Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for August, 2005

Maternity Leave

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 August, 2005

In Romania, maternity leave is two years. (It’s actually the only visible sign that Romania has ever had a government supposedly dedicated to working people). Two whole years! It’s brilliant. During the first three months off your employer has to pay you some percentage of your salary, and after that the state takes over. The 21 months of state payment of this maternity salary is done at a flat rate (currently standing at 9,000,000 old Lei – about €250 a month). Now this may sound like an absolute pittance, but for the sticks it is a pretty good deal. (I imagine for people in Bucharest it really is a pittance and amounts to an incentive to get back to work as soon as possible). Two women in Erika’s office are currently off on such leave and are earning close to what they were earning before. For Erika (and thus for us) it will be a pay cut, but that’s because she’s the boss. For most people it really isn’t one and for many it’s actually a pay raise. Probably one condition of EU accession is they get rid of such a progressive and socially liberal policy.

Posted in EU, romania | 8 Comments »

Maternity Leave

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 August, 2005

In Romania, maternity leave is two years. (It’s actually the only visible sign that Romania has ever had a government supposedly dedicated to working people). Two whole years! It’s brilliant. During the first three months off your employer has to pay you some percentage of your salary, and after that the state takes over. The 21 months of state payment of this maternity salary is done at a flat rate (currently standing at 9,000,000 old Lei – about €250 a month). Now this may sound like an absolute pittance, but for the sticks it is a pretty good deal. (I imagine for people in Bucharest it really is a pittance and amounts to an incentive to get back to work as soon as possible). Two women in Erika’s office are currently off on such leave and are earning close to what they were earning before. For Erika (and thus for us) it will be a pay cut, but that’s because she’s the boss. For most people it really isn’t one and for many it’s actually a pay raise. Probably one condition of EU accession is they get rid of such a progressive and socially liberal policy.

Posted in EU, romania | 8 Comments »

A Wunch of Bankers

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 August, 2005

The bank we have been using (until now) has just started charging us to use their services. I hate banks, they act like you need to be beholden to them and that they are doing you this massive favour. Any other business treated its customers that way banks treat theirs and they’d quickly go out of business. If shops made you beg for the privilege of buying something or decided that they were going to charge people a fee for squeezing the tomatoes, no-one would go. There’s a reason why bankers rhymes with wankers.

Anyway, to get back to the point, they (and I think I can reveal the fact that it is BCR, pronounced Bay Chay Ray, and short for Banca Comerciala Romana) have created a raft of fees for various transactions. The most fascinating of these is the commission charted for withdrawing money. Everytime you withdraw money from them, the bank now pockets 0.05% of whatever it is you’re taking out. This really isn’t a vast amount of money, but it’s the principle of the thing. But there is a weird catch. They ask you if you want notes only or would be prepared to take some of the money in coins. If you take some of it in coins it remains at 0.05%. If you insist on only notes, and I swear I am not making this up, they charge 0.08%. It sounds like the kind of policy instituted one night by a couple of high ranking accountants who were high and started trying to outdo themselves. “Hey man, what do you think? We ask customers to pay extra unless they agree to walk away with 1 kilo of coins?” “Oh, like, that is so cool, dude. Let’s put it in the new policies”

We’ve moved to a new bank as of today.

Posted in bureaucracy, romania | 2 Comments »

Inundated

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 August, 2005

It’s been a bad year for flooding here (at least I hope and assume this qualifies as a bad year). As I got back from parched and burning Spain, Romania was being hit again, this time much closer to home. We drive through the village of Farkaslaka (Lupeni) every time we go to visit Erika’s family, as it is just on the other side of Udvarhely (Oderheiu Secuiesc), which is the nearby town just over the mountains to our West. On Tuesday night Farkaslaka was hit by a flash flood which swept away 16 people. On the news they showed a picture of a bus in the river. Some relatives of a friend who live in another nearby village said they woke up on Wednesday morning to find two more houses than there had been previously on their land. I don’t know if they started charging rent. Harghita county is in a state of emergency, and various politicians are visiting.

In another piece of news, which I cannot yet find English language information on, a Hungarian woman from Romania who has access to political power in Hungary (there are fairly lurid rumours round these parts as to what she did to get there, but not knowing what the situation is regarding libel and random bloggers, I’ll steer clear of repeating them). Anyway, she has just been charged (at least in the Hungarian press) of spying for Romania. I really want to find out more about this as it sounds fascinating.

