Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Visiting England - it's a bug free world!

Reading Jules Verne is serous business
Andy and James at the park
Edward, James and I often visited Portsmouth to see Andy who is a professor there.  He has a group with several students, postdocs and the university recently hired two other less senior faculty in the same domain. Andy is doing outstandingly well as far as we can tell.  Andy's apartment is relatively close to the sea. He started running weekly, but when it's below 15 degrees and raining and windy I find it's better to stay away.

a boat across Swan lake - *not* HMs Victory
We've been to the butterfly museum, which is the only place we've really seen bugs other than a few flies on the beach. They also have an old dockyard for which Andy and Edward have an yearly pass. They visited HMs Victory -- the ship on which Lord Nelson died after winning battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon Bonaparte.  Edward was most impressed by the bug stories. Apparently, back in the late 1700hundred England had lots of bugs. So many that they invaded food stores on board, and got into improperly stored milk. We've seen so few that I've almost forgotten their existence. They are also no mosquitoes to worry about. It's interesting how civilization progress and destroys so much around it.

With so many cats at home (5 are left as of today), James was very disappointed there were no cats to be seen on the streets in Portsmouth. Three days into our last trip we finally saw a very pretty kitty, but poor James was asleep. We've taken to feeding the seagulls. Andy succeeded in having them catch popcorn he throws in the air. James runs after the pigeons. He also watched videos with both James and Edward of goats that sound like people. What else are fathers for?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fall of 2018


the roof is being finished

Everyone at work


I turned 36
we had lots of pumpkins



James in England

Andy and James in England
Edward and his cake: he turned 8
School started again and I am already tired of it even though I no longer take classes. The children try to study from time to time, but it's been nice outside and it can be hard to focus. Edward is in fourth grade and will soon finish elementary school, and David is in 7th grade. We went to England a bunch of times this summer and swam in the North Sea. In July it was cold, but in August it was pleasant even though the heat wave had gone.

a stair for wild pigs: at the lake in Taut

This weekend Edward is traveling -- it's his third trip without me this year. His first trip was in Budapest, then he went with Mihai and David to his first invited seminar in Tecuci (Edward and David promised to write more about that on their own blogs), and until tomorrow he'll be in Maramures with his classmates. Edward is eight and David is 11. So far they both did so many more things than I did at his age.

James turns two in a week. He sometimes says full sentences like "Miauna pisicile (the cats are meawing)", but mostly talks in his own language beyond some words like "Titzi", "Apa" and "Pipi", which can some times mean chickens and other times that he needs to pi. He seems to always have a lot to say and this week he found my car keys for me. He also always tries to help -- if I carry or do something.

David will soon be 12. He is almost as tall as my mother now, but complains of not growing fast enough relative to his classmates who are two years older. He has been quite reliable recently. He milks the goats, and helps around with my father and even helps around the house when I ask and as long as I stare at him while he does what's needed. Lisa (his mom) insists he becomes a doctor. So far he likes chemistry very much.

We finished the roof in Chizatau and have more construction work to do in Timisoara.  I am as inefficient as always. My father is still bed-rid and my mother is overwhelmed with his care, but still accomplishes more than me, which reminds me I need to clear a room and drive back to Chizatau...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The protests: will they succeed?

Bucharest: tens of thousands ask for new goverment. Day 2.
I virtually stand with my friends and colleagues who are protesting in Bucharest and Timisoara. Like most Romanians out there, I hope the government will change to one like that formerly led by Dacian Ciolos and will succeed in reducing corruption and making changes that last. Pictures of the crowd and of the tear gas that was thrown at them can be seen across a number of major news channels including the telegraph.
wounded protesters
One of my highschool classmates
A message from an unknown couple

Do I think the protests will lead to lasting changes? The diaspora votes are what helped Iohanis become president, and Romanians working abroad made a huge effort to come to Bucharest. They travelled from all corners of the world to help him again. This is soon after the forced demission of Laura Kovesi, who almost succeeded in bringing order. Yet these efforts have so far led only to ineffectual changes. The defence minister is out "to account" for the miscommunication that resulted in 400+ injured people. Liviu Dragnea says he is sad it had to happen. He did go to Israel this spring. Did he find support there? Probably. Will that and other bribes to corrupt officials elsewhere be enough to keep him in power over this and future hurdles? I hope not, but I don't know. Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and is still US president in spite of proof of Russian interference in the elections and bad language and abuse of women. Rudi Giuliani was paid to speak against the anti-corruption movement in Romania. The only visible change is that so far Liviu Dragnea is less obnoxious than in the past when talking to the press.

