Tag Archives: Cluj


So, I’ve found a nicer internet cafe (smoke free, and round the corner from the new flat) and a laundrette, so no going commando for me! The laundrette is extortionate, so I may yet resort to handwashing (one of my most loathed household chores), but for now I’m happy. I had a bit of a wobbly moment last night at the hotel, it really hit me that I’m here by myself and I missed HD so much, plus what I’m doing is scary! But this morning having found the laundrette and phoned one of the charities I’m hoping to do some research with, I’m feeling a bit less freaked by it all.

Anyway – as promised here are some photos (apologies to those of you who’ve already seen them on my flickr page).

These first two are of the pro-Basescu rally in Cluj – if you click on the first one it gives you more of a description there of what it says.Cluj pro-Basescu Rally 10 May 2007Cluj Pro-Basescu rally 10 May 2007

These next three are from Sibiu – the first one is of snow still on the mountains just outside the city (the southern Carpathians) despite it being boiling hot in the city itself, which I took from the bus. The others are from Piata Mare (Big Square) – Sibiu centre has 3 main squares, Piata Mare, Piata Mica (Little Square) and Piata Huet.
Sibiu 12 May 2007Sibiu 12 May 2007Sibiu flags 12 May 2007

Pro- and anti-Basescu campaign posters, Sibiu 12 May 2007 This one is of pro- and anti-Basescu posters – again click on the photo for explanation. The referendum took place a couple of days ago, and President Basescu won it convincingly (nearly 75% voted no to him being impeached). He’s been in trouble already though, having grabbed a mobile phone from a TV reporter and then driving off with it still switched on, so now the entire nation has heard him refer to the reporter in very racially unflattering terms. It’s all go here.

Here are a couple of extremely unflattering shots of me trampolining at the weekend! Sigh – I’m so glam.Glamour shotAction shot

All the other shots from now are from Saturday night, which throughout Romania was “Museum Night” – lots of museums opened for free between 8pm and midnight, and I went with a friend to Cluj’s History Museum. It was all very alt.worship with lots of tealights all over the place, and I took a ton of photos – these are just a small selection:

Muzeu de Istoria, ClujMuzeu de Istoria, ClujMuzeu de Istoria, Cluj
Muzeu de Istoria, ClujMuzeu de Istoria, ClujMuzeu de Istoria, Cluj
Muzeu de Istoria, ClujMuzeu de Istoria, Cluj
Muzeu de Istoria, ClujMuzeu de Istoria, ClujMuzeu de Istoria, Cluj

Now I’m in Sibiu I’ve been taking lots of pictures, the previous internet cafe didn’t have USB ports on their computers but this one seems to, so I’ll have to remember to upload some more pictures later for you.

More outtakes from the research diary will probably follow next time too!

(PS Sorry to anyone who’s looked at this in the first few minutes after I posted it – photos were all over the place, I cocked up some of the coding which is pretty impressive given that it’s copy and paste!)

Carry On Fieldwork, plus my 15 seconds of fame

Thanks to everyone who’s commented, I’m sorry I’ve not been able to blog before, though I have had a bit of net access so have commented on a few other blogs here and there. I’ve got 1/2 an hour in an internet cafe right now, so thought I’d take the opportunity to let you know I’m still alive, and to update what’s happening on Planet Fieldwork. I thought I might use this blog to share some extracts (or more accurately, outtakes) from my fieldwork diary, as well as give a more general “what’s happening” kind of thing. So, this is what has happened this month:

May 1st – leaving Glasgow
I’m writing this waiting for my train down south to leave Central Station. My flat’s as tidy as it’s ever been (it’s the first time I’ve seen my bedroom floor for months!). [Lovely friend] will be checking on the flat once a week or so, and [temporary lodger] will be moving in for a bit as well, so I know I shouldn’t need to worry – but I am still a bit anxious about it, and was a bit tearful when I took one last look round. I know it’s not much, but it’s my home and I do love it despite all its quirks. If someone told me right now I didn’t have to go to Romania but could go home now I’d go like a shot (and the flat would be tidy – bonus!). OK that’s it, the train’s moving. No going back.

