Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Domnul Nelu's wife, Gela, went home. Every day of her stay here her bouffant remained just as poufy.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Spent hours last night at the apartment. Irina�s Cristi were installing the radiators and piping. I couldn�t sit or lean against anything; all dusty. Helped dad hammer nails in the ceiling. Lots of ceiling fell on us. Minor power outage. Went into the room with all the belongings. Opened boxes. Found a book on how to overcome curses. Then I read half of Celine Dion�s biography. She sits over steaming pots of boiled water for two hours if she feels a sore throat developing. She doesn�t speak on the day of her concerts. She took time off for learning how to pluck her eyebrows and apply makeup. She has thirteen siblings.

When I got back to the hotel, even Gaby noticed I was unhappy. Mopey. Finally mom came back from her shopping trip to Bucuresti. I put on a blanket, Ethiopian nightwatchman-style, and she snapped at me that I look ridiculous. Got three sweaters, five pairs of thick socks, two pairs of pants, orange Tweety Bird pyjamas, and a Toblerone.

Adi, Rodica�s thriteen-year-old son, cycled to the hotel from town. We found a dog skull in the hotel garden. The spine was in their kennel, a foreleg bone behind the hotel. Are the hotel dogs cannibals?

Adi christened the brown-and-black dog �Cora.�

He helped Rodica clean the hotel rooms. We ate a slice of Quiche Lorraine together.

Rodica treated all to coffee, soft drinks and pastries because it was her birthday yesterday. Romania is one those misinformed countries where the birthday person treats out friends.

Cosmin and Anisoara arrived by taxi. Worried about their expenses, but they said it costed them, from the Ampoi neighbourhood, as much as the Maxi Taxi or the city bus.

Went to the Rimet convent, some twenty kilometres from Alba Iulia. Met the old lady who lives in the cottage with the tall thatched roof. She allowed me into her house, adding, �But there�s nothing to see.� The water mill side of her house collapsed, now filled with garbage. She can�t hear very well. I asked her how old was her house: since before World War One. How old was she? Can�t remember. Dad gave her 100,000 lei as a gift.

Our Rimet nun friend told us about the little fawn the convent adopted in 1994. Every year a nun in Maramures gets one or two fawns as a gift from huntsmen. She gives one each year to Rimet, and the nuns raise it until Easter, when they release it and receive a new one. But even our nun friend recognized the foolishness of this system.

I overpayed the entry fee for her museum. She invited me to visit again with tracing paper so I can make copies of the museum�s glass icons.

On the way home stopped at the farm of the man who makes tuica (plum brandy). Photographed his friendly pigs and suspicious goats. Stepped in something squishy and bright yellow.

Back at the hotel, a air traffic controller friend dropped by from Sibiu. She loves glass icons, Romanian music (even Manele � the dreadful Gypsy-Turkish tunes that are now popular), and life here. Drank some of our tuica, Domnul Nelu very drunk, took even my glass.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Ah, last night. We all got ready for the journalist party, dressed and made up. Suddenly Mr. Pista informs me that I am staying home. Janin, a young Romanian lady married to an older Italian man, nearly gave me the evil eye; spat thrice on my own chest to avert danger. A friend told me about his second sexual experience. How he and three friends hired a prostitute's services for the price of ten packs of cigarettes. Very cheap because she was fat. She didn't move. "First off," she told her seventeen-year-old clients, "I don't suck." Thanks for sharing that story, we all really wanted to know. I told you I would write about it. Bad Wes Craven movie on TV, "The Hills have Eyes."

Saturday, November 16, 2002

My day is coming to an end. Cosmin woke me up. Prepared me French toast and a cup of tea. Went to the radio station but not so into it because Mihai just wanted to play slow songs. I wanted something like Prodigy's Firestarter to wake me up but he said it was too much this early in the morning. I said that's how I get up in the mornings. But he did let me play a Linkin Park song, but not the one I prefered. He wanted me to read the porno headlines off the Freedom newspaper. I just read the regular news items. He kept asking me, "Isn't there any other news?" "No," I replied, "That's all." Then he had me read the recipe of the day for all the young ladies and housewives in the audience. I asked, on air, "But what about the men?" He admitted that maybe some men might be interested.

