Charity Work in Romania

My friend K.C. was in Romania, from April 17 to 27. Along with some other volunteers, she was there doing charity work in a poor neighborhood village named Tarlungeni in which many Roma families live, near the city of Brasov. The volunteers helped raise (not raze!) two houses for poor families. This work was done through the agency of the Fundatia pentru Asistenta Sociala si Tineret (FAST, or the Foundation for Social Assistance and Youth).

The lucky families selected for whom a house would be built are based solely on need, e.g., number of children, number of caregivers (usually the parents or grandparents), possible acute health conditions. When a family is chosen, they must agree for their children to attend the Ziurel community center for educational purposes, and the man of the house (if there is one) must help with building the house.

Of course, in addition to the charity work, K.C. had the opportunity to explore Brasov and surrounding environs. Below are some photos she shared with me.

Outside the community center, 'New Day'

Outside the community center, 'New Day'

Arrival at Mica's (Grandma's)

Arrival at Mica's (Grandma's)

All eggs in one basket [Hand-painted Easter eggs for Orthodox Easter]

'All Eggs In One Basket' - hand-painted Easter eggs for Orthodox Easter

Family No. 3

Portrait of Family No. 3

Atop Mt. Tampa - K.C. and other volunteers

Atop Mt. Tampa - K.C. and other volunteers

Aerial View of Brasov, Romania

View of Brasov from 1600 Feet (atop Mt. Tampa)

Old City Hall, Brasov

Old City Hall, Brasov

At the house, day 1

At House No. 1, Day 1

Hard at work

Hard At Work

Village kids

Village Kids

Former house for a family of 10  - note incongruous satellite dish

Former house for a family of 10

The neighborhood

The Neighborhood

House In Progress

House In Progress (House No. 1)

Family for whom the house was built

Family for whom the house was built


Supervising drywall installation (House No. 2)

End of the project

End of the project (House No. 1)

Bran Castle, of Dracula lore

Bran Castle, of Dracula Lore


Luggage Repair

You’ll recall that I went to Switzerland and then Italy this past winter break. When I arrived in Switzerland, I noticed that one of the latches of my Samsonite suitcase had been broken in transit (this was only the third time that this suitcase had been used!). The other latch was fine, but I didn’t want to rely on that one latch to keep the suitcase closed. So, after packing for the return trip I wrapped some heavy tape around the suitcase.

On 8 March 2009, while in Florida, I got the suitcase repaired. I went with my parents to the Miromar Outlets in Estero; there, we went to a Samsonite dealer and asked his advice. Should we buy a strap to go around the suitcase?

Since the suitcase was still under warranty, the dealer’s advice was to pay a visit to Frank, a master luggage repairman who works in the area. So we went to the Kwik Shoe & Luggage Repair shop. Frank took the suitcase and was all business; without saying too much, he immediately set to work. After a quick examination, he muttered “I see what the problem is…,” and then replaced the broken latch. (It is possible that he also replaced the other latch too, although from my naive perspective I wouldn’t know why this would be necessary.) After the suitcase was repaired, he took our name, address, and phone number, and entered this information into a computer database. And that was it — since the suitcase was still under warranty, there was no charge. I had been worrying that we’d have to produce the original receipt for purchasing the suitcase, because that receipt has long been lost.

We went back to the car and stowed the newly repaired suitcase into the trunk. As we’re buckling our seatbelts, ready to go, we turn to one another and wonder, “Shouldn’t we tip him?” A debate ensued regarding the magnitude of the tip. Someone said only one dollar, which I thought was way too low. I pulled a five dollar bill out of my wallet (“Make sure he sees you giving the tip!”, someone said, with a chuckle) and went back into Frank’s shop, where he was already busy with the next customer. I dropped the bill into his tip jar. Without looking up from his work, he said “Thank you”, as I stepped out the door.

A plaque on Frank’s wall indicated that he’s a member of the International Luggage Repair Association. This suggests a whole world, a subculture, a mode of thought, that I’m not familiar with. One wonders what are the workings of the ILRA. How many members does it have? Do they have a newsletter? Do they hold annual meetings?

Published in: on 18 March 2009 at 6:43 am  Comments (4)  
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Stardust vs. Sands Casino?

For K.C.

This web page of closed casinos in Las Vegas lists BOTH Stardust and Sands.

Sands was imploded November 22, 1996, to make way for a new building.

Stardust closed November 1 (my birthday), 2006, at noon.

As an aside, if you’re going to have a heart attack a casino is probably one of the best places to have it, because of all of the security cameras (item #6 in the list).

Addendum (02/10/09): NYT Frugal Traveler blog post entitled Las Vegas: Still a Good Bet.

Published in: on 11 January 2009 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gattopardo and Dossobuono

Gattopardo means “tiger-cat.”

And looks like dosso means “bump in the road” in Italian. So Dossobuono is a “good bump in the road,” or perhaps a “nice speed bump.”

Perhaps some weary Roman traveler in ancient times stopped by the then-unnamed little town, stayed at the Tiger-Cat Inn, had a nice pizza (with salami, anchovies, and capers) at a nearby tavern with a cozy family atmosphere, and then dubbed the town a “nice bump in the road.”

Published in: on 9 January 2009 at 8:31 am  Comments (1)  
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Vacation Summary, 12/30/08 – 01/05/09

Date Restaurant Dinner Location Number of Steps
12/30/08 Al Giardano “Pizza Rustica” Basel 9049
12/31/08 Damas Falafel with Hummus, Baba Ganoush with Pita Basel 4498
1/1/09 Al Treno di Mezzanotte
(Orient Express)
Ossobuco with Risotto Milan 9156
1/2/09 La Malmaison Cafe Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce Milan 20338
1/3/09 Kokiaje Zuppa di Pesce Romagna Verona 18523
1/4/09 Pizzeria Italia Pizza with Salami, Anchovies, and Capers Dossobuono 12337
1/5/09 Nooch “Shinagawa Station” Basel 8223
Zuppa di Pesce Romagna

Zuppa di Pesce Romagna

Pizza with Salami, Anchovies, and Capers

Pizza with Salami, Anchovies, and Capers

Published in: on 7 January 2009 at 10:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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