I won’t write about missing HD yet, as I think that’s going to hit me more when I see him this week and then say goodbye. So for now I’ll just stress about pre-Romania anxieties, which I have to say are somewhat legion. Actually I think I’ll stress about those later – for now I think wallowing in denial will be a better strategy.

6th May – Budapest
[Lots of slushy stuff about HD. We had a lovely couple of days at the seaside before I left, and had a suitably tearful farewell at the airport. So far we’re both surviving, but missing each other lots.]

And now I’m in Hungary, which is surreal, given that yesterday I was in Brighton. The hotel is new and nice, I can’t say I had the best night’s sleep (not helped by the lack of non-see-through curtains (also discussed in the comments of yay’s blog earlier this week), something I’d forgotten about but which is the 2nd thing to let me know that I’m back in eastern Europe! The first being a rip-off taxi fare from the airport to the hotel.).

Initial worries as I prepare to head on to Romania this lunchtime are that people won’t want to put themselves out for me and be interviewed, that I’ll struggle to find somewhere not too expensive to live in Sibiu, that I’ll forget all my research questions, that I’ll end up with substandard data, that I’ll miss the point and chase irrelevancies int he quest to have anything at all on paper as “my data”. Of course, it may well be that all those things happen, but also I know that I’ll be surprised by people’s generosity with their time, I’ll have surprising but really rich data, and somehow I’ll manage to make it “home”.

[Later in Romania] Have had an email from one of my Sibiu contacts suggesting I do some work with them while I’m here on one of their projects. That’s very very eek-inducing indeed, but potentially very exciting, and could be a huge boost credibility-wise and give me good inroads into potential interviewees and avenues of discussion. Of course, trust me to have left behind the two books which would have been most helpful for that, but anyway in general it seems to be a good start!

8th May
I have a headache.
I hate Romanian pronouns, which are far more complicated than they ought to be.
That is all.

10th May
On my first day at school one of my teachers asked me how best I learn, so that she can tailor her methods appropriately, which I really appreciated. Today I realised that I forgot to say, in the course of that conversation, “I don’t do roleplays”. Sigh.

There was a rally this afternoon in the square near the school for the (currently suspended, awaiting possible impeachment proceedings) President. I didn’t see the man himself, as he gave his speech while I was still in classes, but I did hang around a bit for the tail end of the rally and took a few photos. The political situation at the moment here is really quite farcical – the President (Traian Basescu) and PM (Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who is the absolute spitting image of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets) haven’t got on for ages, and when I was here last summer there was a big bust up because Tariceanu said Romania should withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and Basescu refused to allow it, and relations have gone downhill from there. It has got more and more ridiculous, culminating a couple of months or so ago in a live TV show which featured Tariceanu, where he accused Basescu of something or other to do with energy payments, and Basescu then phoned in live to demand an apology (an almost identical scenario to one which features in the live phone-in show in “12:08 East of Bucharest”, the comedy we saw at the Glasgow Film Festival the other month). I can’t remember if it was the same occasion or another one where Basescu also ridiculed Tariceanu’s bowtie (I’m not making this up), and for a few days afterwards the PM’s supporters wore bowties to express their support and solidarity. Anyway, next weekend there is a referendum where the people have to vote to say whether Basescu should be permanently suspended (at least, I think that’s what they’re voting for). Which I think is the govt shooting itself in the foot, as however unpopular Basescu is with the govt, he’s clearly very popular with the general population. Mind you, if there’s a presidential election then Basescu’s opponent might well be Gigi Becali (for those of you who know anything about Scotland, Gigi Becali is the Romanian equivalent of Vladimir Romanov) which is quite a scary proposition as far as I can see. It’s all very entertaining, and whenever I’ve asked my teachers about it they’ve been very embarrassed about the whole thing.