Then Mihai wanted to take me siteseeing - ugh! Luckily one of his girlfriends saved me from boredom. She offered to have a drink with him so I got off from keeping him company.

Napped. Met Vladuti, the devil kid, downstairs. He was almost sweet though he teetered towards evil a couple of times.

Went to Nina's. Just in time, she was about to head out. The big Florin told her I went to Bucuresti with Monica and Cristi. Ate four of her dill & cheese crepes and tried to stuff a cherry crepe into my mouth. Watched the Euro MTV Awards with Diana. Made fun of Eminem.

Friday, November 15, 2002

The pups are responding to commands in English.

Friday, November 15, 2002

As we all know, the Japanese supposedly have a longer digestive tract. I don�t believe it. But that may be why they�re skinnier. A digestive system needs a lot of energy, so I�m sure they burn off calories that way. Also, now that I am sitting on chairs again, I think my digestive system is not so crushed so it functions better. Maybe the Japanese evolved into having longer intestines so the food can be digested more effectively through the cramped space.

Beth said that miniskirts went out of style in the 90s. Miniskirts, here in Romania, are never out of fashion. In fact young ladies are expected to wear them. Beth also asked why people don�t go to movie theatres so often here. It is too expensive: $1 US out of a minimum wage monthly salary of about $75 US a month. And many things cost the same price as the rest of Europe (in other words, expensive).

Now for today�s hotel gossip. Rares has stopped wearing his hat now that we admired his hair. Cosmin is worried about the impression you�re getting of him, and Mihaela is a robbery suspect here (Rodica and Anisoara were unjustly blamed then exonerated � correct usage of that word?). As for the fascinating Mr. Pista (he looks like a rogueish young Ralph Fiennes), he ate six eggs for breakfast. Usually, he told me, he eats eight eggs and ten sausages. Domnul Nelu�s wife came as a surprise, all the way from Bucuresti. She has black hair in a tall bouffant hairstyle.

Yesterday we had an exhibition in the restaurant. Cosmin, Mihaela, Domnul Nelu, and Stelica appeared on tonight�s news. Then we went to a folk music concert � a police officer and his bumblebee-aproned wife stole the show with their singing, jokes, and drum-guitar-fiddle band.

Good night from the frozen barrens of Transylvania.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Uh oh. Canadians are in danger.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Domnul Nelu, the master chef, is busy making a flock of carrot birds, a butter nude, and gourd vases for our exhibition tomorrow. Mihai, the Radio Eveniment guy, daringly walked into the kitchen to have a look.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Is Mihaela pregnant? She didn't answer yay nor nay. An abortion here is 700,000 lei with general anesthetic, 250,000 without. The next question is, is the baby Bogdan's or Dorel's? I thought she didn't like the creepy cabbage farmer Dorel. This guy always shows up during her shift and hangs around until her shift ends, offering to drive her back into the city. Bogdan is her boxer boyfriend.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Went to see "Turnul din Pisa" (The Tower of Pisa) with my godsister Monica. It started off with a rape. So much for all the posters making it look like a heart-warming musical replete with farm animals. At Romanian weddings the bride is "stolen" and her new godparents must pay a handy sum to get her back. The movie bride was stolen, something I never quite understood happened to her kidnappers, then she was raped on top of a musical instrument by Santa-masked intruders. She killed the third rapist and was sentenced to ten years in prison because, when she pulls the Santa mask off, he is an old boyfriend and the court decides she was not raped after all. Her new husband doesn't believe in her innocence either. After ten years, just as she is getting ready to leave prison, her husband comes to see her and she returns his ring. Then some mumbo-jumbo with jugglers and a midget. Even Monica says she didn't get it by this time. Finally the nice but weird-looking twitchy old man she meets turns out to be the first rapist and his ruthless slave-boy is the second rapist. It ends with her wandering happily through an amusement park. And with all the guns on the table, when the first rapist was choking, we thought she would grab one and kill him. But 'twasn't such a satisfying ending.

