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Showing posts from 2011

22 Years Later...

Twenty-two years ago today, amid a growing sense of euphoria, Romanians took to the streets to topple the totalitarian Communist government that had stifled the country for nearly fifty years. I remember being swept in that wave of optimism and joy, singing along to anti-communist chants, "Ole, Ole Ole Olee, Ceasusecu, Nu Mai E!". Everybody in the country that year received a priceless Christmas gift: Freedom.

Twenty years on and I only remembered all this because we drove past the cemetery where I noticed a small ceremony taking place. After work, I took a walk to the memorial site and said a prayer at the graves of the innocent people who lost their lives during those tumultuous days. I don't think it's important to discuss whether any of them were, or meant to become, "revolutionary heroes". What's important is that they believed that Romania would be a better country if all its citizens had the liberty to decide what to do with their …

Wikipedia

It just hit me, I use this site more than any other -except Facebook maybe - but as far as usefulness it surpasses anything else on the net. In a way, those pleas by Jimmy Wales are annoying (in a guilt trip kinda way). In another way, they're more than fair and obviously necessary. I finally gave in and donated a measly 20RON. The funny thing about it is that as soon as I did it, I felt like I should've donated a lot more, so now I'm debating going on and paying again...

Out To The Ball Game

The real and only ball game in this country is the kind where the ball is kicked, hence, 'Fotbal'. The First League (Liga 1) is in bit of a shambles, there are way more scandals than matches, and generally the scandals are also more entertaining than the matches. Nevertheless, it gives the average football fan ('Microbist') something to get excited about once or twice a week.
Watching a match live is still a novelty for me, I'd previously only attended Toronto FC games where the level of play leaves one wanting. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to see Steaua Bucharest play German side Shalke 04 during their opening Europa League group match in Cluj at the CFR Stadium in Cluj.
There's not much of a story here, it was a bit of a dull game, but the atmosphere was right and I got some good footage, check it out!

Purpose

What is the purpose of this blog? By all accounts, it's been a dead blog for nearly two months, languishing in a sad part of the web, abandoned and...not quite forgotten. It's been eating at me, because there is always a lot to be said about being an expat in Romania, and I haven't been saying it.

Some snippets from the past two months:

- Joining a cause worth fighting for (Rosia Montana)
- Writing a police statement (dictated by the detective)
- Applying for a new passport

- Attending a music festival
- Meeting lots of new people

This only scratches the surface though, almost each day here deserves its own blog post. The problem is that there is no point in making this blog about my daily life, it's not actually that interesting and it wouldn't contribute to anything. So if I'm going to write a blog without a purpose, I may as well be flogging a dead horse.

There is a theme to this blog though, and that's why it's well worth writing. I'm a Romania…

Why Did I Come Back? ( Part 1 )

I've been asked many times why I moved back to Romania, because apparently I don't look like the crazy person one has in mind when they think "Guy who left AMERICA to move back to Romania."

In large part, that's why I moved back.

But to give a proper answer, I first have to answer the question Why Did I Leave?

'America' (and Canada is generally just lumped into this word), is really not Heaven, Nirvana, The Land of Milk and Honey, or any other whimsical place that describe blissful afterlife or the ideal state of contentment that we like to dream of when things are going Pete Tong. Canada is a country, like any other, with many many people who, unlike many others, put careers, financial gain, and selfish desires above things like relationships, family, and morality. These people aren't monsters by any means, like it or not I'm no different, but I believe in introspection at all levels; I judge the place of which I'm a product while I judge mys…

The Art of Not Blogging

It's interesting to note that when you're not doing one thing you're most definitely doing another. As a certain Lou once said, "you always gotta be doooiiin'" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcwnywD-HPI -Torontonians will get the full effect, you've been warned).

So what have I been doing? In this great city there's always something going on, so at the beginning of the month  I attended How To Web, a conference with a very self-explanatory name. It was held in the bowels of Club Midi, and I'm only using the word 'bowels' because once you're in there, the sun really don't shine, not one bit. It was a cool atmosphere though and it was great to see there are quite a few Romanians involved in social media, entrepreneurship, and smartphone development. I saw familiar faces from TEDx Cluj and it felt like somewhat of a business and technology focused sequel. Other than what the speakers had to share, I also realized that involvement in …

Tricolorul, sau, The Flag Story

This story has been in development for some time, but it's actually more interesting to write about it now that I can link it to a few more elements. Elements like 'Aha!-ness' for example.

There is a particular place in my neighbourhood that I walk by daily, and I can't help noticing that the two flags (EU and Romania) hanging over the main entrance are faded, dirty, wrapped around their respective poles, and in such a sad state overall that I'm willing to bet they haven't been changed since the day they were put up.

At first, I was like "whatever, typical". Then I realized something -actually, two things:
1. I accepted it, and
2. It didn't make any sense.

Part of the reason I was looking forward to moving here is that this is a country where people are more concerned with life than with trivial shit like getting fortune cookies at the end of a meal in a 24/7 Chinese restaurant. That's to say, I'm not exactly anal about most things, and I&…

A Little Bit About the Canadian Dream

Believe me, this will tie in with Romania and the everyday situation of people who live here as real Romanians.