Mind you, it’s all rather tame compared to someone I know who went to one of the -stan’s for her fieldwork, and shortly after she arrived they had a full-blown revolution (somewhat ironic, given that her PhD was on security issues. She assures me the timing was purely coincidental).

12th May
That’s today! I’m in Sibiu, as I thought I’d better find somewhere to live. I’ve been fretting all week about it, and convincing myself that I’d be sleeping on a park bench and paying through the nose for the privilege, so I am in the middle of a flat-seeking adventure. But what are the 15 seconds of fame in the title, I hear you ask? I’m not making this up either – my first stop was tourist information to see about getting a list of estate agents, and booking myself into a hotel for a couple of nights when I first get here, and once I’d finished this woman came up to me and asked in English if I could help her. She was holding a microphone, and asked if I would look at (and be filmed looking at!) some paintings that were being exhibited in the tourist info office, and then I would be filmed while she asked me whether I thought the paintings were representative of Sibiu (they were all of buildings around the centre of town). It probably wasn’t even 15 seconds, and goodness knows what I looked like as I’d just eaten some sandwiches and was covered in dust from outside (it’s ever so hot here already!). It’s for a national news station, so we’re not talking crap TV here, no sir, I’m now a serious broadcaster don’t you know.

After that adventure, I sorted out the hotel for when I return (in just over a week) and then on the offchance wandered to an estate agent’s office more to figure out where it was than anything else (as they all seem to be closed at weekends here). However, not only was it open, but they had a flat that isn’t too expensive, right in the centre, with an English landlord, available from next week to when I leave Romania. So barring disaster that’s what I’m going to go for – there wasn’t time to arrange a viewing today as my bus back to Cluj leaves in an hour, so I’ll have to see it when I get here in just over a week, but hooray! I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I said that to the girl in the office, she told me I clearly had lots of luck. I don’t know about that, I certainly can’t believe I keep on landing on my feet in this country, I guess someone must be looking after me, right?

What’s even better – because my bus leaves earlier than I originally wanted it to, I’m going to be back in Cluj in time for Eurovision! How cool is that! (though am devastated that I won’t hear Terry Wogan’s commentary).

So that’s it for now – I’m alive, I’m doing surprisingly well, I’m missing HD, but life generally is good. And I’ve been trampolining again (see last year’s entries for photo) – it’s all go.

Back home now!

Sorry I didn’t get to update from Moldova or Germany, but I got back home to the Stately Pile last night and am slowly getting back to normal so will be doing some retrospective blogging on the last couple of weeks in the next few days. Suffice to say more adventures were had, and overall the trip was more successful and constructive than I’d hoped, although it wasn’t without its anxiety-inducing moments (including a plane which went AWOL!). But till I do get to write in more detail, here are some photos (I may split this up into a few entries) to give you a little idea of some of the places I’ve been.

These are pictures from Cluj – click on any of them for a more detailed description. Note the attractive trampolining shot.

These are from Gura Humorului and Humor Monastery.

Next up is Moldovita and Sucevita monasteries:
IMGP0882 IMGP0892

And here are a few from Voronet (probably the best preserved of the four):

(let’s see if that worked – I’ll post the others on another entry)

Romanian adventures – week 2

OK, before I start on Romanian adventures, can I just say – bloody penalties AGAIN!!!!! 🙁 Mind you, at least I can be grateful I wasn’t in Scotland this past weekend, as the joy at England’s demise would have probably been immense! Oh well, we shall just have to carry on regaling them for another 4 years about how we won in 1966. Mwahaha.

This week’s lesson from the Romanian School of Surreality: don’t go trampolining with wet hair unless “scarecrow chic” is the look you always intended.

So, what’s happened this week?