Not news, but I just wanted to point out that at Barcelona airport, which is like a vast shopping mall, they have opted to go for the standard trick at such shopping places and removed all clocks. Obviously believing that those people not burdened with time will more likely spend money and browse longer. All very well, I suppose, but it doesn’t work quite so well at an airport where keeping people aware of the time is fairly important. I’d love to know how many people have missed flights there due to this, frankly, stupid arse policy.

Posted in news | Leave a Comment »

A Wunch of Bankers

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 August, 2005

The bank we have been using (until now) has just started charging us to use their services. I hate banks, they act like you need to be beholden to them and that they are doing you this massive favour. Any other business treated its customers that way banks treat theirs and they’d quickly go out of business. If shops made you beg for the privilege of buying something or decided that they were going to charge people a fee for squeezing the tomatoes, no-one would go. There’s a reason why bankers rhymes with wankers.

Anyway, to get back to the point, they (and I think I can reveal the fact that it is BCR, pronounced Bay Chay Ray, and short for Banca Comerciala Romana) have created a raft of fees for various transactions. The most fascinating of these is the commission charted for withdrawing money. Everytime you withdraw money from them, the bank now pockets 0.05% of whatever it is you’re taking out. This really isn’t a vast amount of money, but it’s the principle of the thing. But there is a weird catch. They ask you if you want notes only or would be prepared to take some of the money in coins. If you take some of it in coins it remains at 0.05%. If you insist on only notes, and I swear I am not making this up, they charge 0.08%. It sounds like the kind of policy instituted one night by a couple of high ranking accountants who were high and started trying to outdo themselves. “Hey man, what do you think? We ask customers to pay extra unless they agree to walk away with 1 kilo of coins?” “Oh, like, that is so cool, dude. Let’s put it in the new policies”

We’ve moved to a new bank as of today.

Posted in bureaucracy, romania | 2 Comments »

Inundated

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 August, 2005

It’s been a bad year for flooding here (at least I hope and assume this qualifies as a bad year). As I got back from parched and burning Spain, Romania was being hit again, this time much closer to home. We drive through the village of Farkaslaka (Lupeni) every time we go to visit Erika’s family, as it is just on the other side of Udvarhely (Oderheiu Secuiesc), which is the nearby town just over the mountains to our West. On Tuesday night Farkaslaka was hit by a flash flood which swept away 16 people. On the news they showed a picture of a bus in the river. Some relatives of a friend who live in another nearby village said they woke up on Wednesday morning to find two more houses than there had been previously on their land. I don’t know if they started charging rent. Harghita county is in a state of emergency, and various politicians are visiting.

In another piece of news, which I cannot yet find English language information on, a Hungarian woman from Romania who has access to political power in Hungary (there are fairly lurid rumours round these parts as to what she did to get there, but not knowing what the situation is regarding libel and random bloggers, I’ll steer clear of repeating them). Anyway, she has just been charged (at least in the Hungarian press) of spying for Romania. I really want to find out more about this as it sounds fascinating.

Not news, but I just wanted to point out that at Barcelona airport, which is like a vast shopping mall, they have opted to go for the standard trick at such shopping places and removed all clocks. Obviously believing that those people not burdened with time will more likely spend money and browse longer. All very well, I suppose, but it doesn’t work quite so well at an airport where keeping people aware of the time is fairly important. I’d love to know how many people have missed flights there due to this, frankly, stupid arse policy.

Posted in news | Leave a Comment »

Bandwidth

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 August, 2005

What exactly is bandwidth? The reason I ask is that I’m here working in Barcelona and the apartment I’m staying in, aside from being very nice, apparently has free Internet access. I turned on my laptop in order to plan my workshops and there was this little blinking icon telling me that there was a wireless network in range, which I of course connected to. So here I am posting this on someone else’s internet connection.

I have a firewall (whatever that is) which means I reckon I’m pretty safe from whatever unscrupulous things people can get up to on people who don’t have such a thing (the little warnings that Windows gave me led me to worry that this entire network in some residential quarter of Barcelona had been set up merely to entice suckers like me into connecting to it at which point the online bandits controlling it would swoop in and steal my powerpoints on project management or organisational behaviour).

