|Daniel, Iulia, Alexandru, Titiana, and Natalie|
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
|Biserica Noua, Bucea, Comuna Negreni, Judeţ Cluj.|
Dear readers at Fulbright-Romania,
I have continued the stories of my later, equally wonderful times in Romania, as well as a number of other adventures, in a follow-on blog called Da Da Da Da Life Goes On*. If the stories told here have had interest for you, please feel free to visit me there, and to leave comments!
Fulbrighter of 2008-2009
Friday, February 15, 2013
In June of 2010 I was honored to be asked to represent, along with David Banville, the recent set of American Fulbrighters to have spent time here in Romania. I shall try to describe simply what the experience has meant to me.
First, Fulbright Romania was the cause of the last enthusiastic words of approval that I received from my father, Dugald (Mac) McDougall. I was visiting Mac in his Florida home in June of 2007, as at age 91 he was preparing himself for his imminent death. When I mentioned the Fulbright project to my Dad, he said, "Romania! Oh my God, son, isn't that wonderful?"
So for me the Fulbright began as a blessed experience, and so it has remained.
I knew only a little about this country before coming here: only that it had been through great hardships under Communism, and that it was known still as among Europe's poorer nations, economically, but that it had recently entered the European Union. I also knew that my Plymouth State University and Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai had a cooperative agreement, and that a few of my colleagues had been to Cluj, and described it as a beautiful city.
Beyond that, I knew I had a lot to learn. What has since transpired has led to a transformation in my self-image, as much as to an increase in my understanding of Romania.
I discovered in Romania that my style of teaching was appreciated, even though unconventional in its pedagogy of case study and class discussions, rather than theory and lectures. I learned that the UBB Englishline students were well-taught and broadly exposed to classic literature, to ancient history, and more mathematically competent than most of my American students. I relearned the art of walking. I walked and walked, and suffered painfully as a result from arthritis and from plantar faciitis, but endured to walk still more. I toured in my car, Klaus, from the Prut River Valley to Calafat on the Danube, from Satu Mare to Constanţa. and from Oradea to Iaşi. I saw Romania's beauty, its diversity, and observed its rapid modernization.
I contacted my wife and our four grown children, and urged them to come to see Romania before the modernization had gone too far, for the charm of Old Europe is alive and well in this country, and one of Romania's greatest opportunities and challenges will be to grow economically without losing that charm. Shirl spent March, 2009, with me in Cluj, and three of our four children were able to come for a nine-day visit in April of that year.
Fulbright has given me an opportunity to meet many Romanians on both personal and professional levels. I treasure the friendships I have now with my former students and with my colleagues, as well as with the staff here at Fulbright Romania.
The Fulbright experience has given my life new interest, and provided a new purpose that I do not yet fully understand. But, without a Fulbright grant, and in spite of the recent national salary cuts for faculty, I will again be teaching in Cluj in October of 2010. So, the effects of my Fulbright year are ongoing.
How has the Fulbright experience changed my life? In the words of an old Bob Dylan song, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."
Thank you, Dorina, Mihai, Corina, Anca, Loredana, and all the rest of you who, through your embodiment of the Fulbright spirit and loyal support of its mission have made this program possible.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Please click the headings on the images below for links to stories that you may enjoy. They provide a glimpse of what you may soon experience.
|Family and food will fill the table for day after day.|
|City Hall in Oradea, Christams Week, 2008|
Craciun ferecit, şi La Mulţi Ani!
Thanks and love to all at The Romanian Fulbright Commission.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
This year we were at our home in Campton, New Hampshire, for Thanksgiviing, where Shirl and I were hosts to seven Romanian friends, including Monica Zaharie, Ph.D., my UBB colleague from my Fulbright year. Here is a photo essay.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Saturday, September 8, 2012
So, if you are a Fulbrighter, and are going to be living in Cluj for the school year, you might want to contact me by leaving a comment below with your e-mail address, and I'll send you Ray's contact information
Sunday, August 5, 2012
While teaching in Cluj-Napoca, I was reluctant to form opinions about Romania's politics, or about her politicians. Part of the reason for that was my glaring ignorance about both. Still, I could not help but hear the complaints of my students, friends, and acquaintances, and I had several opportunities to observe the solid locked doors, long unruly queues, and seeming unconcern for those waiting, that characterized the government offices with which I had contact.
