Friday, May 30, 2008

Romania In Pieces



No one in Romania ever says "Yes." just once.

They say "Da. Da." Sometimes they say "Da. Da. Da.

Very often they say "Da-da. Da-da-da."

Often it really means "No."

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I am now official.

It isn't just that I have a company. Everyone in Romania, it seems, has a company.

It is that now I have a STAMP!

Now a stamp in Romania is the zenith and apex, acme, apogee, cap, capstone, climax, crest, crown, culmination, cusp, grand finale, head, max, meridian, peak, perihelion, pinnacle, point, quintessence, sublimity, summit, tip, top, tops, turning point, vertex.

'Cuz when you have a stamp here, you have moved up from merely being a physical person to being OFFICIAL! You get a stamp when the notary has taken between two to three hours to sign, and of course stamp, a pile of very official papers that move you into this lofty society wherein you become a "firma." Well, you don't exactly GET a stamp then. You have to walk to the nearest Stamp Magazine (store) which are everywhere, (and now you know why) to BUY a stamp.

Then you can walk into a bank with your head held high. You can buy things and register for things and invoice for things, full well knowing that at the culmination of the transaction, you will not merely affix pen to paper, but you will as well have the full body satisfaction of not only hearing the krinng-kachunk of stampile crashing down marking paper, YOU WILL HAVE CAUSED IT. (And they say the influence of the party is dead here.)

But that's ok. Now I have my own stamp! And that's official.

By the way, according to my accountant, there is absolutely no written law that contracts, invoices, mergers, receipts or anything official actually requires a stamp. But, God, please don't tell that to the Romanians!

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Hardly anyone who owns a car here, which would be every single person tall enough to reach the pedals and cut in front of me, drinks alcohol . I once had fantasies of having a top floor apartment and entertaining hordes of charming, impressive, expressive people on my sweeping terrace where we would enjoy scintillating conversations while sipping the best local vintages from elegant crystal flutes and goblets. Last time I was here, it nearly came true. It was paper cups, the terrace was pretty cool, but hardly sweeping, and no one brought the wine. Rude? Nope. Cautious.

The local laws against driving while under even the slightest influence are harsh and punitive and rarely succumb to the for-nearly-everything-else, palm-out, tradition of I-really-didn't-mean-it-officer-here's-a-few-million-lei ($)-for-your-trouble-SIR!?-Spaga (bribes). You simply lose your license. Blow a high number lose your driving privilege forever.  Harsh. but effective.

So instead, people arrive at your door, not with a jeroboam of bubbly, vintage anything. They come bearing gift tetrapaks of Suc (juice). When I was absent for the three years between Romanian visits, this is one of the things I missed most. Fruit juices.

Here's what kind of juices I can get, neatly, sanitarily packaged from my local hypermarket on any given thirsty day: Orange, of course. Regular, but with or without pulp, Spanish, Sicillian, Local, Blood or mixed with tangerine, pineapple, grape or multiples.

And, of course, tangerine. And grapefruit, red or regular. Apple and grape would make the list as no big deal. Now it gets interesting: Pear. Peach. Pineapple (ok, it's imported, but it starts with a P and you can get it here.) Pomegranate. Plum. Persimmon 

.And my personal favorite, Visine. (No, not the red eye remedy, Cherry.)

Kiwi. Melon. (Various and seasonal, naturally.)

Banana. Yes, you can get banana juice in Romania.

The berries. Black, blue, razz and unpronounceably local.

Only so-so on the vegetable front. Tomato, natch. Occasional carrot. I've yet to see onion or avocado. But here, it wouldn't surprise me.

There is absolutely no sociological ramifications attached to this observation.  It's just early morning and I'm thirsty.

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The fragile lilacs are gone now. Replaced with the robust roses that the State fills every median with. And every garden, public or private mimics.  And jasmin and honeysuckle. 

Bucharest in Spring is lush and fragrant and dusty.

In Summer, Bucharest is hot. And dusty.

In Autumn, Bucharest is colorful. And dusty.

And in Winter, Bucharest is cold. And muddy. Which is what you get when you mix snow...and dust.

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La revedere.

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To Be Continued...
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