Marla Corson's Diary
Roman Fort on the Danube

Wednesday, June 16, 2004 Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Monday, June 14, 2004 Sunday, June 13, 2004
Saturday, June 12, 2004 Friday, June 11, 2004
Friday, June 11, 2004 Thursday, June 10, 2004
Wednesday, June 9, 2004 Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Monday, June 7, 2004 Sunday, June 6, 2004
Saturday, June 5, 2004 Friday, June 4, 2004
Thursday, June 3, 2004 Wednesday, June 2, 2004
Tuesday, June 1, 2004 Monday, May 31, 2004
Saturday, May 29, 2004 Friday, January 30, 2004
Thursday, January 29, 2004 Friday, November 19, 2003

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Travel time again. It took about 25 hours, but I finally made it home. I was so glad to walk into my own house. I ran a bath and just sat and enjoyed myself.

I am truly grateful for this experience.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

We visited a few more museums, but have to admit that I am also a bit "museum-ed" out at this point. We arrived at the hotel. I never thought I would be happy to see that place, but I actually was because I knew there would be hot water. And there was!

Our last supper together was enjoyable and long. It is amazing how long the waiters can drag out a meal if they want to. But, I did enjoy being back and realizing that we completed our task and at the same time met some wonderful people and learned a great deal about ancient Roman civilization.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Bye-bye to the hotel—I won't miss that place for sure!

Long, long van ride...we are all just a little weary of the ride, but we know it will eventually be over.

The Black Sea was beautiful!

Sunday, June 13, 2004

During our last day at the site, we manicured our pit once again. This time it was quite the challenge getting in and out as we dug to the depth of about five feet six inches (1.7 meters). I felt such a sense of accomplishment having finished digging the pit with the guys.

The last climb out of the pit felt good, too, except for scraping my knee on the fourth century wall.

We had a wonderful dinner tonight. While it was somewhat sad to be leaving, I have to admit I am more than ready to get back to my real life. I am glad to have had this experience, but I can only dig so much dirt before I've had just enough.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

We are nearly finished with our pit—down to the fourth century level. Yippee!

The professor helped us learn how to identify what century we are looking at by level according to the types of floors that we find. The floors are actually hard surfaces that you encounter as you are digging down. They are hard due to constant traffic, but over time they have been covered over and thus you have loose soil on top. The levels/time periods are also identified by the types of pottery you encounter at each level. You don't just dig straight down—you dig about six inches (15 centimeters) down across the whole pit, then another six inches, etc., thereby maintaining levels that can help indicate time periods.

My knees were killing me this morning as soon as I knelt down. I have not ever spent so much time on my knees. But, they got used to it, and again I was so grateful to Dave for lifting the buckets out of the pit—this time up over his head.

We found tons of broken pottery, and the professor and Myrna both said they had not seen so much pottery out of one pit ever. The professor also said we had done an excellent job on this pit. He followed by saying he does not say this to everyone. If that is accurate, I guess we must have done a good job.

Yesterday I was teased about having to find a coin to get dinner. The professor also told me he would give me two juices if I found a coin. I believe he said one juice, and I bargained for the other one. So, again I continued on bended knee, scraping away with my trowel, bucket, and dust pan in hand. I had seen the professor find a small green thing he said was a part of a coin, so I was looking for small green things. Finally—voila! I found one, then two, and a third! I was so thrilled. As soon as the professor confirmed it, I yelled out to everyone that I had found coins! No more teasing for me. It truly made my day.

The coins are really tiny and fifth century. The professor says that it was during that era the Roman's were really poor and without much material to make coins, so they made them very small. I believe the professor said that before and after that time the coins were much larger.

It was nice to have the professor say, "Excellent find, Marla." I have really found quite a few significant pieces that they have taken and recorded for the research. I have said a prayer each morning for safety, and I've been very fortunate with both the safety and the finds.

Friday, June 11, 2004

(Marla posted the following entry while in Romania prior to completing her full diary.)

