Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh, Romania

Romania. From now on, I won't be able to mention this country without and 'oh' before and a 'sigh' after. So where to start.


A couple of months ago, Vic sent through the Romanian national anthem. I had a laugh to myself because all I heard was some angry, 15th century, hatchet wielding men singing/yelling from deep within their bellies which had probably just been filled with meat and cabbage. Having just returned from Romania, I can confirm that these men still exist. They are scary and most of them are taxi drivers.

Oh Romania (sigh). What a land of contradictions, stray dogs and ugly people with the strangest hair growth. When we arrived we couldn’t find the bus stop. There was no information desk, so we asked the 2nd most trusted people, the police, where we might find it. They helpfully informed Luke that the bus stop was 20kms down the road. Not so helpful when you know for a fact there is a bus stop at the airport. So, we decided to catch a taxi. Not so helpful when the taxi driver is trying to charge you about £30 to go 10km down the road. We haggled, and then agreed on a price. After a 10 minute drive into the city, with tunes blaring from the radio that resembled my old keyboard’s demo mode, we stopped at the train station where the driver proceed to demand more money. In fact, he decided the price we had agreed on was actually per person. He just forgot to tell us. Ah, the hilarity. We ended up chucking the money at him and the legging it out of the cab. It was truly a great start to the country.

Then came the train station. As a general rule, most vagrants hang out at train and bus stations. Accepted. But seriously, when you’ve just been ripped off by a fat fuck of a taxi driver and then find yourself walking through gypsy children sniffing aerosol cans, stray dogs with patches of fur missing and generally unpleasant and scary looking men just to get through the front doors, there’s only one thing to do: head to Mc Donald’s. Those sweet golden arches provided the McFlurry and post mix Cokes to will us onto the next 6 hours of our journey; to Transylvania.

The beauty of the Carpathian mountains and the surrounding countryside was probably what made the trip. After another taxi ride from Brasov, through to Rasov and then Bran, we finally made it up the mountain into the Piatra Craiului National Park in Moeciu where our accommodation was. It was everything we needed it to be to start over with Romania. We stayed at a family farm, with about three generations of the family living and working there, including the 100 year old grandma who seemed to spent A LOT of time in the barn. There were cows and chickens as well as massive hay stack houses with pitch forks at the top, as well as homemade tables and chairs and old jars with wild flowers on all the tables. It was beautiful. We even arranged for a farm style breakfast that began with a glass of warm milk, straight from the udder. I really liked the idea of it, but when it came to the thick taste of fresh, frothy teat, it was a bit much. After breakfast, we walked down the mountain into Bran and had a look at the outside of Dracula’s castle. We didn’t go in as we heard that they had re decorated it Romanian style. We figured that probably included tearing up the floorboards and scattering rubbish around the interior, so we didn’t bother. We then meandered back up the mountain and had a traditional picnic halfway up that included cheese and pizza flavoured chip sandwiches, biscuits and many name games.

I think after our mountain time, we were all a bit reluctant to go back to Bucharest, but it wasn’t as bad as we were fearing. After waiting for our train which was almost an hour late, we got to our hostel successfully by avoiding all taxis. Our hostel was just near Cismigiu Park, which was lovely. It had rows of green benches with wrought iron backs and sides, where the old folks would gather to have a chit chat at dusk. There was also a space in the middle of the park for the local Romanian men to play a game that looked like Scrabble, but with number tiles and carpet on top of the table.

Most cities, even the most average, have beautiful old towns. It’s what saves the grime and the ugliness of the concrete. But, of course, because it was Romania, the old town was just as ugly as the rest of the city. There were no footpaths because they had all been dug up. They had been replaced with wooden slats that were so flimsy, the fat fuck of the taxi driver would definitely have fallen through. Surrounding the slats were piles, upon piles of rubbish, guarded by the manky dogs that roamed the city. Instead of the electrical wires being, I don’t know, underground or perhaps inside the electrical poles, they were just wrapped around the outside of the poles at least a hundred times over, with some even hanging down head height. As we continued to walked around, one thing became very obvious; these people like to get married. There were at least five wedding dress shops on every street, with the most hideous looking dresses imaginable. Think Borat’s mankini but with lace and a meringue bottom. Hot.

