Sunday, May 18, 2008


Wow, where do I start about Romania? So much has happened in the past few days I can barely remember it all. I arrived at the airport in Bucharest and was approached by several taxi drivers, whom I ignored. But one, who seemed like an honest guy, finally convinced me that to get into town required two train changes and a bus, and he told me a price up front to take me directly to a hotel. So I jumped in and we had an interesting conversation about the state of Romania. He boiled it all down like this: Since the revolution, they have freedom, and more material goods in the stores, but not much money to buy anything! Which I'm finding out is true-- most of them make way less than people in the U.S., but housing costs the same here. Most still seem to live in the old communist apartment blocks that are everywhere. And the guidebook mentions that many people park on the sidewalks; I soon found out it was true!

Anyway, the hotel I chose was a bit expensive for me (for Romania) at 66 euros, but was pretty shoddy inside, and a long walk down dark sidewalks from the train station (which turned out to be a good place for sneaking pictures of people). The street lighting, and in fact lighting in many public areas, is minimal. It can make walking at night sometimes creepy. And when I popped out of the hotel to see if I could catch a bite to eat, hopefully some local Romanian food, the only restaurant open was a Chinese place that smelled strange, aside from the smokey interior, so I skipped it and bought some cookies and crackers from a convenience shop. While looking for it, I was approached by some friendly young teens who, when I asked if they knew "someplace to eat" brought me a young prostitute! I thanked them but said I was only hungry for food.

Did I mention people smoke EVERYwhere here? I noticed it as soon as I landed at the airport. There is no such thing as a "No Smoking" area, as far as I've seen. My guidebook even mentions a youth hostel that gives out free cigarettes. Anyone want to guess which large American corporation is behind that little bit of charity? I'm betting it starts wth "Phillip".

But the next morning the area looked much better; an old church across the street was even quite pretty. I caught a train to the town of Buzau, and had a great talk with a nice young college student named Florin, which (sad to say) is a guy's name here. He was a bit nervous about making his first trip soon to the U.S. where he'll spend the summer at Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, working at a Cold Stone Creamery. He speaks great english and will probably be lonely, so any of you east-coast ladies interested can go there and look for him-- I've included his picture here for you!

In Buzau I met Nancy Janes of Romania Animal Rescue, and Dr. Rick Bachman, a veterinarian, both donating their time to help teach local vets modern spay and neutering surgical techniques. The Romanian vet schools are a bit behind the times (for instance, they don't use spay hooks, a basic tool of spaying in the U.S. for years). Nancy and her Romanian-American friend Christina aren't in the medical field, but are primary supporters of this trip, and are invaluable help. Nancy has been coming to Romania for years (see her website, and pretty much single-handedly founded the organization with her own time and money. When she's not crossing Romania working and meeting with people who can support her cause, she's raising funds back home in California. She also brings back lots of puppies and finds homes for them in the U.S. And Christina also donates her time and money, and is an invaluable translator and has many contacts in the country.

"Dr. Rick" is just incredible; while working with him I've watched him patiently and tirelessly teach local vets (with Christina's translation) in primitive conditions, and later over dinner talk with them about how it would benefit them to help with the stray dog problem, which many seem to either ignore or even think that stray dog overpopulation is good business for them. The Romanian government does next to nothing about it; their involvement is mostly periodic slaughters. Together Nancy, Rick and Christina do far more than the entire government of Romania! It's a real honor and a privilege to be able to travel and work with them. They've been supporting me as well, paying for my hotels and meals. In fact I haven't been able to spend a leu (Romanian currency worth about 30 cents) since I've hooked up with them! I took a picture from my hotel window of the town square next door with the odd but colorful blue and yellow building next to it-- a definite improvement over that hotel in Bucharest-- and no hookers outside the hotel!

When Nancy picked me up from the Buzau train station (where I had already made friends with a street dog in front of my bags), within a half hour I was helping with some spays at a local shelter run by a couple who use their entire back yard to house stray dogs (and one nervous cat!) The next day we drove to another town to train a couple of vets in Rick's techniques at their clinic. Then the third day we drove to a nearby city dog pound where the hospital supplies were almost nonexistant but with Rick's equipment and some fast scrambling, we managed to set up a fair surgical suite and recovery room. We only did five dogs that day, but trained two more vets, both of whom seemed very grateful. Every local vet who gets trained is one more who could be supporters of spay/neuter, instead of the government policy of ignoring the problem or periodic slaughter.
Tomorrow we drive to a much more distant town; it promises to be an interesting ride,over the Carpathians and across Transylvania. And I hear it's a walled city, which are always historic and beautiful. I'll write more from there!
P.S. Unfortunately, something's wrong with my camera and most of the pictures are slightly out of focus. I'll get some better ones from the others' cameras soon. And if anyone has any suggestions on how to fix my camera I'd love to hear from them!


Anonymous said...

Hey Uncle Dave,
Looks like youre having fun. Dont forget though, it's not the evil American empire forcing McDonalds and cigarettes on the Europeans. Those things only exist because people there ASK for them. Without demand, there would be no supply.

dageekster29 said...

I wish we could do a much better job at spaying and nuetering or own animals, I hope you next leg can teach americians a few things

MozzarElla said...

What a humane & compassionate mark you are leaving on the animal world in your travels.
Bravo to you, David.

To David's nephew... As far as McDonald's and cigarettes--- and also KFC, Starbucks, etc.-- I am not convinced that is what the majority of people want in many countries overseas. They are cost prohibitive for many a "Everyman" in many countries. Foreign fat cats may want it and US fat cats pounce at the chance to spread their products. It just seems to rampant and aggressive to me.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful story of bighearted people making their mark on the world.dageekster, What would you like to teach Americans?