During my first semester as a Fulbright professor in Cluj, President Obama was elected in the United States. During my second teaching stint in Cluj, in the fall of 2010, an idea occurred to me built on the lessons of that 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign. Until last week, apart from describing it orally to a few friends, I kept that idea to myself. Then, last week, I read in The Boston Globe a news report of the result of the referendum in Romania in which President Basescu retained his position due to a low voter turnout. That report stimulated me to publish my idea, which takes no sides, but advocates some positive governmental principles and a mechanism for bringing about their implementation.
Perhaps my idea is merely the fond wish of a cockeyed optimist. But it comes from one who loves Romania, and wants to see her well-governed and prosperous. For whatever it is worth, you will find my idea here: Romanian Youth: Join T.H.I.S!
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I just brought up my website yesterday, www.dcmcd.info (Diane C. McDonald) and thought I ought to check out www.dcmcd.com in case it was something I didn't want friends to accidentally stumble upon.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that your website chronicles your travels in Romania, while mine is fundraising for a Habitat for Humanity trip to Romania.
Just thought the coincidence was too good not to share.
And a good Scottish name to boot!
I have confirmed the authenticity of Diane's Habitat.ro project. My donation to Diane's Habitat for Humanity project is already sent. I hope a few of my loyal readers will also be able to send a few bucks.Diane McDonald
In Romania, dear Diane, I predict that you will learn that there are no coincidences. Godspeed, and Drum Bun!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Vincent Kuiper may have more marketing insight than I, but as a 66 year-old American who spent the 2008-09 academic year teaching in Cluj-Napoca and traveling throughout Romania, I have another perspective. The are hospitable. The Romanians are diverse. The Romanian countryside is spectacularly varied and beautiful. Romania is rich in both culture and cultures, having had in its history the influences of the Greeks, the Romans, Mongolians, Turks, the French, Germans, Celts, Russians, Serbs, Austrians, Hungarians, and God-only-knows how many others. Rural Romania, especially in the north and southwest, is characterized by family farms still being farmed with human and animal muscle. The haystacks and stork's nests are present-day models for the illustrations I saw as a child as my mother read to me from Grimm's Fairy Tales.
Romanian education is excellent. My university seniors in the Englishline at Babeș-Bolyai University's Faculty of Economics were well-read in the classics, competent in mathematics, and a delight to work with. If Romania has a long-term problem, it is that the country's business community is not yet large enough to employ all of the qualified graduates of its many fine universities. Talent-seeking foreign companies would do well to invest in such a country.
Romanian culture is colored by the religious traditions of the , which along with the Roman Catholic church has leant a strong sense of values to the majority of Romanians. The 40-year nightmare of Communism was unable to kill the Romanian spiritual core, hence Romanians appreciate their freedoms more than do we who grew up taking freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and free elections for granted.
Romania still has its share of problems, of course. But in my view it is about to soar into prominence as a productive and culturally advanced member of The European Union, in which Old Europe's charm and work ethic still prevail.
Yes, Vincent, the Romanian women are self-assured, confident and charming, and many are very lovely, as well. And yes, a bottle of Ursus Dark in a pub costs only one buck. But those facts are but surface decorations on this emerging jewel of a nation.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
To answer your question, Allandra, I drove Klaus through Aiud on several trips from Cluj to Sibiu or to Bucharest, and on one trip with my wife Shirley that took us all the way to Calafat and back. As you peruse this blog you will learn of my many travels in your wonderful country over the past year.
I hope to hear from you again, either online or in person, as Shirley and I intend to return next spring to visit our friends in Romania.
If you want to keep in touch, please leave me your e-mail address in a comment. (I promise to delete that address from the blog in the interest of your privacy, so please make it the whole of one comment.)
allandra_popa said... Thank you for all your nice word about me,:)))well mostly about my game. It was interesting to meet you and sorry for cleaning you up.:) I've started to read your blog and it was truly impressed to find out about your work. It must be really fascinating. I'm anxious to read all your impressions about our small and colorful country, because I'm sure it was something totally different from what you were accustomed, but not in a bad way. I would love to keep in touch on e-mail and even meet you and your wife, but only if you make a quick stop in Paris on your way to Romania. If not in a couple of years I want to come to New York and maybe then. But until hope to hear from you.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Yesterday, Shirl, both the Romanian Alexes, and I visited Cambridge and Boston, including a tour of the Harvard Business School. The "dear old halls" of alma mater are, I was pleased to see, as stately and well-kept as ever.
To my Romanian friends, I reiterate: we love it when you visit. Please come to New Hampshire and spend some time with us!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
In August we hosted my former FSEGA student Radu BENCHEA of Sibiu, who flew up from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to visit us prior to heading back to Romania after a summer working as a pedicab driver in that resort city. While with us, Radu also made a three-day rail trip to visit relatives in New York City, so he got to see that not all of America is sun, sand and bikini-country.
