2007 Bucharest Trip – Day 9 &10

As impossible as it may seem, after another loooong day 10 we have a new plan. Yes, ladies and gents, a new plan. Let’s call this 3.0, since it is a major change from 2.0, with few bug fixes and lots of new features. If you know me, you may be able to imagine how I am feeling right now. :-S
Monday, Day 9: I can hardly remember Monday… things are getting blurry. [Am I starting to sound like Martin Sheen in Apocalyspe Now? I’m definitely ready for the body paint…] We went down to the Ovidiu Rom program in Rahova to meet with the team (Maria, Dana, and Vera). We had an amazing meeting, led by Maria Gheorghiu–Ovidiu Rom co-founder and director–and discussed the findings and suggested plan. Maria and team are most impressive and I am humbled by the passion and competence that they exhibit in a very difficult environment (i.e. getting poor children and families to see the value of school). We all agree in principle and Dana will manage the case, while I will provide financial support and rewards for the family.

Afterwards, Mariana and Tini had an important medical appointment to learn about Tini’s knew problems. [I’m a bit worried about it after hearing the data secondhand, but fingers crossed.]So, I took the afternoon off and walked to World Class health club for another fantastic workout (and people-watching experience). I took the long way home and got another interesting tour of Bucharest city centre. It’s just so different in so many ways that I think you need to experience it to understand.
Tuesday, Day 10: I met again with Mihaela Ramelscu and her husband, a Bucharest attorney team that specializes in real estate issues. [Both seem very bright, helpful, and competent.] We were investigating the chances of getting Gina’s property into Gina’s name. The short version is that Gina was given permission to live in the house and own it by a person that was given permission to live in the house and own it by a person that we think is dead. Gina has a piece of paper that basically shows that she bought the house, but unfortunately this is not good enough. We need to find the true owner of the house and go to court with them, to transfer to Gina. If this person is dead, we need to find the inheritors of the estate. If they cannot be found, the state owns the property. You can now see where this is headed…..sigh. The catch-22 is that if we find the inheritors–very doubtful–they will probably want to cash in. However, if we do not find them, we are outta luck. So, Mihaela and her husband do not offer much hope here.

Next, we stopped at a local pharmacy and bought a bunch of vitamins and medicines for the family. It was quite expensive, so we bought enough for one month (for everyone), and promised to send a large package from California (using Amazon). It is probably very entertaining for others to watch Mariana and I debate which vitamins to purchase, since we are both Experts in Everything.

Next, we headed to Rahovei–nice area near Gina–and searched for real estate agents (by driving up and down the main street…very efficient…oops, there I go again, not being sensitive to other cultures and styles). We eventually found one that was open on the first floor of a colorfully-painted, communist block apartment building. I was dubious as we headed in through a dark and dingy “lobby” and hallway, but was surprised to walk into a clean and interesting–in a weird way–real estate office. The floors and walls were made of stone and marble, more like a bathroom choice at home. We walked into a room that shocked me with four people sitting inches apart in a comedically close office situation. [Seriously, it looked like a Saturday Night Live skit, but it was for real. They were literally crammed up next to each other, waiting for something to happen. It was as if we were the first people to enter their office all day. Just surreal.] They were three men and a woman, sitting at two tiny office “desks”, in very nice business dress, and a very attentive, professional vibe emitting from them. We sat down on a nice little sofa and Mariana spent at least 30 minutes talking to them about finding an apartment in Rahova for “the girls” and their kids. [Remember in Plan 2.0 the idea of getting a couple of the girls, Constantina and Dumitra, out of the house and into an apartment?] I was trying to keep a low profile and act like I was not interested since we were worried that my presence would increase the price. However, we were both pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and competence of this team. Seriously, these folks are bright, motivated, and customer-centric. I am still in shock, considering how hysterically funny the office was. They said that they have one apartment “a few minutes away” that we could see later today. So, as usual in Romania, we made arrangements to talk later. 🙂

We stopped for lunch in a fairly famous restaurant, Golden Something, know for being the favorite of Romania’s current president, Mr. Traian Basescu. It was a very nice place that served traditional Romanian cuisine [Apologies to Mariana for not getting a photo with a smile.]

