Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Activities of Daily Living

Today we go on an adventure!  We are headed to Mamaia, on the coast of the Black Sea for 5 days of rest and relaxation - this transitioning to a new culture has been hard work!  I am most looking forward to the quiet, I think, but I will be sure to let you all know in a few days with the next post.  For today, I thought I would focus on some of the basics of living...

The bathroom

I have had to get used to taking a bath instead of a shower, but it is not so bad in the luxury tub I have… (Notice also the towel warmer hanging on the wall, which at the moment of this picture was being used as a drying rack for pillow cases.)

 

The toilets are equipped with 2 flushing mechanisms: full and half flushes.  I leave the details to your imaginations…  Suffice it to say, this serves to conserve water.

The bed

Beds are made with a bottom sheet and a duvet (observed in each of the hotels and all furnished apartments I was in).  I stripped the cover off the duvet to wash it (see "laundry" below) and quickly realized I will not be washing that quite as often as I wash the bottom sheet.  Getting the duvet in and out of is cover is not an easy one-person task.



This is Amanda's room.  We bought the duvet cover and pillow cases to coordinate with the painting on her walls.

Laundry

We have a front-loading, very low water washer and no dryer.  I purchased a large drying rack from IKEA to set up in the house.  The method works fine, but is definitely not quick and so we are learning to plan ahead for getting clothes clean.

Drinking water

The water from the tap is reported to be perfectly safe and we do use it for brushing teeth, making tea, cooking food, etc.  Because of the taste I was buying bottled water, but now have a water cooler with really big bottles that get delivered.  The machine also dispenses hot water, which I am especially looking forward to in cooler weather when I drink more tea.

Doing errands

Because of reliance on walking and/or public transportation, doing errands can be quite time consuming.  Add to this that the economy is cash-based and personal transactions are the norm.  Making arrangements for our upcoming trip to the Black Sea meant two trips: on Monday, I walked to the bank (atm) to get sufficient cash then took a taxi to the travel agent (with whom Diana had already had several phone conversations on my behalf) – this took almost 2 hours total; on Tuesday, I again walked to the bank for more cash, took a taxi to the train ticketing agent, which was not where I had been told, so walked to the train station itself, purchased tickets, and returned via metro – total time about 90 minutes.  Very different from making a few clicks on my computer or picking up the telephone and paying by debit card!

As I mentioned in a previous blog, taking the recycling out means walking to these large bins that are on the streets or in parks.  I try to remember to take a few things with me when I am going that way for another errand.

 
Amanda bought something from a natural cosmetics store - this was the bag it came in.  (Sorry I couldn't get the picture to rotate.)  An amusing reminder to avoid landfills when possible.

Medical attention

For some unknown, unprovoked reason, Ralph bit one of Amanda's fingers Monday night.  I washed it and bandaged it, but decided Tuesday morning that it should be professionally examined.  I now have great empathy for immigrants and the poor in our country to have to navigate our US healthcare system!  Again, I started by calling one of my contacts – Mihai, this time – for a recommendation of where to go.  He recommended a private clinic and gave me the number to call.  During the phone call I was transferred among 3 different people and the phone call was dropped when we were part way through setting up an appointment.  When I called back, I repeatedly got a recorded message in Romanian and was unable to get through.  So we got in a taxi and just went…  When we arrived, the receptionist said, "you do not have an appointment and need to go to the hospital" (one associated with the clinic) that is about 6 blocks away.  So we went.  And then the story improves greatly…

We were seen almost immediately upon checking in at the desk.  Here are a few aspects of the interaction that I really appreciated:
·       I was told up front what the charges would be
·       The physician spoke English fairly well and was quite pleasant
·       She (the physician) paid attention to my caution about Amanda’s autism and hearing impairment
·       She also listened to my assurances that Amanda was up-to-date on tetanus and Ralph was up-to-date on rabies vaccine
·       The nurse, who did not speak English, was very gentle and patient with Amanda while cleaning the wounds
·       The wound was well cleaned and bandaged, while the physician wrote notes for what we needed to obtain from the pharmacy (antibiotic) in the same room.
·       We were in and out in half an hour with a bill of 125 lei (about $35)
The one thing I was less pleased by was that there was an assumption by the receptionist and by the physician that Amanda might need tetanus or rabies shots before we were asked her history.  However, that may have been a product of the fact there are so many stray dogs here in Romania and I suspect dog bites from them are more common than from pets.