This entry is a lot longer than I intended, and I even skipped some stuff to try and save your eyes and attention span. I guess I’d like to wrap this up with, oh Romania (sigh). I’m glad I went and saw you. You were ugly, you had an old woman who kissed Vic’s cleavage with her gummy mouth and called me a Mongoloid. You had people with huge moles, the worst dress sense on the plant (red horizontal and pink vertical stripes in ONE outfit is TOO much) and hair spurting out of some weird places. You had people who would do anything to get ahead, people who crossed themselves upon going past every church, stray dogs and drunk gypsies stealing petunia’s from a restaurant. You were both weird and a little wonderful. I liked you and I hated you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stop my weirdness

Do you ever only act weird around certain people? I do. There are people who bring out my weirdness, usually because I don't know what to say to them. They're mostly people in authority, like a couple of my bosses at work, where I say really inappropriate, random things to them.

Example one

Scene: At a random desk. It's one my new boss' first day and I decide to strike up a conversation with him which is totally not like me.

Me: Hi, I'm Vanessa, how are you going?
Him: Hi, I'm XXXX. How are you going?
Me: Good thanks, how are you?
Him: Good, how are you?
Me: Err, good thanks.

Example two

Scene: In the kitchen. It's day three for the afore mentioned boss. We're boiling water together. He's making a selfish tea round, I can't get away with that shit, so I'm on about four cups.

Me: Hi, how's it going?
Him: Oh yea, you know how it is when you start somewhere new.
Me: Yeah, you totally feel like a spare dick.
Him: Err, did you just say spare dick? (note this man is a WRITER)
Me: Um, yes, spare dick. You know, spare dick?
Him: No, no I don't.

Example three

Scene: In the kitchen. Again, the below conversation is with boss dude. Note to self, I really should check he isn't in the kitchen before I venture in there next. Again, we're making tea. Him, a selfish one, me, a morning round I, no doubt, did with a lot of fuss and claims of 'you're just asking me because I'm a woman'.

Him: Hi
Me: Hi (cautiously)
Him: Most Aussies don't drink tea.
Me: I know, I've assimilated.
Him: I don't drink it that much, I've just started getting into coffee.

(The conversation is going normally until this point where I launch into a passionate rant about how English people don't understand what good coffee is. This goes on for a full kettle boil. It is long and unnecessary, but once I get started on this topic, I have to finish).

Him: Err, yes. Well, instant coffee..
Me: DON'T GET ME STARTED ON THAT SHIT. It's soooo the equivalent of Melanie Griffiths 'finding her way' in the corporate world of Working Girl. HA HA HA HA.
Him: I was going to say I quite like it. Are you saying I'm like Melanie Griffiths?
Me: Oh. Yes. Well. Some of it's nice. And. Um. No. HA.

I should stop making tea.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Swine apparel

There's some figure that if people actually actioned the ideas they had, persevered and learnt from their mistakes, the changes of being successful would be something like 1000 to 1. Think about the odds people play with the lottery and then compare that to a little hard work and some hard core, scary arse, putting yourself out there. Most of us are too scared or too lazy to actually do half the stuff we really want to do, but not Luke. However this turns out, I'm stupidly proud of him and completely admire him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Update, 27 things

