Romanian Survival Book

April 23, 2007

On being Romanian #2

Filed under: Infamous Romanians,Society/Lifestyle,Uncategorized — darian @ 4:28 pm

382523918_78e4490ed0.jpgWell…a while ago I was waiting a cab at the Universitate. Many Bukresh people know that at Universitate sit many shark cabs, naming the Independent Taxi Driver (IDT). As I was waiting for a regular, company cab, a Cobalcescu or Confort or Cristaxi or any other reliable company, I’ve noticed a few foreigners, all men, probably 5 people, three middle aged and a couple of them younger. They were obviously very cautious in picking up a cab, looking around carefully; it was evident that someone told them in advance about the possibilities of being ripped off in Romania.

We all waited for about 1o minutes, then the guys above lost their patience and decided for a taxi driver that appeared more reliable to them -I don’t really know their criteria. It was the most expensive one in the whole parking lot. I have decided on the spot to help them, but doing good deeds to strangers is always unexpected. It was a sunny day; I was in a good mood, relaxed. So I approached them and said, in a kind of a British manner: ‘Excuse me, sir, I am a local and I would like to offer you a free advice’. Suddenly the younger guy turned to the others, rushed them in the cab and turned to me bluntly: ‘No, no, thank you’.

Well…I am sure many foreigners have heard lots of horror stories about my beautiful country, including the fact that young, cheap hookers fall off the trees and approach rich old guys in broad light of the day to offer them on the spot, right there a blow…up for only 1 penny. I do understand that, but it is so clear that stereotypes work both ways and are totally un-healthy…I would rather stop asking anyone how is there and there and figure it out myself, unless I miss some good stuff. Like paying lots of money for a short drive around, a good opportunity for the ITD to take you from Universitate to Romana making a round to Rahova and Colentina….but, hey, some people really deserve their lessons!

I almost felt sorry that I didn’t go to the ITD to ask him to rip them off on my account too…only to keep the reputation, so they will have something to tell about when they go back to their own countries.

(photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanjunell/382523918)

March 20, 2007

Romanian culture of queuing

comert_1453464754.jpgIn the old times – read Ceausescu’s time –there were some rules for queuing. Since the food was inexistent as soon as the rumour reached among the city or the little village and their proud citizens of the communist mother, hungry crowds of people will assault the empty stores….once you entered you knew where is the queue and what for. Many times people didn’t even know what was the product and many people will send their kids to just sit there for them to ‘keep the line’. I never really figured how the rumour circulated but I suppose that were people in charge of spreading and others in charge of over-seeing the whole operation…they will get their share of chicken, bananas, oranges, eggs, rarely fish, rarely exquisite drinks, chocolate and other rarities before all the others. The securitate people had all the necessary in their houses in excess, which has been documented.

 

Anyway…once you spotted your place in the queue, you also needed to secure it otherwise older people will kick the kids out with no remorse….hence, most of the kids were very well trained to overcome any hindrances might appear in between them and the ratio of chicken or oranges or bananas ….otherwise, the parents will be upset and everyone in the family will starve once more until the next rumour of food available will come into town.

 

lapte.jpgThe milk queue was the worst: people will get up at 4.00 in the morning, take these types of bottles –photo bellow – and just put them in line outside the store for a few hours. The milk supply will come around 7.00 a.m., so they could still sleep a few more hours before going to work. The old people, retired, will just sit there chatting and waiting since 4.00 until 7.00 – if you knew one of them maybe they will get your bottles too. Some people could not afford these queues because of work, but pregnant women needed to do it; the powder milk was awful and had no nutrients at all. Better of were those with relatives in the countryside. There were awful, depressing times.

One would expect that these queuing ‘culture’ will build in a community spirit, will appropriate people….I cannot tell and it would be interesting to read a research on that. I would rather say, given the paranoia of ‘tell and go to securitate’, people will rarely make the mistake to open their hart while waiting and chatting with the guy next door….though many did. Considering that all were hungry, suspicious and anxious to grab as much food as possible that was the primary target and nothing else…people will often fight, swear and bully each other while queuing when the food was brought in. Nobody cared about the other but oneself. That might explain why the Romanian dissidence was almost un-existent and why there was not a solidarity spirit among people in this country. Everything was grey inside and outside and everyone will struggle for its own family and that’s all. No time for pity, any time for sympathising with the old woman next to you….she will grab the last piece of meat in front of you without blinking….that was, probably, the queuing mentality on those times.