So, as far as I can tell, this is basically a victimless crime. The only thing I am stealing is this mysterious “bandwidth”. Will this band now be narrow? Will some irate punter come knocking on every door in the area until he finds the thief responsible for his internet surfing experience opertaing at only 95% of full speed? Frankly no. So, there’s no reason to be concerned about this, I’m assuming. (Also the network is called “3Com” which as far as I know is that company that makes post-it notes). [Rest assured I am not downloading the full Directors Cut of “Once Upon a Time in America” or something, merely checking my email and the message board I frequent.]

Meanwhile, some websites for your viewing pleasure:

First, you may remember last year my post about Numa Numa Yay the famous Romanian song which was sweeping the continent (and it appears the world). Well, that particular post is the one on this blog that gets the most hits, and I was inspired to google up why. At which time I found the following lego version of the video. Lego-zone. It’s bloody brill. (Apparently the reason I got so many hits was this video of some kid in the US singing along to Numa Numa Yay -real title Dragostea din Tei- which has become what they call an Internet sensation. That video is actually here, but I reckon the lego thing is better)

On another tack entirely, if this website is to be believed, Chistopher Walken is standing for President in 2008. Better than Arnie, I suppose, though the quote at the top “If you want to learn how to build a house, build a house. Don’t ask anybody, just build a house”, sounds suspiciously like some half-arsed philosophy you could imagine Dubya living by. “If you want to learn how to piss of the entire world, piss off the entire world. Don’t ask anybody, just piss off the entire world”.
[Later edit: I have discovered that this is not actually for real and is a hoax by a bunch of hilarious pranksters called General Mayhem. Sorry for misleading anyone]

Posted in links | 9 Comments »

Bandwidth

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 August, 2005

What exactly is bandwidth? The reason I ask is that I’m here working in Barcelona and the apartment I’m staying in, aside from being very nice, apparently has free Internet access. I turned on my laptop in order to plan my workshops and there was this little blinking icon telling me that there was a wireless network in range, which I of course connected to. So here I am posting this on someone else’s internet connection.

I have a firewall (whatever that is) which means I reckon I’m pretty safe from whatever unscrupulous things people can get up to on people who don’t have such a thing (the little warnings that Windows gave me led me to worry that this entire network in some residential quarter of Barcelona had been set up merely to entice suckers like me into connecting to it at which point the online bandits controlling it would swoop in and steal my powerpoints on project management or organisational behaviour).

So, as far as I can tell, this is basically a victimless crime. The only thing I am stealing is this mysterious “bandwidth”. Will this band now be narrow? Will some irate punter come knocking on every door in the area until he finds the thief responsible for his internet surfing experience opertaing at only 95% of full speed? Frankly no. So, there’s no reason to be concerned about this, I’m assuming. (Also the network is called “3Com” which as far as I know is that company that makes post-it notes). [Rest assured I am not downloading the full Directors Cut of “Once Upon a Time in America” or something, merely checking my email and the message board I frequent.]

Meanwhile, some websites for your viewing pleasure:

First, you may remember last year my post about Numa Numa Yay the famous Romanian song which was sweeping the continent (and it appears the world). Well, that particular post is the one on this blog that gets the most hits, and I was inspired to google up why. At which time I found the following lego version of the video. Lego-zone. It’s bloody brill. (Apparently the reason I got so many hits was this video of some kid in the US singing along to Numa Numa Yay -real title Dragostea din Tei- which has become what they call an Internet sensation. That video is actually here, but I reckon the lego thing is better)

On another tack entirely, if this website is to be believed, Chistopher Walken is standing for President in 2008. Better than Arnie, I suppose, though the quote at the top “If you want to learn how to build a house, build a house. Don’t ask anybody, just build a house”, sounds suspiciously like some half-arsed philosophy you could imagine Dubya living by. “If you want to learn how to piss of the entire world, piss off the entire world. Don’t ask anybody, just piss off the entire world”.
[Later edit: I have discovered that this is not actually for real and is a hoax by a bunch of hilarious pranksters called General Mayhem. Sorry for misleading anyone]

Posted in links | 9 Comments »

The beach

Posted by Andy Hockley on 11 August, 2005

So, Neptune. It was great. Extremely hot, contrary to popular belief. I know you hear those scare stories about temperatures below -200 degrees C, what with it being so far from the sun and all, but they’re all lies and vicious rumours (probably put out by unscrupulous Bulgarian tour operators in the hope of attracting the niche SE European beach market).

