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!