I'm in a place called Tulcea, Romania, and this is the first computer I've seen since I've been here. As I do not have time to enter all of my diary entries while at this small Internet café, I will just give the update that I have found ancient ruins! At our site in Hilmyrus, I found, among other things, a bronze buckle piece from a Roman soldier's belt and many pieces of broken pottery—all dating from the 4th to 6th century. I have never moved so much dirt or rocks in my entire life!

It has been a real learning experience on many fronts. Of course, I have learned many things about Romania and ancient Roman ruins, which are most interesting. I was able to see firsthand the place where the remains of two priests were found right here on our site in Hilmyrus. The professor and his assistant, Myrna, have also taken us to other forts on the Danube delta, and it is amazing to think that centuries ago Romans lived and fought here.

As far as the living conditions—for us volunteers, it has been a bit crazy, at least for me. I am on my third room now in the hotel. I have been the laughingstock of the group each morning when they ask what new thing has happened to me. But, I do sleep at night now. The first few nights I began to wonder if I'd ever sleep or take a shower again. Oh yes, it is truly a must to carry your own toilet paper everywhere! I have my backpack on everywhere except the archeological pit, it seems.

Romania is very beautiful but quite cold this June, which is unusual. Most of us were not prepared for this, but it has been nice to do this type of work in a little cooler weather. We use small trowels to scrape the walls and then use dust pans to scoop the dirt into buckets. We are so deep now that it is necessary for the buckets to be lifted up overhead to get them out of the pit. Luckily, I have two digging companions who take care of that part. It is so exciting to find new things, and we do each day. The professor has an excellent knowledge of structures as well as pottery, and he explains most things we find.

We walk from our hotel to the site each morning at about 6 a.m., which has been very enjoyable and almost necessary to stretch out and be able to move. However, the mosquitoes here come in swarms and nearly eat you alive in the mornings if you aren't covered with bug spray.

Today, we saw a couple new sites and stood on the front of one ancient fort that is on the Danube River right across from the current Ukraine. They have buoys in the water separating the Ukrainian side from the Romanian side. The hills there, as well as elsewhere, are covered with beautiful wildflowers.

We ate lunch at a monastery with monks this afternoon and then visited a cultural museum. We'll walk around Tulcea before dinner and then back to the hotel.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Our destination today was Tulcea, a much larger city that I believe is second in size to Bucharest. We visited a cultural museum, which was quite interesting. We then walked around the city. It was nice to see more life and people. Dave, Jason, and I sat for a drink to people watch as well.

Prior to this, we also went to see another site that has been dug up fairly recently. The site was actually uncovered in a flood. Similar to the Hilmyrus site, five saints were found buried there.

We also visited a monastery. To be honest, it was quite boring to me until we went to eat and met a monk named George. He had prepared a fabulous meal. It started with soup and a salad with greens and onions. The main course was a rice and mushroom dish, an onion dish, and, of course, bread. The monks were fasting this day, so no meat was served. He also served homemade wine out of a plastic Fanta bottle. I didn't have any, but the group said it was quite good.

The room where we ate had two long tables with heavy wooden chairs lining each side. I can just imagine the monks all eating there together. Covering the walls and ceilings were frescos of the last supper, the five saints that were found in the site we just visited—their remains are in the chapel within the monastery—and Jesus breaking and sharing the loaves and fishes—all quite beautiful. For dessert, we were served something called pancakes, which were like fried bread with sugar. However, the absolute highlight at the monastery was the monk George. He was just beautiful. His eyes were dark, deep set and just radiant. I could hardly take my eyes off him the whole meal. I was surprised that some of the other members of my team also found him radiant and a highlight.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Walked to the site again and saw two dead snakes on the way. The afternoon before when we were returning from the site, Dave and I saw one cross the road.

I didn't find anything really special today but worked very hard. The pit is much deeper, and I'm so grateful to Dave for continually lifting the buckets out of this pit for me—it is getting deep!

