Well, I woke up on Friday at three a.m. with a headache from the tzuica and wine and got up to take some Advil. I got back to sleep till 5. After a really good buffet breakfast, I went with a Bulgarian woman, Kalina, to the Orthodox Cathedral which is less than 5 minutes from here, just across the river, and is beautiful. I'll take pictures tomorrow. There was a worship service going on when we got there and we bought some candles for our prayers. I learned that in Orthodox understanding, first you light a candle and then you pray. The candle connects you from earth to heaven. Then we gave a priest our names on a paper for the bishop to read out during the liturgy. I stayed for half an hour and went back to the hotel to work on my presentation some more.
We began our day at 10 and had rather intense meetings on sexual and reproductive health with reports from the various delegates at the conference. It occurred to me as I listened that the climate in the countries and the obstacles activists face all tie in directly with my presentation.
After a break for lunch, (it should be noted that we ALL told the organizers that we wanted NO more tzuica as long as we lived) we continued with presentations and reports and my presentation had been moved earier (and someone forgot to tell me). I had prepared a powerpoint and then made a second powerpoint greatly reducing the number of slides. The presentation went very well and I was pleased that in the midst of a rather serious day, the delegates laughed a couple of times during my talk. It always takes me by surprise because I don't think of myself as funny. There was excellent discussion and thoughtful questions after my presentation.and a few asked for a copy of my powerpoint.
The organizers decided to call it a day right after my presentation and it was only about 4:30 so Bart (Poland), Andreea, Ioana(Romania) and I walked into the city center and sat in a coffee shop talking and laughing until it was time to head back to the hotel for our 8pm dinner. Once again, we all sat at table for 4 hours talking and laughing. Some of the women delighted teaching in Bart some very rude phrases in Romanian and he was like a little kid delighting in being naughty. Conferences like this forge bonds quickly and after our first long dinner, this second one was much more fun because we had shared personal stories and an intense day of grappling with serious issues of human, sexual, and reproductive rights. Igor, a Ukrainian, had brought a bottle of a special kind of vodka that literally had flakes of gold floating in it. After we had all had a shot, someone said that now we'll set off the security alarm at the airport. I can just see the scene of thirty of us setting off the alarm one after the other and the guards trying to figure out where the metal is!!!
Once again, they threw us out of the dining room at midnight and Bart, Andreea and I moved to an outside seating area off the lobby and hung out talking and laughing until 2a.m. I had to call it quits then or I wouldn't be functional on Saturday.
I managed to sleep until 8 and slowly got myself moving, going down for breakfast at about quarter to nine. I was the only one in the dining room. I think we're all enjoying ourselves too much. Those of you who know me probably find it strange indeed that two nights in a row have seen me up well past midnight. I just bumped into Florin who looked worse than I feel. He didn't get to bed until 4. Today promises to be another intense day and then we'll all go out to a traditional Romanian restaurant for dinner. I will be sad to leave these new friends but the good news, for me, is that many whom I've gotten to know best will be going to Malta for the ILGA-Europe conference.
It seems that I've saved some wonderful experiences for the end of my trip.