Monday, September 17, 2007

Never Wear An Underwire Bra To A Lightning Storm


This blog title has absolutely nothing to do with this blog entry. It’s just something I learned from watching the Discovery Channel this weekend, and the headline just seemed to grow as the hours passed.

It’s probably a great idea. Especially if you are a woman.

Asa. (asha) (so)

What I wanted to share with you are my four favorite words in Romanian.

This also has nothing to do with either the headline of this entry, or the approximate or precise meaning of any of the words. So you don’t have to take any notes.

I’m both a word jockey and a word junkie. (Like you didn’t already know that.) I like to think of myself as wildly superior to mere average mortal American-English speakers with their paltry vocabularies in the tiny multiple thousands. I know more English words for snow, for example, than most Eskimo (no, the plural is "Eskimo" not "Eskimos," which would be pronounced “eski-moss” spelled that way. “Eskimo” is kind of like “moose.” Would you say “mooses”? I think not!) (Well, I hope not.) (These asides are beginning to sound like I’m channeling Ellen de Generis)

Now I have the perfect luxury, as I learn a new language that requires Olympic tongue calisthenics, of, at first, caring not a whit or tittle what the meaning may be. Later, I’ll add them to my flash cards. For here I’ll just add them to your “who gives a spit” collection of relatively useless information.

But they just feel fabulous to roll around your mouth, dandle on your tongue, and bounce into the oxy-nitrogeousphere. (See?)

Here they are:


(Knee-cho-dah-ta). Say it for yourself a million and a half times or eight. There. Isn’t that fun? Don’t forget to put the slightest hiccup of a pause between the kneecho and the data. And to lose your American accent that would pronounce it like the name of the StarTrek Next Generation android. It’s da, not day. Tuh. Kind of fizzes in your mouth before you get it past your lips. It’s the first Romanian word I found to luv (iubesc) (now there’s an awkward sounding word to work into a sonnet).

It means “never.”

No. 2 is fericit.

Ferry-cheat) (no breath beat between the ferry and the cheat.)

It sounds like pixies just before they burst from Gerber daisies. (Well it does to me if I start channeling Anne Geddes.) It’s just such a sing-song. What a delight. What a child’s-rhyme.

No waiting. It means “happy.”

My friend's Peugeot 407, when you’ve forgotten to buckle up for safety, plays a high-bells warning I swear is singing “Ferry-cheat. Ferry-cheat. Ferry-cheat.” “Happy. Happy. Happy." I can’t tell if the damn car wants me to be happy, or is just so French that it requires that by snapping on my safety harness it will get from me exactly what it wants. To be made foarte (very) fericit.

(You do remember that I told you that ci and ce are pronounced like the ch in “lunch,” ("chinos" and "cherries" )don’t you? Or did I remember to tell you? Well, so be it. And when the i is at the end, well we will get to that behind door Number Four.)

Next one you should guess for the obvious reasons if you do the math and remember that I came of age in the sixties while going to the University of California at Berkeley and then lived in San Francisco to wear some flowers in my hair.



Brings up visions of toking on a prime strand of vermicelli. Oooh. Wow. Like groovy.

And last but definitely not least:


(Ah- toonch) (Like "loonch.") (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) Who cares what it means! (It means “then.”) It just makes you want to find a reason to say it.

"It would make me very fericit, atunci, niciodata to have to do bad macaroane." she said, working all this frivolity into a single, relatively meaningless sentence. Sonnets will come later. Or never.

Fericit Romanian to you atunci. And don't forget to check the weather report before dressing for the day.

-End of lesson 7-

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Ride 'em, Cowboy!


So here’s the joke about Skodas: Why is the rear windshield of a Skoda heated? To keep your hands from freezing when you push it.

The Skoda used to be a Czech joke. Not as funny as the Romanian Dacia. But definitely in the POS (see previous post) category. Then VW bought into the company and finally, probably doubled over in laughter, took over the plant and introduced classes in quality control and assembly.

Now Romania is full of them. Romanians think of them as cheap Volkswagens, which may be redundant.

My company has a contract for Skodas. It’s a perk of employment in a society where, before, there were hardly any decent jobs. But with the onset of the tsunami of multi-national, and expanding national companies, the perks are the price of entry for luring workers with IQ’s above a ripe cantaloupe (pepene galban) (melon – yellow) (hmmm. Should have been pepene portocalo – melon orange) (You guessed it, watermelons are pepene rossu – melon-red) (or sometimes pepene verde (green))), phew, sorry, long aside and a new record for ending )'s, where was I? Oh, yes, perks are requirements to draw and keep decent workers. So the parking lot at work is full of Skodas.

In the US, I still have my Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd with heated leather seats. Sitting somewhere in Virginia wondering where I’ve gone to. I’ll sell it when I return in 5 more months on my quick trip home. But for now I have a Skoda alb (white) to drive.

