The Romania Journal

   
 

Back in 2006 I went on a three-week excavation in Romania as part of my university course. I was joined by a large group of Southampton and UCL students and we spent the majority of the trip digging and drinking in equal measure. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun, and I decided to record the entire thing in a massive journal I wrote while there. After four years I have finally decided to get it online, along with photos and reflective comments written by myself and Tom Fielden which you will find in bold below each entry. If you were part of the trip then I really hope this reminds you of the great time we had, and if you're just reading this out of curiosity then I hope you find it suitably entertaining. Enjoy!

Day 1 – Saturday 15th

This has, quite possibly, been the longest day of my entire life. The details of the trip are long and boring, so here’s the essential stuff:

4am – 4.15am: Taxi to Heathrow
4.15am – 6.30am: Waiting in Heathrow
6.30am – 9.40am: Flight to Vienna
9.40am – 1.10pm: Waiting in Vienna Airport
1.10pm – 4.00pm: Flight to Romania
4pm – 8.15pm: Waiting for coach
8.15pm – 2.35am: Coach journey to site

I kid you not about the time we spent waiting for the coach, or how long the coach journey itself took. On the way we stopped at a restaurant called ‘Restaurant’ (genius name) and ate what can only be described as pancake-thin chicken covered in old lady skin. Suffice it to say I didn’t actually eat much, especially as I’m not actually 100% certain what the meat was.

The rest of the journey was fine, my iPod and the piano stylings of Mr Ben Folds kept me company. Oh yeah, before I forget – the guy who drove me to Heathrow looked exactly like Toadfish from Neighbours. He was a nice guy, but also a complete idiot.

So yeah, the school. Putting it mildly, it is a giant pile of arse and looks like it was constructed by a team of gorillas. Despite this, I actually quite like it – sure, the light in the bathroom doesn’t work, none of the toilet cubicles have locks, and Nicky broke a chain in half when flushing the loo, but this place is so ramshackle that I’ve already accepted I’ll be coming home with scraggly long hair and stinking like a tramp. As long as everyone else spends the next three weeks looking filthy, I just don’t care.

I think that’s about it for today – tomorrow is our ‘no work induction day’ which should be fun, although the 9am meeting probably won’t be. Right, I’m done, time to get some sleep on my hilariously lumpy bed.

Tom Wright’s comment – Tom Fielden managed to turn up so late at Heathrow I was seriously worried he was going to miss the entire trip, but fortunately he arrived in style with about four minutes to spare. I think most of us were in a bit of a daze during the plane trips, I only really remember having to watch the same awful safety video four times in various languages and also being given a solitary marzipan sweet on the way to Vienna called a ‘Mozart Wurzel’.

The restaurant called Restaurant was just the first of many awfully-named Romanian businesses, there’s a lot more of that to come later. Incidentally the meal we had at Restaurant was probably the worst of the entire trip and it didn’t exactly fill us with confidence at the time. Finally, I quite like how I mildly complain about a 9am meeting – I guess no-one had told me we’d be getting up at 5am every day to do manual labour at this point. Whoops!

Tom Fielden’s comment – Yeah... not an enjoyable journey. I may have arrived in style with about four minutes to spare but that judgement call came with some heavy consequences. I had no book, iPod, pen and paper, not even a puzzle (and I bloody hate puzzles). Honestly, who doesn’t pack a book for a three week trip? This idiot.

The girls' dorm. Note the Blair Witch-style welcome message and the rusty hospital beds.

Day 2 – Sunday 16th

Got up at 11ish, it’s 1pm now. Tom and I had a little look around, there appears to be a small family of very shy cats living here which is cool, unless they have rabies. Anyway, we went into the local town (about 10 minutes from here) which is pretty empty, save for some shops selling Coke and fish labelled ‘makro’.

At one point we went down a street and saw an animal chained to a wall and I instantly noticed it wasn’t a dog or a cat, which basically completes my list of animals I don’t mind coming across in a street. On closer inspection we found it was a large turkey, pecking seed. I’d like to think the turkey has a name and is a loved pet, but to be honest it’s probably tonight’s dinner. Yum yum.

***

It’s now midnight. Earlier on we went down to the excavation site, it all looks pretty cool. At ‘the barn’ (our indoor on-site area for getting water and looking at finds) we found the jaw of some animal on the floor, complete with teeth. Great! No digging today though, it was just a little tour.

So, we had our first meal here – it was omelette, rice, and bread. It wasn’t exactly terrible, but it sure wasn’t great. We decided a trip to the local shops was in order – we found some pretzel sticks called ‘Chippy Long Sticks’ and some thicker ones called ‘Crispy Grissini – for all your friends’. Anyway, everything is ridiculously cheap – a bottle of Coke and a pint of beer are each about 30p, which is stupid. They also had Mountain Dew, which is frankly awesome. If you haven’t had it before, it’s basically Sprite with twice the sugar.

Other than the shops, we found the hilariously-named ‘Discoteca Fun Club’ which looks neither like a disco or a club, or any fun for that matter. Either way, we’re all adamant we’ll go there when drunk during these three weeks.

The evening was spent at the local pub, which is both good and very cheap, and also drawing ‘Another Day in the Office 4’ which is coming along nicely. I’ve also got to know a whole bunch of UCL people (and a few Southampton students I didn’t know very well) which is cool, everyone seems really friendly.

Other than that, we found that a small family of cats lives in the school, which is cool, even if they are ridiculously shy. We also had some dogs come up to us in the street, but unfortunately they were much friendlier – and by friendlier I mean ‘barked loudly and looked like they were going to bite us’. Seriously, I can hear them barking now and the main group organised (Tim) told us he was bitten a few years ago. Great! With this said, the dogs are no way near as bad as the group of cockerels that go ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ continuously from 4am to 6am. A drunken hunting party had already been planned.

Right, sleep – up at 5am for our first dig, which should mean some serious trowel action. I love it.

TW’s comment – Only two entries in and the perpetual tiredness had already begun, which is probably why I accidentally repeated the information about the cats. Unfortunately we didn’t end up hunting the cockerels but we really, really should have done. Not much else to report here except the cartoon I was drawing was eventually turned into Steve 3 several years later, and the Discoteca Fun Club really was that bad. More to come on that later!

TF’s comment – All I have to say here is: CHIPPY LONG STICKS! Aw, man, I lived for those guys. Yeah, I know, they were just a cheap Mikado rip-off; but I was expecting to eat bread, cheese and salami for three long weeks. Chocolate-covered pretzel sticks came as a major result.

Tom having some fun in Romania's cleanest bathroom.

Day 3 – Monday

Got up at 5am after 2 hours of sleep, eurgh. We got down to the site at about 6, and after getting the equipment together and shambling it up the hill we got to work. My lot were on the second site, which is part of a Roman fort that’s already been excavated a little. We basically spent the day getting rid of the sediment that had gone on top of what was dug last year, and also Tom and I dug a new trench (woo). It was fun, but after 5 hours we were ready to go back to the school. Anyway, we found some boring old pottery and some animal bones, and a wooden mast in the ground which is probably from the second World War. Not exactly Roman then, but interesting nonetheless.