1. Bake some biscuits - DONE: ANZACS, some choc chip ones and oat and apricot
2. Visit Turkey - DONE: note this changed to Iceland and this is ok cause it's my list
3. Own something expensive - Having trouble with this one
4. Go on a holiday with Luke - DONE: and to be continued
5. Read a classic - DONE: Catcher in the Rye, Farewell to Arms
6. Make a really good curry - Hmmm, need to get onto this
7. Go to the ballet - DONE: Swan Lake at the Royal Opera
8. See another play - DONE: The Frontline, but I will see another one
9. See Shakespeare at the Globe - HALF DONE: saw a play at the Globe but not a Shakey
10. Write some letters to people - DONE!
11. Go to the underground rebel bingo night - Do-able
12. Go to Chagford - The next three I will need to get onto
13. Visit the Lake District
14. Visit the Cotswolds
15. Eat in one of the best restaurants in London - Do-able
16. Do one of the country walks in my London book - Hmmm, can I do one in Brasov?
17. Do another bedroom art project - DONE
18. Try and see a deer at Richmond park - DONE
19. Have a summer picnic - DONE
20. Find out how hard it is to apply for a visa for the US - Do-able
21. Be a good bridesmaid - Getting there, will be doing a chunk this weekend
22. Go to Essex - DONE
23. Go to a quiz night - Do-able when Vic moves to Clapham
24. Try to (ha!) get better at drawing - Getting there, but never do-able
25. Enrol in a writing class - all booked, won't be able til until 28 things before 29
26. Try to get an article published in Frankie - being slack, must try harder
27. Do the Jack the Ripper tour (random last one, I know) - DONE

How is everyone going with theirs?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Neurons are cool

Our minds are amazing, funny things. Last night, Luke and I went to a School of Life ( talk about memory and it was so surprisingly thought provoking. Man, I love being an adult. I totally embrace this stage in my evolution whereby comfortable shoes rule, on the odd occasion can say ‘shit’ in front of my mother (only occasionally as it still feels naughty), wear stockings with open toe shoes (not sure about this one but Vic has welcomed it into her life quite happily) and finally, go to something kind of nerdy and not be ridiculed about it.

So, for the first time in ages, I actually listened with the intent of retaining information. I even did it for a whole 90 mins, give or take a few mind wanders. It’s crazy how we remember things, or as we learnt, how we don’t. Our memory isn’t for what we may think. In fact, we can only hold up to five pieces of information at a time. It’s not built for long term retention. Thank god, because I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me. Interestingly, our memories are often shaped and re shaped each time we revisit them thanks to many things, including the change of environment. Even our mood, smells, even sounds can alter what and how we remember. So basically, every time we think back to a memory, we’re actually going back to the last time we thought of it, rather than the original event. How we work is seriously fascinating. Even how we experience déjà vu is intriguing. Our neurons shoot through the middle of our brain and along the way, pick up other contributing neurons to form a particular memory. In the case of déjà vu, the wrong neuron (the familiarity one) is picked up, making us think we’ve seen or done something before. As you can see, I could go on about this for at least another five paragraphs, but I won’t.

Yay learning!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I'm back

Sorry I haven't written in a while.

I've had a really intense couple of weeks at work. My brain has felt constantly constipated, I've gone from no ideas, to plenty of ideas, to no ideas again. Sometimes I feel like screaming at people; 'this is just advertising' but it just ends up like those dreams when you're shouting and your mouth is moving but no one can hear a thing.

But now it's over, and I can breathe again. I can make plans that I can keep and no doubt I will forget the pain and frustration before it starts all over again.

On Saturday, Vic and Luke surprised me with a picnic in Richmond park because of the afore mentioned work beating. It was one of the most lovely, thoughtful and touching things anyone has ever done for me, let alone two of my favourite people in the world. You know when you want to express your gratitude but it just sounds so empty and trite when the words leave your mouth? I can't find the right words to use because anything that forms in my head seems so clumsy, but it was amazing and beautiful that they thought to do it. Saturday left me thinking about my other friends who aren't here to make me feel better in person but do with amazing Powerpoint presentations, music and photos as well as giant Fru-Choc balls that arrive on days when your face feels squashed with stress. Let's all take a moment to have a cyber hug in a field of daisies. Please make sure you're wearing white.

Oh, and I crossed off two things off my list on the weekend: a picnic in Richmond to see a deer and the Jack the Ripper tour! Woooo.