Friday, December 22, 2006

Steve's Romanian PRE-Christmas continues...

After yesterdays food fest at work, I rolled into my car and headed home. After a run to build up my appetite, I headed out for another fun night with the Bucur Family....

Good friends, good food, Christmas decorations....and rabies shots - don't they all just go together?

I arrived at the Bucur apartment to see Christmas preparations in full swing. Miheala was held up at work, so Gabby and the kids (Florine and Alexa) were busy putting up the Christmas Tree (called "Brad" in Romania) and other decorations around the apartment. The first two pictures show the work in progress and the end result.

After that, we had supper. It was a whole mixture of foods (potato salad, soft boiled eggs, sauteed mushrooms, fried potatoes, and a Greek vegetable spread with bread). The mixture was mainly for Gabby who needed some non-meat options. He's doing the short version (7 days) of the typical Orthodox fast from animal products.

On with the "Spectacul" ("show" in Romanian)

Finally, this last sequence of photos is specifically for one sick-o person who commented on my running blog. We won't mention her name (cough)...Allison...(cough), but she wanted to see actual photo's of me getting rabies shots. Miheala served as my "guest injector" for shot #3 last night.

So you see, I was not only the guest for the evening, but I provided the entertainment as well. By the way, my band-aid has pictures of cute little doggies on it - how nice....

OK folks, this should wrap up the year 2006 in Bucharest. If I don't die of boredom today at work (there's hardly anyone here), I will be picked up by Mimi (Romanian lady that usually rides home with me) tomorrow morning for the trip to the airport. I'm really looking forward to seeing as many of my Carolina based friends and family as I can next week. I'll return to Bucharest on Jan 2 (with Dana and Maria coming a couple weeks later) to start the 2007 edition of our Romanian Adventure.

Crăciun Fericite şi La Mulţs Ani
(Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Steve's work winds down for 2006

Hey everyone. It's Thursday here at my work site in Bucharest. With Christmas approaching and most folks taking Friday off, workplace Christmas parties were in full swing today. Christmas is the 2nd biggest holiday here after Easter. As lunchtime approached, grills were set up at different locations outside. I could smell the pork, mici and other sausages cooking from my office. I've just finished my second "party" and I'm pretty well stuffed for 2:30 in the afternoon.

I took this picture as party no. 2 was winding down. From the left is a Romanian technician we nicknamed "Junior", Americans Dan and Frank, and one of my good workplace Romanian friends Daniela who has helped me with lots of stuff this year. As you can see, the workplace rules for alcohol are a "leetle-bit" looser here. Don't worry, I don't think very much actual airplane work was done today on the facility.

Not that I really have to worry about this problem, but I learned something new today. You actually can open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. That's what this guy is doing with a Merlot on the right, since they forgot to bring one. For those in my audience that do drink wine, I don't recommend trying this at home - I think this guy is a professional.
Lots of of presents (cadou) have been exchanged as well. I got this traditional handmade Romanian basket filled with stuff (a tradition holiday bread, 2007 calendar, schedule book, and of course - wine) from my car rental company, which I thought was really nice of them (especially since, technically I don't really pay for the car - but hey - "nici o problema" (no problem).The question now will I work up an appetite for dinner tonight? The Bucur family is having me over again!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

More Romanian Hospitality

Hello everyone, Steve here. Once again, my "singleness" has attracted the sympathy of another Romanian family. I definitely think the gift of hospitality is a common trait here, and one of my most favorite aspects of the Romanian culture (We all know how much I love food anyway!).

Miheala and Gabby Bucur invited me over for supper on Thursday night before the usual "English class" where we've been assisting the tutor (Anca) with the kids Florine and Alexa. Miheala cooked up some mici (pronounced "meech") which are little sausages. She served the mici with mămăligă (pronounced "muh-muh-lee-guh") which is a "corn meal mush" or "polenta" for my Italian audience. The mămăligă was served with our choice of iaurt (yogurt), 2 kinds of brânză (cheese - cow or sheep), or smăntănă (sour cream) which you mix in with the mămăligă.

On another note, I am alive and well after the dog bite incident. You can read all about it here.