All in all, we are still learning how to live in this new and different culture - and learning to count the blessings of our American life-style.  At the same time, there are many aspects of living here that are an improvement over the US.  My focus in these blogs is to provide my observations and perspectives...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday in the park


Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous day – warm and sunshiny!  And so after a late start because Amanda had gone to one of the malls by herself the night before – her first solo venturing in the city – and had come back after midnight, we set off for Herastrau Park, or Parcul Herastrau.  This is one of the largest parks in the city and has a fairly large lake in its midst.  This and several other parks and lakes were created in the 30’s when marshland was drained.  We have been walking in this park before, but this time added a boat trip and walked in parts we had not been to before.  The Village Museum, a collection of buildings depicting rural life is here also, but we chose to save that for another day – perhaps when Patricia and Jerry are visiting.

 Here is a map of the park, which will give a general idea of its size, when considered with the pictures below.  At the lower left corner of the park is the Arcul de Triumf (seen in a previous blog entry).  Our boat tour took us from the lower left part of the lake, around the very small island in the right center, and then into the upper part of the lake.  We have now explored pretty well the lower part of the park, but none of the land across the lake.


Amanda "needed" a treat at the park.  She commented that this cotton candy had no artificial coloring and was much fresher than most she has had in America.

And this was my chosen treat: a potato, skewered on a stick, spiral cut, fanned out and then deep-fried - fresh potato chips on a stick!

 There are pedal boats and row boats for rent - with lots of use due to the lovely weather!


 We opted for the large boat that circled the lake.  The cost is 5 lei (pronounced lay) per person, about $1.40, for a 20 or so minute trip.  A lovely way to see a larger area...

 Obviously we are enjoying ourselves!

This is the small island I noted on the map.
 
 
Isn't this a great Sunday afternoon in the park kind of picture?  We walked a while, we enjoyed the boat ride and snacks, and we enjoyed simply sitting in the sun looking out at the lake and other people in the park.
 

As we were leaving the park we came across this commercial establishment selling milk chocolate.  We resisted the candy, but couldn't resist a photo op with a purple cow!

Our Friday (2 days ago) was VERY different as it was cold and rainy.  However I had insisted we go into the historical center of Bucharest as I was getting tired of seeing more of IKEA and shopping areas than of cultural interest.  So here are my few photos from that day:
Above is the Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Rom├ón), a concert hall that was opened in 1888.

 An orthodox church that happened to be next to...

 How could we resist an English bookshop?  (Although it was disappointingly small, I did select a small cookbook of typical Romanian food.)
 The memorial at Revolution Square, commemorating the 1989 revolution that ousted Ceausescu.

Unfortunately I have already forgotten who this was, but I like the building.  I will check the next time I go.  And I will be back - rainy days are not as pleasant for walking around.

Friday, September 21, 2012

On personal resonsibility and architecture


Yesterday, Amanda and I had a most unpleasant encounter with a Romanian man who was being rather rigid in his scolding of us for not having followed correct protocol.  As we left the situation, Amanda expressed a wonderful insight that is probably useful for all us in many situations:  “Wouldn’t the world be better if everyone were kind and explained the rules?  I am willing to follow the rules when I know what they are.”  That sentiment expresses well the dilemmas encountered in a different culture – how is one expected to “know the rules” if they are not explained?  And kindness toward others certainly goes far.  So, today as I set out I will remind myself – as I do most days, in fact – that I am the visitor and it is my job to assimilate, to learn the rules, while seeking accommodation to me only as part of my learning.  Each day I (we) do learn more Romanian language and more of the customs, as well as practical knowledge of simply navigating in this city.

