for some reason doesn't like sandwiches with cabbage and french fries) a personal pizza for me. Mom had a cheese and apple crepe at the pancake place, I had a spinach and mushroom crepe which would have been great if it wasn't drowned in garlic mayo. I had a desert that was like rasberry fluff on a pie crust, and mom had some kind of pie cookie thing that are usually purchased by the kilo because the woman kind of freaked out when I ordered 1. Coffees. Strudel.
  • Duration of stay in Deva this time: 1 night and almost 2 days, leaving on Tuesday at 3:40

April 8-10 Baru Mare

  • Friends in town: Dru, another volunteer in my group and her roommate Sara. Volunteers in closest proximity to me and the babysitters of my cat
  • Jumped off the personel train at the Halta - where the train stops when there's no train station at the little villages, and it doesn't stop long - and dragged the baggage down the rocky hill with the dirt road. Enlisted the help of the neighbor to carry the baggae up the three flights of stairs to the apartment.
  • Visited my precious kitten, Bella, who'd been with Dru and Sara since March 15th
  • Hiked to the hotel with Sara's counterpart Miss Anna a teacher at the school
  • Patronized both of Baru's two restaruants the hotel, and the cafe which serves mici and fries
  • Memorable quotes: Mom- Do they have something normal like spaghetti? I want spaghetti. And I want a sandwhich. I want a spaghetti sandwich. Also: Mom- I need air! Me- You can't have any air, it's Romania. There's no air on trains.
  • Visited both Casas (orphanages) House of Hope, and House of Joy where Dru works
  • Visited Sara's school and did a day of activities (games) with the 5a and 8a classes (the higher classes of 5th and 8th graders)
  • Slept on the floor - totally Peace Corps though my cat slept on my mom
  • Took a nature hike to the hill but not all the way up
  • Hiked toward the Strei valley in the dark. Met a very accomodating woman shepard who wanted to do everything possible to help us get a good picture of the sheep when mom showed in a in interest in photographing them
  • Encountered a lot of people in the village who wanted to know who we were, where we were going and why
  • Mom napped while I went to adult excercise class - but I didn't try to hard
  • Dragged luggage back up the rocky hill on the dirt road and wrestled it on to the Personel train. This took 3 of us.
  • What we ate: Mici. Fries. Mom tried ciorba de burta (tripe soup - insanely popular Romanian dish), I had sarmale de post (for Lent) again and bread, and bean ciorba. Don't remember what else...
  • Duration of stay in Baru Mare: 2 and 3/4 days

April 10 Petrosani

  • Friend in town: Karla, a very busy volunteer in my group who has 3 organizations. I was hoping we'd get to do more in Petrosani like job-shadow Karla, but because she was busy with donors and we were tired we decided not to come to Petrosani until 6:30pm
  • Mom saw the Petrosani bridge over the train tracks and refused to try to get the baggage up the stairs so we got a taxi to Karla's
  • Taxi driver didn't understand Karla's address so he asked me to call her and put her on the phone
  • Went out for dinner and desert at Bella's in Petrosani
  • Hung out with Karla in her Peace Corps famous apartment for 1 person. It's famous because it's little more than 1 room and a married couple of Peace Corps volunteers once lived there for two years.
  • Demonstrated that volunteers can talk about anything openly no matter how disgusting...
  • Got on the midnight train first class to Bucuresti
  • What we ate: ice cream, pizza with anchovies, four cheese pizza and cake. At some point on the trip my mom started drinking Coke which I'd never known her to do before. it was always strictly Pepsi...
  • Duration of stay in Petrosani: Sadly only 6 hours

April 11 Bucuresti, Romania's Capital. Home to 4 million people and 2.5 million registered cars

