Monday, August 2, 2010
Out and About: Last Days of PST
Amazing where you'll find deep and memorable conversations--at places you would least expect. Let me back up: I really needed a hair cut and my friend Martha had had good results from the sister of one of our language instructors. So after our language tutorials on Saturday, she and I were to have haircuts--back to back--at Jennifer Salon. I was first and had to leave as Martha was going into her session, so after getting general directions (I sort of knew the area), I burst into the full salon, announcing who I was in a complete Romanian sentence, just knowing I was late. Everyone stopped and stared, and finally a very sweet-faced, blond angel appeared before me and said, "Marti's friend?" (Romanians have a hard time with the "th" sound) "Da" and then she pointed at the clock and struggled a bit with "eleven, not ten." Well, drats! So I shopped for snacks for our trip to the farm (another story) across the street at Interex to while away the time. I returned at 10:55 and was told that Dana needed more time with a client and in trying to explain, she turned to a fellow who was waiting for his wife and asked him tell me in English. I sat down as instructed though I would have rather waited outside because the salon had to be 110. I'm fanning and "dewing" when the most precious child with her mother comes in. I really wanted to know the diminutive compliment and had several variations in my brain, so I turned back to the fellow and asked how to form the ending to dragut so that it was appropriate. To make a long story short(er), this 30-something, articulate man and I had a serious 30-minute conversation--to the sound of blow dryers and chit-chat-- about the plight of Romania. He had just returned from 7 years working in the UK and was now training to be a prison guard (which we both agreed was a recession-proof job). I knew all about the flight of the young, smart, and ambitious to other countries for better wages. The Romanian version of the "brain drain." "Why did you come back?" I asked. His brown eyes crinkled (he was handsome-as-all-get-out)and he said he missed Romania. "The people are warmer here," I said. "Yes," he laughed and did a little pantomime of a proper, up-tight Brit. "I lived in an apartment building for years and never knew my neighbors." We talked about the Peace Corps, the attitude of the Romanian people, the death grip of corruption in the government, and the absolute necessity of a legal system that is corruption free and dependable. (I even gave a bit of Lee's property schpiel, which he understood and agreed with.) And we talked about the irony of the incredible wealth of this country--in natural resources, cities and history, traditions and culture known by so few around the world. There are salt caves here with whole playgrounds, sports areas, and restaurants carved out inside. There are fairy-tale castles and beautiful ski resorts in pristine mountains. There is rural life that makes our Amish look like jet setters and cities with unique architecture, arts, and cuisine. This fellow and I both agreed that tourism should be pushed, that Romanians needed to feel proud of their country and that they could "right the wrong" of the government. We were fired up. And then I was whisked away to have my much-needed hair cut. Sigh. But it's so validating to talk with someone like this fellow, to know that there are sparks of hope out there because it's customary to encounter victim-like futility, especially concerning the corruption. ***Less profound was my foray into dress shopping today. We got out early and so I decided to try to find a dress for this Friday's Swearing-in Ceremony in Bucharest. My old black knit dress just looked too hot and dreary for the occasion, so I went into a number of shops, muddling through with my broken Romanian, sweating and fanning in the 90+ degree heat this afternoon. At one point I said, "Prea cald sa cumpare!"--which is supposed to be "too hot to shop," but either my accent was just too ridiculous or it came out as a joke because I caused considerable laughter. But the ladies in one shop were so accommodating and kind, bringing me dress after dress and seemingly understanding my pronouncements, that I ended up buying a summery confection from them (Romanians like confections) mainly because I felt obliged after leaving my dew on at least three I didn't buy! Now I need some of those cute Romanian shoes. I'm thinking aqua.