I have observed one generalization about the culture that I very much prefer over US culture – that personal responsibility is an expectation.  I suspect all of my readers are aware of the US case several years ago when a woman successfully sued McDonalds Corp. because she had spilled hot coffee on herself and it burned her leg.  I know that most of my friends and acquaintances were appalled at the outcome as we believed she had responsibility in the situation.  I have observed 3 examples here in Romania where it is clear that personal responsibility is a given: playgrounds; construction hazards; and the SNSPA (my university for this year) entrance procedure.

Playgrounds

Notice the kinds of equipment in these pictures.  There are many structures that are not available in the US (largely a result of litigation).  Also the ground underneath is not specially treated.  I am not advocating that we in the States stop mulching our playgrounds, but that we do recognize that it is the responsibility of the child’s caretaker to ensure the safety of the child.  Diana, my colleague at SNSPA, was a bit surprised at my commenting on these differences.  “But of course it is the responsibility of the parents to watch their children at play.”
 
 Difficult, perhaps, to see that the child is getting a zipline, which he will mount...

 I have never seen a slide this tall in the US, except at water parks

more similar in style to the US

Construction Hazards

A picture would be valuable here, but I hadn’t thought to take one…  There are many holes and ditches – most being dug by hand, as I have mentioned previously – in walking areas.  These are indicated by only the most minor of warning signs, if at all.  It is clearly my responsibility to avoid stepping in them when walking.  Along such walks I do spend time looking at my pathway, than at the buildings/scenery around me…

University Entrance Procedure

Yesterday I sat in on a few of the individual interviews with prospective master’s degree students.  The basic procedure for application is that students submit a c.v. and an paper, written on one of 5 topics provided by the department.  The paper is written in English, since the program is taught entirely in English, and must include conceptual analysis, supported by academic references.  Then students come for a personal interview, only 10-15 minutes in length, during which they speak (again, in English) to their motivation for entering the program and defend the position taken in the written paper.  I was struck by the contrast between the expectations for these masters’ applicants and our own at Pfeiffer.  These SNSPA applicants were expected to have some skills that we certainly teach at Pfeiffer, but do not necessarily expect students to arrive having.  In fact, my experience and conversations with my Pfeiffer colleagues suggests that generally we are pleasantly surprised when students arrive having skills of analytical thinking and appropriate application of scholarly resources.  However, I have been informed by Romanian colleagues and previous American Fulbrighters to Romania to NOT expect the students to take muck individual responsibility for class attendance or for completing assigned reading, so I am not sure yet how all this will play out in my teaching.  I am beginning to get ready for classes that will begin mid-October.
 
My university:
 

I want to end today’s blog by answering a few questions I have received and by posting a few more pictures of architectural examples of interest to me.

What does your daughter plan to do while she is there and you are in class?  What did she do here? work, go to school,volunteer?

Amanda is currently taking an online class from Forsyth Technical Community College, in Winston-Salem, where she has been a student for a couple of years.  She is able to manage, typically, 1-2 classes per term and is working toward an associate’s degree that will also allow her to transfer to a 4-year university.  She is also a budding filmmaker and has produced 2 short films.  She is hoping to pursue that interest here in Bucharest.  Last, but not least, we are looking into having her volunteer at a nearby center for young autistic children.  More about that when it happens…

Do a lot of people speak English or do you both have part of the language down so you can get needed things?

Many folks speak English, at least a little.  And we are also learning Romanian.  I had a recent example where I asked for directions in Romanian, expecting a fairly short simple answer.  When I received a long answer that I couldn’t understand, I said - still in Romanian – “I understand only a little Romanian; I speak English.”  The reply came quickly back, in perfect English, “Then let’s talk in English…”  It definitely helps at the grocery store, markets, and at restaurants to know enough Romanian to know what we are buying to eat!

