Day 4 – Romas, 105, and Baneasa II

Somehow we get into the topic of what American students expect Romania would be like prior to us reading and being told about it. We mention that we knew the Gypsies (Romas) are from this country. A few students get extremely upset by this statement, because they believe they shed a negative light as to who and what Romanian people are like. They detail the terrible actions they are notorious for, such as hurting, killing, stealing, begging, destroying, etc. This list goes on and on. Because it is acceptable cultural norms for the Romas to live outside, and to be a thief as a profession, most Romanians view them with disgust and profound hate. Leo mentions that Madonna came to Bucharest to give a performance in 2009. Before beginning the concert she told her crowd that there is too much discrimination against the Romas – this made her sad – and further called for equal treatment and equal rights. She was booed after her statement.

I try to rationalize, and say that it is not so much that people should dislike the Romas, but should dislike those who do not care for morals and values. I also, much dislike those who hurt, kill, steal, beg, and destroy; though I do not take this sentiment to any particular race. When most of the Romas are known to do this, it becomes difficult for a nation, or even for Europe to be able to accept a good apple when the batch is full of rotten ones.

Because most all of the UAH students are female, we decide that yesterday’s trip was not enough to satiate the hunger for shopping. We decide to go back, this time, without a guide. We distinctly remember Eugen telling us that the 105 bus will also take us there. Five minutes into the trip we determine the group is heading in the opposite direction. Then a few Bucharest citizens on the bus discuss the different routes to get us back. Eventually we settle on taking a taxi to avoid further confusion. A woman from the bus helps get us the right person who hopefully won’t overcharge us. He determines he will do the job for 30 Lei, and gets his pal and coworker to take the others. During the drive, the two taxi drivers stop the middle of traffic and are arguing. They speak something to the tune that although they are friends, the other driver doesn’t know the way and thinks our driver is crazy. We get there safely, after having a conversation on how he’s a Roma and he does his work to help his grandchildren have a good life. Once we arrive, we wait for the second group. Later, we find out that their driver abandoned them streets away from the shopping center, and our driver rescued them.

A notable store is Simon’s; their items for sale include housewares by Versace, and high couture furnishings of the like with the extremely inflated prices to go with it. One of the employees lived in Miami for awhile, and speaks flawless English. Our group wanders into a pet shop and attempts to pet the adorable puppies, but are stopped and told that it is not allowed. I find this highly odd, seeing that y people like to know how the animal bonds with humans prior to purchase. A tea store catches my attention. I want to purchase a beautiful teacup, but because the employees are rude and it is 90 Lei, I cannot justify buying it. Clothing prices are much higher than anticipated. I was told prior to the trip that it would be expensive, but didn’t realize the magnitude of how much! Most of the blouses, at an average, are sold for 100 Lei (approx. $35). As a purchaser of $10-15 shirts in the States, shopping for clothes in Romania is out of the question.

We end the night by having dinner at an Italian restaurant at the shopping center while the other group decided to go to the Old Town area. Emily Belknap and I order the lasagna Bolognese while Carly and Ami Graham enjoy a chicken Caesar salad. Our waiter did not speak English, but we try our best to communicate with him like a game of Charades. I brought the Romanian book to use; we flip through it to try to find the phrase for “I am sorry”, but strangely, it is not in the book. The best that we can muster is “excuse me.” Dinner is followed by a shared dessert, a creamy espresso and ice cream concoction that make the evening trip worthwhile.

Categories: Graduate Studies, Social Life, Study Abroad, UAHuntsville

Day 3: Eugen, the Baneasa, and Taverna Sabului

Because each day of class ends between 1400-1430 in the afternoon, there is time for us to venture. Today, Eugen decides to help navigate us to the Baneasa, a shopping center. He normally works every night during 2nd shift as a video game tester at Gameloft, but tonight is his night off. Eugen loads up a bus card with money so that we can all go to the Baneasa. It is gigantic and very mall-like, but much bigger; an IKEA and Carrefour (Europe’s “Wal-Mart”) are connecting buildings. There are three floors full of shopping madness; a girl’s dream come true. We grab the electronic adapters/converters needed and leave. The eight females of the group want to shop, but understand that there is little time prior to dinner. Afterwards, we stop at a nearby pub and have a few drinks. The University of Alabama Huntsville students are all of legal age to consume alcohol, and in Romania, the age requirement is 18. There are local beer brands to try, while others not interested in alcohol request fruit-drink mixes.


Dinner is at Taverna Sabului. Although it is not too much of a stretch walk for normal Romanians, the Americans gather and take taxis. Our driver mumbles “Taverna Sabului este acolo!” to the affects of the translation of “but the restaurant is only over there!” We meet our other colleagues and start to enjoy dinner at the Siberian restaurant. The choices seem endless. Because Carly and I are sitting next to each other, we order tomatoes as a side to split. I ask for a delicious grilled Flounder dish. We are ever grateful and stuffed from food.


