Monday, July 29, 2013

Blame it on the jet lag

A few weeks ago we had some friends for dinner and, as usual, I was rushing around like the nervous hostess that I am. I grabbed an opened bottle of red wine out of the fridge and half set it on the counter. The half that wasn't quite on the counter won, and it tipped over. It was one of those Nooooooooo moments as I watched it fall to the kitchen floor. It didn't break. It bounced. Another reason to love my funky blue vinyl floor.

Today's Nooooooooo moment didn't end as well. At my first stab back at housecleaning since vacation, the vase wobbled, then it bobbled, but it didn't bounce. Not even a little.

They don't call it hardwood for nothing.

On the topic of not bouncing back, I'm having some serious vacation withdrawals. As our friends continue there in a nasty heatwave, I can't get my mind back in gear here. I'm missing that little village and the "lessness" that is Romania. One way of simplifying our life would be by breaking everything, but a garage sale of the excess may be more productive. So, a self imposed ban on housework until my jet lag is gone for good. How long can I milk this?

Wishing I could send the Delta Breeze to Jesse, but these little memories will have to suffice.
  • You can’t feed polenta to a turtle.
  • Lord, curse my enemies with only one highlighter.
  • Hurry up, write your note, I’ve got a horse on my tail.
  • Rasuceni has a website? It doesn''t even have paved roads.
  • You could spend a whole day just visiting the watermelon people.
  • Why do we always assume it was the guy who stepped in the horse poop?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Romanian Ruminations

Travel is wonderful, traveling is exhausting. 

Who would have thought we needed 3 hours to just make our plane in Dublin? Three official passport checks, two take off the shoes security checks and the longest check-in line I've ever seen. Then a temporary shut down of all flights after we were in the plane. Chicago was terrific, we avoided the anticipated 8 hour layover by getting on an earlier flight. Another delay on the plane because some United employees were trying to fly free and there were not enough seats for them. Finally, a gorgeous descent into San Francisco - a pink shining sky on the white puffy clouds over the Sierras. Home to a happy dog and a clean house.

Now it's time to do the laundry, sort out the luggage and file away the memories. We are anxious to know how the rest of the trip will go for our Sacramento friends there now- Dennis, Julie, Jesse and Jeron. Jesse knows the ropes now and will be able to smooth out the way for his family. But we just read the forecast for next week, close to 100. Oh, I am feeling for them in that rental car and KH with no AC.

Green grass, shade, animal grazing, quaintly dilapidating house-
Why does it look so easy from where I sit now?

Romania was Romania and although parts of it seemed like other countries we have been to, it was a country unto itself.

Health and Safety

My feet are tan and tired, my legs have some lingering bug bites and I got more sun on my arms than I would have liked. I also gained weight, but that was not the fault of the food. I'm blaming it on the three Cs - cola, chocolate and Ciuc.

That's me, but without the skinny legs.

Sexy type? Not so much.

This was seriously good stuff after a hot day in the village. BevMo - please import.
The medical concerns we worried about never were an issue. After forgetting several times to brush my teeth with bottled water with no ill results, I just stopped being nervous of the tap water. Coming home with an unopened package of Immodium? Priceless.

The driving was another issue. I've driven in other countries and managed the pot holes and crazy drivers. But when there are pot holes and crazy drivers and passing trucks and dogs and trolleys and horse driven gypsy caravans and pedestrians with death wishes - that was a bit much for me. Ernst and Jesse did the driving, and I just tried not to scream too much from the back seat.

Part of the vast Roma community, always on the move.

The horror stories we heard of being surrounded by street urchins begging for money didn't happen either. I was all prepared with what to say in Romanian and had a mugger wallet to give away. The only thing we saw were people coming up to the cars in the intersections of Bucharest asking for money. We were asked a few times for money by people in the villages, usually by a father asking for donations for his hungry children. It was very hard to not say, Hmm, you seem to have a large belly on you and yet your children are hungry? What's up with that? There was one family we met that we did give food to, despite the father's girth. How can you say no to a little girl named Princess? I laid in bed that night during a big rain storm, hoping that little Princess was dry and safe. Romania can break your heart.

The Language

Cutting out the travel days on each side, we were only there for eleven days. It is amazing what only eleven days in a country did for my language skills. The learning curve had nowhere to go but up, and up it went. Unfortunately Bucharest is a city of fast talkers, the speed reminded me of those disclaimers at the end of radio announcement. But despite the rapid fire delivery, being forced to communicate, listen and read everything in Romanian did wonders for me. I'm sure I agreed to way too many things by nodding Da Da when I didn't understand, but my confidence improved. I did the best when I had no bail out option, when I went in a store all by myself and there was no English speaker to help me out.

Bulk frozen food, what a concept.

We had a conversation with a man in the village, and he kept saying Romania is all mixed up. Hey, I thought, that's the word my Moldovan friends back home use when they are telling me a recipe. Mix - I remembered the word for mix! Then in the Romanian version of Walmart they had these big bins of frozen veggies in bulk. There was a sign on them that I could read: Please don't mix up the vegetables from one bin to another. There's that mix word again. My brain is still there, there are language synapses still working. I am all set to use the word mix.

The Beauty

All wires lead to Romania?

In some countries, the beauty hits you immediately. The scenery, the gorgeous architecture, the historical places to tour. Where we were in southern Romania, you had to look for it. Mostly it was in the kind and generous people we met. Our hotel staff asked us after a week if Jesse was a relative of ours. No, just a friend. They were amazed and said they could see something different in us, that in Romania the only people you can trust are your family members. If that's the case, there were many people who went out of their way to be kind to us strangers.

