Csíkszereda Musings

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

Archive for January, 2007

Tripping

Posted by Andy Hockley on 31 January, 2007

There was a time when jetting round the globe was my idea of heaven. And for a while I had a job that allowed me to do just that – and in one year (I think it was 2002) I calculated that I took over 50 flights, which is going some, especially since I did all my flying in economy class. Now I was living in the US then, and at times there it seems you have to get a plane to go down the shops to get a pint of milk, but a significant portion (more then half) of those trips were international. But now, what with the rapidly developing Paula to enjoy (every day walking less and less like a piss-artist), along with the rest of the family, it feels like a chore.

However, there’s only so much one can do in Csikszereda, and hence this year, as alluded to a couple of days ago, I have to do some work (or rather I have to earn some money, and working is the only really legal way I can think of of doing that, save from investing non-existent capital) – work which will initially take me on a whistlestop tour of South and Central Asia.

My first excursion is this coming weekend to the foreign country that is Bucharest, where I will be working for a few days next week. OK, I know Bucharest is not technically foreign, but the difference between the capital and rural Romania is so great as to be more or less a completely dfferent country. (Plus I have to crack open my extremely weak Romanian and remember to not answer everything with an “igen” or a “köszönöm”).

Then in mid-Feb I really do start having to leave the country – firstly to Nepal for a week (and having spent some time working out flights, I can tell you that travelling to Nepal is not that simple – at least from Romania. Looks like I will have to change planes in Istanbul and Qatar – or Munich and Delhi). I get back here for a few days, just in time to celebrate my birthday, before heading off again – firstly to Uzbekistan, for a week or two, and thence on to Pakistan and subsequently Bangladesh. I’ll get back to Csik for a few more days of catching up with the family , before heading to the UK – both England and Scotland, and finally returning to the hearth of my bosom (or whatever) in late April, when the spring should have kicked in.

So, anyway, this blog will probably take a short break starting very soon, and then afterwards might suddenly be filled with anecdotes of exotic locales. Or not.

Posted in travel | 4 Comments »

Speak, the (unspeakable) Hungarian Rapper

Posted by Andy Hockley on 31 January, 2007

The worst song ever written? You decide.

“Sometimes people start a war, don’t know what it’s for”

Posted in music | 5 Comments »

Tripping

Posted by Andy Hockley on 31 January, 2007

There was a time when jetting round the globe was my idea of heaven. And for a while I had a job that allowed me to do just that – and in one year (I think it was 2002) I calculated that I took over 50 flights, which is going some, especially since I did all my flying in economy class. Now I was living in the US then, and at times there it seems you have to get a plane to go down the shops to get a pint of milk, but a significant portion (more then half) of those trips were international. But now, what with the rapidly developing Paula to enjoy (every day walking less and less like a piss-artist), along with the rest of the family, it feels like a chore.

However, there’s only so much one can do in Csikszereda, and hence this year, as alluded to a couple of days ago, I have to do some work (or rather I have to earn some money, and working is the only really legal way I can think of of doing that, save from investing non-existent capital) – work which will initially take me on a whistlestop tour of South and Central Asia.

My first excursion is this coming weekend to the foreign country that is Bucharest, where I will be working for a few days next week. OK, I know Bucharest is not technically foreign, but the difference between the capital and rural Romania is so great as to be more or less a completely dfferent country. (Plus I have to crack open my extremely weak Romanian and remember to not answer everything with an “igen” or a “köszönöm”).

Then in mid-Feb I really do start having to leave the country – firstly to Nepal for a week (and having spent some time working out flights, I can tell you that travelling to Nepal is not that simple – at least from Romania. Looks like I will have to change planes in Istanbul and Qatar – or Munich and Delhi). I get back here for a few days, just in time to celebrate my birthday, before heading off again – firstly to Uzbekistan, for a week or two, and thence on to Pakistan and subsequently Bangladesh. I’ll get back to Csik for a few more days of catching up with the family , before heading to the UK – both England and Scotland, and finally returning to the hearth of my bosom (or whatever) in late April, when the spring should have kicked in.

So, anyway, this blog will probably take a short break starting very soon, and then afterwards might suddenly be filled with anecdotes of exotic locales. Or not.

Posted in travel | 4 Comments »

Speak, the (unspeakable) Hungarian Rapper

Posted by Andy Hockley on 31 January, 2007

The worst song ever written? You decide.

