E-mails from Ed Edgren:
August 16, 2004:
I left on 8/9 and 19 hours later arrived in Bucharest. About 15,000 frequent flyer
miles roundtrip; and I did get to see Shrek 2 on the way over.
I spent 24 hours in Bucharest and visited two blind schools; one should receive our
help. It has 240 students and only seven computers for children 7 to 15 years
old. I will visit the school again before leaving.
I am now in Craiova for 3 weeks. My company has just completed a $7-1/2
million equipment modernization with Dutch and German firms due to leave
this week after startup. Employment is now up to 650 and perhaps will
be 1000 in two years. We will be running an employee attitude survey provide by a
member of my church in Dallas and it was translated without many changes
from intent. Thanks Sandy.
On Saturday they cut the ribbons for the new equipment with short speeches
from the mayor, Chairman and President who I report to. Then followed live folk
music, singing and Romanian line dancing intermixed with local grilled sausages, rolls and local beer one-half liter in a cup; all could be
I am staying at a 3-star hotel. It is the best and only real hotel in
this city of 300,000 people. Fixed menus for breakfast are one of six that may include omelets,
yogurt, toasted English muffins, jam, small thin hot dogs, tea and coffee and soft drink; yes , all
Sunday was a day off, so after watching the Olympic games on Romanian,
German and Italian stations with different coverage on each, I went to the cinema in the PM. Saw a Bollywood musical from India with singing,
dancing, little or no plot and some songs in Hindi and some in English with the words translated into Romanian on the screen.
Talk to you later,
August 24, 2004
Buna dimineata or buna seara (depending on when you
are reading this)
I am now into a regular work routine and in to the
office by 8 AM and departure by 4-5 PM.
We have started the first ever employee survey with some initial
confusion and necessary modifications.
In our initial trial group of 14 employees they wanted to rewrite
the questions so we had to explain the ground rules.
Romanians at this company are very willing to speak up and so the
survey, including essay answers, is going very well.
On my way in to work this morning the company
driver had on an FM radio station, KISS 92.4.
Not your station but certainly the same type of music. And I thought we just exported old video series or Playboy
Mosquitoes were still in my first hotel room every
night and so I have moved to a private villa that takes in guests.
This is where Marge and I stayed last September.
Currently I am the only guest and so they gave me the keys and
left! Someone comes in to
make a breakfast and provide clean towels etc.
At least I get to control the big TV in living room, as my suite
TV is a bit smaller. Have
lost access to CNN and Bloomberg, but am not sure those are losses.
Breakfast this morning included coffee or tea,
French bread (make that Romanian), yogurt, summer sausage, ham, cheese,
jam and butter. Boy, there
goes my South Beach diet. Last
night I just had a mixed salad and apa (water).
You may not want to see the Romanian words, but I really need to
practice my use of them since I am operating on my own without an
interpreter when away from the office.
Sorry, but I had to pull for the little Romanian
gymnasts against the Americans last week. You would too if you knew the
circumstances from which they must come.
The Romanian announcer was not the least bit objective and his
enthusiasm was a bit contagious.
I was given a copy of a survey undertaken by Leo
Burnett for Romania and Eastern Europe.
The Communist lethargy until 1989 has really been an anchor on
the people’s attitude. Only
12% of the population would be considered Achievers and another 10%
Aspiring. Nearly 70%
consider themselves worse off than before 1989.
I am fortunate in that the leadership and many managers of my
company in Craiova would qualify in these first two groups.
I reread what I sent you last week.
Hope you could interpret it as I am using a lap top and typing
position is not too good. Am
also writing this off line so AOL won’t rush me in sending.
Unfortunately the Romanian clock seems to run
slower than our clocks. Someone promised to return in 30 minutes with necessary
information I must have and that was 1-1/2 hours ago.
I have got to go.
Appreciate how fortunate we are to live in the USA.
Best wishes and love.
30 August 2004
Everyone in the office wants to practice his or her English and
so I am getting less Romanian practice than I need.
I have been using the Internet quite a bit for the company.
Am looking for Bench Marking in Western Europe, Job Evaluation
System, seminars on negotiation and Alan Lakein on Time Management in
Romanian. We have
summarized the employee survey taken with 650 employees and the results
are very encouraging. It
has been worth all the effort although taking a written survey while
some employees in the room are called on their cell-phone has been a
challenge as the voice rises when there is disagreement with the caller.
Sort of like a quiz during a fire drill. For those technically inclined you might see if you can find www.elpreco.ro.
I had noted in Bucharest that the street signals
have visual timers that count down how long you have to cross the street
on green and how long you must wait on the red.