At breakfast, we had bread, cheese and salami, pretty much like every other meal. Tom got stung by a wasp, and then the wooden bench everyone was sitting on collapsed, which was amusing.

So, an interesting start to things, but it was knackering – and we didn’t even work for as long as we will be for the rest of our stay here. Aside from the work, we spent the afternoon in Tulcea, the nearest ‘proper’ town. Tom purchased a knife (which obviously means he now thinks he’s a complete badass) and I finally managed to exchange some money – I now have ‘bare dollar’ that I can ‘rinse’ in the Discoteca Fun Club, yay!

Oh yeah, a little anecdote for you – in the bank we somehow got talking about the French language, and I said I was awful at speaking it but I do know that nearly all English words ending in ‘tion’ are the same in French. After a pause, Katie goes ‘what about confusion?’. What about confusion indeed.

Other than that, the town was pretty dull and absolutely no-one spoke English, which was fun. Also, the traffic lights are simply an LCD screen with a countdown showing in red until you can cross – it takes around 90 seconds to clear and then gives you no time at all to pass. This system is total crap anyway as most people just drive over it on green anyway. All the other streets worked on the ‘give way’ principle, except no Romanian drivers ever give way to pedestrians. Aces!

TW’s comment – two recurring themes began here, namely the lack of sleep and hilarious Romanian driving (the latter reminding me of Paris). Anyway, clearing up sediment is just as boring as it sounds, although the mast we found was pretty cool. Other than that, the money I got out in Tulcea basically lasted the entire trip because everything was dirt cheap.

TF’s comment – Wait wait -- which one was amusing: the wasp sting or the bench collapsing? You think that shit didn’t hurt?! To top the whole incident off, the on-site first-aid amounted to a single plaster. A plaster! No painkillers, no anti inflammatories; just a plaster – thanks, Tim.

Oh and that wasn’t just any knife; it was a flick knife. And thus totally made me a badass.

This is Site 2. They got skeletons, we got a Roman wall - a fair trade.

Day 4 – Tuesday

The trench Tom and I dug turned out to be rubbish - the Roman wall we’ve found in other trenches doesn’t run through our pit, lame! Other than digging, we filled out some context sheets. See, this is the problem with archaeology – you can’t just dig and find things, you have to record the cuts you’ve made and what type of soil you find in them, then you have to record and describe and wash finds, plus everything needs identification numbers, which you get in a separate register… and so on.

2-4pm was spent cleaning finds, which was pretty boring. Someone had labelled a bag of finds ‘BONE’ but after cleaning everything I found it was actually full of stones (useless), some fish bones (wrong bag) and a dried flower (pathetic). Either the guy sorting his ‘finds’ is retarded, or just wanted to label his stuff with something more impressive.

The current daily schedule is we get up at 5am, get to the site and start working at 6, have breakfast from 9-10, work until 1, lunch from 1-2, then do ‘non-site’ work until 4 (either washing finds or sorting and recording finds). Suffice it to say, the days are going pretty slowly and by the time it gets to lunch it feels like early evening. I’m sure we’ll adjust – and today did feel less tiring than yesterday – but it’s still a weird daily timetable.

Apparently we’re having spaghetti bolognese tonight, which is certainly an upgrade from the usual ‘bread with something’ meal (usually cheese, sausage and cucumber). I can’t really complain though as last night we had some incredible watermelon, plus Romanian ice cream (like all non-English European ice cream) is great. It’s made even better by the fact most ice creams cost 2 lei or less, which is basically less than 40p. Everything is seriously cheap here – Tom’s sturdy knife cost him the grand sum of two whole pounds.

I still don’t get our room in the school – there are only five Southampton guys in it, but the room is enormous and there are 15 beds in it. That’s like 3 per guy! I fancy those odds. Speaking of the school, I’m finding it fine here even with the communal shower and abysmal toilets. By ‘communal’ I mean the girls go on one side of the wall and the guys go on the other, however there’s only one entrance and some of the UCL girls insist on showering completely naked. This is purely an observation and by no means a complaint.

TW’s comment – I’m not sure you’d really get away with a communal shower normally but hey, that’s Romania for you! After a while I don’t think anyone cared too much about the awkward shuffle from the door to your respective side, as you always came back from the site covered in filth and desperate for a shower.

More importantly, it was on this day we started realising how much of an epic fail sorting and cleaning finds was. This easily became the least enjoyable part of the day, with most people finding creative ways to avoid doing it/go to sleep in the barn. More on this later!

TF’s comment - Ach -- I was so disappointed with our trench. And who do I blame for this? The University of Southampton and UCL - that’s right! They had been working on-site since 1998 so inevitably the first few days of each season were spent re-digging some previously excavated areas so, why the hell did we have to dig that trench?! What were they expecting to find this time? Geez.

Getting up at 5am every day was difficult, as Katie is clearly demonstrating.

Day 5 – Wednesday

Disregard the above bit about the showers being ok, I just had to stand next to a very hairy naked guy from UCL. Lame! So, today’s site work mainly involved sorting out soil which is easily the worst job you can do here. You basically get a tray of tiny stones and use a brush to separate things like fish scales and tiny bones. I know this is vital – after all, it’s the small particles people leave behind that tell us about how they lived and, to an extent, what they did – but it’s awfully boring.

Other than that, we were told about a disgusting Romanian drink I have to buy. I’ve heard some classic foreign drink names before like Mahou Negra and Baty Ram, but this wins – it’s called (wait for it) ‘Anal Arse’. Anal Arse! I can’t wait for the obligatory ‘do you want some Anal?’ jokes to start.

That’s about it for today, I think I’m going to head down to the local bar later for some Mountain Dew and perhaps a little Anal. Apparently we’re having a curry tonight (awesome) so some 30p beer would go down a treat.

TW’s comment – and so Hanul Ars (pronounced exactly as you want it to be pronounced) makes its first appearance. As far as I can remember it was a truly revolting melon liquor – other than the name, it had very little merit as a drink.

TF’s comment – Pah! Hanul Ars. Sometimes I wish I’d brought a bottle home with me, and then I remember the taste (generous word) and quickly snap out of it.

Getting some intense pit action with Katie. Notice the gardener gloves and tramp hair.

Day 6 – Thursday

Another day of digging and boring sorting, although we did find the top of this glass Byzantine vase (woo). This evening we went to the pool bar which was fun, I got some horrid Romanian beer and mixed it with Mountain Dew. I call this drink the Turbo Ultra Shandy, and it tastes a little like dying.

Not much really happened on site today. It’s getting very routine now, although the whole ‘sort out these tiny bits of bone and scales’ thing is still mind-numbingly boring. About ¾ of us fell asleep doing it today, which should tell the people running the excavation that sorting through crap is not an engaging activity. Bah!

I’m tired and going to bed.

TW’s comment – unsurprisingly I did not make another Turbo Ultra Shandy for the remainder of the trip.

TF’s comment – I’m sorry, but what were you expecting here? I’m not one to talk (see Day 7) but watered-down beer and pure sugar was just never going to work.

Charlotte, Donna, Nicky and Katie taking a break from the sun.