I ordered the sour meatball soup (see photo) and loved it! This is a really safe choice anywhere in Romania. For the main course, I had something that Mariana’s mother had made me on my last trip a year ago, “chicken in sauce”. It was amazing too. Mariana ordered a more adventurous choice, some Carp in sauce.

During our meal, Mariana called Gina to talk about everything. When we asked “where is Dumitra?”–since she has not been around lately–we got a fuzzy answer about her being out of Bucharest with her new boyfriend, while he attends to his father’s death (in Transylvania area). To be honest, we were a little skeptical about this since they had not mentioned this, even though we were planning on getting an apartment for her. So, Mariana and I knew we needed to probe on this later (fore-shadow).

Later that day, we went to Mariana’s house to talk and discovered that Dumitra–mother of Patricia and Gilbert–had left Bucharest to be with her “husband” in Transylvania, whose father had recently died or taken ill. They were a bit too coy about this probably because they correctly assumed that this would kill the apartment idea. It did. Regardless, we took Nicoletta–oldest sister–to look at the apartment. Sigh.

So, we picked up the real estate agent and the four of us drove to see the apartment. The bad news is that it was quite far out of town–about 15 kilometers–but, the good news was that it was wonderful! It was brand new, had many rooms, fantastic kitchen and bathroom, and really quite nice. Unfortunatlely, we all agreed that it was too far away (and since Dumitra was out of the picture, I had lost interest in the idea, especially considering the very high rent).

On the way home, I suggested that we stop somewhere and talk with Nicoletta. I wanted a chance to talk with her away from the others and get a fresh opinion. We stopped at MacDonald’s and ate dinner. Afterwards, I asked Mariana to ask Nicoletta if she had any new ideas. She shocked us both with the idea of her starting her own “flower business.” This was something that a lot of poor gypsy families do and an idea that she had had for some time now. Mariana and I were both enthusiastic and supportive, and told her we wanted to hear more, but were generally in favor of the idea.

So, the apartment idea was replaced with the “start a flower business” idea.

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2007 Bucharest Trip – Day 7 & 8

Took most of the weekend off, besides making calls, drawing house redesign sketches, and reading email. Tini took me to World Class gym–an up-scale fitness club, with the latest Nautilus, treadmills, ellipticals, lap pool, saunas, trainers, and the usual beautiful fitness club workers that make everyone feel fat. Had dinner at Amsterdam (cafe), alone in a bubbling places on Saturday night, um, lots of fun.

Here’s a collection of photos that I’ve been saving up:

Gina’s house with annotations giving an idea of how small it is.

Meeting at Gina’s house with architect and engineer. Everyone got interested and involved. (I love how Patricia plays the part of Cupid in this picture, as if she organized the whole thing ;-).

Patricia eating an orange. I finally got her to be comfortable with me (now she won’t leave me alone :-). She lives here as well with her mother, Dumitra.

Gilbert (Nicoletta’s son), 8 yrs old, lives here with mom.

Florin (13) and Elvis (21), sons of Gina, living in the house. Elvis did not get too far in school and has some learning disabilities, but I’ve been told works as a day laborer somewhere in north of Bucharest. (I’m sure it’s not fun, whatever he does.)

Bunea puppy (actually he’s very cute and friendly), but clearly at the bottom of the pecking order. The dogs and cats in Bucharest are sad, mangy, and treated poorly. The Dog Whisperer needs to make a trip here asap!