All I can say about driving in Bucuresti is that it is a very good thing that I grew up in Los Angeles where they don’t issue you real feet when you are born. They give you training feet. You use them to get to the car. (“Hey, mom, can I have the keys to the car? I need it to go to the bathroom”) And that I kept a car in New York City.

Living in the LA car culture, you learn everything you need to know about machinae (cars). Living in New York, you learn everything you need to know about getting out of the way of all the other machinae aimed at your machina. Not to mention several words used commonly by sailors. And, of course, living in San Francisco for some later formative years, you learn how to keep one foot on the clutch, one on the gas, one hand on the parking break, and, looking up at the sky on a 30 degree grade, how to keep from rolling backwards into the Bay, and, most importantly for here, how to dodge errant cable cars and cars rolling backwards into the bay.

Perfect for driving here. The number of cars, when I got here, in mid summer, was five times the number back in 2003, when it was only medium scary to drive here. Then September. Everything got serious, and the other thirty percent of machinas came back to Buca from their holidays at the Seaside. Oy.

Here’s the Romanian concept of Right-of-Way: “Hey, you see that piece of pavement in front of me? IT’S MINE! and “Hey, you see that piece of pavement in front of YOU. IT’S MINE!” and Hey, you see that piece of pavement I’m thinking of that you can’t see, but it will appear at sometime in the road ahead? MINE! MINE! MINE!"

Every morning the 8km (a kilometer is 6/10ths of a mile) to work is an adventure in cowboy driving. Drivers everywhere occupying every inch of asphalt and cobble. Yee haw! Add to that the all the pot holes, cobblestones that regularly pop out of their neatly symmetrical but incredibly bumpy beds, and every day, it’s “Head ‘em and ride ‘em out!”

Oh, yeah, and the parking. “IT’S MINE!” Parking is anywhere on a piece of open pavement, which could mean dead center of the street leaving one tiny car width open for other cars to pass through. Or up on the entire sidewalk, which also means climbing 5" curbstones while parallel parking backwards. I’ll bring the camera to work with me tomorrow to show you. It means I’ll have to drive no-handed. But around here, that will not surprise anyone. Every corner and every empty space, every curb and every sidewalk is taken.

If I were a betting woman, I’d put my money into importing dent pullers, tires and replacement axles. Available credit for buying cars here is relatively new here. Only a few years. So are the cars. The surprise is that so few are dented or side scraped.

They’ve banned the wonderful old wooden wagons from the city because they slowed the traffic down too much – (Hah! My ten minute ride to the Bucharest Arch of Triumph, which normally takes 10 minutes, took an hour because of traffic, and not a horse-drawn in sight.) But I think that the Romanians can thank the horses that more cars aren’t banged and dented. Horses work hard at not running into each other. And I think that must have taught the drivers here some necessary, instinctive horse-sense.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Of Pui and Peste


Here’s a funny thing. I was determined to take you to the grocery store this week. I thought we’d get a good chuckle over all the foreign foods, the cans of exotic unknowns with names and legends in Polish, or Russian or Turkish, or, of course, Romanian.

What a nice alien adventure to bring you along on, I thought. I even brought the camera.

Well, guess what. It wasn’t so foreign after all. Maybe because I’ve been in this particular market a few times before. Or maybe my Romanian has picked up enough. Or maybe I just am becoming accustomed to my new surroundings and adapting.

It no longer seems strange to me that milk comes in a box.

Or that people lug eight-to-a-dozen 2 liter bottles of water up three flights of stairs once or twice a week.

Or that the produce is weighed in Kg’s instead of Lb’s.

People in funny hats don’t look strange to me any more. They just look like their ears were cold.

I took the pictures anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong. I LOOOVE foreign grocery stores. I see it as a way to see how the people in any given country really live. And what they call their chicken. And how they offer their daily bread. Here the chicken is called “Carne de Passere” Which means Meat of Bird, or “Pui” which means, well, “tastes just like chicken” I suppose.

And just to explain the title, “Peste” (Pesh-tay) is fish.

But the thing is, now I live here too. So going to the grocery store is also about buying a small frying pan to cook my morning eggs with until my ton of household goods arrives from its landing in Belgium and is trucked cross Europe. And figuring out which dog food is made with carne de passere and which is made from, well carne de caine (dog) or cal (horse). And not being shocked at what they sent over from Norway in the fish section. It’s about picking up toothpaste, and fruit juice and paper towels and toilet paper and salt. It’s not a junket any more, just another ordinary day at the grocery store now.

How disappointing. I suppose now I’ll have to go to Uzbekistan or Tasmania to get back the adrenalin rush. Or tackle something else as my weekly personal challenge. Like ordering a pizza.

Think I’ll just go make myself a CRAP sandwich, turn on the Hallmark Channel, and wonder what I ever thought was so foreign about living here. (Oh, yeah, CRAP is a spread of CARP (peste) roe, or caviar, made with white creamy cheese. Delish.)

Have a good Sunday. Mine’s nearly over, and the salt mines, er, interesting, well-paying, fabulously exciting, consulting job beckons in the morning.

La Revedere.