Day 7 – Friday

Gah, it’s hot as hell today and there’s next to no breeze – this made the hours spent cleaning and digging a new trench great fun. Oh well, the days are getting quicker now and even the mind-numbing tedium of sorting finds is getting slightly more bearable. With this said, the main water tap on site still isn’t working and the alternative source – the scanky well-water – looks horrible.

Tom’s managed to hurt his arm and so spent most the day sorting finds. He was so fed up doing this yesterday that he threatened to ‘put fish bones in the animal bones bag’. I cannot possibly imagine the chaos that would ensue were Tom to carry out this most fiendish of plans.

***

Dinner was good, we had chicken (awesome). We’ve just gone down to the shops to get drinks for tomorrow evening, and we used a 2 pound bottle of vodka to make a vodka watermelon. Should be interesting tomorrow! We have Sunday off, so tomorrow night will involve heavy drinking and possibly dancing in the Discoteca Fun Club. Of course, there will be anal (drinking) and a few bloody arses (hanul ars with tomato juice). Oh yeah, it is actually spelt ‘hanul ars’ and means ‘the bar is on fire’.

TW’s comment – oh boy, the vodka watermelon. As will soon become apparent, Tom put far too much vodka in it and it tasted absolutely rotten, like the bastard offspring of a sponge and a bottle of paint stripper. I believe Charlotte was the only one who actually enjoyed eating it, so well done Charlotte for having no tastebuds and an iron larynx.

TF’s comment – Huh? What’s that? Oh, the watermelon. Yeah... I have no defence for that evil. Sadly it was a complete waste of a) watermelon b) dirty vodka and c) my entire Sunday morning.

Sam enjoying some flot sorting. By 'enjoying' I of course mean 'not enjoying'.

Day 8 – Saturday

Wow, it’s been a week. I would say ‘it’s been a week already’ but it’s gone pretty slowly. Anyway, today’s site work mainly comprised pushing wheelbarrows of dirt around and drawing 1:20 scale plans of the trench we dug yesterday. There is something strangely satisfying about starting new trenches – it’s like ‘right, there could be stuff underground here – let’s dig the shit out of it with mattocks and see’.

At the moment we have some big-ass Roman fort wall in one trench, and we’re trying to dig other trenches to find other parts of it. However, we haven’t found anything yet – perhaps it was built with a gap, or maybe parts of it have been stolen. Mystery and intrigue! It’s all part of archaeology.

Other than wall-related excitement, on-site work is pretty so-so at the moment. The lack of breeze is still here, which means all the dust we get on site just clings to the air and gets in your eyes. Dirt is something you just have to get used to – it gets all over your clothes, in your eyes and mouth, and under your fingernails. The realisation that you can’t wipe your eyes or really touch anything without covering it in grit and dirt was a bit unpleasant at first, but I think we’re just about getting used to it now. No-one even cares about getting caked in filth anymore, or how mixing dirt with suntan lotion makes you turn an interesting blue/purple colour.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is our first day off, which means tonight we are getting filthy drunk. Last night we cut a hole into a watermelon and poured in about a litre of vodka – we’ll be eating that bad boy later. Discoteca Fun Club is definitely on the cards, as is a hilariously crap pub crawl around Isaccea’s four pubs. No doubt I will get smashed and may end up falling asleep in the toilets like one girl did the other night, completely naked.

I still can’t get over the prices here. I’ve been to cheap countries before but come on, the other day I got three pints of beer for 90p. 90p! Mark said the other day he’s planning to spend a tenner tonight, until he realised that’s about 35 pints. 35 pints! Still, I’m not exactly complaining – the £50 I exchanged at the start of the week got me 250 lei, and after buying drinks, snacks, food and alcohol every day I still have way over 200 lei left. Ridiculous!

I might make a drunken entry later if I am still conscious/able to write. Pork burgers for dinner, intriguing!

TW’s comment – I haven’t got much to add to the dirt stuff, you really did spend the majority of the day caked in grit, suntan lotion and sweat. Anyway, I like how I was still dumbfounded with how cheap everything was, and I wish Mark had spent £10 at the local pool bar. THIRTY FIVE PINTS!

TF’s comment – The worst thing about the dirt was its affect on my poor clothing, and by ‘poor’, I actually mean ‘poor choice of clothing’. In my mad rush to get to the airport on time I only managed to pack about seven t-shirts (including two wife-beaters – why Tom, why?). It’s great being a shambles. Just peachy.

Tom and I at Ambassadors, the local bar. There's a lot more of this to come later!

Day 9 – Sunday

It’s 9.45am, I just got up. Last night was a lot of fun but irritatingly a lot of us were ridiculously tired when we got to Discoteca Fun Club. Either way it was still a laugh, and I learnt a few crucial things. These are:

  1. Romanian men are the worst dancers in the entire world. I dance better than them. To dance like a Romanian man, do the following: stand still and sway from side to side very, very slowly. That’s it. Alternatively, take half your clothes off and try to grope each and every English girl you see on the dancefloor. I am not kidding.
  1. Never, ever make a vodka watermelon. It was the filthiest thing of all time – the melon had absorbed way too much alcohol, so every bite was like a strong vodka shot that you had to whirl around in your mouth for ages. If I’m ever somehow convinced to eat or make another one, I will definitely put less alcohol in it.
  1. Getting up at 5am and doing ten hours of hard manual labour in nearly 40 degrees heat equals not being able to stay awake during a late-night Romanian bar crawl. Next time, having a nap before going out is definitely in order.
Other than that, I had a very strange alcohol-induced dream which involved a mix of Romania people and friends from home. There were two houseparties taking place at the same time and I was at one of them, and at some point in the dream the other party joined us and they brought loads of cakes. I really wanted one, but apparently they were only for the people from their party and not ours. Then Andy Phillips appeared in the middle of them and was grinning a lot, a bit like he was stoned. I ended up leaving the party with Mark, who suddenly turned into someone else – for whatever reason, I recognised him as Sally’s brother despite the fact Sally doesn’t have a brother. We then got off a train (no idea how we got on it in the first place) in central London – in the middle of a street, I might add - where it was now lighter outside as we had gone back in time. I woke up thinking ‘what the hell was that?’.

***

Just got back from Tulcea, where we spent most of the day. The drive there was brilliantly dodgy – as soon as we got on the bus Tom’s seat collapsed and the backrest fell off, leaving him lying down in the middle of everyone. The driver was also convinced that driving at 70mph down tiny roads and savagely overtaking at blind corners was the best way to drive, which didn’t help things much.

After waking around and realising nearly everything was shut (bah!) we went to a relatively swanky restaurant. I got the most expensive steak on the menu and a few other things, and then entire meal cost me a staggering six pounds. Insane! This was place was classy, they even had proper urinals as opposed to the usual hole in the ground.

Other than the meal, we saw some great shops and restaurants including ‘Del Tino’, ‘Pastry Creations Alza’, and the now legendary ‘Cafeteria Doo Doo’.

The taxi ride home was almost as bad as the bus ride there, full of dubious overtaking and broken seatbelts. The driver also attempted to converse with Tom the entire journey home, even though neither of them spoke the same language. They got by surprisingly well as football was the only thing talked about – it was a bit odd however that the driver knew exactly who Crystal Palace are, but when Tom mention Arsenal the driver looked blank and said ‘Aston Villa?’.