Tell me how to make comments on the blog.  I tried, but it wanted me to sign up for something.

Unfortunately I do not know the answer to this one.  Perhaps someone who has already responded will post a comment addressing this concern.  Please?

And now for a few more pictures...
 
 
Above we see where a few people live and below where many others live, both structures not far from where we ourselves live.
 
Our own house (our apartment is at the very top and has no balcony):
 
And last but not least, a few sites from walking around the city ...
 
 one of the intersections I traverse regularly
 The Triumphal Arch
 
And an Orthodox church.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

busy day and 5 modes of transport


Today has been a busy day with much walking involved, along with 4 other forms of transport.  My day began at 8:30 when Alina and I walked to catch the tram to Piata Obor, once the largest open air market in Bucharest, not much of it indoor.  The fruits and vegetables were very fresh and there were also meats, including some “wild, from the forest”, cheeses, and household goods.   I saw people buying milk from large containers that they put into 2 liter, plastic, Coca Cola bottles.  Vendors were often willing to provide a taste of the product prior to purchase.  I bought a kilo of fresh walnuts – the BEST walnuts I have ever tasted! (I think, simply because they were so very fresh.)  I also purchased a leather belt to hold my pants up – I have already lost a little more weight since leaving home.

We got back home at 10:30, which put me running late.  I woke Amanda, asked her to put away the foods I had purchased, and quickly changed clothes.  I walked to my university, SNSPA, a quickly as possible, arriving just in time for my 11:00 appointment with the Dean of the School.  Dr. Diana Cismaru, whom I met last year in the US, is head of the Communications Department and I will be working under her.  Dr. Alina B… is head of the 4 departments that make up this school.  I was welcomed and then given a brief tour of parts of the school, an old building with many stairs.  Diana showed me her office, which she shares with another departmental director, and took me to their bookstore, a very small space that carries books and journals published by faculty members.  I was given a handful of English language journals to read as a way of learning a little about the research interests of my new colleagues.  I walked back home, a little more leisurely this time – it is a 20 minute walk that way, which suggests to me that it is a distance of about 1 mile.

After thanking Amanda for what she had done and fussing at her for not completing the job J, I had lunch and took care of a few tasks around the house.  At about 2:30, Amanda and I left together, combining bus travel and walking to get to SAE Institute, where we met with the director.  Amanda had learned of this place while we were still back in the US – it offers both degree and certificate programs in several areas of digital film production.  The director was a young man, but pleasant and forthcoming with answers to questions.  I think Amanda may start a 6-week course in Film Production there in mid-October.

The original plan was to then take Ralph out for a nice walk, but Amanda was too tired from her one outing and I was too tired from my 3 to take her dog.  So we relaxed and took care of computer tasks instead, providing Ralph with a short outing in the garden.  At 7:00 pm we left again, this time by foot and by metro to connect with an “Eat-up Meet-up” at a Moroccan restaurant.  Again, Amanda had located this group - English-speaking folks in Bucharest who gather once or twice a month to go out to dinner - while we were in the US. It was a small group – only 6 others besides ourselves and so conversation was easy.  There were 2 folks from the Netherlands, one doing an internship at the Dutch Embassy and one who has relocated here for wider employment opportunities; one originally from Costa Rica who has been living in Bucharest for 3 years; and the other three are all Romanians who have travelled/lived in other parts of the world.  The food was good and the conversation stimulating.  Our departure time being close to the end of the running of the metro meant that we came home by taxi, the fourth and final mode of public transport for the day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Excitement and a few thoughts

The exciting news is that our Internet connection here at the house is now connected.  Cheers!  In time for us to do a little investigating to be tourists for another week and also for me to get started working.  I will be meeting with the dean of the school tomorrow.

