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May 15, 2003

Greetings from Cafe Dracula

Hello all! I'm sitting in the cybercafe ""Cafe Dracula"" in Vlad Tepesh's home town of Sigishoara, Romania! Two days of the conference have passed, and this is the first opportunity for me to get online. This will be a short post, as I got something in my right eye on the train in from Budapest, and my vision is blurry, and the screen is not that good here, ,so it is hard to see what I'm typing. Thank god there's no romanian keyboard here, so I can type without too much trouble. Got into Frankfurt and met up with Elizabeth Miller (Barroness of the house of dracula) and flew on to Budapest and caught the 8 hour train to Sighisoara (I'll correct spelling later). and got into the hotel in the old medieval part of town, 30m from Dracula's birth place. I've got tonnes of amazing pictures, but they'll have to wait until I figure out if they'll let me plug in my computer here. On the train in, I couldn't believe Romania. Looks like a lost war was fought here. Dozens of burned out factories along the way. Amazing but depressing. The farms are the most wonderful. Everyone is in the fields working. Mostly by hand. Imaging seeing people farming, plowing fields with horse drawn plows! More horses on the roads than cars. The town of Sighisoara is a dream. I can see why UNESCO has named it a world heritige site. It is a place that should be preserved for future generations. It is untouched by tourism, yet is totally welcoming of visitors. Most of the conference is going on in Romanian, with simultaneous trranslation, which is particularly exciting. Lots of information from local Ethnographers. I've never been to a conference this small, mostly about a dozen folks at each presentation, but the quality of the presentations is right up there, and the questions are excellent. After the lectures today we went out for a visit to a fortified Church in a local village. And some young woman was found who could open the church and show us around. I've been to big and famous medieval churches, but nothing like this. It is just the local village church in the middle of a small village. Everything looks like it is out of some fantasy story. More goats in the streets and kids everywhere. There are so many young people around. I guess the G7 notion that chinldren are a major expense doesn't fit here. Children are working in the fields, playing about, and helping out all the old folks. It really feels like an organic existence, especially when you realize how connected they are. Everyone's dressed overly western, interms of fashion and all that. So you don't feel that you're in a back water in terms of culture and information, but that life is more simple and relaxed without being isolated. Strange, now. There is a small audience looking over my shoulder and poking about in the Cyber Cafe. It seems that I'm worthy of viewing. I guess it is my lack of being local. The folks here are not what I was expecting, much more dark and Roma influenced, I'd guess. But I don't understand how the local cultural et al works, so forgive my generalizations. Romania is now, or soon to be a member of NATO, but I feel like I'm in Transylvannia, whcih I am, the land beyond the forest. A land out of time... well wired, but content to be itself. So much to learn. Oh, and I just heard from Cal, the GM of the Toronto Zoo, to tell me that we will have the opportunity to meet up with the people handling the Pandas at the Vienna Zoo. Yuka will be thrilled to the nines. And I just can't wait. Thouugh of course I'm in no rush to leave this beautiful place. And I have a paper to worry about reading tomorrow. Fun Central!"

Posted by jason at May 15, 2003 03:34 PM