Wed Nov 07, 2001 | day 58
I am alive and well Romania!
Sorry for such a long delay, especially after an e-mail some people have told me was "scarier than my Halloween e-mail."
On Saturday I unexpectedly left Brasov and traveled by car to the major Romanian city of Iasi (pronounced "ee-yash"), thanks to a friend-of-a-friend who was traveling through Brasov. All day Friday, I spent my time in the back seat of a car watching the wonderful scenery pass by. Snow fell on the Carpathian Mountains as we drove though Azuga. Big colorful oak leaves swirled in the air in Spital. Between, Ploiesti (pronounced "poy-esht") and Ramnicu Sarat, the black crows contrast beautifully with the yellow cornfields. The rolling grassy hills of Barlad reminded me of those in Marin County, California. And the city of Iasi, just 10 miles from Moldova, is paved with culture and education. In fact, it would be the capitol of Romania if it wasn't located so close to the Russian border.
Driving in Romania was an adventure in its own right. Most of the roads are just one- or two-lanes but wide enough for cars to pass on the inside of slower vehicles while staying out of opposing traffic. The roads are well paved and clearly marked and I sometimes forgot I was in Romania - until we passed by a horse towing a cart filled with wood and gypsies/farmers (depending on who you asked).
A Romanian friend put it to me best: "In some ways, Romania is 100 years behind America. This is the 'Wild West' of Europe."
I am staying here for about 10 days, maybe more, at the apartment of a friend of mine that I worked with during this summer in the Southern California Mountains. Cristina, her mother, and her father are very gracious people. They live together in the top floor of one of the hundreds of apartment buildings that dot the city. Her father is a 'technical administrator' at the local hospital, a job title similar to my fathers, but I soon learned how "Wild" it is here in Romania: he repairs telescopes, x-rays and other equipment in the hospital. Computers in hospitals here are almost non-existant. Cristina's mother is a friendly woman who works as the local high school's nurse.
Living in Romania is not as bad as some of you might expect. Sure, it is true that the average income here is about $100 a month, but everything else is equally inexpensive: a loaf of bread is about 30 cents, a taxi ride across the city is about $2, a nice dinner - $5, a facelift - $300, a laptop - $600. I am easily getting by on about $2-3 a day.
There is sometimes a large cultural gap between a man and his grandfather. Dragos (pronounced "dragosh"), the driver of my cross-country trip stopped by his grandfather's farm in the countryside. While Dragos owns an apartment in the city, a nice car and a leather jacket, his grandfather owns a small house in the country, a horse and cart, and a handful of assorted animals. We stopped there for an hour and I studied the grapevines, geese, water wells, chickens, shacks, cats, dogs, and other fascinating objects found on the small farm. Dragos's Grandmother served us a bowl of fish soup: a vegetable broth covering a 5 inch section of a fish. It tasted a little strange and it took a while to eat with all of the bones to fish out (pun intended), but I ate it all for it is rude in Romania to leave even a little bit of food on the plate.
Everyday I am learning a little more about the Romanian culture and customs. Thanks to Cristina, who is an English major at college, I have my own answer bank. Unlike most of the countries I visited on my trip, my questions do not go unanswered here in Romania.
Next weekend, Cristina, Marius (another friend here) and I will travel to the Poienari Castle near Curtea De Arges, the castle where the real Dracula lived! You can expect a full report when I return to Iasi next Monday.
Take Care Everyone,