Sunday, March 12, 2006

Out of the Darkness

Out of the Darkness
Maybe it is because I am sick and miserable today, and Arlington County has no water, that I am feeling extra irritable. (You try having the flu when there's no running water!) But this article has me feeling very critical. I think most of you know that Romania is very near and dear to me, and that I have several close Romanian friends. A good portion of this article and accompanying video is based on a family in Targu Mures, not too far from where I stayed in RO. Transylvania is where I worked and stayed during my time there, so reading an article that actually does a decent job of relating the life there, meant a lot to me.

Except that I don't agree fully with the article. It didn't go far enough. And it certainly didn't finish explaining the story. One of my dearest friends returned to RO over Christmas to see her family after a 1.5 year absence, and told me the following. She was heart broken over the poverty happening in her town and family. Because of the EU, prices have already skyrocketed to be equal with other EU countries. But the workers' wages have not skyrocketed. The inflation and poverty levels are staggering. My friend told me how her aunt was unable to come visit her for Christmas because she didn't have appropriate shoes. She only has summer shoes, and could not travel across the country during winter in them. The price of shoes cost more than her monthly wages as a school teacher.

I want to see the Romania get into the EU eventually. I want to see them benefit from better free trade, more exports and imports, better healthcare, etc. But I don't want to see them lose their culture. And I really don't want to see corruption take an even stronger hold there. As much as I want to see the EU in there, I don't think they are ready for it. The people aren't educated enough, the government isn't clean enough, and the mafia is still too strong.

The video and the article make a point about horse-drawn carriages being commonplace in RO. This is so not true. Yes, there are still a few horse-drawn carts and carriages in some of the more rural villages. But there are certainly more cars there. But can you blame them for not wanting to drive their cars with the high costs of petro, repairs, etc? Everyone, and I do mean everyone, relies on the public transportation- the busses, micro-busses, trains, etc., even though they will tell you they do not believe the mass transit to be safe. The mass transit is where you find the pickpockets. Romanians feel safer out of their own country, than they do inside of it. On most trains in Europe it is perfectly acceptable to fall asleep. But you would never consider doing that in RO. Fall asleep for even a minute and you will be stripped clean.

I can't believe this article attempted to defend the Roma, or gypsies as Americans better know them. I won't go into it, but personally, while I try not to be racist or prejudice, I do think most Roma get what they deserve when treated like second class citizens. They do very little that wouldn't be considered pathetic.

In addition to gypsies, horse-drawn carriages, horrible healthcare, even worse dental care, and shortages of every kind, you still have leadership with Communistic upbringing. Although they try to embrace freedom, democracy, etc. they were raised and brainwashed under Communism, and they have not yet forgotten it. In the smaller villages you will still find "troops" or patrols of policemen walking in formations horribly reminiscent of a Communist era. In many little towns they turn off the water during the daytime. Why? Because that is how it was always done before [under Communist rule]. There is no good reason for it, they just do it. Now do you think the family tradition of pig slaughtering and horse-drawn carriages are the problem in Romania?

Romania will greatly benefit from entering the EU- some day. I just hope it doesn't happen for several more years. They need more training, more experience, better leadership, and younger generations coming into power before they will be truly ready for the big leap. I can't help but feel that if they enter now it will be a huge disaster for them.

If you do want to read what I think will help them out, visit the Jiu Valley Romania website.

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