Bunea Family Plan 2.0

After a lot of advice, ups and downs, and deep thinking, here is the new plan. I feel disappointed that we changed the plan so dramatically, but on the other hand, this plan feels “right”:

Goal #1. Health, safety, and nutrition (survival):
a. Improve the health, safety, and nutrition of the family asap.
b. Teach them good habits and knowledge, so that they can sustain this forever (eating, birth control, money, etc.).

Goal #2. Education (future):
a. Raise school attendance, interest, and achievement to acceptable standards.
b. Raise the parent’s awareness and interest in school.
c. Graduate the children through high school and possibly university.

Goal #3.
Employment (financial independence)
a. Help the women in this family train and get jobs to sustain themselves.

Short-term Plan (immediate!)
1. Dana and Catalin assess the family living conditions and develops programs to assist and teach the family healthy/smart living styles.
-> Meeting at Bunea house on Tuesday with a followup with me on Wednesday.
2. Catalin assess the children’s academic needs and develop a program to ensure attendance and encourage interest and achievement. Also, assess Elvis for post-school remediation or occupational training.
-> see above.
3. Bi-monthly shopping trips / woman-2-woman education sessions with Gina and the other adult women: I need to find someone who is willing, capable, and interested to work with the adult women of this family to: a) shop every two weeks for essential supplies, b) teach good nutrition and health, c) teach smart money practices (e.g. pay bills, save, etc.), d) discuss women issues (e.g. birth control), and e) raise their ability to work (training?). We may want to tie the bi-monthly financial support to school attendance and achievement — we need a detailed proposal here. This person needs to be an advisor and a friend imo.
-> I need advice on this. Mariana has offered to do it. I would love to hear your ideas or advice.
4. Improve the existing house. I am looking for builder/designers to help me to make the necessary improvements to their home: a) toilet, b) running hot and cold water, 3) fix building (roof?), 4) clean up, 5) buy smart furniture to increase living situation, 6) improve kitchen, etc.
-> I need advice here too. I have heard that most Romanian builders will not work in Sector 5 and will cheat me. This is not what I am used to and could use some help. If you know anyone that you trust, please refer me to them.
-> update (4/14/07): Found a good architect (Gheorghetta) and Engineer (Marius), did a site visit and assessment, and they are working on a proposal (to replace the house).

5. Find a nearby, clean, and acceptable apartment to house at least two of the adult women and their children. These women need more space, privacy, and sleep. There are too many people living in this house. I recognize that Gina does a lot of child care and therefore it’s important to find something close. I will provide the necessary financial support for this until they can take care of it on their own (1 year?).
-> Dana or Catalin: any advice or ideas on this? I want something clean and reasonable, and close by.
-> update (4/14/07): Looks like this will be a lot more expensive than anticipated, ~100-300 euros per month.

Medium-term Plan (these mostly depend on successful results in the previous steps)
1. If possible, get the house into Gina’s name or re-consider buying a house for Gina to move to. This has proven to be very complicated and messy, mainly because I cannot assess what and where to move to. And, of course, it is a large amount of money.
2. Consider a
major rebuild of the house probably requires #1.
-> update (4/14/07): Architect and engineer said it was a clear “tear down.” So, looks like there is no easy remodelling available to us.

3. Get
Corina to either: a) complete high school (my preference), or b) attend an occupational school (e.g. hair design). [I am worried about this young lady.]
4.
Florin must graduate through high school. I am determined to get him into university. We should reward him every year with something special for passing grade.
5.
Same for the smaller children (Ruxandra, Gilbert, Patricia. Florenchica). [note: It appears that Marius is in good hands with husband’s parents (grandparents).]

Long-term Plan (these mostly depend on successful results in the previous steps)
1. Create a “trust” for the family, possibly a real estate investment in Romania.
2. TBD

2007 Bucharest Trip – Day 6


Finally, we made progress!

