The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Archive for the ‘Romanian Culture’ Category

My Trip to Romania

Posted by thearrow on September 20, 2011

Just got back from a great trip back home after no less than three years and a half. I had a blast, best symbolized by the pic below. I enjoyed the “papanasi” to the last bit of dough and the last drop of syrup and sour cream. So yummy! More pics  to come; of things other than “papanasi”.

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A Laptop or a Grave?

Posted by thearrow on July 18, 2011

I’ve told my parents that I want to get them a laptop so that we can see each other over Skype. Also, my dad, who is almost bed-ridden due to a dislocated vertebrae, can read newspapers, watch videos, and in general not get bored. There was an initial enthusiasm about it, then my parents started fretting that it’s an expense, and then it all culminated this Saturday with my mom’s request: “Rather than getting us a laptop maybe you can help us buy a grave lot in a cemetery.”

I don’t know if I should laugh or not. I know she is genuinely concerned about us not being prepared at all for the inevitable, but it still came as a shocker to me. She’s more concerned now because one of her friends has just died of cancer at 62; my mom (who is 72) said her friend had bought a lot two years ago, when she was doing really well and had no major health concern.

Black humor aside, I can’t let death win and break our spirit. I don’t care about the cost, I’ll get them both the laptop and the grave lot.

And then we’ll celebrate being alive.

P.S. — If you’re curious why I filed this under the “Romanian culture” category, it’s because most of us (and especially my parents’ generation) are more concerned with death and doom than with how to make the most of our lives now. Pessimism is deeply woven into our DNA. Sigh.

Posted in home, Romanian Culture | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

My Own Tiger Mom

Posted by thearrow on January 23, 2011

There’s a fierce debate right now in the States on whether a strict parenting approach of the variety described in “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” by Amy Chua (in The Wall Street Journal) has much better long-term results for children. The article is an overview of her just-published book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Amy Chua describes the highly involved and very rigorous way in which she raised her two daughters, with long music practice hours and endless drilling for any school assignment they didn’t perform at exceptional level. At the same time, she slaps American parents on their wrists for being overly indulgent with their children and being more interested in building their self-esteem with lots of praise but very little to show in the way of results and hard work. A lot of people cringed when reading that she made one of her daughters exercise a piano piece late into the night without any breaks until the kid finally mastered it.

I am sure that, in today’s extremely competitive global economy, Chua’s parenting style is better than the typical American lax parent she describes, although I do think she pushed it to the extreme by not having allowed her daughters to have play dates or watch TV. Her piece created such a stir that it inspired the latest Time magazine cover story, “Tiger Moms: Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer.”

So here I am, to tell the story of my own tiger mom, who raised me in Communist Romania in the 70’s and the 80’s. In March 1977, a very strong earthquake shook the South of Romania and several apartment buildings even collapsed. I was 5 and we were living on the 13th floor (which is actually the equivalent of the 15th floor in the States, including the 13th floor which is usually not counted or marked here) and I remember the wild swings of the building. Among all the things that had fallen off shelves was the black-and-white TV, which had fallen on its head and whose image or reception became spotty after that.  We got over the earthquake, grateful that nobody in our family suffered any loss. But we couldn’t find someone capable of fixing the TV. Scores of repairmen came and went, and our TV was none the better.

Two years later, right before I was going to start first grade, yet another repair man came by to help us. He was a chatty, nice guy, who started talking about his granddaughter and her violin lessons at the music school. My mom became very interested in that and started asking him questions. The school was within walking distance from where we were, so before I knew it, my mom dressed me, left grandma to supervise the repairman, and we went to the music school to see how I could be enrolled in violin classes. She found a piano teacher who tested my musical abilities and enrolled me a few days later. I can’t remember if she ever mentioned the music school before. Of course, she didn’t ask me if I really wanted to go.

So I went. I had two classes every week; I studied the violin each time and once a week I had a music theory class, which was actually quite interesting. The teacher was very demanding, but because she was very nice I worked hard to please her, which resulted in a very good grade at the end of the first year, for the performance that all students had to give on a stage as their final exam. I remember wearing a long, black velvet skirt that my grandma had sewn. I was very nervous and couldn’t get to the middle of the stage. I stopped in front of my parents, who were a little to then side.

In second grade, I became very interested in studying English and my mom didn’t hesitate to hire a tutor. So now, in addition to two days a week in music school, I had one English class a week as well. It all went well until the violin classes started being difficult for me. If you think of it, I didn’t choose to go there. I was only doing what I was being told, but my heart was not in it and I probably couldn’t concentrate enough to get better. So my mom hired a violin tutor so that I could be better in music school! I had one English class, two music school classes, and a private violin class every week in second grade. I was 9 years old.