This month we have hosted new FSEGA grad Alexandru MICAN of Bistrița, who has been admitted to the PSU MBA Program as a full time student. Alex was one of my guides (along with his friend Dora FAUR) on our long weekend in Moldavia, back in October of last year. Alex has also seen some White Mountain geography during the past two weeks, and has now moved into his own apartment right next to the PSU campus. Alex has played golf with me three times already, and scored his first par on a hole, just yesterday. Is the game of golf really that easy?
So, all my Romanian friends, please take notice: our invitations were seriously given, and your visits will be welcome.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
It has been a beautiful drive. Shirl, Klaus and I are safely back in Fellbach. We left Cluj only the day before yesterday, and already our home in Romania seems a thousand miles away. Oh, yeah. It is a thousand miles away. But we’re still in Europe, some 3,500 miles from our American home, so are we really going to leave Europe and fly to New England, or are we just on another Fulbright adventure, and will Klaus be taking us back to our wonderful apartment in our adopted city to see our good Romanian friends as he has faithfully done for the past nine months?
Goodbye, Romania! But not “Goodbye, Romanians.” We will keep in touch. We have Yahoo mail, we have our University work connections, and we have our lives to share.
If you get to New Hampshire, please do not forget that our big old house in Campton has a guest room, and we love showing off our beautiful home state to visitors.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
To celebrate the Nintieth Anniversary of there being a Romanian University in Cluj, Rector Marga today hosted a glorious musical event at the UBB Auditorium Maximum. The concert lasted almost three hours, and I wept each hour. First, I was moved to tears by the beauty of the music provided by the Transylvanian Symphony Orchestra. Then came a romantic operatic duet performed by a magnificent tenor and soprano from Bucharest. Then, I wept with emotion at having to leave Romania when traditional folk singers came on stage in their regional finery, and sang Romanian tunes.
I will detail the concert in a later post, for it deserves a full report. For now, suffice it to say, 'tis trrrrue: "We Scots ha'e but two emotions, weepin' and angerrrrr." Today, mine wa' weepin'.
And, to make perfect the event as a cultural culmination of my Romanian Fulbright adventures, during the standing ovation that followed the finale (Brahms' "Academic Overture," which ends with the famous theme known as "Gaudeamus Igitur"), the world-famous Romanian soprano Florentina Văduva tossed a rose from her bouquet to the audience, and I caught it.
Upon reflection, of course it was I who caught Florentina's rose. If this year has taught me anything, it is that there are no coincidences. She was but Fair Romania, bidding farewell to her latest lover.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Marius Jucan is a Prodecan (vice-dean) of the Faculty of European Studies, and founder and head of the Program in American Studies at UBB. He is also author of a number of scholarly books in both Romanian and English, a member of the original UBB delegation that visited Plymouth back in the early days of our cooperation, a veteran of the Romanian Army under Communism, an ardent advocate of democracy, and a brilliant conversationalist. One of his books in Romanian is entitled Maştile libertatii, America în scritorile lui Thomas Jefferson, which translates roughly as, "The Faces of Liberty, America in the Letters of Thomas Jefferson."
Shirley was not up to joining us, so Marius and I enjoyed one of those rare occasions when two guys of sixty-or-so get to have some wine, eat whatever they want without apologizing for it, and talk about whatever comes to mind. I treasure such occasions.
At Graduation with Marius Jucan
Today I stopped by Marius' office and gave him three books on American History that my brother Walter was kind enough to send me for use in my course. Two were autographed copies of the paperback editions. I know that Marius will read them. He is that kind of a man. But I don't know if he will agree with Wally on all that they contain, for Marius definitely thinks for himself.