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Found another layer of habitation today, and I found among other bits and pieces a lead fishing weight about the size of a quarter from the fourth century. We had a horse and cart ride back to the hotel, and for the first night everyone in the team had a hot shower—yippee!

We visited a couple of new forts today as well. One of them was actually heavily bombed during World War II and has unexploded ordinances, which have prevented anyone from digging there thus far.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Danube Delta river trip today! Am I ever glad we won't be in the pits today, because my back has been quite sore since yesterday and I'd like to give it a rest at least for a day. I'm surprised I haven't felt any worse since I have never spent so many hours on my knees with a trowel and dust pan in hand scooping dirt into a bucket.

Last evening, the professor told us about life here. Up until 1980 it was pretty good, but from 1985-89, specifically, all the people in Romania had ration cards for the purchase of such things as sugar, oil, meat, heating oil/gas, etc. He said that the former dictator/president was determined to pay off Romania's foreign debt, and this was how he went about the task. The professor went on to share that prior to the end of communism, life was very difficult and that electricity would be off at, I believe, 6 or 7 p.m. Likewise, there was no heat. Then, at the literal end of communist rule, there were people who had some money and could invest in businesses. This is how most of the current businesses came to be—it appears that it was rags to riches overnight in some cases.

Monday, June 7, 2004

I slept well and awoke early to walk to the site. I feel so good walking in the mornings. Dave and I walked back together this afternoon as well after lunch.

I found lots of handles today along with a few copper pieces. The one is a ring from a Roman soldier's belt! I have found lots of really neat things overall.

Today, the digging was quite tedious, I have to admit. I do not believe I was meant to move dirt all my life! Dave and I had to clear the dirt off our rock wall. It was still wet, which made it rather difficult. Not hard work but a pain. We laughed together as we brushed the dirt off our rocks—when will I ever do that again? The other fun part was manicuring the sides of the wall or, in other words, scrapping down the sides so they were flush all the way top to bottom. Then we were charged with leveling the floor, which is a little more challenging than one might imagine. Because of the things I found on Saturday, the professor said that this particular level was significant—thus the reason for our cleaning and brushing it so well.

Despite the tediousness of the work today, I really enjoyed getting to know more about Dave and his experiences. He is a professor of social work in Kentucky and is the author of several books. He talked about how he came to write a book regarding abuse. He shared a lot about his experiences interviewing mostly women and their abusing experiences. I was most impressed at the care and concern he had for those he interviewed. It showed a lot about his character.

Florin found a piece of fourth century pottery today with a beautiful design of a dog or rabbit on it—he is a good digger and finds so many pieces. He seems to have so many talents, and I cannot help but wonder about what his future holds. I hope and pray for the best. It is good to have experiences like this to show me again just how truly blessed I have been all my life.

Sunday, June 6, 2004

RAIN...no Danube Delta trip as planned.

After a joint discussion on our options, the professor took us to a local European museum where we saw lots of Romanian clothes, artifacts, and artwork make by locals, namely children. The lady running the museum said it was actually a place for the needy. They have a soup kitchen set up and things for children to do and create right there. They also teach about contraceptives, AIDS, etc. For some unknown reason, it was truly apparent that the professor did not want to be there. Our group could tell but had no idea why.

We took a drive to the Danube River and had drinks in a very nice hotel, which made all of us quite jealous and homesick for some of the amenities we take for granted in the United States.

Lunch was enjoyable, as usual, but the conversation went places I didn't anticipate. I must say that the most interesting and riveting conversations come when you discuss religion, politics, and moral issues. So, it was quite an experience for me to be the main voice during lunch about my religious beliefs. For some reason, the professor asked or said something about Mormonism, and I ended up giving Mormonism 101 to the group. I was happy about the experience, though, because it gives people a chance to ask questions and hear what Mormons really believe from a Mormon.