In other news, I have a mouth ulcer that has been pissing me off all week. It’s a fingernail-sized beast and shows no signs of buggering off, despite copious usage of this Boots antiseptic stuff which is rapidly running out. Lame!

Other than all that, I finally purchased some Hanul Ars. Hoorah! It tastes like crap!

TW’s comment – I told you the vodka watermelon was bad. Still, you’ve got to love Romanian dancers! And come one - Cafeteria Doo Doo, what a place! Just don’t ask for the chocolate sprinkles. Also don’t ever use the bus system in Romania - keep in mind that when I say ‘bus’ I actually mean ‘tiny minibus’, and when I say ‘tiny minibus’ I actually mean ‘rusty abomination’. Tom spent most of the trip lying down as we weaved in and out of traffic in our wobbly transport, so I’m pretty surprised he didn’t throw up or at the very least start sharting.

Finally, it should be noted that the mouth ulcer I had lasted the entire trip and was easily the worst one I’ve had so far in my life. I’ve tried to push the memory of it out of my head when I think about Romania, but I can still vividly remember how eating anything during the trip was considerably painful.

TF’s comment – Ha -- I had completely forgotten about *that* bus ride. Inept road journeys appear to be the recurring theme of this trip.

The fountain in Tulcea in all its glory. The horrible building in the background kinda ruins the effect.

Day 10 – Monday

Today went ridiculously quick, which was nice. I opened up a new trench with one of the Romanian guys (Stefan) and we talked about subjects like drinking and the differences between English and Romanian girls. According to Stefan, Romanian girls think all Romanian men are stupid and only like you if you have lots of money. As for English girls, Stefan simply said that ‘they are fat’. Stefan likes singing and said he finds Romania boring, which is why he volunteered to do archaeological work for a bit (something a bit different I guess). I taught him the English for ‘shovel’ and ‘mattock’ although his English is already extremely good. He’s been learning it for ten years, and when I told him I’d badly learnt French for two years he simply laughed and said ‘that is shit’.

Other than digging that trench, I did some intense trowel work to clean up a few trench walls. We’ve guessed that one of the trenches is a big rubbish pit, as we keep finding fish bones and broken pottery in it. This is pretty cool as it means I keep finding stuff, like part of a green glass bracelet and some glazed ceramic. It even had a pattern on it, woo!

***

Tom just drew the curtains and the massive curtain rail simply fell off the wall. I love this place! Dinner was honey and mustard chicken, it was some seriously good shitzle. Just listening to ‘Missing the War’ by Ben Folds, I have to learn more piano songs by him when I get home.

On the way back from the shops we had some kid harassing us and asking (we assume) for money. At one point he accidentally spilt Tom’s can of Fanta and Tom started ripping into this kid in English, my favourite part being when the kid said something in Romanian and Tom leaned towards him, cupped his ear and said ‘pardon?’. He followed us to the school until a cop appeared and he ran off. Go police force!

TW’s comment – my chat with Stefan was a bit of an eye-opener, and was one of the highlights of the whole trip. While I agree that our language learning system is dire, I don’t particularly agree that English girls can be summed up with ‘they are fat’ – still, Stefan lives in a country where every girl ranges from athletic to stick-thin so any variation probably blows his mind.

Anyway, that last paragraph about Tom ripping on the poor kid may sound pretty cruel – and the kids who roamed the streets begging made for a hugely depressing sight – but trust me, this particular kid was a total bell-end. He kept trying to grab our stuff and run away with it, which basically pushed him from ‘sad beggar’ to ‘thieving gypsy’.

TF’s comment – That was banter! We were bantering together! Anyway I’m sure he was saying something equally mean to me, the thieving gypsy...

Roaming around town with nothing to do. Note the bread and water, the two most valuable items in Romania.

Day 11 – Tuesday

Roughly half way through the trip today. On the site I found two Roman coins and part of a bracelet, which makes me a certified archaeology badass. The pit I mentioned yesterday is a gold-mine (not literally), there’s so much stuff in it. Anyway, the coins I found were both heavily corroded and green which, if any of you remember GCSE chemistry, means they were made of copper.

We had the best lunch on-site thusfar, we actually got food other than bread and cheese. We got salami (always pretty good), coleslaw (awesome), curried egg salad (better than it sounds) and finally aubergine salad (I wouldn’t touch that shit with a 50 foot pole). Later on we’re having a barbecue, which should be awesome (barring any wasp attacks).

I don’t think I’ve mentioned insects yet. On-site, they are everywhere – spiders, crickets, grass-hoppers, horse flies, regular flies, giant ants – they’re all there in spades. Insects I can’t even name (and some I’ve never seen before) also fly about everywhere and basically make eating food a nightmare. The wasps are the worst as they seem to come in swarms whenever we eat lunch. As the day goes on mosquitoes become the number one enemy, and they’ve been doing a great job of biting the crap out of everyone at night.

I’m pretty glad I brought this pad of paper (and another one for drawing) as we have a lot of free time at the moment. The time on-site has been shortened by an hour, with half an hour taken off lunch and half an hour taken off the working day. This is good, but even though we now finish at half two, the 5am start means we’re all still knackered when we get back to the school. Watching films on the one good laptop we have here helps – I’ve watched Monsters Inc, Ong Bak (ace film) and tons of Family Guy in the last half a week.

***

Dinner was very good – we had potato wedges, kebabs and everything. I spent the evening in the company of Katie, Charlotte and Donna, who were having a revolting conversation about weird sex acts they’d heard about. The conversation ranged from vomit to vegetables, and the less I say about it here the better.

Bed is calling. Too many flies, argh!

TW’s comment – the insects on-site really were that bad, but like the perpetual dirt you kinda got used to it. With that said, the girls’ on-site toilet was a small wooden shack that was an absolute abomination – it was full of spiders, ants, and if I remember correctly an actual wasp nest.

Ong Bak – what a film! I also saw Iron Monkey while I was there, which is one of my all-time favourite kung fu movies. Thanks to whoever brought the films on the trip!

TF’s comment – Was that the lunch when I tried my first ever boiled egg? Mmm that was different. It took an eternity to peal, had the texture of rubber and tasted downright rank. So rank I may or may not have thrown it towards a passing car...

Words cannot adequately describe how many insects lived in that grass.

Day 12 – Wednesday

Another quick(ish) day on-site, I found another piece of bracelet, woo. I’m currently writing this outside with only a pair of shorts on in a poor attempt to even-out my tan a bit. Currently I have a terrible worker’s tan – brown arms and legs, but with a pasty-white torso and back. My legs aren’t even that tanned! It’s really very uneven. I have however avoided burning, which is pretty good as things go.

The heat really is ridiculous at the moment – I heard it was 38 last week in London, which is insane, but it’s felt like that for the last week here and we’ve been out digging in it for seven hours a day! The lack of any proper breeze still persists, which doesn’t make things any better. Oh well, it makes having a shower when we get back to the school feel that much better. Also, when we’re not working it’s great – I’m sitting here in the sun with a Sprite and it feels awesome.

I can’t wait for the weekend, we get both days of and we’re going to Constanta (the big town). We’ll be staying in a proper hotel, and I’ve got to say I cannot wait to sleep on something other than my piece-of-crap hospital bed for a night. With this said, maybe I’ll come back home to my double bed in England and find I’ve grown attached to beds that feel like the mattress is stuffed with bags of flour. But probably not.

