Sunday, September 21, 2008

Romanian Hospitality

Technical Update: Last evening I solved the problem of the missing comment link. So from now on, please comment! Comments will appear the day after they are posted, so do not feel you have erred if you don't see your remarks right away.

'Twas an active day. Mircea Maniu took me on a city tour this morning, including espresso at the Panorama Restaurant, a converted auto repair shop atop a cliff overlooking the valley of the Somesul Mic, the tributary of the Danube on which Cluj was built. The view is reminiscent of San Francisco seen from Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California, sans the Golden Gate and Bay. Mircea is an economist, a fascinating guy, and the father of a boy of 18, about to graduate from high school. We chatted about many topics as we travelled the city, including the challenge of supporting a college student in these days. Thereafter we saw several of the Babes Bolyai University locations, including the Faculties of European Studies, Letters, and Economics and Business, where I am to be based while here.

Babes-Bolyai University ( is a major urban institution, much like Northeastern University or BU in Boston. It occupies many buildings surrounding the center of the city, which is characterized by two large cathedrals, one Orthodox and one Roman Catholic, and two squares, Piaţa Unirii (Union Square) and Piaţa Mihai Viteazul, on which is our apartment building. As an intellectual center and as the former capital of Transylvania, a region long fought over by Romans, Hungarians, Turks, Russians, and more, Cluj-Napoca is a politically vibrant city, where change is the only constant, or, as they put it, and I translate, “Transition is eternal in Transylvania.”

Adjacent to the Economics Building we found a new mall, which opened only last year. Dr. Bonnie Bechard, my PSU colleague who visited here two years ago, would be amazed to see this place. Picture the Mall of New Hampshire in the middle of Cluj. It is very upscale. A Spartanburg, South Carolina-built BMW X5 SUV was on display, with a price tag of 48,000 Euros, or about $90,000 after conversion to US dollars and the local VAT. Needless to say, I ordered it delivered to my Cluj address. (Joking, there!)

Mircea and I ate lunch at the mall’s Food Court, a very good one, indeed. Then, we went looking for a GPS for my old, 1993 BMW. We still haven’t found the one I can afford. Finally, as 2:00 approached, we found a wine shop, and I bought a bottle to present to my dinner hosts, the Moldovans. Heading out of the parking lot, we passed a lot guard on a Segway. I insisted we stop. I had to relate its origin to its user. I showed him my cap, bought at The Brick Store in Bath, NH, reading "New Hampshire, Live Free or Die."

Mircea and I parted at about 1:40, having walked at least a mile around the mall, and I went up to the apartment, washed up, and dressed for Sunday dinner at the home of my new friends MOLDOVAN, Victoria and Florin. (In Romania, the family name is usually stated first, and capitalized when written out.) The Casa Moldovan is a beautiful apartment (condominium, we would say), high on the same hill as the Panorama. We dined elegantly, and shared much, as Victoria is a teacher of Romanian to foreigners, and as Florin is a geographer with much travel, and global interests. Victoria has given me a link to a Romanian language course for beginners, online. Now I must follow through on my intent to learn a new language while here.

After dinner, I joined Florin as he placed a candle and flowers at his father's grave. I, too, lit a candle for my father, who died just one year ago this week. My father’s last statement of joy to me came when I told him I was applying for a Fulbright Scholarship to go to Romania for a year. He said, “Romania? Oh my God son, isn’t that wonderful!” Dad was 91 when he died.

It was a good thing, we did at the cemetery, Florin and I.

Finally, I moved my car up to a University visitor’s parking spot, as on a weekday it would have been ticketed where it had been. Florin came with me, and we walked back to Piaţa Mihai Viteazul, stopping to buy a few breakfast supplies for the apartment, whereafter I gave Florin a New Hampshire cap, and we bid one another a good night.

Tomorrow I meet my new boss, Associate Dean at the Faculty of Economics Dr. LUTAS, Mihaela, and begin my specific preparations for teaching Management Accounting in Romania.


SKM said...

Sounds like you had a very full, interesting, and active (how's your hip?) day.
Since you are now the proud owner of a new BMW, when will the '93 BMW be arriving in NH? I believe I know someone who could keep it "well-exercised".

Rather Dashing said...

Photos, my good man. Photos.