Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bologna Plan


No, this is not another travel adventure, but an educational one. The Bologna Plan was created as the name suggests in Bologna, Italy on June 19, 1999. The basic principle is that there will be a standard for higher education throughout the countries who sign on and commit to this plan. This makes it possible for students to go from one country to another to study without losing credits or time in earning their degrees. Forty-four countries have signed this agreement. It is due to start being implemented in Fall 2006. Start is the key word here. We had a faculty meeting today re: The Bologna Plan. The rector estimates it will take 15 years to fully implement it. By Hungarian law, any student that is currently in the system has the right to continue in the same type of system (credit or non-credit) that they are currently enrolled in. Since they are allowed to take a year or two off from their studies, they will have to be offered the same choices when they return. We were told that as of September, we will be running three different systems of education concurrently. What this means for me is that I will have to offer more classes, but not necessarily hold them. For example, I will continue to offer Language Practice 1 next semester, but if only a few students enroll, I can combine them into another class. In some ways, I am looking forward to this as I can offer classes now that I am really interested in and have students who really want to take the courses. We will see how it all pans out over time.

We also learned that we will be moving to our new campus in January 2007. This will be great for me, as it is only three blocks from where I live now. I can walk to school and back and no longer have to depend on the bus.

Change is good. Change is good. Change is good.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

At Last


I am not going to bore anyone else with this after this post, including myself. At 1:05 am, I called the AT&T access number that Bank of America gave me to get our new account number. Then I was to call an 800 number. When I reached the AT&T operator, she said that the 800 number was not valid from Hungary. I had her dial the San Francisco number, though I knew I was calling Boston for the new account number. After explaining to the operator that they had a phone tree, but stated they would accept collect calls, she disconnected from me. Of course, I could not get through, so had to start again. The second operator did the same thing, but later came back on and said she 'could not wait for them to answer' while I was in a 20 minute queue waiting for the representative. I calmly stated that if she had stayed on the line, she would have heard the announcement stating they accepted collect calls. "Oh, well I will have to dial again." There went my place in the queue. When I reached San Francisco, I told the rep that I needed to reach the other office and she graciously connected me. Then it dawned on me that my bank account is in CA, the check was fraudulently cashed in a Bank of America in Georgia, and I was calling Boston Bank of America to find out my new account number. Even if we wanted to change banks, you can run, but you cannot hide. The large banks will eventually buy out the bank you choose and you will be under their control yet again. The other epiphany I had was that I was calling Boston, which was three hours later than CA and only six hours earlier than here. I did not need to wait until 1:05 am, but could have called at 10:05 pm our time. Duh!!! After reaching the Boston office, I had our new number, was able to sign into the online banking and redid our accounts for auto payments once again. Hopefully, in the next few days, it will continue to work and there will not be any snafus. Let's put this puppy to bed.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bank of America Fraud


Bank of America Fraud – It is Over Finally When Ron called again this evening, he found that someone tried opening an account using our number. How? Who knows? However, they highly recommended that we change our account number. After another hour on the phone, we were able to get everything switched over. The only thing we need to do is inform my insurance company of our new account number so they can debit the account for my premiums. I will have to do some adjustments with the online banking, but not a great hassle at the moment. We will see after 4:00 pm tomorrow (1:00 am our time) when we have to call for our new account number. The best part is that the $2,500 is back in our account.