This brief aside is just to show I'm no longer to be considered a real Romanian:

After ordering a beer (insert Ciuc product placement), I thought I'd check google maps, in case I was missing something in the area. I noticed the place had wi-fi, but that it was secured so I asked the waiter for the password.
"Murfatlar" he responded, but when he said it it sounded like complete nonsense and I couldnt figure out what letters he just spoke.
"What?"
"Murfatlar, like the wine"
"Sorry, I can't hear or something, what's the name of it?" In my head I was like, wtf are you sayin, bro.
"MUR-Fatlar" He, was getting aggravated.
"Umm..ok, so how do you spell that"
"You're not Romanian, are you?"
"Well, yeah I am..."
"No you're not."
"I mean, it's been a while."
"Yeah,…

Boxes from Overseas

A couple of weeks before leaving Toronto, I shipped six boxes, mostly clothes, books, and some random items - I really wasn't that concerned, I may have mentioned that. They finally came last week and there was some comic relief involved (as there should be).

On the way to my sister's, where the boxes were delivered, I was getting all excited thinking how I would unpack everything and make my place feel more like home. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I only found two boxes. One was my monitor and I was really glad it made it, it's sweeet and the other was a box full of baby cereal and household items my sister had insisted were really hard to find here, so I wasn't that enthused about it - like I'm going to die without ziploc bags.

I would die without my books though, so I called the number on the packing slip to find out wtf is up. It was late Saturday night so there was no reply, but on Sunday morning I got a call.

"You called late Saturd…

One week later

Wow, lots can happen in a week. The time flew but it feels like a long time ago I was on the hunt for an apartment and still just settling in.

I ended up finding a place through another real estate agency, the first guys weren't interested after the 3 apartments they showed me. It makes sense, I don't know why they get in on this gig to begin with. The place I found is big, 5 mins walk from work, and a very pleasant 20 minute walk  to the city center. I'm happy, not much more to say about it, but I did find out that the walls are very thin and now I'm well acquainted with the neighbours...

A funny thing happened at work: An invoice came from the National Radio Center (something like that), the fee was about $30 and the only explanation was something vague that the payment was required by law. Nobody in the office could really explain it, except apparently during the Ceausescu regime a law existed where everyone who owned a radio or TV set had to pay this tax. Fair enou…

Vanez Apartamentul (Hunting for an Apartment)

Like other things one does here in Romania, renting an apartment is different than how we do in Canada.
There, you look through all kinds of classified media and get in touch with the landlords of the interesting looking spots, go check em out, and then you pick the one you like. Makes sense...

Here, you search online and get in touch with the Real Estate agency that 'owns' the listings and then meet with the respective real estate agents to look over the offers. Technically, it sounds more convenient, and I guess it can be. But real estate agents don't really care much for the measly 50% of 1st month commission compared to a purchase commission, so it's not like the service is out of this world. Secondly, it feels like there's an unnecessary party in the process because they're not doing anything that requires expertise or specialized training. When it comes down to it, I'm okay to call around and find my own spot, no reason to complicate things -but this …

The Bank Account

There's absolutely no point to walking around with foreign currency in your wallet when you don't have to. A) It's useless and b)exactly.

As a result, I decided it was time to make my first "official" act in Romania and took a trip to the bank. I picked Banca Transilvania because my western-ness thinks it's cool to have a bank named Transylvania while my Romanian-ness insisted I go for a Romanian bank -pro patria and all that. The teller who helped me was young, very poised and very green eyed so I knew it wasn't going to be too unpleasant. The convo went something like this (but in Romanian):

"Hi, I'd like to open a bank account."
"A personal or business account?" The way you say "personal" here is something like 'physical person'
"Physical person please, it's for me."
"Sure, your ID Card please"
"I don't have one..."
She'd maintained a very neutral tone until now.
"…

I can't spell words out in Romanian

I had great difficulties spelling out my email to a real estate agent. The thing with Romanian is that it's a very phonetic language (unlike English), so when it comes to reading you just do it without bothering about pronunciation because the way a word is spelled is the pronunciation. Take the word "audible" in English, for example. In Romanian it reads as"Ow-dee-bleh" (with the 'ow' part like the ow from 'how'.)
In English you have to form a sound with the 'au', then with the 'di' (which can easily be a 'di' as in Lady Di), then finally the 'e' at the end is silent and phonetically useless; a big no-no with vowels in Romanian.

You would think this makes Romanian ABCs easy, but they're really not...there are no rules for spelling things out apparently and I took full advantage by saying some of the letters phonetically (A is 'Ah') and others in English -like the 'eL' and 'e…

Apartment Hunting and Photography

I've been doing a bit of both since I got here, but I've yet to actually see an apartment in person or take a good pic...no matter, all in due course. It's barely been 48 hours, after all.

Since tomorrow's the first day of work, I'll have to find a way to make the time to keep up with personal necessities. An added bonus is that I got the entire morning to work while our clients across the ocean are sound asleep, dreaming of their apps and iphones. This probably means a lot of my afternoon and evening will be spent juggling between clients and whatever people in Cluj do in the afernoon and evening. I'll find out and report back.

Day One

Three different take offs and landings, two customs checks, one delayed flight, zero questions asked. I was just another traveler today as far as anyone was concerned. Who would’ve ventured to guess that I was on a one way ticket with no more than a piece of checked luggage and my carry-on? As I made my way Eastward, the move began to sink in more and more. Maybe it’s just me, but considering the luggage was packed the night before, it’s probably fair to say I’d erred on the side of casualness in the few months leading up to today…
Here’s the thing; in December 2010, I decided I’d follow my heart and continue my career in the country of my birth, Romania. Since leaving in 1991, I’d only visited twice. Once at 18, when I had what I still consider to be my best summer vacation, and then ten years later on a short (surprise) vacation to see family. To be precise I visited twice in 2010, the first time being the vacation and the second time for some onsite job-training. I honestly never th…