I have realised that when going to the beach with a (nearly) 6 year old you need different things that you do when going to a beach without one (or presumably any child).
Essential items:

  • Sand
  • Sea that deepens gradually
  • Small but perceptible waves
  • Other attractions (crazy golf, little cars to race round in, etc)
  • Room not far from the beach
  • Shower

Non-essential items:

  • Good restaurants
  • Romantic sunsets
  • Quiet and not crowded beach

Neptune covers these bases pretty well all told. The beach was packed with half of Romania – it seems most Romanians go to the coast in the first couple of weeks of August and there really isn’t that much coast to speak of anyway. I reckon the coast of Romanian can’t be much more than 150KM long and at least half of that is taken up by the beachless and inaccessible Danube Delta. But that wasn’t especially important as all we needed was access to the sea and enough room to stretch out a towel.

The villa that Ceasescu had built for himself between Neptune and its twin city Olimp (just to mix up the Roman and Greek classical references) was invisible behind a bunch of trees and other foliage. We tried to walk up to it but all the gates were closed and armed soldiers patrolled the grounds, leading one to wonder if they’d not yet been told of the Dictator’s demise and were still wondering when he was next about to pop in for a visit. Turned out that they were there guarding one his current presidential sucessor, Basescu, who was being a good Romanian and spending his August on the beach.

We all got tanned, Bogi swam and could barely be dragged from the sea, she played mini-golf, pool, table tennis and went carting. One interesting fact: apparently walking around practically naked is totally acceptable in Romania. Toplessness seems almost obligatory (for all women, ranging from the barely pubescent to the positively aged), small tight trunks are de rigeur for men, leaving little to the imagination, but strangely the sight of a pregnant woman in a bikini was enough to garner stares and sniffy looks. Weirdos.

My girls in the sea Posted by Picasa

Posted in pictures, romania, travel | 2 Comments »

The beach

Posted by Andy Hockley on 11 August, 2005

So, Neptune. It was great. Extremely hot, contrary to popular belief. I know you hear those scare stories about temperatures below -200 degrees C, what with it being so far from the sun and all, but they’re all lies and vicious rumours (probably put out by unscrupulous Bulgarian tour operators in the hope of attracting the niche SE European beach market).

I have realised that when going to the beach with a (nearly) 6 year old you need different things that you do when going to a beach without one (or presumably any child).
Essential items:

  • Sand
  • Sea that deepens gradually
  • Small but perceptible waves
  • Other attractions (crazy golf, little cars to race round in, etc)
  • Room not far from the beach
  • Shower

Non-essential items:

  • Good restaurants
  • Romantic sunsets
  • Quiet and not crowded beach

Neptune covers these bases pretty well all told. The beach was packed with half of Romania – it seems most Romanians go to the coast in the first couple of weeks of August and there really isn’t that much coast to speak of anyway. I reckon the coast of Romanian can’t be much more than 150KM long and at least half of that is taken up by the beachless and inaccessible Danube Delta. But that wasn’t especially important as all we needed was access to the sea and enough room to stretch out a towel.

The villa that Ceasescu had built for himself between Neptune and its twin city Olimp (just to mix up the Roman and Greek classical references) was invisible behind a bunch of trees and other foliage. We tried to walk up to it but all the gates were closed and armed soldiers patrolled the grounds, leading one to wonder if they’d not yet been told of the Dictator’s demise and were still wondering when he was next about to pop in for a visit. Turned out that they were there guarding one his current presidential sucessor, Basescu, who was being a good Romanian and spending his August on the beach.

We all got tanned, Bogi swam and could barely be dragged from the sea, she played mini-golf, pool, table tennis and went carting. One interesting fact: apparently walking around practically naked is totally acceptable in Romania. Toplessness seems almost obligatory (for all women, ranging from the barely pubescent to the positively aged), small tight trunks are de rigeur for men, leaving little to the imagination, but strangely the sight of a pregnant woman in a bikini was enough to garner stares and sniffy looks. Weirdos.

My girls in the sea Posted by Picasa

Posted in pictures, romania, travel | 2 Comments »