  • Friends in town: Carol from my group is in Bucuresti at the moment, and Silvana a friend from another group - as well as all the Peace Corps staff at the office.
  • It's not that I slept on the overnight train to Bucuresti, it's more like I just lost time
  • Bought a ridiculously expensive muffin at the McDonald's at the train station so we could use the bathroom because this bathroom is locked and where else are you going to find muffin in Romania?
  • Wrestled all the freaking luggage throught the Bucuresti metro system to Flowers B&B then checked in to the Peace Corps office for coffee and couch
  • Chatted briefly with Ken Goodson, Peace Corps Romania Country director - also known as "everybody's boss" after arriving sweaty and tired and some would crabby at PC office around 8 a.m.
  • Mom gets some well-deserved sleep on the couch in the Volunteer lounge while I go on a two hour walk to pick up an order of postcards placed by the GAD committee. This is my BL leave for the day
  • But I shouldn't have race-walked for two hours worrying we wouldn't have time to be tourists in Bucuresti because after that walking experience I couldn't walk right for about two days
  • Went back to the B&B to check in where the luggage was carried upstairs to the second floor by two adult men under duress, although one sang "Hi Ho" from Disney's Snow White while doing so
  • Had lunch at the nice place I discovered close to the PC office which is not too expensive for Bucuresti
  • Bought mom her book about Romania in english on my way back from my walk
  • Went to the Museum of the Romanian pesant and left after about 45 minutes for my dentist appointment - made arrangements to meet mom in the park after the museum closed
  • Took the metro then walked to my dentist appointment, had teeth cleaned while I sat in a chair and I'm sure fell asleep a few times for seconds at a time
  • Met back up with mom and took metro to Piata Unirii to look for the People's Palace - 2nd largest building used for administrative purposes in the world. Built by Ceausescu - well, he didn't build it personally
  • Mememorable quotes: Mom-Oh there it is. Do we have to go up to it? Me- Yes, we have to go up and take a picture. How else are you going to know you've been to Bucuresti?
  • Went back to the little restaraunt close to the Peace Corps office and to our Bed and Breakfast for dinner
  • Made it back to the B&B in time to watch Brokeback Mountain on Romanian TV but once I smelled myself, decided it was more important to shower
  • Packed mom's suitcase and carried it down the stairs with the help of B&B staff the night before so that we wouldn't have to drag it down the steps at 4:45 am.
  • What we ate: baked vegetables with garlic and oil, bread, tomatoe soup, creamy vegetable rice, baked potatoe with cheese and sour cream, mom had a salad and chicken schnitzel? And imported German beer.

April 12 Homeward bound

  • 5am taxi to the airport
  • Mom's luggage officially weighs 44 kilos
  • I have to say goodbye and grab a taxi at 5:45 so I can get my 6:30 am train back to Deva
  • Arrive in Deva around 2:15 in the afternoon after drooling a big pool of drool on my sleeve and sleeping with my mouth open on the train
  • Mom travels on three planes and a bus for 24 hours arriving at home at 11:30 pm local time - 5am sunday Romania time.

You made it this far! You can see my pictures at www.picasaweb/

but you might want to wait til later because I'll send a personal email invitation when I've finished captioning the pictures.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Month of Travel by Bullet Points
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

I'll try to keep it to the highlights, but it's in the details where the fun is.

Part I: Europe
March 17, Munich Germany (The First time)

  • Flew from Bucharest, and got myself to the hotel
  • Met up with my mom who looked drastically different (at first) after a year
  • Packed my backpack with all the summer clothes she brought me (5 pants plus 13 shirts
  • Duration of our stay: one night
  • What we ate: I ate coffee and beer and some noodle stir fry my mom brought me from the city. The breakfast at the hotel was indescribable but I'll go out there and try absa-fan-tac-ular as shot at it.