Internet access is still nonexistent within our rooms. Wi-Fi is available, but for a good connection, students most go to the lobby and sit near the TV area. I am bit constantly by mosquitoes whenever staying still – at a restaurant, in my bedroom, outdoors, or especially when trying to check my email in the lobby until the wee hours of the morning of sleep. It is worth it though to be able to email and speak to family. Besides, I came prepared with cortisone cream and an electronic device that supposedly works like an aura of bug spray.

Categories: Graduate Studies, Social Life, Study Abroad, UAHuntsville

Random thoughts

Sitting at my desk listening to Molotov and watching the Daily Show. I have not seen an episode since coming to Panamá and don’t know much about what’s going on in the US. Things here seem at times to be coming to some kind of a head between the students. They’ve all had to work really hard on projects together. I, on the other hand, have had the good fortune of freedom in my research and anytime I talk to anyone here it’s pretty much research. We’re all ready to go home but there are things we know we will miss, Conrado is probably at the top of everybody’s list. Conrado is a student here from Panamá, though he’s actually from Santiago, and he has done so much for all of us and they run him ragged.
Tomorrow looks like we’re going to Casco Viejo to party a little that should be fun.

Categories: Uncategorized

Lee Reflects

I’ve got just over a week till I leave Panamá and since we got back from the last excursion to Boquete it’s just been so hard to concentrate. I’m tired and want to sleep in my bed and would love to just get some of this stuff over with. I’m definitely going to miss some of the people here, most of the CATHALAC staff is really cool and I have a lot of fun playing around with them. Rebecca (our housekeeper) is awesome and I wish I could still talk to her when I leave here. I am glad to have had the opportunity to make these new friends and some I know will stay friends for awhile. Thanks to Yali for all her help and teaching me patience with the students. I hope that the bags I’ve got will suffice to get everything back to the States cause I don’t want to have to buy another nor do I want to pay the over weight fee. I didn’t realize until today that Ernest Borgnine was Mermaid Man until today, now that I read his obit. Was he also Cosgrove from Freakazoid?

Categories: Uncategorized

Day 2: Romania! RAU, Pizza, and Parcul Herastrau

It’s hot. I arrive at the Bucharest airport and then go through customs like a breeze. I walk out, search through all of the signs to find my name held by the Romanian American University driver without avail. I walk through the area once more, and Prof. Hickman calls my name. We find the driver, and just as Carly Stoltz and I suspected, he drives like a maniac on a mission. If I ever need a getaway driver, this man is the one for the job. Carly’s thankful I’m sitting in the front seat. Once we arrive, Carly and I place our belongings in our room, take some time to unpack, inspect my new living quarters and unwind. Then, it is time to meet everyone for the first time. At 1900 we converge into the classroom and we each get a medium sized pizza (that’s a lot of pizza) for dinner with water or mineral water to drink. We’re introduced to each other, and then told of the teams we’ll break into for the remainder of the classes. Once we are done with our meet and greet, one of the Romanian students, Cristina Alexe, volunteers to take us around to a nearby park [Parcul Herastrau]. She has taken 1 hour commute to arrive to the Romanian-American University, only to spend 30 minutes to share pizza, and does not want to return home immediately.


It is a few blocks away, but we make it through this entrance of what seems to be endless rows of rose bushes. Head statues of Romanian (or who helped Romania) poets, writers, politicians, and the like adorn the center walkway area. The number of people there on a Sunday night is astounding. All around us are citizens, young and old, couples being a bit too affectionate, and even those known as the Gypsies are asking for your change or hanging out within their own families. The nine of us watch as some Romanians sit to watch an American film [Romanian subtitled] that is projected largely for the community. We accidentally stand in front of those who are watching it afar on a bench. They say a few words, and Cristina retorts something in return that turns her face red. The lake is calm and lightly splashing to the beat of its own drum, and delicious smells of sweet Romanian bakery vendors fill the air. Upon the end of our walkway as it nears dark, I cave in and purchase a dozen little donuts (gogosi), covered in delectable sugary sauces of our choosing. I let Cristina decide and she picks caramel and strawberry – a delicious combination indeed.


Categories: Graduate Studies, Social Life, Study Abroad, UAHuntsville, Uncategorized

Me voy

Going to Chitré today to meet up with the students and help them interview the locals. This should be a decent experience cause I need to practice my interpretation skills, hopefully I won’t get something too important drastically wrong! I feel pretty crappy right now so I’m hoping things don’t get worse cause I hate being sick in foreign countries. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some rest on the bus.

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Sitting in the FSU library and it started raining a bit. It seems that it only rains lately when I wear my pumas to work and walk somewhere. Been trying to transcribe these interviews for the past couple of days, it’s quite a bit harder then I would have thought even when the voices are coming in clearly.

I can at times feel my German slipping away, I read when I can and listen to my music and even though I feel good when I write my friends in German it just feels like I’m gonna be in trouble next semester.

Categories: UAHuntsville, Uncategorized, What Matters

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