I am no longer angry now that I have come up with a plan for taking care of the stray dog problem here in Bucharest. The photo below shows my idea. Take this doggies, ha ha!:Yeah, I'm kidding...but it was nice thought. What you really see here is Miheala's Dad skillfully carving up a big slab of pork. Pork is the meat of choice during the Romania holiday (sarbatori) season. "Sarbatori fericite" or "Happy Holiday Time" is the most common expression here. Many of the dedicated Orthodox Christians here will observe a 40 day fast from meat (and other animal products) until Christmas day (Crâciun in Romanian). Then it's time to eat some serious pig!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Breakfast for Supper

At language lessons we were discussing foods and how Americans have breakfast specific foods and Romanians really don't. I said, "Yes, sometimes I even cook breakfast for supper". This statement was really hard for them to understand. So Steve and I looked at each other and I said we should just cook breakfast here one night in language lessons.

So tonight I cooked pancakes, biscuits, country ham, sausage, and eggs at the Bucur's house. I had quite an audience in the kitchen to watch the American lady cook! It was lots of fun and I even had to give out recipes!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Egypt - The finale

We headed back to our favorite breakfast place on Saturday morning. Yummy, yummy and there were actually other people there. The other mornings we had the place all to ourselves. After breakfast we headed to Islamic Egypt. Our major stop was the Citadel of Salah al-Din. From there you can see a good overview of the surrounding area. We had been told that around 90% of the population is Muslim. You could tell by all the mosques and the calls to prayer that we heard EVERYWHERE.

They also had a Military Museum that Stephen enjoyed walking through. Several neat exhibits and ancient weapons.

There were also several groups of school children and we were surrounded by them at several different points. This group wanted our picture so I took the opportunity to take theirs as well!

We then took a taxi to Khan al-Khalili Market and walked the length of the major road that runs through it. It was loud and chaotic, with the merchants calling out in several languages until they guessed which nationality you were.

I could have stood the noise and done some shopping but this is what we were walking in:

Yes, that is ankle deep trash! I couldn't stand it and as soon as we spotted a taxi we were out of there. We headed to the hotel and spent the afternoon resting.

That night we took a dinner cruise. The buffet was decent. I enjoyed trying lots of "local" salads. Then the entertainment started! They had a belly dancer, several male dances with sticks, and a whirling dervish. He was the best.

Then of course they pulled me out there and I had to dance, much to Steve's enjoyment who said, "if you don't post it - I will!"

We were about "Cairo-ed" out by that night so we scheduled a private car to pick us up at the hotel at 3:30am. We were told we had plenty of time. We arrived at terminal 2 by 4am for our 5:10am flight. This would have been fine if terminal 2 was correct. It wasn't. So we had to take the shuttle to the parking area to change to the terminal 1 shuttle. By the time the driver had his sunrise prayer time in the back of the bus, we arrived at the correct terminal around 4:30am. This was about the least organized airport I have ever seen! We made it onto the plane with no joke 2 minutes to spare! Steve was bummed because he still had 200 Egyptian pounds and we hadn't had coffee.

We took off and thought we were home free. I conked out and when Stephen woke me up he said we had been diverted to Constanta airport due to the weather in Bucharest. Major bummer. We had to wait about 2 hours there. The airport was evidently shut down since we were the only ones there, no lights were on and no heat! No coffee shop either.
We got back to our apartment around noon. Stephen made a large pot of coffee (our first of the day!) and we all ate lunch. Now we have to wash clothes and pack. I already have one suitcase full!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Egypt - Friday

Let me begin by saying that my husband ROCKS! He is the most thoughtful, considerate, and intelligent man I could imagine traveling with to Egypt. The three things we wanted to do most were: visit the pyramids, see the Pharaonic Village, and sail on the Nile. We had read that the area around the pyramids is full of aggressive salesmen and tourist "junk". The Village is a ways out of Cairo. The Nile cruises are "iffy" depending on your guide. I kept mentioning all the horror stories I had read online and he would respond, "It'll be fine, I have a plan". I finally gave up! This is the day he planned for us!

Phil, a private tour guide originally from Canada, picked us up at our hotel at 7am. He was 10 minutes early which is a big plus in my book! He went in a pharmacy with me and helped me pick something to dry up Maria's nose. He speaks Arabic and it was so great having him to help.