I am sweating like a bitch!

***

I just went into the back yard, there was a donkey. Anyway, I just played a pretty funny game of Frisbee in the back ‘garden’. We accidentally threw it over the fence into a chicken coup, and had to call over to the old woman farmer to get it for us. The second time we accidentally threw it over, she thought we were trying to say hello rather than ‘we are retarded and need our Frisbee back again’ so she simply waved and went inside. I decided to make a hook by bending the clip on a pen and tying it to a piece of string, and in a comedy sitcom moment we tried repeatedly to hook the Frisbee by throwing my hook over the fence and reeling it in. Eventually, we were successful.

Later on, we managed to get some Romanian kid to play Frisbee. I’m not sure if he’d ever seen a Frisbee before, which might explain why his first two shots in a row – both of which were aimed for Tom who couldn’t have been standing more than three metres away – careened off into the distance and ended up back over the fence. He eventually got the hang of it and we eventually got one of his mates to join. When we went inside, they waved and said ‘bye bye Benny’ at us, which I found both hilarious and terrifying.

So, good times, and it’s dinner soon. I hear fruit salad is on the cards, jackpot!

TW’s comment - if you’re curious about my tan, here’s a spoiler for you – it didn’t get any better. Whoops! Also, I of course did not miss my lumpy Romanian bed when I got back home. Anyway, the Frisbee game was pretty memorable plus Tom was adamant my admittedly dubious hook idea wouldn’t work so IN YOUR FACE BENNY.

TF’s comment – My ingenious solution to the shoddy hospital bed situation was to push three of them together in the hope it would disperse the lumps. All this managed to create was a Kingsize Bed with two large gaps in where each bed had drifted apart – FAIL.

Nothing to do except drink, play frisbee, and fix the minivan.

Day 13 – Thursday

On-site work today consisted of recording everything about our pit (permatrace image, levels, depths and dimensions etc.) and then being made to unnecessarily clean it three times. The day went pretty fast but it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. Still, one trench now has a full Roman floor in it which looks amazing – it’s a yellow/orange colour which makes a welcome change from everything else, which is dusty grey.

A quick observation – Romanian animals are, in a word, retarded. Unlike British animals, these ones run towards cars when they approach. I am being serious here, I cannot believe we haven’t killed anything so far – on the way to and from the trip we’ve almost run-over a horse, a donkey, a dog, and a giant group of geese who practically threw themselves under the car. Idiots! It’s like they understand the need to get to the other side of the road when a car approaches, except the other side of the road has the car on it.

I’m eating some chocolate wafer things called ‘Naty Waffles’, they’re 22p a bag and provide lots of yummy goodness. If you’re ever in Romania, make sure to pick up a bag (or six).

TW’s comment – ah, the joys of drawing permatrace images, almost as tedious as sorting through sediment with a toothbrush (which we did every day in the afternoon). Archaeology would definitely be more fun if you could do it Indiana Jones-style and just rob old tombs, shoot Nazis and have Sean Connery as your dad – sure, you’d probably be in a lot more danger of dying in a mine-cart chase or being bitten by a poisonous snake, but it’s either that or trowel work.

TF’s comment – Hey, whoa, you forgot to mention the terrifying on-site horse! If I remember rightly, one of the UCL team called it “Marshall” – nope, don’t get it either – and we attempted to feed it from a safe distance by throwing leftover fruit in its general direction. How could you forget?

Katie, Charlotte and Laura outside the barn of doom.

Day 14 – Friday

Woo, the weekend off is tomorrow. Today on-site was pretty slow, we had to keep our digging our pit and found the usual combination of bones, pottery and CBM (ceramic building material). In the afternoon we had a little of both sites – the guys on site 1 were showing the skeleton of a kid they’d found, which was pretty impressive. Our site tour was called-off early when it started raining, and I’m talking about a torrential downpour here.

We just went to the shops and I bought a ‘Magic Croissant’. I’ve now eaten it, and I can report that the last word I would use to describe it is ‘magic’ or, indeed, ‘tasty’. The fact it resembled an enormous sloppy turd didn’t help matters either. It was basically a very dry croissant covered in dubious-smelling chocolate filled with sub-par Nutella. It was 20p, but that was 20p too much.

One good 20p purchase was the small can of coke I got today – unlike the pathetic smaller cans you can buy at home (which hold about a thimble of liquid) these ones are about 2/3 the size of regular cans which is great, because just as I start to remember that Coke tastes of cat piss I’ve finished my drink.

Constanta tomorrow! Beaches, decent shops and a proper hotel, oh yeah. Even though it’s likely to be the most expensive part of the whole trip, I’m still going to have lots of lei for the last week. Unfortunately there are no souvenir shops here so I might just load-up on Mountain Dew and Hanul Ars. Perhaps I can buy some Magic Croissants for people I don’t really like.

***

[NB – I wrote the following entry when very drunk, and the writing is so sloppy that I can only make out some of it]

Drunk! Played a drinking game called Roxanne, lots of vodka! Went to the local bar for more vodka, spoke to [not sure what is says here]. Back now so drunk, yay! Tom needs [something] his [clothes?]. Woo. Tired now.

TW’s comment – I hadn’t played Roxanne before so it was something of an eye-opener for me, especially when I realised how much vodka we’d gotten through in all of three minutes. As you should know it’s generally a good idea to go out drinking on a full stomach, so my decision to drink after a light dinner and a solitary Magic Croissant probably wasn’t the best idea.

TF’s comment – I needed my clothes? Blimey. To be honest, my memory from that night is a pretty hazy and the only evidence I have is a photograph of me in the toilets with a thousand-yard stare. I guess anything is possible after that.

This was taken just after it had rained for all of sixty seconds. The weather in Romania doesn't mess about!

Day 15 – Saturday

Last night was amusing! I learnt two new drinking games – ‘Fuck the Dealer’ and ‘Roxanne’. Fuck the Dealer is basically a clever version of high card wins, and you can play it in a large group. Roxanne simply involves playing the song Roxanne and standing up and drinking every time Sting says ‘Roxanne’ – do not play this game with spirits, trust me.

After drinking here, we went to Ambassadors (the pool bar) and drunk more vodka and played some shoddy games of pool, as you can probably imagine. After a very brief trip to Discoteca Fun Club we returned back to the school and passed out, as you do. According to reliable sources I ‘looked like a corpse’, so it’s good to know the Romanian vodka is doing its job.

Off to Constanta in a few hours, should be a good laugh. I can’t wait to actually get out for a bit, I mean I’m enjoying the free time but the school does get a little repetitive – all there is to do is drink and eat ice cream, but which gets old quicker than you’d imagine.

***

We’re in Tulcea, at some restaurant on the lake waiting for the bus to Constanta to arrive. I just ordered some chips, although I was very tempted to get the ‘chicken breast in cornflakes’. I am seriously hoping this is a translation error.

We went to an internet café earlier, it cost all of 40p for an hour. One guy was playing Counter-Strike which I thought was pretty amusing.