When we returned to the hotel, it wasn't two minutes before the manager was handing me a key to a new room—my third. I told my group I wanted to scream. The night before, I had heard a drip and came out of the room to see the whole ceiling and two sides of the wall covered with water. I had told the receptionist about it that night around 9:30. I believe they broke something when they had tried to fix the toilet. Needless to say, I was not thrilled to move again and decided to leave my bags packed this time. I was moved to a room at the most remote corner on the second floor, this time with two bathrooms. I tried the water in both. The shower worked in one but not the other, and one toilet sprayed water out on your head when it was flushed. Hey, at least I had one of each that worked!

Dave was a gent and helped me carry my things. Steve and I then went out for a stroll, which helped me calm down a bit. I was fine when I returned.

Dinner was a traditional Romanian dish—a cornmeal-type mush in a firm patty with grated cheese over top with some type of meat sauce. I was severely teased by the group over my green shirt, bird droppings, and room drama. But hey, I slept well that night.

It has been fun to get to know this group, and I like how they have it set up for us to do most everything together. I have really enjoyed the many and varied conversations we have had over meals and in the pit as well as walking to various destinations. I believe that getting to know these folks has been just about as interesting as learning about the ancient Roman civilization.

Saturday, June 5, 2004

I finally fell asleep after putting on my headset and listening to an ambient sleep CD. I don't know what prompted me to bring that CD, but I'm sure glad I did. I got up at 5:30 a.m. and was out on the road by 5:50. It was cool again but a very nice walk to the site. I saw a whole flock of pelicans munching out in a field on the way.

I found a very old (fourth century) piece of pottery today with an unusual design. This was the first piece that the professor took and measured where it was and got definite details about it. The professor seemed quite happy with the find. I also discovered a small clay cap still completely intact. They took that as well and measured where it was found, etc. I found lots of small pieces of clay and lots of bones. One was a jaw bone with teeth still intact.

I was on my knees most of the day scooping dirt, and my fingers have a few places where the skin has worn off inside my gloves.

It would appear that the professor is very concerned with the structures we find, and the pieces help tell the time period. The bones tell us about the diet of the former inhabitants.

I have a young admirer—Florin, the young boy. He gave me a piece of candy today and jumps in the pit with me often. I am still bothered by the way he is treated as the young one.

I had a nice chat with George today, and while we come from totally different backgrounds, I felt like we were still similar in many ways. He, too, recognizes how some of the group speaks openly when we are all together and others don't. If you say something that others do not understand or want to challenge, it will happen in a second, for sure, or you will get teased to death, which is what I felt.

My living situation has been the topic and cause for laughter since we arrived here. I guess that isn't such a bad thing, either, because it keeps me pretty light about the situation.

Friday, June 4, 2004

I didn't sleep much last night because of music outside my window that started at 11 p.m. I was able to go to sleep, but then the music came back at 2 a.m. through 3 a.m. I had my alarm set for 5:30 a.m. so I could leave by 6 to walk to the site by 6:30. It was a nice walk, and only a little dog followed me around. The mosquitoes were terrible, though, so I sprayed my whole head and hands and had nothing else exposed. It is surprisingly cool here in the mornings and evenings, so I doubt I will ever wear the shorts I brought. I'm glad I have long sleeves.

We measured off the squares of our site—one meter (1.1 yards) from the existing pit and then four meters (4.4 meters) by four meters squared. We did two like this, and it was a trip, to be honest. Everyone had a little different way of measuring, but eventually we got it done. I believe it was square. I had no idea how precise the professor would want everything, but I guess that's something about archeology I now know.

We dug with picks and shovels, and some of the equipment was really old. I wish I had known this before I came, because I would have asked Alcoa to sponsor some equipment. Our team of three—Dave, George, and I—found lots of rock from a collapsed wall. It was really hard work. We would use buckets, fill them with the dirt, and then dump them into wheelbarrows.