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The Good Dentist


The Good Dentist When we were living in CA, I had put off going to a dentist for a long time. There were two reasons for this. One was money, the other was the fact that I am a coward. My past experiences with dentist were never pleasant ones and negative reinforcement kept me away until I had a sudden whim for playing the masochist. Then through a friend, I had heard about Dr. Elise Daggs, a dentist in Pleasanton, CA. With great trepidation, I made an appointment. It was a love match. She and her whole staff were superior to anything I had ever experienced and due to my problems; I went every three months for a cleaning like a trek to Mecca. It did not matter if it took me an hour to get there and close to two hours to drive home due to rush hour traffic, she was worth it. The two most important things I look for in a dentist are trust and no pain. Dr. Daggs could do a root canal on me and I never had to take an aspirin afterwards. When we left CA, I grieved leaving Dr. Daggs and her staff behind. I felt a loss not only for my dental hygiene, but also because they renewed faith in the healthcare profession. When we landed in Hungary, it took some time to find someone by reference. Just by luck, I found ‘Robert Redford’. Okay, that is not his real name, but unless you live here or are coming for dental work, it does not matter. He does look like a young Robert Redford, he speaks English, and his fees are laughably inexpensive. Last week, my gums on the right side of my mouth were swollen like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Balloon. I went to see Dr. Redford. I have the same trust in him that I did with Dr. Daggs. He took an x-ray and showed me what was happening. There is a gap under one tooth that is WAY below the gum line and at the root. There is no chance for repair and I am going to lose the tooth. Tears formed as I whined, “But I floss five times a day and brush three times, why me?” Partly I am the recipient of wayward dental genes and partly, this is a sin that I am paying for from my teen years when dentists were scarier than sex with females. The fee for the exam and the x-ray was $10.00. Kid you not!!! Dr. Redford, put medicine on it and we made an appointment for the following week, which was today. I was to have it pulled and he would put a false tooth in tomorrow. All this last week, I was suffering with depression. I hate losses, especially those that are in my mouth. All week, I tried ignoring the fact that in a few days time, I would hear that grating, ripping sound of a tooth being pulled from my gums. I have huge roots, so it takes some tugging and the sound effects are spine tingling. At noon, I mustered the courage to go see him. As I cowered in the chair, he asked how I was doing. I said the tooth felt fine since he medicated it. He examined me and said I was lucky. He did not think that the medication would work. Then he said something that almost made me leap us and kiss him. “Do you want to wait to have it pulled until it gives you more problems?” He realize that my running for my coat meant “YES!!”. I did ask him what I owed him for today. He said “Nothing, I did not do anything.” I asked about his time, but he told me to forget it. I love the luck I have had with dentists.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bank Fiasco


Bank Fiasco Well here is the latest on the Bank of America $2,500. debit issue. Ron called the bank to see if anything had been resolved. When I checked our online statement, there was not different other than we still had less money in the checking account and not enough to cover the bills. Thankfully, he was calling collect, because he was transferred four times, by the time I gave up listening or have a breakdown. It seems that though I had called and reported a problem on February 10th and then again on the 14th, there was NO investigation being persued like I was told. Tonight would have been the 7th business day after my call and it was supposed to be resolved by the 5th business day. He repeated the story a dozen times. There was a debit on our account for a returned check from a company we had never heard of who had refused payment on the funds. My on-going line was that if they would just look at the deposits for the last six months, they will see that there was never a deposit. Oh, great thinker-out-of-the-box, you have much to learn. Ron was finally able to speak with someone who took this seriously and so I tuned it yet again when I heard Atlanta, Georgia mentioned. What does this have to do with Atlanta? Our account is in CA. After an hour and 43 minutes on the phone, this is what we found out. Someone went into a Bank of America in Atlanta and presented a check made out to cash. They did not try to deposit the check, but rather they cashed it and walked off with the $2,500.00. What we found from the fraud unit was that they signed Ron's name, but when the CA bank checked the signature against his signature card, they admitted that there was quite a difference. My new line of inquiry was how the hell could any bank cash a check for that amount without any identification, first of all and second of all with the bank branch in CA without doing some checking up first? Well, they did put some ID, supposedly a driver's license number on the back of the check, but it is nothing close to Ron's dl number. We also found that though it is a Bank of America in Atlanta, they are not hooked up to computers with the B of A in CA. Ron said more than once, neither of us have ever been to Atlanta other than the airport and even that has been years ago. The investigation goes on, but in the meanwhile, we are still hankering for our money and the credit cards are crying to be paid. In this day and age, it seems unbelieveable to me that the banks within one giant corporation are not linked with technology to prevent these things from happening. If I had walked into my own branch in CA where people knew me, I would still have been asked for ID before they handed over the cash. This is just craziness, but thankfully, I am compulsive about checking my bank statements and credit card statements to catch these things early. It would be great if I did not have to.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Customer Service Yea