***

Bloody hell, I ordered those chips at 2.35 and we needed to get the bus at 3 – it took so long for the chips to arrive that when they did I had to bung them into a napkin and start running.

We’re finally in Constanta, in the Irish Bar. This place is awesome, it looks over the sea and is far classier than anything in Tulcea/near the school. I just got a big-ass Blue Hawaiian cocktail and it’s great, plus I paid all of £2.40 for it. After getting a hotel, we’re coming back here to eat and damn, the food smells good! It is steak time.

***

It’s now 7.30, after walking around for an hour looking for a hotel we came to the Ibis, the big posh hotel that was supposedly sold out. We decided to investigate anyway and a lot of rooms had become available, meaning we’re now staying in a very swanky room with a big TV, comfy double bed, proper shower and air-con. The wonders of modern technology! Constanta is basically Romania’s London, but it’s still as cheap as everywhere else – this is awesome. I just don’t get how poor the place we’re staying in is compared to this, it’s ridiculous. With that said, we did walk through some immensely dodgy areas in the city while looking for a hotel, so it’s not quite as nice as it looks on the surface.

I can’t wait for tomorrow, we’re going to get some cocktails, hit the beach and go shopping. This almost feels like a proper holiday!

TW’s comment – the weekend in Constanta was by far the best part of the whole trip, basically because it felt like we were relaxing in a hot country rather than digging-up bones in a dirty pit. Whenever I think about Romania the memories of Constanta are by far the most vivid in my mind, probably because it was the most varied part of the trip – we went to the beach! Ate steaks! Got cocktails! Played some arcade games! Slept on real beds! The rest of the trip, as fun as it was, can be summed up as follows: digging trenches and drinking second-rate vodka.

One last thing – you have no idea how appreciated proper air-con was. I don’t think any of us had actually felt cool air since England.

TF’s comment – I completely agree, it was great to get away from the school for a whole weekend. That hotel room was luxurious; didn’t Mark have a whole one to himself? Oh and the best bit: not a single blimmin’ fly!

The best bar in all of Romania.

Day 16 – Sunday

I love the Irish Bar, it is incredible. I’ve mentioned cheap food before, but both the price and the quality here are fantastic. The steak I got last night was one of the best I’ve ever had, and I followed it with profiteroles and chocolate ice cream, which was amazing. I also had a very good, very large strawberry milkshake. The whole thing cost me £9 – insane.

I feel pretty sorry for the other groups who came to Constanta as we all split-off once we got here, and whereas myself, Tom Katie, Charlotte and Mark got into the Ibis (which was meant to be sold out), most of the others had to stay in Mamia, the nasty over-populated twin city to Constanta. It’s relatively close but it’s nasty, and they had to pay more for worse hotels. Oh well, I’m grateful at least that our group had proper beds to sleep on last night, I had the best sleep of the trip so far. Shopping and hot beach action later, after a full English as the Irish Bar.

There are some things I’ve forgotten to mention from other days, the best of which was me, Tom and Mark’s attempt to get the Frisbee off the school roof. After getting it back last week using that hook thing, I was pretty distraught to find my ingenious contraption cannot reach the tops of very tall buildings. In a moment of genius/idiocy, we decided to fashion some kind of enormous stick out of the wooden splints that litter the school’s playground (think: concrete hole). We didn’t have any glue or proper nails (we briefly attempted to use the rusty ones attached to the splints themselves, with hilarious results) so we ended up tying them together with string. Once we’d finished, we had a very wobbly 20 foot stick. Positioning ourselves in line with the Frisbee, we managed to shimmy our wooden abomination up the wall, where it promptly snapped in half and fell towards us. We ran away very fast.

Later on that afternoon we attempt to throw a football at the roof to dislodge the Frisbee (it’s a slanted roof) but Alex got the ball stuck in the gutter. We eventually got that down with a small rock, but the Frisbee remains firmly lodged on the roof. Bah!

Oh boy, Tom and I are watching German MTV in the hotel and an advert for what looked like Pimp My Ride for boats came on called Rock the Boat. Terrible! Then again all Romanian television is terrible, they seem to only get imports of each country’s worst programme.

***

We’re done shopping now, I got a pretty nice t-shirt and we hit the arcade where everything was 20p a game, bonus! We also got drinks at McDonalds and noticed they had something on the menu called the ‘Chicken McFresh’. McFresh! Awesome. Unfortunately, Romania just has ‘I’m lovin’ it’ as their slogan, so I’ve been denied the chance to learn that phrase in another language. I can currently say it in English, German, French, Turkish and Japanese.

After yet another drink in the Irish Bar, we’re off to the ridiculously over-populated beach. I still can’t believe the difference between here and where we’re staying but oh well, I’m not complaining. So yeah, the beach! I haven’t swum in the sea in years. I will also use this opportunity to try and get a tan on more than just my arms.

***

On the beach, the water is great. There are lots of hot girls here although the inclusion of some very fat old people had kinda ruined the moment. Furthermore, there appears to be a 40-something man wearing very small Speedos covering himself in black cream, which really isn’t helping things.

I am again attempting to even out my tan. With one week left, it really is make or break time.

***

On the bus waiting to go back to the school, it’s been an awesome weekend. We went to this Italian restaurant called Marco Polo for dinner, I had a delicious pizza. On the way to the taxi, a little girl followed us asking for money. After politely trying to get this sweet kid to stop following us, she stopped, smiled politely, and then said ‘motherfucker’ and walked off. Brilliant! We also saw a giant banner that said ‘IMPOTENTA EJACULARO RAPIDA’. Hilarity.

TW’s comment – long journal entry ahoy! Reading this one makes me feel a little sad as we had such a good time that weekend and going back to the school was kinda meh. Still, I just have to think of the fat man putting the black cream on himself and suddenly leaving Constanta doesn’t seem so bad after all!

The ‘long stick incident’ is a very good example of what happens when you’re cooped up in a school for hours on end with nothing to do and lots to drink – in other words, you do some truly moronic stuff. I think we all knew it was never going to work in a million years, but it was nice to actually be doing something and come on, that Frisbee needed saving!

We didn’t save it.

TF’s comment – C’mon -- It reached the roof guttering! We were so close. I’m telling you, we just needed that extra foot or two...

Quite possibly the most homoerotic photo of all time. Got to love the lack of muscles and pasty skin.

Day 17 – Monday

Getting up this morning was awful, and the site work wasn’t particularly great either. Still, I found a coin, more bracelets and some glass stuff, so that was more interesting than the usual fish bone armada. It was Tom’s birthday last night so we’re off to Ambassadors later for some drunk pool action. We would have gone last night but we put it off until tonight due to insane tiredness.

Oh yeah! That reminds me. After the loooong bus ride to Tulcea last night, we got three cab drivers to take us home. The guy myself, Tom and both Alexs went with took us in his actual car and it was very Romanian, complete with velvet ceiling and what looked like couch-cushion seats. The driver was a total mentalist and kept ‘accidentally’ touching Tom’s thigh when he changed gear, plus his driving was possibly worse than the guy who drove the minibus I mentioned earlier.

