Scoala altfel

Last week, the last before the Easter holidays, was Scoala Altfel (Another Kind of School). The idea of Scoala Altfel is for schools in Romania to organise a week of non-formal education and extra-curricular activities for all children in classes 0-8.

A legacy of the awful Daniel Funeriu’s disastrous time as Romanian Minister of Education, Scoala Altfel is one of those initiatives which – like just about anything which began life on Funeriu’s desk – looks good on paper but is less than impressive in reality. We have never been fans of Scoala Altfel: either kids are at school, learning formally, or they are on holiday. Do not try and mix the two.

Besides eating up a week of a child’s school holiday, you can probably guess the many other problems with Scoala Altfel. Teachers – already overworked and underpaid – have to come up with a week’s worth of activities, often on a very small or non-existent budget. Add in the current hysteria regarding fondul clasei (funds collected by teachers from parents for exactly this kind of thing) and new requirements for teachers to get all sorts of paperwork before taking children off school premises and you have a recipe for disaster. What’s more, many of Bucharest’s museums were actively saying ‘School groups not welcome’ in the weeks running up to Scoala Altfel.

Fortunately, the Bucharest Life kids have two wonderful teachers who both made an effort to make the week as enjoyable as possible. Daughter of Bucharest Life had puppet shows, origami classes and a quiz amongst much else, while Son of Bucharest Life spent the week learning to… dance. The result was this class flash mob at the Sun Plaza mall on Friday afternoon. Enjoy:

15 Years of Bucharest In Your Pocket

Happy birthday to us.

The first issue of the day job, Bucharest In Your Pocket, was published 15 years ago this month. It looked like this:

Bucharest In Your Pocket Issue 1

We know what you’re thinking: with a cover like that it’s a miracle we made it to issue two, let alone issue 88: our latest, 15th anniversary special.

Usually rather bashful, we don’t mind admitting that we’ve gone to town a bit with the celebrations this time. Inside the guide there’s a six-page feature looking back at the very beginning (six pages of self-indulgent drivel/a fascinating look at the early days of Bucharest IYP: delete according to preference). We also take a look at some of our favourite covers, some of which we have plastered on the new cover itself:


Should you care to do so, you can read the 15th Anniversary feature here.

The rest of the guide can be viewed in numerous formats, from PDF here to glorious Issuu:

The print version will be on the streets in a day or two.

It’s good to be a donor

Seriously off topic but we don’t care.

On March 19th Dean Turp (the elder brother of Bucharest Life) died suddenly following a massive brain aneurysm. He was 51. While not in possession of a donor card when he was taken into hospital, he had made it clear in conversation over the years that he would want to donate his organs if the situation were ever to arise, and so when asked by hospital staff if we would give our consent we consulted some other members of the family and said yes.

Last week – shortly before our brother’s cremation – we received a phone call from the donor team at the Royal Sussex Hospital to inform us that Dean’s liver, and both kidneys, had been used to help save the lives of three people. And while the hospital was not able to use his badly damaged heart, his heart valves were harvested and will be stored for future use: they are crucial in the intensive care of babies born with weak hearts.

Nothing will ever replace Dean, a wonderful man with a boundless, infectious optimism who was loved by everyone who knew him. But to know that he has helped others live has filled us with a genuine sense of calm which has been a huge comfort during an immensely upsetting time. In brief, donating Dean’s organs has been one of the most rewarding things we have ever done.

No, donating a loved one’s organs is not an easy decision, and we know that some people have objections. But if Dean meant anything to anyone, please carry a donor card and make your wishes known to your family. If, God forbid, they were ever to find themselves in the situation we were, then trust us: they will thank you for it.

Bucharest’s Not Very Activ Card

For those of us who use public transport in Bucharest (be it out of necessity or simply for the hell of it) one of the most useful developments in recent years was the launch of the Activ Card: a kind of Oyster for Bucharest which could be loaded up with season tickets or simply pay-as-you-go credit and used on all forms of the city’s public transport network.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and it was announced today that as of April 14th the cards will no longer be valid on the metro. The reason is that RATB (which operates surface transport in Bucharest and which issues the cards) owes Metrorex (which operates the metro) as much as 20 million lei.

The joint RATB/Metro tickets valid for 60 minutes (which cost 5 lei) and 24 hours (which cost 16 lei) are also affected, and can no longer be purchased. For visitors to and residents of Bucharest alike it’s a return to the old days of separate tickets for bus and metro. How very 20th-century.

One easy solution to all this nonsense would be a little joined-up thinking at the Ministry of Transport: create a Transport for Bucharest umbrella organisation which would operate all forms of public transport in the capital (and, for good measure, look after taxi licenses/regulations). The authority would be overseen by the city council.

Simple, really, when you think about it. Perhaps that’s the problem.