Peter Lyons

Men with pick axes

October 24, 2007

Last night was Jeremy's last hurrah here. He flies to the London office today.  Matt and I stayed late at the office to do some conference calls with the states, and then got a cab across town to "Dragoni", one of the few Chinese restaurants in town.  With a little bit of effort the driver was able to understand the restaurant name and the cross streets.  Then we needed to take an alternate route to avoid the traffic heading to the stadium for the Beyonce Knowles concert.  We arrived at the restaurant OK and were joined up by several others for another underwhelming meal.  After dinner while waiting for the cab outside we could hear the Beyonce concert.

We went back into the center of town for 5 RON ($2) Tiramisu.  Toward the end of the meal a Gypsy girl of about eight and a boy about twelve came into the restaurant.  It's fairly common for them to come into restaurants to beg, although this was the first I had seen it.  They only got about three steps in before the bartender ran out from behind the bar to chase them out.  Just after they left the gentleman sitting nearest the door realized that while the girl distracted him the boy had knicked his cell phone out of his coat pocket on the back of his chair.  The customer and the bar tender ran after them on foot, returning about five minutes later with the cell phone.  Presumably they inflicted some form of punishment on the boy.

On the walk home we had another "Romania moment".  It was only about 9:30 pm or so.  We walked past a man using a pick axe to try to pull up a drainage grate along the curb.  Now, most of us Americans with common sense think "Strange man, not a city worker, using a pick axe late at night to get into the sewer system -- keep walking".  Of course, Allison immediately approaches him to inquire what he is doing.  After their brief discourse she indicates that he claims to have some rotten pickles that he wants to dispose of in the drain.  The rest of us sort of look at one another confirming that whatever he's actually doing, it must be nefarious.

Tuesday for lunch I went with Alex, Flori, and Matt to the local Jewish lunch canteen.  This was not far from the office, but is way in the back of a courtyard and has no signs.  It is visited by prestigious Jewish guests traveling through Romania occasionally, however.  It's essentially a small kitchen making home-cooked meals.  Everyone gets the same meal - whatever they are making that day.  Today we had bean soup then roast chicken with Mamaliga (polenta), and donuts for after.  It was very good but too much food for me to eat.  While there, men have to wear a Yamika or some kind of hat.  The whole thing costs 8 RON (about $3).