Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Calling all film buffs and cinephiles

I've decided to make a project out of Bela Lugosi. As I mentioned in an earlier post, few people in Lugoj know about the horror-film actor, even though this is his hometown. In my opinion, Lugoj should do something to commemorate him, not only for the sake of local history, but also for the sake of tourism. After all, Lugoj prides itself as a cultural center. That being the case, the town should do everything it can to emphasize its cultural heritage.

Ideally, I'd like to put a plaque on the house where Lugosi was born, and I may eventually get that done. However, for the time being, my primary goal is to raise public awareness about Bela Lugosi. My first effort in this vein was writing an article for the local newspaper entitled, "Do you know Bela Lugosi?" The next thing I'd like to do is put together some sort of Lugosi exhibit for the town art gallery. I'm hoping to gather materials and memorabilia from collectors so that I can create some sort of visual exposition (perhaps combined with a film screening). I've already talked with the curator of the art gallery and the manager of the history museum, and they both support the idea. In fact, the manager of the museum said she'd like to devote a whole room to Lugosi when the museum renovations are complete.

I've also established a connection with Gary D. Rhodes, a professor of film and the foremost Lugosi biographer. He said he'd be happy to do what he can to donate materials. However, I figured I'd also put out a public request here on my blog. Perhaps some of you out there are film buffs or collectors of film memorabilia (or perhaps you know someone else who is). In any case, if you'd like to help this effort, please leave a comment here.

Here are some examples of the sort of things I'm looking for:

1. Photos of Lugosi from various stages throughout his career. It'd be nice to have a good cross-section of his life so we don't end up with just a Dracula expo. I envision displaying the photos chronologically and including a description for each. That way, as the viewer goes from picture to picture, the descriptions will read sort of like a mini biography.

2. Video materials, so we can do a screening or something. Of course, a copy of "Dracula" would be nice. But, it would be even cooler to have something representing his early film career in Europe (if anything is still surviving).

3.Books on Lugosi

4. Film posters

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Tuesdays are my busy day. I have a full schedule at school, right after which I take a trip to the outskirts of town to give English lessons to some 2nd-5th graders. And, at the end of the day, I have a 3-hour yoga course (which is quite calming after a few hours with the little ones).

Teaching the English alphabet to a group of 2nd graders

These kids I visit every Tuesday live in the poorest neighborhood in town, "Mondial" (it's named after the ceramics factory located there). The children in this part of town don't have a lot going for them: they live in a poor, dirty, relatively neglected part of town and they go to schools where the teachers are poorly-paid and under-motivated. But, they have at least one thing in their favor: a brand-new after school center funded by the an Italian firm and the Catholic Church.

I also have a group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders

I'd heard about the Center from the volunteer previously assigned to Lugoj. He told me that his experiences there had been silmutaneously his most challenging and most rewarding. Having been going to the center for about 2 months now, I think I'm starting to understand what he meant.

On the one hand, the kids are very enthusiastic and always really excited to see me. Every time I arrive, I'm greeted by a cacophonous mob of 3-foot tall hugging-machines. They're very touchy, which took me a while to get used to. For example, upon seeing me for the first time, one kid who had apparently never seen facial hair before began tugging on my beard, saying "what's this?"

So, it's nice knowing my presence is appreciated. But, on the other hand, working with these kids can be tough. Firstly, they're full of energy, like any kid their age. If I had a penny for every time I told them to quite down..... Secondly, I have to speak with them almost exclusively in Romanian. I've asked them if they take English at school, and they said yes, "the teacher dictates words and their translations and we write it all down." Sounds more like a factory production line rather than an English lesson. Coming from poor families, these kids don't have the same opportunities that other children their age may have. And, moreover, many have a history of being overlooked simply because they're Rroma.

They love to misbehave. Here you can see Franco getting a scolding

I'm glad the center is there, at least it lets the kids know that the whole world hasn't forgotten them. And, although we've only been working on the alphabet for the past three weeks or so, I hope my efforts there are making a difference.

Monday, December 1, 2008

National Day of Romania

December 1st is Romania's national holiday (sort of like the 4th of July in the States). It's called Ziua Unirii (Unification Day) and commemorates the unification of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania, which occurred on this date in 1918. The territories of Bukovina, Bessarabia were also united with Romania at that time, but some alterations were made after WWII. For the most part, however, this territorial rearrangement established Romania's borders as we know them today.

While this date may be a point of national pride for Romanians, for Hungarians it represents something more ignominious. Even now, the transfer of Transylvania is a sore point between Romanians and Hungarians, both groups laying claims on the region.

Decmeber 1st only became the national holiday reltively recently, after 1989 (during communist times, the national holiday was August 23, commemorating the overthrow of Antonescu's fascist government in 1944).

On December 1st, towns throughout Romania celebrate with military parades, marching bands, concerts and it's common to see flags hanging outside homes and on street lamps. This year was the 90th anniversary of unification, and Lugoj set off some fireworks (pictured above).


I recently returned from a Thanksgiving celebration in Botfei, a small village about 3 hours North of Lugoj. It was put on by a bunch of volunteers from the surrounding area, and several Romanians were invited, including the village Mayor. He provided us with two cabins located deep in the forest. It was really secluded, and the scenery was pretty, even if it was rainy and overcast most of the time. We stayed two nights, and unfortunately we ran out of water about halfway through the second day. However, we did have electricity, gas and plenty of wood for heating.

A lot of people showed up. Even my Danish buddy Martin came along, and with him came a chef (named Stewie, an old friend of Martin's from Melbourne). Everyone who came made a dish. I brought a green bean casserole with cheddar cheese and cracker-crumb topping (a huge hit) and I also brought some glazed honey-cookies called Turta Dulce (an even bigger hit, some people didn't believe I made them). I also prepared the sweet potatoes with butter, minced ginger and brown sugar (I highly recommend that combination), and I helped to make the apple and pumpkin pies. Someone else made cranberry sauce (which was amazing, especially since cranberries are virtually unheard of in Romania--in fact many Romanians mistakenly translate 'cranberry' as 'blueberry' since they have no equivalent). One of the Romanian guests made a rabbit soup. Of course, we had turkey-- a 15 kilo monster (which was Stewie's responsibility)-- along with stuffing and gravy. Everything was just awesome!

Well, I should say most everything, because besides the water situation, there was one other thing that wasn't so awesome. While I was baking the apple pie, the gas tank ran out. Tragedy! It was almost done, the crust just needed to bake a bit more. In a panic, I ran up to the other cabin (which also had a kitchen) and took the gas tank. I hooked it up in place of the empty tank and tried to relight the oven, but it wouldn't take; perhaps the tank was too cold. So, I just let the pie sit in the residual heat of the oven for another twenty minutes or so, hoping that it'd be enough to finish the job. Luckily, it turned out good enough. Good enough that it lasted no more than a few minutes before it was completely gone. After this fairly successful (even if partly-unsuccessful) experience, I'll definitely continue to experiment with pie-making.

All in all, it was a great holiday, in spite of the fact that I was away from my family. See my pictures HERE