The trend of "elected" politicians who are not people one can respect is seen across Europe and America. I hope Romania will eventually find the strength to stand out in Eastern Europe like Canada has in North America. It most likely won't work out this way. Nevertheless, while I am sorry I cannot be in Bucharest today, I will continue to do what I can to help people around me achieve their dreams. I have also voted in every election, and will continue to do so. I support the people who have the strength to stand out there, chant, sing and fight for freedom.

Short answer to the question in the title: No, but I still hope for change and stability.

An obvious path that could work for depleted countries like Romania:
1. Accept immigrants. Eastern Europe is empty. Might have to do some work to entice them. 2. Work hard to integrate them. 3. Jobs and progress will stimulate more from the diaspora to return home.

Romania is not the only country that lacks young people. Russia just increased it retirement age to 65 for men and conceded to allow women to retire at 60, when the average male lives to 67.  Russian women who had more children can retire earlier. It will be interesting to see if Russia will follow such a path given its history and human rights issues.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Cow-Minder

In Chizatau nature has been taking over the river bed. Herons, egrets and wild ducks fly from place to place. Plenty of clam shells can be seen by the water. If one looks closely enough, they are holes in their shells and are filled with mud, which is proves that they were eaten by birds. The grass is full of bees. Dragon files and small blue butterflies zoom ahead as I walk by.

The only person I see there regularly is the cow-minder. It would be silly to call him a cowboy because he is in his mid sixties. He considers himself too old to leave Chizatau. He earns a hundred lei per month per cow + food, and leaves home early in the morning and walks the river bed with the cows until 7 p.m. The cows lead.  There are nine of them. They eat grass, rest at mid day, go in the water to cool off and wash, and then walk back home. Each of them has a different personality. He said only the smallest one is lazy and naughty.  The rest listen to him, love to be clean and cannot stand even a speck of dirt. They wash several times a day.

He is not the only one who walks the river bed. There is another old man I see from time to time. He has the luxury of guarding his own cows, and is not always there at a fixed time. He stays under a tree and reads his bible while his cows graze. Then there are the shepherds. They stop at the same place as the nine cows at mid day with their sheep and chat and sometimes share food.

The cow minder tells me he has two sons, but they visit rarely. One chose badly when he married a girl he met in a dicotheque. They had a daughter together who is sixteen and very big and tall. She seems to posses no other qualities in his eyes. He has since divorced his wife and moved to Germany for work, but does not save much money because he smokes and that's expensive. The other son works in Lugoj - the nearby city - and has two younger children. They like to be on their phones and tablets and don't have time to visit a grandfather in a small village a little more more than 15 km away or help with house chores. 

When I was growing up, the river bank in Chizatau was almost white with geese and full of laughing children. They were so many that together with cows and other forms of livestock they managed to stop me from swimming. Today the geese are gone. I've seen only one lonely goose in somebody's yard.

The cow minder himself had had a wife. She died when their children were about the same age as mine crushed under concrete. She worked at making marble, and one day the concrete mixer was broken. She was told to hit it with a shovel to get it to restart. When she did so, it fell on her and crushed her. So, the cow minder raised his boys alone and let them splash in the Bega river where they learned to swim on their own. He was not a cow minder then because Chizatau had a Cooperative and made concrete, bricks and marble. It was a busy place.

It's interesting that now nature is taking over without fancy intervention programs. Most people have moved to the city or abroad, and the ones who are left spend their time on tablets and computers and let wild life grow not because they support it but because they are too addicted to technology to do anything else. There are few farm animals other than the cows, and some sheep. Most people keep dogs and they are confined to their yard. There are no geese or ducks or children on the roads. The only noise is from cars and trucks because Chizatau is on the main county road from Timisoara to Lugoj.

This year has been strange. Summer came in late March right after snow and it stayed warm and rainy. It rained every 2-3 days and plants, grass and trees grew. There were no storms here as of yet or wild-fires. The fruits and vegetables riped quickly or went bad because of the rain. The only thing that grew in our garden are pumpkins - lots of them - and grapes.

The rest of the world is warming up.  Even the UK, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark have had a long hot summer this year. Sweden highest peak melted by 13 feet in the month of July. The Swiss military is wearing shorts and T-shirts. The wild-fires have reached the Artic circle.  California and Greece have lost people to fires and plenty of houses.