The other day, Claire brought a stray puppy back to the school with us and it’s now living in the backyard. We’re trying to think what to call it, I suggested ‘Snoop’ but Tom is adamant we should call it ‘Shadow’. Despite being one of the ugliest puppies I’ve ever seen it’s still pretty cute, although admittedly it did manage to poo all over someone’s bed the other day. Apparently it’s pretty ill with worms and will probably die, which is depressing, but at least we’re looking after it in the school rather than letting it stay in some horrible alleyway in Issacea. I miss my cat!

TW’s comment – and I still miss my cat because he’s dead. On a slightly less depressing note, if you’re a dog lover then don’t worry, the above entry has a happy ending.

The taxi ride back was absolutely awful, I think Tom and Alex Lambert managed to fall asleep but I was too paralysed with fear to close my eyes. I have to assume that the Romanian drivers we experienced during our stay knew what they were doing, but bombing it down pitch-black roads at 80mph doing the world’s worst gear changes does not exactly inspire confidence.

TF’s comment – Why did I have to ride in the front - again?! I’d already had the self-collapsing chair followed by the world’s most pathetic taxi conversation. What did I do to deserve this? If we ever go back to Romania, you’re riding up front with the crazies.

Charlotte and the puppy.

Day 18 -  Tuesday

Last night we went to Ambassadors for Tom’s birthday and oh boy, he got absolutely shit-faced. We bought him about 15 drinks including Sylvestra (awful wine), brandy, lots of vodka, about 6 pints, and some awful gin/martini/vodka mix I prepared for him. Suffice it to say he can’t remember much of last night, so I made sure to remind him today of his exploits in excruciating detail. My favourite was the pool game we played – every time it was my shot he had to go sit down, and every 20 seconds I’d have to get him only to find he had no idea he was in the middle of a pool game. After explaining, he always looked vaguely confused and then asked very loudly, “WHAT COLOUR AM I?!”.

Other than that, Tom had a great plan to go to the site at 2am and sleep in a trench. He was adamant this was going to happen even though it takes about half an hour on foot to get there and, when we left the bar, Tom fell over after about ten metres. Stefan drove him back to the school, and when Mark and I got back we found him stumbling around with a bottle of beer. Then he fell over again. In addition to this, he called the security guard a motherfucker, fell onto someone’s car when they were standing next to it, and had the following conversation with me in the guy’s room:

Tom: TOM! SET YOUR ALARM!!
Me: I don’t have an alarm
Tom: TOM! GIVE ME YOUR ALARM!!
Me: I still don’t have an alarm

Apparently he has the worst hangover he’s ever had. Anyway, on-site we were informed we’re having a party on Thursday in the barn, which is good, but on Friday we’re only doing residue sorting and pot washing, which is bad. Oh well! The party should be good fun, we’re also having a barbecue.

TW’s comment – sorry Tom, but this is hilarious! He was so wasted it was unbelievable. I actually forgot to mention one of my favourite incidents when writing the journal – one of the trip leaders bought Tom a fancy Ambassadors ale mug for his birthday, and when it was presented to Tom (who was off his face at this point) he gave it an incredulous look and loudly complained, “there’s nothing in it!”.

TF’s comment – So, this doesn’t look good. Right, I don’t remember your gin/martini/vodka cocktail (by-the-by, thanks for that one); our pool game; getting driven home by Stefan, etc. Unfortunately I do remember calling the security guard a motherfucker. Oh the shame! Although... I was rewarded for my efforts with the next day off so, every cloud and that.

It was all downhill from here.

Day 19 – Wednesday

Today on-site was sweet as, I found a glass vessel, an iron knife blade, and best of all a copper pendant in the shape of a crucifix. Simon (the supervisor who whispers a lot) said it was best find of the last three weeks, which is pretty awesome. It’s currently being cleaned with a number of very unpleasant chemicals; it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like without all the green corrosion.

Tomorrow is our last day of actual digging which is odd – I know we have ‘residue Friday’ to look forward to (hah!) but once tomorrow has passed it’ll feel like the end of the trip.

After on-site stuff some of us went into Tulcea and Claire got some worm medicine and food for the puppy. Incidentally Claire and her friend Elliot are both from UCL and only arrived last Saturday (they’ll be here for a few weeks after we leave) which kinda sucks as we’re all getting on with them really well. But hey, we’ve still got the crazy barbecue to look forward to so it won’t just be digging and whatever until we say bye.

On the way back from Tulcea we saw a bus with ‘BLACK BOY PROD’ written on it. I don’t know what that means. Bed time!

TW’s comment – the crucifix pendant was indeed pretty awesome, once it had been cleaned we noticed an indent which I’m assuming used to hold a gem or something.

TF’s comment – Ooh look at you with your shiny pendant, gem stones and silly hair. Oh yes, I went there! I found nothing. NOTHING. All I had to show for three weeks hard work was a piece of pottery I pinched from a rubbish tip – take that archaeology!

TW's comment - speaking of pottery, Clare has just reminded me of a pretty amusing incident I completely forgot about. During the trip I kept finding nice pieces of pottery, and decided to store some of it in a secret cubby hole in the side of a trench wall. Towards the end of the trip I started auctioning the best bits out to everyone so they could take them home and impress their mum - pieces with patterns or rims were particularly popular. I vaguely remember referring to this pottery smuggling ring as "Tom's Pot-House" - if you were lucky enough to take some of my fine underground merchandise home, you owe me a beer!

Alex and Alex sharing some quality time together on the site.

Day 20 – Thursday

Nothing much happened on-site today, we just had to clean everything and then I went over to site 2 to look at the skeletons. So yeah, the last digging day is over which is a bit odd.

The main thing was the barbecue in the evening where everyone got battered and generally had a great time. Tom managed to fall over about 15 times, one of the Romanian girls kept making me drink some awful cocktail she’d concocted (she called it her ‘potion’ – I have possibly been drugged by a gypsy), and then we made the world’s worst human pyramid. We played Roxanne again and then drunkenly sung along to Bohemium Rhapsody, including my rendition of the entire solo on air guitar. So, good times! Can’t really go wrong with alcohol, food, and crazy drunken shenanigans.

TW’s comment – the barbecue was pretty immense, even if my memory of it is a little hazy. I’m not entirely sure how Tom wasn’t dead by this point as he’d drunk his body weight in alcohol over the course of the trip. Anyway, at the start of the evening I vaguely remember prizes being handed out to some of the students – I have no memory of what these were for but I seem to remember Tom winning something. Good job, you crazy drunkard!

TF’s comment – I don’t want to do this anymore... Each entry is another example of me lurching from one crisis point to the next, mostly involving alcohol. Yes, there were prizes; I was given a celebratory box of Paracetamol for being an embarrassing boozehound. Are you happy?

We were too drunk to operate cameras after this point, hence this being the only barbecue photo.

Day 21 – Friday

This trip is now effectively over, home-time! Today we had our final site tour (I got to speak about my trench, excitement!) and then had five hours of residue sorting – what a way to end the trip (sarcasm). However! I found two black pearls amongst all the dirt, which would be slightly more exciting if they weren’t absolutely tiny.

So that’s all the work done, we’re just waiting for tomorrow and the horrendously long trip home. It’s been a very good experience, but I really do think it’s time for me to come home. Other than obvious stuff like friends and family I’ve started to miss really rudimentary things like the piano, a proper bed, clean clothes etc.