March 18, Nurnbuerg Germany

  • Shopped the Easter market, bought postcards, gingerbread and spices
  • Climbed the hill to the castle
  • Duration of our stay: a couple of hours
  • What we ate: A pretzel as big as my head, a cup of tea/coffee
  • Life Goals accomplished: Have now been somewhere in Germany that's not Munich or Dachau

March 18-19, Prague Czech Republic (the First time)

  • Got lost trying to find old town center, drank wine in a basement club advertising jazz but hosting a folk music band instead
  • Memorable Quotes from our cab driver: The St. Charles bridge was built in the 14th century. In the 14th century, your country was only Indians and bison.
  • Toured the city of Prague
  • Toured Prague Castle and the accompanying Cathedral where we saw the final resting place of St. John Nepomunk (?) after which my grandma's church and my mom's elementary school was named.
  • Visited Easter market
  • Took pictures of the city square from the clock tower
  • Bought the book The Good Soldier from Kafka’s bookstore
  • Enjoyed an evening performance of traditional Czech dancing and singing with the Moravian bagpipes, a Slovakian shepard’s whistle the size of an Esuzaphone, and the Dulcimer table - in addition to the violin.
  • Tried to engage other tour-goers in teaching our tour guide a third song in english, Take Me Out to the Ball Game - but no takers
  • Walked across a significant bridge while snow and hail blew in my face - photographed St. Charles bridge obscured by show and hail
  • Memorable quotes from Mihaela, Czech tour guide: In front of tower is ditch with water, Around the corner is a statue of a naked boy so in 25 minutes I meet you at Naked Boy. Over there is Museum of Communism but I can't tell you if its any good because I live 26 years with communism and I've had quite enough.
  • Made plans for second trip to Prague
  • Duration of stay: 2 nights

March 20 - 21 Vienna Austria

  • Toured the city in the afternoon to snow accompanied by thunder
  • Mom bought for me an emergency scarf to cover my head which was later lost in Prague (I think in the bathroom of the Museum of Communism)
  • Attended a concert of classical music including some ballet and some opera singing in some beautiful Palace featuring the "Emperor's staircase" and drank a glass of champange
  • Heard a lot about the Hapsburgs, viewed their "winter palace" from the outside
  • Had coffee in a Viennese café (this is the thing to do since Vienna has over 300 coffee shops
  • Watched the horses of the famous Spanish Riding School cross the street for morning exercise, but didn’t attend morning exercise for €12
  • Emailed family about trip so far from an internet café with very expensive Schwepp’s bitter lemon but 1 hour of net time for €1 plus the cost of a drink
  • Duration of stay: 1 night
  • What we ate: Mom ate schnitzel twice. I ate Viennese Zacher Torte, a famous Austrian chocolate cake.

March 21-23 Budapest Hungary (the First time)

  • Walked around Pest trying to find a fancy restaurant, found a cheaper restaurant that didn’t require a reservation instead, discovered mom left her wallet at the hotel, prayed they’d accept my credit card in Hungary which they did but had no cash to pay for service or tip the musicians
  • Learned two words of Hungaraian which are Egészségedre! (cheers) and Köszönöm (thank you)
  • Chatted with our Budapest tour guide who was born in Romania and speaks 9 languages
  • Toured Budapest by bus and walking, but mostly by bus in the rain and saw the Hero’s Square
  • Had coffee in a café at the top of castle hill
  • Spent a cold rainy afternoon in Hungarian Baths heated by natural hot springs
  • Intended to go back and tip our waiter but instead spent the money at a wonderful outdoor market featuring the work of local artists and great food.
  • Bought gifts for friends, handmade soap, and a pretty shirt. Mom bought wreaths that smell exactly like the delicious hot wine at the market, and some linen placemats.
  • Learned that 1,000 Hungarian florintz is equal to two cups of coffee
  • What we ate: Hungarian goulash (mine with beans, picked the meat out), Shom-loss cake – don’t know how to spell it, but it’s fantastic, langos a kind of fried bread covered with oil, garlic and cheese, fried potatoes at the outdoor Art Market, Hot wine, mom had a kabob.
  • Duration of stay: Two nights