Lots of PhD-related stuff – as I think I mentioned, that wasn’t supposed to happen until later on in this trip (next week in fact), and the language school was a separate thing, but anyway information, contacts, coincidences (such as another PhD student at the school going to visit a health NGO in the same town I’ll be in next week, hence another new contact) just kept appearing without me asking or looking for them. So I’m very thankful for all that.

I’ve also managed to do quite a bit of touristy stuff. First up, after a couple of failed attempts I finally managed to visit the alarmingly named “Cock Church”, which is actually a beautiful and really interesting Hungarian Reformed church designed by an apparently very famous and noted Transylvanian architect Kos Karoly. The name comes from the fact that the predominant motif throughout (from the railings outside, the top of the tower, through to the light fittings etc) is a rooster, signifying Peter’s threefold denial of Christ before the cock crowed (crew? – my English is starting to desert me after all this intensive Romanian). Apparently it is to serve as a reminder that we should not deny Christ. Inside it was really simple (in contrast to the Orthodox and RC churches here) – the guy who showed me round said that they have no altar, and no saints/icons, and communion only at major festivals such as Easter and Christmas. It’s a very Calvinistic denomination apparently, but I understand that after the Orthodox it is the largest denomination in Cluj (followed by the Roman Catholics).

I also managed to take a look at a few other churches (photos will follow when I’m back home), including the big RC church in the centre (I went to a service there yesterday as the couple I’m staying with are Catholics and go there occasionally – amazing choir, but the most uncomfortable kneelers I’ve ever experienced!) and the Orthodox Cathedral. I also this morning took a look at the Uniate, or Greco-Catholic, church in town, and I’m hoping to get to a service there this coming Sunday as although I leave Cluj tomorrow I’m back for one day as I’m travelling over the weekend. They’re a curious lot – an interesting mixture of Catholic and Orthodox – they’re basically Orthodox, into icons, big beards, no seats etc etc (that’s not meant to be disrespectful, just that I can only remember the superficial things right now!) but also accept the filioque (Holy Spirit flows from the Father and the Son, whereas the Orthodox say the Holy Spirit only flows from the Father) and the authority of the Pope. Plus services are less than 2 hours long! As I understand it, the denomination comes from the Austrian (I think) empire persecuting the Orthodox church in the 17th century and making them accept the authority of the Pope, and this denomination is the remnant of that. During the communist times they were persecuted and forcibly subsumed into the Orthodox church, but since the overthrow of the communists they have re-emerged as a separate denomination and many of the congregations have had their buildings returned (though even today in the paper I saw an article on how a group of Uniate churches are still campaigning to have their buildings restored to them. At least, that’s what I think the article was about!).

I also took a walk up what is known as Cetatuia Hill, which has a huge cross (raised by the Uniate church) at the top, from where you can see the most fantastic views of the city. Hopefully at least some of the 20 million photos I took will do it justice. The day I went first it was absolutely boiling, so although it’s not actually that tough a climb I was absolutely whacked out by the time I got to the top, but a couple of days ago I went up there again at midnight for the night view, which was fantastic. The weather that day though had been quite wet, so the walk up the hill turned into a mammoth snail-squishing session – yeuch! (I don’t do snails).

I checked out Cluj’s Botanic Gardens the end of last week – very nice and relaxing, although having been to Kew of course any other botanic garden is going to struggle to compete. I like though that relatively close to a pretty busy central area is this lovely calm, quiet green space, if I was here any longer I think I’d have spent some more time there.