One of the young workers here is named Florin, and he's about 14 or 15 years old. He sat beside me a lot and tried to talk to me with his limited English. He was so curious and had such a happy and bright face. I felt bad for him, though, because he seemed to get charged by the older workers with all the worst work and extra stuff. I asked Myrna (the professor's assistant) about this, and she said it's just how the culture is here—the oldest rules and the young one gets all the hard work. I could not understand their words, but it is amazing how much you pick up from the sneers and actions and the young guys' responses and body language.

I was sooo ready for lunch when we finally had it around 1:30 p.m.

Jason discovered a fairly intact amphora, which we were all thrilled about. It is so exciting to find things. I was really happy for him. He had said the first night we talked that he really wanted to find something, and he did! It was his wedding anniversary this day, and he walked into town to find a phone card to call. I am so impressed with his apparent closeness with his family and how he speaks of them.

When we came back to the room, the repair guy came up to my room and pounded on the pipes with a wrench for hot water and tried to use a plunger on the shower drain. Needless to say, I was moved to a new room on the bottom floor. I'm closer to the music now, but I do have hot water. The toilet, however, doesn't work...

Thursday, June 3, 2004

First day on the site of the Roman Fort Hilmayrus!

First breakfast on the site—we walk into our bungalow to see nine plates, each with one fried egg, three pieces of cheese, a few tomato slices, a glass of juice, and, of course, bread!

While on a hill, we were given an overview of the site with explanations of the north, east, south, and west views as well as where the Danube Delta and Black Sea once were. We could see the line on the land from the hill showing where the docks or port of entry had once been. This was really quite fascinating, because you stand on this hill imagining centuries past and what civilization must have been like at that time. For myself, I wondered also what the future centuries will bring and who will be standing on this hill discussing my time.

I was completely impressed at how much the professor knew about the landscape, the previous civilizations, and the water formations. He shared with us that the French had a project to dry up the Danube Delta (forget the actual reason), which is why it has receded over the past five years. It has definitely altered the landscape, but it has also left extremely fertile farm lands that are being utilized right up next to the fort by local farmers.

The purple, yellow, white, and orange flowers are gorgeous over the entire site. I'm so glad we are here at this time, when they are in full bloom. I sat in the middle of one area where they were knee deep and thicker than I've ever experienced. I did this on the barracks side of the fort.

We stood on fourth century pillars, which were entry gates to the northeast port side entry of the fort. What is interesting is that this archeological dig is not just for artifacts, such as amphorae, coins, and other pottery items, but more about structures. We are literally uncovering an entire fort.

The professor took us all around the fort. In the middle area is the basilica (chapel), which has been covered over for protection from the weather and also to preserve the remains of the artifacts that include a fresco indicating the death of two Christian martyrs. The actually burial area is covered over with reeds, which are also used on many of the local roofs to keep the moisture out. There was a doorway for us to crawl down eight steps (religiously significant and, if I remember correctly, represents eternity) to the first section.

The second section contains the fresco, which showed the name of one of the martyrs. It had alpha and omega symbols as well as a symbol for Christ. It has been damaged twice, and they discovered that first it had been covered over by a type of plaster to hide the Christian belief. When that plaster was removed, some of the fresco was damaged, unfortunately. You can also see the marks where it had been axed, and the professor said that probably occurred when the Huns invaded from the north.

I did not know this, but the first use of lead pipes was in the Roman bathhouses. We toured the bathhouse that had also been uncovered on this site.

Lunch was excellent. For those who know me well, you know I judge many things by how good the food is. I enjoyed how well it was prepared and the way it was so beautifully presented. We ate chicken and vegetable soup, a cucumber, tomato and onion salad, chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy, and bananas for desert. I was so full I wanted to fall asleep.

We saw the most amazing blue bird—I have never seen such a brilliant royal blue colored bird. There are lots of pelicans and a whole variety of birds living here.

Our whole team had a drink with everyone after we walked back to the site. It was interesting to me to sit back and look at all seven of us—pretty much strangers, all American—in a foreign land with a joint purpose.