 

Photos from http://www.igu.ro/latrecut/?cat=29 filled under ‘Alimentare’. Igu is someone who is documenting our past by collecting images of it on this blog. I don’t know why I didn’t think of advertising his idea here, I guess because I really don’t enjoy seeing this pictures yet or thinking of what has been….but nonetheless I think his initiative is brilliant and essential for recuperating and assimilating our recent past …after all that is what we used to be and makes us what we are today.

You can check Igu’s blog from now on clicking right hand in the blogroll under @Past… and I highly recommend it if you are interested and want to understand how it used to be under communism. The site is in Romanian, nonetheless the images are quite helpful.


March 13, 2007

Romanian brain

Filed under: Politics,Romanian Talent,Society/Lifestyle,Uncategorized — darian @ 5:36 am

scarlet-cat.jpgRecently, an unlikely -perhaps even eccentric considering Romania of today- group of philosophers, political scientists, public relation experts and trustworthy academics have put together their brain, time and energy to create something that is called The Scarlet Cat Club (in Romanian, Pisica Stacojie). The group is quite new and eclectic, having among its members bright and young and older and wiser alike. Also, what is quite unusual is their interdisciplinary, interactive and open-minded approach; people from psychoanalysis get together with others from philosophy, political theory, communication theory, law or arts. Despite the often heated fights over the ideas, concepts or simply the understanding and use of a certain term, nobody got injured by now walking out of the meetings near Universitate, on Edgar Quinet Street, near the Edgar pub, intersection with Academiei, the location of the Cultural Delta Foundation (Fundatia Culturala Delta).

Therefore, I have decided to advertise this initiative here for its amazing qualities and openness to new people, ideas and approaches. They meet every Friday, at 6.30 p.m., if not otherwise announced and they are one of the new and best brains around that money cannot buy. However they will sell you new ideas, concepts and extraordinary approaches to old things, you might never thought about it. They have a proven track record of doing that and strategizing on the future’s new trends and new avenues in political thinking.

More on: www.pisicastacojie.ro or write an email to office@pisicastacojie.ro or just right hand click here under the The Scarlet Cat/ Pisica Stacojie link.

Unfortunately the English version is not ready yet, but they are working on it. Until then, you can read more on them here….

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Statement

Considering the discussion about political culture …and there is none;

Considering that people overreact on concepts of which meaning they often fall to understand, while having a blind stake on other, of which meaning should be better explained;

Considering that politics and morality are running against each other for the ‘recent award’, being debated by even more recent journalists and politicians or by often improvised ‘experts’ and ‘analysts’;

Considering that honesty is indispensable more than ever in the direction of assuming ambivalences and unhindered discourse;

Considering that integrity is unavoidable on the way of creating now a reflective community on the social and the political in Romania.

‘Scarlet’ is an alternative to Manichaeism, attempting to uncover shades and to clarify concepts, ideas, doctrines and perspectives.

Furthermore ‘scarlet’ is an alternative to the colourful Romanian politics that waggles from red and indistinct, passing through blue, green, pink and orange, mixing concepts, overstating situations and ignoring the factual, attempting on revolutions but lacking the knowledge and the resolve to achieve it, blaming ideologies without understanding it.

‘Scarlet’ is, minimally, an alternative to a repetitive discourse; it brings on a flexible, rational, critical and reflexive discourse that points out, underlines, makes a fine distinction, clarifies and dissociates.

Objectives

The Post-Recent Political Thinking Club <The Scarlet Cat> promotes an open dialogue and debating of ideas and it constitutes as an independent project initiated by a few people attached to philosophy and political theory.

The Scarlet Cat Club aims at creating a community of reflection and thinking based on common values grounded on integrity in analysing ideas, trends doctrines or ideologies. It attempts at revitalizing the critical outlook and is keen in promoting both individual and group projects, encouraging and supporting similarly the development of research projects or proposals made by individuals or groups, calling a special attention on interdisciplinary projects.

The Club’s activities will focus on consolidation the approach on thematic debates; hence, weekly meetings will have priority, according with a pre-agreed calendar. The meetings are taken place at the Delta Cultural Foundation, University, on Edgar St., right near the Edgar Irish pub.

Outcome

The founder members will develop a series of programs and projects, including policy recommendations, vocational training and research papers.