Then we headed for the stables, yes I said stables! We were outfitted with chaps and they led out our horses. Then all these Egyptian men threw my baby on a full size horse. Heart failure for the Mama, but no time to worry as it was my turn. Maria calls out, "Just hop on Mama, you can do it!". And I did - without embarrassing myself or having any unwanted help on the "backside"!

Then we rode across the desert to the pyramids from the backside so we avoided the bulk of the tourist junk and the salesmen. It was absolutely amazing to watch as the pyramids grew and grew. We laughed quite a bit as none of us had ever truly ridden a horse.

We got off after an hour and walked around the pyramids for an hour. It was just fascinating to see them up close and we even got to SIT on one. Lots of camels around too, but Phil took care of the salesmen. About the time my rear end had feeling again, it was time to mount up and head back!

After we returned our horses to the stables and had something to drink we headed to lunch. Phil took us to a restaurant named Lucille's. It is owned by an American and she fresh grinds her hamburger. All the adults had cheeseburgers and Maria ate a second breakfast! This was the BEST burger I have ever eaten. It could be that I haven't had a real burger since this summer or the fact that I was STARVING but anyway it was delicious. Then we walked around in the area and Phil helped us buy an alabaster candle holder and a crystal with the death mask of King Tut engraved in it.

Then we were off to the Pharaonic Village. This is an island in the Nile that has been recreated into a working area of Ancient Egypt. We went on this barge and were able to see lots of exhibits of how the Ancient Egyptians lived and worked.

They even had a re-creation of how King Tut's tomb looked when they opened it. That was interesting since had just seem the "real" artifacts yesterday.

From the Village we headed down the Nile and boarded a sailboat. We sailed the Nile and watched the sunset while eating KFC. We sailed for about an hour then Phil dropped us off at our hotel.

What an amazing day. We had the best time! Phil was funny and helpful and it really took the load of "touring" off of Stephen's shoulders and I felt like he could enjoy the day more than usual.
Funnies of the day:
1 - Maria's eyes when Phil said we would be at the stables in about 5 minutes. She didn't know about the horses.
2 - Daddy's horse had some MAJOR gas this morning.
3 - Daddy's horse was antisocial and kept wanting to wander off or pass Phil's for the lead.
4 - My horse liked to stop. At one point I was standing completely still and NOTHING I did would start that horse. I finally had to call the guide back to get her going! Just picture me sitting on the horse in the middle of the desert making all kinds of "clucking" noises and attempting to prod her with my heels...really my calves were just flapping in the air as I could never seem to make contact. We laughed so hard about this one on the sailboat that we had tears!
5 - The fact that I fully believe I will have two round bruises in the morning on my "sitting" bones!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Egypt - Thursday

We went back to the same restaurant for breakfast. The cab ride took alot longer since the driver couldn't speak English. While we were at the restaurant we had the waiter write the name and address in Arabic so we'll be ready next time.

From breakfast we went to the Egyptian Museum. There were tons of school groups there today. At first it was crazy and all the kids were looking at us and trying out their English. "Hello, hello, hello". We finally realized that we are attracting much of this attention due to Maria. There just aren't many Western children here. Most people don't bring their 7 year old to Egypt. And the westerns that are here and usually touring in a large group.

While in the museum, Maria and I were approached by three different groups of girls. This is the typical conversation:

Egyptian (usually the boldest in the group) - Hello, what is your name?

Me - My name is Dana, and this is Maria. What is your name?

Egyptian - Says her name that my Western ears have trouble understanding.

Me - I say the name back as a question and listen to their correction. Then I would say, Nice to meet you.

Egyptian - Thank you

Then the next boldest would start the whole process over again. I, no joke, was asked my name by at least 12 girls today. I think they liked hearing me try to say their names. I loved talking to them. They would touch our clothes and hair. Some even kissed Maria as they left. I would love to be able to hear and understand the conversations around their dinner tables tonight.