And now a few thoughts and observations:

In the small time and space that I have observed of Bucharest, it is a city of many contrasts.  The modern is next door to the old, the run-down next to the immaculate, people work digging ditches by hand (I saw this, this morning) while others walk by with the latest in cell phone technology.  The immediate streets on which our house is located are relatively quiet, residential streets, but we are just blocks from major streets with attending traffic.

When I first moved to my house in Winston-Salem, which is just 1 mile south of the downtown area, I immediately noticed an increase in noise level compared to my prior suburban neighborhood.  I am encountering the same phenomenon here, with sirens, traffic noises, and barking dogs as an almost constant background.  The good news is that one habituates to one’s environment and I suspect that in another month or two I will be able to say, “what noise?”.

There are stray dogs all over the place as well as many that are pets.  The strays range from really straggly in appearance to fairly healthy coats of fur.  None of them look to be starving.  Amanda has already been in tears over some dogs that were in the street and which cars or taxis came close to hitting (but none were actually hit!) and over some young puppies she encountered outside Ikea.  She believes she needs to find a home for the puppies as they are too young to know to get out of the way of cars and to avoid poisoned food. (We have been told that offering poisoned food is the solution some have to the problem of strays.)  She is eagerly awaiting replies to a number of email messages she has sent out to rescue organizations.  My concern is not simply that she is investing her time and energy in this way, but that it has only been a week!  I am more concerned about how the outcome of this particular concern will impact our months to come.  Amanda had done quite a bit of research ahead of time and knew that stray dogs are a problem here.  Apparently spaying and neutering is not at all common.  I will keep you all posted on what we learn…

This morning I purchased some cherry tomatoes, red pepper, butternut squash, a loaf of whole grain bread, some cereal for Amanda (she won’t eat the muesli that I like), pasta, oil, soy milk, and some cheese.  There are sources of more natural/fresher cheeses and produce, but not nearby – Alina says she will take me on Wednesday.  While some prices are considerably cheaper than in the US, it is not necessarily the case, especially with packaged items.  I spent the equivalent of about $20.
 
On my way to the grocery I also dropped off recycling.  There are large containers - I will take a picture - on some of the busier streets where one can deposit recyclable items.  It is clear that most folks don't bother, but that is balanced to some extent by the decreased packaging in the first place.  I will do my best to be consistent about separating trash from recycling and taking it once a week.

To end, I provide a brief share from a book I am reading, that I found amusing:  The book is The Virago Book of Women Travellers (Ed. Mary Morris) and the selection is by Mary Kingsley, who travelled to Africa in 1894 at the age of 32 and wrote Travels in West Africa.  The context is cautioning one to not get caught in the mangrove swamp when the tide of the river goes out because the mud is not solid enough to walk on.  “Of course if you really want a truly safe investment in Fame, and really care about Posterity, and Posterity’s Science, you will jump over into the black batter-like, stinking slime, cheered by the thought of the terrific sensation you will produce 20,000 years hence, and the care you will be taken of then by your fellow creatures, in a museum.  But if you are a mere ordinary person of a retiring nature, like me, you stop in your lagoon until the tide rises again…”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Home, sweet home

On Thursday, one week from our departure from the US, we moved into the apartment that will be home for the next 10 months or so.  We are now comfortably ensconced at: Str. Cronicarilor, Nr 8, Bucharest.  (The postal code is 011622.)  Our apartment is the top floor of a large, modern house.  Our landlords, a professional couple probably in their 60s, live on the first and second floors.  Their daughter, her husband, and two children live also on the ground floor, but with a separate entrance from the yard.  There is an available apartment on the third floor.  We have a small elevator in addition to the stairs for coming and going.  Our apartment has a large open room that is living room, dining room, and kitchen, with lots of counter space and reasonably comfortable furnishings.  We have three bedrooms: one for Amanda, one for me, and one that we will use as an office.  There are 2 and a half bathrooms, with washing machine in one of the bathrooms.  I think we will be quite comfortable in this living space. 

