Friday, June 25, 2010

Remembering Romania - Cars

I promised I would post some stories about Romania. Here's some memories about cars, in Bucharest.

My first car over there was a Daewoo Tico; made in Korea. It cost me U.S. $4,000. This was back in 1997, when there was 30,000 lei to one dollar (you do the math!). First I went to the bank with my good friend Dan, where I had to withdraw the U.S. cash from my bank account. Then we had to go to a money changer (one on every corner, with body guards out front) to convert the U.S. to lei. There were so many bills that they gave me a shoe box to carry it in. The Daewoo car dealership would only take cash, so we entered with our full shoe box and placed it on the counter. Didn't faze the salesman one bit -- just rolled up his sleeves and started counting. A couple of hours later, we drove away in my little green Tico.

That's me, loading stuff in the hatchback - held a lot! 
And, surprisingly, we could fit three people in the back seat, so five could travel quite comfortably.

The Tico lasted me a good three years, but one day I realized just how flimsy and poorly made it was:

I was making a right-hand turn one day, into the right hand lane of two designated lanes which were holding up to five lanes of traffic. A huge truck, about 10 times the size of the Tico, decided to merge into the right hand lane -- my lane -- without a mirror or shoulder check (no-one does those in Bucharest; well, except foreigners). Somehow the truck attached itself to the Tico and I was carried along for a good number of meters before some passers-by were able to get the truck driver's attention and yell at him to stop.

I really don't want to go into the affairs that took place over the next few hours, and then days and weeks before I got my car back -- I could still have nightmares about it (including the driver telling the police it was all MY fault - fortunately for me, this time they were on my side).

But please, do check out this link, for an entertaining few minutes of life on the roads in Bucharest, and you will no doubt understand what took place. You've GOT to watch up until at least the two-minute mark.

Needless to say, I needed to be driving something a little less vulnerable.

I was advised by many people not to purchase my next car. We found it at a Ford dealership, not among the used cars, but off to the side by itself. As soon as I saw it I loved it and couldn't be pursuaded otherwise. It cost me U.S. 7,000 (yay! bank transfer this time -- Romania was becoming a world class city). Too many hassles to talk about, when it came to paperwork etc, but after a few weeks -yes weeks - it became legally mine.

It's a Ford Ka, made in the U.K. and much more sturdy than the Tico:

Midnight blue in colour, there's an interesting story about it (not sure how believable it is, but this is what they told me!)

 I believe it was the 2000 Olympics and the Romanian rowing team won gold medals. They were each given a Ford Ka as a gift from Romania for doing such a great job, but one of the girls was under age and so wasn't able to drive it. She gave it to her mother, who drove it for a year or so, but couldn't handle both the traffic (can you blame her?) and the expense of running the car. She had just recently sold it to the Ford dealership in Bucharest...the rest is history. Apparantly it had a new paint job, as the originals were all a gold colour and had the Olympic signia on them.

I loved this car, it served me well, and a friend over there is still driving it today.

I took it on an Alpha retreat once, up into the hills -- rough terrain, where it ended up with  a flat tire:

How many Romanians does it take to change a tire?

The spare was fastened literally outside, underneath the hatchback, and the screws holding it in place were  inside the hatchback -- virtually impossible to loosen.
But finally success was achieved-- thanks to two Romanians and one Nigerian friend.

Aaah, driving in Romania -- a memory or a nightmare?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Philanthropy = Love for Mankind

No, this isn't a blog for ABC Wednesday. But I got to thinking about philanthropy after DOTH and I went out for a walk last Sunday afternoon.
 (Philanthropy comes from the Greek, meaning "love for mankind.")

We came across this park, off to the side of a busy Scarborough road:

This is the plaque in the entrance:

In case you can't read it (you could click on it), at the bottom it says,
" be maintained in perpetuity as a quiet restful detour."

And I thought -- what a wonderful thing to do!
It appears that Rosetta McClain left a sum of money in her will to be used to provide this garden for the people of Toronto...and her husband and son made sure that's exactly what happened.

And the City of Toronto is doing its part in maintaining the quiet, restful atmosphere.

It is a beautiful place. We didn't have too much time to enjoy it all, but we will be back. This is what we did get to see:

It was an afternoon for trees:

Well, this lampost is not exactly a tree, but it is getting to look like one!

And this one looks like it has the weight of the world on its shoulders - perhaps carrying all those burdens visitors to the park are leaving behind?

These trees are all tied up in knots

but they decorate the trellis beautifully.

This one is so stately - overlooking the fountain on one side and Lake Ontario on the other.

This one almost disguises the apartment block!

A mushroom tree... odd!

A crab-apple tree

And a dandelion...

almost as big as a tree! 

This fellow (far left) snuck out of the trees...

,,,in broad daylight!

And look...can you see it?

A baby owl up in the tree
looking down on me...
 -- just one of a family.

I was so excited - my first, real live owl. But I was so frustrated, too. There was a nest of them, but they were so high up, this was the best I could do with my dinky camera. Well, dinky compared to the lady standing next to me. She had a telescopic lens attached to hers that was at least 18" long - you should have seen the photos she captured -- I am SO envious, but at least I have proof that I saw it!

A few more shots of the winding paths...

and it was time to head home -- but we WILL be back.
I google-searched the park and discovered it is a haven for bird-watchers. I'll be bringing the binoculors next time.

Bless you, Rosetta McClain, for blessing Toronto, and especially Scarborough, by creating this beautiful detour away from the hustle and bustle of life .
And for being a philanthropist -- a lover of mankind!