A snow start in Bucharest

January 3, 2008

The best part of a trip begins as soon as the first unexpected thing happens. For me, the fun began when the SkyEurope airline pilot came over the speakerphone and said he was diverting our flight into Bucharest's airport because of “weather reasons.” I was stunnned at the pilot’s ability (gall!) to land in the massive snowstorm. Visibility was less than 100 feet. The runway lights were covered under a foot-high blanket of snow. It took an hour to find a parking spot for our 737 and to get ladder trucks and buses to our location. The airport runways were littered with planes from around the world, victims of similar diverted landings. It was a surreal sight to see the planes strewn about and frozen solid in the snow blizzard. I was on the last flight that landed in Bucharest. The airport closed after we went through customs. Two hours later, I was on a slow, slippery taxi cab ride to the city center. By four o’clock in the afternoon, the weather’s toll on our Romania/Russia international experience trip was taking shape. Only three of our group of twenty plus had arrived (Denny Sarmiento and Madeleine Ravich were the other two). Gregg Friedmann, our second-year leader, was also around. But the majority were not around. Some were stranded in Paris. Others in Vienna. Still others in Prague. Dean Podolny was hoping to arrive on a 4 p.m. flight from Munich (He eventually showed up at the hotel around 6 p.m.). Our first “international experience” event began at 7 p.m.: a dinner meeting with two senior state councilors and the president of Transparency International at the famous “Cere du bere” restaurant. Because of the small group, conversations with these three young and impacting leaders were fascinating, intimate and informal. The food was bountiful and excellent. Every so often the restaurant’s entertainment troupe provided a pleasant relief from the heavy topics of government corruption, national employment woes and being a vegetarian in Eastern Europe. I was so excited to have had the opportunity to speak about the uptake of renewable energy in Romania with one of the people that is currently crafting the country’s national policy. Sayid Syed, Rakesh Shankar, Ivy Washington and Will Brakenheimer arrived this morning at 4 a.m. Sayid’s luggage is lost. The fun is just beginning... For the rest of us, today’s attire: suits and snowboots.

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Roberto Jimenez