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Showing posts from 2012

2013 Is Going To Be Awesome

Fin. With 2013 about twelve hours away, I don't even have the time to look back on the past year and reflect on all of it, let alone the will. I have to keep moving. I want to build on past experiences rather than dwell on them. That we've all made mistakes is a given. Do we have regrets? Regrets exist only if we didn't learn anything from regretful incidents. Overall though, this past year has been good. I'm thankful for all of it, the good and the bad. But I want more in 2013. More involvement with people. More walking on hot coals. That brings me to what 2013 is really going to be about, for me but also for others, I hope. The Battle Cry for 2013 is, "I can't accept that." There is far too much indifference to injustice in this world. We see it in our communities, we experience it at work, when we shop, when we talk to people who think life's about getting ahead at the expense of others. We hear of it when we turn on the news, or read a pape

Every Moment Matters

I don't think there's any disclaimer that forces me to blog only about Romania, though inevitably, whatever I do write is somehow connected to living here. A couple of weeks ago, I watched an amazing TED talk given by Benjamin Zander, an orchestra conductor. At the end of the talk, he recounts the story of a lady he'd met, a concentration camp survivor. She told him that on the train to Auschwitz, she'd gotten mad at her younger brother for forgetting his shoes. She said something a typical big sister might say, "you're so stupid, can't you keep your things together?" Unfortunately her little brother didn't survive and that was the last thing she said to him. When finally freed, she made a vow that she wouldn't say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing she'd say. I loved the talk for many reasons, but that little story at the end really stayed with me. I've often thought about it, intrinsically, mostly after an argumen

The Art Of Getting Things Done (In Romania)

As I do nearly every morning I use the phone as a stimulant, reading new messages as a means of clearing the mindfog that blankets my still sleeping brain. Some days I groan in annoyance at the world, others I snap right up with a mission. Saturday was an example of the latter. One of the local news digest publications shared the mayor of Cluj, Emil Boc's, bold statement that he would fine the snow removal contractors if every street in the city wasn't clean by 9pm that evening. Oh really? My street wasn't cleaned once last year and so far this year it didn't look like any contractors were planning on bucking the trend. I instantly went over to the computer, searched for the city hall website and the contact numbers. Right at the top was the Mayor's Office. This is gonna be good , I thought, rubbing my hands with glee. If you're expecting a witty exchange with a bored and uninterested official you will be disappointed. The gentleman who answered the phone tol

Five Ways To Improve Romania (Why The Elections Don't Really Matter)

I don't write during the weekend (or at least, I don't publish) and by the time Monday comes around, we'll most likely have a good idea of Sunday's parliamentary election results. They won't be the official, 100%, definitive results because the losing party will claim fraud and the winning party will also claim fraud. After an official 'investigation' the winning party will be declared the winning party and the losers will continue their whining. Like the fake promises, the outcome is also scripted, I guess I just happened to get an advance copy. Let's be serious. The only winners will be the hobos who get a seat in Parliament. The newly elected Deputati (MPs) will be very interested in making the country better -for themselves and for their friends. Maybe amongst them are a handful of young idealists, I don't know who they are, but I wish them well. Instead of going on and on about how selfish, short-sighted, and spineless our politicians are, I&#

Why Did YOU Come Back? - Part 3, Paula

I'm happy to say the country's not running out of 'Romanians who came back' just yet. Paula was kind enough to answer the usual questions about her experiences abroad and to share her hopes for the future of the country in light of her foreign experience. 1. How many years did you spend studying abroad? Where? I spent four years as an International Studies and Sociology student at York University, Canada, and another year at the University of Amsterdam, where I got my MSc. in Political Science/Conflict Resolution and Governance. 2. Why did you come back? What do you do in Romania? Romania had absolutely no room in my initial post-graduation plan. I wasn't planning on returning to Canada and I wasn't going to stay in Amsterdam either, but I did consider looking for a job in the Hague, Brussels or even Warsaw at some point. On the other hand, I wasn't in the mood to start over from scratch in yet another country and I wanted to be close t

Maramureș: Where Romania Comes Home

We left Cluj on a very damp Friday evening. The bus was supposed to leave at 8pm but it didn't arrive at the station until 8:15pm. Fashionably late, aka: Romanian Time. Roxana and I were lucky to get the two seats across the aisle from each other, it was a full-house otherwise. It wasn't a bad trip, but what sucked big-time was that the bus smelled as thought it was made out of a giant air freshener, the kind you hang up on the car's rear-view mirror. My brain was nauseated but otherwise we made it out fine after three hours of driving up and down serpentine roads in the fog. Ionuţ and his dad picked us up from the bus station in Baia Mare and took us home. It's worthy of note that up until a week before I'd never spoken to Ionuţ. Life has a funny way of bringing people together. A friend from Toronto put us in touch to discuss an initiative being carried out by a Romanian students association -of which Ionuţ is vice-president of development. We met to talk about