Delta Cultural Foundation and the Scarlet Cat Club will organize public debates on key issues of political thinking and will bring into attention new editorial publications.

The Scarlet Cat Club is keen on an interdisciplinary approach, being opened to associations, links and partnerships with other foundations sharing the same ideas and principles.

Founder members: Izabella Ghiţă, Viorel Zaicu, Claudia Postelnicescu and Sorin Vieru -who also ‘baptized’ the club as The Scarlet Cat.

The Scarlet Cat is opened to new members. To become a Scarlet Cat you need to be voted in unanimity by the founder members (well we question democracy too – though it does not make us communists!) and by showing a constant interest in our meetings and activities.

 

 

March 8, 2007

Romanian business man – a possible profile

Filed under: Infamous Romanians,Raving,Society/Lifestyle — darian @ 1:05 am

Ok, first of all, I take full responsibility for the generalizations and limited criteria that will follow in this post. I am in the full capacity of my brain and my mental condition has never been better …as much as would be possible in a country like Romania. Secondly, I am open to any additional or improved profile on this one.

The Romanian business man – a possible profile: what a rich and difficult topic! Once again, firstly, I do not think that we have a real business man in Romania, so the attempt to pile down is quite a challenge. I do except from this generalization the very few who are: polite, nice, extremely well educated, open-minded, genuine and who make a constant effort not to be prejudiced in their judgement based on sex, race, social status, looks. I have met none myself. Maybe they are out there, but I didn’t have the luck to get to know one of these rarities. I did, though, every time, run into the following pattern: well educated, but coming down the roots of being either macho – looking for a cheap extra working hours encounter and raising expectations of that sort, even though not spoken, but efficiently enough through gestures and attitude – or a total hypocrite, with a 100% cowardice attitude. As a young woman, you are obliged to eternally prove yourself and your work potential. I am not politically correct here and I apologise in advance, this is a rant against limited minded ‘business model’ of today’s society, but I often wished I was old, very ugly and extremely obese in the Romanian corporate or governmental environment, to be taken seriously. Backwards Romania to be precise. It is just the way assumptions and stereotypes function nowadays in the corporate world and not only. It would be interesting to make a documentary about this one day….Therefore, being snobbish with the people I allow having judgements over me, I think is healthy for my mental power but not for my work related credentials…but I wouldn’t change that.

After some thought, I think that the business man profile in Romania falls in 3 +1 categories:

A. Is the one I mentioned above: well educated, open minded, but eager to make money fast and enjoy all the power related advantages: a huge car, a medium one, and a small one for the wife. A big house. And a nice apartment for illicit encounters. A secret affair or two, one a bit more serious than the other. A newspaper or a tabloid or just a e-list will do where they can talk about just anything to raise their profile of a ‘smart, nice, open minded bloke next door’. Otherwise, superficial, envious on the fellows like him, utterly ambitious and devoured by his/hers little plans of accession. Lots of connections, but carefully chosen as for this type reputation or the societal appearances are highly important. The types who will give money to charities in public, but never privately, because everything serves an ambition or a hidden agenda; plus they are so insecure that the instant gratification of such a gesture offers them  external sources of confidence and the illusion of public acceptance in an exclusivist club.

B. The second is the crook: the one with dodgy businesses, having somewhere a position in the administrative council of one or more companies, usually connected with the State, endless business connections and affiliations with just anybody in politics, media or other legal business. He usually has a lot of power, an extremely strong position given by the mysterious and never fully known underground links with former ‘securitate’ or police. Usually everything about this guy is unclear and everyone knows something but nobody can prove anything.

C. The business man turned politician or the politician turned business man or both.

This guy will never die and he will never be out of business as long as in Romania the underground ‘securitate’ guy operates successfully and run the biggest companies. Also, as long as our political elite stay the same, meaning: the same old same nomenklatura, including Basescu, Iliescu, Nastase, Roman, Stolojan and their pals. They are all connected and they are all guilty and hiding something.

I would include here also the media moguls: all the big TV channels in this country are owned by very shady people, they know better. All compromised with big businesses, not very clean, connections with ‘securitate’ underground or black money. They have managed, through the power of money to built a network of followers and supporters, second grade journalists and prominent ‘talk –show’ man. So, easy and smoothly their agenda is on and everybody is happy.

