Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cod Portocaliu

Bucharest, and all of Romania, got hit with a hard winter so far this year.  It all started in late January with snow blanketing the city.  There was so much snow actually, that all US Embassy and Peace Corps employees had a day and a half off while in some Romanian counties students had the better half of the week off... “SNOW DAY”!  It didn’t stop there.  The first storm of pretty steady snowfall lasted three or four days and was followed by georgeus days if you’re seeing them from a warm place with a hot cocoa.  The sun was shining bright and the air could freeze your lungs.  That period was followed by another two or three days of snow, and another period of nice, then the last major snow came again at the beginning of this week.  The weather ahead looks sunny for quite a few days and people are beginning to recover from the storms.  

If you’re reading this and you’re not Romanian then you are probably wondering what “Cod Portocaliu”, the title of this post means.  In Romania, and I believe throughout all of Europe, there is a color code describing the severity of weather conditions and "Cod Portocaliu" meands "Code Orange" in English.  Its kind of like the terror threat scale in the US.  News flashes of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security would flash across the screen and you would hear the anchorman/woman spouting code yellow or code orange meaning that we should all be oneshade darker frightened.  The Terror Threat (TT)advisory code (which was phased out in 2011) is actually very similar to the weather advisory code in Romania.  Today is code green and no one seems to know or care.  Code green is not spouted over the news because code green means that you don’t have to be alert for any weather-related hardships today.  Code green is also the TT level that you never really heard of because it actually meant that there is no threat.  In the TT code there is also a blue (guarded) but after blue the threats follow the same succession as the weather threats in Romania, yellow (watch out), orange (you’re already buried in snow), red (I don’t want to know).  

My personal experience through a good chunk of the 2012 snow extravaganza of Bucharest took place in my small studio apartment as I was sick for all of last week.  Luckily, before getting sick I had the chance to get out and to “dau cu punga”.  “Dau cu punga” translates word for word to “give with a bag” and while all you language learners out there know that you usually can’t translate word for word you can probably figure  this one out by the context; sled riding with a plastic bag instead of a sled. Now, if you have ever been to Bucharest you may be a bit confused.  Many fellow volunteers have asked me “You can sled ride in Bucharest, isn’t it flat there?”.  Well Buc is pretty flat but there is a perfect sled riding hill in Parcul Tineretului, large enough and steep enough to catch some speed but still easy to climb up, allowing the maximum number of quality runs in an evening.  

Now that my cold has passed I have gotten a chance to get out in the city, walk to work, and view the destruction.  The main streets are in good shape for cars but walking is a workout regardless of how far you have to go.  Some sidewalks are clean but most are not and walking means trudging through soft wet snow.  Its a similar feeling to walking through sand and personally I prefer running through it.  Its on the smaller streets that the negative effects of the snowfall resist.  By this time, a few days after the last snowfall, there are paths or some clean sidewalks on the side, but in classic Bucharest style usually you’ll find a car parked on the sidewalk forcing you to walk in the road.  This is where it gets tricky.  On the small streets, the normally narrow two lane road becomes a one lane road after a snow storm.  Even though its a one lane road many people still use it as a two way road and you often see two stubborn drivers facing each other honking there horns refusing to give way.  If one driver decides to let the other driver pass how does that driver do so?  They either must back all the way up to the last intersection they crossed or risk getting stuck trying to turn around.  Lets say you’re forced to walk in this area where the cars go.  You must walk in the middle of the road through snow that once again, give you the feeling that you are walking through sand.  Its enticing to walk through the car tracks where the snow isn’t as deep but if you dare put two feet down in that area then you are falling.  The tracks consist of a thin layer of snow covering several inches of thick uneven ice.  I’ve gone down twice so far, once in then middle of an intersection.  

Day one of walking to the Peace Corps office this week I took a new, beautiful route to mix things up.  Along my route I saw many picture worthy moments of buried cars, cars on sidewalks, nice winter city scenes.  I also ended up helping to push three cars that got stuck on the small streets.  Day two of walking to the PC office I decided to bring my camera and here are some of the shots.  

Happy Valentine's Day

The frustrated walker
Piata Alba Iulia

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