Customer Service, Yea Right Today is the Monday that Bank of America is supposed to call us back, according to their service rep. It never happened. I was too angry to call them again since we have to wait until 4:00 pm our time to start trying. They are nine hours earlier. Actually, I did try three times and received a busy signal, then I gave up and told Ron he would have to follow up on this. In the meanwhile, we did not have Internet. I called the cable company and the rep there told me they had to put us on ‘reduced service’ for not paying our bill. Now I was seeing red. I had gone into the office on the 7th of this month for this very reason. I had every bank statement from August of last year with me. I had all of the payments circled and the woman at that time made photocopies of all of them. It seems they lost the payment for October and even with proof on the statement it was paid, they could not find it. In the meanwhile, they had lost January’s payment too. It was too late to do anything about it then, but the next day Ron was going to do down there yet again with a student, while I was at school. Aggravation comes in many forms. Ron continued calling the bank. He finally spoke with someone who said it would take 5-7 business days for them to find their error. Of course they did not admit to it being their error, but if there was no check deposited, how could it have bounced and be withdrawn from our account. So we are without the use of our $2,500. while they try to find the error. Bank of America is getting too big and too sloppy!

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bank of America Screwed Us


Today, I was checking our Bank of America account online. I do this about once a week to monitor the bills and our balance. When I first opened the account, it hit me that there was a dramatic reduction in the balance. Though I had made some large payments, I knew it was not that significant. As I looked at the list of items, there was a debit of $2,500.00 for a returned check that was not paid by a company I had never heard of before. This happened on February 6th. After wracking my brain and going over all of the credits, I knew this was not ours, but could not figure out how it happened. First of all, we had not deposited any checks since October. In order to deposit a check, I have to send it to our friend Earl who takes it to the bank. All of our credits in the last three months were automatic deposits from Ron’s SS or pension, with nothing else. I called B of A on their collect line. I have to call a 10 digit number and wait for an AT&T operator after waiting for their phone tree to comprehend that I am not about to put in a major credit card to make the call. They do not open until 7:00 am CA time. That is 9 hours earlier than here. I had to sit and dwell for that amount of time. When the time was right, I called again. Ten more digits to punch in wait for AT&T to go through their thing, and the number was busy. Ten minutes later, I try again and the line is busy again. This irks me that the message you are greeted with is “We appreciate your business.” They have one hell of a way of showing it. I spoke with a sympathetic woman who agreed this was strange. As she was looking at my account, I had it online and had before me a six month list of credits only. It was obvious that there was nothing associated with the check. She looked at this also and said she needed to get her supervisor to look it over also. She asked if she could put me on hold and since they are paying for the call, it did not matter to me. When she returned, she apologized for the wait and said it would be a few more minutes. I assured her that was fine. However, when she returned again, I could hear her perfectly, but she could not hear me at all. She put me on hold again and then tried getting back to me. The same thing. I could hear her clearly, but she could not hear me at all. Then there was that dreaded CLICK. Ten more phone keys later, another surly AT&T operator, I tried