D. The small business man. He wants to be like the others – that is one profile.

The other is the guy who studied/worked abroad, got back opened a consultancy or something and wants everything clear, nice and legal. He struggles. He dislikes the above profile and would like to change this negative image about the business type in Romania. He has a wife or a partner and dislikes fooling around because that’s the trend here.

As for the rest, if you don’t fool around, having lots of girlfriends, preferably 20 years younger, you are a sucker. Also, you suck if you don’t take her out with your friends to show her around like an object and buy her a nice bracelet every now and then. Or maybe not. Compulsory you HAVE to possess a big car….I mean REALLY BIG. If you are the gym type now, soon you will inevitably end up like this fellow here….because no matter your posh appearance you are no different.lucianiliescu.jpg

February 22, 2007

Romanians

Filed under: Politics,Society/Lifestyle — darian @ 5:01 am

abroad and in the country – superficial notes on the move

I just got back from Berlin couple of days ago; Berlin was very interesting, but is not the subject here, but the Romanians I have met there.

Years ago, when travelling, I have always, with no exception, met unpleasant, sleazy Romanians travelling or living abroad. Now, for the first time for me, I have the chance to bump into the nicest people one could expect. It is always different, always subjective….but I’ve just noticed Crina’s comment on the right hand side of this page here and while I understand and share partly her view, I really felt the need to add this post about things changing …about Romanians abroad, implicitly about me.

Wandering around the European Film Market one day, a German guy working at the German Film section asked me something; when I answered back my Eastern European accent hit in immediately or, better, as Ioana’s put it later, my Romanian strong accentJ. Funny enough, at the information counter of the German documentaries film section in the EFM was a Romanian, a great girl, warm and talkative, who invited me into the small boxing area and offered me whatever she had around, happy to see and speak with a Romanian. Later on, couple of other Talents –as they called us all the time – rounded around and asked me surprised if I already worked there….. While getting to know Ioana, she told me of her encounter with another Romanian girl, a wannabee something, who was extremely arrogant for no good reason…..you meet plenty of these Romanians everywhere, the pubs and clubs of Bucharest are over crowded with the likes….they didn’t learn that real cool people are just plain cool because they don’t feel the need to show off with anything….while here you cannot breathe of so many insecure egotistical idiots.

Besides Ioana, herself a Talent in the Berlinale a couple of years ago, the group of Romanians in the Berlinale was really cool, all of them, though I only gotten to have a drink and talk with Ana, Adi, Alina and Tudor. For the first time, once again, I really enjoyed spending time with my fellow country people while being abroad. Then, in my last days in Berlin, on 16th I went to Postdamer Plaz to look for tickets of films on 17 and 18, particularly a documentary made by a German guy about an Indian soldier, called ‘The Halfmoon Files’ recommended strongly by M.K., so I was extremely keen to see it but all the tickets were sold out, as the ticket counter guy said to us – me and an English Talent J. When I handed over my badge for screening the tickets, he noticed my name and asked me whether I am Romanian. I said ‘yes’ and then we continued in English for a little while, until he unveiled the fact that he is from a Romanian family from Timisoara and really glad to speak some Romanian and meet one. Absolutely nice and polite and he did help us with a few tips about movies…..and we got to see ‘The Halfmoon Files’. I was happy. It suddenly seemed to me that Romanians have taken the world in a good way. And….that is not all.

After I moved out to a new location in Kreuzberg, in T.’s student house, in an area with many immigrants, riding the U-bahn to Postdamer proved inspiring more than I thought. Besides the many Turkish talking out loud, passing by the Hebbel am Uffer one day when I felt a bit sad, Saturday 17 I think, two Gypsy singers came into the train exactly at Hebbel am Ufer station. They were playing an Austrian waltz and I knew immediately that they are Romanian Gypsies, so I started to talk with them in Romanian. They were well in Germany, having gigs every night in fancy cafes and hotels. I gave them one euro because they changed my mood when I was going down a little. When I got off to the next station one asked me if I am married and I said ‘yes’.