There were maybe eight otehr people watching this movie with us. It isn't the price that keeps people away. Three years ago, a thirteen-year-old girl was raped in that cinema. Now everyone is too frightened to go there. That kind of put a damper on my going to see a Stuart Little 2 matinee by myself.

Pista thinks I play too much with the hotel dogs. He announced last night that he wants to have a baby with me. We'll have a blue-eyed baby, he says. Mom asked him if he was planning to whisk me off to Hungary. He said no, he is Romanian.

Just this afternoon he scribbled over the little balck-and-brown puppy and over poor Laurica. Says he couldn't catch the other pups.

As for Cosmin, he started my Romanian slang dictionary last night. Romanian swears looks even more crude on paper.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Domnul Nelu complained my drawing of the day was executed too quickly. Pista kindly helped me start another one; this time I will work more finely to make the master chef proud. Rares came by to say my lizard looks like a parrot. I turned it around. No, it is more like a flamingo from that angle.

At lunch I asked Rares why he wears so many clothes. He complained that his hair looks odd today. Finally he took off his hat to reveal a head of blond curly hair. Mom reassured him that it's decent. But he still wore his two jackets and two sweatshirts.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Mom, Monica and I worked on a joke menu for the kitchen staff. We changed "tea" to "scalding weeds" and "shiskebab" to "meat on a stick" and so on. Cosmin wants a copy. But Mihaela was unhappy that she appeared on the menu, under sour cream, as a 5,000 lei item. "Am I really so cheap?" she muttered.

Mihai from Radio Eveniment came by to say that many listeners are calling up to say they like my Saturday morning program.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Monday night - the Fisherman came to the hotel. He always takes Room #9, across from my room. He promised to bring me a Romanian translation of his favourite Jack London novel. The condom saleswoman is also here tonight.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Cosmin is making a Romanian swear dictionary for me. He teaches me vulgar swears everyday - Romanian swears are really vulgar, but they sound so tame in English.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Just now a mouse beside me.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

After a short journey around Ethiopia, I am now in Romania. Internet Cafes here are cheap. The most expensive is 50 US cents an hour. Bought many books to make me worthy of being bookwormy, yet not reading many of them. Reading in Romanian has proven to be a time consuming endeavour. And there is so much human drama here that during my stay here I�ll try to recount, as faithfully as I can, all the exciting events in the hotel I have taken up residence, the restaurant I frequent, and the neighbouring gas station and folkart shop.

Olimpia is fired. Don�t feel too sorry for her. She�s been a bit troublesome during the past few weeks. First, she refuses to listen to Domnul Nelu, the master chef. (Domnul means �Mr.� In Romanian.) He worked at all the big hotels in Romania and he knows a thing or two about serving food. He started critiquing her work but she snapped, �Oh, I am a bartender, not a waitress.� So Domnul Nelu asked her to make him a Tom Collins. She couldn�t. Second, she has plenty of man problems. The other night there was trouble in the middle of the night when her clients (not the restaurant ones, if you catch my drift) came to order something in the restuarant then refused to pay up, a ploy to get back at her. She�s always slipping her name and number to other restaurant clients during her working hours. Thirdly, she steals.

Dad reneged (is that correct usage of that word?) on his avowal to fire her but she was rude and his initial decision stands. Gaby was forgiven. She said that the temptation to steal was too great. She stole about $25 CAD in goods from the restaurant. But help is hard to find, never mind GOOD help.

In other news, Rares (pronounced Rah-resh, the carwash attendant) is sick again but he has Sundays off, so he�s probably recuperated. His sister, Ramona, a former waitress here and currently a full time student, came by last night but was distraught when her boyfriend, Mihai (pronounced Me-high, gosh I never thought of the connotations til I wrote it out), argued with his brother over rights to the car. She is quite the artist as well.