Both weekends I’ve seen tons of weddings in the park – as I understand it, as well as the church ceremony there has to be a civil ceremony here, and at weekends in the summer they take place in the park (next to the trampolines, conveniently). I couldn’t believe just how many wedding parties I saw, it really was a conveyor belt, but despite that it still felt like an “occasion”. The actual ceremony takes place in what is for all intents and purposes the bandstand, with the mayor with his red, yellow and blue sash (the colours of the Romanian flag). The wedding party enter to a recording of “Here comes the bride”, the mayor says “We’re here to celebrate the wedding of Mr X and Ms Y. Mr X, do you take Ms Y to be your wife?” “Da.” “Ms Y, do you take Mr X to be your husband?” “Da.” “Congratulations, here’s the wedding licence, sign here”, and then they sign while a very militaristic sounding recording plays (I thought it might have been the National Anthem but it turns out to be “La multi ani!” (“Many years!”) which is their equivalent (though obviously less specific) of “Happy Birthday”). Then the guests all leave the bandstand and form an arch with the bouquets of flowers that they all carry for the bride and groom to walk through, then they have their photos taken by the fountain which has just been vacated by the previous wedding party and the next wedding party (which has been waiting nearby) goes into the bandstand. The whole ceremony is over in 5 minutes, and just sitting there for half an hour I lost count of the number of parties I saw, either getting married or waiting to – easily into double figures. And of course, I didn’t stand out at all, sitting on a park bench with all these immaculate people in wedding parties walking past whilst I looked like a scarecrow having just been trampolining.

School finished on Friday, so I meant to spend today (my last day in Cluj) checking out a few museums. However, that plan was slightly (!) scuppered by the fact that most museums are closed on Mondays. So instead I have just mooched round town, and will be going back to a gallery later which opens at 4 as, unlike most of the shops here, it does seem to be selling some half-decent stuff. I’ll need to be careful though, as I have bought a number of books (mostly PhD-related – exciting stuff like the laws relating to the reform of Romania’s health system) and my rucksack which I have to cart round Romania now weighs a ton.

Tomorrow I leave for the mini-holiday bit of this trip. Ian, your homework (tema de casa) is to Google “Painted Monasteries of Southern Bucovina” for some pictures (the ones I’m hoping to get to are called Humor, Voronet, Moldevita and Sucevita) and then tell me you’re not green with envy 🙂 I’ve been wanting to see these monasteries for years, they’re UNESCO World Heritage sites, but I’ve never got round to it before so I’m really excited about this. I’m not looking forward to 5 1/2 hours in a boiling hot train to get there (it’s still really really hot here – the word of the week is “canicula” which means heatwave) but the destination will make the journey worthwhile.

Speaking of the weather, if you have any prayers to spare do pray for Romania. While I’m moaning about the heat, large parts of the country (particularly in the north and east) have been having terrible storms and there’s been horrific flooding with many deaths and people missing – the pictures on the TV are just heart-breaking. Here in Cluj we’re protected by the mountains so we’ve largely escaped the flooding, but in particular the poorer villages, with their less-than-perfect roads and building standards, are being very badly damaged. Lord have mercy.

I’m not sure when I’m next going to have internet access, as the town I’m staying in till the weekend is pretty small. I’ll try to update again next week sometime, but if I don’t (and even if I do!) please could you pray for me the end of next week? (13th-15th July) I’ll be in Bucharest those two days, and I’m a bit nervous about it. I’ve been there before, but don’t really know it, and to be honest it’s not that nice a place and I don’t really feel very safe there (my nervousness is also not helped by the fact that everyone who doesn’t live there, ie everyone I talk to here, hates it and keeps banging on about how horrible and unsafe it is!). So just a few prayers for safety would be appreciated 🙂 Also, the people I want to see in Bucharest haven’t answered my emails so I don’t want the two days to end up being a wild goose chase! The afternoon of the 15th I fly on to Moldova for a few days, so I should be OK then.