First, we have a new plan that is completely different than the plan that I came here with. See below. Today we met with Gina and agreed on the plan. This was an intense meeting (4pm) with me, Mariana, Gina, Corina, Elvis, Nicoletta, and kids. We told Gina (and family) the new plan to move some of the women out to an apartment, fix the house up, and ensure the kids go to school. We told her that the costs of a new house and the legal problems are slowing us down–quite true!–and that we feel that a better short-term plan was to make immediate changes to the home environment and work towards a better life: kids in school, good health and nutrition, better house, get the adult girls out of the house, and counsel the entire family on a better way to live. Gina and Nicoletta agreed quite enthusiastically.

We had to leave the house to pick up Mariana’s architect friend, Gheorgetta. So, we picked her up at the tram station and then spent a long time trying to get Gheorgetta’s engineer partner, Marius. to find us. (frustrating)

Eventually, we all went over to Gina’s house, made introductions, took measurements, talked endlessly, and made an assessment. The first thing that the architect and engineer said was “tear this thing down.” Exactly my feeling and a big part of my argument with Mariana last night. So after a lot of chit chat, talk talk, and more measurements, we said our goodbyes and left.

This was the first time I felt like we had a plan that could work and people that could implement it. Wow.

Gheorgetta (architect), Mariana, and I went to a nearby mall–very American, modern mall–and had dinner and beer at City not-Grill. (not sure the name) Anyway, we Gherghetta annd I drew sketches and translated our ideas through Mariana, and eventually agreed on the basic requirements of a tear-down, new, three bedroom home on a pitifully small lot. We agreed that the new house needs to be two-stories, one bathroom with shower and toilet, kitchen, LR, and 3 BRs upstairs. Wow, is this really possible?

The big catch is whether we need or can acquire the “papers” to the house.

I am now sitting in the hotel at Cafe Vienna and teaching the hostess how to make “John McCrea Margheritas”–I bought limes last night at the mega-growery store. 🙂

2007 Bucharest Trip – Day 5

Today is a BIG day. We meet at 10:30am with the ovid.ro team in Rahova. This team is embeded in one of the poorest, gypsy (Roma) neighborhoods in Bucharest. This is very close to where our birth family lives.

We arrived at a large school that was empty due to Easter week holiday. The school grounds looked like a normal, urban school in America or Europe, albeit a little in disrepair. But, honestly this school is in pretty good shape and feels alive.

We went into the Ovidiu Rom (www.ovid.ro) office and were instantly greeted by Vera (Program Director), Catalin (School Mediator), and Dana (social worker). They were very warm and helpful, and we got to business quickly, American style. 🙂

They were prepared and pretty much knew what we needed to do. So, after we got to know each other and agreed that we wanted to work together, we headed off to Gina’s house with Catalin and Dana. Note that on the ride over, Catalin told me that he was Roma, and I got a short history of his background.

We arrived at Gina’s house and I was pleased to see Florin (13), Corina (17), Gina, and her oldest daughter Nicoletta at the home waiting for us. Unfortunately, Florin was crying and quite upset since his Mother had hit him because he would not take his eye medicine (for Herpes infection).
Note that we have been emphasizing the importance of taking care of his eye and clearly Gina is taking this seriously.

We had a fantastic meeting. Catalin and Dana knew exactly how to take the lead and make the family members comfortable. I was very impressed with the subtlety and sincerity that they exhibited. So, we introduced everyone, talked about the importance of school, and arranged for Dana and Catalin to meet with Gina and family next Tuesday (to assess and design programs).

Note: The Ovidiu Rom (http://www.ovid.rom) program started by Leslie Hawke and Maria Georghiu focuses on two very specific areas: 1) getting kids to school, and 2) teaching women to be more independent. A perfect match for the Bunea family!

So, the morning was a great success! I feel like these folks are as good as it gets and the Bunea family is in good hands. Finally, something good happened. Note that I really had a strong connection with Catalin, since he speaks perfect English and just feels right to me.