Walking back to Piaţa Mihai Viteazul at close-to-midnight, Marius and I encountered two young men standing and talking on the sidewalk. It was PETEAN Flaviu and BENCHEA Radu, two of my beloved graduates from the Englishline at FSEGA. I introduced them to Professor Jucan, then learned they were waiting for the bus to take Radu to Budapest where he would catch a flight to Fort Lauderdale to work for the summer. There are no coincidences, only a very small world. Have fun, Radu, and while you are there, look up my son Brian in Miami Beach!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Trent Boggess flew to Budapest yesterday after three cordial days of meetings (and social mealtimes) here in Cluj. The teaching team for our Joint PSU-UBB International MBA is gelling, with the next step to come at the end of the month, when Roxana Wright will return to spend a week here to provide training in online course delivery of our specific MBA curriculum. A renewed Agreement of Cooperation between UBB and PSU was signed Wednesday by Rector Andrei Marga, and is now being hand-carried back to Plymouth's president Dr. Sara Jayne Steen, who was unable to make the trip at this busy time of year. After the signing, we were invited to join the Rector at a reception for the Vietnamese Ambassador to Romania over lunch at the Pyramids, UBB's nicest restaurant. (Trent has a story to tell about that event, so I'll say no more about it at this juncture.) On Thursday morning, I presented a talk on the ACBSP's Baldrige-based approach to quality management and continuous improvement in higher education to the UBB Quality Assurance Council, headed by Vice Rector Andrei Marcuş. Then, I took Trent back to the Faculty of Economics, where he bid farewell to our colleagues and to our program partner, Prodeacon Dr. Mihaela Luţaş.
After a delightful home-cooked meal with his parents last Sunday, Lucian Bogdan, my volunteer teaching assistant in AE&B this term, and I went to Carrefour at Polus Center (a large shopping mall), where I acquired the biggest piece of hand-luggage I could find. It is a hard-surfaced check-in sized roller-case. It is now full to the sit-on-to-close level with my winterwear and formal suits, souvenir hand-woven wool blankets and Romanian flag (gifts from the Econ-Englishline Seniors), five "Romania" T-Shirts in bright yellow, which I had here for the kids but forgot to give them, my J&M dress shoes, protected on their Rochester Shoe Trees, of course, and everything else I didn't think I'd need before coming home. That monstrous bag is now in the trunk of Klaus. Probably, it will cost me extra on my flight home late next week.
It is Friday, and I have stayed in the apartment, ostensibly to work on candidate reviews for The Fulbright Commission of Romania. But I have had trouble staying awake today. A day without meetings? Unheard of! "Rest, old man, while you have the chance," my body keeps telling me.
Tonight Shirl and I will dine with Prodeacon Marius Jucan of the Faculty of European Studies, and head of the American Studies Program. We will be brainstorming further avenues of cooperation between our universities.
The end may be in sight for the Fulbright Year in Romania, but as Mort Sahl used to say, "The future lies ahead."
Monday, June 8, 2009
by Jimmy Hamilton, Amherst College, Class of 1906
Strangers once, we came to dwell together,
Born of a mother, wise and true.
Now we're bound by ties that cannot sever,
All our whole life through.
Gather closer, hand to hand.
The time draws near when we must part.
Still the love of college days will linger,
Ever in each heart.
So raise the rosy goblet high,
The senior chalice, and belie,
The tongues that slander and defile,
For we have yet a little while,
To linger, youth, and you, and I
In college days.
We have climbed together up the pathway,
On to the goal where life doth wait.
Where in bright, and beck'ning fields of promise,
Lieth fame or fate.
Born among these dear old halls,
Friendships that can never die.
Strength to keep us faithful and devoted,
To our purpose high.
Our last full week in Romania begins today, Whitsunday, which is a new national holiday in Romania, but an examination day nevertheless for some of our Faculty of Economics (FSEGA) students.
For me, the day will be accented by a speech at the Aula Magna at UBB's downtown campus given by Nobel Prize nominee Leszek Balcerowicz, the Polish economist famous for inventing "shock therapy" as a way of converting former Communist Bloc economies into free market economies.
Following that event, I will go to the airport to meet Dr. Trent Boggess, chairman of the Business Department at Plymouth State University, who will be arriving for his second visit to our International MBA Program partner school, UBB's FSEGA.
This evening, Shirl and I hope to take Trent to an early dinner, then to his hotel to give him a chance to rest before a busy week of company visits and faculty meetings here in Cluj.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
With Professor Raluca Moldovan and Prodeacon Marius Jucan, congratulating the new graduates.
Cristina Guglia, the coordinator of the event, also asked me to send my remarks ahead of time for translation into Romanian, so that their parents and guests could hear them and understand what I had said. Rather than do so, I was aided by my colleague in accounting Alexandra Muţiu, who provided the Romanian version. (If any reader would like to have that version, please send a remark with your e-mail address, and I will provide it.)
Remarks made at American Studies Graduation:Then, A Spontaneous Fulbright Dinner Party:
Dean Gyemant, Professor Jucan, Colleagues in the Faculty of European Studies, parents, relatives, friends of our honorees, and especially, dear “about-to-be graduates” of Babes-Bolyai University:
I thank you for inviting me to say a few words at your celebration today. Let me begin by thanking your parents for raising such wonderful kids, and for sending those wonderful young men and women to UBB. It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with the UBB American Studies students this term.