Stayed until almost 3 AM with Cosmin (pronounced Ko-z-mean) chatting about Romanian swearing and how he listens to customers having sex in our love hotel.

Pista (pronounced Peesh-tah) is the Hungarian-Romanian guy who runs the folkart shop. He�s quite the playboy. Had two chicks over last night. But mom tells me that the girl who is his girlfriend was actually quite a pest. She�s a slut. A while ago he had problems getting rid of her. Even last night, he left at about 1 AM to go to sleep sans her. She was stranded out here (you know how our place is in the countryside) all night. Kept coming into the kitchen where Cosmin and I were talking to ask for Cosmin�s help in getting her a phonecard from little Florin (the gas station guy) who was already asleep. We kept telling her that she could wake him up, it�s his job to sell phonecards. But she wanted Cosmin�s help.

Yesterday Pista nearly died. He couldn�t sleep on Friday night because of a swollen gum. Mom told me he has no teeth in his mouth. Yesterday, Saturday morning, he asked Horatiu (the barman, pronounced Hoe-rah-tsew) if he knew of any remedies. Horatiu found some of Olimpia�s arsenic and recommended an old Romanian remedy. Usually, I am told, you can just put a little arsenic in water and use a toothpick to apply it to the swollen gum. Pista swallowed the water. His stomach started �shivering.� His legs shook. Neck veins swelled up. He rushed to mom�s office to ask her what to do. Mom says his face had blue blotches all over. After some confusion, which nobody managed to fully explain to me, Pista was saved. Even so, last night when we sat down to talk, Pista had me put my hand over his heart to be a witness to his still racing heart.

More about Pista. Confusion about his age, his comings-and-goings, and his family. Mom says all he told me were lies. So tonight I asked, �Are you really 23?� Elaborate telling of proof. So it seems that he is 23. Told me tonight how he avoided military service, by paying 20 million lei and going to a hospital in Brasov for 3 weeks. He says you can also get declared mentally unfit for the army, but then you can�t ever get a driving license. Interesting how, in Romania, the mentally ill are not allowed to drive, yet plenty of Romanians speed and pass trucks at the last minute, get into accidents in which the car becomes a gnarled pile of scrap metal, and squish countless doggies.

Domnul Nelu, the master chef from Bucuresti, is now my art teacher. He wants me to draw a semi-abstract work everyday, until next week when I will move on to watercolours. Ate the most artfully designed papanasi � like donoughts � and with Irina�s strawberry jam in the middle! Oh, Irina brought me a jar of her homemade strawberry and peach jams today.

Met Mana, a nice Japanese girl last night from JICA, the Japanese Peace Corps. This is the same organization for which Tomomi works; she�s the girl I visited in Ethiopia. Mana works in Slatina (south Romania) or Zlatna (a few kilometres from Alba Iulia). Speaks Romanian with a cute Japanese accent.

Domnul Nelu said that the best cook is Cosmin, followed by Rodica and Gaby. The best waiters are Horatiu, followed by Stelica, Mihaela, Irina and Olimpia.

Mariana, the kitchen help and hotel maid, is on maternity leave. Our loss. She was really hard-working and serious.

On the 6th was Horatiu the Ladies� Man�s birthday. He brought cake for all his co-workers this morning. But I woke up too late to get any. I am giving him condoms from Ethiopia for his birthday. It has a loving black couple on the cover. I wish I took more from the hotel�s complimentary set when I was there. I never thought they would come in handy for birthday presents now.

The three pups now sleep together in a box next to my original dogs, Laurica (Lugh-oo-ree-kugh) and Flocea (Flo-cha, a name that has something to do with pubic hairs). Eddie, the craftiest of the pups, keeps figuring out how to escape his confines. But the little deer dog and his black brother can�t climb over the fence yet, so they just cry. I am not sure if they are begging Eddie for help or summoning him back to the cage or if they are calling out to me to release them. We�ve left them all to live outside the fence. They moved with the big dogs to the back of the Coca-Cola veding machine. The little Florin taped three boxes together, made them headrests and carpeted the boxes.



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