Friday, September 30, 2011

I Get Acquainted with Town

Today was the first morning I woke up in Constanta.  Mihaela brought me to the piata, the market, to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from local vendors, some of whom grow the produce themselves.

At the piata

At the piata I bought some local honey, some beans, an onion, and some garlic.

The beans, onion, and garlic I bought at the piata.
After going to the piata, Mihaela took me to a supermarket, where I bought all the necessities, most importantly, shampoo!  My most intriguing purchase: yogurt made from sheep and cow milk.

Next, we went to the university where I will be teaching.  I met many professors in the English department, saw the classrooms where my classes will be held, and got a tour of the American Corner library and study center.  I found out that I will only be teaching on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which means I can spend my 5-day weekends travelling if I want.

On the way back to the apartment, Mihaela showed me a street where there are a lot of small shops in one area.  There are produce stands, a pastry shop, some mini-marts, a butcher shop, a dairy where you can get fresh milk bottled for you from a barrel.  There's also a bank, a cell phone store, and a clothing store.

Then I returned to my apartment.  I haven't showed you pictures yet, so here's what the outside of the building and the hallway look like.  I figured I should make you love the inside before you saw the grizzled exterior.

The main entrance to my building.  It photographs well; the camera is generous.

My apartment is the one on the second floor

From the hallway, looking at the entrance
Looking up the stairs.  My apartment is the door in the right hand corner.
In the early evening, I took my first walk on the beach.

Looking up at my apartment building

The beach is a bit shell-covered

The first sea glass I've found that's actually from the sea.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


This was a neighboring train I passed by
From the moment my calf touched the ground in Constanta, I knew this would be a memorable trip.  That's right; my calf landed in Constanta first, as I tumbled down the train steps, dragged by two giant suitcases.  Luckily for me, my third and most heavy suitcase was being toted by the passenger behind me, who now undoubtedly thinks all Americans are crazy.  Throngs of people rushed to help up this poor American girl who couldn't carry her luggage.  My bags and myself were propped back up, and I awkwardly tried to corral all my bags towards the formidable steps down from the platform with as much dignity as possible, all the while wondering how on Earth I'd make it down these stairs and wishing for a single, functional WMATA escalator.  But God had my back and just knew my self-image couldn't survive a trip sliding down a double-height flight of stairs; a young lady about my age offered, in English, to help with a suitcase.  And then she managed to recruit a second woman so they could team carry my 70 lb suitcase.  It was a life-saver!

Constanta is a port city, so it was unsurprising to find a ship outside the train station
My landlady, Mihaela, met me outside the train station with her car and brought me to my apartment.  By car you can only access the apartment by driving down a complex system of one-way streets, but you need only walk up a flight of stairs and down a block to get to one of the main boulevards  It is cleverly disguised in an ugly, chipping cement building, but once you cross the threshold, it's like a magical new land.  

Well above the call of duty, Mihaela had waiting for me at the apartment:

The bowl of local fruit

  • Fresh flowers in a vase
  • A bowl of fresh, locally grown apples, grapes, and plums
  • Homemade wild black currant jelly
  • A fresh bar of soap (I really needed a shower and had none)
  • New dishes
  • A new towel
  • A new blanket for the bed
I really love the place; it's just perfect.


My bedroom

My living room

Dining room

The view from my balcony of the Black Sea

 After showing me around, Mihaela left to let me freshen up and then returned and took my to her apartment for a four-course meal.
  1. Bread, Romanian sheep milk cheese, Romanian salami, tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, all sprinkled with a Romanian herb similar in taste to Oregano
  2. Tomato, celery, and carrot pureed soup
  3. Pork chops, mashed potatoes, and spinach
  4. Homemade fig and walnut preserves
Romanian Wine I enjoyed with Mihaela
She then informs me that she wants to make sure I get settled without any kinks and that she will take me to any place I need to go tomorrow, as well as throughout the upcoming week.  We plan a trip to the piata (open air market) and then to the university where I will be teaching.  Now--after making plans to go to the market after breakfast, knowing full well I have a giant bowl of fruit to myself at my apartment---Mihaela then loads up a bag of food for me:
  1. Local eggs from traditionally-fed hens
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Cucumbers
  4. A pepper
  5. The remainder of the loaf of bread from dinner
  6. A huge block of the feta-like Romanian sheep cheese
  7. A dried bouquet of the Romanian herb
  8. A jar of fig and walnut preserves (Did I mention before that the figs are also locally grown from a particular old lady who only sells them at the piata every three or four days?)