Dr. Z (the professor) gave us some amazing explanations of the pottery pieces that we had picked up earlier that day on our way to the hotel. Jason had walked to the site in the morning and came across a small mound of pottery pieces and bones. He took Dave, Sylvia, David, and I to it, and we rummaged through it all and selected various pieces. I was thrilled with the one handle where you could see exactly where the potter's fingers had made indentations. This was particularly exciting for me since I enjoy making pottery myself. I sat in amazement thinking of some potter making this back in the sixth century.

Jason had a handle piece he was taking home, and he accidentally dropped it near the hotel. I couldn't help but laugh when Sylvia said, "That has lasted for 1,500 years in one piece, and now it's broken."

Cold again tonight, and another cold shower with water over my ankles.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

We left Bucharest today to travel to Murighiol, where we will begin our digging adventure! We caravanned in a small van with two bench seats facing each other. I never realized how strange it is to travel facing the backwards.

The countryside is absolutely stunning. We were all amazed by the fields of poppies—all orange—and another purple flower. It was beautiful. I enjoyed the journey, but I must say I was glad each time we stopped to stretch our legs.

One of our first stops included my first experience with a squatter, which is essentially a toilet but it is literally a hole in the ground. Some have a nice little concrete square form around the hole with two places to put your feet, and others are just a hole in the ground—that was the first one. The second one I used was near a fruit/vegetable market, and we had to pay to use it. I was reluctant, but when you've got to go, you've got to go! So, I walked down into this dark little room, and it was so dark I was scared to shut the door on the stall.

It was really sad to be at this market as well, because as soon as we pulled up, two small girls climbed out of a trash dumpster all dirty and started begging for money. I bought some bananas and gave them to one of the little kids, and one of the others in my group said they were gone immediately. It is hard to see such need.

I was so happy to finally arrive at the hotel, which was our home for the duration of the expedition. I had a room by myself since I was the only unaccompanied female in the group. The room was freezing, so I took the wool blanket off the other bed and the extra one in the room and put all three on my small twin bed. You know how you love to take a hot shower after a long travel day? Well, I jumped in, and cold water and a plugged drain welcomed me to the hotel in Murighiol, Romania.

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Today was the first day I really got to see Bucharest up close and personal. Jason, Sylvia, Dave, and I had our guide Mario drop us off downtown. We walked back to the hotel, stopping at various museums along the way. The first was the national history museum, which was essentially about the Holocaust—quite significant for Romanian Jews and gypsies. We then visited various churches, and I was all excited to go into an art museum only to come out feeling dark and dreary. I don't know why exactly, but the artwork was rather depressing to me. I had to wonder if the oppression and communism hadn't affected the way that artists worked. In any case, it was an interesting experience.

The highlight of the afternoon was my green shirt, and that set a tone of things for me that continued throughout the rest of the trip. The first incident was at an outdoor restaurant where we chose to eat. I sat down along with everyone else, and these bugs were crawling all over the back of my shirt. I could not get them off, either. However, no one else was bothered by them at all. Then, later in our journey, low and behold, a bird released, or should I say relieved, itself on my green shirt and pants. That has never happened to me before, and I had to do some quick mind/stomach control to not lose my lunch right there. Of course, my group and everyone around got a good laugh. I didn't hear the end of that green shirt, although I washed it and never wore it again.

We had our first meeting with the entire group, including the professor and his assistant, that evening at 7 p.m. It was really interesting to sit around the table with all the volunteers and listen to the conversations. Three of them had been on multiple Earthwatch expeditions, and two of the others had traveled quite a bit. It was interesting to find out, too, that three of the guys had been in the military—one in Vietnam and the other two during the Vietnam era. They were sharing all this, and I piped in and shared that I had been in the Air Force during Desert Storm. That showed our age difference for sure. I was the youngest member of the group.

Dinner was quite interesting. I honestly felt like some were trying to "one-up" each other with experiences and background, but maybe it was just simply sharing—who knows. For sure, the professor and assistant were trying to make sure we had a good impression of the expedition we were preparing to embark upon. I also found it interesting how the wait staff all of a sudden treated us better once we were in this group. Maybe I should say treated me better, because it was my personal experience and I can only speak for myself.