One actually said, "You are a very beautiful lady". Now, I consider myself attractive in a "clean cut" sorta way, but beautiful - not in appearance! Then I understood. I was standing there looking at them and thinking how exotic they looked in their colorful head dress and all. To them I was exotic! I have been "exotic" even less than beautiful in my life. They also asked me several times if I was Maria's mother. I must have seemed too young to be a mother. I think that is due to the "Western" dress being seen only on the teenagers here. I wish I could have taken Maria's picture with these girls but you had to leave your camera at security.

We also stood and looked eye to eye with the death mask of King Tut (shown above). All the treasures from this burial chamber were staggering. He was wearing 15 rings and lots of bracelets and necklaces. We saw mummies from around 2000 BC. Some still had hair and teeth and nails. It was very interesting.

We had Thai food for lunch then headed back to the hotel to rest up. All we plan on doing is napping and resting before supper. Maria has been fighting a sore throat/cold/ear infection thing for about 2 days. The Daddy has some big 13 hour surprise lined up for tomorrow and we want Maria to have the energy to enjoy it!

Egypt - Wednesday PM

After breakfast we headed to the hotel and had our Internet hooked up and I blogged, Maria played and Steve napped. While he was napping, Maria and I went to check out the pool. We had already felt the water so she wore a bathing suit and I wore jeans! She tried her hardest to swim but the water was simply too cold or maybe she's just growing up!

We woke Steve up at 1pm and told him we were getting hungry for lunch. So we went and visited the Cairo Tower for a panoramic view of Cairo. The taxi ride there was insane - evidently this is normal here, as all the rides were crazy in one way or another. I didn't get a picture of the tower since they were doing major construction all around it. I found this picture on the Internet so you can see what it looked like.

This a cool tree we saw while waiting for our taxi.

Lunch was at KFC - Maria's choice! Nothing exciting happened there. Then we walked the streets of Cairo. This is a very crowded city. It seems surreal to be here. You can't even sound out the signs since they use a different alphabet. I would say 95% of the women are in head dress, even the teenagers (with their Western bluejeans). We saw two ladies in the full outfit with only their eyes showing. We get alot of stares, especially from the "young hoodlum crowd". We have read that they believe Western women dress like they do because they want that attention. We were safe but it just grates on me after a while. Then we jumped in a cab and headed back to the hotel. Maria and I took short naps and then to the pyramids!

We attended the Sound and Light show at the pyramids. It was cool to be sitting there watching the pyramids and the sphinx! The show was in English. Maria was filling in the gaps with the history of the rulers for Daddy. Too cool! After the show we went to a little cafe there and had an awesome meal of Egyptian food. Steve was delighted because he loves to try out the local cuisine. Maria tried everything but stuck with rice and pita bread at the end. After another cab ride home we were in bed by a little after 9pm. Sorry the pictures from the light show are blurry but I wanted to include them!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Egypt - Wednesday AM

We arrived in Egypt this morning around 2:30am. We had to exchange money and purchase a visa before clearing customs. We had no problem figuring all this out and then we grabbed our bags and made our way to the door.

This is where the "fun" started. We were surrounded by very helpful, polite people who all wanted us to ride in their taxi. We finally picked a guy and Steve negotiated a price with him. This was extremely stressful in a VERY foreign country at 3am with about 30 minutes of sleep! Steve was amazing and I just stayed behind him and kept my eyes on our bags and my hand in Maria's!

We arrived at the hotel and were greeted by name! Evidently we were the last to arrive and it is extremely obvious here that we are tourists. We can just forget that "blend in" theory! When the escort took us to our room we were floored. This place is huge! I'll let the pictures tell the story!
The dining area and living room:

Maria's personal bedroom:

The Master Bedroom:

The view from the bedroom balconies (yes that is the Nile):

The Main Balcony seating area:

The view from that balcony:

This morning we jumped in a cab and held on while he zipped us through the morning commute to a little breakfast place Steve had found online.

It was outstanding!

Then we walked back to the hotel along the Nile. No fears for the Mama until it was time to cross the 6 lane road! Thankful there was a raised median and we got between two locals and ran when they did. Too close for my comfort, but otherwise I feel very safe. The locals are extremely polite while trying to take your money! We have been offered multiple tours and trips already. We just keep saying "no thank you", of course Steve says it in Arabic!