Some things to note so that I don’t forget them – the last three weeks on and off-site have been full of quotes from movies, TV shows and cartoons, and they’ve kinda kept us going during all the hard work. For my own personal amusement, the most repeated ones have been:

Arnie lines

“SCREW YOU BENNY!”
“Let off some steam Bennett”
“Dylan – you son of a bitch!”
“BullSHIT!”
“What’s wrong Dylan – CIA got you pushing too many pencils?”
“Who is your daddy and what does he do?”
“I live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and pull out your goddamn SPIIINE!”
“Come on Bennett – let’s party!”

Mac from Predato/Commandor lines

“You scared motherfucker? You should be, ‘cause this green beret’s gonna kick your big ass”
“You’re ghosting us motherfucker. I don’t care who you are back in the real world, you give us away again, and I’ll bleed you, real quiet, and leave you here. Got that?”
“I seeeeee yoooouuuuu!”
“I got a score to settle”
“Past dem trees”

Bennett from Commando lines

“I don’t need no gun John, I don’t need no gun! I’m gonna kill you now!”
“I got an edge – I got his daughter”
“You’re dying John! You’re a dying man!”

Lines from Full Metal Jacket

“This is the finest specimen of Alabama black snake”
“What she’s trying to tell you is that black boys are packing too much meat”
“Until you eat the peanuts outta my shiiiiit
“Now what the motherfuck?”
“Me so horny/me love you long time/everytiiiing” (of course)

Special mention goes to the bit in Predator where Arnie holds up a torch and screams his lungs out, I must have acted-out that scene (complete with the ‘dun-dun-dun-dun-dun’ build-up music) about seventy times. Other non-arnie quotes include:

Zoidberg’s noise from Futuraman (Mark did this all day, every day)
“Champagne?” (Zap Branagan)
“Was it worth it? COURSE IT FUCKIN’ WAS!” (end of Football Factory)
“PIVOT!” (Ross in Friends)
“You like that? You like that? You want a little more?” (that guy at the end of Starship Troopers)
“A man should shed blood, not tears!” (brilliant line from Donnie Yen in Iron Monkey)
“This is bullshit Mark!” (Alan Johnson in Peep Show. Tom and I have collectively said this to Mark Prior roughly a thousand times)

Memorable quotes from people who actually came on the trip include:

“Thank-you for flying Kimbo Airlines!” (Kim after every single bus ride)
“Another day, another dollar” (Tim’s baffling on-site comment)
“Constanta or bust!” (I forget, but it’s been quotes a billion times. Probably cheese-maestro Tim)

Often quoted themes include the fact Chris Locklear looks like Peter Jackson, the way Simon sounds like he’s whispering all the time, the hilarity of archaeology involving rim, flange and slag, and how Gareth constantly looks drunk (possibly because HE IS).

TW’s comment – wow, that’s a lot of quotes! The screaming bit in Predator actually became (and still is) a running joke between Tom and myself once we got back home, although nothing will compare to me standing at the top of the site and shouting it as loud as I could. Sadly the line “this is bullshit Mark!” was misquoted as the real line is “this is bollocks Mark!” - we were pretty distraught to learn this given we’d said it to Mark every day for three weeks.

Incidentally I’d feel pretty bad for constantly riling Mark up with that comment, but let’s be clear – during the second week of the trip Mark admitted he once downloaded cheats for Counter-Strike. I’m sorry, but this is bullshit Mark!

And so we arrive at the final entry.

TF’s comment – Oh my, you wrote them ALL down?

My personal favourites had to be anything from Commando or Predator, and the Peep Show line – how did the both of us manage to get it so wrong?

See, I do love Mark really.

Day 22 – Saturday (final day)

Well, here we are. Last night we had our final trip to Ambassadors where we played pool and drank nothing but Fanta, it was a lot of fun. I won five doubles games of pool in a row so go me playing like a total mong the entire trip and like a pro last night.

Before we left the school this morning (we’re at Bucarest airport as I write this) I went to see the puppy, who we ended up calling Indie (another quote from the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – “you named him after the dooooggggg?!”). Since Claire gave him the worm medicine – along with a flea collar and a much-needed bath – he’s doing really well, and can run around normally and eat properly. I’m pretty certain he’ll be fine especially as Claire and Elliott will still be here for three weeks.

So… hmm. I feel like I should say something profound about my stay but to be honest I’m just tired and eager to get home. It’s hardly been a bad experience, not at all, it just felt very functional if that makes sense. While it did become very routine by the end, there’s only so many days I can get up at 5am and work for ten hours in a row, in phenomenal heat, before I get a little fed up. Three weeks feels like my limit – maybe we could keep going for a week, but I don’t think any of us want to.

However! It has been awesome here and we found some really sweet stuff, and the fact the pit I was working in contained so many cool finds – bones, pottery, jewellery, glass pots, a knife, that crucifix – has made it all the more interesting. The Roman wall and floor were also cool, and it was great to really go and do archaeology rather than just reading and writing about it.

Aside from the work side of things, I’ve met a lot of nice people from UCL and have got to know some of the Southampton people a lot better, so that’s always good.

As for Romania itself, there isn’t an awful lot to talk about. It’s like any other European country I’ve been to – some parts are very poor, other parts are pretty well-off. Everywhere is very cheap exchange-rate wise (except for this airport!) and everything is pretty grey and boring other than Constanta. Basically, I think it’s time to come home!

Some things I took for granted before coming to Romania:

A proper bed/shower/toilet, normal water, being clean for more than an hour at a time, not having dirty fingernails, non-aluminium coins, cereal, milk, cold days, reliably hot water, clean clothes, proper grass that isn’t full of burrs and thorns, not getting the crap bitten out of me if I lie down for over ten minutes

Some things I’ll miss from Romania

Unbelievably cheap stuff, always having people around, feeling like every day’s work is actually building towards something, the dog, amazing fruit (particularly watermelon!), this crazy lemon sherbet Fanta, finding stuff on-site and rubbing it in Mark’s face (sorry Mark), quoting movies all the time, and finally being part of a real team – I mean a proper one, not like how the John Lewis Partnership is allegedly a team or when you form one for a pub quiz, I mean a group of people actually interested in achieving the same thing and spending all day doing physically and mentally hard work, getting filthy and above all helping each other out to achieve it.

The plane leaves in four hours. It’s comic time.

TW’s comment – and so we reach the end of the journal! For all of those who went on the trip I hope this has reminded you of some interesting memories you might have forgotten about. I don’t have too much to add to this entry as I summed it up pretty accurately at the time, but what I will say is that after the four years since we went to Romania (how time flies!), the thing I remember most vividly is the time spent hanging around with everyone and having a good time in the evenings and of course in Constanta. The excavation part was definitely fun and a great experience, but I think it was actually being around a great, friendly group of people that made the trip what it was. Incidentally, when we were waiting at the airport to go home someone mentioned the possibility of going back to Romania the following year, and the unanimous feeling was that we should just go on holiday together instead.

TF’s comment – I have to say, reading Tom’s journal and helping out with his article has really reminded me how good a time we had out there. I can’t imagine we would have had that much fun with any other people.

Thanks for reading!

ps. about that holiday...