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.


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!