I know its a bit past the date, but I’m finally getting around to posting about the arrival of Pisica (my cat) and Marius (my husband).

Both arrived safe and sound just about a month ago. Marius had no problems getting through immigration, though they told him it would take six to eight weeks to get his Green Card in the mail. They didn’t even mention his Social Security card.

Pisica arrived safe and desperate to get out of the travel kennel she’s been in for over 24 hours. It did take awhile to retrieve her because I had been told we would need to pick her up at the cargo area but she was actually brought to the baggage terminal. Marius didn’t know to look for her and left baggage area without her. Of course once you pass customs you’re not allowed back in, so he had to go to the airline’s customer service people who had to call to have her brought out, which took about a half hour.

Both Marius and I are very curious to what her trip was like, but unfortunately no amount of asking her has elicited a response yet. Interestingly enough, she was clearly jet lagged for several day. She slept more than she usually does and was fairly quiet — and believe me, my cat is NOT a quiet cat! After about four or five days, she was back to her normal meowing, crazy self.

A few days after Marius arrived I called Social Security to find out about his getting his card, and if he could legally work before he received the card. The first time I called it was clear the woman I spoke to wasn’t sure of what she was saying. She told me he couldn’t work and that we’d have to file a whole new set of forms for him to be legally allowed to work — according to her the Social Security card he was being issued was only for identification purposes and not for working. This sounded very weird to me, especially as I’m sure the staff at the Embassy in Bucharest told us he’d be allowed to work. So I called again. This time the person I spoke with said, the immigration process we’d been through did allow him to work before he got his social security card. I called two more times after that and both times got the same answer that Marius was allowed to work without the Social Security card in hand.

With that taken care of my dad started making calls to people he knew in the Electrician’s field. Within two days of making calls, and two weeks of Marius’ arrival in the States, he had a job as an electrician. Just like that! He’s now working for a private contractor as part of the guy’s “crew” of electricians. He’s underpaid but its a great start. And while I’m thrilled he got a job so fast, it’s also annoying that he got a job within two weeks and I’ve now been here almost two months and I’m still looking!

We are, however, still waiting to receive Marius’ Social Security card. The paperwork we received about it said he should expect the card within three weeks of arrival in the States. But when I called, again, to see what was happening I was told that it was going to be closer to six to eight weeks, just like the Green Card. It’s annoying, since he can’t apply to take the driver’s license test until he gets it, but at least he’s allowed to work.

So as of now we’re a one income family, but hopefully that’ll change, as I’ve got three interviews and a callback interview this week!

Wish us luck!

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Progress has been made. The wonderful people at Futurepet.com, and especially a woman, named Jackie, came through for me and even though it cost me almost $500, they have now shipped a airline, USDA, and IATA approved kennel out to Romania. It’s going via UPS so will get there in three to four days.

Next step, calling KLM in Bucharest to try and make a reservation for her.

And in the meantime Marius has to take her to the special animal health inspection place in Brasov to get her travel health certificate.

Lots of hoops to jump through and of course she’s not going to appreciate any of it. In fact, she’ll probably be angry at us for putting her through all the trauma!

I’m used to making at least $25 for an article, thankfully usually higher but since getting back to the States I don’t have the same amount of time to devote to writing, and no time for travelling. So I decided to take some articles I’ve got hanging around and put them up on AC (Associated Content) to see what happens.

My first article “The Penguins of Otway Sound, Chile” is now up and I got paid a whopping $6 for it. But the more people who read the article, the higher my stats go up and the next time I submit an article I get paid more.

I think its a great way to force myself to do some writing and get a little extra money for it. Maybe at the end of the year, I can treat myself to a day at the spa.

Join Associated Content

I have a cat in Romania. A beautiful tortoiseshell girl named Pisica (which incidentally means cat in Romanian). I adopted her in February of 2005 when she was four months old. She’s my baby. And I don’t want to leave her behind in Romania. I want her here with me.

All the Romanians laugh and say “what a lucky cat.” There are thousands of Romanians who would love to come to the States and my Romanian cat is getting a free ride. Except its not turning out to be so easy, and its certainly not free – well it is for her, but not for me.

