Day 100

Friday, September 2, 2005San Francisco
Miles: 11437100 Days of Homelessness!!!

So here's the plan. Keath is going to document San Francisco goings on (not very exciting) but not publish anything beyond September 2 until Ceridwen returns to document Romanian goings on. They will surely be more interesting! Note how Keath even manages to keep up the third person narrator - pretty cool, huh?

Many of you are probably going "So, uh, why is Ceridwen in eastern Europe?" The answer to that is quite easy, actually: she was selected for the 2005 Writers Cultural Exchange Program, run by the Alviogut Foundation. "The program is meant to promote Romania's past and present culture, to bring together writers from around the world, to develop a more sophisticated perspective about cultures, people and borders." Keath wanted to go with her, but tickets to Romania don't exactly grow on trees, my friends. So he holed up in a San Fran hostel while Ceridwen jet setted. Jet sat? You get the point. You can read more about the program here and about this year's specifics here.

So what is Keath doing in San Francisco? Well, today, at about 3:30 AM Pacific Time, Ceridwen landed in Bucharest and managed to find a phone to call Keath from. He was very confused, but wished her well in finding Florin and getting about town. A few hours later Keath rolled out of bed, learned that there's a window that doesn't close all the way in the hostel's shower (this is a breeze issue, not a privacy issue), and set off to the office. The day passed fairly quickly, and then back to the hostel it was.

The actually interesting part of Keath's San Franciscan goings on are all the other people in the hostel. There weren't too many people about on Thursday night, but on Friday there were plenty of people (trying to find something to watch on the 871 digital television channels). There's a couple whom he thought were from France but turned out to be Slovinian. (Keath is apparently really bad with languages. Another guy, from New Zealand, officially gave Ceridwen permission to complain about a 13 hour flight; in his official world traveller handbook, it is said that anything over 8 hours is obscene. (California to New Zealand is 16 hours with no stops)

In between idle chit chat, Keath finished uploading the photos which were still on the camera. And that's about it.

Like I said, Ceridwen's updates are sure to be more interesting...

Friday, September 2, 2005Bucharest, Romania
Miles: 17885Homeless and Airborne

When I picture German airports, I picture three things; cleanliness, glass and shiny metal. The Frankfurt airport is more like the forgotten strip mall in your hometown that someone has decided to land some planes near. Odd. This was also my first introduction to European boarding. Though there are still zone assignments on your boarding card, the boarding process pretty much amounts to a free for all. Which worked just as well as the zones assigning, aisle calling and other machinations that Americans engage in. Which makes me wonder; why do we bother? Everyone found their seat and we left on time. Wahoo.

By the time we arrived in Bucharest, I was freakin’ exhausted. I had been up for some ungodly number of hours, thanks to my non-reclining seat and the fact that until somewhere over Greenland it was too early for bed, and now I was shaking and not making a lot of sense. The first thing I saw when I stepped off the plane was a smoking security guard. It seemed very foreign. Before I left Romanian customs (some guy nodding at you as you wandered through) I took a few minutes to freshen up so I didn’t outright offend the people meeting me.

When I exited customs, I was spit out into a big sea of people, most of them carrying signs that said things in Romanian. I was looking for one that said Artfest. But no luck. Hmmm. I took another stroll by, thinking I must have missed it. But again, no luck. Harrumph. I squeezed around a young couple who were so happy to see each other that they were practically having sex right in the airport and found a payphone so I could call Keath and let him know I was safe and sound. In the hundred yards or so to the phone, I was asked if I wanted a cab about ten times. I said no each time, but was starting to wonder if perhaps I did need one. To get where, I wasn’t sure.

A call to Keath later and I was still no closer to finding my program. Eek. More people asked me if I wanted a cab, including one guy who was really persistent. He asked if I wanted a cab now, then if I would want one later. When I said no, he said that when I changed my mind, he would be there for me. How sweet. I bit my tongue and didn’t shout that the next person who offered me a cab was going to get kicked in the jimmy. I get cranky when I’m tired.

Not knowing what else to do, I leaned against a wall that had a good view of all the signage. This turned out to be my saving grace. A security guard came to yell at me, and I said, “What’s that?” forcing her to speak in English. I then responded in English and the exchange caught the ear of Katherine, the assistant for the program. She approached me, asked if I was American and a writer and then showed me the itty bitty sign she was carrying that said Alviogut. Not Artfest, but I wasn’t going to complain now that I had someone to tell me what to do. Katherine was a participant last year and now works for the Foundation, so she speaks English, which is a big bonus. She’s also quite pretty and looks a lot like Tara Reid. She thought I was a student, which is understandable given that I travel in sweatpants and pigtails and carry a big rucksack instead of a more adult looking rolling bag. While we waited for the other writers to arrive, I suggested that she change her sign to read “Artfest” to avoid confusing others.

Once all the writers had arrived, we piled into the minibus and started our two hour ride to Bustini. According to the online itinerary, we were supposed to spend the first two nights in Bucharest, but apparently that had changed and we would instead be spending the whole week in a rented villa in the mountains. The minibus was packed with us and our stuff, but in Sinaii we made a stop and picked up Eric, a writer who had been hanging out in Romania for the past 12 days. Since there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit, Florin had to stand for the rest of the trip, which was luckily only a few more miles.

Katherine had told me while we waited for other people’s flights to arrive that picking rooms in the villa might be akin to a reality show. None of the rooms had been assigned, nor were they all equal. There were two or three singles and the rest were doubles. A few of the rooms had their own bathrooms, which was the key for me. As luck would have it, the roommate gods had smiled on me once again. (For those of you unfamiliar with this idea, basically, I thankfully wound up rooming with my kickass freshman roommate, Laura, and we became instant friends. This luck of the draw was referred to by my mother as the roommate gods.) As we rode along, Michelle, the woman sitting next to me, and I quickly bonded. I told her about the room scramble ahead and we decided to just room together, rather than try to fight it out for the singles. When we arrived in Bustini, we snagged a double with a bathroom and settled in.

Everyone was exhausted from either long plane flights or, for those who had arrived a few days earlier, from riding around Bucharest all day in the minibus while they waited for the rest of us. We went down to the village for our first Romanian meal. I was surprised to see how many people were hanging out in the square. Techno music blasted from huge speakers and teenagers on bikes ran around speaking rapidly and dramatically to each other. Rancid, Nirvana and Metallica were only three of the American bands represented on their t-shirts. Apparently, teenagers are the same everywhere. Florin, the program director, was very sweet and helpful in getting me food I could eat (vegetarianism isn’t huge in Romania) and everyone but me had some wine. I was still shaking and starting to feel like hallucinations were imminent, so I decided to forgo any imbibing. After dinner, about half of us went back to the villa and the rest stayed on to get to know each other. They apparently stayed up and talked right outside our room until about 1 am, but since I wear ear plugs, I didn’t notice. What I did notice was the dogs barking right outside our window. I fell asleep with the personalities of the 13 other writers swirling around in my head.