March 23rd Somewhere in the Austrian Alps

  • Visited the huge and beautiful Melk Abby
  • Photographed the Austrian countryside
  • Stayed the night at Pension Schwaighofen
  • Planned to get up early and walk around in the snow and look for deer, slept in and saw the deer anyway in the morning before the bus left.
  • Ate dinner with two ladies from the country Bahrain, and had a nice chat
  • Drank beer
  • Duration of stay: 1 night

March 24 Salzburg, Austria and Munich

  • Found a store selling handmade wooden crafts that I had been to four years ago in 2002, but they were closed
  • Walked around the main shopping street perusing Austrian goods including a Christmas store.
  • Considered buying a nutcracker but the wooden crafts store was closed.
  • Stood in front of Mozart’s birthplace
  • Took the funicular train up the mountain to the fortress
  • Photographed Salzburg covered in snow from the fortress
  • Breezed through the fortress museum – wishing we could have stayed longer
  • Stopped at a museum of marionette puppetry on the way to the bus – fascinated, bought a book and postcards
  • Duration of stay: 4 hours, about
  • What we ate: Had coffee and strudel at a café in a hotel, mom has a wurst and beer at the outdoor food market

March 24 Munich Germany (the second time)

  • Walked to the metro station
  • Accidentally took the metro to the airport
  • Got on the right metro line and went to the train station, bought our train tickets for Prague
    Walked to the Hoffbrauhaus, Remembered how to get there after was last there in 2002.
  • Ate dinner at the Hoffbrauhaus including each of us drinking 1.5 liters of beer.
  • Got back on the metro however our train going to the hotel had stopped running for some reason.
  • Ended up back at the airport after waiting around in the snow at the metro stop before the airport which was a parking lot with no taxi cabs.
  • Spent €30 on a taxi cab from the airport to the hotel.
  • Learned that Munich can somehow justify charging €8 for a ride on their metro!
  • Walked into the hotel at 1:30 am and requested a 6:00am wake up call
  • Memorable quotes: Mom: Ok, we'll take a Taxi? Das es goot? Laura: Das es damn goot!
  • What we ate: I ate spatzel for the first time, and I remember a pretzel. Other things I’m sure but I can’t remember them right now…
  • Duration of stay: 1 night

March 25 - 28 Prague Czech Republic (the Second time)

  • Took a cab to the metro station
  • Mom had to get more cash at an ATM after the taxi the night before
  • Took very slow metro to the train station
  • Arrived at the train station with 8 minutes until our train departed not knowing where to go
  • Boarded train with baggage with 0 minutes to spare
  • Learned through perception that the train was not going all the way to Prague although the railway worker refused to help us find someone to explain the situation in anything other than Czech or German
  • Got off train in Pilszen, waited for a new train which was going all the way to Prague
  • Arrived in Prague 1 hour and 45 minutes late from the expected time of arrival
  • Went to a bar with a sex shop in it and the internet to send a message to the people who we thought were going to meet us that we would wait in the train station until 8:30 and after that find our own accommodation and get in touch later
  • Went home with an old lady who ran a pension out of her apartment with a door like a vault.
  • Shared a room just the two of us as opposed to the hostel which had 1 room for 5 people and shared a bathroom with another person. Had free cups of tea. Used spare clothing as a towel
  • Read email the next morning and realized we’d arrived in Prague a day earlier than we told the relatives we would. Went back to train station to check luggage in lockers and went out to lunch.
  • Met the family (Steven and his cousin Michael) at the train station and checked into a hotel
  • Visited the church with the stature the Infant of Prague
  • Saw the famous John Lennon wall although Lennon’s portrait no longer there
  • Tasted famous Czech beers, Pilsner from Pilszen, Czech Republic and Budweiser, not related to American Budweiser.
  • Went to the National Museum in St. Wenceslas square
  • Toured the Jewish Quarter, museums and synagogues
  • Shopped in the Old Town center, bought a garnet ring to wear on my middle finger that one day will hopefully one day be an heirloom for my children
  • Realized the exchange rate to dollars was not quite what I thought it was
  • Fretted and remained confused about the exchange rate for the rest of the day
  • Bought gifts for friends at the Easter Market in Old Town square – mom bought Moravian painted eggs
  • Visited the Museum of Communism solo while mom and Michael went shopping for books
  • Missed going to the Czech ethnographic museum – will have to do that next time
  • What we ate: mom had stew just like her grandmother used to make. I had potatoes au gratin with broccoli in St. Wenceslas Square that replaced that baked potato in Belfast as The Best Potato I’ve Ever Eaten and Kuba which is baked barley with mushrooms and garlic – very tasty but if I eat a meal without potatoes in it I get agitated!
  • Duration of stay: three nights (surprise!)