Why Did YOU Come Back? - Part 2, Alex

A couple of years ago, when I was just visiting Cluj, Alex introduced me to Romanian nightlife. He'd already been living in Bucharest a while so his readjustment was well underway. I got in touch to ask him the same questions I asked Mihnea . It was very interesting to get his views on returning to Romania.   Your formative years were spent abroad in Toronto. Why did you come back? Two words: For Love   What do you do in Romania? I am a teacher at a private school in Bucuresti and also run my own afterschool with my wife. Check it out on Facebook, it's called International Afterschool & Club .   While you were away, did you miss Romania? Anything in particular? Lots of things. After '89, I felt more free in Romania than Canada. There are far less restrictions in Romania (or at least restrictions which are followed by the general population). No last call, no first call; less political correctness, more black humour, etc. You get the feeling, living over here

In Memoriam: Nicholas D. Dimancescu

I've never met nor had any sort of correspondence with Nicholas Dimancescu, but I still remember the moment I found out about his films, a couple of years ago. I'd been, history-trawling on Wikipedia, reading stub after stub about Romania's involvement in the Second World War. At some point, I had a bunch of tabs about the aerial campaigns open. I wanted some visuals so I checked YouTube and came up on a film he made, Knights of The Sky: Air War Over Romania . Needless to say I took a break from Wikipedia and remained captivated for about an hour, watching the documentary. Afterwards I made sure to bookmark the site of Kogainon Films , hopeful that with a young passionate director in charge, there would be lots more great material to come. Today, I found out that Nicholas died a year ago in Romania, while he was shooting a documentary about the Dacians -our ancestors. To say that reading the news was upsetting is an understatement. Here's a guy who wasn't even bor

Why Romania Is Better Than America - Part 2

Sometimes I think I'm afflicted by something more severe than Bipolar Nationality Disorder . I criticize so many things about the Romania and suggest so many North American solutions that it must seem extremely odd when I write posts like this one . But let me say something, every time I write a scathing review of the state of affairs in this country it hurts me more than it hurts the country. I guess I'm like Romania's parent. "It'll hurt me more than it'll hurt you," I say as I lift the proverbial pen. And it's true it does. The country's not about to implode from our politicians' incompetence, and the common negative attitudes will change with time anyway, because there are smart and well meaning people here who will eventually help turn the tide. The country will be fine, but analyzing the present state of things does hurt. The United States of America offers another story though. After a drawn out reality-TV type campaign, the tribal cou

How To Create A Meritocracy In Romania

A few days ago I had the best draft beer you'll find anywhere in Romania. It was crisp and delicious and freshly brewed. When we were finished, the waiter came by and asked how we liked the meal. After telling him that it was very tasty I added that at the very least we'd be back for the beer. "Most people don't notice the quality," he said, "you know how it is here, everyone drinks the same stuff." And then he listed a bunch of the local beers that suit everybody just fine.  I don't think there's anything wrong with the local big-brand beers, they suit me just fine too, but they have a way of being very drinkable without being impressive. No real depth of flavour and not much to write home about, but they're well marketed. Every corner shop sells about five of the big-brands and the larger stores add a bunch of import beers to the roster - Auchan's got the best selection around - but still, I used to wonder how it is that there's

Romania's Greatest Burden

Yesterday , I wanted pictures to do the talking, today it's going to be a video. I came across this interview and couldn't keep it to myself. Don Lothrop, an American investor in Romania who's been visiting the country since 2003, has some great insight into some of the issues facing us. I have to say, I felt very validated in hearing him talk, simply because he says so many things that I've been saying all along: Democracy is not just for the politicians, the country's potential is huge, and that returning Romanians are critical to any positive change(s). Of all the things he says though, this is the part that hit me most:  "Our greatest burden is our natural resources, and the reason we could never become a country till 1918 -and it lasted for only 20 years - was again because of natural resources. Because of our oil. And the reason that's our greatest burden is because our economic model and reflex is to be a colony: Which is to let people strip an

All Souls Day, The Romanian Way

While North Americans are busy celebrating an ancient Celtic tradition with hooker and pimp costumes, the story in this corner of Europe is a bit different. Most of the world, in fact, does Halloween a bit differently; that is to say, there is a deeper meaning. In Romania, it's customary to pay homage at the graves of deceased relatives. While the dead are 'cared for' in this manner all year round, on this particular day everybody goes. Unlike the very expansive and rather plain cemeteries of America, the local variety, though not necessarily small, are very crowded. Like a multi-patterned quilt, the layout is never exactly linear and each grave has something a bit different. I've taken many a summer stroll through the central cemetery in Cluj, admiring the  unique headstones in the flickering sunlight and trying to appreciate the amount of history that surrounded me. The atmosphere is, as the expression goes, hauntingly beautiful. Today matters though. All Souls