tracking down Debbie, the customer service rep that was helping me. Not only did I feel her sympathy for the problem at hand, but I felt I needed to offer an explanation for her not hearing me when she was desperately reaching out to me. Of course, finding the person you left off with is like finding an engraved rock on the moon. So, I get this young man instead who had no interest in finding Debbie, but thought it was his mission to assist me or save his job, one or the other. When I explained the situation, he said he would check the account. He wanted to put me on hold and I explained the dangers in doing this. He said he understood, but then the music started. I was on hold. When he returned, I was relieved for a moment that we were able to hear each other, but only for a moment. He told me that B of A had mistakenly put the $2,500.oo into our account and had to take it out again. My response was “Oh, really, then show me where this money was credited to the account in the first place. If you look at the credits for the last six months, there are no deposits for checks other than one in October in the amount of $2,000.00 and since you have photocopies of checks, you will see that the issuing party on that check was Kellner and nothing close to the whatever Enterprises that they are claiming was wrongly credited. He gave a deep sigh, intimating that he was not going to be let off of the hook and there went the tidy little profit for the bank and probably his bonus check too. Although he said he could identify with my frustration, he was not doing much to soothe my confidence that there would be some resolution to this issue. After pointing out that I was not going to roll over and play dead while they screwed us out of $2,500.00, he said he would have to file a report to have it investigated further. He would have to put me on hold yet again. Again I reminded him of the last person and asked if I could find him again if we had problems. As he was assuring me there would not be a problem, the music started once more. Ten minutes later, thankfully they are paying for the call; he returns to tell me he filled out the form to have this investigated. I asked how long our money was going to be tied up while this went on. He said they would have it done in one business day, but since this was Friday, it would be by Monday. They would call me. I tried explaining that A. I live in Hungary and am calling from there, B. There is a 9 hour time difference, and C. I would like to know how to contact them if I should miss the call. It was like speaking to air. His response was “Don’t worry about it, they will call you on Monday.” I said, “No, you don’t understand. We are 9 hours later than you in CA. They may call and I may not be home or it could be after we have gone to bed. I would like a way of tracing this complaint. Well there is no number assigned to this, there is no code, there is nothing. He said to just tell them a report was initiated and they will be able to follow up on it. Does this give me confidence? NO!! Besides all of this, Bank of America has the audacity to charge us $5.00 for every ATM withdrawal and a currency conversion fee each time we use our card. Normally, I would not object to this, but we have been customers since 1993 and had our mortgage, two personal checking account, two savings accounts, and my business account with them when we were still in CA. In addition, we do have a nest egg currently in a savings account. For all of this you would think that out of good will and “appreciation for our business, they would waive some of these fees. Now I just read that they took over another major bank. Soon they will be the only show in town and then it is back to keeping the money under the mattress in order to keep from getting shaken down for fees on top of fees. At least if we were robbed, our insurance would cover it. When the bank robs of us $2,500.00 we have to battle to get it back.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Frequent Flyer Miles