 The office/spare bedroom

 the kitchen

Standing in the kitchen, looking toward the living room - notice the abstract painting on the wall in the background.  Amanda's bedroom is to the right of that painting; the office is to the left of it.

Standing with my back to our front door, looking toward the kitchen.  The doorway is to my bedroom.

 My bedroom

 View from the office, looking in front of the house up Strada Amman

View from the kitchen, looking along Strada Cronicarilor.  Notice the stadium lights (soccer) and the hospital in the background.

We have already made a couple of trips to Ikea to purchase things like waste baskets, shower curtain and rod (tubs, not showers, here), small shelving unit, extra towels and sheets (the landlady provided exactly two of each) and kitchen implements that were not provided.  Two trips to the grocery store to begin stocking up on some of the basics are another source of money outflow, but it has been nice to start eating some meals here at home rather than at restaurants.  I have been shown a natural foods store in easy walking distance in additional to the regular supermarket.  As Diana, my contact at the university, tells me "Here in Romania almost all food is natural however, especially as compared to America."

Our neighborhood is not particularly upscale, as you see in the pictures, but feels safe and has all the amenities in walking distance.  The house has a lovely yard in which lots of beautiful roses are blooming.  The yard also includes 2 small yappy dogs that stay in a small fenced area and a play area for the owners' grandchildren.  Ralph has the run of the yard as long as we are with him as Alina, the daughter, is very afraid of dogs.  Alina’s son, Andre, is autistic and so we already have a common bond for discussion.  There are 2 good sized parks, for longer walks and outings with Ralph, within reasonable walking distance.

I have been frustrated with the time and difficulty of getting some things accomplished.  To get money for renting the apartment I had to have money wired to me from the US because I was unable to access my bank balance directly.  It took me 3 days to set up a new bank account here.  It is all accomplished now, but was very frustrating at the time.  LESSON 1: When the Fulbright handbook says to bring cash for the first few days, it means 2-3 thousand dollars, not 2-3 hundred.  That amount was needed for the first and last months’ rent, as well as commission for the rental agent.  LESSON 2:  Bring electrical converters from home.  I finally was able to obtain a converter after a week of being here – they are not easy to find.  (See related comments in previous post.)
 
Today's plan had originally been to walk to a different park with Ralph, but it has been a gray, rainy day.  Most of our days here have been lovely and sunshiny!  I am sure folks were glad to have a little rain today.  So we have been relaxed and catching up on computer activities.  Depending on the weather tomorrow, we will head to the new park with Ralph or downtown to see some of the historic city center.

 

Transitions

Do you know the childhood ditty "For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; ... The kingdom was lost - All for the want of a nail"? One of my mistakes was to not purchase electrical converters in the US and bring them with me. Without a converter I was not able to charge my computer; without the computer I couldn't download pictures from my camera... I wrote part of this entry on my IPad, which not only has a longer battery life than the computer, but also has been charged. When Amanda and I went shopping, she was clever enough to go into an Apple store and buy a new charger.  I have finally found a converter, but it has taken over a week!  Another barrier has been finding consistent Internet access - presumably we will be set up tomorrow (Monday) in our apartment and then will be established, at least technology-wise.  (By the way, I have found the learning curve on the iPad to be very steep.  I like my PC much better.)

Now for a few notes about our travels so far:

Amanda and I spent a lovely hour-plus getting manicures and pedicures the morning of our departure - it was relaxing and probably genuinely beneficial in terms of preparing the bodies for the long sit on the plane.  Amanda did melt down when Ralph (the dog) was crated, and taken from her to be put on the plane.  I was very pleased with airline personnel, TSA folks, and flight attendants through the entire process of screening, boarding, and flight.  They each took extra care to help Amanda feel more comfortable and assured about Ralph.  The flight to Munich was uneventful and we were even able to nap for a bit.  We deplaned in Munich at 8 am Munich time and 2 am NC time.  We were able to find a minibus taxi to take the three of us and our 4 suitcases, carry-on bags, and dog crate - we really were quite a load!  And excellent news!, the Holiday Inn allowed us to check in immediately and so we slept for a few hours prior to refreshing and exploring the city.