“Sometimes people start a war, don’t know what it’s for”

Posted in music | 4 Comments »

Fillet of Crap

Posted by Andy Hockley on 29 January, 2007

I recently discovered this video, which purports to show “A World Without Romania”

I learned one or two interesting things from it – like about Nicolae Paulescu, who invented insulin, and learned what it was that Henri Coanda (who up till that point had been nothing but the name of an airport*) was famous for.

However, I started to disbelieve what I had been told by the video when it reached the bit which mentions that Romania has created the “most mouthwatering dishes in the world”. Now, I have no wish to offend anyone, but come on. Coming from a nation which has a global reputation for producing some of the world’s worst food, I am not about to start comparing Romanian cuisine to English here, but really without trying I could think of at least 50 countries which have better food than Romania. And that’s before starting to subdivide countries like India and China into different regional cuisines. Of the three commonly-quoted traditional “national” Romanian dishes, two of them (sarmale and ciorba de burta) are almost certainly Turkish anyway, and the third (mamaliga) gets translated as “corn mush” on menus. This is not, of course, to say that Romanian food is bad, but it’s not up there among the world’s great cuisines. How many Romanian restaurants are there in a place like London, for example?

It’s a shame, because until that point, I had been enjoying the video, although the fact that they had chosen someone to narrate it who couldn’t pronounce Romanian words to save his life was a bit of a let-down. I think the pronunciation of “multumesc” (sic) is the lowest point. The Romanian pre-cursor to baseball, therefore, following on from the ludicrous food statement, was significantly less interesting than it would otherwise have been. Of course when it gets to the end you realise it’s an ad for Ursus beer, which also lowers the tone somewhat, and possibly explains the bland “trailer for a poor quality Hollywood action movie” aesthetic (Ursus being a beer brewed by that bastion of blandicity, Miller).

Anyway, watch it (it’s about 5 minutes long) if you have the time.

[*Spotters badge for anyone who can spot the pop culture reference here without resorting to google]

Posted in food, romania | 15 Comments »

Fillet of Crap

Posted by Andy Hockley on 29 January, 2007

I recently discovered this video, which purports to show “A World Without Romania”

I learned one or two interesting things from it – like about Nicolae Paulescu, who invented insulin, and learned what it was that Henri Coanda (who up till that point had been nothing but the name of an airport*) was famous for.

However, I started to disbelieve what I had been told by the video when it reached the bit which mentions that Romania has created the “most mouthwatering dishes in the world”. Now, I have no wish to offend anyone, but come on. Coming from a nation which has a global reputation for producing some of the world’s worst food, I am not about to start comparing Romanian cuisine to English here, but really without trying I could think of at least 50 countries which have better food than Romania. And that’s before starting to subdivide countries like India and China into different regional cuisines. Of the three commonly-quoted traditional “national” Romanian dishes, two of them (sarmale and ciorba de burta) are almost certainly Turkish anyway, and the third (mamaliga) gets translated as “corn mush” on menus. This is not, of course, to say that Romanian food is bad, but it’s not up there among the world’s great cuisines. How many Romanian restaurants are there in a place like London, for example?

It’s a shame, because until that point, I had been enjoying the video, although the fact that they had chosen someone to narrate it who couldn’t pronounce Romanian words to save his life was a bit of a let-down. I think the pronunciation of “multumesc” (sic) is the lowest point. The Romanian pre-cursor to baseball, therefore, following on from the ludicrous food statement, was significantly less interesting than it would otherwise have been. Of course when it gets to the end you realise it’s an ad for Ursus beer, which also lowers the tone somewhat, and possibly explains the bland “trailer for a poor quality Hollywood action movie” aesthetic (Ursus being a beer brewed by that bastion of blandicity, Miller).

Anyway, watch it (it’s about 5 minutes long) if you have the time.

[*Spotters badge for anyone who can spot the pop culture reference here without resorting to google]

Posted in food, romania | 15 Comments »

Farsangi bál

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 January, 2007

So, how was the party, is the question I’m sure you’re all asking.

It was good, but like no party I’d been to before. Or rather, it had elements of many other different parties but in a combination previously unknown.