Frequent Flyer Miles This will show the differences in airlines. I booked our frequent flyer tickets to South Africa through Delta via South African Airlines. It took two phone calls and we had to get ourselves to Paris or use an additional 30,000 miles. We took a budget airline to Paris and saved the miles. Ron wants to visit his family this summer. His 80 y.o. sister is getting married after 25+ years of being a widow. I told him to use my Northwest miles. I just had enough. He called their number in the States 17 times and each time they had nothing, but told him to call again. Today, he hit the jackpot or not. Here are his connections. He has to get to Vienna on his own. Not a hassle, Vienna airport has a shuttle bus from Budapest. Vienna to Amsterdam Amsterdam to London (change airports) London to Detroit (overnight stay) Detroit to Cincinnati Cincinnati to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (he has family here and will drive with them to Denver for the wedding) His return is: Denver to Memphis Memphis to Newark Newark to Amsterdam Amsterdam to Vienna Vienna to Budapest on his own. Dollar savings $1,100.00 minus going to and from Vienna, one hotel night in Detroit, $121.00 in taxes, and $6.00 in international phone cards. Was it worth it? I will tell you when he returns in July. Feb. 10 2006

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Oslo Trumps Tokyo


Oslo Trumps Tokyo as Most Expensive City
Kate AppletonFriday, February 3, 2006
After a 14-year run, Japan's capital has dropped to second place in a detailed survey by The Economist's Intelligence Unit of the cost of doing business or staying as a tourist in 130 major destinations worldwide. The results reflect shifts in global prosperity, and a recent surge in profits from its offshore oilfields tipped the balance in favor of Oslo, Norway. European cities dominated eight of the top 10 slots thanks to the strength of the euro, while American cities have slipped in the ratings--the most expensive, New York City, fell to 27. Savvy travelers don't have to resign themselves to shelling out more cash just yet. There are still bargains to be found in Europe, and plenty of inexpensive destinations worth a look. We've long been running our own handy series from the opposite perspective: Cheapest Places on Earth.
Top 10 Most Expensive Cities:
1. Oslo 2. Tokyo3. Reykjavik 4. Osaka 5. Paris 6. Copenhagen 7. London 8. Zurich 9. Geneva10. Helsinki

From Frommers Budget Travel Newsletter saving for reference.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Where We Have Rested Our Heads at Night


These are some of the places we have stayed in our travels. As I come across more business cards, this list will be updated.


Innsbruck Hotel Binder Dr. Glatzstrasse 20 Innsbruck 05 12 334 36

Vienna – Almost every Mercure in the city


London – No. 7 Guesthouse

Manchester – Rembrandt Hotel

Bath – Radnor B & B

London – Anne and Bruce’s flat

Harwich – Paston’s Lodge


Cologne – Callas AM Dom Hohe Strasse 137 e-mail: info@callas-hotel.de


Athens - Hotel Amaryllis 45 Veranzerou Street


Budapest – KM Saga

Budapest – BudaBaB – www.budabab.com


Dublin Inn on the Iffey

Galway – Woodville Guesthouse

Dublin – Slievenamon B & B

Dublin - Kinley House Hostel

Dublin - Isaac’s Hostel


Venice - Hotel El Campaniel San Paulo area 2889 Venice 041-275-0749 On Calle El Campaniel

Milan – Hotel Charley

Rome – Aldolfo’s B and B


Krakow – Hotel Astoria ul. Jozefa 24 www.astoriahotel.pl


Edinburgh – Alva Guesthouse

GlasgowGlasgow Guesthouse

South Africa

Cape TownAshanti Lodge and Hostel www.ashanti.co.za

Cape TownRented an apartment from Patricia and Don Pinnock DON@rsp.co.za

Pretoria- Pretoria Backpackers Lodge – 425 Farenden Street, Clydesdale www.pretoriabackpackers.net

The Netherlands

Amsterdam – Drakes on Kaizersgracht

Amsterdam – AMS Hotel (three nights)

AmsterdamThe Golden Bear


Holyhead - Mount Hotel

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Our Travel Log Since 1993


This is the travel log we have accumulated since meeting. Almost all of it was done together.

