Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some Differences

Thus far I have been gushing with enthusiasm for all things Romanian. Perhaps it is time to relate some observed contrasts between life in Romania and in the USA.

The university buildings are magnificent, rock solid, and in the case of the Faculty of Economics, very modern. No expense was spared in their construction. Like the Parliament in Bucharest, there is an enormous amount of open space in the center of the building. That has to be energy-inefficient, and had to cost a lot of money. The floors are polished marble. The offices are large. The rest rooms are world-class. I remember when, in the Eighties, Harvard Business School upgraded the Aldrich Hall rest rooms, saying they wanted them to be "world class." We all laughed, but they did turn out well. These are as good, if not better. But today I could find toilet paper in only one of four stalls, and that was because the prior user had kindly torn a strip from the long roll of toilet paper next to the wash stands and tucked it into the T.P. holder in the stall. When I was done in there, I did the same for the next user.

As indicated above, UBB uses what we consider industrial T.P. rolls as hand-drying paper.

The stapler that Maritza kindly provided doesn't staple. My teaching assistant saw that and said, "That's Romanian!"

Most of the doors to the outside of the Econ building are kept locked, not from the outside, but from both sides, with a deadbolt. Even the most-used entrances have only one door of four that is open to traffic, creating a pinched flow of users. I kept thinking today, "In America that would be illegal. What if there were a fire, or other emergency? People could not escape."

Kinga Kerekes (Care-a-Kesh) is my colleague teaching Labor Management. My office is Room 409, and is adjacent to a stairwell. Hers is directly above mine on the fifth floor. But the stairwell is locked. Again, no escape route, and to get from my office to hers we were forced to walk to the opposite end of the long hallway, and up the stairs, then all the way back to our end of the building.

Why are all these doors locked? One person suggested it was to save cleaning little-used stairwells. Okay. I can see that in the summer. I will be most interested to find out if the whole building is in use tomorrow, when classes open.

A positive contrast is the obvious impact of green thinking on consumer-product packaging here in Europe. For example, whereas Americans still buy their dry laundry detergent in big boxes, here such products are sold in plastic bags. Other products, such as peanuts or oatmeal that are jarred or boxed in the USA are packaged here in simple, old-fashioned cellophane. Not only does this practice greatly reduce solid waste, it also allow a lot of goods to be carried in a manageable shopping bag. That is a very good thing when one must walk up 55 steps to one's apartment!

Other progress:

Last night Victoria and Florin Moldovan brought me the key to the mail box, and installed my name in the door, and Florin came up to the apartment and showed me how to read the water meters. Utilities will be on us, it appears, but that is okay, for so long as I get the receipts or bills, the Fulbright living stipend will reimburse them.

Florin also brought me a keycard to the parking lot at the Faculty of Letters, which is only about five blocks from the apartment. I have now tucked the BMW away in that lot, which is invisible from the street in a wooded courtyard surrounded by a wall and old University buildings. I am delighted that it is safe, and close to home. Well worth the $40 cost of the privilege. That is about the same as we paid for a parking sticker at Boston University in the Eighties.

First class in Labor Management tomorrow! Please, wish me a good one!


SKM said...

Have a good one!!

kinga said...

The floor is not marble, only immitation. Everything else is correct... Kinga

Duncan McDougall said...

Thanks, Kinga! Keep this blog accurate!