Tag Archives: Romania

Bucharest

Home ~ is it a feeling or a place?

When we examine mental souvenirs of time and places, bonds formed and love shared, the definition of home becomes clear.  Or does it?

For me, Los Angeles has been home for the past 24 years. It’s where midsummer night moments led to love, to marriage. Where my house is my place of zen. Where work and family keep me happy and busy.

When I visit Romania, that’s also home. I belonged there for the first 22 years of my life. It’s human nature, I think, to continually belong to the place we grow from.

Bucharest, Old town

So, onward traveler

After we bid farewell to Berlin, our next stop was Bucharest (Bucuresti), Romania.  Like no place in Europe, Romania took no time to connect. I instantly felt at home. Every nuance of the language was clear, every subtle gesture hinting at or replacing dialogue. Perfectly clear. Here, I could recall childhood memories, reclaim old stomping grounds. Luxuriate in an endless supply of affection.

Strangely, perhaps, but customarily, one of our first stops was a cemetery. We made our way down endless pathways to graves shaded by willow trees. Paid our respects to departed loved ones. Lit candles. Cried. There’s something cathartic about standing in silence near a grave under a willow tree. Almost peaceful.

A terrace dinner with family and friends followed. We recalled old times over seafood and spirits. Told stories. Caught up on life events. Expressed surprise at time’s handy work on us all. It could’ve been called the terrace of joy and tears of laughter.

Next on the agenda were Old Town Bucharest, the city center, the People’s Palace (built by the former dictator as his quarters, and thankfully never becoming that). We drove through historic neighborhoods, through streets of long ago, past old schools and playgrounds once frequented with childhood friends.

So many memories, ever vivid and heartwarming.

Bucharest is a much improved city in my eyes, but local opinion differs. As an EU member, Romania is riding the wave of change, one I’d consider helpful for this once communist nation ruled by a dictator. But change is never easy.

Given Romania’s geographic and strategic location (E. Europe & Black Sea), limiting the influence of larger powers has always been a uniting fight. A conversation starter. Well, past and present are worlds apart. While arguing politics comes naturally to older Romanians, the post-Revolution, younger folks, are writing the story of a modern, technologically savvy generation, interested mostly in the future. Maybe better that way, although sometimes I wonder.

Through changes good and bad, the warm, fun and welcoming spirit endures in this land unrecognizable at times, yet wildly familiar.

The land of many castles. Of wooden churches and eastern orthodox tradition coexisting in harmony with western philosophies. Where contrary to rumor, Count Dracula is not a vampire but a national hero. A land once isolated, now open to innovation.

So many conversations in Bucharest begin with … remember when?

Yes, I remember …

… my grandmother’s stories that sort my ancestry going back several generations. I’ll never wonder about that all-important piece of information regarding my lineage: Where do I come from?

Yes, Bucharest feels like home. Yet when visiting, I often refer to Los Angels as home. And one aspect never changes: as happy as I am to visit Romania, I’m thrilled to return to L.A.

So, home, I ask: is it a feeling or a place?

My ties to both Romania and the US run deep. Maybe that makes me a globalized mutt with love for Mexican food and homemade plum brandy.

Speaking of which, here’s to life and travels and the sense of belonging. To home, wherever that may be.

Images: skyscraperpage; happytowonder; euandiromaniatopics

Advertisements

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

—–

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.

~~

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