In Craiova some intersections play short classical music instead.
Very few people take advantage of the lack of cars to cross the
street against the light. Law
Having seen all the tourist sites in my first two
trips to Craiova I am dependent on fellow workers for a late dinner and
then a casual walk back to the villa for my entertainment.
And of course the Olympics on 3 stations and languages.
cooled nicely to low 80’s in the afternoon and couples or someone
pushing a stroller are my street companions at night.
Occasionally I will see Roma’s or Gypsies as the women’s
bright attire stands out and they will always beg for coins.
One loud NU is all that is necessary to move them on.
Gypsy children do not attend school consistently and they can be
found year round at stoplights with a bottle of water and a squeegee to
clean the car windows for a tip.
If it is your birthday or name day you are expected
to bring small cream cakes and cookies from a patisserie along with
Pepsi, OJ or water. They
have also offered a small glass of cherry liquor, gin or vermouth.
I pass on the hard stuff. Straight
gin has never been a favorite of mine anyway, let alone at 11 AM.
I am amazed at the amount of training offered the
employees by the company, normally after work hours.
There are at least 50 people learning English or German and
another 20 improving computer skills in an already very PC literate
company. And this is open
to all employees regardless of their job.
I looked at the details of the Human Resources budget and it
totaled $25,000 for training this year.
This is almost equal to 40 hours of training, special schools,
technical seminars etc per year per employee.
Then why do they need my help?
Basically they have jumped to the electronic age and skipped key
results areas, tight financial controls, goal setting and other
management skills. They are
fast learners however.
They have a job evaluation system and had no way to
use a performance review to increase the salary of the deserving
employees. Nor an
acceptable comparative pay range. We
almost have that in place, thanks in no small part to the Internet.
No bulletin boards anywhere so no way for communication to come
down except via rumor mills. The
survey is answering that need as well as its follow-up meetings by
management. They produce
good quality, but have no program to listen to and respond to their
Clients, or contractors, distributors, architects and end users of
building materials, needs. Training
of salesmen in client recruitment and a “new” group we have now
introduced called service representatives will answer that issue.
We have also started training the salesmen, and women, on
features and benefits of our product.
Remember until 1989 the Romanian Communist government, which
owned all businesses, had no need to listen to a customer.
This weekend I worked Saturday for 4 hours as we
finished up many details. Went
for dinner with one of my assistants Cristi, his wife and daughter 15
and son 12. We ate outside
and they asked questions about America.
Do teenagers have their own clubs for dancing, what is the boys
favorite video game, how much does a house cost etc?
A lovely evening playing unofficial ambassador. Sunday I just walked through the city and took pictures of
people; with their permission. Va rog? Da. Mutumesc!
I head for the Black Sea and the Danube Delta for 4
days on Wednesday and won’t return to Bucharest until Saturday night.
If I can find an Internet café I will try to get one more mail
off before I head home.
Love to all. Ed
September 3, 2004
From Tulcea, Romania
This is the largest city on the Danube before entering the Danube Delta; more about this next week. I am in
the N.E. corner just under Ukraine. I will try to send one more e-mail from Bucharest Tuesday before I leave.
I needed to have you "meet" the Romanians I have met this week:
Last Tuesday in the train station in the early morning, a poor man in his
60s was asleep on a bench outside the terminal while his hands held onto the two
artificial legs he had taken off to sleep.
In the train I talked with a 24 year old school teacher, Anya, who has quit
her job as part time teacher for $50/month as there is no chance in Craiova for
full time employment in future. She was headed to Bucharest and a job interview.
She will live with her boyfriend whose law degree has only found him a trolley
conductor's job. Her best friend was married last weekend and that couple is returning to Italy where they both have jobs. Skilled labor and
educated people are Romania's big export right now. The government hopes to end this year with inflation under 10%.
Costela is a 45 year old Economics graduate who has just started her own
travel agency. A true entrepreneur. She has volunteered to be my main interpreter with the blind school in Bucharest.
Engineer Ion (Jon) is the late-30s computer teacher at the school for
the blind. He is angry at the government for lack of help with the public
schools - a dedicated teacher. They need our help.
Cris (a new MBA) and Sylvia (a Chemical Engineer) both in their mid 30s,
are married and can not afford to have a child yet since they could not get by on one
income. I am going to Cris' graduation Sunday.
I stayed at one month-old 5 story hotel in Constanta for 31 Euros including breakfast;
(about $37). I met the owner who is in his late 30s and not a government employee; where did his young fortune come from???
A young intern at an archaeological museum will receive her degree in 2005,
but must bribe the curator to get a permanent job.
