The first week or so in Timisoara was a bit rough–our flat was dirty and off the beaten path and it seemed that we just kept going to all the wrong places. Now, though, we’ve found a new flat in a super nice neighborhood, made some friends and discovered the charming and interesting parts of the city so . . . I think we are good.
I met my friend, Rob Manning, last night for drinks at a pub in city center and as I was walking back to our flat, enjoying the walk and observing all the people hanging out in the pubs and restaurants, I couldn’t help but think of our first night here: jet lagged and exhausted, we stumbled into the Uniri Plaza looking for food only to be told that the restaurant was out of food and was only serving toast at the moment! They directed us to, of all places, the Mall, so we trudged up there, wandered around and eventually found a middling Italian restaurant. After that, we found a cab to take us to a grocery store which ended up being something straight out of the Soviet era–empty shelves and surly patrons. On our way home, we found ourselves hauling our groceries through dimly-lit streets and trying to avoid falling into gaping holes in the sidewalk.
What had we gotten ourselves into?
Part of it was simply the side of town we had chosen to live–we were on the south side and its just kind of ragged over there, although there was really no way to know before our arrival.
Happily, we found a great flat on the other side of town and in a nice neighborhood. Like many of the buildings on this side of town, it’s a Soviet-era, ten story building with a concrete and brick exterior. No frills. Depending on the time of day and your mood, there’s some real charm to these buildings. In the evening, when the sun is setting on the western Romanian plain, the light hits the buildings and gives off an orange-purplish glow, and at night, the street lights light up the facades. I especially like the wide boulevard in front of our building. It reminds me a little bit of Chicago. In fact, Timisoara actually feels like a medium-sized American midwestern town.
There is a large grocery store just paces from our house and then hosts of little shops, bars and restaurants along the neighborhood streets. Outside the grocery store are vending machines that dispense fresh eggs and milk. I can’t decide if that’s weird or if it’s “Japan-cool.” When Sujata saw the milk vending machines she laughed and said if we ever did that we’d be lucky to get a few ounces of milk into the jug–the rest of it would be on the ground.
And, oh, yeah, the Mall is less than a kilometer away and both Sujata and I got gym memberships at a fitness club in, you guessed it . . . the Mall.
The interior of our flat has been recently remodeled. All the appliances and furniture is new and stylish. I especially love living on the 10th floor. At night, you can look out the window and see the city plazas (there are quite a few of them) all lit up.
Our homeschooling adventure is proceeding apace. Sujata and I will write more about that in the coming days. I don’t think we’ll know for sure how successful we’ve been (or how much we’ve failed our children) until we get to Dublin and they enroll in Irish schools for the spring semester. For now, though, the children have not rebelled against our teaching methods and we haven’t put them in detention.
One of the other things I’m finding, too, is that Timisoara is a safe and walkable city. Much of that is because of strict Romania gun laws. It’s simply forbidden to carry guns here and there are no gangs so violence is very low. Last year, for instance, the capital city, Bucharest saw only 22 murders. There are, sadly, that many murders in a few hours in Chicago.
I discovered that there is a professional basketball team in Timisoara, so we all headed over to one of the games earlier this week. The Nuggets don’t have anything to worry about in terms of competition from the Timisoara team. Like many things here, the experience was rather surreal. The games are held in a gym on the south side of town and you just sort of walk in–there is no ticket booth or main entrance. During halftime, all the kids in the stands streamed onto the court and just shot baskets until the teams came back from their respective locker rooms. Oh, yeah, and there was a guy in the corner banging on a large kettle drum. I couldn’t tell if he had just walked in off the street, of if he belonged there.
I still really haven’t had much contact with the University where I’ll be teaching. My first classes are this Friday. I am teaching two classes here: one is a survey of American culture and history and the other is titled “Contemporary American Masters.” Both classes are held on Friday afternoons–the first starts at 4:20 and the other begins at 6 pm. I’ll hold office hours in a pub on campus after the last class. I wonder if my dean will let me have this kind of schedule when I get back to Regis? In other words, you’ll be hearing much more about this in the coming days.