Sunday, May 31, 2009

To The Southeast for (then with) Shirl

As those who may have been following this blog with map at-the-ready will have perceived, Klaus and I have thus far reported on visits to all major sectors of Romania save the Southeast, where Romania meets the sea.

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, 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!


ziare said...

i think romanian people have a lot more to show to the world and everybody should come is not all bad things about us.we are good people.thank you for visiting us and for posting about us.we wish you good luck and all best wishes.

Duncan McDougall said...

Dear Ziare,
You are most welcome. I agree with you about Romania, and I send you good wishes, and thank you for those you sent me. Please contact me at, so we can be contacts.