There are a couple of ways to get a pet from Europe to the U.S. Actually there’s only one — by plane, but there are a couple of ways to go about making the plans for a pet to be sent by plane. One is to do-it-yourself.

Do-it-yourself means that you, yourself, go out and buy the airline approved kennel, and then contact the air carrier of your choice to find out about their rules for transporting pets.

An approved kennel must be hard plastic and there must be enough room for your pet to stand up erect and turn around. In addition there must be ventilation on four sides of the kennel. There are many companies that make such kennels including Vari and Sky Kennel.

Most airlines require that the kennel you use be approved by the USDA and, if you’re transporting your pet internationally, by IATA (The International Air Transport Association). IATA has a whole section on what’s required to transport pets at their Pet Corner site.

If you’re travelling from the U.S. this isn’t a bad option. Kennels are easy to find and the airlines are easy to work with. However, when you’re flying from overseas it can get harder. Especially if you’re flying from someplace like Romania. Kennels are not easy to get and airlines are harder to get in touch with and work with. I have found that it is almost impossible to find the exact kennel that’s needed in Romania. That means I have to have it shipped over from the States. Well, kennels are oversized and most companies refuse to ship oversized items. I have finally found a company (Futurepet.com) in Texas that seems willing to ship the kennel to Romania as long as I’m willing to pay — the kennel costs about $40, the shipping will cost close to $300!! However, they use UPS and they first have to check with UPS to make sure they’ll do it (even though I told them there is UPS in Romania). Anyway, they’re taking their sweet little time and my time — the time I have left to get Pisica over here — is running out.

In addition, because the flight is originating from Romania, I have to deal with an airline company that flies directly out of Romania, and I have to call the Romanian division of that airline. I had originally wanted to use Northwest Airlines because they seem to have the best to offer in pet transport but they don’t fly out of Romania; they’re partner, KLM, does. And when I called KLM, they told me I have to call the Bucharest office of KLM. Since that’s an overseas call, I’m waiting to be sure the kennel will be shipped out, which means I’m waiting on Futurepets.com to get back to me before I can call KLM Bucharest. See what I mean, about it not being so easy!

The second option for transporting a pet is using a special company that only transports pets. There are several such companies. They are expensive but offer much more accountability than the airlines and also do all the leg work for you. Originally, when I first planned to bring Pisica over I planned to use one of these companies since they all claimed they can transport pets from anywhere in the world. Well, it turns out Romania isn’t one of those places! And not because of the U.S. firm but because they can’t get their counterparts in Romania to respond!!! The U.S. firm needs someone in Romania to do the leg work in Romania (i.e. bring a kennel and pick-up the pet and bring to airport, and check-in, etc.). Well, all the companies in Romania that the U.S. firms tried to contact never responded to a single email or phone message. So the U.S. firms could do nothing for me.

Thus, I’m doing-it-myself and having a hell of a hard time doing it.

The Hora

October 16, 2006

All Jews know there is a dance called the Hora. So, also, do all Romanians.

When I first came to Romania and found out that they also have a circle dance called the Hora I was totally surprised. How interesting that Romanians and Jews both have a circle dance — danced almost exactly the same — called the Hora. Obviously they were related but which came first?

Talking about it with a Romanian friend we ended up arguing. I was sure the Hora was first a Jewish dance — I mean didn’t Sarah lead the Jews in a Hora when they passed unharmed through the Red Sea? So it must have been ours first and the Romanians were influenced by the Jews living in Romania.

Gheorghe said it was Romania’s dance first. That Romanians had been dancing the Hora for hundreds of years, before there were Jews living in Romania.

I never went any further with looking it up until recently when my mother remarked that the dictionary’s definition of the Hora also refers to it as a Jewish and Romanian dance. So a few days ago I decided to do an Internet search to see what I could find. Mostly what I found were how to dance the Hora sites, or just definitions referring to it as a circle dance found in Israel and Romania.

However, according to Wikipedia, the dance did in fact originate in Romania and the Romanian Jews brought it to Israel with them. As with all Wikipedia entries, I don’t know where they got their information from, so I don’t really know if its true or not. If it is, that means the Hora has only been danced as a Jewish dance (at bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, etc.) for about 50 or 60 years. It doesn’t seem possible to me but then I’m only 34, so how would I know what Jews were dancing at their weddings 80 or 100 years ago?

So for now I guess my head must accept that the Hora originated in Romania, even if my heart still believes otherwise. If anybody knows more about the origin of the Hora, I’d love to hear it!

Job Searching

October 13, 2006

Is thoroughly depressing. Before I returned to the U.S. I knew that I would have to start job searching once I got back here. But I didn’t realize just how hard and frustrating it would be.

I have been out of the job market for three years. Prior to that I worked as a New York City public librarian. When I applied for that job the NYPL was in serious need of librarians with degress so I was basically assured a job. Before that my previous two jobs had come through connections I had. So I haven’t actually been seriously job searching since fall of 2000!

Six years of not having to compete with what feels like the whole world. A whole world of people who are better qualified, have more experience and are in a better position to get every job that seems interesting to me.

Frankly, right now it feels like I’m screwed!

A few weeks before I left Romania I saw a job listing for the travel trade magazine Travel Agent. I have previously worked for a travel trade paper and have been freelancing as a travel writer for the past 2 years. I applied for the job with a fair amount of hope. I received a call almost immediatly but when the HR woman found out I was still in Romania she backed off immediatly. By the time I got back to the States, that first job had been filled but another job had opened up. I applied and called to let the HR woman know I was interested. As far as I was concerned I was completely and totally qualified for the job, in every way. The HR woman was friendly on the phone when I spoke with her but never once tried to set-up an interview with me. Nor did she tell me they weren’t interested. Seems to me she was stringing me along, perhaps so she didn’t have to feel bad saying “no”. The job has since be taken down off their job board and I was never called back. I’ve got to admit I’m furious about the whole thing. If I was so qualified for the first job (very similar to the second) that I received a call from them within an hour of getting my resume than why did they suddenly lose that interest. And why when I spoke to the woman on the phone couldn’t she just have been honest and said something rather than let me keep hope alive.

Since being back in the States (just over a week) I’ve applied to 16 jobs and had family members send my resume to several contacts they have. I haven’t had a single bite. Can everyone in the world really be more qualified than me? Do my three years of writing/editing experience mean nothing just because I’ve been living overseas for three years?

When I first began applying for jobs I went through highs and lows of hope. I can now say with a fairly high level of certainty that my highs are gone. I have very little hope.

The last time I wrote about how little things make such a difference I was living in Romania commenting on which little things from the States I was surprised I missed. Now I’m back living in the States and I’m realizing there are little things about Romania that I miss.

One that I’ve noticed a lot, and hadn’t given any thought ahead of time to, is TV commercials. I’ve become used to watching TV with few commercials. Many channels in Romania have no commercials during shows or have just one or two longer blocs of commercials during the show. Here, a bloc of commercials seems to occur every 10 minutes or so. It’s incredibly annoying!!

Each time I barely get into a segment of the show when its interrupted by a commercial. I never realized just how annoying that is!

So there’s this new web site called Associated Content (not to be confused with Associated Press) that allows people to post their articles and possibly sell them to people who are interested. I’ve decided to give it a try to see what happens.

I posted an article about the Otway Sound Penguin Colony in Chile.

Check out the site here and maybe you’ll want to write a story about something you know a lot about.

My Last Taste of Romania

October 5, 2006

There are no direct flights from Romania to the United States. On this last trip from Romania to the States I flew through Paris. I was among the last group to board the plane and my seatmate was already there when I boarded. An older looking lady she smiled when I sat down.

Soon after taking off the onboard entertainment system came on. I noticed that my seatmate chose the French version to use. Because we were on an Air France flight I assumed she was French.

Not long after I took out my customs form to fill out. My seatmate saw me and took hers out to do as well. As she was filing it out she took out her passport to aid her. I couldn’t help but notice it was a Romanian passport. I had not seen her on the flight from Romania to Paris earlier in the morning so it was very strange to find myself, on a flight of over 200 people, sitting next to a Romanian. Probably the only Romanian on the entire flight!

But somehow it made me feel better. I was leaving Romania behind. While I will be back next year to visit, I will never call Romania home again. So having a Romanian sitting next to me felt like life’s way of letting me take Romania with me on the journey.

An hour and a half into the flight a lunch was served. Air France gives each passenger a menu with two choices to chose from. The Romanian lady next to me was having some trouble with the English and French and asked me in broken English if one of the meals was a fish meal. I answered her in Romanian, surprising her greatly, and explained the meals to her.

“Ce norocoasa sunt,” she said – how lucky I am. We spoke more towards the end of the flight about how I knew Romanian and what she was going to be doing in the U.S. — she was visiting for six months, splitting her time between her daughter in New York and her nephew in New Jersey. She asked if I would go with her to the baggage and help her get a cart since she had two heavy bags. I told her that immigration came first and that we would be going on two separate lines but that it was easy to get to the baggage area.

When we got off the plane I stayed with her until we got to the immigration and then pointed out which line was hers. There were no long lines so after I got through immigration I went over to the non-US area and looked to see if I could find her. She was at one of the immigration counters so I decided to wait for her.

She was there for five minutes or more and when she came out and saw me she started to cry. The immigration officer had apparently given her a hard time, even though she has a 10-year visa, and she had been afraid he wasn’t going to let her in. When she saw me and saw that I was there to help her, she was happy to see a friendly face. I was glad I could be there to help her. We went together to the baggage area and found the carousel for our flight and I paid for a baggage cart for her. When we parted she was still waiting for her last suitcase but had assured me she would be ok. She thanked me and gave me a kiss on each cheek.

I felt good. Good that I could help her but also good because I felt like I had been being given the chance to say thank you to Romania and to all the Romanians who had helped me over the last 2 1/2 years. It was a nice send off for me, and one that I’ll always be grateful for.

Multumesc.

Back in the U.S.A

October 4, 2006

Two weeks ago I started writing a post about how I was moving back to the U.S. I never finished writing it, never posted it. I don’t think I was emotionally ready to actually post about the fact that my time in Romania, my time as an ex-pat, was actually just about over. Now that I’m here I have no choice but to face it, to accept it, even though I still don’t feel emotionally ready to do so.

This is what I wrote:
It looks like I’ll be moving back to the states on October 3, 2006. That makes my time in Romania, 2 1/3 years. Really just a drop in the bucket. And yet, prior to that I was a nomad for 9 months and prior to that I lived numbly in New York City. So in many ways its been the first place in a long time where I’ve really lived.

With only two weeks more to go here in Romania I’ve been thinking a lot about all kinds of things: what needs to get done here, what I’ll have to deal with when I’m back in the States, how will I find a job, how will I find Marius a job, how will I reacclimate to a faster-paced style of life, how will Marius deal with leaving his family and friends, how will he deal with a different way of doing everything, how will I keep up my Romanian, and so on and so on.

My mind is a crazy mess of thoughts, mixed with happiness, sadness, anxiety, fear.

It’s such a strange thing to have wanted this for so long and when its finally happening to be so scared of it. I’ve missed the States and had many hard times in Romania. But now that’s its time to leave I also know that there were so many things I didn’t miss about the States and I’ve had many good times in Romania.

I guess soon I’ll be realizing what little things in Romania I didn’t appreciate until I was living in the States again.

Two weeks later I’m sitting in front of my parent’s computer in New Jersey and truly realizing, the past three years are over and done with.

And even though I’m happy to be back with family and friends, I’m also sad and I feel weird. I don’t feel like I’m back permanently yet. Inside I still feel like in two weeks I’ll be going back to my apartment and my life over there.

But then I realize I no longer have a life over there. My life is here now. A three year chapter of my life is over and I’m starting a new one. And it feels so unreal.

I don’t feel like I’m “home” yet and my apartment in Brasov, which I’ll never see again, still feels like “home.”

So I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. I’m not ready to stop calling myself an ex-pat. I’m not ready to say this is home. Right now I’m standing somewhere in the middle of it all. Physically I’m in the States, but emotionally I’m still in Romania. Maybe as my body adjusts to the time difference (one day per hour of difference) so my emotions and mind will adjust to being here permanently.