Dinner was okay as far as the starter and the bread, but the meal had me worried. I really thought if this is what the food would be like the whole time, I would surely lose a significant amount of weight. Carol's friend had been right in saying that I should not eat at this hotel.

Monday, May 31, 2004

This was essentially a day of rest for me as I felt exhausted from the travel and the time difference. Romania is seven hours ahead of Pennsylvania. Also, all of the museums that I wanted to visit today are closed on Monday's, so I don't have a lot to do.

When I went down to the lobby of the hotel to get some soup, I was the only one in the dining area eating with all these waiters standing around speaking Romanian—talk about feeling out of place. I heard a voice that was not at all familiar, but it was American and I was so excited. I then heard the voice say he was with Alcoa, and I immediately knew that was Jason Suitor, the other Alcoa employee scheduled for this expedition. I was thrilled to hear his voice and went out to meet him. He was with two other members of our expedition who had also just arrived—Dave and Sylvia. It was so nice to see other members of the team and people who could speak English well. I had been able to communicate well enough speaking Spanish, but it was nice to meet and speak with my new team members.

That evening we went out for a tour with a guide name Mario that the hotel provided for us. He took us on a tour of downtown Bucharest and to the "House of the People," which is an incredibly huge edifice built by their former dictator/president (whom they executed) for himself and his wife. After seeing all that this leader built and the extravagance, I could understand why many of the people revolted and why he was executed. It was quite amazing. I don't know too much about the whole history of it all, but our guide told us enough to let us know that the experiences with this leader were not all positive for the Romanian people.

We all had dinner together at a nice restaurant and walked back to the hotel, hoping for a good night's sleep.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

I'm in the air! This is the first leg of my flight to Romania, and I'm all excited. I sat in the airport wondering if anyone else would be with me on this plane to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., and it turns out there are only seven passengers.

It was fun to check-in at the airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania (USA), and have the agent ask where I was going. When I said Romania, of course she asked why. When I told her I was going on an Earthwatch expedition, she was excited for me and also jealous. The gentleman who checked my bag thought I was in the military and was likewise excited for me. He wished me a wonderful journey and wished me well on the dig, too. It is so nice to have others share their enthusiasm for this type of work.

Once I arrived at Dulles Airport and went to the gate, I felt like I was already in a foreign country. The flight was bound for Frankfurt, Germany, so there were many Germans waiting as well as people from various other parts of Europe and Asia. I could easily spot the Americans and those in the military. I started to wonder who I would sit next to on the plane and just hoped that whoever it was would have a positive attitude.

So, I was thrilled when I sat my bag in the chair next to a sparkling faced woman who greeted me warmly. We ended up chatting for hours, and she (Patricia) turned to me at one point and said she felt like she'd known me for years. I agreed. She is in a doctorate program in San Diego at a private Catholic school studying leadership development. She was on the flight headed to some area near Spain to study the Mondragon business model, which was founded by a priest in the 1950's. I recall reading an article based on this model in one of my organizational change classes in my master of organizational behavior program. Needless to say, we talked for hours on that. The model is essentially based on values around community, hope, and self-sustainment and derives many ideals from Christianity and Plato.

We talked about politics, people, families—you name it. What was also intriguing is that she is part Venezuelan, and her mom is from one of the areas where I served as a missionary. We both spoke Spanish as well. All in all I felt blessed to have met Patricia and look forward to keeping in touch with a newfound friend.

