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Why Did I Come Back? (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this entry I got pretty philosophical about things, which is something I tend to do when given a lot of white space, a keyboard - or a pen- and time.

I focused on many of the external factors that led to my move here; my experiences in Western society had a lot to do with it, but I guess the hardest reality to face is always one's own. The "What Am I Doing With My Life?" moments were getting more frequent. I had more than enough work with two (real) jobs, but neither was fulfilling. Despite the double salary and my carefree lifestyle, I felt deeply unaccomplished whenever I got into a bout of introspection.

If the point of life is to wake up, go to work, bring home the bacon, party on weekends (and weekdays, for those in the know), and repeat, I was livin' it up. Hard! But that's how the world becomes ignorant and numb to the Big Picture. To me, the ultimate change is on a global scale. I'm not trying to change the world just yet though, but there's something about Romania that makes me feel like I can really pitch in. It's strange to suggest that a place that is still far behind the developed world on many levels is one that is dynamic, but it's still the impression that I get looking around me. I see opportunity everywhere.

A little while ago I came across this article about a German architect who's made Cluj his home, and one quote in particular sums up my feelings perfectly, (translation, brackets are mine) "Back home [in Germany] everything's been done, you don't have anything [new] to do, you don't know what your role is, but here you feel like you have something to do, like you're needed." In Romania there is room for improvement at every level, while in Canada I felt exactly the same, like everything's already been done. The political establishment there won't ever change. The mentality won't either because most people living there don't think there is anything to change and that, in fact, it's the best mentality there is on the whole entire planet in the whole entire universe, ever! It has its good points, obviously, many of which need to be adapted in Romania. We need to learn to be efficient in Romania. We need to learn to say what we mean and mean what we say. And while we're open and honest on a personal level (what you see is usually what you get), we're pretty archaic when it comes to business and just plain doing things.

And that's the key, I wanted to be some place where the things I do matter. Where it's not just about being good at my job or getting paid. I love this comment somebody left on one of my older posts. It's from a girl who also came back to Romania after living somewhere 'better'. The answer she gives people who ask the eternal 'Why' is beautiful. She says, "I've reached a level of maturity from where I can afford to give." I'm not sure if my translation really does it justice though because that 'give' is better translated as "to gift". And that's what I want to do here, gift my time, goodwill, and the professional skills I've acquired to help make Romania a better place.

Making a difference doesn't necessarily mean throwing money around (although it would help if done right), but doing little things every day and fighting small battles. It means picking up an empty bottle you find on the floor and tossing it in the garbage, not accepting mediocrity or all kinds of bullshit because "this is Romania", it  also means taking initiative and working ceaselessly for whatever you believe in. Of course, if you're one of those Romanians who only believes in money I can't help you and you can go fuck yourself, you're part of the problem. But if you have a change of heart here's what I suggest; sell one of your homes or apartments and open a business. Something that will bring value to others. I have lots of ideas, hit me up if you don't have any. If you don't want to open a business that's fine, put that money into a charity and become personally involved in it, or into your community. Even just offering to pay to have one of these old raggedy looking buildings get painted would be a big deal. Bottom line is, participate. Don't just consume, that's not what life is about. Build, grow, create value, do something useful for those around you! Don't build a new house because your five year old needs a place to live when she's twenty-five, don't you realize how stupid that is?!

Besides that little rant about Romania's petty bourgeois, I have nothing but goodwill towards my fellow Romanians. I get it, you grew up in a place where there is no such thing as community service, the term 'for the greater good' can't be translated into this language, and where your only examples of success are people who are shallow at best but mostly just straight up criminals. I can't express enough admiration for those who've grown up and lived here their entire lives but who have also managed to rise above the petty materialism and genuinely desire to be better people in a better Romania. What's more is that nobody can accuse them of standing atop an ivory tower.

So you see, I had to come back. There are people who need inspiration here, there are buildings that need to get renovated, there is a mentality that needs changing, and not to mention all the social cases of poverty and abandonment that can't go on being ignored. Romania needs all the help it can get. If I lived to be a hundred it wouldn't be enough time to take care of it all. But that's fine, it means I can never get bored and leave.


  1. It's not like I am one that is coming back such as yourself, however I feel the same about Romania. Is much to be done and much that hasn't been tried, a lot of opportunity for business and to be helpful and useful. As you said about not just consuming......that's what I hate most about SUA, too many people just consuming!

    1. Agreed, that's what a consumer-based economy is all about, but let's not forget, in the USA there are also lots of people producing and thinking of ways to produce. Romania's far from that mentality.

  2. About 8 years ago I invited two of my friends to take a tour of Europe. We’ve planned the trip in great details, we booked in advanced hotels and B&Bs, we spoke with friends and relatives all over Europe and the the time was right off we went to Europe.

    One of my friends, Ben is an American, born and raised in Texas: although he had spent the last 20 years in Western Canada his thick Texan accent is alive and well. Ben ‘s never been to Europe therefore the guy was genuinely excited. So was Annemieke: born and raised in Canada her family has deep Dutch roots so we start our journey in Holland, then spent few weeks in Germany, Austria, few days in the Czech Republic and Hungary and we saved the best of the trip for Romania, particularly Transylvania, the place where I was born.

    After three weeks in Transylvania we decided to head south from Sibiu taking the Valea Oltului route. On our way down to Pitesti as we passed what was called the Black Hill – lots of accidents there, I recommend caution while driving that route – I noticed something weird. I was on the driver seat and Ben was on my right side. I noticed he pulled out his passport and was asking Annemieke to do the same. I was intrigued:

    “Ben, what the fuck are doing with those passports? Well, we are approaching the border and I better have them ready. What border, are you nuts? Can’t you see? We’ve left Transylvania and we are already in a different country. Take a look around: look at the villages, look at the people. IT IS A DIFFERENT COUNTRY”.

    Okay, let’s go over this stuff again. None of those guys have ever set foot in Europe let alone Romania. They couldn’t name the capital of Romania despite their best efforts but they were well accustomed with Transylvania the mythical land of Dracula. They thought they know every castle and fortress, every mountain valley and quicksand (they were terribly disappointed to find no quicksand and no thick fog lurking around) like their own pocket. In few weeks the pop culture they’ve been “indoctrinated” with for decades came off. I felt good for what I did; it was worth the time and the effort.

    What struck me and I had to give it plenty of thoughts was the way they have perceived the differences between Transylvania, notably the Saxon region and Walachia (Oltenia). It was a different country; it looked like a different country. There was no bias involved, they never seen the country before, it was pure perception built on whatever information they previously managed to gather: not much.

    Cultural differences? Perception?
    Give it some thoughts.

  3. Rares, it's not the first time I've heard it. When Romanians from outside of Ardeal talk about Cluj they say "Oh, that's another country". You don't have stray dogs here, the city is clean and well run, and people are noticeably easy going -much more so than almost anywhere else in the country. Funny about the passports though, haha -I'm not sure I'd actually go that far.


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