After a lunch at City Grill, Mariana and I headed to IKEA–just opened in Bucharest and quite the rage–to buy lots of cool new furniture for the family. But, as in all my IKEA experiences, I quickly became mesmerized by the Swedish consumer experience and drifted into confusion and indecision. 🙂 This happens to me EVERYTIME I go to IKEA, even in Romania. About halfway through, it became clear to me that we need to do First Things First. So, rather than buy a bunch of furniture (e.g bunk beds, convertible sofas, etc.), I decided to get the house design figure out first and THEN get furniture to fit it. Oh well, Mariana did buy some stuff and it was not a total waste of time.

We went across the parking lot to a Romanian “Home Depot” looking for a small septic tank for the family so that we can replace the “closet of hell” with something cleaner. Unfortunately, they had everything, but a septic tank. 🙂

We then went for beer before a major grocery shopping extravaganza. As we were walking to the mega-grocery store, a fashion show started in the middle of the mall. See photos. 🙂 After a long and often querlulous shopping trip, we headed back to my hotel. On the way back, Mariana and I had a heated debate that erupted into a full-scale argument. I’m not sure what we were arguing about, but I think it was my complaint that she was making too many decisions before the facts were in. We separated quite upset. I called Heather and she talked me down. 🙂

Is Romanian racism a symptom of a deeper issue?

[I sincerely hope my Romanian friends are not offended by my frankness and thoughts. I love this country and its people, but cannot help but be completely honest in my feelings and even speculations.]

I think about the level racism in this country a lot while I am here and now believe that racism in Romania is one symptom of a much deeper issue. The Romanian psyche clearly has been deeply wounded and corrupted by the past; nothing feels certain or solid or real here. Reason, science, logic, and even compassion and empathy seem like foreign concepts; lore, ways, and superstition still reign supreme here. And, of course, there is a melancholy in practically everyone over 30, that is pervasive, sickening, and absolute.

I often hear repeated misconceived ideas presented as fact. These arguments are often superstition or conjecture, and delivered with a surprising stubborn confidence–almost arrogance–but completely false and without support. For example, it’s widely know that Romanians have an infatuation with drafts and believe that they cause all sorts of medical illnesses. These memes and attitudes are everywhere. It’s unnerving and difficult to cope with.

There have been volumes written about the damage of Ceausescu and the Soviet regime, and clearly this was a social crime of historical proportions. And, I don’t doubt that this is the primary cause of this `greyness’ and distrust of everything that I see everywhere. But, considering that Romania has been a conquered or occupied nation for thousands of years–after all, it sits right on the land bridge between the east and west–maybe this issue of a damaged Romanian psyche, runs even deeper than modern history. [Pure, wild speculation on my part.] I wonder if anyone has ever studied it deeply–the nature of the Romanian psyche–and if the issues that I observe are unique to these people. I feel like there is something here worth examining and understanding.

Romania, on the outside looks like a developing modern European country, but on the inside it feels like it missed the Enlightenment and has a long way to go in healing deep, almost unrecoverable wounds–that probably can only be healed by a new generation exposed to a new view of the world. The contrast between profound beauty and profound sadness is not expressed anywhere else in the world as well as in Romania.

Racism in Romania

I know this has been covered before, but until you experience it first-hand, you really don’t get it. And, clearly I am scratching the surface of a deep problem and I am at best a novice on the topic of Romania…

A large percentage of people in Romanian–both native Romanians and ex-pats–openly make derogatory racist comments about gypsies on a daily–if not hourly–basis. The rampant racism towards the Roma people in Romania is shocking. And, it’s deep-rooted, everyday, casual, accepted, and intrinsic to Romanian culture. If I gently push back or raise questions like “so all gypsies cannot be trusted?”, I get a smile and a the look that says: “you soft, naive Americans with your high ideals, just wait until a gypsy rips you off, then you will know what I mean…” Again, I am unprepared for the level of social and intellectual ignorance that is everywhere, even among the educated and traveled. It’s frightening at a very deep level. At times, I feel like I am drowning.

