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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