Week 4, Day 1

Trip Start Jul 29, 2010
Trip End Jun 30, 2011

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Flag of Romania  ,
Monday, August 23, 2010

I arrived in Cluj yesterday to work in the office here for a couple of days. Our Branch Manager, Horia, is one of the most gracious hosts I have ever met. He took Kurt (another Austin employee) and I around the city yesterday and pretty much spent the entire day and evening with us. We started with lunch and then went to these salt mines about 30 minutes away. They were pretty amazing. You climb about 200 meters down into the middle of this mountain, and the mines are enormous. The lines the salt makes in the walls and ceilings are really cool. It looks like artwork. They even had a little lake in the middle where you can take a canoe and ride around. I wish I could have taken pictures to post =)

After the mines we took a drive through part of Transylvania, which is so pretty. There are mountains covered in trees and green, big peaceful lakes and winding roads. Debrecen is pretty flat, so it was a nice change of scenery to get into the mountains a bit. After our tour of the mountains, we took a walk through downtown Cluj. The buildings are quaint and the streets are narrow. There are about 100,000 university students at about 4 universities here, so there's a lot of energy and young people around. Cluj has about 400,000 people total, so it's a perfect size with some variety in places to go and things to do, but it still feels quaint and peaceful.

We finished the night with dinner at a pub where I'm pretty sure we ate the equivalent of about 2 pigs and 3 chickens. Sadly, I have to confess that I can't call myself a vegetarian right now. I am having a love affair with pork. Mostly ham, but other kinds too. It is delicious. I can't think about where it comes from. Apparently, it's a regular social event in Hungary to invite your friends over for palinka and roasted pork. The only catch is that part of the ritual is to kill the pig together at the party and then roast it for several hours. I cringe at the thought of seeing this but am also wondering if it would return me to my compassion for the poor piggies and make me stop eating them. The one drawback is that it would also give me nightmares and probably the shakes. I will wait for an invitation and see where my decision takes me.

Today was my first day in the office, and I like the people here a lot. They're friendly and warm. I didn't know this but Romanians have some latin heritage, and you can sense it in their demeanor and their warmth and openness to people. The language would also be a lot easier to learn because many of the words are similar to Spanish and Italian. When I hear them speak, they sound kind of Italian to me because of the words, and there's a little passion in the language and the way they talk to each other. Everyone in the office and most people in Cluj also speak English too.
Today felt a bit heavier and lonelier to me. I think it's a combination of missing home and Arturo and saying goodbye to John and Tammy again yesterday. I also had several meetings today with Romania employees who may be transferring to jobs in Austin soon, and I think that describing life in Austin to them made me miss it even more. We are lucky to live there.

Oh, I almost forgot. Cluj has a lot of stray animals running around, which is a lovely thing for me. I have touched so many cats and dogs in the last couple of days that I might have convinced myself that I will need to get a dog. There's actually one who hangs out outside our office all day who would be perfect. He immediately came up to me this morning and flopped on his back to ask me to rub his stomach. I obliged. He was so cute and happy. I'm thinking about asking our driver tomorrow if I can bring him in the car home with us to Debrecen. I think he would really like it there.
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Ann Marie on

Sounds like a great trip! Poor piggies though! :(

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