We drove past a funeral procession on foot in a small village with men
carrying a new wooden cross with the deceased's name and dates. A farm tractor followed pulling a wagon with the casket and female mourners
seated around it. Then followed family and friends with flowers from their gardens.
Value your freedom. I will try to send once more from Bucharest on Monday.
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September 6, 2004
One last long e-mail if
AOL doesn't drop me during the effort. This is a high speed cafe however. Finished project in Craiova last Monday.
Final recommendation was for a simple profit sharing plan since the governments social retirement plan is in adequate and uncertain; sound
I visited the School for the Blind Tuesday and Wednesday. Needs
there are great and
teachers are dedicated. Will have to raise funds when I get home.
Long story, but I was provided with a driver and his car for next
five days; they really are nice people. Drove east to Constanta on the Black
Sea. Centered in the sea and sand resort area and the highlight for most domestic vacations. Not worth a second trip in my opinion;
I'd take Florida any time.
There is an excellent archaeological museum in the city however
from the Roman era 1st-2nd century A.D. Huge mosaic of Roman baths remain under
a recently built roof.
It is hard to explain where Richardson, TX is located so I have taken to adopting Dallas, TX as it opens doors. Everyone over 30 years old
knows all about J.R. Ewing and his oil empire etc. This time I was admitted to the museum without
cost and given UNESCO brochures reserved for visiting dignitaries; evidently JR and I qualify. Guides also insisted
on giving me a clarification of exhibits if some were missing English
North of there 30 KM was the Greek city of Histria from
the 6th-7th Century BC. A small Pompeii in excellent condition.
The next day, Friday, was ecology day and
I took a five-hour boat ride into the Danube Delta which borders in NE on Ukraine.
There are 300 square miles of wetlands surrounded by red marshes. Three
hundred birds winter here, but we were a bit early to see many. A very serene day.
That night I invited myself
to a birthday party of a girl turning 18 - a girls party given by her father with
teenage guests and immediate family. As someone from Dallas (sorry, but it
works) I had asked permission to take pictures of the 10-piece band and
folk dancers in costumes and her father insisted I join them and have a drink.
I have pics of them together and his business card so I can send him a copy and perhaps a belated birthday card.
Then DJ's with blasters provided the dance music for the teenagers until 2 AM. I know because my room
was just above their party room.
Saturday we took five hours to drive the first 20 miles back to Bucharest
because of serendipity. The first stop was a monastery with no tourist signs, but
a basilica and a museum. 70 sisters live there, most over the age of 60, but
two novices who spoke English gave me the "Dallas" tour including their weaving looms
where they make small decorative wall hanging or table covers. I have pics and their address for
sending them copies.
Our second stop was a few KM away
- an archaeological dig at the crypt of four Romanian soldiers killed in the 3rd century AD when they refused to
denounce their Christianity. A beautiful place with some pictures and statements about unusual phenomena having taken place during the sites;
it received an official blessing in 2001. Our guide was a young mother from the village
who was in charge of the place and took donations along with her 2-year old son.
I took pictures, but failed to get a mailing address.
Our third stop was at large vineyard that produces 4 million liters of
merlot and a white I am not familiar with. The gate was closed, but the
guard agreed to contact the resident General Manager when we mentioned "a visitor from
Dallas, Texas". A nice discussion through my interpreter/driver led to his
request that I seek out a distributor for him in Texas; on commission of course, he said. My agreement led to handshakes and
four bottles of wine for sampling.
I arrived in Bucharest at 7 PM and 11 hours after having
started a 200 mile trip. We crossed the Danube again by fairy boat. Yesterday
I toured the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. It included examples of actual buildings, clothing from each
different county, implements of daily life and a huge amount of icons painted on glass and on
the reverse side to preserve them. A special exhibit showed the methods the peasants
used to paint.
I met Cris, who is 35 years
old and just received his MBA; he talked about his future which looks bright. The starting salary for
graduate engineers where he may be employed would start around $200-300 per month.
We had a lite lunch on a large lake in the city and surrounded by small cafes under cover. Nice day. That evening I began my reentry into the
USA and had a takeout pizza from Pizza Hut along with the start of some of the wine I had been given way back in
Craiova. I am down to three bottles
and some other gifts.
Today I will just play tourist and end up at 7 PM at the Bucharest
Philharmonic Orchestra for a finale. I look forward to Marge picking me up
after the 18 hour return trip Tuesday. Love to all. Ed PS. Hope this goes thru as I was just advise with a popup in
Romanian that it won't do spell check and goodness knows what else.
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