Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dirty Games

On Saturday I was visiting Timisoara with Kirstin (a volunteer from the area), and we happened upon a pile of garbage on the side of the road. It immediately appeared more interesting than your typical trash heap, containing a very old television, a number of old books, and lots of communist-era newspapers.

We walked over to it, and rummaged through some of the books. There were a couple 1974 Dacia owner's manuals (Dacia is a Romanian car company), there was a school notebook from the 60's, and a rather unassuming piece of folded cardboard.

Kirstin picked up the board and dusted it off to reveal red block letters that spelt "Capitaly." What could this be? She unfolded it, and discovered board was in fact a game, a Monopoly knock-off! The railroad company was CFR (Romania's train company). All the real estate spaces were famous parks and streets in Romania. Instead of Jail, there was a psychiatric ward. When passing "start," the player would be paid the equivalent of something like a few cents in today's money.

It was quite an interesting find. Kirstin decided to keep the board. It's funny to think that perhaps people were playing this game during communism. Perhaps they modified the rules so that the one who 'wins' would automatically be forced to redistribute his wealth among the rest of the players (thus the game would never end!). We joked about making up rules about food rationing, collectivization of property and nationalization of businesses.

I did a google search on 'Capitaly,' and found out it was originally a Hungarian take on Monopoly. This particular board, however, was a Romanian version.

Pictures of Timisoara

For as often as I visit Timisoara, I've never actually taken any pictures. So, at long last, here are some (click on the slideshow below):

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rain drops keep falling on my head...

This anecdote was just too strange not to post...

So, today I came home after school to find a slip of paper stuck in my door. At first I thought it was a notice that I'd received a package, but this piece of paper was much bigger than normal. I pulled it out and unfolded it. It was a nondescript letter printed on very cheap paper, addressed to no one in particular.

It informed me that the town water company, SC Meridian, was going to be collecting its standard "meterological water" charges. "Hmm, meteorological water. What could that mean?," I thought to myself. "Could they mean rain?" I read on to find out more. The letter went on to request that residents complete a simple form and return it to the company, so they could calculate the proper charges. The form asked some seemingly silly questions, like: out of what materials is your place of residence constructed? Does your property include terraces, driveways, etc made of asphalt or concrete? Are there any sport complexes nearby? Do you have a gutter system? I'm not sure if I translated it correctly, but I think there may have also been a question about the estimated amount of rainwater that has fallen off my roof (how would I even attempt to calculate this?).

All this seemed too ludicrous to be true, so I took the slip over to the land-lady's to talk to her about it. I thought perhaps it was a belated April fool's joke. Paying a tax for the rain? Come on now, how can they be serious? However, my land-lady assured me it was not a joke. The water company was in fact charging the town residents for rainwater. She said they do it quarterly (funny that this was the first notice I'd received). She took my form and said she'd fill it out and submit it for me.

So, I guess now I just wait for the bill. I don't really understand the idea behind this tax. It would seem the water company is just fishing for an extra buck or two. The best I can figure is that the money is for maintenance of the drainage and sewage systems. But if that's the case, why not just call it the "drainage and sewage tax"? I'd be impressed if the city uses the money to control pollution of storm water. Who knows.

In any case, I was somewhat surprised, and rather amused by these "meteorological" charges. The whole situation reminds me of the Beatles song "Tax Man."