As I waited in the Frankfurt airport, I met another wonderful person. Carol was from Transylvania (I believe), and she was headed to Bucharest to visit her family. She hadn't been back to the area for 14 years and was somewhat nervous about going back. It was likewise wonderful to meet Carol and to hear about Romania from someone "in the know," so to speak. I have to admit, though, that I was a bit nervous about going after she shared with me what life is really like there—or at least what it was like when she lived there before. I certainly appreciated her experiences and insights and again felt as though she was someone I was just meant to meet. She was so kind. When we arrived, she waited for me to get through passport control, and we waited at the luggage area together. She was very concerned about her bags arriving, and I said a quick prayer hoping they would all arrive in one piece. The look on her face when they all showed up put a smile on my face—she was overjoyed and rightly so. I told her it was a good sign that she would have a wonderful trip.

Now, most people visiting home might have just said nice to meet you and been off as soon as their ride arrived, but not Carol. She introduced me to her friend, and they took me to his van and drove me directly to my hotel. He carried my bag into the hotel, we hugged, and they wished me well. It was lovely, to say the least, and I was most grateful. That was my experience traveling to Romania!

After I checked in, I went to the desk to ask the attendant where I could buy a phone card, and he described how I could walk out from the hotel down the road, etc. He then asked if I had ever been there before, and I said I had not. He proceeded to give me warnings about walking out by myself. He told me to not give anyone my passport or money if they stopped and asked for it—even if they claimed to be police. He handed me the hotel business card and said if that happened to tell them to come with me back to the hotel. He told me to be very careful. Well, Carol had already shared similar warnings, and my guidebook said the same. The guidebook also said there were lots of stray dogs and to stay away from any with pups. So, you can imagine how comfortable I felt walking in Bucharest for the first time by myself. I made it all right, though, with no one stopping me—just staring at me. And, there were at least 20 stray dogs in my path.

Friday, January 30, 2004

I was in a meeting with our plant lead team trying to be an active participate. About 1:30 p.m. I decided I needed to take a break to check my email, and to my surprise this is what I saw:

Dear Marla Corson:
Congratulations! I am truly pleased to be able to advise that your application to participate in the 2004 Alcoa Earthwatch program has been successful and you will be heading off to Danube to work on Roman Fort on the Danube between 6/02/04 and 6/15/04.

Talk about excitement!!! I ran (not literally, but I wanted to) back to the meeting and shared the news with everyone. Being the overanxious person I am, I asked them to pull up 'Roman Fort on the Danube' on the computer so we could all check it out on the overhead screen. My first thought was—where is this place? And then I wondered what type of animals or environmental work will I be doing there. Little did I know this was an archaeological type expedition—we will be studying the evolution of human society from prehistoric times to the present. I could not have been placed in a better expedition in my opinion, because my field of academic study and interest is organizational behavior, which is right in line with this type of research.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

I don't know about any of you who are reading this, but I know that I can get quite anxious awaiting an outcome of something such as this. On this particular Thursday, I decided to email the Alcoa head of the project and find out when we would know the status of our Earthwatch applications. Needless to say, I was delighted when he responded back that we would be notified on Friday. So, of course I waited anxiously for Friday to come....

Friday, November 19, 2003

As I was browsing over the messages sent out through our human resources department, I noticed an interesting one regarding Earthwatch. That was my first exposure to the program, and I was actually thrilled to see that Alcoa was involved with this type of organization.

I read through the details and decided that I would give it a shot—my best shot! I realized that there would be lots of other people as excited as I was for the opportunity to apply, so I began immediately. I started by inquiring through Eric Brzostek, our environmental lead here at Cressona. I made an appointment and asked him everything he knew about the program and what Alcoa's environmental strategies were as well as ours here at Cressona. In addition, I reviewed our environmental websites for further information. Then I really just started asking everyone I came in contact with about the environmental issues here in this area. I wanted to have a real grasp on the major environmental issues impacting our organization both globally but more specifically here in Pennsylvania. That was my start, and I completed the application and turned it in December 19, 2003.


Related Sites


The Danube River Basin
Facts about the second longest river in Europe.
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Photo Gallery


View the images from Marla Corson's diary.
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Earthwatch Institute


Learn more about this international nonprofit, which supports scientific field research worldwide.
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Roman Fort on the Danube


Learn more about the expedition and its scientists.
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