Jump starting a car with no jumper cables, it can be done.
The Danube with Bulgaria in the distance.
Our one excursion to Georgiu. It photographed well.

Not an abandoned building, a working train station in Draganeste.

Horses as lawn mowers.

He wanted to show Ernst his pigeons and made sure we knew he never ate them, they were pets.

Ernst and Jesse trekking through a village.

The people can make up for a lot.
My Romanian has leap years of work ahead of it, our garden is crying out for some attention, there is Pioneer School the last two weeks in August and the bar exam proctoring next week. But right now I'm still trying to figure out how to get on track, get over my caffeine addiction and wake up in the night and know where I am.

Ceea ce se întâmplă la clubul Las Vegas, rămâne la clubul Las Vegas!

I want my own hotel staff, is it too much to ask?
Southern Romania. What more can I say?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Crazy clean with animal towels - it must be Bethel!

While there are lovely things to see in Romania farther up north, Bucharest is a city that is not super tourist friendly. So our time at Romania Bethel was a welcome respite from the grime and the "just shut your eyes, Jessica" traffic dangers. Here are a few highlights.

Ahh, a haven of cleanliness and trust.
Eat fast... healthy... so happy to see "Pippa" that my face almost falls off...
...enjoy some bird watching...

...see the bulldog...

...and the elephant...

...look at where we have and haven't been... some deaf friends waiting for a tour (they told me I looked younger than I am, they are my best buds)...

... and say La revedere to our wonderful hosts. They went above and beyond in making this trip incredibly fantastic and rewarding. We are so happy we went to Romania. The places we saw were not vacation worthy, but the people we met and the experiences were worth every effort. We will be back!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vegan eating in Romania

Free range is not a selling point here, it's just reality. The farm animals are everywhere - there are even shepherds and "cowherds" keeping watch over them in the fields. The chickens run around the villages, geese roam the streets and there are pastures where the goats and horses and pigs roam free - with no buffaloes to intimidate them.

Happy cows.

This rooster was good looking and he knew it.

The dirt here is rich and dark, and is ready to produce the food. The people here love tomatoes, it seems to be the national pastime to see how many plants can be crammed in their yards. Most days, we have been given the fruits and vegetables of their labor - plums and little apricots and the fruit that I can't remember the name of, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions. We came back one day with a ridiculously large amount which we gave to the kitchen of our hotel.

Tall tall towers of tomatoes.

Tomato and cucumber sandwiches, it's what's for lunch.

We have confidence in Hotel Confidence.

The staff here at our hotel seem to get a kick out of the vegan Americans. They are happy each night to let us know what the cook has prepared for us that meal. We just nod and say Da and some great tasting food comes our way.

Two members of our hotel staff. 

Usually what we miss when we are traveling in Europe is Mexican food. We just have to have some when we get off the plane. But this trip I am really craving green smoothies for breakfast. Fruit and spinach and Rice Dream. But please no tomatoes.
Rosemary potatoes and some sort of stew made with, you guessed it, tomatoes.

There is a vegan pizza under all those veggies.

What do you know, tomato sandwiches again for lunch!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Between China and Silver

Traditional Gifts for Anniversaries
Our hotel is near this Km marker. Grozav!

1st Paper
2nd Cotton
3rd Leather
4th Fruit, flowers
5th Wood
6th Sugar
7th Copper, wool
8th Bronze
9th Pottery
10th Tin
11th Steel
12th Silk, linen
13th Lace
14th Ivory
15th Crystal
20th China
25th Silver
30th Pearl
35th Coral
40th Ruby
45th Sapphire
50th Gold
55th Emerald
60th Diamond

That puts our 22nd between china and silver. Has it really been that long? Feels more like the pottery year, or maybe tin. Definitely nothing fancy.

This man offered us some eggs, and he didn't even know it was our anniversary.
If the horse knew, he wasn't saying.

We went shopping at Cora, the Romanian Walmart. These were a bit too conservative for me, because I'm...

Romania has me addicted to soda!
It's the only thing to get through a hot and dusty afternoon in the village. I will give it up, but not until Wednesday.

Much healthier eggplant and tomato salad.
We went out for a wonderful meal with a group from Spain and Ernst surprised me with...

...pretzel bracelets! They are all the rage here, and you can wash them down with a cold pop.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A fence post

Growing up in Carmichael, California we had no fences on either side of the house. My parents were from Chicago and the other neighbors were from Utah and they all said forget the fences and went with bushes at the property lines. There are lots of places in the US that do the very same thing, using just hedges to say this is yours and this is mine and I don't mind if you look over and see me grilling my kebabs.

Having come to terms with the fact that fences in Sacramento are not a passing fancy, I still prefer the unfenced front yard. Plant your shade trees, put in some nice flowers, paint your door a fun color, but please let's not go all Fort Knox, OK? But try telling that to an Eastern European. They love their fences and gates, it is a national treasure. The entire country of Romania is a gated community.

This is a very poor country and the houses and people we have seen are in fairly desperate straits. I have not felt comfortable photographing much of it. This is a quilt blog and I'm not from National Geographic. But I've had some opportunities to go through lots of gates. Falling down gates. Sagging gates. Gates being held up with chicken wire and a prayer. They lead into humble plots full of vegetable gardens and fruit trees, chickens and geese, pigs and dogs. And people doing their best to get by. 

Mending Wall

  by Robert Frost

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill...
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each...
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn't it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'  

He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'