Towards the third trimester, things started going south. I was burnt out and my violin efforts weren’t going anywhere. I wasn’t a terrible student; just one who didn’t get as far as it was possible. On top of that, my grades were slipping. I had forgotten I had a biology test one day until I actually had to take it. For which, obviously, I got a very low grade. And which was the best reason to end the whole music school affair. My mom finally realized that she heaped way too much on me and I just couldn’t bear it. Being just 9 years old, I couldn’t even articulate what was going on. It hit me only when I realized I had completely forgotten about that test. Thankfully, my mom didn’t insist on me continuing to go to music school and announced me one day, smiling, that I didn’t have to study for the year-end performance and didn’t have to go back the following year. Whew!

When I got to fifth grade, my cousin got me a toy piano that I was playing endlessly, so my parents started to ask me if I wanted a real one. I was hesitant, knowing it’s a much bigger expense than a violin. I really liked playing it, but was I going to stick with it? My mom took that for a yes and, when I came back from  a summer camp, there was a shiny, new upright piano in our living room. On a card, also shiny, my dad had written very proudly, “no teacher.” But when I saw that, I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea. I understood my dad didn’t want another traumatizing experience, but how on earth was I going to learn how to play the piano without a teacher?

So I got a piano tutor in sixth grade. This time I loved it, but the teacher wasn’t demanding enough. We didn’t do enough drills and my hands weren’t too precise, which was frustrating. At the same time, my mom wasn’t pestering me that much about my homework any more. I tended to day dream a lot and goof off before doing my homework at the last minute. In high school I got to the point where I wished she was more demanding.

So I think the Chinese mother model is essentially good as long as it’s not taken to the extreme and as long as parents are consistent but leave room for individuality. Of course, back in Communism, there wasn’t room for anyone’s individuality.

Later edit: I also wish my mom had disregarded my rebellious statements in fifth grade that I hated French and was never going to be able to learn  it, had whacked me over the head to get the bullshit out of it, and hire a tutor. She did want to get one, but I was determined in my rebellion and continued it in school, where I didn’t work hard enough to learn French because I wanted to fulfill my prophecy that it was hard and I wasn’t good at it. What I was rebelling against is not entirely clear to me even today. But who’s the loser now?

Posted in American culture, Romanian Culture | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

The Sign of a Good Day

Posted by thearrow on January 14, 2011

A lot of Romanians are superstitious and believe some really wacky things, such as if you sit in a draft you get a cold. Or, like me, if I wear a V-neck sweater or a shirt and don’t have a very warm scarf around my neck, I’ll get a cold because my throat is very sensitive. LOL. I do believe that, to the dismay of an old friend of mine familiar with our culture, who never hesitates to poke fun at me for this, which I thoroughly enjoy.

So I’ve decided to write more about our superstitions. Not to debunk them, but because they remind me of home and this gives me comfort. They are one of those things that create a community; everybody knows and mentions them. When you live in a different culture you realize how much these small things matter. I think I’m homesick.

This morning, a neighbor got in the elevator together with me. He was holding his briefcase and a paper shopping bag that had some weird grease stains on it. As we were descending, he smacked his forehead: “The garbage!” He forgot to toss the bag down the chute and was carrying it with him; pretty funny. Well, in Romania we consider it a good sign when someone with a full bag or some other container crosses your path. Even if it’s garbage. As long as it’s not an empty bag. And if that happens in the morning, even better.

A good sign for the whole day 🙂

Posted in Romanian Culture | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Weekend Compliments

Posted by thearrow on October 3, 2010

I always underestimate discount the weather forecast and this weekend I was proven wrong more than ever. At the rally yesterday I had two sweaters while everyone else was wearing t-shirts; my photo gear seemed that much heavier. Today I biked to a friend’s place and said pfft when I saw only 10% chance of rain. That’s zero in my book and I’m usually right. Many times I don’t give much weight to a 50% chance of rain and I’ve been right with that, too. Lately, though, it hasn’t been the case and today I was soaked for 30 minutes on the way home.

That didn’t diminish my confidence; quite the contrary, it made me so much cooler (ha ha!). A chick riding in the rain in traffic like that’s what she does every day. At a big intersection, while I was waiting for the green light, a guy in a truck two lanes over to the left rolled the window down and said, “I wish I could ride out there with you!” I thought that was awfully sweet. Being a sucker for compliments, I laughed and said, thinking of the pouring rain, “I don’t know about that.”

My mom put it all in perspective, though, when she asked me if I’m still drinking a lot of coffee (yes) and told me that I need to cut back (I know!) and eventually replace it with green tea. Because “you’re only a few years from menopause and you need to get a lot of antioxidants.” Say whaaat? I totally cracked up with laughter and I think I’ll be laughing many years from now when I think of it. “Um, mom, I’m not even 40 yet!” “I know, but all I’m saying is that you need to take care of yourself in advance.”

I know she means well and I’m not saying I shouldn’t be careful. After all, I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years, I exercise, I go to bed early and so on. But with 20 years before I hit that point, it’s just hysterical.

So when that guy said that he wished he had been riding out there with me (in the rain), I should have said, “well, you might want to reconsider because I’m just a few years away from menopause.”