Tough decision

I’ve been here for three full days now and after talking to a variety of people, I am farther from making a decision on how to proceed than ever. I came here with the plan to buy a house. Period. The prices have gone up and frankly are outrageous (for the value). I am looking in Sector 5, the Roma/gypsy sector that has the well-know Ferentare–know for gypsies, drugs, prostitution, and gangs–where the family currently lives. Houses, a stretch by US terms, are going for around 100,000 euros ($130k) and usually have land area of about 1,200-16oo sq feet, with houses ranging from 800-1,200 sq feet. The houses are poorly constructed of masonry (brick or concrete blocks), have 1-2 bedrooms that are quite small, a tiny kitchen with no counters, stove, or appliances (usually just a small sink), a bathroom with shower, and a small concrete patio out front. The outside is usually protected by a corrugated metal fence.

So what’s the problem? There are two deep issues that I cannot seem to resolve:

1) it’s unclear what they want: no matter how much we talk about the issues, we seem to get nowhere: where to move to?, what kind of house?, should we fix the current house instead?, in the city or outside?, who will live there?, who currently lives at the house?, what school will the kids go to? does the specific school matter? do the women work? where does everyone sleep? who really lives in the house? The answers to these questions are slippery and ephemeral, and this seems normal to everyone except me; it’s as if logic and reason are just silly, idealistic Western theories. I’m frankly not prepared for this type of elusive reality. Note: I have been pleasantly surprised by the grace and humility which Gina has shown me on every occasion with regards to our financial support. She has never asked or hinted for money or help. Never. They have had hard times recently and needed money, but still never asked for it. This shows great personal character imo (and makes it clear that the burden is on us to keep an eye out for them).

2) it’s unclear what they need: the more people that I talk with (e.g. social workers, locals), the less confident I am that buying them a house will make a profound difference in their lives since the family does not appear to be improving (health, jobs, school, motivation, organization) and possibly they are becoming less self-reliant due to my assistance (which frankly has been quite modest), i.e the classic welfare paradox. Some have counseled me to “go slower” and give them goals to achieve before increasing the help. But, I cannot get over the poor health and living conditions of their home and feel that we need to fix that, at the very least. Some believe that I should save money and buy a home outside of Bucharest. But, of course, I cannot assess the impact of this large a social and physical change on the family. They are a very close, tight-knit, extended Roma family and my instincts tell me that large-scale change is risky on many levels. Some have suggested that moving them out of Ferentari , to say nearby Rahova, is the key (Rahova is the “nice” neighborhood in Sector 5). Some have suggested that I should repair the current house first, install plumbing, and see if they respond. Of course, this opens up a zillion problems since they don’t have papers for the house, contractors in Romania cannot be trusted and most of them “will not work in a gypsy neighborhood”, the lot is absurdly tiny ( maybe 600 sq ft).

I plan to work hard today and tomorrow to try to lock on to a plan. I think that I will need to come back again soon.

Two Ginas

Today, when I was visiting with Gina at her house, I noticed a framed photograph on the wall that had two separate photos of a young man and a young woman. The man I recognized as Marius’s and Dewey’s birth father, but the woman confused me. I assumed it was his wife, but it assumed that it could not be Gina. A few minutes later, when the time was right, I asked who the beautiful woman in the photograph was. Gina said it was her. I was stunned. The beauty and life force of the woman in the photograph seem gone now. It does not seem possible that the Gina I know was once this person.

2007 Bucharest Trip – Day 4

Barely slept last night — too much on my mind. Slow day. Mariana called and said that she will be here at 2pm.

I had a call this morning with Simona from (ovid.ro) and she gave me a short report on the kids. random old church in Bucharest[Last year, we signed Florin, Corina, and Gina up to a program run by OvidRom to get them in an after school program and to help Gina manage life.] Simona said that Florin is actually doing well, attends classes and passing. However, he has not attended the after school program.