Romanian adventures – week 1

I’m in Romania! Having adventures! I can’t believe I’ve been here over a week already -it’s gone really quickly, but at the same time, I suppose because I’ve lived here before and have experienced the culture and way of life and whatnot befoer, I feel like I’ve been here forever. (NB only 1/4 hour left in internet cafe so no time to check for typos)

I’m currently in Cluj, Transylvania’s largest city (about 400,000 inhabitants, of whom about 20% are Hungarian and up to a third of whom are students, as Cluj is one of Romania’s four principle university centres). For my first two weeks I’m doing an intensive one-to-one language course at a private language school, I have two teachers (one does grammar and mroe formal discussion with me in the morning and the other does conversation with me in the afternoon). They’re both lovely, we’re getting on really well, but boy are they working me hard! I’m eing stretched to my limits every day, not only in the 5 hours teaching time each day but also with half a ton of homework every daywhich is a bummer but of course is really good for me. I feel a bit like I’ve hit what marathon runners refer to as ‘the wall’ – I’m not convinced my language is ever going to get to the next level of fluency, but if I keep going, pushing myself through this it’ll probably come all of a sudden and be less of a slog. A good thing is that both my teachers nad my host family (who are lovely – a Hungarian couple who are going out of their way to speak Romanian when I’m in the flat to maximise my exposure to the language) all say that my spoken language (my weakest link) had improved over hte week.

Despite the intensive language learning it thankfully hasn’t been all work. My first full day here I went to a birthday party, and (it has to be said, somewhat surreally), every evening so far the host family has taken me trampolining! Some relatives work at the outdoor trampolines in Cluj’s central park, so we get to bounce for free (my protests that I was too old cut no ice, and I must admit I am rather enjoying it now that I’ve got over the embarrassment factor. There’s even photographic and video evidence). I’ve also had a bit of a wander round the city centre (I’m staying really near to the centre, it’s a great location, and only a short walk to school as well). I like Cluj a lot (I’d not been here before) – like many Romanian cities, particularly in Transylvania, there’s tons of really interesting architecture thanks to the influeance of various inhabitants – significantly Germans and Hungarians as well as Romanians – nd although it’s a bit tatty and worn, it’s thoroughly charming.

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to a place called Cojocna which is a spa village with a couple o salt water lakes. The weather was glorious so it was absolutely heaving with people, and I’m afraid I disgraced myself by having a sudden and totally unexpected panic attack where I completely freaked out in the water and had to get out to calm down. My poor hosts were really worried (I was just mortified) and the whole thing was made worse by the fact that I couldn’t ask them to just let me be (which is what I wanted) because I didn’t want them to think it was their fault, and I was in too much of a state to explain in English never mind Romanian that it was just one of those things and nothing to worry about. But I was so embarrassed, I felt such a twit afterwards! I’ve had a panic attack before, but they’re really rare (the last one i remember was 12 years ago). what I’m worried about is what the family thought about it – with any luck they’ll take the diplomatic route and ust not mention it again, but as (understandably, having not had the chance to travel outside Romania and Hungary) they’re really curious about life in the west and it’s often 20 Questions at home in a way that you just wouldn’t get with Brits, so we’ll have to see.

I’m also, totally unexpectedly, getting some PhD-useful experience (that wasn’t supposed to happen till after I leave the school, but I’m making hte most of the opportunities). Last week one of my teachers asked a friend of hers, who is a doctor, to come to our class so I could ask him stuff (and tomorrow I’m going to see him in his surgery), and then yesterday evening I was able to visit a hospital, as my host family have a new niece who was premature and hasn’t been putting on weight so hasn’t been discharged yet. It couldn’t have been more different from what I’m used to – we wer eonly allowed to look at her through the window, and apparently the role of the nurses is to wash and change the babies. There were no decorations or colour or anything on the walls at all (ironically with one exception – going upstairs to the ward there was one sticker of Tweety Pie, avatar of this very blog). I know I often used to moan about hte local SCBU when I was a health visitor, but this put it in a whole new light.

In other less agreeable news, I can also report that the Romanian mosquitoes have lost none of their appetite for English cuisine, and I have been bitten to smithereens. In a particularly cruel quirk of fate, I have matching bites on each bum cheek. The obviously knew where the juiciest bits were. Sigh.