Monday, July 24, 2006

Day Four: July 21, 2006

Communism ended around here at the end of 1989. Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife ran the country into the ground until the people got pissed off and killed them both. Good for Romania! But from what little I’ve seen of Bucharest, it seems there’s a lot to do to get rid of the old communist stink. No offense to you communists out there but you really know how to ruin a city. There are some huge buildings left over from the Ceausescu regime. Palatial structures that are now office buildings. I passed one today which is actually vacant and gutted. But really stately on the outside. Christian the chaperone said that the building was under construction until Ceausescu was killed. And no one wants to finish it. What a waste of money looted from the people. Starbucks could open the world’s largest coffee house (speaking of looting money from the people). So it’s really a city in transition.

The lack of sleep is starting to catch up to me. My mouth is kind of stretched out from all the yawning. I had 3 lattes at breakfast but people who know me well know that caffeine is no guarantee that I’ll stay awake. And speaking of breakfast? Every time I went up to the buffet table, there were no pancakes. That’s worth repeating: no pancakes! I saw them being made. My pancake-grabbing timing is way off. Must be the 7-hour time difference. So we had some morning meetings and I went up to take a nap. I can’t wait to fall on the bed and…wait, what’s this? Guess whose room is being cleaned. Now? 500 rooms in this place and they have to clean mine? How do you say, “excuse me but can you get the hell out” in Romanian?

We’re all a little confused by the currency here. I thought Romania was on the Euro but I don’t think they’ll be allowed to join the EU until all the commies are rooted out. All the commies? What is this, 1955? Anyway, the folks here use the lei, or the rol (Romanian lei). Then last summer, they started transitioning to the ron (new lei) and basically just lopped 4 zeroes off the end of the rol. Except the transition won’t be complete until December. So both currencies are circulating. It’s about 3 ron to the dollar. But the rol is completely different. There are 100,000 rol bills in circulation. It’s only $10 but still, it’s hard to know how much we’re spending on stuff. Skollar was going to the casinos later tonight. We joked that he could walk about with a huge stack of chips but cash out and get about 38 cents. I tried using a bank machine the other day but I was supposed to pick how much I wanted in ron. I think that was when I assumed everything would be translated for my convenience. So I selected 3000 ron because Topher converted $200 and got around 5000 ron. But there was some confusion or I wasn’t paying attention or Topher got scammed. 3000 ron is around $1000. No wonder my card was spit back out at me. 3000 rol is, like 3 cents. But ron? Ah, that’s a whole different thing. So I think I’ll mooch off of Topher for a while.

I need to remember to stand to the left in the elevators. I like to stare up at the numbers when I’m in the elevator with a stranger. See, that avoids any eye contact or the need to mumble, “hey” in case of accidental contact. But in these elevators, the numbers are on a panel on the left wall. So I was stuck for a whole 5 floors with some other guy in there. Torture.

I must remember to contact my therapist.

There’s really no TV in the room to speak of. There’s a TV set but there are only 2 or 3 English channels and it’s mostly anti-Israel news. Europe’s big on the anti-Israel thing. I was watching Sky News for the best anti-Israel news around and the sound started dipping out. Then it would come back on very loud. I took that as a sign from above (G-d, not the 6th floor) and stopped watching. But not my neighbor. For the past few hours, there’ll be silence from next door followed by a few moments of really really loud news. I called the front desk but when security came up, they couldn’t hear anything. Figures. I called a second time and spoke to the security guard who told me he could hear anything. I explained the whole loud/soft dynamic to him. He didn’t seem impressed so I closed my door. But then sound came back so I ran to the door and there was the security guard, asking me if that was the sound I was talking about. That loud TV? Yeah Sparky, that was it. After a long time, the sound finally went away. I don’t know what the deal was. I thought the room was empty but a bit later, I heard some coughing, hacking noises that couldn’t have been made by anything still breathing. Must have been one of those undead corpses Robert was reading about in Liz’s book.

Christian is our driver for the duration of the trip. I found out that when he drops us off, he sits in his van until we’re ready to leave. Yesterday’s marathon casting session? He hung out until we were ready. I felt bad for him. We tried explaining that he could leave and we’d call when we were ready. I feel really bad when he drives us to dinner and then sits outside waiting for us. I invited him to dinner tonight but he said it wasn’t necessary. I tried insisting but he wasn’t interested. Maybe he doesn’t want to impose. Or maybe he hates Americans. Hmm, if you don’t get a Day 5 update, call the American Embassy.

Oh, the restaurant tonight (supposedly one of the best in the country…and it was really great. Topher paid. See, I’m mooching!) had some sushi. There was one roll called fukusa. But it was spelled in capital letters: FUKUSA. Talk about a subliminal message. Where’s the BUSHSUX roll or the EYEH8AMERICA sashimi?

Holy crap, the TV is loud again. The coughing, commie bastard…

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