And thank you, students, for your active participation in our many discussions this semester.
The past few months have not been “the best of times” in America, but that fact has made this semester an especially good time to be teaching a course in American Economy and Business.
Given the excesses and corrupt practices represented by the “Sub-prime Lending” and “Bernie Madoff” scandals, among others, humility has been the only possible attitude for an American teacher of such a course. Yet, in the global financial repercussions of problems that began in America, the global importance of the American Economy was made obvious. Truly, as has been said many times, “When America sneezes, the world catches a cold.” So, for a European undergraduate interested in taking part in the global economy of the coming decades, to have focused one’s studies on understanding America was a sensible choice.
I hope that the three books you have read in our time together will continue to inform your views of America, and of the effects of Prices, “Animal Spirits,” and Central Banks on free market economies.
I hope that our wide-ranging class discussions of both American and Romanian cultures, of their similarity as topographically varied, diversely peopled, and naturally fertile countries, of their differing diversities, and of our shared “human condition” in many of its aspects, will be food for your thoughts as you progress through your lives.
Finally, I hope that you will keep in touch with “Professor Duncan,” the last American professor that you met in your undergraduate years at UBB, and keep him informed as you, no longer children, but now licensed adults, make your own paths in our shared, increasingly connected, and interdependent world.
Again, to you parents, as the father of six, I know what a proud moment this is for you good people.
Thank you, and may God bless us all.
After the graduation, at which Charles Harris, Fulbrighter and AmStuds teacher at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu was a welcome visitor/photographer, Charles, Kathy O., Shirl and I repaired to the bistro across the river from the apartment, and shared a festive dinner, our final dinner with each other for this Fulbright Year.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
It was a full day, and a beautiful part of Romania.
Cristina Liliana Mitrovici is a Fulbrighter based this year in Constanţa, the lovely seaside city and resort town near the southeast corner of Romania. She is from Fargo, ND, where she settled after leaving Los Angeles a few years ago. She and her husband escaped Romania during the 1980s, and have raised their children in the U.S. Now a citizen of the USA, Cristina teaches Spanish and media studies. She is a dear lady of high purpose and strong opinions, and was an excellent guide in Constanţa, starting with her having found us a wonderful place to stay in Mamaia Nord, a beachfront community just up the coast from the city line of Mamaia, which is similarly positioned relative to Constanţa.
Vila Tudor was one of few open hotels on the shoreline this weekend, as the season was to open on 1 June. But here, for 100 de lei, $33 per night, we stayed at a modern motel, in a two-bedroom suite with bath, king-sized bed, cable Internet and cooked-to-order breakfast. Hard to beat that.
Saturday morning I awoke early, had breakfast, then drove into town to pick up Cristina. She showed me her luxury apartment with a view of the Port of Constanţa, then we walked to the nearby cathedral. I could see what a magnificent city Constanţa has been in years past, but unfortunately many of the best buildings on the main square are being allowed to deteriorate. It seems that they are caught up in legal struggles between those from whose families the communist government had confiscated them and the present "owners," and hence no one is willing to risk the money it would take to refurbish them. Such an historic city deserves better. A statue of the poet Ovidius (Ovid), who lived till his death in Constanţa after having been banished from Rome in 8 AD by Emperor Augustus, stares sadly at the decaying piaţa.
Picking Shirl up at the motel, we proceeded north up a bumpy coastal road toward Valcea, where we parked near the port, and on the wharf found lunch, and a boat for charter. Cristina was invaluable in avoiding the "brokers" on the wharf who offered us boat rides at "only 50 Euro per hour." Once we found a skipper, for a fee of 400 de lei (100 Euro) we spent the three hours on the Delta, a Romanian version of an Everglades Air Boat Ride, sans alligators.
The Danube is the longest river in Europe, and is a big one, indeed, where it divides into three main channels and many smaller ones, and innundates a huge wetland reportedly consituting 2% of Romania's total area. The birds are varied (over 600 species), colorful, and very much in sight, and the views from the 150 HP Honda-powered 21' fiberglass boat were well worth the cost.
At the day's end, we stopped to see the archeological site Histria, a small seaport city where Homeric-era Greek artifacts reveal that the port was in continuous use as early as 600 BC. The inlet at Histria was eventually cut off from the Black Sea by the build-up of a sandbar, and today there is a freshwater lake where once there was a sheltered harbor. The site has been abandoned since Medieval times.