March 28-29 Vlčnov Czech Republic

  • Took a bus to a town where we were greeted by Eva (Steven’s sister) and her father.
  • Learned that 30 years and 1 month earlier Eva’s father met my uncle Rick at the same bus station
  • Had a coffee and walked around this old town where the bus station was
  • Went to Eva’s mother and father’s house and chatted with the relatives
  • Learned the Eva's mother, Donna's grandfather is my grandmother's cousin
  • Met Eva’s son Jacob who is almost one?
  • Did shots of slivovitza – twice distilled plum brandy which sounds like palinka to me
  • Walked around the village in the morning, saw the little houses used as wine cellars
  • Stopped in a little shop and were gifted with souvenirs of Vlčnov
  • Visited and took pictures of the village church. My great-grandmother’s house is behind the church but it started to rain so we didn’t see it
  • Looked at old photographs and learned about the Ride of the Kings tradition in the village at the end of May – maybe I’ll be back next year!

March 29- 30 Budapest (the Second time)

  • Eva and her husband give us a ride to Budapest and help us get our baggage to the hostel and get us checked in
  • I can add Slovakia to the list of countries I’ve been to because we ate lunch there
  • We realized Europe’s largest synagogue is actually quite close to our hostel so we could take pictures of it without even coming back the next day
  • Did a dry run of locating the train station we would need the next night and bought our train tickets for Timisoara the next night
  • Walked the city of Pest, discovered where and when we had to be to buy our tickets to tour Parliament the next day, ate ill-fated dinner at the Italian restaurant
  • Were first in line to buy our tickets to tour parliament at 7:35 a.m. The doors open at 8 a.m.
  • Moved our baggage out of our room and checked out of the hostel
  • Toured the beautiful Hungarian Parliament building
  • Photographed the historical Hungarian crown, scepter and orb
  • Bought tickets for a boat ride on the Danube and in the meantime ate strudels at the fabulous Art market which was still going on – bought my apron and some fabulous postcards
  • Didn’t find the open-air market but I think we were close to it but I didn’t know how to get there
  • Took a boat ride tour of Buda and Pest from the Danube (the only way to see Budapest – is from a boat. You have to do it!)
  • Had a guided tour around on Margaret island in the Danube between the two cities, and had an ice cream
  • Walked across the Chain Bridge
  • Took the funicular train to the top of castle hill
  • Bought a lot of paprika
  • Thought we were out of money so we got more from an ATM, later mom found 200,000 florintz in her wallet
  • Photographed fisherman’s bastion and Matthias church at sunset
  • Went BACK to the art market one more time so I could support a cool woman artist who made this necklace, got there just before the market closed and I was glad I could support her work. Wish I had given the lady a hug or taken my picture with her. Sie la vie!
  • Found the restaurant recommended by our hostel at which we had a 10% discount
  • Duration of our stay: More than 24 hours, but we only slept 1 night at the hostel
  • What we ate: more langos with garlic and cheese, strudels, fried camembert cheese with fruit and rice, stuffed mushrooms with cheese and ham
  • Experienced European Daylight Savings and jumped ahead 1 hour when we got on the train
  • Collected our massive baggage and went to the train station for our 11:30pm overnight train to Timişoara, Romania