2007 Bucharest Trip – Day 3

In the morning, Tini drove me to the International branch of BRD (Banca Romania D?) and I opened a bank account (in RON, new Romanian currency). I was amazed at the service, clarity, and overall quality of everything. The BRD account rep, Corina (Ukrainian), presented a “Classic” package that was made for non-Romanians. Basically, it was exactly what I wanted. So, now it will be painless to transfer money to my Romanian account and to transfer funds from that account to Gina and Mariana. Believe it or not, I can do practically everything from my web access. Fingers crossed. 😉

After a great lunch at City Grill, we headed down to Sector 5 to look at a few of the houses that Mariana had located. We met the real estate agent, he hopped in, and we took off. Tini mentioned as he was walking over “gypsy” and I asked him how he knew. He said it was the dark skin.

His name was “Doro” and he was a pleasant, quite salesy guy (who did not speak english). First, we went to the #1 house from Mariana (this was her first choice until #7 appeared). This house is in Selage (not Rahova or Ferentere), but still a 99% gysoy neighborhood, and frankly it all looked the same to me. The owner was not there and so we left to see #2. As we were looking at houses, we would ask him the price. And, guess what, he quoted MUCH higher numbers than he quoted last week with Mariana. This is contrary to what I’ve been told: that real estate agents do not negotiate price and simply quote the asking price (and take their 3%).

Tonight, I met Leslie Hawke and friends for a wonderful time at the Amsterdam cafe (down the street). Wow, has Bucharest changed. The cafes, lounges, bars, and restaurants feel like Paris, Vienna, or Amsterdam, but with a clear Romanian twist/flavor. The friendliness and service in Bucharest has made fantastic leaps in a very short period of time. [The service that I expect is cold, dry, impatient, infrequent, and disinterested–as if serving you is a painful reality that they begrudgingly accept.] I speculate that the key to the change has been hiring younger folks since they don’t carry the weight of the past as heavily and are able to smile and laugh (and sincerely care for other’s comfort). And, the food was great! Weird. 🙂

During dinner, I had a great conversation with Maria about helping the Bunea family. She confirmed my concerns that maybe the welfare model is not working (the more I give, the less they are motivated to improve their lives). She suggested an incentive program where I pay Gina monthly for each child that receives a good attendance record (e.g. $20 month per child). Her program can assist by assigning case workers (school mediators) that will check on attendance and grades, and consult with the children. Also, we talked about the possibility of administering the monthly stipend via a shopping trip, rather than just straight cash. The idea is to ensure that the money is spent intelligently and hopefully teach Gina good food, financial, and health strategies. And, of course, encourage Gina to work and support herself.

Photos from today:

House #1, across from a dump, but plans are to convert it into a [private futbol field for a local company. Actually, not bad at all and it has some potential. Well built, large bathroom, water, large rooms, and room for expansion and gardens. The dump across the street is supposed to be converted into a corporate futbol field, but this will be a big improvement. There is a 1-12 school a block away and bus stops too! 70,000 euros ($100k)

“Future”, um, er, “futbol field” …grumble, grumble… we are soooo screwed… (actually, if the plans are true, this could be quite nice if they upgrade to a game field)

A stunning piece of architecture, near my hotel, I cannot stop looking at it…in horror… One of the most striking (trademark) aspects of Bucharest is the mixture of old, communist, and new architectures throughout the city. It is almost comical at times. But, I get the feeling that tremendous change is afoot and the `communist” stylings will be quickly replaced with `new’ architecture. You can feel the velocity of change in the air…

Bucharest monetization strategy: ads, baby! It is striking to me the visual changes in Bucharest in a few years. Traffic in Bucharest has become horrible and probably will only get worse. I have a bad feeling about this.


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