(Images will be added after we figure out Shirl's new camera, and/or after Cristina e-mails me a few of her shots.)
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Today we are in Mamaia Nord on the Black Sea, just north of Mamaia, which is just north of Constanţa. We are in a very pleasant resort-motel called Vila Tudor, featuring its own access to a freshwater lake for fishing, a trail of about 150 meters to a beach on the Black Sea, an aviary, a sand-floored football “cage” (think beach soccer in a tennis court), a cat stalking birds on the roof of a nearby cottage while being screamed at by four unintimidated crows, and a two-bedroom “apartment” with refrigerator and air conditioner (but only luke-warm water, probably easily remedied, but I haven't complained) costing 100 de lei per night. That is $33.
Shirl is back in Romania, and is sitting on the bed behind me. I can see her in the mirror. She looks wonderful. She is almost over jet-lag, after two active days, and two full nights of sleep since her arrival on Thursday afternoon. Yesterday, we set a new Easternmost Point record aboard a chartered speedboat in the Danube Delta.
The First Few of the Last Few (Days)
Last Tuesday afternoon at 4:00, my American Studies students took their final exam. I asked them to write essays on questions relating to any two of the three recent books on the economy that they had been assigned in our course, American Economy & Business. Lucian Bogdan and I stayed at the Sala Einstein to grade the essays, and then went to the apartment to record the grades on my computer. Lucian agreed to deliver the grades to Ioana Hosu at the European Studies Faculty the next day, and took the grading spreadsheet home on his flash drive.
On Wednesday morning, I went to my office hours, met with Alexandra, my colleague and teaching team partner in Managerial Accounting, and drafted a final examination for that course. It was about 2:30 when I got home to the apartment. I had agreed to meet Charles Harris in Sibiu at his American Culture Club meeting that afternoon at 5:00, three hours to the southeast. Charles had offered me a couch to crash on that night, almost half-way to Bucharest, where Shirl would be arriving from Amsterdam at 1:40 PM on Thursday.
I had no chance of being on-time for Charles' meeting, but I rapidly packed, carried my bag, computer and small cooler across the piata to Klaus, and took off southward on E81, the familiar road to Turda, Aiud, Alba Iulia, Sebeş and Sibiu. Once clear of the Cluj traffic, I called Charles, and warned him I’d be late. “No sweat,” he said, “It is finals week, and I doubt any students will have time to attend anyway.”
The ride went well, and I arrived at Lucian Blaga University, Faculty of Letters and Arts, before 6:00. Charles met me on the street. He’d been right. No one had made it to his meeting. “I need to go to McDonald’s,” he told me. Damn. I had eaten a McD’s lunch already this week, and had been looking forward to one of Sibiu’s outstanding restaurants. But I was a good sport. We called our new mutual friend Roxy Fera, Keene State grad that she is, and found her delighted to join us at McD’s. Roxy is having a tough time finding a job since returning to Romania from her four years in Oman, and was nigh onto flat broke. So, we fed her. Times are tough in Romania, and a person in her thirties, even with excellent language skills and a fine education, is going to have to look long and hard to find a job that pays a satisfactory salary.
We dropped Roxy at her old high school, where she would be playing in a basketball game that night, and returned to Charles’ place for the night.
By 4:00 AM Thursday, I was wide awake on the couch. My alarm was set for 6:00. What the heck, I am awake. Might as well take off, and remove all time pressure from the rest of my trip. I woke Charles momentarily to say goodbye, and left for Bucharest.
It was a smooth ride through the slowly brightening dawn, with the silhouetted Carpathian Mountains providing majestic relief to the east. By 9:30 A.M. I arrived at the Casa Victor, Fulbright’s hotel-of-choice in Bucharest, found the perfect parking place available on the street immediately in front of “Receptie,” and found my room already available for me. Perfect. Time for a nap before going to the airport. Before napping, I asked myself whether I should drive Klaus to pick up Shirl, or leave him in the Perfect Parking Place, call Dan the Taxi Man, and have him do the driving. I knew it would be an expensive luxury to take a taxi both ways to OTP, but that perfect parking place had been the ONLY parking place I’d seen in the vicinity of the hotel. I called Dan.
Shirl’s plane was on-time, and she came out of customs looking like a seasoned tourist. You’d think she routinely stayed up all night. We hugged, then rolled her baggage cart out to the lot where Dan had parked the taxi, and was waiting.