October 8, 1993 Seattle

December 14, 1993 Paris




May 19, 1993 New Mexico

November 11, 1994 Denver

December 13, 1994 China




Returned January 10, 1995

July 14, 1995 Salt Lake City

December 14, 1995 Iowa

December 18, 1995 New Jersey

December 26, 1995 Philadelphia

January 2, 1996 Orlando

January 9, 1996 Miami Beach

Returned January 13, 1996

December 12, 1996 Costa Rica

Returned January 11, 1997

May 29, 1997 Greece and Italy, Ryan ACIS

Returned June 6, 1997

July 10, 1997 Marge visits CA for Ron's birthday

August 8, 1997 Las Vegas

October 24, 1997 Michigan for Ryan's HS reunion

December 16, 1997 Flew to LA

December 17, 1997 Peru, Supposedly to leave,

but they gave away our seats

December 18, 1996 Peru, Uruguay

January 4, 1996 Chile

Returned January 9, 1998

July 30, 1998 Boston

December 14, 1998 Berlin

December 17, 1998 Krakow

December 21, 1998 Budapest

December 27, 1998 Vienna

December 30, 1998 Prague

Somewhere in here were 12 trips to

Houston, TX that Ryan took for doctoral research

January 7, 1999 Berlin

Returned home on January 9, 1999

April 2, 1999 Portland, Oregon

May 20, 1999 Ryan Costa Rica for dissertation

Returned June 6, 1999

July 29, 1999 Denver Lozanov Conference

August 20, 1999 New Jersey, Ryan's weekend with nephews

October 13, 1999 Minneapolis, Ryan Conference IAL

December 13, 1999 Left for Ushuaia

December 25, 1999 Buenos Aires

January 5, 2000 Santiago, Chile

Returned January 14, 2000

March 17, 2000 New Jersey both of us

August 4, 2000 Michigan, Birkmeier Reunion

December 11, 2000 Egypt

December 28, 2000 Turkey

January 14, 2001 Returned from Paris deathly ill

February 16, 2001 San Diego

February 28, 2001 Boston, Ryan for

teachers recruiting fair

April 7, 2001 Boston, Ryan for Interviews

July 21, 2001 Ron went to Iowa alone

Returned July 6, 2001

August 31, 2001 We left Modesto for San Francisco

September 1, 2001 Left for Denver

September 3, 2001 Left for Wyoming

September 5, 2001 Went back to Denver

September 6, 2001 Left for NYC

September 26, 2001 Left for London

October 8, 2001 Edinburgh

October 15, 2001 Glasgow

October 19, 2001 Holy Head, Wales

October 22, 2001 Dublin, but went

directly to Galway since there were no

hotel rooms

October 30, 2001 Galway left for Dublin

November 6, 2001 Manchester

November 11, 2001 Bath

November 14, 2001 London

November 15, 2001 Harwich

November 16, 2001 Amsterdam

December 3, 2001 Cologne

December 7, 2001 Budapest

January 6, 2002 Innsbruck

January 9, 2002 Venice

April 18, 2002 Macedonia

June 2, 2002 Croatia: Rijeka


Zadar Returned June 11, 2002

July 11, 2002 France to meet with Bev Hock

Returned July 15, 2002

August 20, 2002 Left for NYC for Hungarian permits

August 21, 2002 Iowa

August 25, 2002 New Jersey

Returned August 29, 2002

November 1, 2002 Bratislava to visit Randall

January 2, 2003 California

January 15, 2003 New Jersey

Returned January 21, 2003

March 21, 2003 Kosice, Slovakia Conference

April 15, 2003 Vienna with Earl

May 23, 2003 Madrid

May 29, 2003 Barcelona

Returned June 3, 2003

July 25, 2003 Cologne, Belgium, Maastricht

Returned July 29, 2003

September 3, 2004 Vienna for two days

December 19, 2003 Cologne

Returned December 23, 2003

January 4, 2004 Vienna with Margie and Tim

Returned January 6, 2004

January 8, 2004 Bratislava with Margie and Tim

February 2, 2004 Krakow with USF

March 18, 2004 Cluj, Romania

April 5, 2004 Morocco

Returned April 12, 2004

May 27, 2004 Iowa – Ron went alone

Returned June 12, 2004

May 28, 2004 Amsterdam and Cologne, Ryan and Earl

Returned June 7, 2004

July 11, 2004 Zurich

July 13, 2004 Milan, Brecia, Lake Como

Returned July 19, 2004

August 9, 2004 Stockholm

Returned August 12, 2004

August 14, 2004 Berlin

Returned August 18, 2004

December 19, 2004 Lisbon

Returned January 8, 2005

January 27, 2005 Cologne and Luxembourg

Returned January 31, 2005

March 18, 2005 Copenhagen and Malmo

Returned March 23, 2005

May 4, 2005 Bulgaria – Ryan alone for presentations

and conference

June 30, 2005 Komárom, Slovakia to visit a student

for the day

July 1, 2005 Vienna

Returned July 3, 2005

July 5, 2005 Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia

Returned July 14, 2005

August 30, 2005 Rome

Returned September 5, 2005

October 29, 2005 Athens, Greece and then

to Thessaloniki (Conference)

Returned November 7, 2005

December 16, 2005 Leave for Paris

on our way to South Africa

December 19, 2005 Leave for Cape Town, South Africa

January 6, 2006 Leave for JohannesburgPretoria

Returned home January 13, 2006

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