Firstly we had to bring along our own food and drink – it was actually possible to order a fixed menu prior to the event, but since the fixed menu was cold meats and cheese as a starter, with a main course of töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage – stuffed with pork), we didn’t bother going down that route. Most people it seems brought their own food – and plates, glasses, knives, forks, corkscrews, etc. Having dropped off our baskets of food and utensils we all trooped down to the lecture theatre (the party took place in the canteen of the Sapientia University) to watch a play performed by the teachers at the school, which was on a traditional farsang theme, that of marriage. This extended pre-lenten period appears to have been traditionally the time when people from villages were married off – possibly lent was a time in which it wasn’t wise to get married as you couldn’t have much of a party, or maybe (who knows) some serious catholic villages even swore off sex during the 40 days. That would, of course, be inconvenient because lent aways falls in Spring, when people in those far off days before widespread pre-marital rumpy-pumpy were desperate to, ahem, “get married”. So anyway, farsang was a period in which one partied, dressed in costume (no idea why, but this seems somewhat universal) and got hitched.

The play was performed with gusto and (I suspect) a touch of inebriation. I didn’t know what the words were, but could get the gist It wasn’t Beckett, is what I’m saying here. At the conclusion we all trooped back upstairs to the canteen and joined our tables. Each table was devoted to a different class at the school, so you were sitting with the parents of your child’s classmates. In many ways the whole affair from that point onwards was like a very peculiar wedding reception. There was the usual wedding-type band, playing cover versions of classics from the 60s 70s and 80s. (At least I’m assured they were classics, being as how they were all Hungarian, I’ll have to take people’s word for that). There was the universal wedding behaviour of sitting round the tables, talking, eating, getting plastered, and occasionally getting up and dancing. What set it apart from the average wedding was two things – firstly the fact that all the guests were between 30 and 45; and secondly the fact that the people that you had in common, who had brought you and your tablemates together (the role filled by the bride and groom at a wedding) were not actually present and were all at home tucked up in bed being taken care of by babysitters. Then, rather than the best man’s speech, we had an interminable raffle – parents had been asked to wrap things they didn’t want and submit them as raffle prizes, and the table was very full of such gifts. The process of repeatedly drawing out a winning ticket, announcing the number, waiting for the winner to show up and choose their present, accompanied by boozy cheering from their table, took ages. At one point I was concerned that they’d actually have more prizes than tickets sold and would have to put all the winners back in the same hat and start drawing them again.

Our table, being a table of parents of kids in the first grade, was a little bit subdued, as it was our first opportunity to get rat-arsed together and we had to size everyone up. As you looked around the room, you could see the higher up the school was the class, the rowdier was the table. Some people, of course, had to flit to more than one table having more than one child in the school. In such cases they tended towards their oldest child’s group, and left us newbies to fend for ourselves. Just as we were leaving, I came across a couple who had suddenly appeared at our table from some third grade table somewhere. They seemed quite put out that we were going so early (it was 2.30), and the husband insisted that I have a glass of wine with him – quite possibly because he was Romanian and wanted to chat to someone else at the party who’d no idea of what this bloody music was.

I have no idea what time it finished, but we certainly seemed to be the first ones to go. People do like to party until dawn here. The very concept that we were going before 5am seemed to be quite offensive, but having had the Szilveszter experience of having the 8am alarm-clock baby on a couple of minutes sleep, we weren’t about to do it again. We’ve probably been marked down as party-poopers though, and will be treated with appropriate disdainfulness at the school gates on Monday.

Posted in traditions | 3 Comments »

Farsangi bál

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 January, 2007

So, how was the party, is the question I’m sure you’re all asking.

It was good, but like no party I’d been to before. Or rather, it had elements of many other different parties but in a combination previously unknown.

Firstly we had to bring along our own food and drink – it was actually possible to order a fixed menu prior to the event, but since the fixed menu was cold meats and cheese as a starter, with a main course of töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage – stuffed with pork), we didn’t bother going down that route. Most people it seems brought their own food – and plates, glasses, knives, forks, corkscrews, etc. Having dropped off our baskets of food and utensils we all trooped down to the lecture theatre (the party took place in the canteen of the Sapientia University) to watch a play performed by the teachers at the school, which was on a traditional farsang theme, that of marriage. This extended pre-lenten period appears to have been traditionally the time when people from villages were married off – possibly lent was a time in which it wasn’t wise to get married as you couldn’t have much of a party, or maybe (who knows) some serious catholic villages even swore off sex during the 40 days. That would, of course, be inconvenient because lent aways falls in Spring, when people in those far off days before widespread pre-marital rumpy-pumpy were desperate to, ahem, “get married”. So anyway, farsang was a period in which one partied, dressed in costume (no idea why, but this seems somewhat universal) and got hitched.

