Tag Archives: Romania

Old Country #atozchallenge

famtree

The desire to be from somewhere often leads us on a quest to retrace our steps to the old country. A quest for an authentic identity, perhaps.

Irish-Americans trace their roots to an Ireland their ancestors were forced to leave. African-Americans look to West Africa. 

Well, for me it’s easy. While I was born in the capital of Romania, Bucharest, my entire family came from a village named Gradistea outside Ploiesti — a major Romanian city. 

pl

Ploiesti

gradis

Gradistea Village

I lived in Romania until the age of twenty, when a combination of family, school, and resume-building brought me to California. I’ve shared volumes about Romania on this blog, so I’ll keep it short this time — four quick facts about my old country. Feel free to comment and/or share yours:

1.  Romanian is the only Romance language in Eastern Europe. Unlike Slavic, spoken all around, Romanian is Latin-derived — closely related to Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. A snapshot below. 

Romanian

2.  Bucharest houses Europe’s largest administrative building. Historically, not a source of pride as it was built by a paranoid dictator as his home.

palat

3.  In 2002, a cave full of human bones and skeletons was discovered in Southern Romania. Research shows the bones were almost 40,000 years old, providing a large amount of data on human history.

pestera

4.  My favorite part of Romania is Transylvania for its breathtaking scenery, castles, and clean air.  

brasov-tour-best-of-transylvania-tour lonely-planet-best-in-travel-transylvania-1024x576

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romtv.com, mastersportal.com,readytravel.com

The Real Power

protest

I’ve been glued to the Internet for the past few days, reading everything available on the unrest in Romania. Amazed by what can be accomplished when people come together in large numbers, peacefully marching, unified behind a tragedy, demanding answers, demanding transparency. Demanding an end to corruption.

The tragedy in question was a nightclub fire on October 30th responsible for 32 deaths and counting, and hundreds in critical condition. A tragic event, but was it enough to bring tens of thousands of people in the street.

No, not on its own, of course.

inside the club

inside the club

This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The club was not up to code (one exit, no alarms, no fire sprinkles, flammable soundproofing materials in a place not designed for pyrotechnics) because that’s how things are done when money is paid under the table.

Add to this a slow emergency response and hospitals unable to accommodate patients, add to this a prime minister who has been indicted on charges of tax evasion and money laundering, among other things (and who didn’t survive a no-confidence vote), and there is a huge problem.

So, Romanians took to the streets in every major city.

As a result the prime minister resigned — a good first step, but is it enough? My heart says no, but I’ve been gone for so long. I don’t really know how real reform would look like in Romania. However, I do remember the 1989  revolution when the Romanian people toppled a dictator.

So, people do have the power. The real power. They just forget how to use it until an unfortunate event brings them together.

Images courtesy: insideromania.com, jamaicaobserver, bbc.co.uk

Fads and Languages ~ 5 Photos 5 Day Challenge

conversation, foreign languages

Speaking a foreign language is not only trendy in Southern California, but it’s necessary. Still, we are a state of fads, and at the moment learning Chinese (or perhaps Mandarin) is all the craze, with China’s growing influence in the world as large as it is.

I think speaking a second language is wonderful, reason or not. For the writer in me, this opens up the world, so to speak, helps describe characters through an outside-our-borders narrative, helps give them universal ambitions. I am very curious about the world at large, and language is vital in that regard.

 foreign languages, Romanian

I speak two languages (English and Romanian), and if necessary I can almost pull off a third (Italian). And although I hail from afar, my name couldn’t be more Southern Californian. Silvia Villalobos.

When I introduce myself to folks, many engage me in Spanish. I can’t blame them. Luckily, I can speak enough Spanish to get a mini-conversation going, but soon I reveal myself as a non-native speaker, and the Where are you from question pops up.

When I say Romania, many people are at a loss. I would be, too.

Armenia, they ask? No, but you’re close. I try again. Some know enough to remember Nadia Comaneci, the dictator, and Dracula. We share a good laugh.

But back to languages, there are hundreds spoken here in Southern California. Next to New York City, California is probably the place with most bilingual, trilingual, etc. speakers in the world. I find that universality attractive.