Corina, on the other hand, is not attending classes and had a physical altercation with a teacher at her school. Yikes! They are very concerned about her. So, we will meet 10:30am tomorrow at the school and review the cases, and go over to Gina’s afterwards to see what we can do. They intend to put a “school mediation” program together for Florin and Corina, that tracks their attendance and tries to help. We also agreed that I will pay a stipend to the family, if and only if, the kids get good attendance and grades. We will also talk about getting Gina some social working help. I am really looking forward to this. The folks at OvidRom are fantastic!

Mariana arrived around 4pm. We went to see her “favorite house”, #7. The family was home and were a “Romanian family” (which means that they are not Gypsy or Roma). The husband, Victor, was extremely nice and felt like a very good person. His wife Elana, was from Transylvannia area and famous for being “good wives.” They had a 10 year old child, who was very cute and nice. They seemed out of place in this home–my American biases and stereotypes kicking in. The house was the nicest that I have seen in this area. The kitchen actually seemed like a kitchen (albeit the simplest, least expensive kitchen that any American has ever seen–please note that I am not intending to sound arrogant or superior here, it’s just hard to express the poor quality of EVERYTHING, even in this “nice” house). Man, it makes you appreciate how good we got it. Anyway, the house had a nice large bedroom, living room, bathroom, and extra bedroom. Then, go outside and there is a storage room, an open room, and one more bedroom (that had an old guy sitting in bed watching TV and a smell that almost made me weak in the knees. It was incredible, I really can’t say it was bad. Rather, it was a deep, scary smell that was unique to my senses. I literally stumbled from the smell. I still have no idea what it was. The guy. Wow.

Anyway, the family was extremely friendly and invited us to sit down and try the wife’s Romanian cinnamon bready thingy. It was very good. Then, they invited me to do the Romanian Easter tradition of two people taking a red, hard-boiled egg, one person says “Jesus is alive–goddamn, I had to say it!–the other person says “It’s really true”, and they they butt their two eggs together to see which cracks/crushes the end. I lost every egg battle–probably because I don’t think that Jesus lives–didn’t he die on the cross at Easter?, I’m like totatlly confused. Anyway, we had a very nice talk with the family, who invited our family to visit them when our kids come back to Romania. We checked out a couple of other houses that Mariana did not really believe in and then went to Gina’s house for a visit (as promised on Monday).

Gina, Elvis, Constantina, Patricia, Florin, and another sister were there, as well as a boyfriend of the nameless sister. I gave the Phoebe Bratz doll from Dewey to Ruxandra, who is turning out to be a very pretty young girl (reminds me a lot of Dewey). We sat in the back room and chatted, the usual stuff, and arranged to have the OvidRom social workers come over tomorrow at 11-ish. Florin promised to be there and Gina said that she will try to get Corina to show.

Mariana and I left after a nice visit and went back to my hotel. We sat and talked for almost an hour on our strategies.

A few minutes later, Edward Russell, an English real estate entrepeneur that I met on the Internet last year showed up for a beer. We walked to the Beer Wagon, an ancient cafe in the heart of Bucharest that is one of the most famous places in Bucharest. It looks like it must be three centuries old, serves great beer and food, and every 15 minutes traditional Romanian folk dancers come out amidst blaring music and parade around in folk clothes. To be honest, it’s quite corny. Ed pitched me on his Romanian Real Estate fund–an interesting play on VC funds that involves him buying and selling Romanian real estate froom “illerate peasants” at fantastic returns. He spoke a frenetic, Silicon Valley pace and was hard to follow. Ed is on his third marriage, a beautiful, young Romanian this time and appears to be having a good time in Bucharest.

Since I slept very little last night, I called it early…

random communist-style apt building
Random `communist-era’ apartment block in Bucharest — I predict that these will be gone in ten years.