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.