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Showing posts from 2019

Book Report - Reading Conrad in Constanta

This was several years ago, but a recent reddit thread brought back the memories... I finished reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in a sweltering, Soviet-era bus traveling between Mangalia and the port city of Constanta , or Tomis, as the ancient Greeks had called it. It was at the height of summer, early in August, and the temperature inside the rickety old bus had to beat the 38°C reported outdoors. Sweating profusely, along with every member of Marlow's jungle expedition, but wholly immersed in their journey, I couldn't keep from running a palm across my damp brow and upper lip every few minutes, leaving dark marks of perspiration in the corners when turning the pages.  There was a period of respite, somewhere around the part where the crew boarded the river boat (but not sure if the first or the second time), as the driver had taken pity on us and opened the rear doors, allowing for the odd, lazy breeze to soothe our flushed and frazzled countenanc

Why Are Eastern European Countries So Corrupt?

If you look at a map of Europe and superimpose Transparency International's  Corruption Perception Index atop each country, you will see a very clear line demarcating Western and Eastern European states according to the perceived levels of corruption within. Here is that image. The blue and light blue states are considered the least corrupt in Europe. Yellow and orange are somewhere in the middle, while the various shades or red and pink denote European dens of iniquity - and corruption. What can I say about Romania's light pink? At least we're not as bad as the Serbs, Ukrainians, Moldovans, and, of course, the Russians, who seem to be unable to escape that trademark crimson red. Good ol' Russia. You might think it has something to do with public sector wages, but, according to research comprising of data from the World Bank's Worldwide Bureaucracy Indicator and the Control of Corruption Index, this isn't necessarily the case: "Are bett

Romania Road Trip - Easter in Moldova, Part 2

The sun shines bright and clouds are sparse in an otherwise clear sky. The dash is showing 23℃ as our car dips and weaves between the green, yellow, and fallow fields of Neamț county. It is a quintessential European drive. Vaslui county, the Wild East, is just around the bend, or at the next straightway, I'm not sure where exactly but I know it's coming up because Roman is twenty minutes behind us and the small white and red mileage markers are already indicating Negrești, our destination in Vaslui, is 35 kilometers ahead. Then I see it, a large billboard coming up on the right side of the road. All county borders have signs of this type, usually affixed to long poles, illustrated with the Romanian and EU flags, the national and/or local coat of arms, and, in block letters,  Bun Venit in Judetul _  ( Welcome to _ County ).  Not that we're expecting a welcoming committee, but...Pulled over on the right, no more than ten meters beyond the 'Welcome to Vaslui County

Romania Road Trip - Easter in Moldova, Part 1

Romanian Moldova, not to be confused with Moldovan (Moldavian) Moldova aka. 'Republica', as Romanians sometimes disambiguate, is located in the country's eastern region beginning with (and this is often contested) Buzău in the south and ending at Suceava in the north - also contested. The locals in these border counties and towns often seek to disassociate themselves from Moldova but especially from the appellation, 'Moldovan'.  "No, no," a Suceavan will say, "I am Bucovinean". Romanian jokes involving Moldovans generally portray their protagonists as drunk, aggressive, and somewhere at the crossroads of nit and wit. Sometimes all at once. As one story goes, two Moldovan shepherds are minding their sheep when out of the blue one hits the other with his cane, knocking him down.  The victim gets back up without saying a word and resumes the sheep minding, but after a little while he turns to the other. "Listen," he says, "that kn

What Do 'Romania' Google Searches Look Like?

I had a merry old time going through Google Search Console results a few days ago, and was inspired to write this blog post. If you don't know, Google Search Console is the Google SEO tool formerly known as 'Google Webmaster Tools'. It is used by website/domain owners to see what type of queries are helping their site show up in Google search results.  With my millions* of page views I knew I'd be in it for the long haul, so I settled in with a nice cup of tuica to analyze the search habits of visitors to this illustrious blog. Here are some of the top searches bringing visitors to my posts: 'why romania is better than america' 'expat in romania' 'romania vs usa; 'romania vs america' 'driving in romania' You get the idea. It's mostly topics I've written about. Since I no longer write regularly I am assuming that many of these searches come from people who want to see whether there's anything new -based on old p

The Good Cop

When I saw the yellow jacketed cop standing next to my car and speaking into his cellphone, I knew I'd parked where I wasn't supposed to. But it wasn't the typical Romanian not-a-spot-spot; like on a sidewalk or a crosswalk, or blocking an intersection, or just abandoned in the middle of the road. I had parked by a restaurant on a small, cobble-stoned street with no traffic. In their infinite wisdom, City Hall had suddenly decided to get tough on parking in the area, even while the kind of traffic violations I described above routinely occur elsewhere in town without ever bothering the local police. I mean, it's fine, but let's just be a little bit more consistent about the standards we're applying. "Don't worry," I told the cop, who'd put the phone away and was studying the car, "I'll save you the trouble and just drive off." "Is this your car?" He looked at me like he didn't exactly hear what I'd just said,

The Death of the PSD

The text below was initially written as a response to an email. I was asked whether a newcomer to Romania could manage life here given the ongoing political and economic downturn. Let's make one thing clear. What is happening in Romania now stems from decades of unchecked corruption and the mass embezzlement of state funds orchestrated by  an organized crime syndicate . The PSD is by far the main culprit in the scheme, but Romania's political and bureaucratic class at large have consistently played a role. This would be a very pessimistic post if it weren't for the fact that  "the owner has noticed" . .............................................................. There is a significant chance the PSD will just disappear some day. Maybe not with the next election cycle in 2020, but I'd be surprised if they continue to exist, or to field any candidates, after 2025. If it isn't a sudden defeat (a black swan event), they will die the slow death of irre

A Fine Horse

The snow crunches under the the sturdy Hucul's marbled hooves as fresh flakes drift all around, steady, fat, soon to cover the evidence of our mid-winter ride. I'm riding 'Cyklon', a 9 year old bay, bred for life in the mountains. He is calm and patient, but has a tendency to stop mid-stride for mouthfuls of sparse, dry leaves hanging from the shrubs and trees lining the trail. I  tsk, tsk  and pull on the reins to get us back underway, sympathizing with the craving for a snack. The landscape is desolate at this time of year. A  gusting wind whistles over the plateau as a white panorama stretches ahead and below us, peppered with brown and black copses of dormant trees, and dark woods in the foothills beyond. It is what sad, poignant poetry looks like. It is death. It is rest. It is a prelude to life. We're on a 'horseback hill tour' with a group, about an hour's train ride from Cluj, in the village of Stana. The guide told us the horses don