|"Ilie on his 40th birthday" by Hilary J. England, 16" x 20" oil on canvas, 2014|
The last few days and weeks have been just wonderful, with the previous weekend going to visit Dracula's birthplace, and exploring Sighisoara with Chris, Nataliya, Lisa, and Ilie at the helm (he was our official Formula One driver LOL). After a wonderful time there, we spent the better part of the week just doing some paintings, doing some fishing, and other fun stuff, and then everyone began to get prepped to leave.
Thursday night we spent out the "White Rabbit" bar that we all enjoy close to "The Orphanage," having one last night as a group. On Friday night, we had our reception for our show in Sibiu, and that was great fun....after our "vernissage" we ended up in a wild and crazy nightclub doing wild and crazy things till the early morning hours (there is no "closing" time in Romania, it's only when the last person leaves). Then Saturday, we had a "farewell but not goodbye" party at Elody, David, and Dominique's place near the piata, with lots of homemade delectables and nitrite-free local wines, and then, from there, at 11 pm, I went with Nataliya, Michael and Ilie for a ride to Bucharest, as Michael and Nataliya were leaving that night, and I wanted to see them off. Plus, Ilie kept saying if I took the ride with him, he had a "surprise" for me. I can only speculate what kind of surprises were in store, as me and Chris giggled about this like two school chums, but knowing Ilie is our Romanian "bear," I decided he wouldn't play any nasty tricks on me, or make me upset LOL.
It is a 4 hour ride from Sibiu to Bucharest, and Nataliya had to be there for 4 a.m., so we sped through the Transylvanian countryside, with still time to spare when we dropped her off at OTP. Michael had about two hours to kill so Ilie took us on a tour of Bucharest by car as the sun was coming up, which was really cool. Then, since none of us had any fastfood in Romania, and the only place that was open was the McDonald's drive-thru, we did the American dirty deed of getting some nasty "Celebrity" burgers (a twist on the Quarter Pounder with a strange kind of bbq sauce on it) and fries at 6 a.m., and said our farewell to Michael. Now, at 7 a.m., Ilie and I began the 4 hour trek back to Bucharest, but we were so exhausted, we pulled off to catch a quick catnap on the side of the road in the car. He got up way before me, as I slept for maybe 2 or 3 hours versus his 1/2 (too much late nights that week) and when I woke up from the blazing sun, I sat up and looked around, not recognizing any of the landscape or landmarks....I kept thinking, "Is he lost?"
So, finally we came into a town called Constanza, and we were greeted by a dry-docked ship. I thought that was bizarre that an inland town should have a dry-docked ship, so I just laughed, but Ilie didn't comment, just kept his poker face behind his sunglasses. Then, quite suddenly, I saw a huge body of glittering water...a lake??? A gigantic, enormous lake? What lake was this, it wasn't any of the maps...so I asked him, "Ilie, what is that? Is that a lake??" He started laughing and said, "No. That's the Black Sea!" The Black Sea??? After I recovered my equanimity, I looked at him and said, "We drove all the way to the Black Sea? I thought that was like a ten hour drive!" He just smiled and said, "It is 9 hours...from Sibiu, but only 5 hours from Bucharest!" I was completely floored. This was the surprise, because I had been lamenting how I wanted to see the Black Sea, and that was my only regret in this residency was we never made it to the coast...so he was rectifying it, as he had promised he would if he could. What a cool guy!
So, we went down the entire coast into Bulgaria, and the water was wonderful!!! It was blazing hot, but the water was nice and refreshing, and after some time there, a nice seaside lunch, we headed back to Sibiu, as the trip back was going to enormous, and I was leaving this morning and hadn't even STARTED packing....he took the scenic route which included a river ferry across the Danube, then back over the Carpathians, stopping for a mici (Romanian favorite dish) and World Cup break (Yay Germany!), and got back to the Orphanage around midnight, where the remaining "orphans" were whooping it up Bohemian style with lots of wine and lots of laughs. I sat with them for a few moments, but was so exhausted from the 1,000 kilometer trip and being up for so long, I was nearly punch drunk, so I excused myself, went up, started packing (actually got it done in less than an hour) and fell into my bed at nearly 2 a.m., to wake up for 7...and then, travel BACK to Bucharest with Ilie, Chris, and Archer to catch our flights....I am BEAT!
But, the fun doesn't stop now, since I am trapped in this airport for 17 hours LOL, as my Visa fell through due to the increased rates incurred by the Ukrainian situation, and after sitting in this sweaty airport until tomorrow afternoon, I have my 10 hour flight back to JFK, and my additional travel to PA. I can tell you....I will be so HAPPY to see my bed--and I'm not even worried about jet-lag! We figure we've been staying up so late this past week, we are almost back on New York/East Coast time anyway!
So, here is the portrait I painted of Ilie on his 40th birthday (July 8th). He was a typical fidgety guy who couldn't sit still, playing with his cell phone(s) (all Romanians have two, long story), and finally, I couldn't take it anymore, so I let him get up and walk around, and promised him I would work par coeur, and from a few photos I took and do this on my own, without his modeling. I HATE doing a portrait this way, but I promised this as his birthday present, and I always keep my word about stuff like that. So, after a few annoying sessions alone in my room working on this thing in terrible lighting, inadequate supplies, sweaty conditions, and very limited uninterrupted time, I did finish it, and I must say, we were all pleased with the results.
So, when I get back, I will elaborate a little more about what I learned about Romania....but for now, time to go. I have to preserve my batteries for the next 16 hours :-(. I don't know how I will sleep in this crusty airport...it's 10:30 at night here, and still light.....sigh.....