The view from our hotel in Munich

A street musician, playing what looks like a cross between a harpsichord and a hammer dulcimer.

Marienplatz, the city center of Munich, with the historic town hall


We happened on a dance performance in the mall that was below our hotel. Amanda commented that one would not see such skimpy costumes in a mall in North Carolina!


Ralph enjoying the view and the view he and I both saw from one of our walks.  This river runs through the center of Munich and has miles of walking paths along it.


Amanda in front of the Deutsches Museum, where we spent a most enjoyable 6 hours.  I believe I read that it is the largest science and technology museum in the world.  It is especially interesting in its approach: each exhibit emphasizes the evolution over time of a particular kind of technology - like engines, transportation, film, textile-manufacture, etc.

Some initial general impressions and observations:
  • There are actual street sweepers here - people who wield brooms along the streets and along park paths.  I also saw park employees raking leaves by hand!
  • There are wonderful parks both here in Bucharest and also in Munich - lots of folks cycling, walking, and rollerblading, etc.  I have enjoyed taking Ralph out for his walks - good exercise and fresh air for both of us (Unfortunately Amanda is only now recovering from a significant cold that had her sleeping most of the time for our first week.)
  • People don't seem as friendly as in North Carolina.  It may certainly be a cultural more, but folks don't say "hey" (or the Romanian equivalent, "buna ziua") to passersby.  I hasten to add that all the folks with whom I have had more direct contact have been very friendly and patient with my limited Romanian/English/sign language combination.
  • On the street with the hotel in Bucharest, there is an interesting juxtaposition of older, attractive homes - it is a residential neighborhood - new construction and/or renovation, and crumbling old places.
  • Taking care of the environment is more a way of life here than in the U.S.  For example: most products have much less packaging than I find at home; cars are smaller; lights are lower in wattage.
And now to our new apartment...

 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tomorrow is departure

So how have I been spending my time?  I have had some dental work done, thanks to a fall I took about a month ago that resulted in a fractured tooth, and I have been binding books.  My avocation is bookbinding.  About 6 years ago I found a book called "The Penland Book of Handmade Books" and was inspired to learn this art.  After several years of classes in varying venues, along with experimenting on my own, I have settled on the fact that what appeals to me most is the book structure, not its contents.  (That is, in terms of my creating the book!)

This first book is for my daughter, Amanda, and is her "Dream Journal".  It is a case-binding, the style most of us see in hard-bound books.  The outer cover is a commercial paper that is intended to look like leather, with actual leather spine.  The blank text pages are handmade cotton rag paper (also by me).  The end papers are commercial papers, with real silver leaf inside the covers.

These next two books were commissioned by a good friend, who intends to give them as gifts.  They are made with wooden covers (African padouk on the top and mahogany on the bottom) and have an exposed spine binding.  The binding is the Coptic stitch, which originated in 4th century Egypt.

Each of these books has a window cut from the cover.  The windows contains symbolic elements appropriate to the particular recipient of each book and use natural mica as the window.  Books like these require 16-24 hours to make.  I make the paper that goes inside, shape and smooth the wood, cut and fashion the windows, and stitch the whole thing together.

I am taking a small subset of my bookbinding tools with me and am looking forward to getting acquainted with bookbinders and paper artists in Bucharest.

Oh -- I also have had my mail forwarded, finished packing, eaten leftovers, had social occasions with friends and family who wanted to wish me well, purchased locks for the suitcases, made copies of all the important papers going with me and ...  The next update will be written from Bucharest and will share first impressions!