Nonetheless, all these Romanian encounters were warm and welcomed, and I was each time feeling at ease and relaxed; also for the first time in my life I was really looking back to return to Bucharest. Each time I travel it is almost impossible for me to put myself back pack to Romania, but this time I was looking forward to it, for whatever the unknown reason. Maybe because I was sick with flu, so much work to do back in Bucharest and I don’t speak German….whatever. Now being here, I am ready to take off to the next destination. I was sick in bed with fever for two days, I am still not ok, but I turned on the news tonight and I got sicker….the never ending vendetta between the prime-minister and the president is so utterly boring and so Balkanic in its ugly sense. What is more discouraging is that I don’t see a resolution to this; I don’t see a nice smart guy coming along and make this country what is worth. Then I say to myself: I need to get out of here or never watch the news again unless something has changed….recently I truly hate wasting my time, I just feel it running and I do ponder about its better use. Following politics in Romania is no good use of time; in six month time the same on will run again and again, with small variations on the same themes: Tariceanu, Basescu, Elena Udrea, Boc, groups of interests, corruption, justice, Macovei. No consistence behind this circus, Balkanism at its worst (note: and I do not intent do discuss here the discourse of Balkanism and the changes in its perceptions etc., that I leave out for other conversations, whenever the case).

November 21, 2006

Dating a Romanian

Filed under: Society/Lifestyle — darian @ 2:42 am

Hmmm….this is a tough one, as I haven’t dated a Romanian in ages and, in any case, I can only provide a girl’s perspective. I would hazard myself by saying that Romanians are a bit macho, they usually don’t know how to treat a women, of course exceptions are accepted, they wait for the girl to do all the tough part in taking the initiative while playing the cold, indifferent bastard. Then again, this is not a Romanian characteristic, I have seen worse. If they are not playing the untouchable, they are awfully dependent, possessive and annoying. Romanian men, I have heard, are unfaithful, macho, liars, and treat their women as their own possessions. Distinctions and perspective must be kept in mind; this description does not necessarily include the urban, educated male always (photo from http://www.danheller.com/lovers.html).

Generally, Romanian man are not as attractive as Romanian women, this is a fact of life, verified by many enthusiastic foreigners coming in this country for the famously beautiful Romanian girls. I don’t know how is to date a Romanian girl, I have never tried, and those who dated me …..that is difficult to track down and take the confession out of them, which places me in a very good position here.

Well, distinctions must be made also, on age, education, background, big city, small city. In Bucharest, not many people care about dating anymore, the relationships are at loose; I think is not trendy anymore to have a girlfriend/boyfriend….and that will probably make a very interesting sociological investigation. You can still find good guys, but these are afraid to approach women genuinely and often girls are left out being approached by awfully boring, persistent types….because the boring, uninteresting ones are always persistent. What else? As mentioned before, I don’t know much about the Romanian man profile lately, as I wasn’t hanging with Romanian men much, or at least I didn’t find yet a truly intriguing one. I am also not into the ‘hunting foreigners’ typology, is just happened that I have been in love with a foreigner, and in the last few years I have travelled and met other people, so not much socializing with Romanian men in this context. I should add that, generally, Romanian men and women have a weakness for anything foreign; so if you are a foreign in Romania, that makes you exotic instantly and your chances to date –and more- are high. A friend of mine was complaining the other day that in Romania male are coming mostly looking for the attractive Romanian female, while exotic foreign women for the Romanian male rarely. What can I say?! Life sucks sometimes.(animation from http://www.aaapostcards.com/cards/previews/26.gif)

Queuing

Filed under: Society/Lifestyle — darian @ 2:19 am

Queuing has a special connotation for Romanians’ life. In old time – read Ceausescu’s time- living in the line was the ‘normal’ life: get the milk early in the morning, queue in advance few hours, to secure that you get your one bottle of milk for your children, queuing for meat, fruits, just anything. The queue is something many of us, especially the young people, don’t want to put up with anymore.

If you go around the city – I mean Bucharest – you will still notice lots of queues. Being asked ‘why these people queue for?’, I wouldn’t know what to say. They seem to queue for everything still, in a loud, disorganized manner, with lots of comments, nerves and sadness. The queue has become a mental strain and a national peculiarity for Romanians. But is it that we have a passion for queuing or is just some sort of national mental disorder that gets us in line as soon as we see others sitting there? Or is the Romanian bureaucracy grounded in the line mentality, as there are so many services that you cannot pay for on-line, so we must go queuing. Take the cable TV, for instance. We only have 2 companies covering Bucharest and if you live in a certain neighbourhood you cannot choose, so you stick with yours no matter whether you are happy with it or not. And you are obliged to queue for long 40 minutes or more to pay your bill. Why is that?!

I am sure that there are many queuing stories out there. This suggestion on queues I have got from Mihaela Butnaru, via email, who has her own story.
(photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/moneboh/239366963/)

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