Thursday afternoon and night, Shirl slept a well-deserved sleep, declining my offer to take her to dinner at the Italian restaurant just up Porumbaru Street, “Trattoria Verde Pizzeria.” So, I went alone. Calamari fritti. Good stuff.
On Friday morning the mission was to visit the Fulbright Commission, for Shirl had not yet met Dorina, Mihai, Corina, Anca or Loredana, the wonderful folks who take such good care of the Fulbright Grantees, both American and Romanian. In addition, Mihai had arranged for me to be interviewed by a reporter from Hotnews.ro, in connection with my Fulbright year in Romania, and about the new joint PSU/UBB MBA Program.
The meetings at the Commission went well. While I was being interviewed, Christina Mitrovici, a Romanian-born Fulbrighter from Fargo, North Dakota, arrived to ride with us back to Constanţa, where she has been spending her Fulbright Year. By about 1:30 PM, we’d said our final goodbyes to the good folks at Fulbright-Romania, and were on our way east toward Mare Neagra.
Cristina's colleague, whom we met at her University and who guided us to our motel, had made us a reservation here at Vila Tudor. We found it most welcoming when we arrived in Mamaia Nord. We were tired. Cristina accepted a lift back into Constanţa with her friend, so Shirl and I hit the sack, exhausted.
Saturday deserves its own post. Until then!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Sponsored by Lucian Blaga University
Faculty of Letters & Arts
The Fulbright Commission of Romania
Held in Sibiu, 15 May 2009
Panel Topic: Is American Democracy an appropriate model for Romania?
Early in the fall term I told my students at UBB-Cluj that I saw Romania and the United States as being much alike as countries with a lot of natural resources and beautiful geography, and both containing many cultural heritages and ethnic groups. I said then that the differences I perceived might stem from the fact that
There is another side of the Romanian situation that bears mention here. During my Fulbright Year in
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
My first-ever American Studies course will end today with a final essay examination. All but four registered students have made at least one appearance in class during the term, and I have been receiving e-mails from others who are desperately seeking the readings (distributed earlier) for their last-minute cramming. If any students happen to read this post before the exam at 4:00 PM this afternoon, I want to remind them that the final exam is worth 70% of their grade, so they are not in the running for a grade above 7 in the course unless they have been participating. However, a thoughtful, well-written pair of essays on the exam could net them a 10 on the exam, and a course grade of 7, even though they have never attended the lectures or the seminars.
Ramblings on Romanian Higher Education and President Hutchins
When I was but a lad, my late mother Carol Brueggeman McDougall, AB, University of Chicago, 1935, told me about her University's president Robert Maynard Hutchins. Hutchins was a rebel among American educators of his time. (See link.) In pursuit of less "practicality" and more pure intellectualism, under his leadership the U. of C. adopted what my mother called "the European model" of higher education. In her time, attendance at classes or lectures was purely optional, and only the final examinations were graded. Students were expected to act like interested learners, self-motivated to read and to think on their readings, then to expound intelligently at the term's end.
Faithful readers will recall that during the fall semester, I withheld judgment on the Romanian system of higher education, which closely resembles that which my mother experienced in the early Nineteen Thirties in Chicago. Today, I see merit in it, especially for those whose pre-college education has been comprehensive and demanding.
I find my students at UBB generally far better-prepared for college than most at PSU. They even write English more competently than most of my American students. And here in Romania, one can use analogies to classical literature, ancient history, or the Bible with positive response from the students, rather than blank stares. I find this fact delightful in my Romanian classes, but sad for my country, for it bespeaks the waning of American competitiveness in an increasiingly English-speaking global economy. And sad, also, because it bespeaks the collapse of high expectations and of academic standards in the public school systems of New Hampshire, if not of America.
I now conclude that the Romanian system of higher education can work very well. I have met too many Romanian intellectuals for whom I have high regard to believe otherwise. And I have enormous respect for my well-read, well-spoken late mother, a product of such a system.
My chief remaining doubt is about fairness. Is it fair that the absent students are granted the same diploma and academic rank as the diligent students? In Romania, one can work full time, earn three years of business experience, cram and squeek through exams, and get a college degree. Or, one can do one's assignments, read a lot, think a lot, broaden one's world view, deepen one's intellect, and graduate three years behind in the business or professional world, with the same degree. Is that fair? Certainly, that question tests Hutchins' view of the real purpose of a bachelor's degree program. One would hope that the serious students will enjoy life more fully.