Posted in fun, my parents, Romanian Culture | 2 Comments »

Looking for Senior Village VIP

Posted by thearrow on March 19, 2010

This is what I’ve come across today:

http://www.careerbu ilder.com/ JobSeeker/ Jobs/JobDetails. aspx?Job_ DID=J8G0L964XG4W 92FS1ZJ&siteid= cb_jpemail& cbRecursionCnt= 2&cbsid=78c61b01 63724e0599a51ee2 fcbaa796- 322322772- RR-4

I’ve pasted it below to keep it for posterity, even though I know it makes for a long post. In a nutshell, the US military is recruiting Romanians to role play as villagers interacting with American forces as part of a training program. I’ve highlighted my favorite parts. The title of “Senior Village VIP” totally cracked me up. I sent it to an American friend of mine who has worked in Romania and he said, “I have only one response: WTF?”

Genuine efforts to understand how to interact with a local culture aside, I simply cannot imagine that someone who has lived in the US can play a credible Romanian villager. These are two worlds so far apart that only thinking of switching back and forth produces a short-circuit in my brain. For example, “convey the commanding presence expected of a leader” sounds SO American. Sorry to say this, but I don’t think even Romanian national leaders have a commanding presence.

At any rate, the job posting is great fun:

Description
This position is located in 29 Palms, CA.

SUMMARY
A Foreign Language Speaking (FLS) Role Player generally plays one of several roles of various indigenous people in a Romanian Village. The theater within which the FLS acts is a realistic Romanian Village erected on a military training site. Roles include various scripted and improvisational roles of members of the village’s general populace as well as roles of village officials, religious leaders. FLS will convincingly recreate the familial, political, religious, cultural, and economic relationships reflected in the applicable community. The FLS provides these services in support of situational training exercises of the U.S. military.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES include the following. Other duties may be assigned.
Interpret and portray an assigned role; invent a realistic persona for the role based on personal knowledge and experience of village life, language and culture; remain in character for the duration of the training exercises (except during meals, breaks and uninterrupted rest periods)
While in character, apply independent judgment, creativity and improvisation to achieve the highest possible cultural realism in the training environment
Dress in costume appropriate to role
Perform interpretations of emotions, actions appropriate to situations defined using body movements, facial expressions and gestures
May sing and/or dance in appropriate settings (i.e. weddings, funerals)

While in character and within the broad parameters defined by U.S. military personnel, initiate, participate in and react to various scenarios in and around the village, including but not limited to the following:
o Consistently and actively engage U.S. military trainees in the training scenario
o Speak the required language and act in a manner consistent with the assigned role
o Improvise convincingly realistic responses to actions of U.S. military trainees
o Evaluate and respond realistically to actions of other role players
o Improvise convincing reactions to changing and unscripted U.S. military character and trainee movements within the training environment

Some (but not all) jobsites may require one or more specific roles, subject to additional duties and responsibilities as follows.

Senior Village VIP
– A Senior Village VIP plays one of various scripted and improvisational roles of members of the village’s elite populace (i.e., Army Colonel or other highly-placed military official; Governor; Regional Advisor). In addition to the Essential Duties and Responsibilities above, a Senior Village VIP is required to:
– Convincingly perform as a Senior Village VIP would do in an actual village while realistically interacting with other villagers in a dynamic setting (e.g., holding a town hall meeting)
– Convey the commanding presence expected of a leader

Village VIP
– A Village VIP plays one of various scripted and improvisational roles of members of the village’s leadership (i.e., Police Captain, , ??). In addition to the Essential Duties and Responsibilities above, a Village VIP is required to:
– Convincingly perform as a Village VIP while realistically interacting with other villagers in a dynamic setting (e.g., attending a wedding as a dignitary)
– Convey the commanding presence expected of a leader

QUALIFICATIONS
Education and Experience
Native born in country that is target of training Romanian preferred
Fluent in the language and dialect required for training (i.e., Romanian )
Able to work in the United States
Experience in improvisational or semi-scripted acting preferred
Experience in playing roles for extended periods of time preferred
Able to understand English
Military experience preferred for selected roles

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS
Good physical conditioning and stamina required. Regularly stoop, bend, lift and/or move up to 20 pounds, climb stairs, and walk across broken ground and obstacles. Regularly in character for more than 12 hours during a day; regularly work 4 days straight without leaving the training area. Standing for prolonged periods of time. Near visual acuity to review written documentation; ability to hear and understand speech at normal room levels.
WORK ENVIRONMENT
Field conditions prevail. Work locations may be subject to blowing dust and sand, heavy rains or snow, and temperatures ranging from 10(-) degrees F in the winter to 125(+) degrees F in the summer.

Posted in American culture, Romanian Culture | 3 Comments »

Unmistakably Romanian

Posted by thearrow on December 7, 2009

I went to vote yesterday at the Romanian Embassy in DC, a little before they closed. I asked Steve if he wanted to come in with me, since I was sure they had locked the vampires up that day. We go in, sit down at a table to fill out a form, and, before long, a lady comes in wearing leopard print. Steve chuckled. She was wearing a faux-fur coat and shoes in that print. Her bag was leopard print too.

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