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The Diaspora - An Interview With Andrea

I'm not going to say I'm out of original content just yet, but I've been busy...searching, let's say. In the meantime, my Romanian-Canadian/American friends are happy to contribute their time - and thoughts - to the blog, so who am I to kick a gift horse in the mouth?

Andrea and I went to University together, and when I asked her to participate in the interview she went on to provide an awesome set of answers to the ten questions below.

1. What year did you leave Romania and under what circumstances?

I left Romania in 2002, three months before turning 18, very much in love and with a teenage heart in the process of breaking. I was not consulted when my parents decided to emigrate, but even so, I had been keen on leaving my hometown (pop. 7000) since I was about 13, so at that point, any place on the map seemed better. But those things have to do with my emotional state…Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at the fights I had with my parents over what to pack. They thought pressure cookers (we brought 3; yes, I know…), duvets, pillows, silverware (my mother packed her never-used silver cutlery – part of her dowry 20 or so years earlier; it weighed at least 3 kg; we never used it once; we never will), 2 huge garbage bags full of pills (aspirin, antibiotics…you name it, they had it – thinking about it now, I’m actually surprised we didn’t bring “sirop de brad”), plates and cutlery – you  get the picture – were what we needed to start over. I managed to smuggle a bunch of books...frankly, that’s all I cared about at that age. My refusal to pack what they deemed “necessary” always brought about threats of having to “sleep on bricks”. To this day, I do not understand Romanians’ obsession with down pillows, but to each their own.  

2. What was the most striking difference between Romania and your new country?

I stepped off the plane at Pearson airport in a hot and humid 45 degrees. That’s a big shock for a girl from what’s called “the mountains”. I got into an SUV (what is up with those cars anyway) with a woman I never met before (friend of my aunt’s who had been living in Toronto for 3 years) who did not speak Romanian and who started booking it on a road I later discovered was called a “highway” (I hadn’t seen many of those in RomaniaJ) at 120 km/hr. I knew the speed limit in town was 50, so that was the scariest ride of my life. I got to my aunt’s house and noticed a stack of Romanian books and CDs with weird white barcodes on them. She explained about “the library”. I found the concept more fascinating than the story of creation and that of evolution put together. What do you mean you can order books, CDs, DVDs online from any library (the Toronto Public Library has 98 branches) and have them delivered to the location closest to you? And what do you mean you can order books in Romanian??? And what the hell do you mean it’s all free?????? What I’m trying to say is that EVERYTHING about Toronto was strikingly different from Romania, so I fell in love, slow and steadily with this city I most often call home today.  

3. How long did it take you to adjust to the new language and culture?

I’m not sure I’ve adjusted, per se, to the new language and culture. I speak English fluently, but with a heavy accent I’m really not willing to correct. I also speak 4 other languages and understand another 3. Language is only a tool to get by (you can tell I’m not big on poetry, right?). Culturally, I’m neither Romanian, nor Canadian. I’m a strange mix and I’ve borrowed from more than those two cultures enough to make me a hybrid I can’t really define. But 11 years ago I couldn’t identify any of that, so to answer your question, it took me 4 months to “adjust”. 3 months of summer spent in Ontario provincial parks and one month of high school spent getting to know the people I call my friends even today. To talk about culture shock, I’d need another 10 pages.

 4. What do you like most about living there?

Let’s see...did I mention I live in Toronto? What is there not to like? Ok, fine, the traffic, the paralysis of life from 7-10 am and 3-7 pm. Ok, public transportation. Must be by far the most inefficient public system out of all major cities. Ok, I also don’t like pollution, the fact that it “feels like” -21 as I’m writing this, and I really really dislike the mayor. And rest assured I can complain about a few other things. But what I do like is that I have access to any cuisine in the world. This is not an exaggeration. ANY cuisine, ANYTIME. I also like that arts and culture shows, displays, exhibits and concerts are available, accessible and affordable in Toronto (I pay $14 to go to the symphony; the cigarettes I smoke cost $11; you do the math). I take pride in living in a city where everyone is “something”-Canadian, where people feel comfortable asking and answering the question “what’s your background?”, and where no one even has the concept behind the most popular Romanian version: “who’s your mother/father/uncle?” And what I like most is that people will always hold the door for you.

5. Did/do you miss Romania? If so what in particular?

Do I miss it? I do, I was going to say no, but that would’ve been a lie. I miss my grandparents and I miss my friends. A lot. I miss the mist over my hometown, the colours of the sky after a storm, and the forest being 5 minutes away. I miss a good mamaliga, o pita cu untura si cu ceapa, o slana cu branza. I miss o hora, o sarba, o chiuitura voioasa. And I wrote those in Romanian because what I miss is the feeling and you can’t translate that the way you can translate words. I’m nostalgic about Romanian in the same way I’m nostalgic about my childhood.

6. Do you visit often?

Yes, every year, pretty much.

7. Would you ever come back to live in Romania? Why/why not?

Yes. I’ve done it once already. Unsuccessfully. At least now I’d know what to expect :) But I’d only go back if I would know for sure that my skills and my experience would be used productively and contribute to the development of a fairer, more inclusive, less selfish society. I see no other reason to leave Toronto (for Romania or for any other place).

8. What do you do for a living?

I’m a public servant. I work for the Ministry of Transportation in the Road Safety Division. I’m not sure there’s an equivalent in Romanian, not many people seem to be concerned with road safety over there. It’s something that bothers me quite a lot, frankly.

9. If given the opportunity, would you do the same thing here?

Yes, if avoiding deaths on the road and promoting safe and responsible driving would ever become “sexy” in Romania. I don’t see it happening in the next 10 years, though.

10. Do you ever "promote" Romania where you are? Are you proud of your heritage or do you not mention it?

I’m Romanian-Canadian to anyone who asks. I talk about Romania all the time. Sometimes I’m proud (google LSRS and their work). Sometimes I’m really embarrassed (especially when Romanians’ intolerance finds a way to make headlines, again). I tell people to go visit. It’s a beautiful place, let’s face it, and there’s something for any type of tourist there. But I also tell them what to expect. I tell them the truth.



Are you a Romanian in the Diaspora? Do you want to share your story and talk about your experiences with emigration, culture shock, your new home, and your plans for retirement in the old country (I know 90% of us dream about it ;)
If you're reading this, don't be shy, comments are welcome and my email is on the sidebar for a reason.

Comments

  1. What is sirop de brad? It sounds potent.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's concentrated pine sap :)

    ReplyDelete

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