I left stuffed and with a bag full of food that will last me a few days.  Now I just have to put away the +150 pounds of luggage I brought that is covering my bed.
Here's the proof: Champagne-flavored filling

In closing (another list), things I saw (some expected, others not):
Rumbling across the Danube
A glimpse of the Danube
  • An Obama bumper sticker
  • A croissant with champagne-flavored filling
  • Horse-drawn wagons (twice)
  • Lots of corm fields
  • A few vineyards (or one really big one) 
  • A road sign pointing out the way to Istanbul
  • The Black Sea

  • The Danube
  • A car driving the wrong way on a one-way street
  • A mosque, temple, Catholic church, and Orthodox church all within 5 minutes

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm here! I'm here! I'm finally here!

I had to say goodbye to my parents and sister yesterday.  It was sad, but also a happy farewell.  I'll be home for Christmas, so the time I'm away from home will be nothing new; I was always away from home this often between the start of college at the end of August and Thanksgiving.
At the airport in Boston.

Kim and I at the airport.

I left the US at 10pm (Eastern) and arrived in Constanta at approximately 5pm (Romania time)  That makes for a journey lasting about 12 hours.  It's not too bad, but I have been awake now for about 29 hours now, so I'm getting pretty drowsy.

My hotel room.
 I'm sitting in my hotel room right now.  It's not luxury, but it's nice, albeit slightly eclectic (I'm not sure how the "Down By the Seashore" plaque with sand dollars on it matches the rest of the decor.)

Yes, that is a built-in ash tray on the top of the toilet paper dispenser.

I was able to make my way to a bustling street where I found a bancomat (ATM) and a cell phone store where I was able to buy a SIM card.  My phone works limitedly for now.  I'm still working out the the kinks and I'm not sure I'll end up sticking with this provider once my credit is up, but I have a way to call people, yay!

Tomorrow's plan is to go to the train station to catch a 9:15 train to Constanta.  However, the driver the Fulbright Commission sent to pick me up left in a bit of a hurry so I'm not sure he knows when to pick me up in the morning.  He did sort of shout something as he left, but between his non-existent English skills and my REALLY weak Romanian, all I got out of it was a "Good evening" at the very tail end.  We shall see.

I'm beat, so I'm going to sleep soon.  I'll tell you more tomorrow!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Thank You and Looking Forward

First, let me thank everyone who came to my going away party yesterday.  It was great to see so many friends and family before I left.  For those who couldn't go, I missed seeing you and wish you could have been there, but that's life; we'll see each other again sometime!.  

Today I had to say good-bye to Nate until Christmas; it was soooooo sad, but at least we are well-practiced in the use of Skype!  He was kind enough to actually pose for a picture with me, so here's the framed photo I will be bring to Romania, without a doubt, even if--for lack of luggage space--I have to tuck it into my waistband like an enormous belt buckle.  I also FINALLY got Nate the watch I've been promising him for a year and a half.  I may have been a little late in the delivery, but I DID come through in the end!  Merry Christmas 2009, Nate!

Also courtesy of Nate, I now have a travel buddy, Testudo, the University of Maryland mascot.  I have considered renaming my particular terrapin, but no suitable name has come to me yet.  And don't worry, when I do any hardcore travelling, I will make sure to acquire another travel buddy who is actually a living person and can watch my back in the way that an adorable stuffed animal cannot.

And now a look towards the future!  I will be leaving for Romania in just 9 days!  So far panic has not set in; maybe it will stay that way?  I can only hope to stay excited for this adventure and un-stressed.

I know people have special requests of me and my travels to Romania, so if you would like a postcard, comment on this post.  If I don't have your mailing address already...well either post it and then I'll delete after I get it or find some other sneaky way of sending it to me!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I have an Apartment!

Today I signed a contract for an apartment and did a wire transfer of my first payments for it and emailed copies of both to my real estate agent.  So now I officially have a place to live when I arrive in Constanta.  I'll be able to move in on the 29th when I get to the city.  It's really reassuring to know where I'll be.  It's right on the beach and looks really nice!  I'm really pleased with it so far.  Of course, I haven't seen it in person yet, but hopefully it can't be that far off, right?

Today I also sent out a box of DVDs, books, and games I'll be using to teach my classes.  One of the books I ordered online didn't arrive yet, but I decided it wasn't worth it to delay sending all the other materials and risk them not getting to my university in time for the start of classes.  When the last book arrives, I'll just stick it in my suitcase.

This Saturday is my going away party.  I'm excited to see so many of my friends and family, but also sad, because I know I won't see some of them until Christmas and others until June.  My sister and i went to the dollar store last night and got a bunch of blue, yellow, and red decorations, so everything is in the colors of the Romanian flag.

My departure is sneaking up on me, but I haven't started panicking yet.  My Romanian needs a lot of improvement, but I'm pretty confident that I won't get terribly lost and confused, so I'll survive!

Here are a few images of my apartment: