Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fulbright orientation

Because of my house guests immediately following the orientation and conference, I failed to post this information and will now catch up a bit...

 The entire Fulbright gang - grantees, dependents, and staff - and a few RAAS participants on the promenade in Constanta.

On October 3, I attended the official orientation at the Romanian Fulbright Commission.  I walked there - about 20 minutes from where I live, through a pleasant part of the city - and there met my Fulbright colleagues.  There are 4 senior Fulbright scholars currently in Romania: Dr. Ilia Roussev from University of Hawaii; Dr. Gene Tanta from Univ. of Maryland; Dr. Ruxandru Vidu from Univ. of California-Davis; and myself.  There will be three more arriving in January, who will be doing the spring term only.  All 4 of us who are already here are based in Bucharest.  There are also 6 Fulbright students, all of whom I believe are working at the master's level in preparation for going on to doctoral work.  They are: Elena Ion, David Duceany, Eric Burnstein, Eamonn Gallagher, Stephanie Herzog, and Elijah Ferbrache.  The first 2 are located in Bucharest and the others are scattered around Romania. 

Our day of orientation consisted of greetings and information presented by members of the Romanian Fulbright Commission and by members of the US Embassy.  In no particular order I learned the following:
  • there are 7 fatal automobile accidents each day in Romania
  • Romania is very friendly to the US
  • mostly the tap water in Bucharest is safe, but we don't recommend drinking it regularly - using it for brushing teeth, washing dishes, and cooking is fine
  • Romania has an extremely high rate of cyber crime - do not use a credit card except at know, reputable banks; use cash everywhere else
  • violent crime is extremely low here; one can feel very safe in the city
  • if you use drugs and get caught, the American Embassy will come visit you and will inform your family, but can't do anything else about it
  • there will be an all night election party hosted by the Embassy at the Intercontinental Hotel Nov. 6.
And there was more, but you get the gist...  The folks from the Embassy were very pleasant and welcoming.

After a lunch of various Romanian goodies, we all boarded a bus and left for Constanta, on the coast.  In other words, I headed back to where I had come from just 2 days earlier.

At Ovidius University in Constanta, the Fulbright Commission was co-hosting a conference with the Romanian Association for American Studies (RAAS).  The topic was "Remapping Urban Spaces - American Challenges".  All of us 'Fulbrighters' had been invited to submit papers.  I had not done so because I was not clear what I might add to the topic.  I wish I had been as confident as some of my colleagues who simply presented on their own field of expertise, never mind that it had nothing to do with the topic!  Ilia presented a most informative lecture on helio-astronomy.  Some of the papers presented were very informative and interesting.  Unfortunately several were not, but isn't that the way with most conferences... 

 The campus of Ovidius University had this lovely walkway lined with with marble representations of Ovid's writings...

All in all it was an excellent opportunity to connect with my Fulbright colleagues and to make some connections with others around Romania and other parts of Europe.  I am definitely hoping to turn some of these contacts into hosts for touring their respective areas.  It is also quite humbling to listen to Europeans talk so knowledgeably about America and some of its challenges!  Granted these folks are professionals who specialize in American studies, but most were very knowledgeable of political, economic, and geographical issues.

Eli, Gene, and Eric listening to one of the presentations held in the "American Corner" of the library.  Apparently there are 8 of these American Corners throughout Romania, rooms filled with American books.

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