The play was performed with gusto and (I suspect) a touch of inebriation. I didn’t know what the words were, but could get the gist It wasn’t Beckett, is what I’m saying here. At the conclusion we all trooped back upstairs to the canteen and joined our tables. Each table was devoted to a different class at the school, so you were sitting with the parents of your child’s classmates. In many ways the whole affair from that point onwards was like a very peculiar wedding reception. There was the usual wedding-type band, playing cover versions of classics from the 60s 70s and 80s. (At least I’m assured they were classics, being as how they were all Hungarian, I’ll have to take people’s word for that). There was the universal wedding behaviour of sitting round the tables, talking, eating, getting plastered, and occasionally getting up and dancing. What set it apart from the average wedding was two things – firstly the fact that all the guests were between 30 and 45; and secondly the fact that the people that you had in common, who had brought you and your tablemates together (the role filled by the bride and groom at a wedding) were not actually present and were all at home tucked up in bed being taken care of by babysitters. Then, rather than the best man’s speech, we had an interminable raffle – parents had been asked to wrap things they didn’t want and submit them as raffle prizes, and the table was very full of such gifts. The process of repeatedly drawing out a winning ticket, announcing the number, waiting for the winner to show up and choose their present, accompanied by boozy cheering from their table, took ages. At one point I was concerned that they’d actually have more prizes than tickets sold and would have to put all the winners back in the same hat and start drawing them again.

Our table, being a table of parents of kids in the first grade, was a little bit subdued, as it was our first opportunity to get rat-arsed together and we had to size everyone up. As you looked around the room, you could see the higher up the school was the class, the rowdier was the table. Some people, of course, had to flit to more than one table having more than one child in the school. In such cases they tended towards their oldest child’s group, and left us newbies to fend for ourselves. Just as we were leaving, I came across a couple who had suddenly appeared at our table from some third grade table somewhere. They seemed quite put out that we were going so early (it was 2.30), and the husband insisted that I have a glass of wine with him – quite possibly because he was Romanian and wanted to chat to someone else at the party who’d no idea of what this bloody music was.

I have no idea what time it finished, but we certainly seemed to be the first ones to go. People do like to party until dawn here. The very concept that we were going before 5am seemed to be quite offensive, but having had the Szilveszter experience of having the 8am alarm-clock baby on a couple of minutes sleep, we weren’t about to do it again. We’ve probably been marked down as party-poopers though, and will be treated with appropriate disdainfulness at the school gates on Monday.

Posted in traditions | 3 Comments »

Farsang 07

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 January, 2007

Last year I mentioned Farsang, the Hungarian (possibly Transylvanian only, who knows) pre-Lent feasting period, and I presciently mentioned that we might have to go to a school farsang party this year because Bogi would be at real school. Well, I was right, and that party is tonight. I’m not quite sure what to expect, but it seems like costumes are not really part of the deal (which is alternately a relief and a disappointment). It’s also unusual to have a (non-family) party to which one is obliged to go, and to not go would somehow be breaking the unwritten but fiercely guarded rules.

Things are somewhat busy and manic these days, which will explain the lack of blog posts. In a two month period from mid Feb to mid April I will (I think) be spending significant time in 7 seperate countries, which sounds exhausting, but kind of intriguing all at the same time. Further details of my itinerary to follow.

It is still not cold! I never imagined I could see pictures on the news of snow on the ground in Spain and England, while Csikszereda remained snow-free. We’re due to have winter start this weekend, I’m told.

Posted in traditions | Leave a Comment »

Farsang 07

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 January, 2007

Last year I mentioned Farsang, the Hungarian (possibly Transylvanian only, who knows) pre-Lent feasting period, and I presciently mentioned that we might have to go to a school farsang party this year because Bogi would be at real school. Well, I was right, and that party is tonight. I’m not quite sure what to expect, but it seems like costumes are not really part of the deal (which is alternately a relief and a disappointment). It’s also unusual to have a (non-family) party to which one is obliged to go, and to not go would somehow be breaking the unwritten but fiercely guarded rules.

Things are somewhat busy and manic these days, which will explain the lack of blog posts. In a two month period from mid Feb to mid April I will (I think) be spending significant time in 7 seperate countries, which sounds exhausting, but kind of intriguing all at the same time. Further details of my itinerary to follow.

It is still not cold! I never imagined I could see pictures on the news of snow on the ground in Spain and England, while Csikszereda remained snow-free. We’re due to have winter start this weekend, I’m told.

Posted in traditions | Leave a Comment »