The chart below is old — at least 10 years — and only a snapshot, but it’s the best I could find to give it all some perspective.

Language       Number          %

Spanish           8,105,505          25.8

Chinese             815,386             2.6

Tagalog             626,399             2.0

Vietnamese         407,119             1.3

Korean               298,076             0.9

Armenian           155,237             0.5

Persian              154,321             0.5

Yes, we are a very international bunch here, fads and all, regardless of the tribe we personally identify with. Maybe the best way to understand and tolerate one another is to live in close proximity and embrace each other for what we all are — just another kid from somewhere in the world.

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I nominate Sammy at Bemuzin to carry on the challenge.  No obligation, of course, only if possible, and here are the rules:

1) post a photo (photos) each day for 5 consecutive days; 2) attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, a paragraph – all entirely up to you; 3) nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation! More importantly, have fun.

Two more nominees coming tomorrow and Fri!

Images: google.com; pixabay.com

Revolution (Quick Recap)

 Romania

Q2_5164[1]uick recap of a Revolution.

I’ve had strong reservations about discussing the 1989 Romanian Revolution, debating back and forth for some time.

Why?

I’m no activist. And tackling political movements is always dicey. Sure, deep down I feel strongly about many issues, but having lived on a continent where “emotions and politics mix like vodka and orange juice” uniting folks only to pull them apart, having had enough of that — frankly — I wanted to show the country, the history, without any conflict. 

But talking about a nation hidden behind the iron curtain for decades without mentioning the fall of communism would be like talking about beginnings without endings.

I can’t do that. So here I go.

revolution_AF[1]1989%20Libertate%20Roumanie[1]

 In 1989 a wave of revolutions against communist dictatorships swept Eastern European countries, including Romania. Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator, used his secret police to open fire on the demonstrators. The army joined the protestors and after a few days of violence the regime was overthrown. Ceausescu and his wife were executed on Christmas day.

This, of course, is only a snapshot of the events.

What I remember most is the euphoria preceding those momentous days, followed by anticipation, then bickering between the parties involved, then a new president, then a wait-and-see attitude, then whispers — from the speculating crowd — that the Revolution had been all smoke and mirrors. A coup d’etat.

I’m pretty sure no one in the speculating crowd experienced life in Romania pre-1989 and as such fell prey to the media chatter. The iron curtain truly served to keep the people in and information out.

To them all I can say is: An oppressive government, ruling by fear and robbing the treasury for personal enrichment at the detriment of its people, ceases to be a legitimate government.

A detailed account of the Revolution is more complex than this, but I will attempt a short description here.

Yes, the Romanian Revolution was part of the Eastern European wave of uprisings, sweeping the continent. And it was more than that. After decades of oppression, the populations clamored for freedom, ready to pay any price. Anger had bubbled under the surface, causing the rare spark, but it remained buried there until December 1989.

The Revolution started in the city of Timisoara, and quickly spread throughout the country.

In an effort to control the wave of anger, the dictator gave a speech in Piata Romana, a public square in Bucharest, in front of 80,000 Romanians. People were brought in for a rally to support Ceausescu after the riots in Timisoara. The dictator appeared on the balcony of the Central Committee Building to address the crowd. However, for the first time, the incredible happened. Eight minutes into the speech, people began to chant Ti-mi-soa-ra, Ti-mi-soa-ra.

TV censors pulled the plug on the broadcast. But it didn’t matter anymore. We all knew our countrymen were massacred in the streets of Timisoara and other cities, and anger reached a critical point. The volcano erupted.   

The Revolution changed little in the years that followed. A former Ceausescu man, Ion Iliescu, took power. While we regained certain freedoms, the oppression — mostly economical in the form of widespread corruption — continued.

For years now, Romania has been taking steps in the right direction. And for me, hope springs eternal as I watch the small but significant progress from across two continents and an ocean. At least until my next visit.

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Image: Image: libertarianrepublican.net: hulubei.net; bnreview.barnesandnoble.com; cybex answers, blog.cybexintl.com