Continuing my ramble, I now applaud the legendary one-room schoolhouse, in which one educated woman (almost exclusively, in those times) often taught eight grades of primary and grammar school to the American youth of yesteryear, aided in the lower grades by the best of the upper-grade students. With the respect and backing of parents, these teachers gave, and gave, and gave of themselves, and helped America raise generations of literate, hard-working, thoughtful, and yes, morally conscious men and women with a solid grounding in the writings of the seminal thinkers of Western Civilization. Abe Lincoln may have had exceptional talents, but he was no fluke.
In that academic tradition were the Wilmette Public Schools in my childhood home town in Illinois. Our schools were large, our classes 30 to 35 strong, but our teachers were strict, and in control. They delivered. And I do not remember ever having a teacher's aide in a classroom. Of course, if we got into trouble in school, our parents backed our teachers. There was a cultural norm at work: elementary education was important. I do recall that after World War II, when we moved from the East Coast back to the Chicago area, my mother chose Wilmette because she had three sons (later, four), and Wilmette was known for its fine schools. So, perhaps I am again indebted to my mother's caring judgment.
What about high school? Does anyone in America read Homer in public high school anymore? Plato? Caesar? Cicero? Hell, does anyone in a New Hampshire high school have an opportunity to study Latin? Most of my Romanian students read and speak three or more languages. In learning other languages, they have come to understand grammar. My mother and father taught me to speak grammatical English, but high school Latin taught me grammar.
I may be sounding today like a frightful snob to some of my American readers, but I suspect that the American K-12 public school system has at least as much to learn from the Romanian school system as the Romanian system of higher education has to learn from its American counterpart.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Shirl's coming back! (Yay!) I am hoping to drive to Sibiu on Wednesday evening and stay with Charles. Then I'll not have to drive at night (before dawn) to meet Shirl's plane in Bucharest.
At UBB, Prodeacon Mihaela Luţaş has invited me to return next Winterim to teach two compressed courses in January. That is going to be difficult to arrange, but it is something I will consider. At some point I must return to Cluj, as I have learned to love this city. I was walking from the Faculty of Letters lot this week looking at the colorful Renaissance Revival buildings, Eastern domes, and steeples of Piaţa Mihai Viteazul with feelings of my impending loss. But, on the other side, there is the view of Plymouth at night as one descends Ashland Hill on I-93, there is the beautiful PSU campus, there are the White Mountains, there is the Beebe River, there is Mad River Coffee Roasters, and there is home.
Have a good Memorial Day, America! God willing, I'll be manning the grill on the 4th of July!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
So, we headed west. We had a light dinner at the same roadside restaurant where I met the folks with the trumpet violin back in October (See "Half-Told Tales"), and found it as pleasant this time as last.
We arrived in Oradea at about 10:00 PM. It took a bit of finding to locate Kate Palmo's place. Kate is the Peace Corp volunteer who has been working in Oradea this year, and with whom the Sherman-Hayes family had become good friends in the fall. Nancy will be staying with Kate this next month. After a bit of undirected searching, Kate came out to Dacia Boulevard, and walked toward us, until we met up. I towed Nancy's big suitcase as far as the lift door in Kate's bloc, then bid my farewells, and turned back toward Klaus, and home.
The trip home was smooth. I trailed a small van at conservative speeds as the in-a-hurry types roared by us. For fun, I dialed Shirl in the US on my Vodaphone as I drove, achieved a great connection, and we chatted about family business until the phone ran out of Euros. I arrived home in Cluj at 1:09 AM. Not bad at all.
This morning I have spent here in my office at UBB, working on an exam. Now, I am off to Iulius Mall to buy more time on my cell phone!
Tomorrow: Sunday golf with Vasile Tamas in Pianu de Jos! I cannot wait to see the Paul Tomiţa Golf Course in good condition. It should be at its best tomorrow, as there is a tournament there today. I shall report.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Alex's new friends at Paltiniş
With Charles and his colleague at the East-West Conference at Lucian Blaga University, Sibiu.
Architetural Details of Phoenix Pensiune, Raşinari
Transilvanian Delivery Service Workers
Natural bridge on hillside in Colţeşti
Conacul Secuiesc, in Colţeşti. (Recommended highly. I have now taken seven guests there in five visits.)
Limmers at Cheile Turzii.
Cheile Turzii comes into view.
(The Turda Gorge)
As we left for Sibiu on Thursday, we made a stop at Motoland in Cluj where we found a fine- looking 1995 BMW R1100GS in Red. I am tempted.
Alex, Cally, Melinda, Duncan, Roxy and Piper met for dinner Wednesday night at Gente Pizzeria in Cluj. (Moni arrived later!)